sometimes normal is outstanding

I tend to be careful in what I share about my kids as they get older. So I’ve only talked about Catie’s struggles at school superficially here and there.

The short version: she’s a really smart kid, and she does great at math, science, and pretty much any subject that doesn’t involve reading. As far as I can tell, her struggle with reading had nothing to do with any lack of ability on her part, it was that she didn’t want to try. But it was enough of a concern that during the last few months of first grade, she was working with one of the school’s “reading intervention” teachers. And we’ve also had a tutor working with her after school three days a week. (Her tutor was a senior in high school when we found her last spring; she’s now a freshman in college, but she’s still local enough that she can work with Catie in the afternoons. And I’m thankful for that, because Catie loves her and they’ve made really good progress together.)

I knew that Catie had improved in reading significantly in the past few months, but I wasn’t sure how much. I emailed her teacher because if Catie was still struggling this year, I wanted to make sure that she could get in the reading intervention teacher’s group sooner than later, so she wouldn’t fall too far behind.

The school recently gave the literacy evaluation tests that they give at the beginning, middle, and end of every school year.

Catie’s teacher emailed me back that all of Catie’s scores were in the normal range, and there’s no reason to think that she needs to work with the reading intervention teacher at all.

I had to re-read that email a few times.

All. Scores. Normal range.

I knew she had made progress, but dang. Go, Catie! I’m so proud of her, because she’s really worked hard on this and it’s paid off.

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And not to keep rehashing how much I didn’t like Catie’s first grade teacher, but I remember toward the of the last school year, Dave and I met with her for a parent-teacher conference. I said that I was worried about Catie starting off second grade behind her peers in reading.

She replied, “Well, she’s going to be behind, nothing you can do about that.”

Thinking of that conversation now, I am overcome with the urge to scream at her. I want to make a copy of Catie’s test score results and show them to her, because Catie has made this much progress NO THANKS TO HER.

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I know this entire post basically comes off as me bragging about my kid, but man. I’m just so stinking proud of her. I know it’s really hard for her to break out of her comfort zone and try something new, because it goes against her cautious nature, but she did it. And I’m overjoyed to see how far she’s come.

Catie drew Spyro from Skylanders (both on a TV screen & the action figure on the portal). #gamer

(She’s a pretty good artist too.)

August 28, 2014Permalink 4 Comments

Ice Bucket’ed

Like pretty much everyone else on the Internet, I’ve seen about a million of the videos where people dump a bucket of ice water on their heads to raise money for ALS. My feelings about it were largely indifferent – hey, they raised a lot of money for a really terrible disease, and that’s awesome – and that’s about as far as I thought about it. I wasn’t gung ho about it or one of the people who complained about it.

Then my cousin nominated me for it, and he mentioned that he was also making a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in memory of our cousin Teresa, who died of CF ten years ago this month.

And dammit, if there’s one way to get me to jump on a bandwagon, it’s to bring in a cause that’s near and dear to my heart.

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I think my dad enjoyed pouring ice water on my head a little too much.

I had shown the kids a couple of ice bucket videos, but they didn’t really get what was going on. Catie was kind of upset about it (“Why are you doing this? What if someone nominates ME? Am I going to have to do it too? I don’t want ice water on my head!”), but I reassured her that it was all fine, it’s just for fun, and nobody was going to make her do it. You can see that when the water is going on my head, she’s in the back covering her ears because I was screaming.

Lucy thought it was all pretty funny. “Pop-Pop put water on you head! Dat’s so silly!” Who knows what she’ll repeat to her daycare teacher today.

Anyway, I made matching donations for both ALS and Cystic Fibrosis, and it turns out my employer matches charitable donations, so that doubles my efforts.

Temporary discomfort for a good cause? Sure, why not.

And now I can’t wait to see what my sister and brother-in-law do for their ice bucket challenge…

August 26, 2014Permalink 3 Comments

outrunning fate

I don’t remember how old my mom was when she started having back problems. I guess it started when I was a teenager, but I’m fuzzy on the details.

