Lucy is 5

Lucy’s 5th birthday was yesterday. Which is weird, because I could swear I just gave birth to her like a week ago. But no, apparently it’s been five years.

I swear, I blinked and this happened. Happy 5th birthday, Lucy!

The girls were with me this past weekend, so we had Lucy’s birthday party a few days early. Last year, I found a company that hires out princesses for birthday parties, and we had Elsa and Anna come to her party. She asked if she could have a princess at her party again this year.

And ok, hiring a princess for a kid’s birthday party definitely qualifies as a frivolous expense, and she would’ve been fine if I had said no and that we were only having her friends over to our house. But you know, there are only a few short years where you can make special occasions magical for your children, so why not? Bring on Rapunzel.

Kayla, Sophia, Lucy & Rapunzel

(The funniest part of this whole thing is that I legitimately had no clue until the party was over – when my mom pointed it out – that Rapunzel was the exact same girl who played Elsa at Lucy’s party last year. I guess I figured that they had one girl who always plays Elsa, one who always plays Rapunzel, etc.? But no, apparently they’re multi-talented. I feel like an idiot because I was talking to this girl for over an hour with no clue that she’d been in my house and met my kid a year ago. But Lucy didn’t notice either, so we’ll call it a win.)

Lucy and Rapunzel

The kids all had a blast, and Catie got to hang out with her cousins, so even the non-Princess-loving crowd was happy. Overall, A+ birthday party.

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Funny timing: Lucy officially turned 5 yesterday, and tonight we have kindergarten orientation at the school where she’ll start going in two months. (TWO MONTHS! She starts the first week of August!) I know she’s nervous about going to “big school” because she won’t know anyone there, and she’s extremely shy with people she doesn’t know well. Hell, I’m nervous for her. But I’m trying to make it as exciting a transition as I can. (“You’re such a big girl now! You get to go to big school with Catie!”)

Her daycare is having their pre-K graduation program at the end of June. And I know the whole notion of pre-K graduation is silly. It’s not like she’s finishing college. But this marks the end of us going to the daycare where one or both of my kids has been for the last 6 1/2 years. Catie started there right before she turned 3, and Lucy’s been there since she was 2 months old. This place has been part of our daily lives for so long, it feels like the end of an era.

Lucy's pre-k graduation photo

And yeah ok, I’m super-excited that I won’t have to pay for daycare anymore. (Mama’s getting a raise!) But not gonna lie, I’ll probably cry during that graduation program.

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Happy birthday, Lucy Goose. I always think that it’s no coincidence that your name, Lucille, means “light” – you are an absolute ray of joy and sunshine in our lives. We love you so much, and I cannot wait to see what this year brings for you, my sweet girl.

June 1, 2016Permalink

Texas trip

Catie recently had her 3-week spring break, so we decided to do like we did last year, and go to Texas to visit my sister and brother-in-law.

The flying part of this trip felt like a big deal, because it was the first time I’d flown with my kids without bringing along a stroller. I was a little worried that Lucy might pull a “my legs are tired!” meltdown and force me to carry her plus our carry-ons, but I talked it up about how she’s a big girl now, and created a little reward chart, and both girls were great. (I wasn’t worried about Catie – for all of her tendencies to freak out at new situations, that kid is the easiest traveling buddy ever. She’s a champ. But I can’t promise a reward to one kid and not the other, because they are all about equity at this age, so Catie and Lucy were both on the reward chart.)

Survived the first half of our journey. Now we're boarded on our flight to Austin!

Before our trip, my sister had emailed me a link to the Exotic Resort Zoo, asking if I thought the kids might like it. It looked fun, so we decided to check it out.

The Exotic Resort Zoo is in Johnson City, which is a little over an hour from Austin. And it was amazing. You ride in a covered trailer through the park, and all of the animals come up to the trailer so you can feed and pet them. (You buy a bucket of feed before the tour, you can’t just give them regular food.) They had llamas, zebras, buffalo, camels, ostriches, emus, rams, elk, antelope, gazelles, and a dozen other things I’m forgetting. It was so fun.

