Posted by: allisonbarton | August 11, 2014

Summer Learning

I may not have helped Alex advance in his reading/writing/’arithmetic skills as much as I would have liked, but he has learned a lot this summer.

Classic kid learning, which may be the best kind, has been a big part of this summer for Alex. The kind of kid learning that sticks with you well into adulthood. The kind of kid learning that often comes out when drinking with other adult friends, or reminiscing with people you’ve known forever. The kind of kid learning that only happens by osmosis.

Alex has learned how to make various types of bracelets/necklaces:

Taking a break.

The ones that I remember making obsessively in summer camp as a kid were not this cool. They were with boring ol’ string, of various colors, of course, or that really stiff plastic rope. I tried to explain this to Alex, but he didn’t understand why I didn’t just make a thousand rainbow looms a day like he does.

He’s learned hand slapping games galore. I’m sure if you asked my mom, she would groan at the memory of me constantly reciting them on my own, and repeating them over and over when I had friends over. (Miss Mary Mac Mac Mac, all dressed in black, black, black…)

There is another thing Alex has learned this summer. One that is not so typical of what I think about childhood summers, but it seems that now Alex knows only this. And this one will come back to haunt him as he has to unlearn it, I’m sure.

This summer Alex has learned that he always wins. Even if your mother eloquently explains to you how the odds are not in your favor, and in fact stacked against you, and don’t get your hopes up, and blah blah blah.

Big spiel about how these games are designed for you to lose, blah blah, and he goes and wins. Of course.

Even if the chances of you being the one summer camper to bring home the poster that you all decorated is slim to none. Even if not a single other camper won some carnival game because it isn’t designed to be won. Even if there is a 0.0001% chance of winning. (Maybe I should take the kid gambling.)

I mean, really? What more does a kid need to learn?

July 26

Posted by: allisonbarton | July 29, 2014

Alex’s Diary

I have slacked off this summer.

It’s not easy to find time to make your kid practice his reading and writing and math skills when: a) you work all day and only have about two hours a day with him to start with (which includes making dinner and cleaning and showers and and and), and b) he hates it. Hates it. Alex does not want to practice reading. He does not want to write sentences. He does not want to do math worksheets. He doesn’t like to be wrong, and, as we all know, learning involves being wrong a lot.

So, Alex hasn’t been doing a ton of purposeful studying in preparation for first grade. Obviously he’s learning and growing and changing, because that’s all inevitable, but we haven’t sat down and practiced.

I had high hopes of having him do some workbooks, reading to me every night, writing in a summer journal…

July 26

Well, none of that has happened.

Until two weeks ago, when Alex, of his own accord, decided he needed a journal. He wanted to write in a diary. I think the reality is that he was drawn to a bright blue notebook and some cool pens, but a diary sounded like an idea that would get me to agree to buy it for him.

“Can I get these, Mom? I want to write a diary!”

Of course I let him get them. We have a rule that he can always get new books, so I figured this was a similar type of request. He picked up the pens and book and carried them through the rest of the store until we checked out.

So, he has a little blue diary. He has written about Kennywood, swimming, and getting a new toy. I am trying to get him to do it every night, but so far he does his Super-Grumpy-Kid-Thing every night and claims he has nothing to write about because his day was boring and nothing happened, which means I have to help him come up with something or I’m too exhausted and let him skip it.

July 26

But he’s doing it most nights. He’s practicing his writing, spelling, and thinking about his day.

And the best part about all of this? As I kiss him goodnight, handing him his diary and fancy pens? He says goodnight and then he goes to sleep.

He. Goes. To. Sleep. As in, I am not putting him to sleep.

If I had known a diary would be the answer to him putting himself to sleep I would have procured some cool looking pens and a book a long time ago. He writes in it, looks through a few comic books, and then turns out the light and puts himself to bed.

The kid who never sleeps, who has never slept, who has always needed a long bed time routine and a lot of encouragement, is now (usually) easy. (Usually is key: at least once per week he does call for us after he’s been in bed for thirty minutes or so. But I’ll take it!)

Growing up is cool.

July 26

Posted by: allisonbarton | July 22, 2014

Summer Fun

Even though he can be a total and complete cranky little grump, Alex is having a pretty awesome summer. Don’t ask him, though, because he will tell you it’s been “fine” or, depending on his mood, “boring” “the same as always” or “bad.” This, of course, is not true. I don’t think I have picked him up after a camp day one time and found him with less than a huge grin on his face as he’s running around playing with new friends.

