Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Mayfesting our Saturday away.

May 8, 2017

Saturday was Mayfest, a carnival held down on the river in the cultural district. There are rides and games and several music stages. Bee’s After Care program (all of them in the city, in fact) were putting on a show on one of the stages. Since Bee is the captain of the step team, the After Care director had been asking me since Christmas if Bee was going to be there. She knows we’re responsible and that many kids flake out and don’t show up to Mayfest because: traffic. The traffic is a nightmare. Last time we went, it took two hours to make a 20 minute drive.

So I wasn’t really looking forward to Mayfest, because on top of the lovely drive ahead of me, I also still had my bronchitis to deal with. My plans had been to just cuddle up with a book in bed and never change out of my pajamas. But: Mayfest. It was my Ex’s weekend; I could have laid Mayfest at his feet. But they had other plans and it was important to me after promising the director all year that Bee be there. And Bee’s best friend’s dad wasn’t able to take her and her mom was working, so now we were bringing Zari*, too.

So, Saturday rolls around and I pick up Bee-girl and then Zari. We headed out to the festival two hours early because I was a little paranoid about parking, and we wanted to have time for some carnival food and maybe a ride before we had to meet up with the group to practice.

And you know what happened, don’t you? Traffic was a piece of cake. I face worse traffic coming home from work every day. Sigh. So we enjoyed our extra time. We found the stage where we’d be performing and checked out all the rides and food tents (because the ground were laid out in a circle and our stage was the very last one). Then we all grabbed ice cream and drinks because 86°, all the sunshine, and we were all in pants. (Whoops.)

Then, because I’m a good mama who likes to let loose every once in awhile, we splurged on more than a few rides:

The girls loved the bungee jumps (and that’s good, because it was the most expensive ride there!). They did flips and jumps and I have no idea how they had energy left to stomp after all the jumping! They also demanded video, so I didn’t have memory left on my phone to get pictures of the rest of the rides. (They’re all on Bee’s phone and I haven’t gotten them from her yet.) They did a Superman-type ride where they laid down and did a tilt-o-whirl type thing on their stomachs like they were flying. (EESH!) They did the really high swings. They did a mirror maze that I thought looked fun and crazy enough that I’d have to go in there after them, but they were pretty good. [Bee-girl even said to me when we were pulling into the driveway that she hoped I wasn’t too lonely waiting while she and Zari were on all the rides. What a sweet girl to think of that!] The girls had a blast and I enjoyed being able to give them a bit of fun while we waited for the group to get there.

We also stuffed ourselves with food (ice cream, funnel cakes, roasted corn, turkey legs, beer, and so many cold sodas) and took advantage of all the freebies. And I have to say – the festival was really wonderful at having enough to do without spending tickets! (I guess to make up for $3 drinks?) There was a splash station, give-aways and free treats (we all got apples, yogurt, and won tshirts, towels, and sunglasses), and a stilt-walking station that gave lessons. The girls were surprisingly adept at stilts! I was amazed that after a time or two, they were walking up and down the walkway without a single falter! Their favorite freebie tent, though, was the art show.

Mayfest2

We spent a good half-hour in there, cooling off and examining technique on all of the drawings. They looked for and found their classmates entries, and Bee lamented that she hadn’t entered. (Her obsession with art mediums – especially drawing – has grown recently and I’m starting to wonder if art won’t play a larger role in her life. She has an aunt and a great-uncle who are both professionals, so there’s a strong possibility!)

After the art tent, it was time to wander back to the reason we were Mayfesting to begin with – the dance competition. The girls were impressed with the few shows we got to watch (I loved the traditional Mexican folk dancers), and they killed it when it was their turn!

You could see their faces light up when they heard the audience gasp and cheer them on. No one else had done anything outside of traditional “dancing” since it was a dance competition. But stepping is what our school wanted to do, and so that’s what they did, and I’m proud of them for it. I don’t think they won anything more than a participation ribbon, but they weren’t in it for a prize. It was wonderful to see my flighty, funky, hilarious little spazz monkey get up there and shout out the call-outs and lead the steppers with a loud, commanding voice and confidence in every movement.

It was a good, good day. Even if I went through three travel-packs of tissues and got a little sunburnt. I wasn’t planning on walking around a carnival for four hours, but I’m glad I got to spend some more time with my squinky, and that I got to give her a day of fun with her friend. Not a bad Saturday at all!

 

*Not her real name.

