Saturday, December 13, 2014

My Baby Dropped the F-Bomb in Church

Well, crap. This was scheduled to post 12/13 and that apparently did not work. Still learning some options for this...sorry.

But, yeah. That really happened.


Well, not IN-in church, as in, not during the service. But we WERE in the building, in the narthex waiting for choir practice to start. Let me explain...

It's Christmas time, which as a family of musicians/singers means there are a bunch of rehearsals for a bunch of music. MDD and I are each in several ensembles at church, and the kids have their own. This year, as a new twist, Monkey actually has her own SOLO SONG for the Christmas cantata (to be reprised on Christmas Eve).

So, anyway, we're spending a lot of time at rehearsal, or waiting for rehearsal to start.

This Wednesday, Monkey and I were hanging out in the comfy rocking chairs in the church narthex, waiting for MDD's bell choir rehearsal to end. In between that and my choir practice, we would be working on her solo song with the music director.

I had brought some stuff to keep her occupied: her Leapster, some coloring books, and a few "homework books" (reading and math workbooks). I had grabbed one of the more challenging workbooks, because I figured we would be waiting a while yet. It's got some reading comprehension and rhyming work.

I was just chilling in the chair, listening to the "Carol of the Bells" start and stop approximately five billion times, when Monkey asked for help with the page in her book.

She is reading fairly well at this point but can use help with the directions sometimes. They tend to be in a different, smaller font for some reason.

The instructions read:

Write a word that rhymes with the word that is pictured.

The first picture? A duck.

YES. Really. 

Monkey: So, what do I do here?

Me: What it says-- write a word that rhymes with duck.


Monkey: Um... Mom??

Me <sorta dozing in the chair>: ...what??

Monkey <looking stressed>: Well...I am trying, but I can only come up with one and I am pretty sure it's not appropriate...

Me: Which one? (Opened that door right up, didn't I?)

Monkey: <nonchalantly drops the F-bomb>...but... I don't think that's appropriate.

Me: ... You are correct... That is NOT appropriate.

Monkey: Well, what else IS there??

Me: Sound it out...put other letters with it.

Monkey: DUCK...F...uh....MUCK! Would MUCK work?

Me: Much better than  your first attempt, yes.

Monkey: Should I put that down?

Me: Yes. Put that down... PLEASE.

A friend who is a literacy expert praised Monkey's phonemic awareness. I have chosen to go with that, rather than considering this little incident the epic parenting fail it surely would be otherwise. I honestly can't recall having ever used that word in her presence, but she certainly knows it and likewise knows it to be inappropriate. I guess that is good enough to keep us out of an awkward parent-teacher conference...

Yay!! Great phonemic awareness!!! 


Friday, December 12, 2014

Toxic People and Their Fallout

Normally, I keep things fairly light-hearted here, but there is something bothering me and I don't think it's going to let go until I find a way to spew it out. Therefore, I apologize in advance for being all brood-y and grr.

A long time ago, I decided to stop praying for patience, because doing so pretty much guaranteed I would be faced with lots of opportunities to practice it. Meaning: the Universe would find new and fun ways to mess with me.

Getting wise to that old trick, I don't seek patience anymore. It's never been my forte', anyway, and so over-using that out-of-shape muscle generally ends badly for all involved.

Honestly? My daughter is a more patient and tolerant person than I think I've ever been capable of being. That's maybe equally due to her awesomeness and my own complete lack of it.

I am easily irritated. Always have been, but I am better when I've had some decent coffee. Without it, I am fairly sure I would need bail money on a regular basis.

However, just as I am easily irritated, I can usually also move past it easily... Usually.

The times when I can't?
Well...those are usually due to much bigger issues than the minor irritants of life.

When I was younger, I was a full-on people-pleaser who feared exclusion more than just about any painful, drawn-out, horrible death  you can imagine. Those tendencies did not spring up overnight, but were fostered and fed by interactions with so many other damaged people (whose damage was just a different flavor than my own) throughout in my adolescence and teen years. It became this pattern of behavior combined with a self-fulfilling-prophetic attachment to people whose own issues were pretty much destined to encourage me to continue said pattern.

There's a lot behind that last sentence. For now, I leave that there... Just know that, as everyone has baggage. Some people have a carry-on bag or two. I have a 10-piece matched set that I've carried a long, long time.

When I finally did break out of that pattern, at the ripe old age of twenty-- good LORD, that was 20 years ago is that possible?!? -- I was able to finally see that pattern of attachment to people whose intentions for me were not good, and the damage I had done to myself by continuing to associate with toxic people.

At the time, I was involved with a world-class manipulative psychopath who made it clear I was the only girl who could "save him from himself," and if I ever left, he'd surely end his life in some dramatic, horrific manner... and make damn sure everyone knew it was MY FAULT.

Here is where I credit my many therapists for finally getting through my thick skull that those threats and obligations were just a giant crate of horse manure.

And, EUREKA-- they showed me that I didn't have to dance the jig in that nasty crate anymore-- I could just STEP OUT OF IT, if I was truly tired of the smell. And oh, was I ever tired of that smell!!

In stepping out, I made an initial effort to have some limited contact with the psycho. Because we were involved in some of the same activities and circle of friends, it initially seemed a better option than cutting him out of my life.

However well-intended, the outcome was not what I'd hoped. His anger at my "defiance" of his "need" for me to "heal" him led to him basically stalking me for about a year. Things got really messed up. The depths of his control issues and manipulative BS made for a very tense and complicated period of my life.

I got tired of those ongoing games and finally just opted out-- cut him out of my life entirely. And when I finally did it, all I could think was, "Why did I not do this sooner?!?" The wave of fresh air after two years of his manure was an absolute revelation.

But it still wasn't easy. And his giant crate of manure stained my psyche in a lot of ways. Cutting off someone whose party line was "PLEASE SAVE ME" felt harsh, cold, and irresponsible. It also flew in the face of my Christian beliefs-- "turning the other cheek" and all that.

Ironically, I first met MDDaddy in the midst of exactly this separation process. The first time he saw me, I was having a full-out screaming match with this psycho ex, in the middle of a busy street in the downtown area of our college city. Not my finest moment, BTW. 

MDD asked a mutual friend, also witnessing that melodrama, who "that GIRL" was...and the friend, rightfully, told him, "Dude. Just...NO. You don't even want to know what that's about."

Thankfully, MDD saw the drama as not being of my creation, but a sane person's response to a nutjob's irresponsible actions. I still tease him about how seeing me screaming mad, about to kick someone's ass in the middle of the street, could POSSIBLY have made me intriguing to him...interesting dynamic we have, right?

My friendship with MDD developed over that semester, during which time he watched me deal with the passive aggressive BS the ex tried to pull. I was newly single for the first time ever in my college career, and taking on the world while trying to sidestep the pitfalls of a psycho scorned. MDD and I found each other to be fabulous listeners and constant cheerleaders of each other's successes.

There was another friend in the mix then, who was, in fact, the "third musketeer" of the trifecta friendship, with MDD and me. She is also no longer part of my life today (or MDD's).

Our differences arose when I was undergoing nearly three years of fertility treatment, desperate to have a child. She found herself rather unexpectedly, spontaneously, pregnant.

It was hard. Really, really hard.

I tried to support her as best I could, but it's a different level of pain when the ONE THING you want more than all the world, you can't have...and here's someone gifted with that exact thing, who does nothing but bitch about it.

She didn't really want to be pregnant, and the timing was sure to get her in trouble with her father (the minister). To this day, I believe her family still thinks it's a miracle that her son was born "so early" and yet full-term size...deception as self-preservation, I guess. Her white wedding dress had to be let out a few times to accommodate a blossoming belly. 

She had a rough go of it, and WAS really sick. I get that. It happens.

Unfortunately, she dealt with it by venting, and made some heartless comments--to ME-- about all the things I "got" to do because I "could" and she "couldn't," because of the "stupid pregnancy."

It stung. I told her I was sorry to hear she was having issues and side effects, but given my own situation (which she knew very well), I really couldn't be the person she vented to about how much pregnancy sucks. I asked her to respect how hard that was.

She responded by telling me to lighten up and go have a beer, and another one for her, just because she couldn't.

