Hooray for After-School! (…I think.)

August 29, 2014

We may not live in the best school district, but I’ll fight anyone who says differently: our elementary school is one of the best. We have the best teachers (statewide awards of excellence say so), an understanding and accommodating principal, fantastic outreach programs, an emphasis on volunteerism and community involvement, and a good balance of school vs. parents when it comes to who’s responsible for teaching our kids different topics.

One of the other things I desperately love about our school is its After-School program. The school provides free after-school care for a set number of students for grades 3-5. The program manager at our school coordinates with the half-dozen interns from a local college who provide the actual care. The students are divided into three groups, and they rotate between homework/tutoring stations, physical activities like soccer, dodgeball, and other insane games we could never imagine, and crafts, computers, or some other activity.

Because the waiting list is long and the program is funded by a city-funded grant with specific guidelines, there are strict rules. Your child must behave (obviously), cannot miss more than three days (unless s/he was absent from school), and must be picked up by 5:45 p.m. It’s a great program with few faults – the biggest one being that After-School doesn’t meet on Fridays and you’re on your own for daycare. Bee has been counting down the years until she could attend just like her sister and this year she finally qualified.

Yesterday a friend of mine (whose son has been besties with Gracie all the way through school) asked if I was going to the mandatory meeting for After School. The one taking place right after school. That no one had mentioned. Seriously – no notes were sent home, no robo-call from the school, nothing. The school might be a little bad about last minute notices, but they are very liberal with the use of robo-calls. But I hadn’t heard a thing.

Turns out there was a booth for the After-School program at Meet the Teacher night. I have never once visited the booth and it has never been a problem before, but obviously something had changed. Turns out that the student liaison who had been managing the interns had graduated last year and no one else stepped up to manage their side of things, so the YMCA had taken over managing the program. And dropped the very first ball. Sigh.

I called the school to verify (and complain), and the school had to call the Y because they had no idea either. The meeting was indeed yesterday afternoon. I sent out texts to my friends who were hoping to send their kids so they wouldn’t miss the MANDATORY (yet secret) meeting and encouraged them to call the school and complain, too. Luckily they were able to cajole their bosses into letting them leave early with no notice, and my Ex volunteered to cover our end, so all’s well that end’s well, I guess.

Bee came tearing through the house, bouncing off the walls and the furniture last night. “Mom! Guess what?! I GOT INTO HIGH SCHOOL! …Um….I mean, After-School!” We laughed and she laughed and she continued telling me all about it, a mile a minute. Her bestie is also attending this year, and Gracie’s closest girlfriend from school is also going this year, so it looks like we averted a crisis.

But I don’t know, man. I hate borrowing trouble – especially when my cart is already so full – but this might not bode well for the new management.

My very own Parkinson’s-themed Pandora’s Box.

August 27, 2014

“I don’t want to,” my mom said over the phone line. Her words were halting because of the Parkinson’s, and while there wasn’t any heavy emotion in them, at least not any pleading or whining, it was impossible to miss that my mom was crying. Crying to me on the phone because she didn’t want to do something. Because she didn’t want us to make her. And I died a hundred gut-wrenching deaths listening to those four words.

“I know you don’t. But maybe you’ll meet a bunch of cool new friends. Think of rehab as an adventure,” I rallied.

I loathed myself at that moment. I am a horrible person. My mom turned to me as a peer, as adult, and I used my “mommy voice” filled with fake pep and cheer. I couldn’t think of anything better to say. I couldn’t offer anything that would comfort her or make the situation any easier. I treated her like a child and tried to cheerlead her through what we both knew was going to happen regardless of what anyone wanted. Even if going to rehab was the best of all options (certainly it was better than not being well enough for rehab), I still felt like I failed my mom.