April 26, 2017

Dear sweet baby girl,

I always get rather emotional on your birthday, but this year, this year that you officially, formally, instistantly become a teenager, I am even more of a loving, teary-eyed mess than usual. I can’t believe I get to be your mom. I can’t remember life before children, and I can’t remember why anyone would try. Being a mother isn’t my entire reason for being, but being the mom of you and your sister is by far the most important piece of me. It’s what I love the most. And that you were my first baby seems to be the rightest and truest thing that has ever happened to me.

You’re exactly what the universe decided I needed, my own special gift. A pain in the ass, sure, but a gift all the same. And I can’t even tease you too much about your teenagery, sarcastic, over-achieving, lazy, helpful, eager-to-please, confident, anxious, full-of-laughter, loyal, football-crazy self because, well, I sort of nudged you in that direction, didn’t I? You’re my mini-me, which helps (I hope) in helping me parent you. But I hope it doesn’t hurt too much. I am always trying to do my best by you because you exceed my every hope, sweetheart. You still seem to be so many steps ahead of me, funnier, smarter, braver, YOU-er than I could ever have hoped. It makes me want to smoosh those cheeks and embarrass you with how much I love you (truly, it makes me shriek with laughter every time you [mostly] jokingly “MOMMMEEEEEE!!!!!” whineyell at me, when I jokingly [mostly] go too far); and it makes me want to throttle you, too, at times, when all my knowledge (because: mini-me!) doesn’t give me any advantage at all. Because for all that you’re my mini-me, you are wonderfully, gloriously, wicked awesomely your very own person, Gracie-girl. And you’re stubborn, so you ain’t budging off being exactly who you are!

I’ve been stricken dumb, so often, during this past year, as I watch you grow and mature, and robbing me of my words isn’t easy to do. You continue to keep track of your own school work, study schedule, and homework. I might ask, as part of engaging you about your day, but I don’t double check. I don’t think you’ve required that since second grade! You have surprised us all with your progress in tennis (you joke as much as any of us at the idea of you and physical coordination belonging in the same sentence), but haven’t really entertained the idea of entering into any of the competitions – and given your proclivity to enter into and join everything else, I’m grateful for that! What hasn’t surprised me is your domination in band. You’re second chair in percussion and the feminist in you loves bragging that first chair is the only other girl in your section. You’re consistently asked to perform some of the trickier parts during performances, and the first thing you comment on afterwards, when I catch up with you, is the one part where you think you messed up: ever the perfectionist.

It’s funny, seeing which of those pieces (like the perfectionist at school) remain the same, and which parts of you are evolving. You were so quick to say yes when your crush asked you out, after for so long expounding on how you weren’t dating until high school. Ha! You’re quick to help out when I really need you to (putting away groceries without being asked, taking care of chores when I don’t feel well, offering to take care of Bee’s chores when she has a migraine); offering to pay for so many of your own expenses now that you have an allowance; coordinating all the details for transportation, etc., when you and your friends want to go somewhere and you need rides. In fact, watching your social life blossom and evolve has been one of the more intriguing and reassuring aspects of this past year. You are fiercely loyal, but you know what is Drama and what is Worth Working Through. There are a few exceptions, but you are still doing an excellent job of picking out good people to add to your village. I might make good on my threat of taking away your phone at night if I hear about any more 2 a.m. text-capades, but I get that you thought you were being there for a friend during a critical time. What makes me trust your judgement is that you don’t have any time for drama. You don’t like making scenes. You don’t like being subjected to gossip or getting shafted. You won’t stand for unfair behavior too many times. You’ll go to the end of the earth for your friends (and twice as far for The Boyfriend), and you’ll hand out chances, but only so many. I like that. It makes me feel like you’ve been listening. Like when you bop me on the arm (our accepted consequence) and lecture me when I call myself an idiot (for whatever reason). You know I won’t stand for you doing it, and you’re sorting out when to hold me to the same benchmarks. And I let you, because how else will you learn? And it does do my heart good to see that you’re taking it all in, baby girl.

There are other ways teenagerdom is settling in for you. You were never really one for keeping your room ship-shape, but GOOD LORD, GIRL. Cinderella’s woodland creatures who could tidy an entire house in the blink of an eye would keel over dead if they saw your room. It takes it a couple do-overs before I don’t keel over! And I’m not that fastidious! You’ve adapted well to my recent decision to ditch cable, but what you do miss is football…and awards shows. Like the Oscars, the Grammys, and that sort of thing. I remember getting all twirled up in it when I was in junior high, so there’s still hope for you, sweetheart! (And even if you continue to enjoy them, I promise to allow you to be your own person, no matter how ridiculous I think those shows are.)