So far, he has gone to three specialty camps in between weeks of, well, “regular” camp, I suppose. The “regular” camp is hosted by our local community, so he’s surrounded by other kids in his school district, doing arts and crafts, swimming, and spending many hours playing outside at the nearby park. He gets to go swimming three times a week, which is obviously the best part of every week.

The specialty camps have been pretty amazing: one was an outer space theme, one was Castles, Knights, and Dragons, and the one he did last week? Superhero Science. There could not be a more perfect camp for Alex, unless it was Superheros and Wizards and Dr. Who Science Camp. (And don’t worry: Wizard camp is coming up!)

Needless to say, he loved it.

As I picked him up on Friday afternoon, he got into the car and said, “Mom, I miss Superhero Camp.”

July 12

I don’t blame you, Kid. Superhero camp was right in your wheelhouse.

Posted by: allisonbarton | July 15, 2014

How I Eat Cupcakes When No One Is Watching

Fifth of July Fun

Fifth of July Fun

Fifth of July Fun

Fifth of July Fun

Fifth of July Fun

Posted by: allisonbarton | July 11, 2014

My Little Grump

Alex is a grump. He is able to complain about anything. A day does not go by where he doesn’t have multiple complaints about what was done, what wasn’t done, who did what, who didn’t do what, and why that day was not the way he wanted it to be.

Don’t get me wrong: Alex is also a very happy kid. He loves playing. He loves wrestling. He loves spending time with other kids.

But he’s a grump.

I ask him how his day was every day. When I pick him up from school or camp, or if it’s a day at home we discuss our day around dinner time. “What was the best thing about your day?” I learned to ask because asking, “how was your day?” inevitably gets a response of, “TERRIBLE! HORRIBLE! NO GOOD!”

Maybe lots of kids respond this way, but I never cease to be surprised by the negativity: “The best thing about my day was swimming…but the day was ruined when we had to stop swimming” or “the best thing? There was no best thing. It was all terrible” or “I don’t know. I didn’t really like anything we did today.”

There is never not a complaint. Things are never just good. On a rare day, I’ll get a response of, “my day was okay. So-so,” as he gives you one thumb up and one thumb down, or puts his palm down toward the ground and rocks it back in forth in the “so-so” motion.

And lately, that grumpiness is often related to swimming.

Fifth of July Fun

Alex loves being in the water. Last summer, we started taking him to lessons. He had only been in water maybe three or fours times prior to that, so needless to say it took quite a while for him to not be totally freaked out by the whole thing. But now, about a year after he had his first lesson? The kid wants to be swimming all.the.time.

He’s not exactly a Swimmer, either. I finally feel confident that if he is in a pool he won’t, you know, die. But I wouldn’t throw him out in the middle of a deep pool or lake and expect it to end well, either. Fortunately, he has all of the confidence in the world about his swimming abilities when he is able to stand.

And as such? No day is perfect because he didn’t get to spend the entire day in the water.

Today, Alex has a field trip with his summer camp. I asked him this morning how excited he was and his response? “It’s going to be terrible because it’s not a swimming day.”

What a little grump.

Fifth of July Fun

Posted by: allisonbarton | July 2, 2014


I discovered this post sitting in my drafts. It’s from a little over one year ago, and comparing it to the recent hose pictures I am completely blown away by the kid that has emerged in a year.

It’s funny how every at stage of Alex’s life, every few months, I find myself saying, “now he really looks like a kid…” and “oh, no, I mean, now he’s a kid!” I don’t imagine this will change as he continues to grow, change, learn, grow, change, learn, and grow into himself. Grow into the self that I sometimes get a glimpse of: the grown up Alex. The real big Alex.

But these old pictures? Oh man, he was such a little guy still. I mean, look at him now! He looks like he belongs in school, riding bikes, reading, running, talking back…he does all of these things, of course (except riding bikes…we’ve got to teach him that, still!), but he really looks like he does them, too.

So here is an old post that for some reason I never published. Cute, little, Alex.

He may be growing up (too fast), but he is clearly still a little kid.

Backwards Swim Shorts!

He (apparently) still needs me to tell him which way his shorts go on.