It was the last straw in a long line of heartless things she'd done in times I'd most needed her support. I realized she wasn't much of a friend to me, and hadn't been for a while. We weren't giggling co-eds playing ping-pong at the dorm anymore.

Real life was different. WE were different, and I couldn't keep her in my "inner circle" if she was going to kick me where I was most tender.

As hard as it was, I severed ties with her.

I know that was right for me. She attempted to reach out to me a once or twice in the years since, but I've maintained the distance. There are more reasons than just this notable situation, and I felt it best not to let her back into a position to cause any more heartache. That got me labelled a bitch, among other things. But I know it's right, for me.

All of this drama from my past, and how I have dealt with it previously, has come to mind because of a few things. First, Monkey has started asking more about how her parents met and why we "liked" each other.

Truth is, MDD is my very best friend, and will always be. He was strictly "Friend-Zoned" for many, many years, because I value his friendship more than any I have ever had. I was never willing to risk damaging our bond or ruining the uniqueness we had, for something (seemingly, at the time) so trivial as romantic attachment. Dating relationships historically did not pan out well for me. I was not going to let that stupid boy-girl hormonal crap mess us up.

Obviously, I eventually rethought that, or we wouldn't be here. 

May I take this time as a shout-out to all the Friend-Zoned guys whose BFF is a girl who fears losing him as her friend if things change. Hang in there, guys. 

Eventually, when she's mature enough to see what really matters-- and stops being scared of her own truth-- I think  you will get your chance to prove her fears unfounded. Keep the faith. Don't give up. 

The second reason this is all rooting around my brain is that we've had a falling-out with a close friend that really shook me up. A lot. It's hard to put into words without going into full disclosure, and given the nature of the incident, I can't really dig do that.

Suffice it to say, I guess I still sometimes open up to the wrong people.

Damaged, broken people, whose specific form of damage is EXACTLY the wrong kind for my own brokenness to be around. They can hurt me deeper and quicker that way, that's for sure.

As a teen and young adult, I almost always chose to bond with those "wrong" people, somehow. But for much of the past 10-12 years, I really felt I was seeing people more clearly than that.

I kind of chose wrong, again, and someone hurt me pretty badly a little while back.

I am not sure what to do about it, honestly. Because I am now in a very different situation spiritually than I was at 20, back when I had suddenly woken up to the cast of people around me and went all Oprah on them: "YOU are a jackass, and out of my life! YOU are ALSO out! And YOU! And YOU, TOO!"

(I picture this like Oprah giving away cars to her whole audience...It's pretty much how it went.)

When I made those judgment calls and cast out the ones who had created such patterns of hurt and dependency, my Christian faith was not nearly as central to my sense of self.

Now, though, it IS.

And for the first time, I have a situation where I KNOW there's a person who is toxic to my well-being, who violated my trust and the right to be included in my life-- and definitely, my daughter's life.

And my faith is telling me one thing...while my sense of self-preservation, and Mama Bear protection of my child and her trust in her parents to keep bad things from hurting her-- well, that's saying something TOTALLY different.

I also know that this person is struggling. HARD. There are therapists and medications and a whole mess of complicated and difficult things going on. As a fellow human being who's had her own rock bottom points, I recognize that when I see it. It is sad and scary and I really, really hope this person gets help...

But for now, I have cut off contact with that "friend." Radio silence, after the text message I received confirming what I'd suspected as the truth.

The radio silence wasn't fully intentional. I just didn't trust my initial response would be helpful to anyone involved, so it felt best to not make one. It wouldn't solve or undo anything, and likely would mess us all up more. I know my own temper and trust my instincts about it not to unleash the anger unless I am ready to deal with all that could follow. So, I didn't say anything directly then, and now it's been enough time that I wouldn't know what to say anyway.

I sat, and thought, and prayed. I talked it through one side and out the other with MDD. I had nothing to say to this "friend."

But here I am, writing all this...because it's still rolling around my head.

At what point do I have a boundary to create and uphold, and where does Christian forgiveness play into it?

 I honestly don't know yet. I am still processing.

Funny-- the sermon the day after this incident was all about forgiveness. And how, if we claim to be true Christians, we need to examine just what we deem this very loaded, emotionally charged word to mean.

How can you possibly accept grace and absolute forgiveness for yourself, but withhold it from someone else for the wrongs they have done?

I don't have that answer, yet.

I just know it was a whole lot easier when I was 20 and I could say, "You know what? YOU have done enough damage in my life, so you will no longer be welcome in it."

And by saying that, I then found the strength to turn away from those who caused incessant harm to my heart and mind. It was so very liberating.

It was the first time ever that I felt truly able to handle my life and take ownership of its navigation.

I don't know where things will end up with this current situation. I am not sure how to assimilate both my faith and my Mama Bear instincts. Maybe I can't...I don't know.

For now, and for the past three months since this incident happened (this draft has been pending for quite a while), I am maintaining radio silence because I really just don't know what else to say to this person. I got a random "Happy Thanksgiving" text on the holiday, and didn't respond.

Time may heal some of the sting. That remains to be seen...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Does Our Insurance Cover This? Injury Report- part 1

I recently posted the epic description of Monkey's sixth birthday party and the party-ending injury she sustained at the end of it. As you might imagine, the top of a fourteen-year-old boy's skull is very thick, and when connecting via gravity with a six-year-old's face, bad things happen.

Luckily, she was not seriously hurt.

Ice and ibuprofen worked wonders to keep things down initially. The morning after the party, she didn't even look bruised. We thought we were in the clear.


To be sure her eye was OK, we got her into an eye doctor on Sunday afternoon. She was due to have her kindergarten eye exam anyway, so it just made sense. I explained to the doctor what had happened.

Her vision was fine and he spent a bit of time checking her eye's reactions. Nothing looked to be too badly damaged. He remarked on the bruising and advised us to keep up with the ice. He also said the worst of the swelling should be done, since we were approaching the 24-hour mark from the injury. After the first 24 hours, it should be all recovery. It would turn funky colors, and then we should be good.


I took that to mean, "Don't expect her face to blow up like a giant purple-green balloon, because if that hadn't happened yet, it won't!" Riiiiiiiight.

That afternoon, she took a nap on the couch.

When she woke up, the swelling was so severe you could not see any definition from her cheekbone to her nose. She was complaining the corner of her eye was itching. The swelling in the crease of her tear duct had sort of blocked it. It was deep purple, almost black, and the tear duct itself was red.

MDD and I had some worried conversations out of earshot. I was afraid the doctor had missed a potential break in her eye socket or one of the bones in her face. Why on earth would it swell so badly right after the 24-hour mark, when he SAID it wouldn't do that???

We debated how to respond. Neither of us wanted to scare her and she was clearly not in the mood for it to be poked. Taking her to the ER would mean a long, drawn-out night and a lot of waiting. But...were we missing something?

We agreed to call the pediatrician's office after-hours number. The doc on call got back to us shortly and I explained what had happened. She was relieved we'd had the eye checked out, because their main concern with that type of injury is damage to the eye itself. With that ruled out, there was no need to haul off to the ER for a long, needless evening. She recommended we call the office in the morning and see her regular pediatrician.

MDD and I had a restless night, checking on her and trying to keep her head elevated as she slept. She was fitful and sore and not in the mood for shenanigans.

Since the office didn't open until 9:00 and school starts at 8:40, we decided to let her go to school. We both took off from work. There was no telling what the doc was going to want done, and neither of us had slept much. So, we brought her to school and tried to shield her from the constant remarks of, "WOW! What happened to your EYE??" At least while we waited in the line to go inside.

We sent a note to the teacher explaining the injury and that we'd be picking her up at some time to go to the doctor. Then we went home and called his office. The doc couldn't see her until 1:15, so we crashed to try for some catch-up sleep.

I totally love Monkey's pediatrician, even though his office is really far from where we now live. I know we're probably better off finding someone closer to the new house... but he's awesome. He's taken care of her since the day she was born (well, once she was released from the special-needs NICU doc, at least).

Plus, he looks an awful lot like the lead singer of Live. Remember that band? Mid-90's alt rock...anyway... He is a really cool guy. And his cell phone ringtone is the minions from Despicable Me talking/singing, so Monkey is convinced he's friends with them. That ups the coolness factor, too. 

