Queen City wedding

This past weekend, we drove to Charlotte for my cousin Renee’s wedding. We set off on Friday, with my parents in one car, and me, Chris, and the girls following in my car.

Charlotte is only about 150 miles from here, but we let my dad be in charge of the GPS, which in hindsight was the worst idea ever. He found the shortest route, and as most people know (but my dad didn’t), shortest does not always equal fastest. So, a trip that should have taken 2.5 hours (give or take) ended up taking well over 4 hours, because he had us go down some random back highway with a speed limit of 45, and frequent stop signs. (“It’s 30 miles less if we go this way!” Well, yeah, but the alternate route lets us go 70 mph with no stops, so…)

And really, the kids were SO GOOD the whole time — they didn’t fight, they played quietly, they didn’t whine — but it stressed me out to be in the middle of nowhere, doing the toddler potty math of “oh god, how long do I have before Lucy says she needs to pee and there is NOWHERE out here to stop?!” (Parents of 3 year-olds, you know what I’m talking about.)

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Eventually we got there, and we saw the house that my brother and his girlfriend moved into a few months ago, which was lovely. My parents stayed with my brother & his girlfriend at their place. I booked a hotel for me, Chris, and the girls, since that seemed like a lot to unload on my brother. It would’ve been even more fun if we could have brought Chris’s kids along too, but unfortunately it didn’t work out with their custody schedule.

After visiting with my brother for a while, we headed over to our hotel, checked in, and met up with our extended family who was in town for the wedding.

5 out of 7 (my mom's siblings)

I was trying to explain to my kids how Mimi (my mom) is one of 7 kids, so she has 2 sisters, and 4 brothers. (This pic is 5 of the 7 – it’s missing my mom & my uncle Brian.) Catie took a minute to process this, then said, “We aren’t going to have 5 more babies, are we?”

Which, HAHAHAHAAAAA NOPE. No, sweetie, we most definitely are not. I think I’m good with just the two.

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There was a little dessert reception thing at the hotel for out-of-town guests – not exactly a rehearsal dinner, but sort of a pre-wedding get together. That was a lot of fun, and the kids spent most of the time playing with their cousins, doing cartwheels in the hallway outside of the banquet hall.

It took the girls a while to get settled at our hotel room that night and crash.

It's way past bedtime, but we're out of town, & they've both been so good all day. I don't have the heart to make them stop when they're playing quietly next to each other.

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The next day, we got up, saw my sister for a few minutes (she got in late Friday night and the girls were dying to see her), then had breakfast with my cousin Cat (not the bride, a different cousin) & her family. Then we went to my brother’s house to gather up our people and head to the wedding.

I realized after the wedding was over that I had one picture of both of my girls all dressed up for the wedding, in their dresses that my mom made. (Having a Mimi who’s a retired seamstress has its perks.)

Realized I have exactly 1 picture of my girls dressed up for my cousin's wedding yesterday. Catie was mad about having her picture taken, and Lucy was... being Lucy.

Catie was mad that I was trying to take her picture. Lucy was… well, being Lucy. That picture cracks me up to the point where I’m thinking about framing it, because it sums them up perfectly.

waiting for the wedding to start with Mimi & Pop-Pop
Waiting for the wedding to start.

Catie wanted to sit with her cousin Elizabeth, and I wish it wasn’t disrespectful to take pictures in church, because the way they either sweetly held hands or had their arms around each other was completely adorable. They locked their fingers together during the prayer. It was amazing.

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The reception was at a museum in downtown Charlotte, and it was gorgeous. So was the bride, for that matter.

So my cousin is pretty much the most beautiful bride ever. And i love seeing her so happy.

It really makes me so happy to see Renee so happy.

We goofed around at the beginning of the reception. We ate yummy food, and Catie took this picture of me and Chris that I love.

My cousin's wedding reception, Catie took this pic & I love it.

Then the band started, and we danced like crazy people.

Lucy & Mimi dancing at the reception

I feel bad for not taking more pictures than I did. Like, I didn’t get any of my siblings, or most of my relatives who were there. But I was just… there. And sometimes I think it’s a good thing to put down my phone and go enjoy the moment, rather than worry about documenting every single second with a photo.

And I mean, I danced so much that by the time we got back to the hotel room, my legs were more sore than they feel after a 5 mile run. So I’d say I enjoyed the hell out of that moment.