And that’s what I find most encouraging about this past year: even as you grow up, even when we disagree and have those types of fights that everyone’s warned me comes with raising a teenager, we always find our way back to being okay. We both have Irish tempers that might need to cool off first, but you’re good at knowing who you are, Gracie. You’re good at putting your feelings into words, and expressing yourself and your perspective. You’re good at explaining why you were fighting, and apologize when it’s called for. And you’re not too proud to share that with those who matter. You know that family matters.

And I hope you know how much you matter to me.

I love you, Gracie-girl. More than any birthday letter can say. And I always will.

Love,
Mom

In which I finally caved and said yes.

April 4, 2017

I had A Day with Miss Gracie yesterday. It was one of those golden days that I’m sure I’ll look back on a hundred times later.

It didn’t even start out all that extraordinary. I picked her and M. up from school. I dropped of M. and got Bee-girl from After-Care. The coordinator there loaded us up with cookies and desserts they had leftover from Panera – it pays to be a nice parent, you guys. And while we were driving, I told Gracie about my crazypantsbananatown day, and she told me about all the drama going down at her school. Something about a text-storm at 4 a.m. [good lord – yeah, if that continues, the phone is outta there] and then a bunch of smack being talked about her at school. I listened as baby girl told me all about it, and agreed (mostly) with how poised her responses were. Gracie’s doing fine. I’m parenting fine. All is well. …At least on that front. …For now.

Our evening…meh. It seemed pretty average. Bee had a headache, so she laid down for awhile. Gracie did her normal just-got-home things: played with the dog, changed into comfy clothes, texted all her friends. Told me more about all the drama. In fact, I remember quite a bit of her following me around as I tried to transition out of my day. Earrings were getting shucked, shoes getting put away, hair pulled back. Finally I told her I was changing and just stopped caring if she was in the room. Tell you what – as soon as I unbuttoned my slacks, that girl was gone.

We had a good dinner (shrimp scampi and salmon and garlic button croissants. And pretend we had a veggie) and the girls and I laughed our way through some household chores. And it was Bee who came and hung out with me in my room and watched TV with me; she and I started putting together the Ghostbuster’s Ecto-1 Lego car. But then it was bedtime and Bee went to bed without a fuss (because: headache earlier) and I made Gracie come entertain me while I cleaned the kitchen. So I rinsed dished and loaded the dishwasher and recycled 93284032 cans and wiped the counters and cleaned the sink and checked on my pet ants, all while Gracie told me stories and more about her day. It made me think of when my mom would be cleaning the kitchen and ask me to entertain her. It’s a good way to sneak in some bonding time.

I should have sent her to bed after the kitchen was clean. But the wiseass I raised kept trying to convince me that we should flop down on my (comfy, comfy) bed and talk or watch Bones instead of cleaning. So I told her we could hang out in my room for a bit. She immediately flopped down on the bed and started making herself comfy while I got ready for the next day, picking out outfits and jewelry. Then I got the grand idea of letting Gracie help me to game out my outfit for my date on Friday. She adjusted a few things and I went with her decision, so we’ll see how it plays out. In between all of that, Gracie took alllllll the selfies. I’m sorry, World: there are no selfies left. Gracie took them all last night. Sheesh.

That’s when the begging began. About just staying right there and sleeeeeeeeping. I can count the number of times that child has slept in my bed, and two of them were after times she ended up in the trauma hospital.

I can’t believe I gave in.

I know the girl kicks in her sleep. No one wants to sleep with her on vacation because we know she is a restless sleeper, she snores, she drools, and she kicks. And coughs! I made the girl get up and take some cough medicine. God, I was tired by that point, but she thought it was Christmas morning, getting to sleep on the NASA technology mattress she’s in love with. Lights went off. And then the moving began. Over and then the other way, and shuffle this way, and that arm… It was a nightmare! I put a hand on Gracie’s upper arm. Told her rather firmly to stay still (because the girl was out – dang, she can sleep!) and she stopped.

So I did get some sleep after all. My little girl is growing up so fast, it’s nice to have those moments – or an afternoon of moments – while we can. Even if those mean I have to deal with a bonkers teenager who sleeps like monkeys are jumping on the bed.

This is getting to be a Sunday night ritual.

January 30, 2017

Last night was a good, good night. I made my Twice-Stolen Peruvian Roast Chicken for dinner, and the girls didn’t even complain. I warned them we’d be having more family dinners, and they said they didn’t mind – even though they preferred “easy” dinners where they could have waffles or heat up leftovers. They don’t even like chicken right now, but they didn’t complain. And don’t say anything, but I think Gracie liked the Peruvian flavor. It does make a difference when you cook your chicken skin-on.