We picked her up from school and got to the ped's office, half an hour away. Our normally outgoing, talkative girl was very reserved. I think a lot of kids were staring at her swollen face. There is only so much you can do to say "it's not that bad" when in fact, it kind of IS. And she and you both know it, so why bother with the fake stuff, right?

A thorough exam did not bring up any further concerns. He was glad the eye doc got a look at her eye function and that it all looked good. He didn't THINK there was a break, but at nearly 48 hours past the injury time, it was going to be impossible to really tell without an x-ray. He didn't feel she needed one, because her nose was clear and the septum did not appear deviated.

He advised us to keep her out of gym for at least 10 days. I asked why that long, and was reminded the last thing we needed was her catching a ball or elbow or ANYTHING else to the face, with the amount of swelling/bruising she already had going on. Point taken.

In celebration (and recognition that MDD and I hadn't eaten), we hit up Steak N Shake after we were done at the doc's office. If you have never been there, you are missing out on possibly the best milkshakes ever made. For real.  They are AMAZING.

In my normal-paranoia state, I was kinda scared about the injury for other reasons. In our present times, the news seems to be rife with articles about kids being injured by those who care for them. For some reason I was absolutely convinced we'd be explaining the injury to those nice folks at DCFS. (Department of Children and Family Services, for those who don't know the acronym.)

I don't know why. I just figured we would have to deal with them. My penchant for melodrama rides again, I guess. My fears were unfounded and for that I am grateful.

So, back to school goes Monkey on Tuesday with her big swollen face and a note saying no gym for 10 days. We soon discovered that at her school, "no gym" also means "no recess" and that is kinda harsh. She's six...she needs to move around...but at recess the only thing she got to do was play on the iPad with a bunch of other kids who also can't take gym class.

Wednesday was class pictures. Yay. I had talked with a friend who is very gifted at makeup about how to approach this purple thing on my girl's face. She gave me some great tips and even with my limited skills, I was able to make a bit of a difference for picture day.

MDD was still pretty set on waiting for retake day, but I had hopes.

Thursday was her actual birthday. She didn't get off to a good start; very mopey and clingy and wanted to stay home from school. We dressed her up all cute but she just wasn't really into anything in the morning. Upon gentle prodding, she finally told us she felt sad because this new school doesn't make a big deal out of your birthday, the way her preschool had. They sing "happy birthday" and you get a pencil and a sticker, and that's it. You're not allowed to bring treats-- not even non-food treats-- and "it's just like any other day, except for those few minutes when they sing."

She has a point, IMHO. I felt sad for her, too.

I managed to wrangle a couple hours off and texted our babysitter that I would pick Monkey up myself that day. I stopped at the grocery store on the way to get a giant Olaf balloon.

She saw Olaf before she saw me, and a flash of something dark in her face gave way to joy. Not for Mommy, of course, but OLAF! BECAUSE OLAF!!

I told her I was there to take her out for her special day. We went to a local indoor amusement park kind of place where I spent far too much money on bowling, arcade games, and rides. And no, Mommy does not do the Tilt-a-Whirl, even on your birthday. I'm pretty sure no one wants me barfing on you. Least of all, ME, as I would have to clean all that up. Uh-uh. 

We met up with MDDaddy at Monkey's second favorite restaurant, a large Italian chain where they serve breadsticks and are known to sing for people's birthdays. Her first favorite restaurant is a buffet, but they don't sing so they were O-U-T of the running for her birthday dinner. We have priorities.

Our service kinda stunk, but improved greatly once I was able to corner the waitress and point out the "birthday princess" sash on Monkey's chair. The poor server was tired and had too many table seated at once, but she went out of her way to be more attentive to us after that. She brought out dessert and sang (quietly). Crisis averted.

We got home, opened gifts and called the grandparents. She was pretty tuckered out, though, so it was off to bed soon afterward.

The next night (Friday), we headed to our church's family retreat camp. This was the first year we were able to go, since it always falls on the weekend between the two girls' birthdays. One of their parties is almost always on that Saturday. We actually moved Monkey's party earlier to enable us to go, since so many kids from her kindergarten and Sunday school classes would have been on the camp retreat and unable to attend if we had it on that Saturday anyway.

--More on family camp, separately.

Monday night, after Monkey's shower, I was drying her hair and saw something...dark... on her head. Having just come from a weekend in a camp-like setting (complete with a nature walk), my first thought was, "OH NO-- tick!"  But it was BIG. And kind of hard to locate, since she is blessed with a good head of hair.

I finally grabbed a few barrettes and bobby pins and was able to move the hair away from this weird spot I'd seen. It was no tick.

MDD and I are probably two of the palest people on earth. When I was pregnant, we half-joked that Monkey might come out translucent-skinned, like those anatomy dolls with all the veins showing. She's not far off from that.

With the combo of pale skin, both of us parents having freckles and moles, and both her grandfathers having dealt with melanoma, we've been pretty good with sunscreen. Most of the time. Maybe not as good as we should be. She's had a few dot-moles we've watched and monitored, and we watch for new ones.

This was NEW. And big-- the size of my thumbnail. And weird-colored. And located just to the right of the usual place we part her hair for her formerly-standard pigtails for preschool.

I had MDD take a look at it. He didn't seem too concerned, since she has had other moles. However, I felt funny about it being so big and so new. There's no way it had been there in the summer or at her last doctor's visit.

I called the pediatrician's office at 9:01 the next morning and explained what we'd found. We weren't sure if he'd want to look at it himself or refer us to a dermatologist. An appointment was set for the next day with the regular ped.

Monkey and I met with him and our favorite nurse in the "procedure room" of the office. There were many scary-looking metal...things...on that tray. I tried to distract Monkey as best I could. She was told to lie face down on the exam bed and we turned her head to get the best light on the "finding."

Doc didn't like the looks of it, either. It was coming off. Period.

The doc explained patiently what he was going to do and they brought the tray of scary things around the other side of the table, away from Monkey's sight line. The first step was the shot.


I was supposed to hold her hand and keep her still... while they stuck a giant needle in my baby's HEAD.

And then pushed in a bunch of BURNING stuff to numb it. It burned, and stung, and she cried horribly and I tried to hold her hand and wipe her snot and KEEP HER FROM MOVING while the big NEEDLE was in her HEAD.

Hyperventilating a little just typing that...reliving it. Not easy to do, especially while trying to look calm myself. It hurt and she was scared and in pain and I couldn't stop it. 

The doc placed a paper surgical tent over her head, with a cut-out area for where he was working. I was told to stay to one side. Noooooo problem. Did not want to be any closer, thanks.

He only had to cut a little bit of hair away to get to the skin, which was good. Monkey was still freaking out because the shot hurt and she was afraid it was ALL going to hurt. She asked what the paper thing was on her head.

The male nurse, my favorite of the doc's staff, told her it was a tent. She was confused by that.

I told her, "See! Look, now the rest of you might not have gone camping, but your head is!"

God bless that nurse, because he took one look at me, nodded, and ran with it. He started talking about camping and all the things you could do, and learning about nature, etc. Monkey's breathing stilled a bit from her frantic pace.

Mine would have too, if I hadn't looked over to see the ped cutting a slice of my child's head off.
Gulp. That will teach ME to look above the tent. I should have listened better!!

The offending slice was dropped in a specimen jar. It made a gross plopping sound of something way too big to be on my baby's head, thank you very much. Then came the stitching.

I watched them put more needles (this time, with thread) into my child's head. I held her still and kept talking about camping. And nature. And whatever I could to keep her calm and still.

She did not even want Steak N Shake. She just wanted to LEAVE.

All stitched up, we had to wait while she sat upright for a few minutes. They wanted to be sure she wasn't bleeding or going to react to the numbing shot. We also had to wait for the paperwork from the doctor.

He once again banned her from gym. This time for TWO WEEKS. I had a whole page of instructions about keeping her incision clean and what to watch out for and/or call the office about in the next few days. She was supposed to take it "super easy" through the weekend at least.

We went home. She decided we could still go to our church's weekly dinner. She was afraid people would make fun of her stitches or be freaked out by them. Luckily, we ran into our regular babysitter coming out of church as we went inside. She couldn't even see the stitches without looking super-closely. I was beyond grateful that she said that-- and so did her kids. Monkey visibly relaxed.

