Sunday, October 26, 2014

Six Years, Eight Months, and Seventeen Days

Dear Michael,

Somehow I never wrote you a sixth-birthday letter. If you are ever all grown up and reading this blog, please know that it isn't because I thought your sixth birthday wasn't important. I have barely written in this space all year and I didn't write at all in March, which is when you turned six. So what was going on?

For much of this March, I was substitute teaching. The teacher who filled the spot I left at my previous school had a medical issue which required her to be out for several weeks. It was an easy choice for me to help out but it did make our spring a lot crazier than we'd intended. We enjoyed celebrating your birthday, even though I did a poor job of recording it. We had our usual family celebration and you received LOTS of Legos. You also enjoyed inviting a few friends to a bowling party. When we asked about it you listed five friends you wanted to invite without hesitation, so that is exactly what we did.

Tonight we were talking about your sister's upcoming birthday and you couldn't resist adding some thoughts about when you turn seven. You declared you'd like a Christmas-themed birthday party in March. We'll have to see about that one!

So what are you like at six years old (which you will still be for a little over four months)? Sometimes I think you have a split personality. By all accounts you are calm and well-behaved at school and with most other children. With your sister, however, all bets are off. You have a tendency to be combative and physical with her in a way that has been contrary to your personality until this year. Most of this, I think, is fairly normal brother/sister stuff.

You've also been more, "difficult," for Daddy and I in the last four months. I think you really struggled with our lack of routine this summer as our activities varied from week to week and you were also TIRED from all that time at the pool. In addition to missing a routine, I think you also had massive anxiety about beginning first grade. This manifested itself in all sorts of unpleasant ways - most of which involved quite a bit of defiance and temper-tantrumming at home. Daddy and I have worked hard to help you deal with your frustrated and anxious feelings. There aren't a lot of things you have control over as a six-year-old and the youngest in the family. I'll be the first to admit that we don't always respond as the calm and level-headed adults we should be. We are all learning and growing together.

One thing you've always shown us is that you're just going to do things in your own time. So this year, when you spent the first soccer practice crying behind my chair, or the first swim lesson refusing to get in the pool, we've worked very hard to remember to be calm and patient. And you happily completed your soccer season (with the exception of that one quarter when you had to be goalie) and are thoroughly enjoying your swimming lessons. Last year it took you about a month (an agonizing month) to learn the first five sight-words and now you are a reading machine. You take your time, and that's OK.

You love playing the Wii, buildng with Legos, reading Berenstain Bear books (groan), and baseball. The Tigers are still your favorite team and you cried when they were eliminated from the playoffs this fall. You have a very tender heart that still makes it difficult for you to watch movies without being too upset. You are always ready to "go for a hike" and about lost your mind with excitement when we set up our new tent, so I think camping is one adventure you'll really enjoy when we get around to it. You care deeply about your friends and your family (despite all the fighting with your sister). You haven't learned to ride a bike yet, but you practice with enthusiasm whenever you have the chance, so I know that will come in time as well.

You frequently ask me if you can live with us forever, and of course I tell you that, yes, you can live with us as long as you want to. It may take you longer than most, but I'm confident the time will come when you, too, will be ready to be on your own. Until then, I will keep working on my patience, try to model responding calmly to upsetting situations, and continue to love you like crazy. I do love you Michael.


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Tums, Please!

Sometimes when change is imminent it feels a lot like nausea.

Something is going to change in the next week. It is either going to be a big change for our entire family or a smaller mental refocusing that will mostly effect me. Either way - we are waiting on news. Waiting on news is not something I'm particularly good at. There is turmoil in my stomach. The closest thing I can think to compare it to is waiting on pregnancy test results, but instead of waiting for three minutes I've been waiting for days. Actually a day and a half, but it feels like forever.

I had a job interview on Monday morning. More details for you if anything comes of it. The job would begin next Monday - in five days. It would be nice to know whether or not I'm going to work in less than a week, you know?

In the mean time I'll just be over here filling out back-to-school medical forms, readying PTO materials for meet-the-teacher day at my children's school, and keeping a list of appointments I have to wait to schedule until I know whether I need to schedule them around a job.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Not too long ago I was talking to a friend about how I am "blogging" in my mind pretty much constantly. But, for many reasons, I find myself actually blogging less and less.

I KNOW how dreadful it is to read bloggers blogging about blogging, so I'll be brief. Here are some of the reasons I think I've been blogging less:

1) With a smartphone it is so easy to share thoughts and pictures via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I'll think about blogging about something and then I wonder if it's overkill because I already "covered" that event, moment, thought through other social media.

