School Days

comments: 62


























Well, well. School has started and it has been wonderful. School days! All two of them so far! :) First day: All the parents and kids wait in the foyer for the classroom door to open. There is one moment . . . one quiet, worried moment . . . taking her boots off, hanging up her coat. I bend down close. I can see everything move across her face. Curiosity and courage win out. Twenty minutes later, when the door opens, she gives us our kisses and hugs, turns to wave, and walks right in, wide-eyed with delight. Reportedly, she was the first one out on the dance floor. At school they dance, play, sing songs, garden, bake bread, cook soup, go outside, make music, rest, eat lunch. Her teachers texted mid-morning to say she was doing great! I hadn't realized I'd been holding my breath. After school, at pick-ups, she shrieks with glee and runs down the hall toward me, carrying Foxie and swinging her lunch basket. I scoop her up — she's so big — and hold her close, her weight heavy and limp with relief and fatigue. She presses her cheek so hard against mine and says, "Mommy . . . Mommy. . . ." I hold her for as long as I possibly can. Oh, my overflowing, fast-beating heart! School is intense! Even for us parents! I can only imagine what it's like for the children. So many new spaces, new places to put your things, a routine you've never had, new kids, new parents. My big, brave, beautiful girl. She inspires me every single moment. I love her so and am so thrilled for her.

After drop-off the first day, Andy and I, shaky with nervous energy, stopped for breakfast. Sitting next to each other, ordering the exact same thing, giddy with freedom (though we can't stop talking about Amelia), we linger for the first time in years. At home, with newfound empty hours and a huge list of chores I've been desperately needing to do, I do nothing, circling the rooms in a daze and working on my hand puppet. Andy gets a long-overdue haircut. The hours go perfectly slowly. Three mornings, twelve hours a week. It feels  monumental. I actually sit at my desk and space out. I can't remember the last time it's happened. After school yesterday we walked through the neighborhood to mail her birthday-party invitations and her six chain letters. The sun was shining, the air was cool, the leaves were red. She cried — bawled — when we passed her old friend's house and her friend's car wasn't there, and we didn't stop by. Maybe tomorrow, I said. Lillian might be at school, too. A different school. The bitter-sweetness of it all moved me. And her.

Another neighbor was cleaning out some old spaces and brought over a puppet she made years ago. That's hers, with the yellow hair. Amelia took down the tension-rod curtains in my office and brought them out to the back yard, and Andy set them up on some chairs. I listened to the two of them do a show (which lasted about four minutes) and it made me want to make a puppet. I got a dowel and some Model Magic and sculpted a head, then covered it with papier-mache (I just used newsprint and flour-and-water paste). She's my first puppet. I can't believe I've never made a puppet before, ever, even as a child (that I remember, anyway). I started off saying I was making this one for Amelia but now I don't really want to give it to her because it took me about three hours to put her yarn-hair on and I know Amelia will quickly peel it off, even if she says she won't. I told her I'd give it to her when she's fifteen. Guffaw. I'm probably serious, though. Usually I'm not like that — I gave her all of the stuffed animals I made (and who even knows where they or their clothes are now), I really don't care that much about my furniture or walls (though they haven't suffered too much, I don't think), and I certainly don't care how she destroys her clothes when she's playing — but I'm pretty sure I should keep this puppet out of reach. Better make another, less-precious one.

Actually, she's sitting in my office right now, holding the puppet (that I accidentally left on my table) and touching her hair very gently and then giving me a tiny little wave when she sees me watching her. Maybe there's hope. . . . Maybe I'll give it to her when she's fourteen. . . .


This is perfect. So so perfect! I remember wandering from room to room, imagining all the firsts my girls were having without me! Oh, the places she will go... Your puppet is gorgeous, well done!

oh. my. goodness. The picture with your little holding the basket is so cute!! I like how you matched her in black tights with the pink dress, it goes so perfectly!! School has also started up here in the south sound of Washington. The cooler days have been so nice and you have captured them wonderfully in your photos!! I love the puppet stuff!!!

Fabulous puppet. Of course you will crumble and give in to that sweet face. Love the under-the-umbrella photo. So glad she had a good couple of days at school. It's such a big change for everyone. CJ xx

Oh my gosh, I just love you all :) Her sweet expressions! Wishing you a beautiful school year ahead. Your photos, as always, are gorgeous and capture it all.

The last lines here made me smile and smile. I have read and reread them. I love the photo pf Mimi in her sun frock and thick knitted mitten. I remember holding my breath when my boys started school and again when they rushed out at the end of the day. Schooldays are great. So much excitement ahead for Amelia. I wonder if sweet Clover is hovering close by for crumbs.