I remember when I was in college and she called to tell me that she’d been diagnosed with scoliosis. She said she was afraid she might end up in a wheelchair, and she cried. I vividly remember standing in the bedroom of my apartment in Memphis, and feeling completely helpless, because my mom was 200 miles away, and all I wanted was to give her a hug.

Fast-forward nearly 20 years. My mom isn’t in a wheelchair, but her scoliosis has progressed, and she’s in pretty much constant pain. She uses a back brace, her back is hunched, and she has to wear a patch that gives her a low, steady dose of constant narcotic painkillers. She sees an acupuncturist regularly, which seems to help give her some occasional relief. But it’s a pretty awful way to live.

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I think I’ve mentioned here plenty of times that I was very overweight when I was young. When I was in high school, I used to go for walks at night after dinner, for exercise. (That’s the thing about Mississippi – most of the year, it’s so hot that it’s only bearable to go outside after it gets dark.) I’d usually walk 2 or 3 miles a night.

A lot of times when I went for walks, one of my parents would go with me. If it was my mom who came along, she’d complain a lot of the way that she didn’t want to go, even though she knew she needed to. She hated to exercise. (My dad never complained. He’s a golfer, walking a couple miles is nothing when you’re used to walking 18 holes.) Sometimes I’d egg my mom on to keep going, sometimes she’d take a shortcut back home rather than finish the whole route.

That’s not an indictment of my mom’s character. Plenty of people don’t enjoy exercising. I don’t think that it makes you a good or bad person one way or the other. She didn’t like to exercise, so she didn’t do it much. That’s all.

I don’t know if any of my mom’s health issues would’ve been helped if she had exercised more. Maybe if she’d had stronger core muscles, it would’ve helped to support her spine, and she wouldn’t be in as much pain now. I honestly don’t know.

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My mom and I have a lot in common. If you look at pictures of her when she was younger, we look a lot alike.

1970 - My parents with Tracy
My parents in 1970 with my sister Tracy.
Side note: my mom thought she was hideously fat when this picture was taken. If there’s any question where I get my ridiculous body dysmorphia, there you go.

For the past year and a half or so, I’ve been pretty obsessive about exercise. I workout 5 days a week on average. I mostly run, although I’ll occasionally do a Jillian Michaels DVD (like the 30 Day Shred or one of those) just to mix it up and make sure I get some strength training, too.

It’s occurred to me that part of the reason exercise has become so important to me is because I’m afraid of ending up like my mom. I don’t know if I’m prone to the same health problems that she has, but I know that I absolutely do not want to end up in constant pain like she is. I don’t want to live like that.

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When I started running, my goal was to be able to run a 5K (3.1 miles). I hit that goal a couple of months ago. Now I’ve shifted it, and my goal is to be able to run 5 miles before Christmas. I don’t know where I came up with that number or why it feels significant. I guess it’s because until recently, it’s not something I ever thought I’d be able to do, and now it feels attainable.

A lot of my runner friends have encouraged me to do a race of some kind. Lord knows there’s plenty of options out there: 5Ks, 10Ks, full marathons, half marathons, whatever. I understand that a lot of people use them as a timeline for achieving a specific goal, and others just think races are fun. But I don’t want to do a race. I never run with other people. I don’t even run with Chris – although that’s mainly because he runs so much faster than me, he’d leave me in the dust in the first five minutes. Hell, I don’t even like passing people on the sidewalk of my street. So the idea of running with hundreds of other people makes me nervous. The thing I like about running is being able to zone out in my own head. The only person I’m competing with out there is myself.

