Sunday, December 29, 2013

Put down the iPad and walk towards the light

Yesterday I spent the entire afternoon un-decorating and packing up Christmas stuff. I also had to rearrange our living room furniture because I bought a couch on Craigslist. Of course, I had tons of help from my family. Ha ha! Oooh, I kill myself. Seriously, though, there's plenty of enthusiasm for putting up the tree. Taking it down? Not so much.

I hadn't planned to buy a couch. I had been lurking on Craigslist for a few weeks in search of a recliner. We had two in our living room but one of them had some personal problems - one arm was mostly disconnected and was threatening to fly off at any moment. Anyway, I happened to find an ad placed by a woman who was moving to Hawaii. Yesterday I stopped at her house after yoga class and bought the couch she had advertised. I thought it was a good deal for $65 - it has dual recliners and a center console that flips down when needed. Her sister even offered to load it onto a trailer and bring it to my house. Say what you want about the Midwest - we've got some nice people out here, ya'll.

One funny side note .  .  . when I walked into the house to look at the couch, two Boxers rushed towards me. Family members (there to help with packing, I think) quickly ran over to pull them off. I laughed and explained that I have a whole house full of Boxers who jump all over me. The Craigslist lady, as it turns out, teaches English at a local high school. Loves Boxer and teaches English? I think we would have gotten along famously had we met at some other time. Alas, she is headed to Hawaii and now I am sitting on her couch.

Once I got done packing up all the Christmas stuff and moving furniture, I was pretty tired.  However, we had tickets for a local light show, so we pulled on our snow boots and headed out for that.  We made the kid put down her iPad and forced her to spend quality time with her parents. It amazes me how well she navigates that thing even though she's only had it for a few days. She is currently playing Draw Something and a couple other games with her cousins. She and I are playing Words with Friends (I am anticipating a "YOU NEVER LET ME WIN!" meltdown shortly.) My new worry is that strangers might be able to connect with her.  I plan to keep a close eye on the situation, but I worry that technology moves faster than I can absorb it. I make my living off technology so it's not like I'm thoroughly clueless, but kids catch on just a wee bit faster. 

The kid has four days left of her winter break. I should probably force her to crack open a book sometime soon.  If she's not on the iPad, she's making bracelets on the Rainbow Loom. She wore about a dozen bracelets to church this morning. Is there a legal limit on those things?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Best Day

Well, the new iPad seems to be a hit. Our diabolical plan is working - buy the thing, make her love it, and then extract good behavior by threatening to take it away.  [insert evil laughter here]

She received an iTunes gift card from one of her aunts, so now she is blaring Taylor Swift songs in her bedroom.  She is currently listening to "The Best Day," which is the song her cousin sang at the wedding last month. "Roar" by Katy Perry will be on in a second, so hold tight. You may be able to hear it from wherever you are. We also got her a Bluetooth speaker for the iPad. We weren't thinking, I guess.

Surprisingly, the kid didn't roll out of bed until after 8:00 this morning.  Then she tore into her presents like some kind of animal. We weren't up terribly late last night.  We went to church and then put her to bed shortly thereafter. Earlier in the day, she and I watched "Polar Express" and talked about Santa. "Mom," she said. "Sometimes I forget [that she knows there's no Santa] and then when I remember, I still want to believe, just a little bit."  I felt like crying. Damn that little brat who spoiled it for her much too soon.

"I still believe just a little bit, too," I said, and gave her a big hug.

So, she knew she didn't have to go to bed in order for Santa to come, but I still made it clear that she needed to go to sleep if she wanted gifts.  

It was our turn to host (P's side of the family) this year, so we had guests over for brunch this afternoon. We host every third year. I ate way too much (my sister-in-law and niece both brought yummy casseroles) so I think I see some extra gym time in my near future.

Our guests left a few hours ago. Since then, the kid has been Facetiming with one of her cousins in Virginia. He also taught her to text. She's been taking photos, making videos, and downloading apps at the speed of light.  You gotta love technology.  Within minutes of opening the iPad this morning, we'd already connected with my middle sister via Facetime. We exchanged Christmas greetings from the comfort of our living room, in our pajamas. I suspect we don't even know the full potential of the iPad yet.

She did get other gifts, of course. Several aunts and one cousin bought her clothes from Justice. She can't wait to wear one of her glittery new ensembles tomorrow.  She got two pairs of rockin' boots from Justice. I think she wishes she had more feet and at least two more bodies so that she could wear everything tomorrow.   The kid also received several craft kits, some accessories, and a fabulous nightgown made by her personal designer.

I'm going to sign off and take a bath now.  I asked my husband for some stuff from Bath & Body Works. I like the Eucalyptus Spearmint stuff in their aromatherapy line. For reasons known only to him, my husband got me three bottles of lotion in that scent, but no bath gel. Three. Bottles. Of lotion. There are so many things in this life that I just don't understand. He got me some wine and chocolate, though, so I'll just work on those and try not to ponder the mystery any further.

Merry Christmas!

That's a Santa Root Beer in the background. Just in case you wondered.

Wearing new nightgown made by Meemaw, new hat, new slippers . . . and gripping the new source of all things awesome in her life.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

All Set

The out-of-state gifts have been shipped. Cookies have been baked (and foisted off on friends and relatives). Shopping for the kid is done. Shopping for the husband is done. All gifts have been wrapped. Woot!

I love these last few days before Christmas, when it's just a matter of waiting. I particularly love the evenings, that hour or so after I've yelled at the kid to go to bed and then I can sit quietly in the living room, enjoying the tree, the candles, the solitude.

We knew a snowstorm was coming, so I took the kid shopping yesterday so that she could pick out a few things for her dad (originally we had planned to go today). Apparently everyone else saw the same forecast, because the mall was insane. Fortunately, I spent two hours doing restorative yoga yesterday afternoon so I was relaxed enough not to utter a single cuss word as I circled the parking lot, looking for a space. We did our shopping and then headed home.

Speaking of Christmas shopping, I have to share a funny story. When family members have asked me what to buy my kid for Christmas, I have been saying, "You can buy her some ugly clothes from Justice if you want."  How ugly? "If it hurts your eyeballs just to look at it," I explain, "She will love it."

My youngest sister bought some Justice stuff online and had it shipped to our home. She gave me a heads-up and told me that the stuff would be wrapped. The box arrived on Friday, so I opened it. The stuff inside? Not wrapped. I looked at the packing list and noticed this line printed across the middle of the paper: "Gift wrapping is back-ordered."  What on earth? HOW CAN GIFT WRAPPING BE BACK-ORDERED?  I imagine that the gift wrap will arrive sometime next week, which will be super helpful.  I dug through the box to see what my sister had sent to her niece. I figured I would just wrap the stuff for her and fill out a gift tag on my sister's behalf. She sent some jeans that I know the kid will love, as well as some boots that she will probably want to wear to bed. Then I spotted a shirt and saw the tag that hung from the neck seam: Size 20. Ummm.  I thought maybe the tag was just wrong, so I took the shirt out of the plastic bag in which it had been sealed. Nope, it was definitely a size 20 - and this size was also reflected on the packing list. It's kind of funny because my daughter is so tiny that she still has to sit in a booster seat in the car. She wears a size 7 and even that is pushing it - a size 6 also fits fine most of the time. I sent my sister a text and let her know that I would exchange the shirt the next day. Here's where it gets a little weirder, though. I dug around in the box some more and found a pair of shiny, glittery black leggings that my sister did not purchase. Size 14.  Not listed on the packing list. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to exchange them because, technically, they didn't belong to us. Anyway, I guess the point to my story is that the people who work in the Justice warehouse are on crack.  Oh, and the store did give let me exchange the leggings so I applied that amount against some ugly Justice necklaces and and stuff. The leggings were so horrifying that I couldn't bring myself to obtain a pair in A's size.