Last Friday, my mom had what we initially thought was a massive stroke. My cell phone rang mid-afternoon, displaying my parents’ house number. My parents call the house on weekends; never my cell phone and never in the middle of a workday. My brother told me that when he came home my mom told him she couldn’t feel her legs and had left-side weakness. Her neurologist sent her to the hospital because he suspected a stroke. I spent Friday night imagining my mom living with Parkinson’s and only her right arm as I waited for news from CT scans and MRIs. Mum was still talking (as much as she could, which isn’t much due to the Parkinson’s – she has trouble making muscles do what she wants, thinking of words, and has a bit of Parkinson’s dementia on top of the rest of the heartache), and things didn’t seem dire, so my brother suggested waiting for the test results before I decided if Kim and I needed to fly home.

I spent Friday night trying to process everything. Okay, really I spent it being mad at myself, only I didn’t figure that out for another few days. You see, it took me a long time to make peace with my “new” mom. She’s so, so different from the mom we grew up with, the mom who raised us and laughed with us, taught us to chase frogs and snakes and indulge our imaginations and crawled on the floor with my babies. There are flashes – Mum still loves to be teased and will still try to kick us (good-naturedly) if we get fresh – but I’ve learned to think of the person my Mum is now as a separate person from who she was, both the same and different. Good or bad, right or wrong, It’s how I cope. It’s how I am able to love and enjoy Mum as she is now without drowning in grief for who she should be. Should is such dangerous territory.

I’m mad at myself because I thought I had firmly shut the lid on should. I thought I had made peace. Turns out that after tests reveal no evidence of a major stroke (but possibly – probably – minor ones), no spinal tumor, no spinal or systemic infections, no reason whatsoever for the paralysis and weakness, when the doctors decide that your mom should go to rehab to see if they can make her whole(ish) without knowing the underlying cause for the paralysis, I can still be thrown for a loop. Because my mom has lived in fear for a long time that this day would come. She shared with us so many times that she does not want to go to an assisted living facility or nursing home. Part of it is that she hates change; she always has, even in the “before”, but now that she has a bit of dementia and craves order and predictability, change is even more her enemy. Another part of the problem is that she’s worried that once she moves to a facility, she won’t ever come back home. When we’ve talked about, she always brings up how Grampy never came home. How our neighbor lived to be so old because she never gave up her walks to her daughter’s house. Mum doesn’t often talk about her fears, but when she did, her answers were unwavering: nursing homes and their ilk were the beginning of the end.

Knowing that, it’s hard to blame her for begging us not to make her go.

But we did. She was transferred to a rehab facility the night before last and when I called to check on her yesterday, to offer comfort and try to undo the damage (to myself) from my previous less-than-stellar response, Mum surprised me by telling me, “Oh, I like it here.” (Cue my relief, frustration, and immediate questioning of both whether I knew anything and whether she really meant it.) Granted, it was Day One of a potentially long stay, and she only likes it because it’s better than the other facility she could have ended up at, but we’ll handle our emotional whirlwinds as they happen.

It’s still not easy. Talking to my mom was very difficult; her words came much slower and her dementia was much more prevalent than usual, because of the disruption of routine, or maybe from the minor stroke. There will be more challenges ahead, and managing them – Mum’s challenges and my own reactions – are never easy when you add in the fact that I’m 1500 miles away and painfully, constantly homesick. We’ll deal with the dementia and the new physical limitations and the fact that my mom will either leave rehab to go home or she won’t. I’ll either be able to make peace with the situation again, or I won’t. It’s a difficult, crappy situation all the way around. But it’s the situation we have in front of us.

And that’s the honest truth.

Because duck tours are better than almost anything else.

August 26, 2014

Because there are so many other things going on right now that I just don’t want to deal with (aging parents, start of school, tweens and the internet, boys, tricky home renovation projects, HELLO STRESS EASE UP ALREADY), I thought we’d take a look back to that lovely little week called vacation.

Ahhhh, vacation!