(For what it’s worth, running also helps tremendously with my anxiety. I’ve had days where I wake up feeling shaky and panicky for no reason other than some stupid hormonal shift. If I’m running, I feel like it’s ok that my heart feels like it’s going to pound out of my chest and that I’m gasping for breath, because oh yeah, I’m running. It burns off that whole “fight or flight” thing, and by the time I get home, I’m calmer and the panicky feeling has passed. For that alone, I cannot recommend it enough.)

I don’t know what the end goal is with all this exercising that I’m doing. I don’t have any specific weight loss goal, because I’m pretty much ok with where I am now. (Although I wouldn’t mind toning up some places. I’m looking at you, upper arm flab.) I guess when I hit that “I can run 5 miles” goal, I’ll shift it out more and figure out what’s next.

The thing is, as I find myself barreling down on my 40th birthday (which, ok, that’s still a year and a half from now), and that whole “middle age” notion creeps in, my health is becoming more and more important. I feel like I need to make myself as strong as possible now, so I’ll be prepared for whatever physical challenges my body may face in the future.

So if you ever happened to wonder why I run? That’s why.

August 25, 2014Permalink 2 Comments

mommy’s weekends

Dave and I alternate weekends with the kids. Having the free time has been nice (and every other weekend when the kids are with him? I sleep as late as I want and it is GLORIOUS), but it’s also been hard for me to adjust to not having the girls with me as much.

I try to make sure we always do something fun for them on my weekends. Two weekends ago, we went to the beach. Before that, it was 4th of July weekend and we hung out with family and went swimming.

This past Saturday night, we went to see The Little Mermaid onstage. Chris’s cousin works at the theater downtown where they were showing it, so she got us early, discounted tickets.

About to go see The Little Mermaid on stage with my girls.
Before the show. Also? Hey, 2 inches of roots. Time to get my highlights re-done, obviously.

Chris had his kids that night, so we all went together, which was a little crazy with 4 kids all going in different directions. But the kids get along really well together, and the show was just fantastic.

Oddly enough, Lucy – the child who was the most excited about going to see the show (because she is a huge fan of anything that involves princesses) – was the one who had the hardest time watching it. She was a wiggle-worm and wanted to sit on Chris’s lap, then on my lap, then back on Chris’s lap… never in her own actual seat, of course. I mean, she’s only 3. The older kids have the attention span to sit still and watch the show, at least more than she does. But she wasn’t the only kid who was squirmy and moving around a lot, so I didn’t worry about it too much. She was quiet, at least.

The show started at 7:30, and didn’t end until 10:00 p.m. It was way past the kids’ bedtimes, but we figured hey, we’re already out this late, and Krispy Kreme’s flagship store downtown was just a few blocks away…

I mean, really. If you're downtown long past bedtime anyway, you might as well.

She insisted on a pink donut. To match her dress. And her manicure.

Both Catie and Lucy fell asleep in the car on the way home. I carried Lucy in, took off her shoes, and put her in the bed, fancy tutu dress and all. Catie woke up enough to walk in the house, change out of her jeans and into her PJ shorts, then she crawled into the bed and crashed. Both kids slept until 9 the next morning, which is basically unheard of.

Well, actually, scratch that – Lucy woke up at 5 a.m. and came into my room crying, “I don’t wanna wear this!!” about her fancy dress. I guess she was confused when she woke up, poor kid. I changed her into her PJs and put her back in the bed, and she was out.

(I also stripped the beds and washed the sheets on Sunday, because the kids had been pretty filthy when they went to bed, and we were due for a laundry day anyway.)

On Sunday, we dropped Lucy with my parents for a while (getting the grandparents all to herself is pretty much Lucy’s Most Favorite Thing Ever), and Chris and I took Catie to a game store that was hosting a Pokemon tournament. She’s been into Pokemon for a while, but she doesn’t really know how to play the card game. My parents gave her some money to buy some more cards (she already had some, but not enough to make a deck that you can play the game with – don’t ask me, I don’t really get how this works). We met some really sweet kids there who were willing to play with her and help teach her the rules, and she had a blast.