Highly recommend the Exotic Safari Zoo in Johnson City, TX. We got to feed and pet llamas, zebras, camels, deer, elk, buffalo and a dozen other animals. SO COOL.

Catie spent the entire tour halfway leaning out of the trailer trying to pet every animal that came near us. Lucy is a little more unsure about animals, so she spent most of the time picking up big handfuls of feed from the bucket and throwing it out of the trailer for the animals to catch.

We also took another trip to downtown Austin to try to see the bats when they fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk.

Catie, Lucy & Tracy waiting for bats

And look, BATS!

Bats!

(As I kept reassuring Lucy, these are not scary bats. These are bats who eat all the mosquitoes. These bats are our friends. In fact, I’m wishing I could set up a bat colony in my backyard.)

We did a lot of other fun stuff: had dinner with my aunt and uncle, and the girls got to play with their cousin Jackson who they hadn’t seen since Tracy’s wedding. We got to try out some fun local restaurants. We went to Mt. Playmore twice, and I’m still so jealous that we don’t have a place like that here, because it’s so much fun.

And on our last day, on our way to the airport, we found longhorns! (Lucy was tired & wouldn’t get out of the car for a picture. And you kinda have to zoom in a LOT to see the longhorns behind Catie. But they were there!)

We found longhorns!

The flight home was pretty uneventful, the kids did really well again. Chris picked us up at the airport and brought us home. And even though Chris took good care of the pets while we were gone, Roxie was so happy to see us that she did literal back flips when we got home. She stood on her hind legs to do her little happy dance, but her tail was wagging so hard that she kept falling over backward.


(This is what we call the Roxie Happy Dance.)

Catie’s back in school now, but it was a fun trip and I’m really glad we were able to go.

April 25, 2016Permalink

4 months until kindergarten

Lucy starts kindergarten the week of August 1st. That means it’s officially less than four months away. That also means I only have 3 more daycare payments left, and OMG, it’s going to be like I got a huge raise as of August.

We’ve been talking a lot about kindergarten at home, and she’s very excited to go to “big school” with Catie. Although funny thing I realized: the girls will only be at the same school for 2 years. Catie will be in 4th grade while Lucy is in kindergarten, and the following year when Catie is in 5th grade and Lucy is in 1st. After that, Catie will be off to middle school. By the time Lucy goes to middle school, Catie will be starting high school. And by the time Lucy goes to high school, Catie will be in college. So, that’s it. Two years is all I get, and then I’ll have to start doing a lot more juggling. Middle and high schools start and end their days at different times than elementary, it’s going to be a lot to manage. I’m already overwhelmed just thinking about it.

It’s funny that as much as Catie complains about Lucy – which I think is part of the job description of big sisters, to complain about their little sisters – she’s actually very protective of her. She’s talked with Lucy about how next year, when they ride the bus home after school, Lucy can sit with her and Catie will make sure she’s ok. Those moments may be few and far between, but they’re very sweet when they happen.

Fancy girls on Easter

But while Lucy is this hilarious little goofball and a non-stop chatterbox at home, she’s a completely different child with the rest of the world. She gets incredibly shy and quiet when she’s around people she doesn’t know. When other adults speak to her (like if the checkout lady at the store offers her a sticker), she won’t answer, she just buries her face in my shirt and tries to hide. If Catie is there, she’ll answer for her, but I often find myself apologizing for her, so people don’t think she’s being rude. “Sorry, she’s a little shy today.” This morning, she saw a new doctor (a specialist for some of her GI issues), and she wouldn’t answer any of his questions. She’d nod yes or shake her head no, but she never spoke.

Last weekend, I took her to a friend’s birthday party, and she spent most of the party on my lap with her face buried in my chest. She eventually got up and went to play, but it was toward the end of the party. Afterward, I asked her why she was so shy when most of the kids there were her friends, and she said, “But I’d never been to their house before!” So, new environments throw her off.

