Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A Chapter Ending

I missed writing when school first started, so we’re doing a little catch-up from this summer. 

My sadness started around the first of August. This wasn’t really a big surprise. I always tend to get a little sad when school approaches. Don’t misunderstand — my kids drive me nuts during the summer. It takes a whole boatload of patience and mental fortitude to survive a summer of nearly non-stop bickering. And even then, I usually run out of both by late July. But I also love it. Not the bickering, but the moments in between arguments. The girls being sweet to Henry and playing Paw Patrol or trains. Henry sharing his snacks with his sisters. Water fights in the backyard. Trips to the library, the park and the pool. 

So, when August rolls around, I prepare for another 10 months of being without them. And I get a little sad. But for the last four years, I’ve had my little buddy still home with me while the girls were at school. We had our routine of breakfast, park, maybe some errands and home for lunch. Sometimes we’d go for a walk or a bike ride. That solo time together was priceless. 

But all good things must come to an end. 

Henry turned four this summer and it was time for him to go to preschool. Most of me knew this was the right move. Learning the expectations of a classroom, listening to a teacher and interacting with classmates are important skills to develop before kindergarten. And Henry was ready. He needed the challenge of something new and different. So, in the spring we enrolled him in a part-time preschool program that started in August. In April, this seemed like a perfectly easy thing to do. 

Oh, but August, how you crush me! 

My sadness wasn’t just because Henry was going to be gone for a few hours a day. In fact, part of me was looking forward to some consistent alone time (the first in nine years!). A few hours at preschool was perfect for him to be challenged and for me to cross off a few items on the never-ending to-do list. But this milestone marked a huge change for me — I was no longer the mom of little ones. Ones that you have to buckle into the cart or else they’ll toddle away. Ones that squeal and giggle when you play peek-a-boo while you’re filling up the car with gas. The ones that you pop on your hip when their legs get tired (ok, I still do this). Since H-man is my last, it just felt like a chapter in my life was ending. And that scared the sh*t out of me. Who am I, if not the mom of wee ones?? 

So, started three weeks of torturous anticipation for the day he left and my world shifted. This all sounds very dramatic ... “the day he left.” I mean really, he just goes to preschool for three hours, four days a week. But like I said, it wasn’t so much that he was going to be gone, it was the recalibration of my identity that was really rocking my world.  

He did end up going to preschool (spoiler alert) and guess what? I’m completely fine! I have plenty to keep busy with the house, errands and work. Henry is LOVING preschool. He loves all of his friends and his teachers. And the best part is it’s a great way to transition between him being home all the time to next year when he’s gone all day for *cue the scary music* … kindergarten.

But for now, life is good. And progressing in all the ways I imagined. That is, until next August. Damn you, August!! 

Almost Breaking a Bone

By: Claire

I fell at school today and it felt like I broke my arm or sprained it or something.

I don't really want to go to school tomorrow because I went to the orthopedic medicine and figured out that I did not break it or sprain it.

I did not need a brace, but if it made me feel better, I was allowed to wear this.  

So, I'm a little worried because he said he'll give the x-ray to the "real doctor" to see if he missed anything. Wouldn't that make you feel worried?! For now, I'm going to wear my mom's brace. Here is a picture of it.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Claire's Baaaaack

Hi, guess who? Did you say Katie? Well you’re …………. WRONG.  

It’s me Claire, Katie’s daughter? The one Katie, my mom, has been talking about for 9 years? Oh, remember me now huh? Yeah, I’m 9 years old now, going on ten. 

It’s been so much fun reading what my mother has wrote and now she is passing it on to ME to write and to make this amazing blog my mom has created and make it  ”pleasing to the eye” as my friend, Maren, once said to me. 

This might be a little boring at first, but I’m new at this people! 

I love dogs and I’m really passionate about making puppy mills illegal. Here is a picture of my latest work. 

See you later guys!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Young & Wise

You know how they say you learn something new every day? Here’s my big one for today. 

Claire told us yesterday that her class was preparing to have an in-class spelling bee, which would determine who from their class would move on to the next round of the spelling bee. I was pumped for her and immediately whooped and put my hand up for a high five. 

“I’m not doing it.” 