Funny aside: there was a little girl there named Katie, who was maybe 11 or 12 years old. She had purple glasses, long blonde hair, braces, wearing sneakers and a Pikachu t-shirt… It just kind of hit me that this was probably my Catie’s future. Which is fine, because the girl was so sweet (albeit in the awkward pre-teen years), it just struck me that, yeah, I can totally see Catie being just like that in a few years.

Catie learned a lot about how to play the game, and later that night when we got home, Chris played a couple more practice rounds with her. He’s better at this kind of stuff than I am.

Pokemon practice. The cat is just an observer.
Even though he was playing while half-asleep on the living room floor.

Catie was excited to understand the game a little better, and she said she hopes the next time she sees Dave’s girlfriend’s kids, she can beat them at Pokemon. We’ll see, I guess.

Meanwhile, Lucy had so much fun playing at my parents’ house that she was pretty much worn out by the time we got back.

Topless napping. It's all the rage.
Poor sleepy little pumpkin.

Both kids were out for the night before their bedtime (I try to get them to bed by 8:30 or 9; last night, they were both out by 8:15). I’m going to consider that a sign of a successful weekend.

August 4, 2014Permalink 1 Comment

there should be Crazy Reading Time for grown-ups too

Catie started second grade yesterday. It was weird for me, because I took her to her first day of kindergarten and first grade, but this past weekend was Dave’s weekend with the kids, so he took her to school on Monday morning.

Dave and I had met up with the kids last week for “back to school” night, so we both met her teacher already. He had texted me that he packed Catie’s lunch and walked her inside to make sure she found her classroom, and that she was totally fine when he left.

But even though I knew it was all ok, I just felt uneasy and worried all morning. I didn’t get to give her a hug and a kiss and send her off on her first day of a new school year, and that felt really weird for me. File under, things I’m going to have to get used to. (There’s a lot of those.)

I picked the girls up last night, and Catie didn’t have much to say about her first day (I got the usual, “it was fine” response). I showed her some of the online tools her teacher is using this year, which is new for us – there’s an online reading log where she can add in the books she’s read, and it gives kids little incentives/rewards on the website as they progress. (She chose a dancing lizard as her avatar. Because of course she did.)

Then she said, “You know the cool thing about [her new teacher's name]?” (I’m about 99% sure she never told me that anything her first grade teacher did was cool or fun.)

It turns out that in first grade, when they had their assigned reading time, they had to sit at their desks and read quietly. Her new teacher has what he calls Crazy Reading Time – they can sit under their desks, on top of their desks, on his chair, wherever they want to go in the classroom to get comfortable and read. And you know? I’m going to call anything that gets Catie excited about reading time a HUGE win for us. So, hooray for the new teacher.

Also, one of her tutors is starting her freshman year of college, but asked if she can keep working with Catie after school a couple of days a week. Which is awesome, because Catie loved her and she really seemed to help a lot. She’s starting next week.

So, all good things there.

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Last night, I had to wash the girls’ hair. (We usually wash hair every other night, give or take – sometimes they might go 2 nights if they don’t look greasy, or we might have to do it more frequently if they’ve gotten sweaty/stinky.) On hair wash nights, I bathe them separately because Catie prefers the shower, but Lucy is still scared of the shower. And really, with Catie I basically just stand there and supervise to make sure she rinses all the shampoo out, she does the rest herself. (Ways in which 7 year-olds are awesome.)

Normally during bathtime, I play music on my phone to keep them entertained. I did Lucy’s bath first, and she asked me to play the Frozen soundtrack. Which is pretty normal for us.

Then Catie came in and wanted me to play Lil’ Jon “Turn Down for What.”

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It was just kind of jarring to go from Disney princesses to rap/dance music. And struck me as funny that there’s a huge difference in those 4 1/2 years between them.

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Another random music thing: we were in the car and Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” came on the radio.

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There’s a line in the chorus where she says, “I have loved you for a thousand years, I’ll love you for a thousand more.”