A quick calendar tally sadly informed us that our kindergartener had been OUT of gym more days than she actually ATTENDED gym at this point of the school year. That is sad.

We were also pretty concerned about the concept of her being unable to run around and move a bit during the school day. It had already made her antsy the first time, and I didn't want to see her get in trouble for fidgeting when she didn't have that physical outlet, again.

MDD and I debated. His original concern about gymnastics was we're paying for classes she isn't attending. My concern was the more time she spent away from the gym (and not moving around much all day at school), the more injury-prone she might be when she did get back to gymnastics.

We decided it would probably be OK to have her go to her gymnastics class that Saturday. I would speak to the coaches and also remind Monkey that she had to be careful. No somersaults or anything that would press her head against anything, and any movement which made her head feel even a little icky was to stop immediately. be continued...

Friday, October 17, 2014

Monkey's Sixth Birthday (Mike Tyson Was NOT Invited)

I have this weird thing with dates. For some reason, dates stay logged in my brain the way other people might remember names or phone numbers. I am good about remembering the "BIG" things, like birthdays and anniversaries, just as much as the seemingly small, much less important ones.

The months of September and April are particularly filled with date triggers, both good and bad. Most of my April ones are bad. September is a mixed bag, really.

Most importantly, September means both Monkey's birthday, and her Big Sister's. They are ten days shy of being exactly four years apart.

That's even more noteworthy when you consider they have different moms. 

This year, our amazing miracle Monkey just turned SIX. We held  her party the weekend before her actual birthday this time, since we had other plans for the weekend after it. I also decided, for the first time, NOT to take her birthday off from work; instead, I thought it would be good for her to go to school on the actual day and experience being in school for the "BIG DAY."

Admittedly, this is somewhat due to my desire to live a little vicariously through my one of those unfortunate souls with midsummer birthdays, I never, EVER got to experience being in school for my birthday. My parties, when I had them, were always small gatherings of neighborhood and/or family friends. Hardly ever any school friends, since we were not in school and clearly that meant there were no phones or communication of any kind outside of spending the school year with such people. In hindsight, it is very odd to me that we never invited school friends for my parties... Maybe I didn't have any. What the hell?? Anyway, I digress...

This year, we have a new school, new house and neighborhood, and therefore were breaking all new ground in party planning. We have previously been very limited in inviting school friends. It's kind of easy because her birthday comes so soon into the school year.

Her very first school-time birthday (turning 3) came just a week and a half into her first year at part-time preschool. We didn't know anyone, so none of the classmates were invited. I had ZERO intention of bringing 20 kids between the ages of 2.5 and 3 to my home when potty training was not yet mandated and I didn't know the little petrie dishes. HAIL NO.

It was her "rock star" party-- I went all nutso with the theme and craft and games and singalong stuff set up in the garage...and it rained, and no one left the actual house to go to the garage until the very end of the party.

Monkey did top off the end of the party with an epic, Courtney-Love-worthy rock star diva tantrum though, complete with peeing her pants and passing out while our departing guests were still in the driveway. That. Was. AWESOME.

Turning four, she was attending the second preschool, at my work. Again, the event came very soon into the school year at a new place, new rules. Their deal was that you could drop party invitations in the kids' cubbies, as long as you invited the WHOLE class. Again, too soon, too young (that class ranged from ages 3-5), and too many kids-- plus we lived half an hour away from the school and uh,

So her 4th birthday had a few kids from the prior preschool, our family friends, and that was it. We also kept the theme to the invitations and cake, and rented a bounce house for the back yard of our rented house. Gambling on the weather, I chose more energy exertion and less craft supply cleanup. I was hit with a migraine the night before, but soldiered on and it all worked out great.

Turning five, we did the bounce house again, but went a different route on the invitations: we invited some--not all-- of the preschool class. The party was kind of like "Fight Club"-- the first rule of Monkey's party is: no talking about Monkey's party. We got around the "all or none" invitation drop-off rule by mailing invitations. By that time, we knew who the total brats were, and I was not about to have any of them purposely in my presence on a Saturday. Again--HAIL NO! My parents were here and contributed greatly to the Tinkerbell theme.

Note: I had a fabulous post written commemorating her fifth birthday, but Blogger ATE the damn thing right before I hit "publish." I've been harboring a grudge ever since, and never did go back to rewrite it. I should have learned my lesson by now and write things elsewhere to cut/paste here, but look at me, daring to risk all yet again by composing directly on the site...

I swear, if Blogger eats this post, I am going to find someone to kick right square in the jewels. Not kidding. 

This year, with the new school and neighborhood, we had some choices to make. Her elementary school posted classroom roster lists on the main doors just before school started. We took pictures of that. Based on prior experience, I figured we'd get a class list with names/phone numbers, like the preschool did.

It's October and we don't have that list yet, so I am really glad we took that pic and didn't try to wait for an actual list. We opted to just invite the WHOLE class this time. Being new, we figured it would give us a chance to meet some parents. I am sorely lacking in that department, since MDD drops Monkey off at school each morning. Other than the kids we know from our street and church, I had no clue who any of the kids are.

MDD's task was to get all the invitations handed to the kids in line before school started. This turned out to be a much bigger fiasco than any of us anticipated. Do you REALIZE how many people bring their kindergarteners to school late??? More than I knew, that's for sure. MDD was stressing a bit because the process took a couple of days, trying to catch them all.

At one point, a kid who's always late wound up playing next to Monkey. She told him we were going to invite him to her party but he wasn't there on time all week. FACEPALM.

She TOLD us she had said this... we reminded her we WERE inviting the ENTIRE class, and to please tell that little boy we had an invitation for him!  Ironically, though, he must have said something to his parents because he WAS on time the next day. 

Next came the RSVP period. Admittedly, I forgot to put a date for that, so bad on me...But still. As adults who have a five-year-old, by now you would think they've held (or attended) SOME kind of party sometime in their lives. It's just courtesy to let people know if you're going to be there or not.

For this party, since it was at our house, the actual count wasn't too crucial. If we were having it somewhere you pay per kid (and/or per parent), that's different. My main fear was making sure we had enough cake and goody bags so no one cried.

The theme this year was, of course, "Frozen." Monkey got a new Elsa shirt and we rented a pink/purple bounce house from a different company. The invitations were totally overpriced "Frozen" with sticker seals. The local grocery store where we've gotten three of her five prior cakes offered a "Frozen" theme, too. Done!

Monkey's big deal was asking MDD to set up something so she could sing for her guests. "Let It Go" is pretty much her power anthem. Since we are a musical family and have enough equipment for at least two bands, meeting this request was certainly feasible.

The weather forecast was iffy. Each day I watched it, willing the predicted rain to shift either earlier or later. Someone somewhere heard me, because it was chilly and raining the night before the party...and Saturday dawned warmer, sunny, and dry. The new bounce house company showed up early and had the thing set up inside of five minutes.

Overcome with excitement, Monkey asked to test it out while I was finishing dishes and food prep.

I am SO glad I told her "yes." Sometimes, that is really hard for me, because I am beyond uber-pragmatic and can usually think of ten reasons to say "no" to something for every one reason to say "yes." But I needed her outside anyway, so I told her to go for it.

And she did. One of the most beatific things I have seen in quite a long time:

The sunshine breaking through the clouds, and the vibrant pink/purple/teal blue of the castle bounce house, as my super-excited girl scrambles to scootch into the entryway...and bounced and bounced, her hair flying around all crazy.

She bounced in purest joy, and sang to herself, some made-up song about the best day there could ever be, and about being the princess in her purple castle, under the sunshine and shade from the tree leaves, under the bluest sky I can remember seeing...

I should add at this point: I had been on steroids all week for a nasty allergy flare-up, so everything of any emotional impact became HUGE all week, good and bad alike. This moment though, was all good.

Thus, all pumped up on the 'roids, I watched her sing to herself, and I cried.

After the year our family has had, it was a palpable reminder of the JOY in our hearts. Hers, especially. I stopped my rabid preparations and grabbed my phone to call Bunny and Papi. I know it bothered them they couldn't come to her party this year-- he is better, but still not cleared to fly-- and I just had to talk to my mom right then. I knew she would understand.

She did.

I explained to my mother what I was seeing. She could hear Monkey singing from the front yard. I watched the sun hitting her happy little face and I just melted. Unbearable gratitude bowled me over.