Warm Spring Day

Posted by: allisonbarton | July 1, 2014

All A Kid Needs

I couldn’t find our sprinkler. I couldn’t find the slip ‘n slide. I couldn’t find the baby pool/slide combination thing that he has probably far outgrown.

He didn’t care.

A hose is all he needed.

June 29, 2014

No one will be surprised to learn that by the end of this little adventure in hose play I was completely soaked.

It was worth it.

June 29, 2014

Posted by: allisonbarton | June 26, 2014

The Surprise We Kept

Zach’s father just celebrated his 60th birthday. To commemorate the amazingness that is turning 60, Zach’s mother decided we should throw a surprise party.

But not just any surprise party. This would be extra special. Amazingly special. We would get family and friends from all over the country in addition to the family and friends that are close. We would have amazing food, a bartender (!), and lots and lots of fun. It would be hosted at our house, under the guise that Zach would make us all cocktails before a fancy dinner out in order to get Zach’s father, called Big D by Alex (and, let’s be honest, everyone else at this point because kids do that), to our place.

Somehow we managed to keep the secret. Somehow, even though Alex knew for months, no one spilled the beans.

Somehow we managed to get almost all of the many people who love Big D to Pittsburgh, staying in hotels, quietly facebooking so no one knew where they were, eating take-out at our house because we couldn’t go out and risk being spotted! Somehow we managed to absolutely shock Big D.

D's 60th Birthday Party

And, yeah, there were many (happy) tears shed.

D's 60th Birthday Party

At one point Alex asked me why people were crying. “Sometimes, people cry when they are happy. They’re happy tears!” I attempted to explain through tears. He looked at me like I was crazy and walked away, only to show up again when cake was served.

It is a funny thing to cry when happy, but I, along with at least ten other people, shed a lot of tears during this party. It made taking pictures a bit difficult at times because everything was so blurry and made me even happier to be the one behind the camera so I could mostly hide my ugly-cry-face.

All of Big D’s siblings were able to make it: three from New England and one flew all the way up from Florida!

D's 60th Birthday Party

Plus their spouses and kids, and kids’ kids!

D's 60th Birthday Party

The outtakes from the family pictures are, by far, my favorite pictures of the day. People who see each other not nearly enough having way too much fun.

D's 60th Birthday Party

And then there’s Alex making this ridiculous face in nearly all of the pictures:

D's 60th Birthday Party

He’s lucky he’s cute and was surrounded by so many people who love him and even more who love his Big D (and therefore have to be nice to him).

It was an amazing day.

D's 60th Birthday Party

We are all lucky to have someone as wonderful as Big D in our life.

Posted by: allisonbarton | June 16, 2014

All Done

Thursday morning I had the pleasure of sleeping in a full two hours later than usual.

It was Alex’s Kindergarten Graduation.

The ceremony was adorable, of course, with each of the three kindergarten classes performing various songs and every child having the opportunity to walk across the stage to collect their diploma.

And of course I was sitting there the whole time thinking, “really? My kid is done with his first year of real school? How can this be?”

It feels like just yesterday we were dealing with a really rough start to the beginning of Kindergarten, full of fear and tears and sadness.

First Day of Kindergarten

Fortunately, things didn’t stay quite so awful as the days progressed. Things got better, though he never reached the point I had really hoped he would: loving it.

Learning is hard when you’re a perfectionist. Practicing new tasks is particularly challenging when the thought of getting it wrong causes extreme anxiety. Throughout this year we really struggled with homework, not because it was hard, per se, but because there was a chance he could do it wrong. There was a chance that the picture he drew wouldn’t look exactly like what it was supposed to. There was a chance that his writing wouldn’t be legible, and a chance that he would sound out a word wrong. We had many nights that included many tears. And many more nights that simply included excessive whining, groaning, frustrated-sighing.

First Day of Kindergarten

But the year went on, and he learned so much despite his insistence that he wasn’t learning anything at all, all day was nothing new, Mom, I don’t want to talk about it.

And then, before I even knew what was happening, it was graduation time. Alex is officially done with Kindergarten, done with his first year of school.

He was, by far, the best dressed at the event.

Kindergarten Graduation

And he was, by far, the best Kindergartener he could be and I cannot wait to see what next year brings.

Kindergarten Graduation

My little first grader.

Posted by: allisonbarton | June 5, 2014

Two Pairs Are Better Than One

May Playin'

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