As predicted, we did get a snowstorm this morning. I very much wanted to go to church, but one look out the window convinced me that it was just too daunting to head out. I decided to have a no make-up, no bra, wear-my-pajamas-all-day sort of day. And so I did. I tried to take it easy today, although I did tackle one big job. I cleaned out our linen closet. I found pillowcases I hadn't seen since Bush was in office. I also plowed through a few levels in Candy Crush Saga, because that's what Christmas is all about. Falalalala!

Back to the grind tomorrow. I suppose I'll need to wear a bra to work.

My absolute favorite Christmas decoration. My mom got it for me - I believe it's from the National Wildlife Federation or something along those lines.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

She can't pay attention, ya'll

The kid brought home her report card last week. She is graded on a scale of 1-4.

1 = Does not meet expectations
2 = Partially meets expectations
3 = Meets expectations
4 = Exceeds expectations

She got lots of 3s and a few 4s in areas like math, science, reading, history, and social studies.  She is reading above grade level.  Academically, I'd say that my little smartie does fine.

She did receive some 2s, though.  Most of them are clustered under an area called "Life Long Learning Skills." The 2s were in:
  • Follows school/classroom rules and directions.
  • Demonstrates self-control.
  • Works independently.
Some of the comments from her teacher included statements like:

"She does struggle with not talking while others are talking and respecting the speaker."

"A does have some self-control issues. She is often times distracted during instruction and work time by objects in her desk or talking to others."

"I do sometimes ask her to slide her desk away from others so she is able to focus and complete her work."

There were good comments, too, of course. An example: "A is a very accurate, smooth, fluent, expressive reader."

I'm happy that my daughter is doing fairly well academically, but I don't know what to say or think about the fact that she seems to tank when it comes to "Life Long Learning Skills." I can't help but think that these are traits I cannot fix. I'd have to re-scramble her DNA or something. If she was having trouble with reading, we'd just read more. We'd work on it.  When I had a conference with her teacher a few weeks ago, I asked her if she thought I should have my daughter tested for ADD/ADHD. She said that it wouldn't hurt but that she didn't think my daughter was an obvious case. She said that with some kids, she can tell by about 9:00 a.m. on the first day of school if they have it. With my child, she said that she can see shades of ADD but that it's not a given in her case.

So, I think I'll just wait and talk to her doctor in May when she goes in for her annual wellness exam (when she turns nine). Until then, I think all I can really do is to remind her regularly to listen and be respectful at school. Obviously, we have some of the same issues at home with not listening, inability to focus, etc.  I also know that I need to remember all of the awesome things about my kid: she's creative, smart, friendly, and friendly.  Note to self: remember to ask the kid what she has in her desk that's so amazing (and then, whatever it is, threaten to take it away).

On a somewhat related note, we're trying a "chore jar" on for size. I modeled it after a chore jar that my friend Sarah uses for her boys. Do you like how I used the Old English font to make the chores seem super fancy and desirable? She gets paid on a per-chore basis. So far I can't say that she's wildly enthusiastic about it. However, in time I hope she will have a better understanding of the correlation between work and money. And if someone wants to buy ugly clothes from Justice . . .

Monday, December 16, 2013

My baby can narrate like nobody's business!

Our church held its annual inter-generational Christmas service yesterday.  This service is fully carried out by the children of our fellowship. It includes a Christmas-themed skit, which is always adorable. You can usually count on at least one wardrobe malfunction or something that does not go as planned.  This year's story was "The Christmas Cobwebs," the tale of a poor cobbler and his family, and how they learn the meaning of Christmas.

It seems like just yesterday that my daughter was one of the toddlers in the annual production, wandering aimlessly around the stage, knocking over props.  The wee ones are usually given bit parts as angels or something along those lines.  Now that my daughter is a very mature eight-year-old, she was given a big part this year: narrator.  It was her job to stand at the podium and read all the narrative parts of the play.

When she was practicing her lines at home, I reminded her of the importance of speaking clearly into the microphone. The kid is normally very outgoing but has been known to get spooked in front of a crowd.  There is a Subway restaurant near our church. I told her that the people waiting for their foot-longs at Subway should be able to hear her. "Who is that amazing child with the spectacular oratory skills?" they will ask.

I needn't have worried. My kid could scarcely be seen over the podium, but she read her lines like a champ. All you could see was a Santa hat poking up behind the microphone (and she was even standing on a box that we keep back there for shorter speakers). She also helped out during other parts of the service. She lit candles for some of our members during the "candles of community" portion of the service. She is not allowed to have any involvement with fire at home, but she lit those candles like a pro.

Last week my daughter and I were at a gift shop when a lady looked at my daughter and then asked me, "Is she in third grade?"

I was astounded.  Because of her height, people often guess that my daughter is around five.

"How did you know that?" I asked.

"I was a teacher for 27 years," she replied. "I could tell by her maturity."


Now, how do I go about getting Miss Maturity to put her plate in the sink when she is done eating?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I didn't have enough chaos in my life, so I . . .

. . . took in other foster dog. Two-year-old CeCe was surrendered to a shelter because someone in his family was apparently allergic to him. He's kind of a wild man, so he was deemed a no-go for the adoption floor. Our home is far too small for a fourth dog, but I don't like the thought of doggies spending Christmas on a cement floor in a shelter. And the shelter where he landed is a nice one, as shelters go, but still. Maybe I am just a little bit sappy after all. Don't tell anyone.

CeCe is freshly neutered.  He has attempted to hump Gideon, Gretchen, and Kaiser in turn. I can't say that any of them were open to the idea. In fact, CeCe has been told to go fuck himself about eighty different times in the last hour. So far, he has not been effectively dissuaded from violating his new friends.

He smells like a shelter but I'm hesitant to give him a bath since it's five degrees outside. I sprayed some groomer's cologne on him, so now he smells like a shelter with hints of wet dog. He's also more vocal than the others. Remember the Hamburglar?  That's how he sounds. Robble-robble, robble-robble.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ah, tradition

We attended our daughter's winter concert yesterday (fifth year in a row!). This year, the school split things up a bit differently. Apparently they had access to two music teachers, so they held two concerts - one with the younger kids performing and one with the third, fourth, and fifth graders performing. I guess my daughter is an upperclassman now.

P and I arrived at the concert at about the same time (both drove straight from work) and found seats in the cafe-gym-e-teria. The third graders were up first.  They filed in and arranged themselves on the risers. As usual, our kid was in the front because she is short. See, there are benefits to being petite! She was wearing her new Christmas dress and a Santa hat. First they sang a song called "Earthlings Unite." It was a little odd, if I'm being honest.  The kids were doing some sort of hand gestures, but our kid wasn't doing them. I even tried to catch her eye and do the hand gestures myself.  (Sort of like sign language to say, "Why aren't you doing this?") The second song was "We Will Jingle" to the tune of "We Will Rock You."  We will, we will, JINGLE!  You'll have that stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You're welcome!  On this song, our kid did the corresponding hand claps . . . sort of.