Even at daycare, where she’s been going since she was 2 months old, it took several weeks after she moved up to the Pre-K class for her to adjust and get used to the new teacher. She (the teacher) told me later she was worried that Lucy might have some sort of speech delay, because she never talked. “But now she talks my ear off all day, so I know she’s fine!” And while it’s reassuring to know that she’s doing well in her class now, it’s still a little disconcerting that her teacher would think there might have been something wrong with her.

Lucy was upset we ran out of baby carrots. "What can I have with ranch on it?" (She is so my child.) Salad FTW! She's had 2 bowls & counting.

So, in light of all that, I’m a little worried about my baby girl starting kindergarten. It’s a big change going from a daycare class of about 6 to 8 kids to a classroom of 20+ students. She’ll be shy with the other students at first, but especially with the teacher. Before the first day of school, there will be a kindergarten orientation where we meet her teacher, and she can check out her new classroom and get a little more familiar with her new surroundings, but I think it’s probably going to take a while for her to settle in.

My mom called me out of the blue the other day, and said, “Oh my god, it just occurred to me: what are you going to do about Lucy’s lunch when she starts kindergarten? She won’t speak to the lunch lady to tell her what she wants!” Catie buys her lunch at school, but I was already planning to pack Lucy’s lunch for her, since she’s lactose intolerant and I don’t want to risk her eating something with milk or cheese in it. The other motivation for packing Lucy’s lunch – to keep her from needing to talk to strangers – hadn’t occurred to me, but I guess it’s an equally valid reason.

I don’t know if this is a phase or just who she is. Maybe she’ll always be shy around new people and in new situations. And that’s ok, we can adapt to it and help ease her along. But I hope that someday, everyone else gets to see the Lucy that I know.

Post-hair wash, wearing her shades and my fleece socks. As one does.

Because that kid is pretty fantastic.

April 8, 2016Permalink

Traverse-ing

I mentioned a while back that I was looking at getting a new(er) car. Looking back, I’ve been wanting to get a bigger car since I was pregnant with Lucy and had to try to make room for two car seats. For a long time, I thought I wanted a mini-van. I know they’re uncool and boring, but whatever. All that space! But after test driving several and doing a ton of research, I decided that I really liked some of the 3-row crossover SUVs over the mini-vans. They felt easier to handle when I drove them.

The problem is, a lot of the 3-row SUVs have teeny-tiny third row seats, which are ok for small kids, but not for bigger ones. I figured that since I’ve had my Subaru for 15 years, this next one would be my car at least until Lucy goes off to college. So whatever car I bought, I wanted one that would be able to haul my someday adult-size teenage children around.

So, even though I liked the Toyota Highlander and the Kia Sorento, those got ruled out due to tiny third rows. I liked the Mazda CX-9 a lot, but Consumer Reports advises against them because they did horribly on their crash test scores. The one other car that I really liked was the Chevrolet Traverse. Which surprised me, because never in a million years did I think I’d buy an American car. My family only owns Hondas and Toyotas. But the Chevy Traverse got great reviews (so do its “sister” vehicles, the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave – they’re all more or less the same car with different trims/features), and I really liked driving it.

Side note: I surprised myself during this car buying process, when I learned that I’m really good at haggling. (“We have the best price for this vehicle.” “No you don’t, the exact same car is over at X dealership for $700 less than your price.” Or, they’d try to tell me how much a car was worth, and I’d be all, “Oh here, let me pull up Kelley Blue Book’s website on my phone and show you otherwise.”) I had brought Chris along with me, because I felt like I needed to have a man with me to negotiate, but then I ended up doing it all myself. At one point, some salesman had brought over his general manager to try to argue prices with me, and the GM kind of looked at Chris in desperation. Chris just shrugged and said, “Don’t look at me. It’s her money, she’s the one you have to deal with.” That was a weirdly empowering moment.

(That same GM asked me later if I was a lawyer. And he’s not the first person to ask me that, just in the past month or so. Apparently I missed my calling, because I’m pretty good at arguing with people. I made my dad proud.)