2) I have many more local friends than I did when I began this blog. In the beginning it was a lifeline, a way to process. These days, I'm just as likely to process something through a face-to-face conversation with a friend. I still process quite a bit through writing, but do lots of that privately.

3) As the children get older, there are some things that feel off-limits. I've mentioned this before. For better or worse, they are aware that they have an on-line presence. It is not uncommon for me to take photo and hear one of them ask if I'm going to put it on Facebook for their relatives (and our friends) to see. Sharing photos doesn't seem to bother them. However some of the issues we're encountering now are less funny/cute and more serious. I still want to write about my experiences as a parent, but I am not sure I've completely worked out how to do that while still honoring the things my children may not find amusing to read about someday.

4) Another thing that has happened as the children have gotten older is that we've become more involved in the community. So when I'm writing about our experiences they are largely tied to people, organizations, and places that are meaningful to us. I will admit that I'm more concerned now about offending people than I was when I began - because very few people I knew were reading!

I am not yet ready to close the doors here. There's plenty that I do still want to find a way to write about.

Monday, July 07, 2014

1/2 Way

My children have been out of school for about six weeks and go back in five. Which means summer is more than half behind us. We've been to Michigan and Wisconsin and spent many, many hours at the pool. We've been to swimming lessons and dance classes. Harper and Michael are playing baseball. They have not learned to ride their bikes. The children have spent a little more time with electronic devices than I intended, but, eh, more time for me to read books (9 since school was out!). I have succeeded in getting Michael to read to me, which was a crucial goal this summer. When kindergarten started he literally could not recognize the word, "the." By the end of the year he was reading some actual books and I have been determined to help him avoid that dreaded summer slide. Getting him to write has been another story. You win some, you lose some and good luck to his first grade teacher.

I find myself vacillating between the feeling that we need to pack the days with special outings so my children have magical memories of their summer vacations and the feeling that if I just give all of us a little time and space the magic will find its own way.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Almost Summer

Last summer we spent several days at a local swim and tennis club as guests of a good friend who is a member. This year we bit the bullet and joined the pool ourselves. We had lots of fun going to the pool with our friends last summer, but I did have a tiny bit of doubt about how it would go if we went on our own. 

The pool is open for this Memorial Day weekend, though it won't be officially open for the season until next weekend. We have a stretch of glorious days forecast so I knew we'd try it out this weekend. We went for a couple of hours today and it was a smashing success.

It's not a great day at the pool until someone makes red pepper walrus tusks?

I should clearly state that I was completely in favor of joining the pool. I lobbied hard to convince Matt that it was a good idea. Despite this, I still had a few reservations. Here are some of the things I was worried about:

    -My children wouldn't have fun if they didn't know anyone else.
    -I wouldn't be able to get over the discomfort of wearing a bathing suit in public.
    -Every rest break would turn into an argument about buying food from the snack bar.
    -The children would want to go home after we'd been there for 25 minutes.
    -Michael would only go into the pool if he was clinging to me, baby monkey-style.
    -The process of getting ready to go to the pool would siphon the will to live right out of me.

As it turned out, none of these were really a problem (today). There wasn't anyone else we knew when we first arrived and it took Harper about thirty seconds to make a friend (she's good like that). Michael got into the pool with me, but was minimally clingy and later got in on his own. They only asked for snack bar snacks once and did not argue when I denied their requests. They did not want to go home after 25 minutes. They also did not want to go home after two hours, which I'll take as a good sign. I'm never going to love wearing a bathing suit in public, but I managed NOT to think about it the majority of the time we were there. 

As for getting ready to go... I'm hoping that gets a little easier as we go along. It took about half an hour to gather towels and pool toys and snacks, to get into suits, and to apply sunscreen. As we go along I think I'll have a better idea about what we actually need and how much the children will actually eat. 

If anyone has tips for maximizing pool enjoyment with children I'm open to them, but, based on today, I think we're all set for a very nice summer by the pool.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jumping Right Back In

Well hello friends! There has been a lot happening here. People turning six (I owe you a birthday letter, Michael). The start of soccer season. Me going back to work...

So the teacher who replaced me at the school where I worked last year had to be out for a few weeks and I stepped back into the job. I taught full time from February 27 until spring break started March 14, then went back for the first week of April full-time, and half days the second week of April. I've had a week and a half to breathe and I'm starting another five-day subbing job tomorrow. It's amazing how quickly we switched modes and the only things that got done around here were those absolutely necessary to our survival.