And then, the third graders were done. They filed off the stage.  We then listened to the fourth and fifth graders sing their songs.  There was some sort of reindeer dance on the floor in front of the stage but I couldn't really see it from where I was sitting. As an added bonus, some beginning band students played a couple of songs. It was brutal, just brutal. But hey, you gotta start somewhere, right?  And those kids are one up on me if they can read music. I sure can't, as anyone who has stood near me in church during a hymn-sing can attest.

The music teacher thanked everyone, the principal thanked everyone, and that was about it.  The new (very cute, very energetic) music teacher is, as far as I could tell, about 15. I figured she probably needed to finish up so that she could get back over to the high school in time for fifth period.

Later in the evening, I took the kid over to a local museum that was holding a kids-only Christmas shop. I've taken her there in the past.  They also have lots of window displays full of old-school Christmas decorations, so it's fun to poke around in the museum at this time of year.  We found the kids' shop and got in line.  They actually have a whole store set up with a tiny little door that kids pass through to get in.  Then a helper guides them through and wraps the gifts for them. No parents are allowed in the shop.  A volunteer handed us an envelope containing four gift tags. Gifts in the store were $3.00 each, with four gifts being the maximum a kid could buy (although they could go back through the line again if they wanted to).  The shop did not take debit cards or checks. Crud. I looked in my wallet. I had exactly $12.00 in cash.  I handed it over to my daughter.

I told her I would help her fill out the four gift tags. She just needed to tell me who the four recipients were. "Who's first?" I asked.

"Meemaw."  Okay, gift number one was going to my mom. I filled out the tag and asked the kid about the second gift.

"Ummmm," she paused.  "Grandpa Ted!"  I filled out the tag.  Two down, two to go.

"Daddy. The next one is for Daddy."  Okay, sounds good.  At this point, I need to remind you that I had given my child every dollar from my wallet. Every dollar. My wallet was now barren and sad.  Who, oh who, would receive the fourth gift?

She paused and then named one of her cousins. Alrighty then. 

I browsed in the museum's regular gift shop while the kid was in the short people shop. I picked up a few stocking stuffers and hid them in my purse. Then, when she was done shopping, I had to carry the four not-for-me gifts around the entire museum while she played and ran around.

Ah, tradition.

Drawing a picture for Santa. She "knows" but, you know .  . . it doesn't hurt to suck up anyway.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The annual blog post that nobody reads

And yet, I can not be stopped from posting it every year.  Yes, that's right, it's my annual "favorite music of the year" post. Now, I think you know that I am way too lazy to look these up individually and confirm that they were released in 2013 and not at the tail end of 2012 or something.  But, I think I'm at least in the ballpark.

Anywho . . . here are my favorite songs from 2013:

Jake Bugg - this is a toss-up between "Slumville Sunrise" and "Me and You."  I also still have several songs from last year's debut album in heavy rotation. I have a feeling that if I met this kid in person, he would be an arrogant ass. I do think he is extremely talented, though.

Big Boi - "Apple of My Eye" and "Mama Told Me." Okay, I did look this one up and the album was released in December of 2012. But, I listened to it this year.  Big Boi is basically a guilty pleasure for me. Don't tell anyone.

Disclosure - "When a Fire Starts to Burn" and just about everything else from the album "Settle."  The great thing about this album is that it also works great as a work-out playlist. 

The Avett Brothers - "Another is Waiting."  I've never been a huge fan but I liked this song. The song "I and Love and You" (from a few years ago) almost brings a tear to my eye every time I listen to it. I should probably spend more time listening to these guys.

My Morning Jacket - "Leaving on a Jet Plane."  This was from the album "The Music is You" which was a John Denver tribute. I believe it came out at the end of 2012. In any case, I was never a John Denver fan (as old as I am, he was actually a little before my time) but Jim James' voice on this song just slays me. Absolutely slays me.

Crystal Fighters - "At Home."  I bought four songs from the album "Cave Rave" and love all of them.

Lucius - "Turn it Around." I saw them on a Tiny Desk Concert on NPR and just loved them.

Ra Ra Riot - "Dance With Me." This one is also on the work-out playlist.

Haim - "Forever." These sister chicks got a lot of buzz this year, and they really are very good!

Honorable mentions: Matangi by M.I.A, Mercy by TV on the Radio, Everything by Nine Inch Nails, and Black Skinhead by Kanye West.

I'll be sure to bore you with my list again next year. Until then . . .

Saturday, December 7, 2013

How cold was it?

When I drove to yoga class at 7:45 this morning, the temperature outside was 1 degree.  And that's without any sort of wind chill factor.  On my way home (about an hour and a half later), I noticed that the temperature had risen to a balmy 2 degrees.  So, it goes without saying that today was the perfect day to drive to a tree farm in search of a Christmas tree. P and I joked that we were going to take the first tree we saw, even if it was already strapped to someone else's car.

We bundled up and drove to the tree place. The temperature was up to 8 degrees by this point. We grabbed a saw and headed into the field. Now, I don't know one type of evergreen from the next, but normally I am a little bit picky about the tree we choose. I like trees that have firm branches but also have needles that aren't overly prickly. After about five minutes of wandering around and having "how about this one?" discussions as we hopped up and down to keep blood flowing, I chose one that seemed to be the right size and shape. Our eyeballs were starting to freeze.

When we got it home and installed it in the tree stand, we quickly realized that's we'd chosen the extra-prickly variety. My daughter and I all but bled as we added the ornaments. After a while, we were sort of tossing decorations at the tree and hoping they would stick.

It turned out so purdy, though!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

American Winter

(This is my 900th post. Yay me!)

At the risk of spoiling all of the holiday revelry for just a moment . . . 

I am fortunate. I have a family, a job, a home, a car, and a college education. I have a 401k account. I suppose I am firmly middle class and yet, I think all it would take is one medical crisis or a more-than-very-brief period of unemployment and our little family would be in big trouble.

I was pondering this weighty thought last night as I watched the HBO documentary "American Winter."  It was a sobering experience. If you have an opportunity to see the film, I highly recommend it (it is currently on HBO on Demand and was just released on DVD as well).  American Winter profiles a handful of American families struggling with poverty.  Their stories are heartbreaking. These are people who desperately want jobs and often cannot find them. Or, the jobs available to them offer such low pay that they must still visit a food pantry just to get by.  They must explain to their children why their electricity has been turned off, why water no longer flows from the spigot. One boy tells his mother, "I'm fine, Mom. I don't need a hot meal." Another child cries because she knows it is her own medical issue that has kept her mother from working. Medical bills climb so high that even knocking a dent in them starts to seem almost laughable.

The film does an excellent job of dispelling stereotypes. For starters, most of the families profiled are as white as Wonder Bread (I know many like to believe that people of color are the ones draining resources). Far from lazy, one woman spends her days hauling around scrap metal and selling plasma just to make a few extra dollars. A man named John makes it clear that he will do ANY job, any job at all.  He is not holding out for a CEO position.