My mom understood. She reminded me to breathe it in, and hold onto it, because God knows we need a little more of that in our lives. I could hear in her trembling voice just how much she understood.

Then MDD came back from Big Sister's counseling appointment. I don't know what they discussed, but Big Sis seemed a bit agitated. She demanded to get in the bounce house too. Only fair, I figured, and so she got in there...but instead of the peaceful, joyful singing there was now all this shrieking and yelling.

Our neighbors a few houses down have twin five-year-old kids who are both in Monkey's class. They saw Monkey and Big Sis in the bouncer and begged to come in, too. I said OK, as long as everyone kept the screaming down. No wrestling, no sitting on the ramp/entryway space, and no roughhousing.

I resumed my cleaning until the yelling got loud again. I poked my head out the door and reminded Big Sis, who was sitting on the entryway ramp, that I had JUST told them not to sit there. Against the safety rules-- move it. I saw some jostling and hands grabbing at people, and reminded them all this was hands-off, or they'd come out. Then I went back inside.

About a minute later, Big Sis came sprinting into the house with Monkey's small shoes smooshed onto her much-larger feet. I pointed at them, said NO, and told her to get her own. She ran back out.

Then Monkey came running in herself, holding her head.

"Big Sis GRABBED me and made me fall on my head!"

I thought bad words. Several. 

I got Monkey an icepack and told Big Sis to get in the house. She looked at me, grabbed her gym shoes, and ran around the house to the back yard instead. The neighbor kids were somehow running around in Monkey's room. I told them they needed to go back to their house until the party actually started.

I found Big Sis hiding out, watching the side door of the house. I yelled at her to get inside. She asked where Dad was. I repeated, "GET INSIDE. Now." She started "explaining" that the little kids had hold of her arm...

Seriously, I lost it a little. She's twice their size. And I had *JUST TOLD HER* not to do exactly what she JUST did.


She again started arguing...I put up one hand and asked if I looked like I wanted to hear her argue right now. I am quite sure I looked crazy because her eyes went wide when she said, "no."

MDD had been in the garage, getting some things set up, and had missed most of what happened. He came in the side door when he heard me yelling and asked what was going on. I told him to ask his firstborn...who immediately blamed the five-year-olds for roughhousing. I stopped her and explained to MDD that I had JUST told Big Sis NOT to do EXACTLY what she then continued to do...which resulted in Monkey getting pulled out of the bouncer and landing on her head on the ground.

Related note: We had big issues with Big Sis last year at Monkey's 5th birthday party. So much so that MDD and I had some terse words in planning out this year's deal, to make sure that there would not be a repeat. Big Sis has a hard time seeing Monkey get attention without demanding some for herself. Often, that comes out in ways we'd really rather she not pursue. It's an ongoing struggle.

The kicker is that Monkey's birthday (and therefore, party) falls earlier in the month than Big Sis' does. So every year, there's the struggle for her to watch the festivities and wait another week or two for her own. Waiting is not easy for her, and there are lots of other dynamics at play.

Last year, Big Sis' mom was present at Monkey's party. Her role was supposed to be to supervise her own kid, just like any other parent was doing. That did not go well last year, and after the big scene Big Sis had made, MDD and his ex wound up taking an enormous chunk of time in the middle of the party MDD AND I WERE HOSTING to sit with Big Sis and deal with *her* issues, while I was left to manage the party alone.

Right when party guests were leaving, and Monkey was crying because her sister had been mean to her publicly, and there were goody bags to hand out, and lots of awkwardness, and it was all just not good. Seriously, SO VERY MUCH, NOT GOOD. There was ugly aftermath that was just... yeah. 

This year, Big Sis' mom was again slated to appear. Oddly enough, she loves Monkey, which is rather unexpected. But I felt very, VERY strongly that she needed to be better attuned to her own daughter's needs and situation in order to be willing and able to step in MUCH more quickly-- to either diffuse whatever arose, or get Big Sis the hell outta there, so Monkey did not have to fear her sister would make a big scene and embarrass her. Again.

As I have mentioned before, the dynamics of step-parenthood are not for the feint of heart. 

My take on the situation: I would never allow my daughter to make a giant fuss at ANYONE else's birthday party. Period. I would damn well pull her fussy little ass right outta the party if she did.

IMHO: No kid deserves to be humiliated at their own birthday party, FFS! Deliberately embarrassing the birthday girl in front of her friends is like, "scarred for life" territory. No, no, NO-- I would not allow my child to do that. Not that there's much chance of her even thinking about it, but if she did? Just, NO. 

MDD and I discussed this at length. It is very clear to all involved that my threshold of acceptable behavior is far less tolerant than MDD's or his ex-wife's. But I hold my own child to that same expectation-- and while she's four years younger, I know she is fully capable of complying, most of the time.

Knowing how strongly I feel about the situation, MDD had the excruciatingly uncomfortable task of explaining it to the ex. We arranged she would arrive slightly before the scheduled party time, to get Big Sis' stuff transitioned to her car in case a hasty exit was required. There would be NO repeat of forty-five minutes of MDD in seclusion trying to diffuse his older child's outbursts. She would be removed from the party, quickly and quietly, and without the drama payoff such behavior seeks.

Funny...just the concept of us agreeing to that, and having the three parental figures explain to Big Sis that this was being done, seemed to plant in her head the general knowledge that anything like last year's shenanigans was not going to be well-received.

She didn't even try. I count that as win-win for all involved.  United we stand, and all that jazz.

Monkey's gymnastics class also falls on Saturdays, and we had debated what to do about the timing. I had thought we should skip that week, but she was already going to miss the next week when we'd be out of town. So, with as much prepped as I could, I got her in the car and off we went...

Only to be stopped by a stalled freight train on the tracks leading to the gym. Which had never happened before. We were already going to be pulling her out of class early to get home in time for the party, and now were looking to be 15 minutes late to boot. I called MDD with that panicky, freaky-laughter voice, and he agreed we should just skip it and head home.

So we did, and got a much less rushed lunch in everyone, and finished the setup. MDD was getting the sound system rigged for the big debut. I was dealing with the food and decorations. The ex showed up right on time and Big Sis transferred her stuff to mom's car and off we went.

I am learning new birthday etiquette. Apparently you're supposed to indicate on the invitation whether or not the party is "drop off" or if you expect parents to stay. I had not done so, because we're dealing with 25 kids aged 5-6 at a bounce, let's do some math. There were a couple parents who had schedule conflicts, and had talked to me ahead of time about a brief drop-off period, to be followed by the parent's return.

A couple others stayed about ten to fifteen minutes, then talked with me about leaving once they knew their kiddos were comfortable and apt to follow the rules. I took their cell numbers and advised if they and their children were OK, I would be, too.

The moral of all this being: if you are leaving your child at a party when you barely know the parents, please make sure you leave your cell phone number. And like, your NAME, or something? At the least.

Because...there was one boy from her class -- let's call him Jacob-- whose dad also brought his toddler sister. Not a big deal, given the nature of the party. As long as she can hang and Daddy's going to watch her, have some Cheetos and party on, little girl. We're good.

EXCEPT when said dad goes MIA in the middle of the party. Without notice. Or a phone number.

The party was supposed to be done at 4:30. All the "drop-off" parents returned about 4:20 or so, and we were handing out goody bags and all was grand. Several of the parents commented that since this was the first birthday party of the year, they were watching how we did things so they'd have an idea what to do when it was their turn.

Funny- I had told MDD that EXACT thing and he was incredulous that moms would actually DO that stuff. I was like, are you kidding? Hell YES they do- we ALL do it. Watch and learn, baby. Hers is probably the first party of the school year, so all eyes will be on how we handle it. He thought I was over-exaggerating... HA! Verbatim confirmation!!! Ok, I feel better. 

The plan was to get all the "school friends" off with their parents, leaving just our closest friends to watch Monkey open her presents. We were going to all go grab dinner after that, since the party food was just snacks.

Which was a great plan...except when we gathered everyone inside for presents, and here's this, uh, "extra" little boy, one of the school friends. Yep-- "Jacob."

No dad. No sister. Just Jacob, who is remarkably also barefoot and now has no idea where his socks went. Or his dad.