Confused, I slowly put my hand down. Claire is like every other human in the world: a complicated mix of exceptional talents and flaws. But, by far, her super power is words. From a very young age, words just made sense to her. She can spell hard words she’s never seen before because she has a rich understanding of how our language uses sounds. She can take what she knows from one word and apply it to another based on the sounds. In other words, she’d totally nail the spelling bee. It’s meant for kids that just get words. It’s meant for kids like her. But not actually her

I tried to ease my way into convincing her to do it. She hates being in the spotlight, so I thought fear of winning was preventing her from taking her rightful place as Spelling Queen Bee. We talked about it a bit. She crushed a few of the practice words before moving on to the rest of our evening. 

This afternoon, I asked her how it went. 

She told me that each student had the chance to spell a word. If they missed it, they sat down. The last person standing would be the class winner. They did that process twice, so there were two people from their class moving on to the next level. Both rounds, she was one of three people standing. 

I was sitting on the edge of my figurative seat waiting to hear if she overcame her fear. 

“I purposely misspelled words during both rounds.” 

“How come? Were you afraid of what it would be like to get up in front of more people to do it again?” 

“No, I wasn’t afraid. I just don’t need to prove I’m a good speller. When you’re really good at something, you don’t have to talk about it. I know I’m good at spelling — I don’t need a contest to say that I am.”

Did my 9-year-old just tell me that she doesn’t need external validation to feel good about herself?? Put a fork in me. I’m done. I just finished parenting. Princess Peach = saved. 

Just kidding, of course. She also fell to the floor last night after being told it was time for bed and then crawled up the stairs like her legs were broken, moaning the whole way. I still have many, many levels left to go before saving that princess. 

But, in all seriousness, I’m SO proud of her thought process. Anxiety still likely played a role (even a small one) in her decision to throw the match, but I love that the message she was telling herself was that she’s in charge of how she feels about herself. 

There’s nothing wrong with others recognizing your talents. External validation isn’t a bad thing, just as long as the internal validation is there, too. 

Watching her nail the spelling bee is nothing compared to watching her nail these self-discoveries.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Notorious Mr. and Mrs. Barn

When I look at this picture, I will forever be reminded of the time we tramped around in the woods for almost two hours, climbing over trees, climbing under trees, dodging branches and scaling hills — all the while, outrunning the notorious Mr. and Mrs. Barn. Or Bahn. Jury’s still out on the official pronunciation. 

You may be confused. Let me back up. 

I walk in the woods almost daily. It brings me a sense of calm and peace that I haven’t found anywhere else. I’m almost always by myself, which I love, but I also have a constant simmering desire to let the kiddos run free in the woods with only their imagination to guide them. So, yesterday when I looked at the weather forecast and saw that it was probably one of the last warm-ish days, I decided it was a perfect day for adventure. 

I texted Scott and asked him to be home early. The three of us waited at the bus stop and headed for the woods as soon as the girls arrived. 

As we began our adventure, the kids decided that we should pretend to be lost in the woods, on the run from an evil couple — Mr. and Mrs. Barn. Grace, who declared herself the “main character” (naturally) was in and out of a British accent, so no one was sure if it was “Barn” or “Bahn.”  

We’d pretend to see signs of them or hear noises in the woods. Once, a helicopter flew overhead and we all hid under the branches of a tall bush. Even Scott played along with us! But mostly he was avoiding being slapped in the face by branches. Claire would every once in awhile take Henry to the side and explain that it was all pretend, so he wouldn’t really think we were being chased by a couple of villains. And Henry, who had his binoculars, kept spotting Paw Patrol pups in the trees. “Look!! There’s Chase!” 

Of course, once we found our way out of the woods and the story died down, there was MUCH complaining about how long it was going to take to get to the car. But I was too pumped from the memories we just made to care too much about the whining and falling to the ground in faux exhaustion. 

It was quite the adventure and exactly what this family needed before we hibernate for the winter.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Dear Third Grade

Dear third grade, 

Thank you so much for all you’ve given my girls this year. 

Thank you for showing Claire that you can always make new friendships (even when all of your besties end up in another class). Thank you for giving her a friend that loves her unconditionally — not despite her quirks, but because of them. Thank you for putting a spotlight on areas of Claire’s life (focus and organization) that need additional attention. And thank you SO much for giving her the voice and backbone to stand up for the vulnerable — humans, animals and the earth. Our world needs an advocate like her. 