It took a while to find the car that I liked, but I settled on a 2015 Traverse that we tracked down at a dealership in Johnston County. It had been owned by Enterprise and used as a rental car, so even though it’s only a year old, it already has 24K miles on it. I was hesitant about the idea of buying a car that had been a rental, but I talked to our mechanic, and he said that typically buying a rental is a pretty safe choice. As he pointed out, you can guarantee it was serviced regularly, and if there’d been any damage or issues, they would have had it fixed on their insurance, so it would’ve shown on the vehicle’s CarFax. That made me feel better. Plus the higher-than-average mileage brought the price of the car WAY down.

Oh, and did I mention that it’s purple? They call the color “Sable Metallic,” and I guess it’s really more of a purple-y brown. But I love the color. PURPLE CAR.

chevy_traverse

Chris joked that he was going to get a picture of me in front of my SUV, wearing leggings and Ugg boots, holding my tiny purse dog in one hand and a Starbucks in the other, just so I could hit all of the Middle-Aged Suburban Mom cliches in one go. Instead, we got this one semi-awkward picture that the salesman at the dealership took. (I suppose we could recreate the Uggs/Starbucks/tiny dog picture at home, but it’s too hot for Uggs.)

That night, after we got the new car home, I was happy about it – I mean, of course. I got the car I wanted, and I waited until the last day of the month and negotiated a really good price for it. But I’ve been saving up for a car for the last few years (I didn’t want to finance it), so I also had this sort of shaky, panicky feeling, like, “OMG my entire savings account is GONE!” But that savings account existed for the purpose of buying a car, so yeah, of course I drained it. Still, it was a weird mixed feeling.

And honestly, I’m glad that Chris is keeping my Subaru and that I didn’t have to trade it in. I love that little car so much. It’s the first car I bought new, and I bought it by myself. I’m pretty sure that if you’d told me back then – when I was 25 years old and single – that I’d someday be driving that car with my 2 daughters in the backseat at age 40? I would’ve thought you were crazy. But it’s been a great car, so I’m happy that we’re keeping it around. Whenever we do have to trade it in or replace it, I’ll probably cry.

Both of the girls love the new car. The middle row is 2 captain’s chairs, so they have space between them. (No more fights about, “She’s in my space!”, “She’s touching my side!”, etc.) Lucy actually prefers to have her car seat in the third row so she can have it all to herself. She also likes to announce, “I’m riding in Mommy’s trunk!” Which is probably going to lead to an awkward conversation with daycare at some point.

I suppose people buy cars all the time and it isn’t really a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But since I’m apparently the type of person who only buys a car every other decade or so, it feels like a pretty big life milestone to me.

April 4, 2016Permalink

Lucy-isms

I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts folder for ages, and I keep forgetting it’s here. Four is one of my favorite kid ages, and I want to document some of Lucy’s little speaking quirks before I turn around and she’s 14 and I’ve forgotten everything.

* First! Her Southern accent is AMAZING. I don’t know where she gets it, because I have sort of a generic non-accent (so I’m told), and Dave is British, but she has this crazy drawl that I love. When she starts to tell you something, it usually starts with “well…” pronounced like “WAY-uhlll…”

She also refers to her Lactaid tablet as “my PEE-uhll”.

First thing in the morning, she says she wants me to come with her “down-STAY-uhrs.”

I’m sure she’ll drop the accent at some point, but for now, I love it.

* She still says, “Take you!” with her arms up when she wants to be carried.

* She refers to her bottom as her “butt-butt” (thanks, daycare).

* Accusatory: “Catie just BAMMED me really hard” (bammed = hit).

* She asked why Princess Leia doesn’t take off her headphones when people are talking.

* She was talking about the temporary tattoo she got at a birthday party, and said, “Mine washes off, but yours doesn’t wash off?” I said right, mine doesn’t come off. She said, “Is that because it keeps you alive?” Wait, what, no, my tattoo isn’t connected to any vital organs, for heaven’s sake.