I must confess that I had to confront a couple of my own prejudices as I watched.  For example, my brain started to form the thought, "How can someone so poor afford so many tattoos?"  I had to cut myself off to keep from going down that path. Because you know what? It's none of my business. Just because someone else is struggling does not give me some sort of license to weigh in on how they spend what money they do have. It's too easy to jump to conclusions.  Many low-income families are also significantly overweight. Some might wonder how such families could claim to be poor when clearly they have enough to eat. Well, the situation is more complicated than that. Low income neighborhoods rarely have nice grocery stores. Instead, they are dotted with fast food restaurants. Bad-for-you food is cheaper than good-for-you food. It's simple math.

American Winter also points out that attitudes towards poor people have changed dramatically over the years. Those who rely on welfare and other social programs are treated with disdain.We are so sure that these folks are abusing the system that we pressure our politicians to pull the plug on all of it. The distribution of wealth in our country grows more unbalanced by the minute.The families portrayed in the film are not looking to be wealthy.  They would be happy just to have the basics.

Last week my daughter asked me what the phrase "walk a mile in my shoes" means. Maybe more people should ask what that means.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Oh, four-day weekend . . . you make all my dreams come true. Well, except for the part where my husband screams at various football games on TV. And the part where his greatest contribution to our list of household chores is to lift his feet when I come through with the vacuum. But, other than that . . . it's all good.

Our Thanksgiving was basically a repeat of last year. I cooked dinner and then we went to a friend's house for dessert.  I picked out a couple of cookie recipes from a kids' cookbook and tasked my daughter with the job of making dessert - under careful supervision, of course. In anticipation of indulging in said dessert, I worked out four days in a row, including a yoga class on Thanksgiving morning. It was free if you brought a canned good. At this time of year, I keep extra cans o'food on hand for just this sort of thing. Food drives galore.

Although I don't actually prepare a turkey (I bought some roasted turkey breast for my husband from the HoneyBaked Ham place, it still took most of the day to prepare everything and to help the kid make two kinds of cookies (birds' nests and dirty snowballs, in case you wondered). I made yeast rolls from scratch, roasted a tofurky, and also made mashed potatoes, dressing (vegetarian, using my mom's recipe), green bean casserole, and a rice casserole.  I must confess I did get fairly irritable by mid-day. Because I don't like to do a lot of cleaning and laundry on the weekend, I try to get everything done on Thursday of each week. So, in addition to cooking all day on Thanksgiving, I also did a bunch of laundry and cleaning.  Now, I don't expect my family to be terribly invested in my interest in having clean bedding and whatnot, but the fact that they were still in their pajamas past noon was slightly annoying. My husband lifting his feet when I came through with the vacuum (so helpful!) gave me thoughts of dipping his pillowcase in mayonnaise and then placing it gingerly back on the bed.

Dinner turned out to be pretty darned tasty, if I do say so myself. The yeast rolls were really good. There is always that dicey moment when you don't know if the dough will rise or not, but it did its thing.  I had a nice glass of wine with dinner so that I'd stop yelling at my family. As soon as we were done, we piled in the car and headed to our friends' house for dessert. They just remodeled the lower level of their home - it now contains a bar and two flat-screen TVs. I was afraid my husband would try to move in once he spotted the same football game running simultaneously on both screens.

Anyway, my kid played with their kids while the adults drank adult beverages and five dogs milled about (my friend has three dogs and her in-laws were visiting with two more pooches). We stayed for a couple of hours and then headed home so that I could sort coupons and work on my strategery for Black Friday.  I wasn't super-enthusiastic about it because I knew that most stores were already open. There was no real reward for getting up freakishly early on Friday, so I didn't set my alarm. I worked out my game plan and went to bed.

I am not proud to say this, but I was at Walmart before 7 a.m. on Friday. Why?  Well, we decided to get the kid an iPad Mini for Christmas and Walmart was offering the best deal - a $100 gift card with the purchase.  So, I headed there first. However, they were sold out so I left. I was amazed at how many people were standing outside at the Sam's Club next door to Walmart. I am guessing that Sam's didn't open until 7:00.  You gotta love Midwesterners, though. You hear about brawls on Black Friday in some areas but those folks just stood there placidly and patiently. Oh, and the temperature at that time?  11 degrees. And that's without the wind chill factored in.

Next, I headed to Target. Target was offering a $75.00 gift card with the purchase of the iPad Mini. Fortunately, they had a few left in stock. I promptly used the gift card to buy gifts for a couple of my umpteen nephews. I won't bore you with every stop I made on Friday, but I will say that I was pretty successful. I got some great deals and, since so many people has shopped the day before, the parking and crowds weren't bad at all. I ended the day by transporting a Lab mix for a shelter. I was kicking myself for not bringing a crate because this boy turned out to be a lunatic. I mean, a nice lunatic but a nut nonetheless. He hopped into the passenger seat and then tried to put his tongue in my ear for the entire ride. My right arm is actually sore today from trying to fend off his amorous advances while I was driving.

Between nine hours of shopping and an hour of Lab-wrestling, I limped into bed at 9:30 and stayed there. Missions accomplished.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I can keep a toddler alive (and other tales)

You probably thought I forgot to tell you about the rest of my east coast trip, but fret not!

I got home (well, to my sister's house) from the wedding at 11-something p.m., at which time the babysitter went home. I knew that I needed to get my nephew (the nine-year-old) out of the house at 7:45 a.m. for a robotics competition of some sort. So, I set my phone to wake me up at 7:15.  I then took the baby monitor (for my two-year-old nephew) downstairs to the room where I was staying. I figured I should probably be aware of it if he woke up during the night. At around midnight, I was all set to go to bed when I received a text from my brother-in-law. "Can someone walk Bess?"  Doh! I forgot about the dog. See, my dogs maul you as soon as you walk in the front door. It is hard to forget about them. Bessie Mae is a very peculiar but sweet hound dog. She just sits silently in her crate and doesn't make a peep. Anyway, I went back upstairs, retrieved Bess from her crate, and then walked her for a block or two. I hope that a few night owl neighbors enjoyed that vision of me in my red snowflake pajamas, standing around like a chump while Bessie rolled in the grass.

The next morning, my alarm went off as expected and I got my nephew up. There was a brief crisis when he couldn't find any pants to wear.  I felt pretty confident that he should definitely wear pants to his competition. I thought the person picking him up would appear on the porch and then leave, but when I rounded the corner, she was standing in the kitchen with paperwork and a list of stuff that my nephew needed to bring. So, add her to the list of strangers who had seen me in my pajamas (and no bra) at that point.

My two-year-old nephew, much to my surprise, did not wake up until around 7:45. He must have been exhausted from wreaking havoc at his parents' wedding the night before. I gave him a fawful (AKA "waffle") and attempted to check my email on my phone. No-go. I quickly realized that he couldn't be left unattended for even a second. I sent my sister and brother-in-law a text asking if I was being paid time and a half. They did not respond. Hmph. My niece had gotten up briefly to help her brother get ready and then went back to bed. I was on my own.

I changed his diaper. He had pooped. Then I gave him a sippy cup filled with watered-down apple juice.  However, he kept pulling other sippy cups out of various nooks and crannies around the house. It was like some weird toddler magic trick. I never managed to get one from him before he'd already taken a sip. Then he found a set of keys. I figured it was harmless to let him play with them. Then he set off the emergency alarm on his dad's car, which was sitting in the driveway. So, I took the keys. He found another set. I took those. Then he found a bottle of vitamins. The bottle had a childproof cap, so I figured it was safe for him to play with it for a minute or two. Then I heard a sharp "pop!" as the lid came off. Took those away. Next up: he found a bottle of liquid make-up. No idea where he found it. I took that away, but not before he'd gotten the lid off and had enhanced his beauty a little. Moments later, I found him crouching behind a table, concentrating mightily. That's poop number two, if you are keeping track.