After our sit-down dinner, Gracie sat down to watch the SAG Award show. I offered up the big TV, and asked Bee if she wanted to come craft in my bedroom with me. It’s what we did the last time there was an awards show, and we had a lot of fun. Bless that girl, she did want to hang out with her mama. So she grabbed a sew-your-own pillow kit she got for Christmas, and I grabbed some scrapbooking supplies, and off we went.

sundaynight

Here’s my partner-in-crime. You can see the friendship character on the pillow kit. Bee looks all serious because she’s trying not to knot her string because it was awfully tangly.

We watched the rest of Anne of Green Gables and the Bee-girl really got into it (and my heart rejoiced!). I answered her questions best I could as I worked on my own projects:

And then there was this one, which kinda encapsulated all the scrapbooking I had gotten done this weekend:

The journaling reads:

This is the first I’ve scrapbooked in a long time. More than a year. And there are… There are pictures I’m not using. Pages I’m not creating. It’s a choice. A conscious choice. It hurts to think about Jeff and X-man. It hurts to even write their names. Trying to recreate 2016 – with them or without them – is painful. The absences and gaping holes are painful. The pictures that include them, even if I leave them out of my running commentary – those are painful. I have no way of knowing, right now, what is more painful or less painful. It’s all painful. All of it.

So.

So my choice is to not include them in as many things as I can. My energy in faking happiness in the journalism prompts is low. I save it for hte few I feel I can’t skip.

So.

So there are gaping holes. So what. And I’ll keep pushing through. Because at least I’m scrapbooking at all. At least I’m me again.

I find it’s much easier to be Brave when I have my Bee-girl around. She and I had fun. I like hanging out with her and seeing how her mind turns. It’s an important year – she’s right on the brink of growing up and becoming a tween. And besides that – she’s Bee! She’s sneaky and devious and hilarious and she has this way of unsettling you any time you feel like you have the least bit of balance. You never know what you’re going to talk about. And she has a terrible poker face, so you can always see what’s behind all the machinations of her thinking. It’s like playing in a giant funhouse, these nights full of conversation.

The fact that it’s all happening during a night of crafting? That’s just icing on the cake. Mmmm….cake.

Teenagerhood is coming. It is coming.

January 18, 2017

<….sound of goblin drums…>

<Oooh, wait…maybe of Twister violins….>

Because it’s already here!

Yes, go ahead and ask me how my day was yesterday. Oh, I’m so glad you asked! My ex-husband called last night. On the home phone, no less. We never use the home phone any more. The only peeps who use that are my parents and telemarketers, neither of whom usually call that late. (It wasn’t that late, maybe 8ish?) I don’t know what made me look at the home phone, because I never do that any more either. But I did. And it was my Ex. So I answered.

Gracie was insisting she had to bring her lunch to school the next day (today). Did I know anything about that? Uh, no. But yesterday was her first day back to school since the weekend. So maybe something popped up? Oh, but she was refusing to tell him why.

Oh, yes – you read that right. Refusing to tell him why. REFUSING.

You can see why steam was pouring out of my ears.

Anger wasn’t even my first response though. I was so happy my Ex had called! I love this whole Pull Together, Win Together thing. It bodes well for the next few years. You know, the Tough Teenagery Years that were suddenly dumped right in our laps.

After I cheered a little in my head, I moved right on to confusion. Because Gracie hasn’t once ever pulled anything like that. She’s a goody two-shoes. She might whine when she’s in A Mood. And yeah, there was the whole “lying about texting her friends” thing. But one bump in all the tween years we’ve braved so far? Not bad. So what was with the sudden obstinence? And how the heck were we going to deal with it?!

I told my Ex that I would call her (he was out with Bee), and see if she would talk to me, and get back to him. So I called Gracie-girl, who sounded as confused at a late-night call (I never call either – we’re a texting family) as I was. I explained what was going on, using my best concerned voice, and she still sounded confused. And maybe a little whiny. She had told Dad, she said. She hadn’t refused, she said. She told him she wanted to take her lunch to school, just because. Not that she needed to take it.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if she just kept saying she needed stuff from the store to take for her lunch, and when pressed for a reason she said just because, and the manner in which it was delivered came across as less than straight. Or if her version of what happened was completely different from what actually happened. I have no idea. And that’s between my Ex and Gracie.