(We happened to be in a public restroom when this happened, and there was a mom with her kid two bathroom stalls down from us who laughed and said, “That’s awesome.”)

* More on body image: “My boobs only little, but you have big boobs. When I grow up, I’m going to keep my little boobs.” I didn’t tell her that if she takes after me, she most likely will keep the little ones unless she pays a plastic surgeon to correct that for her.

* Because she’s still obsessed with Frozen: She put on her Elsa costume, curled up on the couch under the afghan my grandmother made, and said, “Well, the cold never bothered me anyway, but a blankie sure is nice sometimes.” Completely deadpan, but she knew I’d crack up (and I did).

* “Anna should have been the queen instead of Elsa, because little sisters are better than big sisters.” WELL THEN.

* Back when we were dog shopping, we went to a rescue that was a house that had been converted into a dog shelter. At some point, Lucy needed to use the bathroom, so I took her. It was, you know, like the bathroom in anyone’s house, only the bathtub was piled high with dog beds and plastic bags full of various dog supplies. Lucy looked around and said, “There’s no newspapers in here.”

I said, “Newspapers? Like potty pads for the dogs?”

She said, “No! Newspapers like you read while you go potty!”

And then I realized she was referring to my issues of Entertainment Weekly that I always leave in the bathroom. “The newspaper.” Of course.

* And my favorite Lucy-ism of all time: later that same night, we stopped for dinner on our way home from the dog rescue. Lucy commented, “There were no boys at that place.”

I was confused, and thought she meant the dogs. I said, “Well, the dog we met was a boy dog.”

She said, “No! Human boys!”

I realized that all the rescue employees we’d met were women, there were about 4 of them working there. I said she was right, there were no boys there.

Lucy: “But they need boys!”

Me: “Why do they need boys?”

Lucy: “To clean up!”

She was being completely serious. It took me a minute, but then I realized that at our house, she sees Chris clean up way more often than I do, Dave is the only one who cleans up at his place because there’s no other adult there, and my dad does most of the cleaning at my parents’ house, due to my mom’s mobility issues. Plus she sees my brother and brother-in-law doing dishes and tidying up whenever they’re around. So she thinks those are the traditional gender roles: boys are supposed to do all the cleaning.

And I know I should’ve corrected her and explained that actually, cleaning is a job to be shared between boys and girls, but really, I kind of want her to hang onto that notion just a little bit longer.

My sister bought this coat/hat for Catie 5 or 6 years ago. She wore it once. Lucy just found it & thinks it's the best thing ever. ("Pink is my FAVORITE COLOR!!")

So yeah, four is pretty awesome. There are moments I wish I could freeze her right here at this age. But I also can’t wait to see what she’ll say next.

February 18, 2016Permalink

Catie is 9

I used to have a habit of blogging about big milestones for me and my kids, but somehow I completely forgot to sit down and write about Catie’s 9th birthday. Which was 3 weeks ago.

Catie and Roxie

We had her birthday party the weekend before her actual birthday. It was scheduled for a Saturday, but we ended up with a snow/ice storm that required us to bump it to Sunday. Most of her friends were still able to come, which was great.

She wanted a Jurassic World theme for her party, and thanks to online party supply websites and the Publix bakery, we were able to accommodate that wish.

Jurassic World birthday cake

I used to think having a birthday party at the house was a big stressful thing that required tons of pre-planning. After having both Catie’s and Lucy’s birthday parties here, I realized that whatever activities I have planned mostly go to waste because the kids just want to do their own thing. So now I’m just like, “ok, your friends are here, go play and I’ll call you when it’s time for cake.” Boom, done.

(Lucy, however, still wants Disney Princesses to come to her party again. Although maybe not Anna and Elsa again, she might want Rapunzel or Jasmine or Sleeping Beauty or…. yeah. I told her we can decide when it’s closer to her birthday.)

Her actual birthday was on a Wednesday, and we had birthday brownies at my parents’ house that night. She didn’t complain.