At around 9:00 a.m., my sister's sister-in-law (got all that?) stopped by to pick up her daughter, who was upstairs in a bunk bed with my daughter. She had her friend from Australia with her. So, please add two more people to the list of innocent citizens who have seen me in my snowflake pajamas. When they walked through the door, they asked why the rear door of my brother-in-law's Jeep was wide open. I quickly deduced that this was another side effect of the great key incident. After they left, I continued to wrangle my nephew for another hour or so until finally, I just felt like I could not live for one more moment without a shower. I woke up my niece so that she could supervise her brother's destruction while I cleaned up my act.

Eventually my sister and her husband did indeed come home. I suggested to my brother-in-law that he round up everything in the house that is safe for the toddler to play with and to mark it "toxic." I mean, seriously, just put a skull and crossbones on every stuffed animal and every kid-safe thing in the whole house. I am convinced that is the only way my nephew will be drawn to them.

The rest of the day was pretty quiet. My sister's sister-in-law returned after taking her friend to the airport. I picked my mom up from the hotel.  My baby sister and her son showed up as well.  So, we had a house full of people. We spent the rest of the day hanging out and watching some videos from Brian's funeral. I know that his wife truly has no choice but to keep going, to keep putting one foot in front of the other (she has two children, after all), but I must say that she is handling it with more grace and dignity than I believe I could muster under the same circumstances. Also, she must be very brave because she took four kids to a movie later that evening.

The next morning, I got up to find that my brother-in-law was up with the two-year-old. Better him than me. I asked him if he knew where I could find some ibuprofen. I didn't want him to think I was hung over, so I confessed that I was having menstrual issues (which was the absolute truth). "Now that you're my brother, we can talk about my period, right?" The look he gave me left me with the impression that . . . no.  It's okay. My husband and I have been together for 21 1/2 years and the topic of menstruation is still decidedly and permanently . . . off the table.

After lunch, I packed up our gear and drove to my dad's house in Maryland. My nine-year-old nephew had stayed home from school so I took him along with us. My daughter and I were spending the next two nights at my dad's house. Later, I would drive my nephew back home. I'd made plans to go out that night with an old friend of mine and needed to drive back to Virginia anyway.

While my daughter and my nephew were conning my dad and his girlfriend out of ice cream and anything else they could think of, I drove down the street to IKEA. At home, I'd have to drive to a neighboring state to go to IKEA, so it was kind of exciting to have one within spitting distance. I couldn't buy much, of course. The airlines tend to frown on the whole bringing-furniture-on-the-plane bit.  I did pick up some fun hats for my two youngest nephews. Best ten bucks I've ever spent.

I did go out that evening but didn't get into too much trouble. We went to a fancy wine bar and then to an Irish pub. I arrived back at my dad's house at 1:15 a.m.  MY KID WAS STILL AWAKE.  Way to lay down the law, Dad.

The next morning, we headed to Baltimore for the day. It was a lot of fun.  We went to the science museum there. On the way home, we stopped for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. The mango margarita I drank must have caused my judgement to falter, because right after dinner I bought my daughter an ugly outfit from Justice. She is hoping for some Justice clothes for Christmas, too. I can't even walk by that store without having a seizure from all the glitter and neon. Maybe her aunties would like to "take one for the team" this year.

On Wednesday, my dad drove me and the kid to the nearest Metro stop so that we could head to the airport. The train ride was mostly uneventful except that my daughter refused to sit in an actual seat. Instead, she opted to swing round and round on one of the poles, which conjured up a couple of troubling thoughts involving germs and future occupations and stuff.

We arrived back home just after dinnertime on Wednesday evening. By then, I'd reached maximum mother-daughter time with the kid. I handed her over to her dad.  "Congratulations, Mister M! It's a girl!"


Thursday, November 21, 2013

The big day

I can't begin to tell you how honored I felt to be a bridesmaid in my sister's wedding. I mean, I had a horrifying blemish on my face and she still let me be a part of the festivities. The day flew by and I'm struggling a bit to remember details. Saturday afternoon was a complete blur. I was at my sister's house and there was quite a flurry of activity. The kids were running around like crazy. A make-up artist came and went. My sister had her hair done. I picked up my mom from the hotel where she was staying and brought her back to my sister's house. Oh, and I also picked up my nine-year-old nephew from a Lego club meeting.

We all needed to be at the winery by 4:00 p.m. for pre-wedding photos. My sister headed over at 3:00 to get her gown on while the rest of the bridal party got ready at her house. The limo that was shuttling us to the winery was a 1964 Rolls Royce, which was very cool.  My youngest sister and I got dressed downstairs.  The main goal was to keep her two-year-old son from touching us once we were dressed. Toddlers, as you may know, are inherently sticky.  Shortly before we left, he found a bright blue marker and used it to give himself some eye shadow.  Pretty!  I also helped my daughter get into her flower girl dress.

Before we knew it, the limo had arrived and it was time for us to head over to the winery (just a few miles away).  My sister, daughter, nephew, and I piled into the back of the vintage vehicle.  The driver asked us, "Is this everyone?"  We nodded.

We'd driven about a block when my cell phone rang. It was my brother-in-law (or at least he would be my brother-in-law in about an hour). "Um, would you like to come back for your mother?" Doh!  We drove back around the block and picked up my mom.

We arrived at the winery and promptly marched outside for family photos. It was chilly and a little drizzly, but I'm sure it could've been worse. The real fun was when our fancy heels started sinking into the mud. Meanwhile, the bride and groom's two-year-old son was running around like a madman, refusing to pose for pictures. I sure hope the photographer got some good shots in spite of the chaos!  I have to say that the bride looked absolutely stunning. 

The ceremony started just after 5:00.  It was getting dark, which was a bit worrisome. We lined up at the door inside the winery, as we had been instructed.  In the distance, we could see the guests seated in front of the ruins. Frank and I were first.  We walked carefully across the grass (he knew my heels were sinking) and then paused at the start of the aisle. Once the wedding coordinator gave us the thumbs up, we headed up (down?) the aisle towards the dreaded stairs.  I spotted a few familiar faces in the audience, including my Aunt Shirley, who looked amazing after having lost 200 pounds recently. Yowza! When we got to the steps, I grabbed Frank's arm, hiked up the bottom of my dress, and hoped for the best. Moments later, all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen were on the stage. Since there was no best man, my niece (maid of honor) walked down the aisle by herself. Instead of a bouquet, she held a single yellow rose in honor and memory of the best man, Brian.  Then my daughter (flower girl) and nephew (ring bearer) came down the aisle together.  We are talking maximum cuteness here.

Finally, we were all assembled on the stage, which was lined with candles. I realized I'd forgotten to bring a Kleenex. Ack! We all watched as the Rolls Royce circled the winery and then drove towards us. My sister got out and made her way across the grass. My dad and my stad helped her along (yes, she had two escorts). Once she was on the stage, the ceremony began. The groom's stepdad served as the officiant. It had gotten dark and he struggled to read the vows. The groom's mom saved the day and leapt up behind him with a flashlight.