However: I explained to Gracie that she can’t ever not answer, if that’s what happened. I patiently explained to her that her dad must have been so worried and concerned if he called me. She seemed to understand. I told her that if it’s a want, not a need (language we use frequently at home), that she can’t expect her dad to drop everything to go to the store if he doesn’t want to. That it’s selfish to even get whiny about it. She could negotiate it, ask nicely, trade chores, whatever, but it’s not something he has to do. And that she probably owed him an apology when he got home. That they needed to talk it out.

I called my Ex back and told him what I had found out. He said he would talk to that Gracie-girl of ours.

And I spent much of the night texting my bestie whose (amazing) daughter is a senior in high school. They have had a very similar relationship as Gracie and I. I knew she would have ninja mom answers for my new teenagery kiddo issues. She not only had all the answers I needed, but she immediately asked the obvious question that I had completely overlooked: was Gracie feeling left out, or was she being teased for buying her lunch? Which, dude, would explain so many things. Kathy gave me the best advice, talked me off the ledge (with a later assist from my sister Rhi), and made sure I was able to sleep instead of mulling over the problem all night long. AND Kathy did it all in the late hours of Eastern Standard Time, and I know she’s not a night-time person. Because I needed my friend. And my sister finished up our talk with the magic good-night tradition – a magical incantation she would say to everyone every night before bed when she was a teeny tiny toddler. Those magic words actually were just what I needed to hear before bed, and I didn’t even know until I heard them. My village is awesome, you guys!

So, I guess Gracie and I will be having a conversation tonight. I don’t care if she takes her lunch every day or some days or whatever – as long as I’m not making it! All that matters to me is that she eats, and not just junk food. If she’s being teased for buying her lunch because she’s the only one, then she can take it. That’s never been an issue. I just want her to be honest with us. And for sure she needs to answer when we ask questions. Or some poor pitiful penguin with be without a phone for a certain length of time. Not answering is a no-go.

The teenagery years. I thought I had more time. But at least I know I’ll have a lot of help as I muck my way through them!

Another glimmering upside to Life With Tween.

January 9, 2017

The nicest part of living with another grown-up – back when Jeff was living with me, and then when Kim was visiting for three weeks at Christmas – wasn’t just the peace of mind that comes (for anxious-type people) with knowing there’s another grown-up in the house that you can bounce ideas off of, whether it’s a tor:con alert, a dog barking under your window and scaring you witless at 1:30 a.m., or planning out the week. Those were all nice, but they weren’t the nicest part. The very nicest part was getting to go to bed whenever I needed to.

Those who have read the blog for any length of time know about my battle with insomnia. It pairs really well with my anxiety. (Damnit, where’s that sarcasm font?) Before Jeff, I’d hit a brick wall, finally be ready for sleep – invariably at 6:30 p.m. some random evening – and the girls would whine that they didn’t want to go to bed early that night! And, true, as the girls got older and were able to handle 9 p.m. bedtimes, it seemed silly to ask them to shutter themselves in their rooms at 8 p.m. Especially when I couldn’t really let go of my issues long enough to trust them to notice when it was bedtime and turn off their lights. So one of us always ended up mad that they couldn’t get to do what they wanted. And usually that was me, because I’m a good mama.

The first time I hit the brick wall after Jeff moved in, I told the girls I had to go to sleep and I met with the chorus of groans and pleading…and I explained that Jeff was there and they could stay up until they noticed it was bedtime or he reminded them. And cheers went up over the land! I got sleep, they got freedom. It was lovely.

Last night wasn’t exactly one of my infamous brick walls. What happened was that my tween wanted to watch the Golden Globes on the “good” TV in the living room, and my other girl-child rolled her eyes and asked if she could watch “real” TV in the front room. It worked out well. I remembered caring more about awards shows when I was in junior high and high school (at least until I met my crowd in high school that was against such blatant popularity contests) because they were all everyone talked about. I wanted to make that possible for Gracie. At first I imagined sitting in there with her, not caring but working on my cross-stitch quilt, sharing the evening with her at least. I remember my mom doing that for me. But me and live TV, man – it just doesn’t work. After I left and dragged myself back three different times, I gave up the ghost and crawled into my bed to read.

Much to my delight, Bee-girl asked if she could get one of her new books she got for Christmas and come read with me. So we got all pajamafied, grabbed our books, and crawled beneath the covers of my bed. Bee and I read for an hour…and that’s when it happened. My eyes started drifting shut. I fought it as long as I could, but that’s still an hour more reading than I’ve gotten most nights lately! Eventually I reminded Bee that she had to get up early the next day. It was 15 minutes before her “school night” bed time. She needed to brush teeth and start getting ready for bed.