Vacation had lots of fun things, like that one day we took the train into Boston to do some touristy stuff. We didn’t get to spend nearly as much time in the city as we wanted – I had to forgo my steamers at the Barking Crab, and we didn’t get to explore the freedom trail, or visit the ducklings in the Boston Gardens – but we did get to do a Duck Tour with the girls and spend a few hours at the Museum of Science.


Yes, they let Gracie drive the duckboat. Insane, right?! Our tour guide was amazing – he was witty and irreverent and just our kind of Boston (even if he did have on a Bledsoe jersey instead of Brady’s). He was filled with all kinds of facts about the city and the duck boats themselves. I could have listened to him for hours.



The cemeteries and parks and gardens were all so amazing! We definitely are going to have to spend a couple days in the city walking around next year. Or maybe I’ll leave the childrens at the museum with Auntie Kim and Auntie Rhi and I can go on our own little historical walkabout. Heh.


I’m rather in love with this pic of the Hancock Tower and the Trinity Church near Copley Square. Gorgeous. (Fun fact: my high school sweetheart took me into Boston for our 6-month anniversary and took me to the observation deck of the Hancock Tower and we did a tour of the Trinity Church. Very romantic, even if you’re 16 and have idea how to appreciate how amazing the architecture is.)


IMG_4800Because who could resist? I mean, obviously.IMG_4810This pic fills my heart with so much love. Boston, you’re my home!

After the duck tour (I wish desperately that I could show you the pic of Auntie Rhi and Bee-girl making their zombie duck faces), we spent some time at the Museum of Science. We could have spent days there. In fact, I bet I could get Gracie to read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frainweiler now if I got her to switch out the museum in NYC for the Museum of Science in Boston. She was that in love.

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They got to explore a room filled with electricity, one filled with sounds (both Bee’s favorites), one filled with inventions (where we lost Gracie for a good portion of our time), robots, animals and habitats, and on and on and on… Oh, and optical illusions. Gracie-girl was obsessed with that one, trying to figure out the tricks behind them. I could practically see the steam coming out of her head as she thought so hard about the hows and whys. Is there anything better for a mama than seeings your kiddos really snag their attention on something and dive in so deep that they don’t want to surface? Curiosity is one of the best personality traits a person can have, in my opinion, and I try so hard to develop that in my girlies. Good job, Museum of Science!

It was a long day, even if it was filled with only a few different activities. The girls were knackered on the trip home, and the grown-ups only a little less so. Fun, adventure, boats, Boston, and trains – not a bad outing at all!

And so the school year begins…

August 25, 2014

I didn’t think it would get here, the first day of school. Not because I didn’t want it to (though I am a little anxious). It was just a nice, solid, busy summer, filled with all kinds of good things. And, okay, I didn’t want the school year to start again. It’s Gracie’s last year of elementary school, and I am not looking forward to transitions and admitting my baby is old enough for middle school! And Bee-girl…well, she has her own issues with school. I was enjoying not fighting with her over reading and practicing spelling and worrying whether she was keeping up with her class.


This year, I am confident that Bee will click right along and has passed her stickiest point. 3rd grade is going to be the year my baby girl shines.

I am hopeful that Gracie’s teachers will push her hard enough that she feels challenged, but not so much that her love of all things nerdtastic is crushed.

I smiled over Gracie primping and prepping herself just so this morning before school. 5th grade is so important.

I giggled thinking about how Bee raced through breakfast because she gets to see her bff today, after spending an entire summer apart.

I might not be exactly ready for the school year, but I choose to believe it will be fabulous. After all, the girls willingly posed for their obligatory First Day of School picture. And that’s something.


Taken inside this year because it was still dark outside! Eep!

What I wouldn’t give for patch of woods.

August 22, 2014

Whilst on vacation (or so all my posts will start for a goodish while), my extended fam threw me a big cookout. Okay, it wasn’t just for me because my extended fam throws cookouts quite a bit – we’re all terribly close. But they did throw the cookout so I could visit with everyone and they could see the girls and me. (I realize it is no longer the other way around. Sigh.)

