Reading, Writing, and Potty Training

All three of our kids are doing big things these days, and I couldn’t be more proud of each of them. As you may already know, Ava is in Kindergarten this year, and let me say, Kindergarten has changed significantly since I was there, which was over 30 years ago. I can’t believe the stuff she’s learning at such a young age! I also can’t believe how much homework she’s responsible for each day. Her teacher warned us at orientation last summer, and it’s no joke. Jessica spends at least an hour each day after school working with Ava on letters, numbers, sight words, writing, and basic arithmetic. Then when I get home from work I’m spending another 30 minutes working with her (and Elise quite frequently) on reading and writing.

Ava is supposed to be able to read 45 sight words by the end of the school year, and we have all of them on flash cards. Once we are convinced she knows a word, we tape that flash card up on the wall. We’ve only been at it for a week or so, but she already has the following words on the wall: look, I, go, is, my, come, like, the, and to. I expect we’ll be adding one or two more this evening. Although Ava was struggling a bit at first, she has already turned a corner, and I can tell she is starting to actually read words by sounding them out, rather than relying on some form of rote memorization. She gets very excited when doing a good job, so positive reinforcement and encouragement have been key from our perspective as parents and teachers.

In addition to everything she has going on at school, Ava just got started with a new 3 month hockey session. She hadn’t played in 3 or 4 weeks before getting started on Sunday, and she was absolutely chomping at the bit to get out there. In fact, before class begins she always pushes her way to the front of the group so she can be the first one stepping out onto the ice as soon as the door is opened.

It was so cute to see her helping a younger little girl who had never played hockey before. We were getting suited up and this little girl was afraid to put some of the gear on. Ava took so kindly to her and told her we have to wear the gear to stay protected, then you can fall or slide on the ice and it doesn’t hurt. I know how much Ava is already looking up to the older girls, and it’s clear she can’t wait to be a role model for the younger ones. Hockey is already doing great things for Ava, and they’re not just athletic.

As with most of Ava’s milestones, Elise is always right there paying close attention and soaking things up quicker than we realize. Since Ava has been so active with letters and reading, Elise has naturally gravitated to them as well. I can tell things are coming quickly for her, because she has an impressive ability to focus for someone so young. While Ava can sometimes get easily distracted, Elise tends to stay locked in. Her biggest difficulty at this point is more mechanical than anything; she often struggles with holding a pencil, which in turn affects her ability to write. However I expect this will only be a temporary struggle. Even this morning she was showing improvement with how she holds the pencil, and I’m so impressed with how many letters she has already learned!

Poor Elise had a difficult week this week because she came down with a cold. She had a fever, cough, and partially lost her voice, so we kept her home from school and dance until Friday. At this point she seems to have fully recovered, and she had a good day at school yesterday, so I think we’re in the clear. She’s excited to get back into her dance class next week, as she has a recital in June to prepare for.

With Elise being so under the weather this week, Jessica ended up staying home with her and Enzo on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. While this may sound like a recipe for cabin fever, an incredibly positive thing came out of it: Enzo is now potty trained! His 3rd birthday is a week from tomorrow, and as I write this on Saturday, he hasn’t had an accident, or gone potty in a diaper, since Tuesday. He actually ended up getting sick this week as well, so Jessica had two sick kiddos to care for, but even throughout all of that, he didn’t have any accidents.

He’s waking up in the morning with a dry diaper, going to the bathroom on his own, then coming to get one of us for a bottle of warm milk. He tells us when he needs to go, and isn’t bothered by using public restrooms when out and about. Obviously we’re going to have minor setbacks or accidents at some point in the near future, but there’s no question he has turned a corner with this, and there’s no going back. To think that diapers have been a daily part of our lives for the past 6 years and change, and we’re now basically all done with them, is just crazy. It’s definitely a parenting milestone that we’re happy to surpass, and I just couldn’t be more proud of our little guy.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of taking all 3 kids to Monster Jam, which is the annual monster truck show at the Tacoma Dome. It’s funny because I’ve been seeing commercials for monster trucks shows at the Tacoma Dome for literally as long as I can remember, and finally now at the age of 37, I have finally attended my first show. I have to admit, it was a lot of fun. I wasn’t really sure beforehand, so I got seats up in the nosebleeds, but it didn’t matter. The kids loved it. The only bummer was that I didn’t realize our seats were behind the huge TV screen that shows replays, so we weren’t able to see any of that stuff, but again, it didn’t matter. All 3 of the kids loved it, so I suspect we’ll be going again next year. I’ll certainly pony up for better seats as well, now that I know how much we all enjoyed it.

It’s extremely loud in there, so ear protection is a must, and not surprisingly I got a lot of resistance from Enzo when it came to wearing it. However, after the trucks came out for an opening lap and he got a taste of just how loud they really are, suddenly he wasn’t complaining about wearing his headphones. I wasn’t totally sure how much the girls would enjoy it, but as it turned out, Elise definitely liked it, and Ava loved it the most of anyone. Grave Digger is her favorite truck (and Enzo’s), so she would get super excited whenever it came out for a run. There was a big “puppy dog truck” that instantly became Elise’s favorite. Personally, I liked Earth Shaker, which was a big Cat-style dump truck.

Not only was it a fun event, but it was a nice special day for the kids and I to have together. I loved the idea of getting a whole day with them, and consequently giving Jessica a day to herself. The Tacoma Dome is more than an hour from our house, and I took them to lunch before the show, so we were gone from 10:30 to 5:30. Jessica spent her free day meeting Laurel and baby Sadie for lunch, going to the gym, and getting some stuff done around the house. She deserves more days like this, so I’m glad she enjoyed it and made the most of it.