I did not want to panic the kid. I nonchalantly asked him if he knew his phone number. "Nope! We're still working on that!!" Big smiles.

Fake smile from me, as I ask if he knew his address. "Nope! That, too! Hey-- I get to stay LATE!! Can we go bounce more?"

Me: "Uh, no, buddy, Monkey is opening her presents." And then we're supposed to LEAVE but what the fresh hell are we supposed to do with YOU?? 

For what it's worth, Jacob was a model guest (minus the missing socks). There were a lot of concerned adults making eye contact over his head and more than a few mouthed "WTF"s going on. I confirmed Jacob's dad hadn't said anything to MDD or me.

Then the ex piped up with, "Well, he said he was going to take the little girl home for a nap..."

So...he said something to HER but she didn't get a phone number or let MDD or me know, apparently?? Faboo. 

Jacob has a rather common last name, which did not help. My dear friend and I were frantically Googling the name on our phones, trying to match it with an address within the same elementary school district that could possibly be his house. I had received the RSVP from Jacob's mom via email, but she hadn't given me her phone number. Her first name was also a very common one, and we did not know dad's first name. I didn't want to get her husband in trouble, but at this point it was a full HOUR past pickup time, and we weren't sure what else to do. Plus, we were hungry. 

I replied to her email from my phone, ever-so-politely pointing out that we hadn't heard from Jacob's dad, and did she know when he'd be coming to get him? Because the party was sort of, uh, over, and he's still hanging out in my front room...

The remaining kids (our two girls, and the five kids of our close friends) asked to go back out and bounce. I said sure, because the bounce house was going to be taken down in the next half hour or so. They all tumbled out and in and around again, hopped up on cake.**

**Important plot point, there.

My friend and I were trying to figure out what to do with Jacob when his dad finally pulled up in front of the house. It was 5:50, a full hour and twenty minutes after the official end of the party. Instinctively, the remaining grownups backed up from me as he approached our front yard.

Me: Uh...HI!! We were kind of wondering, uh, where you were?? Because things were kind of over, like, an hour ago.

Jacob's Dad: WHAT?? I...I thought it was 6:00?

Me: Nope. 4:30, actually... Yeah.

JD: Oh my God. I am SO SORRY... I just... (pulls out phone) I had it in my phone as going until 6:00.

Me: Yeah, no. Two to four-thirty. But he's fine, just needs his socks and--


The oldest, "big kid" there: Monkey, I'm sorry!! OHMAHGAWD I am SO SORRY!


Me: WHAT HAPPENED? GET HER OUT! Bring her OUT here, please!

The "big kid" of the group gingerly brought out my screaming, sobbing, purple-faced birthday girl.

Apparently, she collided with him on a bad fall, catching the top of his head right, square in the face.

Right in the eye-- and bridge of her wee little nose, to be exact.

Massive chaos ensued.

Jacob and his dad decided that was probably a REALLY good time to get the hell outta there. My friend, who is studying to be a nurse, took control-- ice pack, Motrin, check for her ability to track a moving finger with that eye. No blown pupils, good. No blood-- scratch that, confirmed, we do have blood from the nose. We wiped it without letting Monkey see that was what it was.

The "big kid" was absolutely beside himself. He looked like he was going to vomit. We assured him it was an accident.

Watching your kid scream in pain is brutal. Not being able to do anything about it is worse. Even the ice pack hurt. She grabbed her brand-new Olaf doll for comfort.

Did you know Olaf is frosty, snowy white? Yep. Well, hers is now frosty-snowy white with some red specks. Look, kids: Bio-Hazard Olaf!! Yayyy!!

She didn't black out and her eye itself looked OK, but it was clear she was gearing up for one holy hell of a shiner. Nothing appeared to be broken and there was just the one trickle of blood.

We held and rocked her and got her Motrin. In the blur, the bounce house company came to take it down. Someone got everyone's shoes off the tarp and brought them in. My friend, her boyfriend, and their kids left. Somewhere in there, Big Sis and the ex also left.

My phone went off- email message: Jacob's mom, FREAKING OUT. She was out of town for a funeral and just got my email and had no idea where her husband was or why he hadn't been back to get Jacob or why he even left and OMG here's her number.

I called her back to let her know her offspring was safely back with his dad.

MDD's response: Holy CRAP, I would NOT want to be that guy right now. 

Mine: Oh, hell no. She's going to freaking KILL HIM. Twice, maybe. 

MDD: Most definitely. <shudder>

We did finally go grab dinner and later, iced the shiner again. Monkey was totally exhausted and passed out cold.

Stumbling into bed, MDD and I had a fun conversation.

Me: You know what? Jacob didn't get a goody bag.

MDD: Pretty sure that's the least of their worries right now.

Me: YEAH. I mean...who DOES THAT?

MDD: Apparently, him.

Me: Clearly, yes. But... the ex seemed to know where he went.

MDD: <groaning> Yeah... we shall need to talk about that.

Me: At least the only kid who got hurt in the bounce house was OURS. You know, we're not renters anymore. That could've ended badly.

MDD: Uh, it kinda did.

Me: True.


Me: Ohhhh. OH, no!!!

MDD: What???

Me: Dude... she is going to have this big black eye...

MDD: Apparently.

Me: Yeah? Well, school pictures are this Wednesday.


MDD: ...There'll be a retake day.

Me: ...or, we see how good their Photoshop skills are.

MDD: Or both.

Me: Yeah...probably both.

Footnote: Monkey did get to sing her "Let It Go" anthem to her guests. She got shy at the beginning because everyone stopped playing and came over to watch her sing. Weirdly enough, it was the first time I have ever seen her nervous about singing. It was also the quietest rendition of that song she's ever delivered. The sound system MDD rigged worked perfectly, though. 

When I asked her later why she was so nervous and quiet, she said she had thought they would just be playing. Not ACTUALLY. WATCHING. Her. 

One other note: Another classmate's mom and big sister stayed for the party, though they had originally planned not to hang out. I was SO VERY GLAD they stayed. That big sister saved us from a total mess in Monkey's room. A bunch of the kids wound up playing in there, and made a mess- but Momma Kid made them clean it all up before she let them leave the room. That girl is welcome in my home annnnnnnny time!

Monday, September 8, 2014

When Being a Good Hostess Means Not Killing Anyone

We are in September, which means-- YAY! BIRTHDAY MONTH! Note: My wallet does not share this enthusiasm, since Monkey and Big Sis both have September birthdays...along with half their friends.

Anyhoo, we're once again diving into the birthday planning, with Monkey's party set to roll this Saturday. This will be the first time we're doing her party BEFORE her actual birthday. Once again, we are chancing the weather by getting a bounce house in the yard.

Different year, different yard, different bounce house company, and new responsibilities-- because this year, we are homeowners. All this just dawned on me this morning and I haven't even really spoken with MDDaddy about it yet. Previous parties with bounce houses were somewhat liability-free for us. It's been a "bounce at your own risk" kinda deal, with us monitoring to make sure nobody got too crazy or wild in the jumper.

But we were renting that house, and thus nothing would have been too deeply tied to us, insurance-wise at least. Morally, yeah, but you can't sue a bad conscience as far as I know.

This year is different. Monkey is turning six, and in kindergarten, in a new neighborhood and new kids from a new school.

Also new on this year's party discussion topics: Food allergies.

As in, there are a couple of kids in her class allergic to nuts. This particular allergy we're getting a little used to, as my friend's son is also allergic to nuts.

She doesn't keep peanut butter in the house, other than her annual indulgence in Girl Scout Tagalong Cookies, which generally don't last more than a weekend or two and are kept carefully guarded.

As we've gotten more social with her (and therefore, her son), we've adapted a few things to make sure we're not endangering anyone. She's also on hand to watch him when he's at our house, and they've had a plethora of conversations reinforcing what he can and cannot eat.

Thus, we knew to plan the cake and goody bags without anything glaringly, obviously, nutty. Done.

Yesterday, I got an email from a mom of one of Monkey's classmates, stating he's excited to come to the party (yay!) but they would need to pick him up a little early. Oh-- and he's allergic to nuts and eggs and she will be happy to show me how to use his EpiPen, and normally baked eggs in cakes are fine but she can bring him a cupcake separately if I want.

When she--apparently-- DROPS OFF her deathly allergic child at my house, where I will be supervising twenty kindergarteners on a bounce house.