Gracie, on the other hand…that’s where this glimmering upside sort of snuck in. I could have made her shut off the TV. But she rarely asks to stay up, and I really do remember how important staying in touch with such things was for me at that age. I don’t want my kiddos to be odd-man-out at school. So I dangled the carrot of opportunity: I would let Gracie stay up and watch another 30 minutes of the awards, if she promised to put herself to bed at 9:30 p.m. and shut off all the lights.

You would have thought I offered baby girl the moon.

Bee went to bed without complaining (it helped that she really didn’t care about the stupid awards)(and I suspect because she’d just had heaps of one-on-one time with Mama), Gracie swore she’d do what she needed to do, I set the alarm and reminded the Gracie-girl not to let the dog out again…and then I put myself to bed, too. I read for maybe 20 more minutes, but then I was out like a light! When I woke up an hour later, I sat up in bed to see if I could see the lights from the living room peeking under the door – but all was pitch black. I got up to check, just in case. The lights were off, the TV was off (all 37 buttons worth, good gravy is that system complicated) and the thermostat was where it was supposed to be.

All was well.

Gracie-girl keeps growing up; every time I turn around there’s another milestone. I don’t remember when my bed time outpaced my mom’s for the first time, but I certainly remember many nights in high school when she’d wish me a good night and go off to bed, leaving me to shut down the house. Seems like those days are just about here at Casa de Katie, too.

Good god, they grow up fast.

Back to life, back to reality.

January 4, 2017

Yesterday was A Day at our house. Back to school for Gracie-girl. Back to work for me. Bee-girl and Auntie Kim…went to back-to-back movies because not so much back to reality for them. (Sometimes being in different school districts means different winter breaks, which worked out because one-on-one time with Auntie Kim.)

Because it was going to be A Day, I thought last night would end with both Gracie and I carrying around heads filled with brains that rather resembled bowls of mashed potatoes.

That was true for one of us.

I had something like 10,000* emails, and I got through a leetle more than half of them. I handled a gabillion “Great! You’re back! I really need x, y, z!” requests, and covered my turn in the rotation for another certain project. I couldn’t remember my name by the end of the day; I was too tired to even be grumpy. Exhausted, yes. Grumpy? I hope not.

Gracie,  on the other hand, she who would not – could not – get out of bed before 10 a.m. the entirety of break, she was almost chipper about returning to school. Because the new reality she’s getting back to has a boyfriend. Oh yes, you read that right – a. boy. friend.

I’m not really sure how I feel about this.

I knew my babies would grow up one day. I hoped that grown-up thems would have loves who would adore and worship them right back. You want to be loved in this world. It’s one of the brightest, happiest, important-est things. But having an abstract hope for your children is so much different than the present, in-the-moment worrying that gnaws at you constantly when you’re living those moments in the right here and now.

My 7th grader has a boyfriend. One with a real name instead of a code name; one she’s gone out with on a group date (chaperoned by parents) to Six Flags; one she actually talks to and gushes over (so much as Gracie gushes). I’m excited for her! And happy for her and her self-confidence! And thinking how much better this could be for her versus how it went for Seventh-Grade Katie. (Yeah, a comparison that promises nothing but good and healthy things. I know. I KNOW.)

It’s just…I feel so old right now. I’m old enough to have a daughter who’s dating. Okay, yes, it’s true that Gracie responded with “Ew! No!” when I asked if she had kissed him, and an equally indignant “No!” when I asked if they had held hands. So “dating” is still an age-appropriate idea, if not expression.

It’s adorable. It’s cute. It’s not all about me. My daughter has a boyfriend. I’m just…still unpacking my feelings and reactions to this new reality. Something that might be easier when my brains aren’t mashed potatoes.

 

*Sadly, only a slight exaggeration.

I’m with her!

September 28, 2016

Guess what’s going on today with the elementary school set?

stuco

Bee is running for Student Council Secretary and, yes, her campaign flyer is absolutely on my cubby wall. (Um, and possibly that is a version that I made just for the blog. I have no further comment on the subject.)

She has to make a speech that she wouldn’t practice in front of me because it made her nervous. She has two smashing posters (that were quite a long story) and a pretty good platform. Although she didn’t quite understand why I wouldn’t order a bunch of “I’m with her!” buttons for her to appropriate for her campaign. Hmph, she said, as she stormed off. (She was a lot more understanding about the posters.) Today is election day; it’s all come down to this.

My teacherly friends have promised to record her speech for me, and BLAHHHH! I just can’t wait!

Do a good job, baby! You’ve worked a good, clean campaign and I’m proud of you!

