The Preschooler

The day has come. We now have a full-fledged preschooler under our roof.
This makes that first day of daycare seem like ages ago. My, how far we've traveled.

Pheebs was so ready for preschool. She's been ready for months, and we've been talking up preschool with her all summer. During the last few weeks, she's regularly gone to the elementary school -- which also houses Phoebe’s new preschool -- with Kates, who’s been feverishly preparing her classroom for the school year. he and Kates made the run to purchase school supplies a couple weeks ago, which fetched Phoebe a pretty sweet pink and floral backpack that is not only as big as she is but may be the most stylish backpack in her class.

Tuesday night was the back-to-school night event and open house. While Kates had to greet new students and parents in her classroom, I got the privilege of taking Phoebe to her new classroom and introducing her to her two teachers, both of whom we know already through our church involvement -- which I found especially interesting because my preschool teachers also attended my childhood church. ... Oh, I could go on and on about all the parallels I'm noticing from Phoebe's evolving childhood in The 'Ville to the small-town experiences of my childhood.

We arrived after the early rush of kids and their parents, which meant Phoebe pretty much had free reign to explore the classroom and all its toys. Then, she didn't want to leave and played with just about every toy. It wasn't until well after the open house ended, most teachers had left the building and Kates arrived at the preschool classroom that we convinced Phoebe we needed to go home.

And that brings us to today. Kates was up and getting herself ready by 6 this morning. I was out of bed around 6:45, and Phoebe was next a few minutes later. She donned a new outfit that Grandma S. made for her. Kates left to begin her work day by 7:15 while Phoebe and I sat down to eat some cereal for breakfast. Then we tried the ritual first-day-of-school pictures, but Phoebe was being frustratingly silly during the photo shoot. So our pictures of the occasion aren’t so stellar.

By 7:30 we were out the door; her school day starts about 20 minutes earlier now than it did at her daycare -- which, in the terms of our morning rush and getting her ready, will be a huge adjustment. Although, I’m very much looking forward to the prospect of walking into my office before 8 a.m.

When we arrived at the school, Kates had come down from her classroom to meet us at the front doors. We walked Phoebe down the hall to her classroom and waited for a couple minutes with the other kids and their parents before the teachers were ready to open the classroom. After a couple minutes, the teachers stepped out and waved the kids inside the classroom. Phoebe was handed a laminated lunch card. She found a cubby with her name on it and hung her backpack on a hook. She turned to give us hugs. And then she was off and running to play with her new classmates.

A full-fledged preschooler.

* * *

It's been one heck of a memorable summer watching her grow and develop. The changes are happening so fast now, our pace of life picking up, it's becoming harder to reflect on the developments. Though we notice them daily.

For much of the summer she was obsessed with counting and singing the ABCs. There was a period that she counted almost everything with which she came in eye contact. Magnets on our refrigerator. Rocks in our gardens. Buttons on shirts. … She learned to count to 30, but hasn't quite grasped the concept that there is a whole series of numbers between 30 and 100. She counts “… 28 … 29 … 30 … 100!”

She knows how to spell her name and she’s on the verge of learning to write it. She’s got the P, B and Os, but Es are still tough. … And don’t dare call her anything but her name. Whenever Kates or I try a nickname on her, aside from Pheebs, or reference her in a way that doesn’t include her name, she often replies with a decisive, “No, I’m Phoebe!” A few weeks ago, Phoebe brought home a piece of artwork she did at daycare, and the teacher spelled her name on it, Fibby - we're not sure why. When Kates pointed it out to Phoebe, a look of horror spread on her face and then utter despair. When Kates asked her how she spells her name, Phoebe said forlornly, “P-h-o-e-b-e?” She is so proud of her name, and that she’s learned how to spell it, it was as if she feared everything she knew had suddenly changed without anyone telling her.

Another of her favorite past times is arranging objects in rows. It's not rare that Kates or I will leave a room and return to find objects in a perfect line on the table or floor. Puzzle pieces. Plastic foods. Blocks. Stuffed animals. If she’s outside, it’s usually rocks or acorns.

She loves to pretend cooking in her play kitchen. She bakes me cakes all the time -- with ingredients that have included beaded necklaces, shredded paper, crayons and all varieties of plastic foods including hot dogs, chips and fruits.

Her favorite meal these days, hands-down, is a ham and cheese sandwich on white bread from Subway. With apples and a white milk. ... The little girl who used to freely eat chicken and rice and all sorts of vegetables has turned into a picky 3-year-old who would live on hot dogs if we let her. But get her the kid’s meal from Subway and she's usually in her chair and scarfing down her sandwich before Kates and I can pour drinks and take our seats.

He favorite “movies” -- which she calls them whether we’re talking about films or television -- are “Little Einstein,” “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and “Dora the Explorer,” in addition to any animated Disney or Pixar film. I, for one, can’t wait for the day she grows out of the Dora phase. Ugh. … And then there’s the baseball games, in which, with the Brewers streaking and me watching more games online, she’s started to take a real interest. It’s not uncommon for her to wind up on the couch with me to watch a game, thus delaying bed time.

Yeah, bed time. She’s got the whole “I’m not tired” routine mastered, too. At least three nights a week, Kates and I will get her in bed, only to hear her door creaking open a few minutes later and then see her standing at the top of the stairs, rubbing her eyes. Sometimes we’ll shoo her back to her bedroom; sometimes we’ll let her stay up for a few more minutes. Really, she doesn’t want to miss anything. I realize that every time I see her cuddle up to Kates or I on the couch with that “I know what I’m doing” look. … I pulled that all the time when I was her age.

She has a wild imagination. She has names for all of her baby dolls and stuffed animals, most of which are named after Disney characters. She cares for all of them like they’re true family, and regularly holds deep conversations with them. … She has a wad of yarn that she pulls around the house, pretending it’s her puppy, and she’s named it Cinderella. … She also waves and talks to the sun and moon as if they’re old friends. Seriously, I could go on and on.

The pleasure she takes in such simple things is always a refreshing reminder for Kates and I to slow down. The other night, I walked in the house from work to see Phoebe happily dancing on a sheet of bubble wrap.

Her matter of factness can be comical at times, but the logic in her statements is often more hilarious. Most of her answers to questions start with “Because …” And they make no sense whatsoever. In her responses, she often states the effect before the cause. Question: “Why don’t you want to go outside?” Answer: “Because I don’t want to get wet, so it’s raining outside, and my baby is bery, bery sleepy because she’s bery sleepy and she needs to eat, but she doesn’t feel good, so I don’t want to go outside.”

She’s so independent. “No, I do it!” is one of her most used phrases. She also pronounces bring as “fring.”

And her Phoebe-isms. They come so often, I can't write them down fast enough. But here are few of the best things to come our of her mouth during the last couple months. At least, the ones we were able to write down …

“Don't forget to put sunscreen in the rip in my hair.” (The “rip” she was referring to was the part in her hair.)

“When I'm older, then I'll eat my chicken sandwich.”

Referring to a purse that was stuck around her head and shoulder: “I have a big head that's why I can't get it off.”

Phoebe was talking about riding bikes at preschool, and I asked her what kinds of bikes she rode: “They're red ones like tomatoes.”

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