At the risk of sounding corny, I feel like I’m just so incredibly fortunate to have the family that I have. They’re a group of people who I genuinely enjoy being around, and I always have so much fun with them. We don’t see each other as much as I wish we could, because we’ve spread out all over the U.S., but weddings & other reunions are always so much fun.

And lucky me, I have another cousin who’s getting married next spring, so I have that to look forward to, in just a few months. I already can’t wait.

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We drove back on Sunday, and got back later than planned, but it turned out ok. Catie really wanted to see Dave, and we’re trying to make sure she gets one-on-one time with each of us when we can swing it. So I dropped her off with him, and Lucy and I hung out for the evening. Even though three year-olds are difficult, having only one kid feels so easy compared to juggling them both.

We went for a walk, just the two of us, and she insisted she needed to bring her baby (and her baby’s diaper bag) along.

taking her baby for a walk

Then she discovered that crunching leaves is pretty much the most fun thing ever.

leaf crunching

And you know, there are times that I worry that I’m a terrible parent and I’m going to ruin my kids somehow. Nothing in particular makes me think that, it’s just that constant self-doubt that I think most parents probably have from time to time. But then, I’ll have a moment where I see them completely carefree and happy, and I think… yeah, we’re probably going to be ok.

After all, I have a whole family full of amazing role models to use as a point of reference.

October 21, 2014Permalink 1 Comment

running a duck

I’ve composed about a half-dozen blog posts in my head over the last couple of weeks, but I can never seem to find the time to sit down and write anything out, or make it coherent. So here’s a bunch of random little things.

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Remember I said a while back that my goal was to be able to run 5 miles? Well, a couple of weeks ago, I finally did it. Let me repeat that: I RAN FIVE MILES. And I’ve done it a couple of times since then. Which is kind of amazing, given how terrible I was at running up until very recently.

I don’t know how many of y’all have seen the Running Drawing Tumblr, where the girl runs routes in various shapes on her GPS app, and most of the time they look like penises?

Well, a couple of Saturdays ago, while the kids were with Dave, I went for a run at a nearby park, got completely lost (there’s a lot of trails that sort of loop back on themselves, plus I have a crap sense of direction), and I realized when I got home that I… basically ran a duck.

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Not my intention, but I’ll take it.

I don’t know what my next goal is. I’ve started thinking about half-marathons in the back of my head, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever do it.

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Also on the whole fitness/exercise thing, have you heard of these Betty Rocker workouts? A couple of times a year, she does this 30-Day Fitness Challenge. Linda (@Sundry) does a good job of summarizing it here.

I was sold on it for a few reasons: I need to work on strength training, 3 workouts a week is totally manageable, and most importantly: it’s free, so if I decide I hate it and flake out, no big loss. I found a bunch of my Twitter friends are doing it as well, and that’s been kind of fun, to have people you can talk to about it, and commiserate with along the way.

Anyway, I just finished week 2, and I have no idea if I’ll make it the whole month, but… maybe? I’ll try. I mean, I’m halfway done, so I feel like I’m invested enough at this point to try to stick it out.

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Catie is on her fall break, and just finished up a week at science camp. She was so excited about it, and had such a great time, and the whole facility is set up really neat, and I just can’t say enough nice things about them.

Catie at science camp

They let her keep her lab coat, and now she’s saying that she wants to be a scientist for Halloween. This will be the first year since she was 2 that she hasn’t been a dinosaur for Halloween, so I’d say that’s pretty huge.

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Meanwhile, in my quest to encourage each of my kids to explore their own interests: Lucy has said several times that she wants to take ballet classes. So I thought, why not? She wants to wear tutus and be a girly-girl, then by all means, let’s embrace that, and let her be who she is.

I called around and found a dance studio that would let her try one free trial class. The class was called “Ballet, Tap, & Tumble,” and it was all 3 year-olds. That sounds completely awesome and hilarious, doesn’t it? I bought her a leotard and ballet shoes, and we borrowed tap shoes from a friend. She was so excited when I first told her about it.

Then, Saturday morning, when it was time for class, she freaked. She wouldn’t put on the leotard, she cried and cried. I figured she could go in her regular clothes, no big deal, maybe she’d decide to change when we got there and saw the other kids in their leotards.