Growing up is hard to do.

September 20, 2016

Does it seem to anyone else as if our children grew up all of a sudden? Like they were Lost Boys and Girls and the spell was cast and all of a sudden we have tweens in our houses? One day Gracie’s living it up in large sweaters and size 12 jeans off the rack; by the end of the summer, Miss Thang is all hips and stuff and we’re having to try on every pair of pants from the juniors section because she needs a different size in every brand. (Welcome to our world, sweetheart! It sucks!) Oh, and she’s buying shirts and dresses in the Women’s section. I’m not ready for that!! (But I did it anyway, because the alternative was for Gracie to walk around sans clothing. Clothing is good.)

Gracie’s in junior high now and everything is changing, not just the clothes. Although I am glad that she’s all about shopping now instead of “Just grab me something!” while she lounges at home. I am not interested in going back six times to find pants that fit. So there’s the shopping need that suddenly appeared, and the social butterfly aspect to joining ALL THE THINGS!!! (Ugh. Which means all the driving for the parentals.) She hangs out with all of her friends, and if she isn’t at their house, it’s a good bet that she’s Facetiming with them. Jeff grumbles from time to time that she’s getting unlimited technology time, but I see it as being on the phone. Most of us were spending oodles of time on the phone with our friends when we were in junior high. I’m glad it took so long for it to finally hit her, but here it is. She’s starting to explore the mall with her pack of buddies, without the parents being right there with them, and it delighted her. She was still surprised when she tentatively asked if she could go to the movies with some friends without grown-ups and I told her of course she could – she was in junior high. As long as she stayed in one place, that was more than okay. All the freedom! Okay, not really – a little bit of freedom to start teaching her how to do it responsibly.

Which brings us to the make-up dilemma.

Let me first say that I am not a big make-up person. My mom never wore any make-up ever. Naturally, she didn’t teach me anything about it – the little I learned, I learned from my friends. I didn’t have older sisters or cousins who could teach me. I never thought to ask my aunts. So my friends were there. And even still, I’m very basic. A minimum amount of eyeliner, mascara, and some concealer under my eyes. Done! I can teach Gracie and Bee the basics, but the plan all along was to take them to Ulta or a spa or somewhere to get makeup lessons. And Gracie gets it already – she shows me pictures on her phone of twelve-year-olds (or younger) all done up ridiculously and scoffs at them. She rolls her eyes at people trying to be who they’re not. And Gracie is very basic. I don’t have to worry about her right now. She’s pretty basic herself. She’s part (mostly?) tomboy. She’s not gonna go overboard yet. Maybe I’ll have to worry later, but she’s fine right now. And she wants to wear mascara.

The question came more as, “Mom, when can I wear make–up?” I had been thinking about the question because I knew it was going to come up soon. She is in junior high. Even my conservative dad let me wear make-up (mascara and lip gloss) in junior high. So I asked Gracie if her bestie Millie wore any. Millie’s mom has very similar parenting styles to ours, but is a leetle bit more conservative. Millie can’t sit in the front seat and has stricter policies about when she needs to be home with her family. I get it, it’s all cool, I just wanted to see where she stood on the make-up front. If she was letting Millie wear mascara, I was probably correct in leaning towards saying Gracie could.

And here’s why – light mascara makes very little difference. Yes, Gracie could pile it on, but we’d see that. (Unless she took it off. And if we’re going down that path, we have to admit if we say no, she could put it on and take it all off before we see her. So…) You can’t see mascara really unless you wear eyeliner behind it to make it pop. I think it’s a good stepping stone for Gracie. Like training wheels. She’ll feel more confident about herself without big, scary results.

The problem is that her dad isn’t really fond of the plan. In fact, he shut it down cold. He thinks it would be better to wait for Gracie’s birthday. He said he could live with it if she was thirteen. And I get that argument – it does sound bad if you look at it like 12 year olds wearing makeup. But if you think of it as a junior high kid wearing make-up, it doesn’t sound as bad. And that’s what she is. I didn’t turn thirteen until the end of the summer after 7th grade, and I got mascara.

I presented Gracie’s dad with my reasons why I think she should be allowed. I let Gracie try it on and took a picture to show how little difference it makes. It will really just make Gracie feel better. More grown up. More confident. More like she belongs. Yes, deciding to allow make-up so Gracie feels like she belongs might seem like a silly reason, but it’s monumental to her. And junior high is so crazy to begin with. I want to save my “no”s for bigger, more important things.

What do you guys think? Should the measuring stick be set at junior high? Or 13? Or something else entirely?