As John read the solemn words, the bride and groom's son climbed up on to the stage and proceeded to run back and forth behind us.  The stage area behind us had wooden flooring and I think he liked the noise his dress shoes made as he ran. I struggled not to laugh as I could hear "thumpthumpthumpthump" and then "thumpthumpthumpthump" again as he turned and ran back the other way.  Finally, the babysitter managed to tackle him and get him off the stage. My other toddler nephew also caused a minor ruckus during the ceremony but I think this is par for the course when you have two two-year-olds at a wedding.

Thank goodness we aren't Catholic.  The ceremony was sweet but brief. I held my breath as the rings were retrieved from the satin pillow - I'd tied them correctly!

Moments later, we all convened inside the Barrel Room at the winery for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. I had to sit down for a few minutes to give my feet a break. At that point I think I was willing to knock my eighty-year-old grandma out of the way to procure a seat. I also think I got winded just watching the babysitter chase the bride and groom's son. I told my brother-in-law that whatever they were paying that poor girl, it probably wasn't enough.

At around 7:00, we all headed upstairs to the main part of the winery (which was closed to the public by that time).  Everything was just beautiful. The lighting was perfect and the tables were decorated beautifully.  I think it all turned out just as my sister had hoped - elegant and classy. The photo montage I had created was playing on a couple of big screens.  The buffet dinner was excellent. They served a vegetarian lasagna that seriously changed my life.

After dinner, the DJ started cranking out music and all the kids headed straight to the photo booth. Of course there was a first dance with the bride and groom. Then they each danced with their moms, too. Eventually, it was time for the official toasts. The groom's friend Whitey (no lie - that is what everyone calls him) gave a toast, standing in for the best man.  I must say he did an absolutely perfect job. He first offered a toast in memory of Brian.  Brian's widow was there and I know the whole evening was an emotional challenge for her. I hope she could feel the love that was in that room for her husband. His presence was deeply missed.  After that, Whitey went on to offer some light-hearted quips about my sister and her new husband.

Then it was time for my niece to give her toast. My niece is fourteen and probably has not had a lot of practice when it comes to wedding toasts. She stood up and sang a Taylor Swift song called The Best Day. I mean to tell you there was not a dry eye in the house. I scooted over to sit closer to my mom so that we could bawl together.  When she sang the line "I have an excellent father" she looked right at her newly minted stepdad. I seriously thought my heart might explode.  I am SO proud of my beautiful, brave niece.

The rest of the evening was filled with dancing and wine and mostly appropriate things going on in the photo booth. It was great to be with family.  We all live so far apart and are seldom in one room together.

I hope the wedding was everything my sister wanted it to be. I am so very happy for her. Plus, I'm excited to have such a wonderful brother-in-law.  As the reception ended, the bride and groom headed off in a limo (as my teenaged niece dryly noted: "They are going to a hotel. Whatever. Ew.") and I headed back to their house. I was scheduled to babysit their son in the morning. I wasn't sure I had the stamina after what I'd seen the babysitter endure during the wedding, but I was determined to keep him alive until his parents got home.

So there you have it. A full recap of the big shindig. I hope my blemish and I did not cause any embarrassment.

Rehearsal dinner

Maid of honor and bride at the rehearsal dinner

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wedding: Mission Accomplished

My sister and her guy are now officially hitched. Now that I've got my bridesmaid's duties all checked off, I am just hanging out and enjoying a couple days of vacation.  I've barely seen my kid. As you'll recall, the best man died two weeks before the wedding. His daughter is here and she and my kid seem to be getting along famously. They even slept together on the top bunk in my nephew's room last night. My nephew actually gave up and moved to his sister's room because the girls would not stop talking. Anyway, A has been so busy hanging out with her new friend and her cousins that I only see her periodically when she needs food.

To back up a bit, my daughter and I arrived late Thursday night. My dad and his girlfriend picked us up at the airport and drove us back to their house in Maryland. I went to bed and the kid stayed up and partied with the grown-ups. Typical. On Friday morning, I left the kid with my dad and I drove to my sister's house (in Virginia). I figured she'd need help with pre-wedding stuff before the rehearsal dinner.  One job I was given was to figure out how to tie the wedding rings onto the ring bearer's pillow.  Needless to say, there are countless YouTube videos that give step-by-step instructions.  I did a few test runs and soon felt confident that I had mastered the art of ring-tying.  Most of the afternoon was taken up with making lists and figuring out all of the who-needs-to-be-where kind of stuff for the wedding.

We had the wedding rehearsal at 5:00.  Believe it or not, I somehow failed to realize that the ceremony would be held outside until my dad happened to mention it the day before.  The wedding was scheduled to be held at the Winery at Bull Run.  More specifically, it was to be held on an area of the winery called The Ruins, which consists of a stone fireplace and a large stage of sorts. The bridal party was instructed to walk out of the winery, across the grass, around a barrel, through the seating area, and up three stone/slate steps to the stage. I was paired with a nice guy named Frank. Frank might actually weigh less than I do.  I had some concerns about getting up those steps in my towering heels and the floor-length dress.  I wasn't sure how much I could really lean on Frank, what with him being a stranger and me outweighing him and all. One of the other bridesmaids, my sister's best friend, was standing behind me during the rehearsal and said that she felt pretty confident that she would be depositing her front teeth on those steps at the ceremony.

After the rehearsal, we headed to a nice restaurant for the rehearsal dinner. I have been so careful with my eating in the three months leading up to the wedding. I have clocked a gazillion hours at the gym. So, naturally, I sat there and ate hundreds of thousands of tortilla chips. :::sigh::: I am such a loser sometimes. After dinner, I did something I've never done - I ordered an after dinner drink. I ordered Disaranno Amaretto.  That's right - I get a little crazy when I'm on vacation. It was definitely a lot different from the cheap amaretto that my husband I mix with orange juice at home.

I'll write about the wedding in another blog entry. I have to go now. My two-year-old nephew has taken off his pants, so I am taking that as a sign that we are about to party.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I can't win

I had an appointment to get my hair cut and highlighted on Monday. I've never had highlights and I was really looking forward to doing something a little different. My hair is very fine, thin, and fragile, so this was a once-in-a-blue-moon sort of thing for me. I wanted to look cute for the wedding. I asked for red highlights and picked a hair swatch out of a book. The stylist and I agreed that the highlights should be noticeable but not overly chunky. She did her thing and then spun me around so that I could look at myself in the mirror. I could see nothing. Nothing. My hair was exactly the same as when I color it myself with a box from Clairol.

"You might see it better, when you're outside in natural light," she told me.

I thought to myself: "It's November, it's 29 degrees outside, and it gets dark at like 3:30. But I'm supposed to stand outside until someone spots my invisible highlights?"

I know I shouldn't make a big deal out of something so minor, but I was just so disappointed. She offered to redo them but by then it was after closing time for the salon. I had stuff going on the next two nights, so there was no way I could come back. My flight leaves on Thursday. I think what bugged me the most was to spend all of that money and to get nothing. The more I thought about it, the more upset I got. I was actually crying by the time I talked to my mom later in the evening. As my sister pointed out, at least nothing BAD happened.  I still have some hair, so I guess there's that.