She refused to go into the classroom. She clung to me like a baby rhesus monkey, and buried her face in my hip when the (very sweet) instructor came over to introduce herself. I couldn’t even get her off my lap to watch the class.

Lucy's reaction to her first ballet class. She was NOT HAVING IT.

We eventually gave up and left.

I suppose 3 is awfully young to start ballet, maybe she could try it next year and have fun with it. Or maybe she’ll never want to take dance classes, and that’s ok too.

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October seems to be a month that’s dedicated to raising awareness for a lot of various causes, and it’s a hard month for a lot of people. Like:

  • October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
    My mom had breast cancer, but she’s been cancer-free for 6 years now, so we no longer worry about recurrence. I had my first mammogram last year (a baseline before I had surgery), and it was normal. I know I’m very lucky.
  • October is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
    I know far too many people who’ve suffered that loss. Again, I know I’m very lucky. I’ve had a grand total of two pregnancies in my entire life, and both of them resulted in healthy babies. I cannot imagine that pain.
  • October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
    Yet another instance where I know I’ve been lucky. I’ve never been in a relationship where I felt unsafe or threatened, and no man has ever hit me. And it’s another cause where I know too many people who have dealt with the issue. And I use the word people intentionally, because of course men can be victims of domestic violence too, and it’s something that isn’t talked about as much because it’s considered emasculating. I can honestly say that the man I love knows more about being on the receiving end of domestic violence than I ever will, and I hate that for his sake.

    (To clarify: not from me, obviously. I think the last time I hit someone, it was my brother, when we were in middle school.)

Point being: if any of those things apply to you, and it makes October a difficult month for you, I am very sorry, and I wish you peace.

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Just so I don’t end this post on a complete down-note: in case Lucy’s sad, pouty face up there is too heartbreaking, allow me to show you what happened a few hours later, when I wasn’t paying attention and she found my Burt’s Bees tinted chapstick on the bathroom counter.

Lucy & my lipstick

She said, “I so beautiful now! I can give you a kiss?” Then left a big ol’ purple mark on my cheek. Thanks, kiddo.

So, there. Purple chapstick’ed kisses for everyone.

meat circles

So, this has been Catie’s “buying her lunch as punishment for not eating her packed lunch” week.

Monday, she said she liked her lunch. When asked what she ate, she said, “A banana and something made of meat.”

‘Something made of meat’? More questions were asked. It wasn’t a hamburger, or meatloaf, or spaghetti and meatballs.

I looked up the school lunch menu (they have it in PDF format on the school district website), and saw that one of the options available that day was “breakfast for lunch.”

Was it a sausage biscuit?

“Oh! Yeah! I think that was it. Is that the meat circle thing?”

MEAT CIRCLE, y’all.

Tuesday, she skipped the main course because “I don’t like their chicken nuggets,” and she ate mashed potatoes and a side of fruit.

Wednesday, she insisted she ate fish sticks, except for the small issue that fish sticks weren’t on the menu that day. They had fried mozzarella sticks (which Catie has never eaten, but they are shaped like fish sticks, and I can see how she’d mistake one for the other). Upon further questioning, she admitted that she “ran out of time” and didn’t actually take a single bite of the that’s-not-really-a-fish-stick. So she ate fruit salad and a cookie.

The main frustration with all of this school lunch business – besides the wasted food – was that she’d eat so little that her blood sugar would drop and she wouldn’t be able to concentrate on her school work. But even though it seems like she’s eating very little of her lunch, she’s still getting a lot of marks for good behavior this week. Maybe because she’s buying milk with her school lunch instead of bringing ice water in her thermos, and the milk has enough protein to sustain her a little? Who knows.

She seems ok with the school lunches, so maybe we’ll just stick with it. I haven’t decided yet.

Still: meat circle. I may never stop giggling about that one.

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Meanwhile, across the street over at daycare, I’m not exactly sure what’s going on in Lucy’s class.

For a long time, there were only 4 or 5 kids in Lucy’s class, and it was the same kids she’d been with since she was a baby. They’ve recently gotten a few new kids, which is great for the daycare center, but weird that I no longer know every kid in her class by name.