Um... whoa.

There is so much about this that is bothering me, I don't even know where to start.

We hardly know this family, although they do go to our church. We've never like, hung out with them, other than chatting idly at coffee hour and maybe 10 minutes at kindergarten orientation. Neither kid has been to the other's house, ever, before.

To me, this is NOT the ideal test-run situation for dropping off your at-risk kid. Who, by the way, is FIVE YEARS OLD. And will be at the house where a PARTY is going on, full of lots of people and food which may or may not harm him, to the point of maybe needing epinephrine??!!

I didn't want to overreact, so I ran it by MDD.
His response: "Oh, HELL NO. They need to be here. Sorry, no drop-offs!"

I will be the first to say we are abundantly lucky that Monkey's a healthy kid, without any major issues or risk factors like this. We are blissfully ignorant of the kind of fear that so many parents have to deal with on a daily basis. I have friends whose kids would need the ER if there are peanuts in the same room, and I have only a marginal grasp on how careful they must have to be.

I'm not saying I shouldn't have to be...but on some level, maybe I am. I don't think it's at ALL rational or fair to expect to drop off your allergic five-year-old at a house he's never been to, and expect the parents there to be solely responsible for NOT KILLING YOUR CHILD in your absence.

I'm gonna have my hands full with the bounce house and checking for broken necks. 

If there's a chance for anaphylaxis, YOUR PARENTAL BUTT NEEDS TO BE PRESENT, Mom.

We are taking reasonable precautions. I knew there were nut allergies. I have no concept of egg allergies, other than what her email noted: no mayo. Well, my main food for the parents WHO ARE STAYING is pasta salad (safe) and my often-devoured taco dip (which has mayo).

So like, if someone has taco dip on their hands and touches this boy, are we in EpiPen territory?

Because, let's face it-- Big Sis LOVES that stuff, and she WILL be chowing down on it. We have to watch her to make sure she doesn't go overboard, because if left unattended, she totally would.
Not that I blame her. It's addictive and yummy and very, very hard to stop eating once you start. 

Thus, Big Sis for sure is GONNA have it on her hands probably, and maybe her face- does that mean she can't go in the bounce house? Or we need to wash her down or risk contaminating things with mayo and maybe KILLING someone???

Can you really expect an acquaintance to shoulder that responsibility-- while you are not even there? Why the holy hell would you assume it's OK to drop off a kid this young with this issue?

I am a compassionate person. I don't want to ostracize the kid; it's certainly not his fault his body has this allergic reaction. But it's also not up to the hostess/homeowner to fully bear the responsibility of keeping a child with such sensitivity safe without assistance from the parents, either.

When I come up against something I don't understand, I flip the situation around. So, OK.

If my kid was headed to someone's house for a birthday party, and I don't know the parents all that well, let's see: she's FIVE (well, almost six)-- yeah, I will be hanging out for the duration of that party.

And she's NOT deathly allergic to any food that may or may not be served at said party. She's just FIVE.

So I have been agonizing over what we're serving and how to do it and who's going to be where. I just did a bunch of research online about the snacks we got for the party and discovered there is conflicting data about whether or not the bags of small boxes of raisins we got will have to go back or not, because they MIGHT be manufactured in a facility that processes nuts.

Same with the fruit snacks. Damn.

I texted MDD about my discoveries, and he said what I am also feeling: This is getting way too complicated. No more food for events we're hosting, if this is what it will be like. 

Does it NEED to be that drastic? Am I overreacting???

I can only imagine how complicated their lives must be and how scary, but also then-- wouldn't you want to make sure things are safe?

I wound up emailing her back and stating as gently as I could that we were not anticipating kids being dropped off, and would feel much more comfortable if she or her husband were present for the party.  We've taken some precautions with the food, but want to make sure everyone is safe and has fun.

I feel awkward. After reading more stuff online, I am wondering if I am not being as accommodating as I should be or proactive in making her child feel included in the party. But holy hell, I also don't want to take on the risk of potentially killing someone's child.

I'm fairly sure she doesn't want that, either.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mini-Me, Who Is NOT a Bear

One of the coolest things I get to experience as the mom to the coolest kindergartener ever is watching her develop into her own little person. And recognizing flashes and blips of myself, her dad, and other relatives as she incorporates nuances and speech patterns in her journey to figure out who she's going to become.

It's like the greatest show ever, and I am front and center. Blows my mind.

When we were in the hospital after Monkey's birth (when I went into septic shock post-C-section, and bought myself a week's stay), I loved watching her in the bassinet, just...being. I just looked at her. And NO, it was not just the drugs. It was...HER. 

MDD and I called it "Baby TV." Once we got home, we had her bassinet in our room initially. I could watch her from our bed and reach her in an instant. When she moved into her crib in her room I cried a little would use the video baby monitor to watch her sleep.

She looks like me, but also, not. She looks like my brother, who died five years ago, but also, not. Sometimes, when she laughs REALLY hard, she looks JUST like my dad, with long hair. The twinkle in her eye when she's creating something looks just like my mom, but also, not, because Monkey has my hazel eyes instead of her namesake's baby blues.

MDD has beautiful blue eyes that neither of his daughters inherited. But they both got his cleft chin and big giant cranium. Monkey has a chiseled jawline that is all Daddy, too.

She has my hands, and her dad's feet. Which constantly makes me giggle because his feet plus purple sparkly toenail polish just cracks. Me. Right. Up.

As we get into the swing of "real" school for the year, we went to the school's curriculum night last night. The teachers spoke about what the kids will be learning this year. MDD and I kept looking at each other, sort of grinning. Monkey already knows nearly half of this stuff already. We're told the school is good at intervening and teaching to the individual student's ability level, so we shall see how that comes to fruition. I hope it does, so she doesn't get bored about school.

One of the ways Monkey is MOST like me is her speech patterns. During the year I spent at home with her, I spoke to her constantly, and even before she could really TALK-talk, she responded in her own way. I prattled on all day about what I was doing, what she was doing, asking questions, pointing out stuff our Sesame Street pals were up to... Having never finished reading all those "What to Expect" books (my bad), I didn't know at the time I was doing something highly recommended to encourage talking.

It's called "sportscasting," and is apparently a very good way to encourage infants to talk. They can understand more than they can form and reply, so it establishes a word link to the events and actions going on around them. Responding conversationally to your baby's babbling encourages turn-taking in speech patterns and the feeling of being recognized and validating the child's perspective.

Or, some crap like that. I don't know.

I wasn't actually TRYING to do any of that...I was just conversing with the only other person I spent 85% of my time with, and so we "talked" together, which led to ACTUALLY talking together.

She spoke her first word at eight months old (DADA). "MAMA" came the next month. Her big sister's name (which has three syllables, impressive for a baby to manage) came a month later. And then, the floodgates opened. Monkey was in full sentences before she was a year old, and paragraphs by the age of two.

And now, she talks, all the time...

And she does so JUST. LIKE. ME.

It's very weird, as a sarcastic and quippy kinda gal, to hear those same speech patterns rambled back at you from someone who can't even tie her own shoes.

But, just like her physical appearance, her method of speaking is me...but also, not. Monkey's got her own way of doing things.

Case in point:

The other night, we were playing the game "Headbandz" after dinner. If you're not familiar, it is a packaged version of the old party game where you have a card stuck on  your forehead that names an object. Everyone else can see what your card says, except you. The point is to ask questions of the other people and guess what your card says you "are."

It's a fun game. Much more so now that Monkey can really play it, instead of yelling out to everyone what their card is. (i.e., I'd ask, "Am I an animal?" and she would shout out, "You're a FISH!!")

So, we're playing, and it's getting towards bedtime, which is usually indicated by Monkey losing her mind and going all kinds of super-goofy at the turn of eight o'clock.

She's got a card that says "ELEPHANT," and she's kind of stumped. We've had a few rounds of questions already, but she just wasn't landing on the right kind of animal. The discussion went something like this...

Monk: Ok. So I'm an ANIMAL.
Me: Yes.
Monk: Does everybody have one?
Me (giggling): Uh, NO.
Monk: Ok. WE have one?
Me: No.
Monk: Umm... am I a lion?
Me: No.
Monk: Am I a tiger?
Me: No.
Monk: Am I a bear?
Me: No.