The oft-told story of – oh, look! A butterfly!

September 14, 2016

Three weeks. We made it three weeks into the school year.

You know how much I adore my youngest daughter. Bee is one of my favorite people in the entire world, and not just because I’m bound by contract to think so. She’s one of the sweetest, most empathetic and caring souls you will ever have the privilege to meet. She knows how to work hard. She’s funny as hell – seriously, even die-hard competitive Gracie loses graciously to Bee when we play Apples to Apples because Bee makes us all cry with laughter (intentionally and not).

But, as you’ve all heard me complain about many times, Bee is also what one might call…a bit scatterbrained. I can ask that sweet girlchild to go put her shoes away, and in the space of 30 seconds and while walking a straight line, she will be distracted by eight different things and be confused when I ask her why her shoes are now in the hallway. Because she has already forgotten.

Last year gave me a bit of hope. She held on to her sweaters and sweatshirts at school instead of losing one every week. She still lost dozens of homework assignments, but at least she understood how to do the work and didn’t complain when I made her redo them. Bee will always be a lovable space cadet, but I saw a glimmer of hope that her condition might be manageable.

And then on Monday afternoon, three weeks into the school year, came the text. Kimmy G., a teacher at Bee’s school and family friend, texted me on behalf of Bee’s teacher, asking where her Unit 1 test was. The class had been working on them during the last week, but she couldn’t find Bee’s. Had I seen it at home?

So began a flurry of texts back and forth, from Bee’s teacher to me (through Kim), from me to Bee’s dad (Bee had been at her dad’s for the last three weekends, and he has them overnight on Wednesdays when graded or incomplete work is sent home), from me to Bee’s teacher (through Kim – seriously, I owe her baked goods), and finally an email from me to Bee’s teacher.

Three weeks before Bee lost a Very Important Paper. How is she ever going to survive junior high or high school when having mama peek over her shoulder is less and less acceptable? How will she fare in college or the “real” world? Yes, yes, I get that she is ten – but shouldn’t she be able to get by now, especially with all of our conversations and lectures and tears, that you need to be organized if you want to not fail?

Because that was the alternative. Bee’s teacher said if Bee couldn’t find her flippin’ test [uh, my emphasis. ahem.] that she could retake it the next day. She didn’t want to give Bee a zero. But I was tempted. That might be what it would take for the message to sink it. Bee promises to do better every time, but I’m not seeing results.

And then there’s this complication: Bee’s running for office in Student Council. She didn’t want to even participate in Student Council, but this year she’s all about it. I encouraged her once she told me, and she surprised me by announcing she wanted to be president. No low-key office for my girl! Only…my Ex told me Bee had forgotten her application (and a library book) at his house that weekend. So now we had a missing test and a forgotten application. Oh! And Student Council members have to maintain A and B averages. A zero on a certain misplaced test would mean Bee would lose her qualification before she even started.

This is where I kind of lost it. I turned into Mean Mama.

I picked up Gracie from her choir meeting and raced over for a parent/teacher presentation at Bee’s school that I hadn’t been planning on attending – it was the same Here Are the Services We Provide meeting that I’ve seen 3298209384 times over the last seven years. Bee’s teachers are the same ones that Gracie had – obviously we know them well if they know to text me through Kim G! But now I had all this mama-guilt because they were trying to do my daughter a kindness, and so Gracie and I trudged in and sat down and listened to the spiel. I was glad I did – only one other parent from Bee’s class was there.

And you know what? The fact that they know Bee’s family is supportive and engaged, that we’ll do what we can to support Bee (and them) throughout the year, that’s one of the reasons they want to help Bee out with retaking the test. I shared with them (because Bee was out of the room) that I was thinking of not letting her apply for Student Council. She had forgotten the application; she had misplaced her test. Her teachers shook their heads and talked me into letting her do it. I felt like an enabler, but I let them give Bee another copy of the application when my special snowflake sauntered in after her AfterCare program ended.

I sat down and helped Bee think of dynamic sentences for the questions. I helped her evaluate which position(s) she wanted to apply for (you had to list a few preferences) and watched her print her answers in her very neatest handwriting. I’m still conflicted, but I felt good. Maybe it will motivate her to do better. To study harder. To remember the organizational tricks we’ve discussed.

And then last night I found the application that she had carefully paperclipped into her planner sitting back on the kitchen table. Under a notebook. Forgotten about.

Again.

The butterfly nets will be coming out soon, but not because I think I can round up all of Bee’s distractions. It will be because I’m headed for the funny farm. Wow, is it a good thing I love my flutterbudget so dang much.