The past few weeks, Lucy has been telling me about a little boy who I’m going to call J. Three year-olds are tattle tales, and Lucy would tell me every day about how J got in trouble for one thing or another. J hit so-and-so and had to sit in time-out, J ripped the pages out of her book that she brought to share at Circle Time, “J said ‘shut up’ and that’s not a nice word!,” etc.

After talking with one of the teachers, I found out that J is not even 3 yet, but they moved him up to the 3 year-old class because he was “too rough” for the other two year-olds. I guess they thought the older kids would put him in his place, or at least be harder for him to injure.

On Tuesday, when I picked up the kids, I noticed Lucy had a red mark on her cheek, under her eye. I asked her what happened, and she told me that J hit her in the face with a book.

Normally, if a child gets hurt at daycare, the teacher writes up an “incident report” for the parent to sign. I’ve had to sign them when one of my kids has, for example, fallen down on the playground and skinned their knee. But they’re also written up if a child hurts another child – I’ve had to sign them for Lucy when she was both the victim and the aggressor. (Nothing more embarrassing than the report that says, “Lucy and another child were fighting over a toy and Lucy bit the other child on the arm.” Fortunately, we’ve had none of those in at least 6 months, so I’m going to file that as a Terrible Twos thing and assume she’s outgrown it.)

There was no incident report for the mark on Lucy’s face, but her teacher is new and has only been working at the daycare center for a couple of weeks, so I figured that maybe she doesn’t know the procedure yet. I made a mental note to talk to her about it the next day.

That night, my parents came over for dinner. We were just sitting down to eat, and I was helping Lucy into her high chair, when this exchange happened.

Lucy: “J said a bad word today.”

Me: “Oh yeah? What did he say?”
[IN MY DEFENSE, I was thinking she'd respond with something like "shut up" or "dumb," which are the types of things my kids think are bad words. One time she said the bad word he said was "dude." Which, depending on context, I can kind of see how that might be disrespectful? But no, dude isn't really a bad word. So I really wasn't expecting her to say anything particularly offensive.]

Lucy: “Bitch.”

This is more or less the face my parents and I made in response.

shocked-gifs-540-16654-hd-wallpapers

Catie then piped up: “What does ‘bitch’ mean, anyway?”

I could tell by my dad’s face that he didn’t approve of any of this, but I tried to keep my voice very calm and even, as I explained that technically, bitch is a word for a female dog, but that people use it when they’re name-calling, which is why it’s a bad word, because we don’t call people names.

Catie said, “So you should call it the b-word, sort of like the s-word, right?”

Right. Yep. Good plan. Ok, let’s eat!

(I found out later that Catie thinks the “s-word” is “stupid.” This is a child who has heard me drop things and mumble “shit” under my breath probably a million times in her lifespan, but she thinks stupid is the one that’s a bad word. And you know? Shit is just another word for poop, and it’s relatively harmless on the curse word scale. Stupid is usually used to hurt someone’s feelings, and that’s never ok, so I’m fine with that being “the bad word” of the two options in my house.)

Turns out, this little boy J was not just saying “bitch” for the sake of saying it, he actually called a little boy that name, and yeah, I’m definitely not ok with the name-calling thing. I know the teacher is new, but my kids have been at that daycare center for years, and I know the director fairly well, so I stopped by her office to talk to her the next morning. She knew about the “bitch” incident, and had already spoken to the child’s parents. So, that’s good, I suppose. Although, really, how do we think this little boy learned to call someone else “bitch”? I’m guessing it’s from the parents and they aren’t letting their toddler watch Breaking Bad.

science bitch
(Not that a toddler-size Jesse Pinkman wouldn’t be completely adorable, but I wouldn’t want my kid to hang around him either.)

The director was also upset to hear that Lucy had been hurt and there was no incident report, and said she’d make sure to talk to the teacher about it.

I feel a little better knowing that she’s on top of it, but still uneasy about this little boy J, which is sad, since he’s, you know, TWO.

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On the topic of the new daycare teacher, I’m not sure how long she’s going to be around, because besides things like “injured kids going unnoticed on her watch,” it seems like she may have some other personal problems.

Last night, Dave picked up the kids and texted me later, “So apparently Ms D [note: not her real name] is in the midst of some serious relationship shit.”

