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. . . .


Michaelanne says: September 12, 2016 at 04:11 AM

I think that "first day of school" dress is the PERFECT little outfit for her! Her memories will be full of SO many special moments!! You and Andy are such wonderful parents! I have to tell you...We recently lost both of my dear inlaws..90 and 91 yrs. old. They were married for 70 years! We adopted their 11 year old "corgipottamus" We have started her on some doggie ibuprofen for her arthritis and started her on a diet. She is such a wonderful old gal! I think of clover meadow when I look at our Ginger :) Such beautiful animals! LOVE your blog! Hugs...

You should make a man puppet with a curly mustache.

Cat McKenzie says: September 12, 2016 at 11:12 AM

Love the first days of pre school, what an exciting time for both children and parents. The children are taking their first time of exploring without a parent at their side and the parents are getting a small taste of life without a child right there to care for. It is such a precious moment, savor it and store it up. I've been there myself and then seen my children send their children off and it never gets less magical.

Love the plaid jumper and the woven basket shot, adorable and classic. I have a photo of myself in a plaid jumper carrying lunch box on my first day of kindergarten in the early 50's. It's nice to know that some times things stay constant. Thank you for these wonderful photos that bring so many memories back.

The pink hat and mittens are lovely, I will have to check back in the past entries to see what the patterns are for them. My 2 year old grandson loves "The MItten" by Jan Brett right now and I want to knit him a pair of white mittens for Christmas and I think the hat would be great for one of my granddaughters.

Hi Alicia,
Amelia looks so adorable! Not that you have time, but if you look in the archives of Sugar City Journal blog (they don't post anymore), the one gal made a dress very similar to this (looks like she made it of white muslin and called it the "servant dress" :). The other girl sewed the most adorable clothes for her blonde daughters, including a red coat that had little red riding hood and the wolf stitched inside. My girls are too old now, but her clothes sure were cute! Anyhow, just thought I'd mention it...

Ahhhh, four. So many ups and downs. So many new experiences. The apple of my eye turned 4 in early August. He goes between seeming so much older and more in-control, to a huge crying fit or temper tantrum over the smallest thing. And then the emotional storm passes, and he says in a matter of fact way 'I don't know why I was so upset mama, next time I'll be more calm'. the cute little personality is coming out, this morning when he woke up he burst into my room and said 'happy birthday!' At the top of his lungs with a dramatic flourish. He knows it is not my birthday. Four is such a joyful age.

What a beautiful post Alicia! I just love all your photographs, they just say so much. School is such a big step for all and I'm so glad to hear that Mimi is enjoying this new experience. Wishing you a beautiful week...

mandi@herbanhomestead says: September 13, 2016 at 09:20 AM

I loved this post. And I can't get over how much Amelia favors Andy. I'm an adoptive mama too and we hear that a lot as well. How much our little one resembles us. But it's true! Your puppet came out so great. My 12 year old has been dying to make one. I'll show her yours for inspiration.

What fun times! It's so rewarding to see how much our children grow and learn at school. Breezing in every day telling their new stories.

Wildly off topic, I thought of you immediately when I saw Netflix add "Slow TV" programs this week including a Knitting show and a Bergen train show!! Too delicious!

She's a blessed girl. That description of the moment of uncertain was so spot-on. Will they cry or won't they? Will they stay or will they shriek to go with us? And how do any of us feel about it? We homeschool so there isn't that definitive moment but lots of scary ones like it as my eldest becomes more and more independent. She who never had a moment of separation anxiety in her life. Thank you for sharing your journey as a mother. It's fraught with bittersweet moments that I don't expect. One question: the beautiful clothes you make for your daughter always thrill me, but I always wonder why do you make Amelia's dresses so short? Do they become tunics or shirts later? I know you use lots of vintage patterns but it seems she would outgrow them so fast.

I feel like I say the same thing everytime I leave a comment. It's all so lovely, even the hard parts.
I have a few things that I do not let my girls play with, although they are allowed to touch them under my supervision. Your handcrafted work does become part of you and you are so generous with your creative works.
Love you,

Oh I love this! I can't believe she is starting preschool! Amelia, her first day outfit and that basket are just adorable! I love your whole style aesthetic. Where do you like to shop for clothes and shoes for yourself? or do you make most of them?

The bun, the dress, the black tights! She is straight from an Eloise wilkin book!

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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