From the backseat, Catie says, “That’s two thousand years, that’s a pretty long time.”

Ok, my little nerd. Way to take a romantic metaphor and turn it into a math equation.
Catie opted for the neon green shades.

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This morning, I went to give Lucy a kiss, and she wiped it off, and said, “Mommy! You have on lipstick!”

I hadn’t even gotten dressed yet, so I certainly didn’t, but I realized that it was my coffee breath that offended her. I laughed, said sorry, and kissed her again. She said, “STOP IT! I no like yucky kisses!”

Which of course led to me kissing her all over her arms and belly just to tease her and make her laugh.

It was her sister's eye doctor appointment, but she got a new pair of sunglasses anyway.

Sorry, little girl. I’m pretty much never going to stop kissing you.

(Also, very grateful that Chris never tells me that my kisses are yucky. Although I guess I do normally brush my teeth or at least pop a mint or something before I kiss him.)

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Thinking of dental hygiene: I took the kids to the dentist last week, and was texting Dave afterward to fill him in on what they recommended for the girls. It ended up with me making a completely filthy “spit versus swallow” joke and I realized that we really are pretty amicable with each other now. Which is definitely a good thing.

Or it could just be that I have the sense of humor of a 12 year-old boy sometimes. Either or, really.

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Ok! That’s probably enough random non-sequiturs for today, yes? Yes.

July 29, 2014Permalink

beach weekend

This past Saturday morning, we (my parents, the kids, and me) loaded up my mom’s mini-van, and drove out to Wilmington, to go to to the beach.

Headed for the beach. The pillow serves a dual purpose: breaking up fights, and car naps.

My brother and his girlfriend Mandy drove over from Charlotte to meet up with us, and Chris and his son also came. (His daughter is out of state visiting her aunt.)

waiting for the waves to come to her

Catie and Chris’s son are the same age – they’re both about to start 2nd grade – and they play really well together.

Catie playing on the beach with Chris's son

Last year, Lucy was terrified of the ocean and wouldn’t even put a toe in the water. There’s a big difference between age two and three, though, because this year, she loved it.

Favorite pic from today: Lucy in the ocean with my parents. This is the first time she hasn't been scared of the beach.

I mean, that face, COME ON.

Lucy loving the beach

We were at the beach for over four hours, straight through Lucy’s naptime. She was having so much fun, but eventually she got tired and grumpy, and fell asleep on Chris’s shoulder. We set up a spot so she could have a little beach nap.

Beached.

Eventually, we headed back to our hotel, cleaned up, and went to dinner. Chris and his son headed back to Raleigh (he had to have him back to his mom early on Sunday morning), and the rest of us crashed at the hotel.

worn out in the hotel after the beach

The next morning, we met up with my brother and his girlfriend for breakfast, before we headed home. (Mmmm, Cracker Barrel…)

I had sort of a surreal moment later when I saw these two pictures, side by side.

Same beach, same swimsuit. Two girls, 4 years apart

Catie in 2010, Lucy in 2014. Same beach. Same swimsuit. Two different kids, four years apart.

It’s funny because I don’t normally think Catie and Lucy look alike all that much, but then I see them like this, and it sort of hits me that whoa, yeah. They really are siblings.

I guess an overnight road trip doesn’t really count as a vacation, but it’s probably as close as I’m going to get to one this summer. And it was great, so I have no complaints. I know the kids wanted to stay longer. Funny thing is, this was the first year that I really wanted to stay longer too. Normally after an hour or so at the beach, I’m all, “Ok, I’m done.” This was the first time that both kids were having fun, and I was able to just relax and enjoy it. Hopefully, next time, we’ll be able to swing at least a two- or three-night stay.