I asked what he was talking about. Last night, Lucy forgot her jacket, so they went back to get it out of her cubby. All of the other kids were gone, but the teacher was on the phone with her significant other (not clear if it’s a boyfriend, husband, or what) and they were having a very loud verbal fight. Dave said the most awkward part was that he was trying to rush Catie and Lucy out of the room to give her some privacy, but that they insisted on putting on their jackets while still in the room. He said the phone call ended with her screaming that she wouldn’t be coming home tonight and hanging up.

I mean… hey, these things happen, I guess? But maybe not when you’re at work? At least take the call outside, or go sit in your car or someplace where others won’t overhear you?

Jeez.

Side note, though, it does make me happy that Dave and I are amicable enough now that we can let each other in on the latest daycare gossip. So yay for us, Post-Divorce achievement unlocked. (Thanks, Tracy, for that one.)

September 25, 2014Permalink

the picky eater

My kids are living proof that you can do the exact same thing with both kids, and whether a child is a “good eater” or a “picky eater” is a total crapshoot. I did nothing different between my two girls. Lucy will eat pretty much whatever I put in front of her. Meanwhile, if left to her own devices, Catie would prefer to live on nothing but fruit and empty carbs.

Here’s just a few things Catie won’t eat/drink:

  • Cheese – melted on pizza is fine, otherwise no.
  • Nuts in every form – not even peanut butter.
  • Any red meat that is not ground beef.
  • Almost all fish, unless it’s fried.
  • Bacon (!)
  • Milkshakes (!!)
  • Chocolate milk – she will drink ONLY regular milk, nothing added to it. Chris once offered her a Yoo-Hoo and she looked at him like he had 3 heads.
  • Yogurt/cream cheese/pudding/Jell-O/anything that falls into a “gooey texture” category.
  • Jelly/jam on anything.
  • Sandwiches. Yes, really.

I hear some parents (and “parenting experts”) argue that you should never prepare different food for your child, they should eat what you eat, and if they refuse, they should just go hungry. And that if a kid refuses something at one meal, it’s re-offered at the next meal, and the next, until they concede and eat it.

I would like to invite any of those parents to spend a week with Catie. She will go hungry until her blood sugar bottoms out, and then she turns into some sort of Demon Child, and you know what? It’s NOT WORTH IT.

So yeah, I am the mom who makes alternate meals. We’re going to have steak for dinner? Catie doesn’t eat steak, I’ll make her some fish sticks. Or: oh, I was going to roast some asparagus as our vegetable, but she hates that, so I’ll heat up a can of green beans for her. It takes maybe a couple of minutes of extra planning, and it saves me hours of whining and tears. I’m ok with the trade-off.

As a general rule, I think our society is too obsessed with food, to the point where people use their diet as part of their self-identity. Vegetarian, gluten-free, whatever. There is more to you as a human being than what foods you do or do not choose to shove in your mouth.

So I don’t think the big food battles are worth it. We’ve found enough compromises of things that Catie will eat, and she more-or-less gets a balanced diet, so I don’t stress about it that much.

Except! When it comes to school lunches.

I’ve blogged about this once before, over a year ago, and some of you guys had really great suggestions and comments about options to try. And I’ve tried a lot of your ideas. For one reason or another, they’ve all failed for Catie.

Dave and I have texted about this a lot, now that the kids go back and forth between our houses. We’re both frustrated with Catie bringing home most of her lunch uneaten, and wasting so much money on food she doesn’t touch.

At some point, she told Dave that she hates all sandwiches except for chicken sandwiches, “like the kind at Chick-Fil-A.” We went back and forth about this for a while, and decided ok, let’s go with that. We each stocked up on buns and frozen chicken patties. Every morning, heat up the chicken patty in the microwave, put NOTHING on the bun (Catie is staunchly anti-condiments), wrap the sandwich in foil, then put that inside an insulated sandwich bag so it stays warm.

And for a few weeks, it worked. I’m not sure if she got bored with it or if she decided that she doesn’t like chicken sandwiches all that much after all, but lately the chicken sandwich has also come home uneaten. She eats everything else in her lunchbox (2 types of fruit, crackers, some type of treat – usually a York peppermint patty or something), but not the sandwich. She’ll take maybe two bites of the sandwich SHE SPECIFICALLY REQUESTED.