This year the cookout was held at Uncle Mike and Auntie Pam’s house, which has the benefit of both being at the top of a hill and having a fantastic little piece of woods right behind it. My cousin Hoot and I would spend hours and hours exploring and playing in those woods when we were younger, climbing on all the rocks, building forts, playing hide-and-seek and capture the hostage (pffft – flags are boring), and generally trying to stay out of trouble. (Much more difficult when you adore your older cousin and he has a penchant for thinking of wicked cool things to do…that will also happen to get you in some hot water. Meh.)

Towards the end of the afternoon, my sister suggested that the girls go for a walk in the woods. Somehow we talked my cousin Hillary into taking them, and then I went along for…well no reason other than I was nostalgic for “my” woods and the fact that they were my childrens.

I’m pretty sure Gracie and Bee fell every bit as much in love with exploring in the woods and I did when I was their age.

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While I was busy marveling over how the patch of woods seemed to have shrunk (both in scope and in the size of the formerly very large rocks), the girls were stamping over hill and dale, searching out the very highest rocks to climb. Auntie Hillary helped them get the hang of the rock-climbing thing and laughed at all the silly things that came flying out of their mouths and the fearlessness with which they scampered.

Auntie Kim joined us after awhile, and soon the three grown-ups were struggling to keep up with the littl’uns.

IMG_4757The kiddos did make us come see a pool and berry bushes they had “discovered” – which turned out to be Aunt Patty’s house, which was just through the woods (and along a path) from Auntie Pam’s. They denied it up and down when I explained it was the pool where they had gone swimming before; they were so sure they had happened across a lost civilization in the middle of the woods.

And then they were off again and Kim, Hillary, and I were walking aimlessly, talking about all of our different adventures in the woods from when we were little.

We finally surfaced back at Uncle Mike’s, relieved to see the girls had found it before us (we honestly hadn’t heard them emerge), and about five minutes after we regrouped with everyone on the deck and grabbed a drink, Gracie and Bee asked if they could go back in. “We want to go climb on the rocks!” they chorused.

What I wouldn’t give for a bit of woods with some climbing rocks, an absence of poisonous rattlesnacks, no fireants, and wasps smaller than feral cats here in Tejas. They still wouldn’t measure up to my woods back in New England, but I think the girls would love them just the same.


The one with the giggles.

August 21, 2014

Bee still likes to play. She has that little girls still inside of her, the one I love so much it hurts, the one who likes to pretend-play, and set up her dolls and her “Holly” Pockets and her Barbies. Gracie will come play, sometimes, if there’s nothing better to do and if no one’s watching, but mostly the land of dolls and pretend play belongs to my Bee.

Have I mentioned how much I love that?

Somehow, Bee roped Uncle Joey into playing princesses with her while we were on vacation. Not that it would take much sweet-talking – the girls pretty much have their uncle wrapped around their tiny fingers. If I wanted to find the girls, I looked for Uncle Joey, and if I wanted to find Joey, I looked for the girls. They didn’t spend much time apart is what I’m saying. So I wasn’t too surprised when I heard giggling from the playroom and looked in there to find Bee and Uncle Joey hard at play. Bee had all of her little princesses arranged on top of a big rig (for what reason, I have no idea), and Uncle Joey was being Ernie from the Sesame Street playhouse.

Ernie was walking around, smacking all the princesses off the big rig. “You don’t go on the big rig no mo’, and YOU don’t go on the big rig no mo’, and YOU don’t go…” etc., etc., each time making Ernie slap a princess off the truck. Okay, yeah, probably not the healthiest pretend play, but they were messing around. Bee was giggling and Joey was laughing at his niece giggling, and occasionally Bee would pull herself together enough to bring a princess back to life to go kick Ernie’s butt.