We recently made a nice upgrade to our living area, and I’m actually enjoying it right now as I write this: we bought a nice new leather sectional couch! Our old sectional had been with us since we lived in La Mesa, and had been basically destroyed by the kids over the past few years. The cushions were getting flat, there were plenty of uncomfortable spots, and it didn’t have any recliners, so you had to move a big ottoman into position if you wanted to put your feet up. First world problems for sure, but still ready for replacement.

We had seen this beautiful dark gray leather couch with golden brown stitching at Costco and fell immediately in love with it. It had 2 power recliners, 1 manual recliner, stainless steel cup holders, multiple power and USB outlets for device charging, and a storage bin so big that Enzo immediately crawled right inside. We didn’t buy it on the spot, but kept it in mind, and did a little comparative research online. Then, a week later, after going to the gym that morning, we decided to go back to Costco to see if it was still there. With luck, it was, so we got it. It’s so big that even with our minivan emptied out, I still had to make 4 trips to Costco just to get it all home!

Once I finished my final trip we all jumped in the car and drove down to Des Moines for a late Christmas at Kristy’s house. We had a nice afternoon with her, Madi, Uncle Jim, and Aunt Brenda. There was good food, football, quality family time, and of course, Christmas presents. What more could you ask for? Once we got home that evening, we took out the old couch (we actually gave it away on Jessica’s “Buy Nothing” group) and got the new one setup. It’s much larger than the old one, and also much more comfortable.

We’ve been staying busy going to the gym a lot lately. Jessica and I have never been huge gym people, but I have to say I love Columbia Athletic Club. It’s a really nice atmosphere, with excellent quality machines and equipment, plus tons of classes to choose from. They intentionally keep the number of members relatively low, and guarantee you that you’ll never have to wait to use anything when you’re there. It’s true too. Even when the parking lot is full, you never have to wait because there are so many different things for a person to do. We’re not even members of the tennis facility or the golf facility, but there’s just so much stuff to choose from.

The kids are unlimited members at Columbia’s Kids Club, as well as gym members, so they’re having a lot of fun there. It’s funny how quickly going to the gym can become part of your regular routine. Already I’m at the point where I would be pretty bummed if I missed one of my (now) regular workouts. We’re making a point to go twice a week as a family, and either Jessica or I have been sneaking in here and there as time permits. Combine that with my Sunday afternoon hockey and I’m now as athletically active as ever, and it feels great.

We all went to the gym today, and the kids played in the Kids Club while Jessica and I got a good workout in. Then after that we scooped up the kids, changed into our swimsuits, and headed to the pool. In addition to the outdoor pool (which is closed until Summer), they have a full-sized indoor pool, a hot tub, steam room, and an indoor kids pool that’s as warm as a bath. It’s actually deceptively large so Jessica and I played in there with the kids for a full hour. The pools are salt water too, which is much better than chlorinated. The kids loved it, and it was quickly obvious that we need to get Enzo into swimming lessons right away. He’s already fearless in the water, and the gym offers swim lessons, so I think we’ll be getting involved in those very soon. I hope we continue to take advantage of this place, as it’s already turning out to be a hit for everyone.

Things are going well for Jessica, and she’s as busy as ever. As previously mentioned, she has been so dedicated to working with Ava and Elise on reading, writing, and arithmetic. She has decorated our house with letters, numbers, and sight words. That way no matter where you are in the house, there are letters to learn and words to read. As you might expect, her dedication to keeping the kids on top of their school work has been top notch.

Between all the school stuff with the kids, and me being so busy with work, we made a conscious decision to keep Enzo’s third birthday very small. Instead of doing some big gathering at the house, we decided on doing something at Chuck-E-Cheese with just a few friends. Kristy doesn’t have Madi that weekend, and Dana is teaching a class, so it’s just going to be us, the Palmer’s, and the O’Hair’s. Nice and easy, but Enzo won’t know the difference. He’s going to have a great time, and I look forward to writing about it.

Things have been especially busy for me at work since returning from Christmas vacation, but that was my own choosing. I have been assigned a lead developer role for a special project, which is due in the middle of February. It’s something I initially volunteered for back in mid December, and after nudging my manager a few more times, he gave me the project. I can’t give any details right now, but look forward to sharing them once it goes live. I’m working closely with some developers down in Buenos Aires, Argentina, so that’s been fun (as well as a good learning experience). I’m also still working closely with some developers in China (which I’ve been doing since June), so I have a lot of responsibility these days. This is what I wanted though, and I have no concerns about being able to deliver, so it’s all good.

I have also been getting together regularly with friends to play music, and looking forward to doing so again this Monday night. We’re just improvising and jamming, but it’s getting better and better. I’m going to start recording these jam sessions soon because every time we finish one of us always says “Wow, we came up with some cool stuff there. I wish I could hear that again.” Well, now we will be able to hear it again, and maybe even start turning some of these spur-of-the-moment ideas into more structured songs. We’ll see. It doesn’t really matter though, as just the experience of playing music with people is more than enough of a reward.

I guess that’s it for now, but with our big boy’s birthday next weekend, it won’t be long before I’m giving another update. Once again, our kids continue to amaze us with all their new milestones and achievements. Jessica and I couldn’t be more proud, or lucky, and look forward to whatever comes next. Here are a few recent photos from our world.

Our new couch!

Playing Bingo for Books at Penny Creek Elementary

We take our Bingo seriously in this family, and it all started with my Nana

Enzo found his favorite hiding spot

Ava getting started with the new hockey session

Her hockey stance is looking pretty darn good…

Having fun at Ava’s hockey practice

Enjoying a special treat with Mom

Taking in Monster Jam with my little sweetheart

All smiles at Monster Jam, 2018

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