(A couple of friends said that if their kids do this, they’re given the food they didn’t eat as their after-school snack or dinner. I don’t think I can pull that off, since Catie goes to daycare after school, and I don’t pick the girls up until 6:00, by which point I already have dinner planned. I usually don’t think to even check her lunchbox until long after dinner.)

Yesterday she didn’t even take a single bite out of her sandwich, and when I got mad, she said, “It wasn’t my fault! My friend [kid's name] distracted me and I forgot!” Right. Ok.

When I try to get her to talk about what type of food she DOES want in her lunchbox, she gets angry, defensive, and accuses me of “making her nervous.”

After her one of her rants about how she hates sandwiches, I asked her, “What do the kids who sit by you bring in their lunchboxes?” She said all of them buy lunch at school instead of bringing them.

I said, “Well, why don’t you try buying your lunch then?” (Note: she bought her lunch one time, when she was in kindergarten.)

She said, “No, I did that once, and they gave me food I hated.”

“What food was that?”

“CHEESE!” *big eyes as if I should recoil in horror at the thought that someone dared to put a piece of string cheese on her plate*

But, you know, after all of these arguments, and all of the wasted food and money, I’m just done. And so is Dave. So she’s buying her lunch next week as a punishment for not eating her packed lunch.

I figure we’ll have one of two outcomes:
1) She’ll realize that she has it pretty good with her custom-made-for-her-picky-taste-buds lunchbox, or
2) She’ll decide that school lunches are awesome, and we can stop fighting about it.

Either way feels like a win.

Wish me luck.

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Meanwhile, this morning I asked Lucy what she wanted for breakfast, and she said, “BROCCOLI!”

Hey Lucy, what do you want for breakfast? "Broccoli!" I couldn't think of a reason to say no. So ok, weirdo, broccoli it is. (Big sister on the iPad photobomb.)

Aside from the fact that it’s not a traditional breakfast food, I couldn’t think of any reason to say no. So ok, strange little girl, here’s your broccoli. She ate two bowls of it.

I don’t even know. Kids are so weird.

September 19, 2014Permalink

Girl Scout for a day

Like all siblings, Catie sometimes gets jealous of Lucy. She says that I pay more attention to Lucy, and that I don’t take care of her like I do with Lucy. I’ve tried to explain that any difference in how I treat them is because Lucy is younger and needs more from me – Lucy can’t open the fridge by herself like Catie can, Lucy can’t wipe her own butt like Catie can, that kind of thing – and I try to reassure her that I did all of those same things for Catie when she was 3. And also, someday when Lucy is 7, she’ll do all the stuff that Catie does now.

I don’t know how much it helps to tell her that, but lately, I’ve been trying to make sure that Catie and I get more one-on-one time. We’ll drop Lucy with my parents for a while and do something, just the two of us.

To be fair, I also try to make sure I get one-on-one time with Lucy, but since she’s so much younger, Lucy thinks that getting to go to the grocery store with me – “just me! No Catie!” – is a big huge treat. We get the cart with the attached car, she hops out to get things off the shelves for me (well, the lower shelves), and she thinks she is hot stuff as the only child. She chats my ear off through the whole store, and we have a blast. Meanwhile, Catie hates grocery shopping, so she’s more than happy to hang out on my parents’ couch and read books aloud to my dad while Lucy and I go to Food Lion.

When it’s “Catie and Mommy Time,” we do things like go roller skating (someplace I’d never take Lucy, because I’d be afraid the big kids would mow her down), or go to a Pokemon tournament, or whatever she wants to do.

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One of Catie’s friends from school is involved in Girl Scouts. Back in April or May, they had a nature hike where each girl was allowed to bring along a friend. She invited Catie, and Catie loved it. She came back asking if she could join Girl Scouts.

This was so out of character for her – my cautious child who never wants to try anything new, suddenly wants to join Girl Scouts? I was so thrown off by her enthusiasm, but happy that she wanted to try it out, that I said yes, of course.

Disclaimer: I was never in the Girl Scouts. I know next to nothing about Girl Scouts, aside from the fact that they sell very delicious cookies.

The Girl Scouts’ calendar follows along with the traditional school calendar, so there was no point in signing her up in May, when they were about to end for the summer. I enrolled her for the 2014-15 year, and the first meeting was this past Monday.