I’ve also promised my mom a trip to the mountains at some point (maybe in the fall, or for her birthday). She’s never been, and I know the kids would love that too. It’s one of the many great things about where we live in NC – you can drive a couple of hours in either direction and be either at the ocean or in the mountains. It makes vacations a lot more accessible when they’re within a reasonable driving distance.

Now, if I can just clean up all the sand we brought home with us…

July 21, 2014Permalink

nothing to see here, folks

It’s never a good idea to sit down and try to write a blog post when you don’t have anything specific in mind that you want to say, but I kinda just want to move that other post down the page a bit.

So! Let’s move on, shall we?

Hey, mind if I complain about my week?

Monday, the kids and I went to my parents’ house for dinner (as we often do, since they live a little over a mile away and they love their grandkid time). At some point, Catie went to use the bathroom. Then I heard her start crying and calling for me.

Turns out, she had a UTI. My parents kept Lucy while I took her to Urgent Care.

That kind of threw the whole evening off. We went to Urgent Care, got a prescription for antibiotics, went to Rite Aid to get it filled, went back to my parents’ house to pick up Lucy, then headed home. It was after the kids’ bedtime already when we got home, and I still had to bathe them and do the whole bedtime routine.

It was somewhere in that frantic bedtime rush that I realized everything in my freezer had melted, and everything in the fridge was cool-ish but not cold.

There are times that I miss being a homeowner. Like, I hate the wallpaper in my dining room-turned-office (it’s a floral pattern that I think is ugly), and I wish I could rip it down and paint the walls a soft, neutral color. But on the other hand, there are times like this, when a major appliance breaks, and I don’t have to pay to fix it, and I thank my lucky stars that we rent this house.

My landlord has a website where we can file maintenance requests, and they’re pretty prompt about responding to them. An appliance repair guy came out the next day to look at the fridge, decided it was too old to bother fixing, and TA-DA! I’m getting a new fridge. Which is awesome.

(Except for the part where it’s now Thursday and I still don’t have a new fridge yet, and I’ve lost a ridiculous amount of money on all the food I’ve had to throw away. Hopefully it’s getting delivered today.)

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Complete topic jump: yesterday I took both kids to get haircuts. Catie was way overdue, her hair was the longest it’s ever been in her life. At first, she said she wanted her hair cut short, so she wouldn’t need a ponytail every day (it’s HOT in the South, you don’t want all that hair on the back of your neck if you’re a little kid who likes to play outside). Then she changed her mind and decided she didn’t want it that short after all.

Catie before & after her haircut

My hairdresser, Kim, took off over 3 inches, and it’s still plenty long enough to put in a ponytail.

(I know Catie will probably hate these pictures of herself someday, because I hate all the pictures of me with gap teeth when I was her age, but man, I do love that awkward little smile of hers.)

Lucy waited patiently for her turn to get a haircut.

Waiting her turn at the hair salon. (Catie is getting her haircut first.)

Thank God for iPads, man.

Then she sat in the chair like a big girl for her haircut. (Kim had some cushions to boost her up so she wouldn’t need to sit in my lap.)

Lucy during and after her haircut

So, three year-olds are basically grown-ups, huh? Weird.

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Another complete topic jump: Chris and I have marathon’ed a lot of shows over the past year or so. We’ve watched Breaking Bad, Homeland, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Masters of Sex, and probably something else I’m forgetting. We’ll watch one or two episodes a night, and work our way through them.

Last night, we watched the first episode of the first season of The Walking Dead.

Y’all, I am… not at all sure that I will be able to handle watching that show.

If you’d like to leave me a suggestion for something good that won’t scare the crap out of me, please do. (And keep in mind it has to work for both of us. Like, I can’t watch Game of Thrones because I can’t handle that much torture/violence. And we can’t do girly shows like Veronica Mars, because, no.)

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So, you know, everything is fine. Catie is feeling better (Bactrim is good stuff), and I’m making some fun plans for this weekend while the kids are with me. We’re all good here.

Now if I can just get that fridge delivered…

July 17, 2014Permalink