It was a bunch of silliness and nonsense and generally what vacation’s all about: taking a deep breath and not worrying about things you don’t really have to worry about. It’s about learning that other grownups can be as silly as mommy sometimes – especially if they’re the crackheads people she grew up with. We might not have always had much, and our family might be filled with drama from time to time, but we always knew how to have a good laugh.

And an afternoon spent giggling is a pretty good way to spend a vacation, if you ask me.


Training the trainer.

August 20, 2014

It hit me all at once: empty water bowl, stubborn dog, requesting to go out but then refusing, being off-schedule. It happened over and over, but putting the pieces together – all of that is what suddenly clicked.

Fenway is a smart puppy. She’s border collie, a breed known for its antics when they get bored, yes, but also for how incredibly smart and trainable they are. She learned quickly that when she needed to go outside, pawing once at the door – what can sometimes sound like a “click” when her nails hit the window – is a good way to let everyone know. (What she hasn’t learned is how to be patient when we tell her to wait just a minute, but that’s an entirely different post.) One of her humans will walk over, let her out, and off she goes.

Sometimes Fenway will simply sit at the backdoor and look outside. Before, she would only do that if she wanted to go out, and maybe just hadn’t gotten around to lifting her royal paw to make the request. I’d open the door and she’d go out. Except lately she’s learned the art of window gazing. So when I open the door, Fenway will look at me like I’m stupid, and after I’ve asked her a time or two if she needs to go outside, Fenway will sit. That’s her sign for “No, thanks.” I learned pretty quickly that when she says no, she means it. 99.9% of the time, she’s reliable, even if it’s last thing before bedtime. Even if it’s just before work. My dog has the biggest bladder in all the land, and if she says no, you can believe her.

Except I thought maybe she had gotten her wires crossed, starting a few weeks ago. Fen would ask to go outside, I’d admonish her not to dig (if she’d been digging), or mess with the dog next door (if she’d been taunting Bruiser). And then Fenway would sit down and refuse to budge. Now, Fenway really, really likes to please her pack leader. So I thought maybe the sudden refusal to do what she had just wanted to do was because she had gotten reprimanded and didn’t want to get in any more trouble. She’d been yelled at, so she better not do that. Except…that never used to bother her. In fact, telling her “no digging!” was a pretty good deterrent. She listened (mostly). So what the heck?

We’ve been a bit off-schedule since we got home from vacation. When I’m home with Fenway, I’m pretty good about keeping her water bowl full. When the girls are home, I try to remind them to fill it, but it’s not something they think to do on their own. So most days Fen’s been out all day, playing with her humans, but her watering schedule is…apparently not optimum.

The other night, she pawed to go outside, and as I let her out (and she went), I caught out of the corner of the eye the fact that her water bowl was empty. I filled it with water, which I assumed Fenway had heard with her supersonic ears, because when I turned around, she was waiting at the door to come in already. She headed straight for her water bowl and drank it all down.

The next night, Fenway again pawed to go out. I opened the door and – nothing. She sat down and looked at me like I was an idiot. An idiot holding a door open. I admonished her for asking me to go outside and then refusing, and then went back to whatever it was I had been doing. About fifteen minutes later, it happened again. Only this is when it all clicked for me. I remembered the empty water bowl from the night before. The fact that Fenway was clearly asking for something. And her water bowl was empty again.

“Did you want some water?” I asked her. I poured her a bowl and she immediately came over and drank it down. Five minutes later, she clicked at the back door again and refused to go out. “Are you testing me to see if I really got it?” I asked, incredulously. Yes, yes she was. I poured more water, she drank it down.

It took her an entire year to come up with the system, but still. One point to Fenway for figuring out how to signal to us that she needed something. Two points to me for figuring it out.

You’d think I’d be more excited about this.

August 19, 2014

Monday marks the return to school. Because our 2.5 seconds of summer is apparently over. Sadface.