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In the few months since the nature hike, Catie changed her mind back and forth a couple of times about Girl Scouts. She wanted to go, then she didn’t.

Finally, I said to her, “Look, we’ll go to the first meeting, and see how it goes. If you don’t like it, we don’t have to go again. If you go a few times and then decide you don’t like it, you can stop. There’s no rule that you’re going to stuck with this for life, ok?”

Since I had given her an easy out, she agreed.

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Here’s how that whole troop meeting thing went down:

The meeting started at 6:00. At 5:15, I picked up the girls from daycare. I dropped Lucy off with my parents, and Catie and I set off for a Baptist church on the far side of town, where the troop meeting was being held.

During the meeting, the troop leader talked the parents through the troop handbook, while the girls sat around a table and did some sort of “getting to know each other” exercises.

The meeting wrapped up a little after 7:30 (an hour and a half of talking about Girl Scout policies and my eyes were starting to glaze over), then we rushed back to my parents’ house. My mom had food waiting for us, and God bless her for that, because Catie and I were both starving.

By the time we got home, it was 8:30, then I had to get the kids bathed and ready for bed, and they were so hyper that it took another hour to get them settled down to sleep.

It was exhausting. And the kicker? We hadn’t even walked out of the church meeting room before Catie whispered to me, “You said that I wouldn’t have to go back if I hated it? And I hated it.”

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When I was talking about Girl Scouts with the mom of Catie’s friend, she said that there was one troop meeting a month, and then you just pick and choose various events that your kid wants to attend. That sounds easy enough, right?

It turns out there are THREE troop meetings a month, and attendance is mandatory at all of them. And it’s a lot more expensive than I thought it was. And all of the fundraising sales (cookies, yes, but they also sell other stuff in the fall) require participation as well.

It was really the required troop meetings that got me. I was so overwhelmed on Monday night, and the thought of doing that kind of crazy rushed evening, 3 out of 4 Monday nights every month? I don’t think I can do that.

So, honestly, I was a little relieved when Catie said that she hated it. I mean, I get that the Girl Scouts are a good organization, and it could potentially provide her with all kinds of opportunities later in life, but I also don’t think it’s mandatory.

I emailed Catie’s troop leader with a note that basically said, “thanks, but this isn’t going to work for us.” My understanding is that our county has girls on a waitlist to join Girl Scout troops, so hopefully this will provide an opportunity for one of them, who might be a better fit for Girl Scouts than us.

Also? It means that I won’t be sitting at a folding table in front of a grocery store in February trying to sell cookies with my kid. And I’m pretty ok with that.

September 10, 2014Permalink

the hard and the good

I had a Twitter conversation with Gwen yesterday (who I don’t think has a blog anymore, and her Twitter account is locked, so I can’t link to her, but hi, Gwen!) about the people who I call Chronic One-Uppers. These are the people who, no matter what you’re doing with your life, they have to top it somehow. They make themselves feel superior by minimizing you.

Chronic One-Uppers exist in all facets of life – in school, at work, at the gym, in your social circles – but Chronic One-Uppers as parents? Are some of the most annoying people to be around. There are several different variations on this, from the Sanctimommy types (“you let your kids eat French fries? My children only eat raw organic vegetables that I’ve grown myself!”) to the My Child is More Advanced than Yours parents (“oh, your baby is 8 months old and not crawling yet? My baby crawled at 6 months!”), but the ones who I find the most intolerable of all are the “just wait!” parents.

(This is where I scrambled to try to find Temerity Jane’s post on this subject, but alas, Google has failed me.)

The “just wait!” parents are the people who take great delight in telling you how hard parenting will be further down the road than wherever you currently are.

It starts when you’re pregnant.
“Enjoy sleeping now! Once the baby comes, you won’t sleep again for years!”

[Side note to pregnant ladies or those who may become pregnant someday: this is a load of crap. First of all, sleep isn't a savings account that you can store up and withdraw later. Second, trying to sleep when you're hugely pregnant is miserable. You need a million pillows to support your body, and if you have to roll over, it's a whole production of moving said pillows, and also you have to get up to pee every 20 minutes. When you have a newborn, yeah, ok, babies wake you up a lot, but when you get the chance to sleep, you can sleep however you want (on your stomach! On a couch! On the FLOOR if you want to!), and you may have the option of letting your spouse take a shift to give you a break. Your spouse cannot, however, take on your giant belly and sciatic pain to let you get a good night's sleep when you're pregnant. So those "sleep while you can!" people are liars, and you should either ignore them or kick them squarely in the shin.]