Officially 9 years old today! I told her she's halfway to being an adult. She told me how when she's a grown-up, she & her cousin are going to get an apartment and get jobs making Minecraft mods. ???

Like last year, I don’t want to write too much about her because it feels like an invasion of her privacy. I will say that age 8 was significantly easier than age 7. She’s smart, she’s hilarious, she’s sensitive, she has more empathy than most people I know, and she’s a total nerd for the stuff she loves (dinosaurs, Star Wars, Minecraft, Harry Potter, etc.). She’s fantastic. I tell her she’s one of my two most favorite kids on this planet.

On her birthday, I told her that 9 meant she’s halfway to being a grown-up. (That thought actually freaked me out a little.) She told me that when she’s 18, she and her cousin Elizabeth are going to go to college together, and live in the same apartment, and get jobs making Minecraft mods. I told her that sounded like a great plan.

I can’t wait to see what 9 brings us.

February 14, 2016Permalink

the big 4-0

This past Saturday, I turned 40. I don’t typically make a big fuss about my birthday, but it’s one of those milestone ages that felt fairly significant. And for whatever reason, I just felt really sad about it. The rational part of my brain knew I was being silly: aging is part of life, right? This is how it goes. Either I turn 40 or I drop dead at 39, and the latter didn’t sound like a good option. But still, there was part of me that felt sad in a “damn, I feel old and this sucks” way.

A decade is a really long time, but still, I was thinking about how much my life changed during my 30s, and it sort of shocked me. When I turned 30, I had only been married a few months, I had no kids, and I was still living in Seattle. I’m pretty sure that if you told me that by the time I turned 40, I’d be divorced, have two daughters, be in a different-but-ultimately-much-happier relationship, live in North Carolina, with my parents less than 2 miles away (and that this wouldn’t make me insane, but that I’d actually be incredibly happy and grateful to have them so close), and that I’d own a dog, I’d have thought you were nuts. When Chris and I were talking about it and I was listing all of the things that are different now, I could only think of two things my life at 30 has in common with my life at 40: I still have Beaumont (but he wasn’t even my cat back then! He was Dave’s cat, and I just happened to retain custody of him after the divorce), and I still have the Subaru I bought when I was 25.

Speaking of my Subaru! I didn’t have the kids over the weekend, so for my birthday celebration, Chris and I went to test drive cars. Random, I know. But Chris’s Nissan is basically dead (it’s 16 years old and has over 300K miles; it needs repairs that cost double what the car is worth), and I’ve been wanting a bigger car with third row seating for a long time now. Since I’m in a better position to take on a car payment than he is, we decided that he’ll pay me the trade-in value for my Subaru (which is not a lot – Subarus are great and it still runs like a champ, but it’s a pretty old car), I’ll sign the title over to him, and then I’ll get a new car.

Test driving cars was a pretty fun way to spend the day, and it distracted me out of my little “black cloud” mood. Afterward, we went out for dinner at one of my favorite Italian places. Chris came up with the idea that instead of having cake, we could drive to downtown Raleigh to get fresh Krispy Kreme donuts for my birthday, which sounded awesome to me. We got extra for my parents, to thank them for dog-sitting Roxie all day while we were out. (My dad is pretty much in love with Roxie, so he doesn’t seem to mind when I ask him keep her.) On the drive back, Dave texted that the girls were upset about not seeing me on my birthday, so we did a quick FaceTime chat, which was really sweet.

On Monday, I got the girls back, so we went to my parents’ house, and did the actual cake and “happy birthday” song and all of that. And Chris gave me tulips, because he’s good at that kind of thing.

I didn't have the girls this weekend on my actual birthday, so we did cake tonight at my parents' house.

And now, a few days into this whole 40 thing, I feel ok about it. I mean, I’m not thrilled about the prospect of getting old, but I did a whole hell of a lot in my 30s. I’m kind of interested to see what the next decade has in store for me.

January 21, 2016Permalink