Yes, I would be the one lone parent in all the land of Parentlandia who is sad that summer is over. While I’m very much looking forward to some fall-ish things like football and lower electricity bills and football and double-digit temps and football and the season of soups and shepherd’s pie and baking things, I am not looking forward to the season of battling with Bee-girl over schoolwork. (Please, Universe, let this be the year that things CLICK.)

But the start of school must be fast approaching because all of the things keep happening:

School supplies:
I spent $200 on school supplies. Notebooks, pens, paper, pencils, notebooks, dividers, binders, glue, rulers… Somehow it all adds up…to a giant headache! Er. Um. I mean, pile of stuff. What’s frustrating is that the girls end up bringing half the crap stuff back home because their teachers have their own supplies that they prefer. Much donating of school supplies ensues.


Scheduling of Well-Checks:
Right about this time, I remember that I never brought Bee-girl for her well-check. Gracie’s gets taken care of in a timely fashion because Gracie had a the good sense (and incredible foresight) not to be born right before our annual vacation. Bee, on the other hand, has a birthday, then we leave town for ten days, come back to the general melee of back-from-vacation-ness, then there’s the back-to-school scramble and the oh-my-god-after-next-week-there’s-a-school-schedule-to-worry-about! panic. Guess what? The pediatrician’s office line has been busy all morning. So. Still pending.

Go ahead and guess which of the girls decided to grow out of all of her uniforms over the summer. If you guessed the almost-5th grader, the one with only one year left before she she transfers to a uniform-free school district, ding-ding-ding! You win a prize! And oh how I wish that prize was the bill for all the money I shelled out. The girls are allowed to wear decorative-free jeans or khakis, and either white or navy collared shirts. (White or navy sweaters or hoodies are allowed during colder weather.) Gracie also grew out of her jeans because I won the budget anti-lottery or something. Yay. So I bought her seven pairs of jeans, a pair of khakis (that she couldn’t live without, being the newly-born clothes-horse that she is), two short-sleeve shirts in navy and two in white, a navy short-sleeve blouse and one in white, a white pullover sweater, two white sweater-cardigans, two blue sweater-cardigans, and one light-weight blue cardigan. I’m praying to god that her school-appropriate shorts still fit because I AM BROKE.


Lunch money:
Don’t ask me how the man I remembered that I needed to top off the girls’ electronic lunch funds, but I did. And when Bee finds out, she’s going to w-h-i-n-e her tail off. That girl is not happy about hot lunches. She says she doesn’t like any of the options and begs to bring a lunch from home. It might be slightly cheaper, but I know the “But I’ll make my own lunch! I promise!” excitement will dwindle down to one more chore for me to complete/follow up on in a matter of days. And I really don’t need that kind of stress to add to the end of my day. (Wow. Talk about whine.)

The Daycare-to-Aftercare Transition:
This year will be the first year that both girls will be in the school’s free aftercare program. Since that means they’ll only need daycare one afternoon a week, and since their dad (and I) have been underwhelmed with the quality of care for the price of services at their center lately, we’re thinking of taking the girls out of daycare for the bulk of the school year. Their stepmom is lucky enough to work from home, and since Bee and Gracie are – for the most part – responsible and respectful enough to be trusted to “watch themselves” while their stepmom is working in the front of the house, Stepmom has offered to get the girls from school on Fridays during her lunch hour. (Three cheers for Stepmom!!) We’ll need to use daycare for the few weeks at the beginning of the school year before the aftercare program gets going (and a few at the end when the college kids/interns graduate), but I’m excited that we won’t have to deal with the issues we’ve been having. Or paying them a second mortgage.

Yep, it’s inevitable – the new school year is just around the corner. Ready or not, guys, here we come!

What happens when you resolve not to take any pictures.

August 18, 2014

We, at Casa de Katie – we’re spoiled. To our credit, we do know this. We have a membership to the city zoo and we use it frequently, dipping in for short visits to specific exhibits and spending long, lazy mornings walking the park. Because we’re there so frequently, I have, I imagine, nearly every shot of every animal that one could possibly take. I’m lucky to have photo markers of how quickly my children have grown as they first toddled next to and then towered over their favorite statues. Zoo pictures? WE HAVES THEM ALL.