Then when you have a baby.
“Just wait until you hit the terrible twos!”

Oh, your kid is now a two year-old?
“Oh, three is so much worse than two, just wait, you’ll see!”

When you have a kid in grade school?
“Just wait until they’re teenagers!”

It never ends. There’s always something.

The thing is, no matter what phase you’re in, there’s some hard stuff, sure, but there’s also good stuff.

For example, when you have a newborn? Sure, you’re exhausted and you feel like you’ve been run over by a Mack truck full of hormones, but you also have this amazing little person who’s suddenly been thrust into your life. Which is pretty fantastic in and of itself.

From my point of view: I have a 3 year-old. And it’s pretty widely acknowledged that three year-olds are terrible and difficult, and basically irrational tiny dictators. And while that’s true, I also get unsolicited hugs and “I love you, Mommy”s, which are pretty much the greatest thing in the world.

She said, "I want to lay down in your bed & snuggle with you because I'm a little bit tired." I thought she was joking. She wasn't.

The snuggles are pretty nice, too.

And when she’s not acting like a threenager, Lucy is hilarious.

She is the stereotypical second child, a total ham, and she has a way of expressing herself that keeps us laughing all the time. (At least as long as she’s happy. When it’s tantrum time, LOOK OUT.)

Lucy happy about water play day at daycare

With Catie, at seven years old? Sure, there are times she throws a bad attitude around. I know that right now she’s practicing for the tween years, and testing my boundaries and trying to see how far she can push me. But at the same time, since she’s seven, I can talk to her like a normal person, and she understands. I can take her places and she acts like a civilized person. We can go to a restaurant, just the two of us, sit and have a conversation, and eat our food together, and she’s just completely delightful to be around.

School picture day for Catie. Lucy wanted in on the action too. (Texted to me by their dad.)

Here’s where I get to my main point:

You can be in a really hard phase of parenting, and it can also be really good at the same time. These are not mutually exclusive concepts.

Just because it sucks sometimes, doesn’t mean that it isn’t also amazing and totally worth it.

Example time!

I struggle with weekday evenings. It often feels like a nightly marathon. It starts with dinner, then homework, then bathtime, then one last snack (usually fruit of some kind) before we brush teeth, read books, and settle in for the night. Combine that with trying to make sure we’re set up for the next day – packing Catie’s lunchbox, setting up the coffee pot for me – it’s exhausting and I often get stressed out and short-tempered with them.

(Credit where it’s due: I almost never do the dishes anymore, because Chris does them for me. So that’s one less thing off my “nightly marathon” plate, and I make sure that I always thank him for doing it, because I am truly grateful for the fact that he does little things like that to make my life easier.)

So, the other night, I was irritable and kind of rushing the kids through the whole bedtime routine – making sure Lucy went to the bathroom one last time, making sure Catie took her asthma medication, all the stuff on the nightly bedtime checklist.

I finally got the girls into their room, and Lucy picked out a Sandra Boynton book for me to read to her. Catie said, “Hey, Lucy, you want me to read to you instead?” Lucy said yes, so Catie climbed into bed next to her, and read to her.

Catie has taken over story time from me. I will never complain about this.

It was one of those moments that just made me so happy. I love it when they’re sweet to each other, I love that Catie is more eager to read, I love that Lucy is old enough to not freak out when we suggest changing her routine just a tiny bit (6 months ago, she would’ve screamed if Catie had gotten into her bed to read to her instead of me).

So yeah, being a parent is hard. But ignore the Chronic One-Uppers. There will always be hard phases. The good stuff balances it out, and more often than not, the good stuff significantly outweighs the hard stuff.

And I guess that’s my version of the “just wait!” thing – if you’re in a phase where parenting feels like it’s just too much and you can’t deal with it, just wait, because someday your kids are going to do something that knocks the wind right out of your chest because of how overwhelmed-with-love you are.

And ok yeah, maybe that’s cheesy. Sorry for that. But damn, if it isn’t the truth.

P.S. Thanks for the inspiration on this one, Gwen.

September 5, 2014Permalink

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