Thank you for giving Grace a year full of ups and downs — allowing her to strengthen her resiliency and discover she's tougher than she thought. Thank you for showing her what true friendship looks like (and what it doesn’t). Thank you for giving her confidence in academics and reminding her what a smart cookie she is, and a special thanks for giving her a year of extracurriculars where she found passion, determination and leadership. I have no doubt the world will be a better place with Grace at the helm. 

My girls are leaving the third grade feeling more certain about who they are as humans, knowing the love of a good friend and, of course, more educated. 

Third grade, it was great knowing ya. Fourth grade, here they come!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Unbreakable Bonds

I have a fairly big family. Five brothers and sisters, four in-laws, 10 nieces and nephews. And now that my older sister moved back to town, we are all living in the same city. We get together often for holidays, birthdays and special events. When we go trick-or-treating, we all go together and take up half the street as we knock on doors. We have our share of familial challenges (trust me), but we’re pretty close-knit most of the time. 

One of my favorite parts of this big family is watching the friendships between the cousins grow. Cousins play such a unique role in a kid’s life. They aren’t so ever-present to get the sibling-treatment (bickering, rivalry, insult-slinging), but they are present for so many of the milestones, both big and small. They are there when you deliver your lines at the school play, cheering you on when you’re up to bat, patting you on the back after you miss that basket. They are there for every single birthday, annual camping trips and when your Grandpa gets sick and dies. They are there for the best and worst moments of life — forging this unbreakable bond. 

We recently went to my niece’s birthday party and Claire, who has been besties with her since they were toddling, felt a bit threatened by a friend who was also invited to the birthday. She pulled me into the bathroom to tell me how she felt like she was being replaced by this girl — “this outsider.” This is what I told her: 

For both of you, friends will come and friends will go. New friends will come. Some will be best friends. But those friendships don’t lessen what you have with each other. What you have is deep and unbreakable — a bond you’ve been forging since you were babies. A bond that will last your lifetime. 

I saw the relief wash over her. And I was taken by surprise at how deeply I felt those words. I’ve always known these cousins would have a close connection, but in that moment I pictured their future selves. As teenagers and 20-somethings. 30-somethings with kids of their own. Being there for each other as they lose their parents/aunts and uncles. It occurred to me that after I’m gone, they’ll be there together, reminiscing about long-forgotten games of hide-and-seek, Christmas at Grandma’s, Easter egg hunts and sleepovers. They’ll have the “remember when” moments and laugh until they can’t breathe. When the tears are flowing, they’ll give that long hug that says “I know. I got you.” 

What a beautiful gift for them — and me. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Explorers' Club: An Update

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about our Explorers' Club, so let me recap. It’s not an official club or anything — it’s some variation of my family members who enjoy going out into the world and trying to discover something wonderful about it. 

I say some variation of family members because while it started as a family endeavor, sometimes it’s just Claire and I. Or just the girls and I. Or sometimes it’s all five of us. It all depends on availability and willingness (more on this later). 

The club first started when the girls were about three or four, and we found a little-known trail that crossed a creek and under a bridge and through a tunnel of trees. (Turns out it’s a relatively well-known trail — maybe the most well-known trail in town — but seven years ago, it was new to us.) This adventure sparked a desire to find more special places and see things we never knew existed in our little city.  

So, between all of us, we’ve explored nearly all of the public trails and parks. And while these adventures used to be highly anticipated, my 9-year-old (going on 13), has recently been resisting. “Ugh, are we just going to like walk again??” She said the word “walk” like it’s the most boring and dull thing she could imagine. 

It was this same attitude that she brought with her on a recent trip to a new trail. She complained in the car, after she got out of the car and for the entire first 10 minutes of the adventure. Then, we hit the area of the trail that runs along water. There were rocks to be thrown, a couple of small waterfalls, dead fish lying about, froglets hopping — and her bad mood suddenly disappeared. 

For the next 45 minutes, I had my explorers' club back. It. Was. Awesome. I know it won’t always end like that — some of the adventures will be “like just a walk.” But my hope is that when they’re grown, they’ll discover the seeds I planted when they were young. There is joy and excitement around you all the time — sometimes where you least expect it. If you’re looking for it and being grateful for the wonders of the world (both big and small), you’ll always find happiness.