Beautiful pics! Amelia looks cute at each age of her little life. And the family doggie looks like the faithful protector!
congrats on entering the busy life of school days! Andrea

32 years old is the magic age for our house, 15 sounds so generous. LOL

I'm giggling at the description of Amelia carefully stroking your puppet's hair. I think you nailed it when you said you knew she would peel it off. This age of discovery, you described it so well in terms of school. It made me think of when my nephew was Amelia's age. I had given my brother a yellow, foam chair that was supposed to be a cell phone holder on his desk. A little corporate schwag. For some reason, my nephew saw it on the dresser and took a bite out of it. He didn't eat it and he couldn't explain why he would take a bite out of it. Looking back, with the lens you've painted here, I think he was just exploring the texture of the chair. What's it like when I do this...? Have you ever ripped something just for the pleasure of hearing the ripping sound or the sensation of something running through your fingers? Learning through exploration. Kind of destructive, but kind of cool too.

How thrilling! Thank you for sharing the start of school -- I could feel it all and "re-feel" it all. My little girl is 16 1/2 and went back to school the other day too. She goes with a backpack that is almost as heavy as she is filled with things I never learned in school. She never got to play with my paper-clay puppet....but she does now drive my car. Gulp.

Well your puppet is fabulous! I want one and I'm a granny. It's good to have children respect other people's possessions and a great learning curve for Amelia. I love reading your blog and following your sweet family's daily life. I'm inspired by your writings and have faith that many people are as sweet spirited as you and yours. Maybe not as talented, but good souls none-the-less.

The puppet you made is a work of art. Please keep it for yourself. Some things, that we make, wind up feeling so special to us. I am not telling you what to do. But maybe explain that one is special to you, and that you will make her a very special one just for her. Because she will probably rip it's hair off and not mean anything bad by doing it. She has not got to the age to really protect something yet. So I think she would understand that you love that one. She seems so smart and loving. I love your blog by the way.

This post has two of my all-time favourites among your photos: one is the pic of Amelia's arm plus puppet thrust through the opening in the curtains. That one gave me a huge grin, it's such a great "moment" photo, leaving us to fill in the story. It would be lovely to know what the theatrical story was, but it's just as much fun to try to imagine it. The other is third from the end, the backlit flame-like leaves framed by the darker, nearer ones. That one stopped me cold: what an exquisite composition. You do the very best sort of blogging: beautiful and personal and inspiring. Thank you.

She's starting to have a more ..grown-up look:)Cute cute puppet:)
You can make one w/ long flaxen hair to resemble Amelia now:)

Oh what a wonderful idea to use the curtain for a puppet theater. You make a handmade life so beautiful!

This beautiful post made me cry. I have been following your blog since the day your precious Amelia came into your lives. My three children are grown now, but I still remember with vivid clarity the first days of school for all of them, as well as the way my husband and I felt. You captured those feelings perfectly in your post. This is bittersweet also as my middle child will be making the long trip across the country in a few days to attend graduate school in Northern California. My heart is full of pride and gratitude, but is also breaking. It seems as time goes on, some things stay the same. Blessings to you and your beautiful family.

Debbie Price says: September 08, 2016 at 03:26 PM

Oh,Alicia, hang on to these days. They go by so very fast. My sweet Laura, the youngest,will turn 17 on the 28th. I wonder how that can be, as just yesterday wasn't I rocking her to sleep, singing lullabies?
The puppet is amazing, especially the hair. I have only made felt, crocheted and knitted puppets. Maybe I will be brave and attempt to make one like yours!
Hope you have a lovely evening.

These photos are the sweetest. What pattern is the knitted bonnet?

Thank you.

I love your papier mache puppet! She's just so charming! I made a life-sized papier mache dog for my dad once and it took ages to make. And every doll I had as a little girl eventually got her hair chopoed off and nail polish brushed on her face. All that to say, I get you wanting to keep your puppet for yourself. hahaha!

loved reading this! what a blessing! how wonderful that you can record it here also to remember! God bless your beautiful young growing girl!

This is my favorite post ever of yours! Ain't motherhood grand? Twelve hours? I can't even imagine.

Oh, what a lovely story, so well written...
With love Manon

I love the pic of Amelia with her little basket in hand. Just like her mommy's basket. My 3 children are all in their 30's and I remember not knowing what to do with myself when they all began school. Having time to myself was such a rarity. Every time I see your pics of all of Mimi's milestones, it leaves me feeling so nostalgic and how quickly those days went by. I can't wait for this years birthday party for your girl. The cake, the food and decorations. Her birthday dress and of course, the presents! Thanks for sharing.

Maybe Amelia, since she is growing-up, will cherish the puppet. And maybe thirteeh will be a good limit ;-)
A stitcher from Portugal
Paula Lima

Carolyn Johnson says: September 09, 2016 at 02:57 AM

Beautiful, just beautiful. You never Gail to move anxiety inspire me

Alicia! Always such beautiful words! I am a kindergarten teacher and my husband is a fifth grade teacher. We have boy/girl 9 year old twins. Because we're all in the same city, we all have our first days of school together, yet separate! This year we began a new tradition of making a chocolate cake on the Sunday prior to Labor Day, and sang "Happy Fourth Grade to you...", along with adding our hopes for the year. As a kindergarten teacher and a mama, I so loved your description of her first days of school! It's such a big life moment for children and their families!

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at