When we went on Saturday with Auntie Kim, I figured my camera would stay tucked away. But then…





 Bee was all tickled that Mr. Zebra trotted right over to her to say high. “He’s wondering why you’re all pink stripey and undercover,” I told her. She giggled and looked at me like I was crazy…but I saw the wondering creep into her eyes before she turned away. Zebras are her new favorite animal, by the way. Coincidentally. Thought that was important to note.

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The baby giraffe (Bee’s former favorite animal, but still the one she would try to smuggle out of the zoo [what? don't you play "what animal would you try to steal today" when you go to the zoo?] so she could ride on its back) was all wobbly and kept falling over as he bent over to nibble some grass. And Elephant Baby Daddy (the baby elephant is the animal I would try to smuggle out, if you’re wondering) was all a-splishin’ and a’splashin’ as he climbed out of the pool. And then immediately went over to rub dirt on his back. Because he’s related to my childrens, that’s why.


The tigers were even all prowly, walking back and forth over the plank and hopping from one level to the next. We got out of there (and moved on to red slushies, nats) before the tigers decided to move to Phase 2: Jail Break. Because one time when the girls were toddlers, the Siberian Tiger leapt at the glass and maybe roared a little – in the back of its throat, not even – and Auntie Kim threw down the one-year-old and ran. She jokes that she’s not “fight” or “flight” – she’s a “freeze”. My ass. You give her the right circumstances and she “flights” just fine, thanks.




When we got to the petting zoo area, I looked around for the armadillo, but he wasn’t out. Kim complains that she hasn’t seen a (live) armadillo ever, and I swear every time she isn’t with us, there’s one out at the zoo. So I casually asked one of the zookeepers if the armadillo was tucked away and they said it was so hot out that she wasn’t on display. But! Because my zoo is the awesome-est zoo that ever zooed, they said if it was under 100°, they could bring her out for a few minutes. We lucked out – it was only 98°, and so we got our own private armadillo demonstration. The girls (and Auntie Kim) got to pet the armadillo and ask questions. How cool is that?!







We all took our traditional photos in front of the MOLA sign, including the most formal pic of Kim and I ever taken (/sarcasm)…



MOLA! So! Auntie Kim hadn’t ever been inside. It’s the Museum of Living Art installation, and it’s AMAZING! It’s filled with snakes and frogs and lizards and fish and all sorts of amphibious wonders. We got to touch a rat snake and I pointed out to Bee how to tell if an animal was poisonous or not (there’s a code on the description next to the display) and explained the difference between a viper and a python (one will kill you by biting you; one by squeezing you), which Bee thought was the coolest. thing. ever. Scary, she is.






BABY FLAMINGO!! Just because.


Oh! And what, to my kids, is the coolest secret path ever. We found it a while back when we were walking to the car along the edge of the parking lot. I convinced them it was an escape route for the animals, and at the time they believed me. At ten and eight, they’re old enough to know I’m joking… Mostly. They scurried back to the car pretty quickly when I called them.

So that was it. Our very normal, routine, funnest trip to the zoo so far. Only to the be topped by the next one. Privilege is grand, and if my kids ever forget to be thankful for it, I’ll feed ‘em to the animal of their choice.

The year she didn’t sing.

August 15, 2014

I struggled with this post. It’s the battle every writer faces and I’m sure over the next few years the question of “is this okay to write about, to share?” will pop up more and more often as I balance the privacy of my children versus representing what really happens in our day-to-day adventures. I don’t like the idea of scrubbing or (unnecessarily) censoring our stories. Life is messy, people can be unkind, things don’t always go as planned. Selecting only stories that end happily or paint everyone in their best doesn’t help anyone strive to be better or feel better through shared experiences. And yet sometimes sharing can be hurtful and embarrassing. They can do more harm than good. When those less-than-perfect stories you’re sharing involve another person – especially when they involve your children, the people you most want to protect – it feels like so much more is at stake. I don’t let my children read my blog. But someday they will. And I hope what I’ve chosen to share won’t betray the all-important mom/daughter trust.