Tonight I went to a local nail salon to get my nails done. Again, another splurge-y sort of thing that I would normally never dream of doing. A friend of mine had suggested gel nails (vs. acrylic/shellac) because they don't damage your natural nail underneath.  So, that is what I asked for. The man who greeted me at the front desk spoke little English but I believed we had some sort of understanding as far as what I wanted.

A woman led me to a manicure desk and a different man came over and sat down on the other side.  I must say he was very efficient. I tried to tell him that my left thumb doesn't bend but I could tell he didn't understand what I was saying. I asked, "Will I be able to pick out a color?"

He nodded. "Color. Yes."

Then, when he was done, he escorted me to the cash register. "Um, can't I pick out a color?" I asked again.

A woman who seemed to have slightly more English under her belt jogged over and told me, "No color. White tips look very nice."  I am tempted to write this phonetically (as she pronounced it) but I don't want to be accused of being a racist jerk. I am not racist, I promise. I was just a bit frustrated by the communication.

"It's for a wedding," I said. "On Saturday."

"Yes, white tips perfect for wedding!" she told me enthusiastically.

I gave up and paid my bill. :::sigh:::  The best laid plans of mice and men, eh?  I may just paint them on my own.  I also feel a blemish forming on my cheek. I swear to you, I will cut off any part of me that has a blemish on Saturday.

p.s. I tried on a shirt at TJ Maxx yesterday and for a fleeting second, under the fluorescent lights of the fitting room, I spotted three strands of hair that were vaguely, distantly reddish. So, if you want to see my highlights, you will need to meet me in the fitting room at TJ Maxx.

p.p.s. If you send me a text, please give me a week or so to tap out a reply. I was a slow texter before the nails, so . . .

A wedding toast!

When the preparations for my sister's wedding got underway, I was so happy for my sister that I felt like I had some stuff I wanted to tell her. Mushy stuff. I thought maybe I could give a toast at the wedding so I started to write one. Later I learned that tradition dictates that only the maid of honor and best man give toasts at a wedding.  I guess I've been to some non-traditional weddings that didn't follow etiquette or something. I remember going to the wedding of one one of my husband's childhood friends several years ago. Abel (the groom) stood up and said, "I know that the bride is supposed to be the center of attention, but I need everyone to pay attention to me exclusively."  If you know Abel, this will make sense to you. Anyway, I still have some stuff I want to say to my sister, so I'll share it here. I'm going to go ahead and use my brother-in-law's name because it's a common one and I don't think it will give you a way to track us down and murder all of us or anything like that.

A toast to my sister and her husband

First, I must tell you that I had some very serious concerns about this marriage. Marrying a Dallas Cowboys fan seems wrong in so many ways. However, instead of stewing over Josh's heinous shortcoming, I have decided to devote my energies into converting him into a Redskins fan or, better yet, a Packers fan. But, he is my brother-in-law and I love him, so even if he doesn’t convert, I will try to accept him even with his disability.  

Josh, I need you to know that I do indeed adore you and am so happy you and my sister found happiness together. I know that being a stepfather is not an easy job, but I saw early on that you had the head and the heart to parent and to love L and L without reservation or hesitation. My daughter has already viewed you as her uncle for years. Now it’s just a little more official.  Two years ago, you received the opportunity to get in on the ground floor with this parenting stuff. Of course I am referring to the birth of your beautiful son, R. What an amazing gift for you, to be able to see your own brown eyes looking back at you from that adorable little face. I can’t wait to see if he will be analytical like you or passionate like my sister – or maybe some of both. The five of you have formed a truly beautiful, strong family. I am so very happy for all of you.

I need you always to remember that my sister is extraordinary. She is an amazing mother, sister, daughter, auntie, and friend. Not only is she physically beautiful, but she has a beautiful heart as well. She is whip-smart and funny and generous and kind. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is not afraid to experience all emotions, deeply. If she is joyful, you will know. If she is angry with you . . . um, you’ll know.  

What a gift my sister has been to me all these years. I don’t know what I would have done without her. I was an introverted child and she was the extrovert I needed in my life. She asked me not to share any childhood stories at the wedding, so I won’t tell you how she used to sing, “Errybuddy’s got a hungry heart . . . “ when she was little. Or about how she is such a heavy sleeper that we used to sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” at the top of our lungs while she napped on the couch after school. Or about the times she snuck out of the house as a teenager. She made a rope out of some knee-high pantyhose she’d gotten for Christmas. She’d tie the pantyhose around her wrist and then fling the other end out her bedroom window so that her friends could come and tug on it when it was time to go out. She was the wild child to my goody-two-shoes. 

Although I am the older sibling and perhaps should be the one setting an example of some sort, I find myself in constant admiration of both of my sisters. I love them both so very much.  

Please join me in raising a glass to my beautiful sister and the lucky guy who had the smarts to make her his own. :::clink!:::

Monday, November 11, 2013

How do you know?

Sometimes I worry that my daughter will think her middle name is Focus. I'm constantly saying, "A, focus. Just try to focus." How do you know when your child's personality quirk is actually a medical issue that needs to be addressed?  This topic has been weighing heavily on me lately.

Everyone who meets my daughter finds her to be very charming and engaging. And she is!  I know I'm biased but she is just downright likable. Everyone at church says, "Oh, she's such a free spirit!" She is a free spirit but even free spirits need to get dressed every morning.  People have no idea how hard the mornings are at our house. I think they believe I am exaggerating or that I am too hard on her.

No one ever says, "I can't wait to be a mom so that I can yell at a short person all day long."  No one wants to be that kind of parent. And yet, I find myself turning into some crazed harpy every morning. Her dad ends up yelling, too, and he is not a man who would normally raise his voice.  I think we're just at a loss. We've tried reward programs, taking stuff away, and everything in between.

Yesterday, my daughter missed church again. She was up at 7:24 and we don't have to leave until 9:40, so it's not like she didn't have enough time to get her act together. Even with 2+ hours to get everything done (and really, "everything" is a pretty short list: get dressed, make bed, comb hair, and brush teeth), she still struggled. As our departure time drew near, I said, "We're leaving in a few minutes."  I made that statement several times, in fact. She was in the living room, watching TV and drawing in her notebook.  Finally, at 9:42, I grabbed her jacket and handed it to her.

"I'm leaving now," I said.

I grabbed my stuff and walked into the garage. I noticed she wasn't behind me. I opened the garage door and then started the car. Still no kid. I sat in the car for a couple of minutes, fiddling with my iPod and whatnot. Finally, I decided that she must not be coming.  I pulled out and closed the garage door once I was in the driveway. I paused to see if she would run out.  Nope. I turned the corner and drove to church.

I was about a mile from church when my phone rang. "Mama," she sobbed.  "Why didn't you tell me you were leaving?"

"What?!"  I was incredulous. "I handed you your jacket and said I was leaving. What other information did you need?"

She cried and I asked her to put her dad on the phone. We discussed the situation and agreed that this was one of those "learn your lesson" moments.  I felt sad driving to church without her. Church is something we always do together.  Sure, I could have gone back in the house to get her before driving away, but I really wanted her to pay attention and figure it out on her own. I mean, we've been attending the same church since she was one year old and it has started at the same time since it was founded, I think. She knows how to tell time. Also, I might have been tempted to turn back around and pick her up, but I was scheduled to teach religious education and needed to get to church on time.