We're getting ready to participate in our 5th March for Babies walk, this weekend. Our fundraising has been disappointing this year, relative to the last four. If you're reading this and you happen to be a person I haven't already begged for money via Facebook or email, please consider donating to our March for Babies team. You can do so by clicking here. Incidentally, whenever I claim that we aren't doing as well as previous years, or aren't meeting our goal, I worry that people who've already supported us will feel like I'm not grateful for their donations. Nothing could be further from the truth. We might not raise another penny and I'm incredibly grateful to those folks who've already given. Thank you!

I know I'm jumping all over the place here, please bear with me.

Today has been an especially interesting day. I had a filling replaced this morning. This particular tooth is now on its third filling - the original dating back to my college days. The hygienist gently told me that the next time the filling broke down I would likely need a root canal and crown, so I'll be looking forward to/fretting about that for the next five to eight years. It seems unjust that fillings should have to be replaced.

We are finally having our master bath remodeled (I'll show why in a moment.) This bathroom is so bad that I can count on one hand the number of people not living in this house who've ever seen the inside of it. Having the bathroom updated is a huge positive, obviously, but the process... Excuse me while I bang my head against a wall, will you? Today most of the demolition was done. Which means things were loud and messy! There was so much banging that a decorative fish fell off the wall in the other bathroom and shattered. I guess that's what I get for having a decorative fish.

Also the dishwasher broke.

I believe that's the some sort of Murphy's Law of home improvement - you embark on an expensive journey only to have a bunch of less expensive, but still painful, repairs demand attention. As Matt is fond of saying, "It's only money!"

Here are some before photos of the bathroom. I resisted the urge to take close up photos that truly show how nasty it is - you'll have to take my word for it.

Taken from the doorway.

Notice all the stuff on the counter due to lack of storage.

Lovely curtains.

Taken from the shower. All of the red walls used to be wallpapered. 

The shower is one of the things that had been "updated" before we moved in.

Everything is as tiny as it looks. The toilet and counter were low, the sink little, the doorway narrow (although that won't change).
Now here are some photos of what it looks like currently, after the first day of work:

I'm so lucky to sleep next to this tonight - it looks like some horror-movie creature could just hop right up through the floor boards.

The shower opening will be wider and taller, now that the "updated" shower stall has been removed.

Oh look! You can see right into the basement!

Don't let our fascinating bathroom remodel distract you from donating to our March for Babies team!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just Another Weekend

Saturday morning looked like this:

Saturday evening looked like this: 
As it turns out we are people who attend dance competitions.
Harper started taking ballet class in first grade. This was at the suggestion of Matt's mom but we were more than happy to let her do it. Harper loves music and dance, and, though she is not particularly flexible, seemed to have an aptitude for learning her dance moves. She enjoyed class and really enjoyed getting up on stage and performing in her first recitals.
After two years of regular class she was invited to audition for the competition team at her studio. At first she wasn't interested. Then she found out several of her friends were going to audition and she decided to give it a try. You could have knocked me over with a feather when she was actually invited to join.
I had all kinds of reservations about taking that step. It is a lot of time/energy/expense. The director of our studio reassured me that in reality it was nothing like that TV show... and, for the most part, it isn't.
I never imagined I would be a person applying lipstick or false eyelashes to my nine-year-old's face. The truth is that I still have mixed feelings about that part of things.
But I also never imagined I could offer my daughter a situation where she'd take nearly 11 hours of dance class in one weekend from well-known choreographers. I never imagined how proud I'd feel when she didn't give up, even when it was unbelievably difficult for a dancer of her (low) level of experience. I never imagined how my heart would swell watching her get up on a competition stage, in front of bright lights, judges, an audience, and perform like she'd been waiting her whole life to do it. It looked terrifying to me. I asked one of the other mothers if children (because they ARE children) ever get up on those stages and just freeze.
"If she can do this," I thought to myself, "what on earth would she ever be afraid to do?"
We've been doing this for less than a year, but I can already see how Harper is growing from the experience. She's learning about time management, commitment, sacrifice. She's experiencing what it is like to work with a group, over a long period of time, for a common purpose.
Sure the costumes can be crazy and the false eyelashes are downright ridiculous, but if I had to choose one word to sum up what this experience has been like for Harper so far it would be: empowering.


And I don't regret it one bit.