So that’s what’s been swirling around in my brain as I’ve been recovering from the Birthday Incident of 2014. (Hey! Guess what? It was my birthday Wednesday!)

It was a lovely day. Having just returned from vacation, and to receive maximum adoration, I decided not to take the day off work. Indeed, there was a bagel-and-fruit reception to celebrate the kick-off of renovations to the building my big day and my co-worker brought me a bottle of wine and a basket of The Most Delicious lemon cakes. Well wishes flew in via phone calls, texts, and social media niches. Every time I announced “It’s my birthday: adore me!”, my audience complied. Like I said – a lovely day.

I came home from work to hear glowing reports of how the girls’ day had gone. They cleaned for me and dressed up all fancy for dinner. Because they had been so good, I gave in when they insisted I open presents before dinner. Gift cards for the bookstore from the girls, their dad and their stepmom; the new Black Keys cd; some more survival movies and The Shining adaptation; an egg poaching pan; and Pictionary (the girls’ new love). An impressive haul! For dinner, the girls, Kim, and I met Corrie and John and their girls at a local dive for our favorite Irish Nachos. The girls were given plenty of quarters to keep them occupied in the game room. We enjoyed our dinners and adult conversation and didn’t hear any. whining. at all. A better time couldn’t have been custom-ordered!

But then. The girls were tired and we had to stop at Target, which they clearly didn’t want to do. Several warnings were issued for deteriorating behavior. By the time we got home, both girls had been given early bedtime. And Gracie was quite upset with me for having yelled at her so many times for whining.

Gracie…Gracie is having a hard time being 10. She is all tween-y and moody and getting used to the teeny-tiny hormones that are starting to flood her poor pitiful self. She’s either happy-go-lucky and giggly and geektastic like her usual self, or else she goes all purple minion and is annoyed and huffy and mad at everyone. It’s a Tale of Two Gracies at Casa de Katie right now. I understand what she’s going through and she and I have had lots of talks to try to help her understand. It’s normal. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s incredibly sucky for her, but it’s normal and it will pass. I thought I’d have more time before this phase started, but still… It’s normal and it will pass. I tell this to myself. I tell this to Gracie. And I repeat it. Over and over and over.

Telling myself it was normal and it would pass didn’t help the other night, though. We had lit candles in the cupcakes the girls and Auntie Kim had baked for me and were getting ready to sing Happy Birthday. Gracie was annoyed she was being forced into the kitchen. She didn’t want a cupcake. She didn’t want to sing. She didn’t want to do anything other than sulk in front of the TV, and she made sure we all knew it. The candles were lit. Pics were snapped. Bee and Auntie Kim started singing with gusto. And Gracie did nothing. After she sneaked a peek at my face – which fell – she did start humming along. But. My ten-year-old daughter, my mini-me with whom I’ve joked and nerded out and built a really close, fantastic relationship with, was not singing happy birthday to me. A small act of defiance and yet so much bigger than any of the fights we’ve had. My heart broke into a million pieces. While I managed not to cry until later when I was in the shower, I let her see the sadness on my face because I wanted her to know that her actions mean something. Auntie Kim called her out of it – calmly, but firmly – and I could see Gracie was a bit embarrassed, but the pain had been inflicted.

Ten. I had no idea these years were going to start at ten. I know we’ll get through them and I know they’ll be hard. An unsung song might seem like a blip on the radar of what we make it through. I feel so unprepared. I’ll just keep dog-paddling and hope signs like this one show up the morning after, and keep faith that with a lot of both hard work and patience, we’ll be okay in the end.


She didn’t apologize, but this was waiting for me the next morning when I woke up.


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