Saturday morning had not been much better.  She and I needed to leave the house at 9:30.  We were headed to a friend's house.  She had a playdate with my friend's daughter.  Even when she was headed to a fun event, something she very much wanted to do, she still couldn't get dressed and comb her hair.  P tried setting a timer and told the kid that she had x number of minutes to make her bed. No go. Tears were shed.  Voices were raised.  I said, "Go brush your teeth!" and she replied, "You're saying it in a mean voice!"

Sure, I did say it in a stern way. But this was after at least a dozen utterings of "Hey, sweetie, go brush your teeth, okay?"  I send her into the bathroom to brush her teeth and then regularly find her rolling on the floor with the dogs instead. Does she forget what I asked her to do? Is she being purposely obstinate?

I guess I just don't know if this stuff is normal or not. When the kid was little, I belonged to a May 2005 birth club board on  I'm now connected to a lot of those moms on Facebook. So, these are people who have children the same age as mine - right down to the month. I hear about how these other kids get up when their alarm goes off, they get dressed, pack their own lunch, make their own breakfast, etc. Then after school they do their homework voluntarily, bathe unassisted, and so forth.

One of A's best friends is on meds for ADHD (or maybe just ADD - I'm not sure which).  Her mom is a nurse so she knows what's she's doing.  If the issue comes down to focus, I don't think my child has a greater ability to focus than her friend does (or did, before the meds).  I guess that is one reason why I've been thinking about this so much. Am I doing my child a disservice by not having her evaluated?  I don't want her on medication but if there is an issue that needs to be addressed, I don't want to fail to help her.

I have a conference with her teacher next week. I think I'm going to ask her how well my daughter is able to focus at school. If she hasn't seen any issues, I will let it drop for now.  But I think I will still wonder.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

You'll wear a shirt with a kitty on it AND YOU'LL LIKE IT

I went shopping with my daughter last weekend. She needed some new boots. Not snow boots, but fashion boots.  In the past I have seen some cute boots at Gymboree so I took her in there.  They were having a sale and I had a coupon. Woot!  I started poking around and spotted some adorable pants with flowered appliques on them.  And, there were brown boots that matched! "Look at these, baby girl. Aren't they cute?"  She shrugged. I poked around some more, determined to find some article of clothing on which we could agree. And then, finally, I heard this:

"Mom, I just don't see anything in here that I like."

Whaaaaat?  No more Gymboree?

"Are you sure?" I asked, frowning slightly.  I held up a skirt.  She shook her head. We left and headed to Old Navy.

Later this month, Sesame Street Live is coming to town. I used to take her every year. Now she is too old.  This morning she left the house in skinny jeans, high tops, and a tee shirt with her school logo on it (they are the wildcats and today is "Wildcat Wednesday").  However, she didn't want the shirt to be too baggy so she grabbed a rubber band, bunched up the bottom of the tee, and rubber-banded it so that it would fit snugly over her tiny little hips.

I know she is growing up. I can handle it . . . I think. For some reason the rejection of Gymboree really stings, though. I don't know if I'm ready to give up. I mean, what is the alternative?  The clothes at Justice?  My retinas can't take it!

At least I still have my memories.

Gymboree sweater with a kitty cat on it.

Gymboree shades.

Mod dress from Gymboree.

Gymboree pants with, yes, kitty cats on them.

Monday, November 4, 2013

And so we move forward

 My heart was so heavy on Friday night, after the news of the best man dying, that I didn't know what to do with myself. I decided to go to the gym. Did you know that you can have the place to yourself if you go on Friday night? 'Tis true. Well, there were three other people there. So that makes four of us with no social life, apparently. I've noticed two young women who come pretty regularly. I think they've made some sort of pact to get fit together. However, as far as I can tell, they just walk very slowly on the treadmill and run their mouths.  They'll probably quit soon because the gym "did nothing for us!" But, I shouldn't judge. I thought I was killing it on the elliptical one day until I happened to glance at the settings on the elliptical next to the one I was on. This woman's settings were basically double mine - higher incline, higher resistance, etc. She probably thought I was a colossal pussy.

Anyway, normally I go to the gym on Saturday mornings but since I got it out of the way on Friday, I went to a craft fair on Saturday morning instead. I took the kid along, but this was probably a mistake. I was looking for Christmas gifts, she was looking at junk for herself. Honestly, I just do not know how to get the whole "Christmas is about giving" lesson into that kid. I bought handmade wooden airplanes for my two youngest nephews. My daughter, unable to stand it, told me how she'd always longed for a wooden airplane of her own. Really? At 8 1/2 years of age?  She is going to sit on the floor with her wooden airplane and make propeller noises with her mouth? She already has a room full of toys she is ignoring.  The whole outing turned into a "stop-thinking-about-yourself-for-five-seconds" mother-daughter brawl. We also did some shopping on Sunday and she dragged me into Justice.  I told her I wasn't buying anything there (I had already bought her a Christmas dress and a pair of boots elsewhere).  I explained that if she would do her chores, she would get an allowance, and then she could buy ugly clothes from Justice.  I guess I was just a different type of kid than she is but when I was her age, if you told me that I could dust and get some money, I would have dusted the whole house plus the roof just to get some money. My girl? She just shrugs.

After the craft fair, she and I headed out of town for the weekend. We were volunteering at a pet expo (held a couple hours from home) on Sunday so we got a hotel room and decided to make a weekend of it. We met my friend Becky for dinner, which was a lot of fun.  And then of course we had to go back to the hotel so that we could go swimming.  I know better than to resist when it comes to that girl and a swimming pool.  I must say she has gotten to be a good little swimmer. She has been taking swim classes at the Y (off and on) since she was a baby. She recently achieved "Minnow" status, which was very exciting.  Apparently there is great shame in being a Guppy.

Now, I have a confession to make. Before the kid and I left town, I think I reminded my husband no fewer than three times to turn the clocks back on Saturday night. I also wrote him a note and left it on the counter. So, needless to say, I went to sleep Saturday night without changing the clock in the hotel room. I got up at 6:25 Sunday morning to get ready for the pet expo. Then I looked at my phone. 5:25 a.m. Gah!  I had to call my husband later in the day and confess.  I guess the good news was that I had some extra (if unexpected) time to read and to paint my toenails while the kid was still sleeping. And speaking of sleeping, she and I shared a king-sized bed and she still managed to kick me all night long.

The pet expo was a lot of fun. I gave A the job of standing in front of our booth and handing out some freebies.  She lasted about ten minutes before she quit and ran off to pet dogs. She is obsessed with small dogs so I'm sure she parked herself at some chihuahua rescue and drove people crazy. I barely saw her for the next two hours. I didn't give her any money so I figured that would keep her out of trouble. However, she conned my friend Laurie into buying her some nachos. That kid, I tell ya.

When we got home, I Skyped with my middle sister for a little while. Needless to say, she is a wreck, her fiance is a wreck, and of course Brian's widow is beside herself with grief. I cannot conceive of losing my husband or one of my siblings, so my heart just aches for everyone.  I gave P specific instructions not to die before I do. Sure, I would get his life insurance money, but I need him around so that I can nag him to turn back clocks and stuff.

The wedding will go on as planned next weekend.  My daughter and I fly out next Thursday.  I know it seems impossible right now, but I am hopeful that by next weekend, the pain of Brian's death will sting just a little bit less for everyone. I know my sister and her fiance are trying to figure out the best way to remember him at the wedding.  He will not be forgotten.