Monk: You know why I did that, right...?? <Tilts head sideways and makes big bug eyes> OHHH MYY. Get it?!!

Me, laughing: Yes. I sure get it.

Monk: <laughs, then smacks the table> So, am I a bear?
Me: No. I already said that.
Monk: Seriously, though? I'm NOT a bear?

Me: No, you are NOT a bear.

Monk: Man...I REALLY thought I was a bear. But I'm not??

Me: Nope. STILL not a bear.

Monk: Seriously?
Me: Seriously. Not a bear.

Best seat in the house, for the greatest show EVER. Even if it's NOT about bears...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

School Year's Eve, 2014-15 Edition we are. A seemingly typical, quiet night in late August. It's been raining sporadically, unpredictably, and amazingly hard (in spurts) for the past five days.

We did the grocery shopping and stopped at the mall for a couple of things. But, beyond that, it's anything but typical.

It is officially "School Year's Eve," and tomorrow, my sweet little Monkey will have her first day of REAL school. She starts kindergarten tomorrow morning at 8:40 AM.

I am clearly feeling all the feels right now.

It's been a hectic and trying time, as mid-August always is, since I work at a university. It's the busiest, most tense, messiest time of year. I've been whipping through so much work lately, I often have to remind myself to actually go use the bathroom once in a while.

Pretty sad that you can actually get so busy you FORGET TO PEE. At least I haven't wet myself...yet... 

Monkey's last day at her preschool was actually on the 6th, which was odd enough. End of preschool also meant: NO DAYCARE. Which is also no bueno.

My mom came in that night and stayed with us through the 17th to watch Monkey during these crazy work days. We then traded off that day, as Bunny went back to the airport and my in-laws came that evening for the second shift. They just headed back home on Sunday after lunch-- the same time my stepdaughter went with her mom-- and suddenly, we went from a household of six to just three in the scope of half an hour. That made my head spin a little!

Yesterday and today, Monkey's been hanging with my good friend and prior babysitter, and her mom. Their kids are at the same school as Big Sis, so they all started last Wednesday. Monkey's had some quality time with her beloved Ti-Ti and their brand new, beautiful seven-week-old blue brindle pit puppy. OMG I want her. She fits in my purse. At least, for now; she will be a big ol' beast soon enough. 

When Bunny was here, she and I took Monkey back-to-school shopping. I learned a vital newbie-school-parent lesson:

DO NOT, I repeat- DO NOT- go to WalMart on the Saturday before most schools start.

The place was TRASHED-- and I mean, bad, even for WalMart standards. People were about ready to cut each other to get that last box of 16-pack crayons.

I was thoroughly frustrated and challenged by the school supply list. It felt like some kind of parenting test I did not seem able to pass. Why do we have to get two boxes of the 8-pack of markers, when FOR CRYING OUT LOUD the only sets I even SEE are 10-pack? Are those two markers so hated they can't come along for the ride? 

But I have read/seen/heard people say if the list says 8-pack, by golly, GET THE DAMN 8-PACK, because if you go with something more practical and/or actually AVAILABLE, it's going to be YOUR kid who's pointed out as the example of "Those Who Cannot Follow Instructions."

I personally felt kindergarten is too early for me to establish myself as "THAT" parent, so I caved. Long live Amazon Prime, because it's the only place I found those stupid-ass markers. Click, click, ship that puppy, thankyouverymuch.

Once we got what we could from the freakishly specific supply list, Bunny and I swung over to the clothing section to get the Monk suited up with some new duds. This was made necessary by the routine annihilation of most of her wardrobe at the preschool.

"Look, Mommy-- we painted with food-coloring-dyed-shaving cream! Isn't it neat?" Yeahhhh. That's flipping FANTASTIC, babe. 

I can't even tell you how many items of clothing we sacrificed to that preschool. One of my Facebook friends noted on a rant I posted about one shirt that "it's a sign of a very creative environment, and that's good."

I replied that it's also a sign that NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO USE THE SMOCKS. Hanging on the hooks. RIGHT THERE--forget it, too late. Go ahead and wipe that crap on your shirt. We have OxyClean and oodles of time on our hands...

Trying on clothes with this child is an adventure. She is readily aware of mirrors, especially those combination types in dressing rooms which let you see several different angles. Or, in Monkey's case, provide an "audience" for you to belt out "Let It Go." Every. Time.

Her growth spurt from this spring/summer made itself clearly evident when I'd gone through her closet and drawers. The usual summer purge netted more casualties this year than any I can remember, mostly because I culled down the obviously ruined stuff to keep it out of consideration for "real" school wear. Most of her pants hit her somewhere between an actual capri and just obvious flood-pant level. Thus, we focused on pants, mostly.

So, I look at her, flesh of my flesh, and though her face is so similar to mine, her body type couldn't be more different. As a kid, I was tiny. Dinky, even-- at least until about third or fourth grade when my weight issue started. I was never the ABSOLUTE shortest in my class, but I was certainly in the bottom three. Every year.

Monkey is TALL for her age, though not as much as Big Sis (who is off the chart, height-wise). MDD is not what you would call tall, by any means. His brother is, though, and it seems to be floating around in the gene pool somewhere.

Monkey is as far on the tall end of her class as I was on the short end-- not the absolute tallest, but definitely top three. She is all arms and legs, downright lanky-looking. Courtesy of gymnastics, she has incredible muscle definition in her arms and abdomen. I can honestly say I don't think my abs have EVER, ever, had as much definition as my nearly six-year-old has.

For correct length, we had to get her size 7 pants this time. But she's so lanky and skinny that the only ones that fit are the type that self-belts using adjustable elastic and buttons on the inside. Whoever invented that little trick has my undying gratitude. Otherwise, I'd have to sew, and that is just not good for anyone involved.

I realized in the dressing room how one inadvertently blurted comment can resonate with your child. As someone who's dealt with weight issues for most of my forty years, I have been very careful to monitor how I talk about my body in front of my little girl. I don't criticize my bulges or bubbles to her, because I don't want her to see her value based on the numbers on the scale. I am very aware that harsh comments or dislike of your body can be picked up by your children.

In our household it's especially tough, because MDD's ex (Big Sis' mom) has had huge yo-yo weight issues, and Big Sis is pretty large for her age and very, very conscious of feeling and looking "different." So I do watch my mouth, but after trying on the umpteenth pair of size 7/8 pants on this kid, only to have the sides of the waistline NOT EVEN TOUCH her skin, I blurted out, "Dear GOD, you're skinny. These are WAY too big on you."

Later in the marathon try-on session, I heard her rephrase that same statement. "I'm so skinny! I am all legs!" I didn't care for that, at all, and I KNEW it came from her interpretation of what I'd blurted out.

I quickly addressed it. "Well, what we're seeing here is all that growing you've done this spring and summer. You've grown taller, but your weight hasn't caught up yet. You need to keep eating healthy food to fuel those strong muscles for gymnastics."

She tacked on, "And drink LOTS of water!" I took that as a step back in the right direction.

Being that it IS August and therefore Crazy-Town Time at work, I generally can't take time off right now. Asking will basically get you a "HA HA, funny. Now back to work."

But the office stays open until 6:00 the first week of class. Trying to be proactive, I volunteered for the Monday of Week 1, because based on the 2013-14 calendar from Monkey's elementary school, I thought that would make 8/25 her first day of school. If I volunteered to work late, I could go in late, and therefore be free to see her off to her first day of kindergarten.

HA HA, funny. Because they changed the calendar!! THIS year, instead of starting on the Monday, they have institute days Monday and Tuesday. School starts Wednesday. Oh-- and only half days, for the first three days. Whaaaaaat??

They did not mention any of this at the Parent Orientation for Kindergarten this spring. Not a flippin' WORD. So I volunteered to work late for NO reason, and STILL had to ask for time off in August. Prepared for the big, fat NO, I sent the email.

My boss called me into her office. "About your request..."
Me: "Yeah, I know-- I thought we worked it out to have me there for her first day of school but then they changed it, so I can still work late but if at all possible I really still want to be there for it...just on Wednesday instead."
Boss: "Yes, I got the email... Do you want to just take the whole day?"

Me: "um....yes...??? Is that an option???" 
Boss: "Sure it is. Why don't you just do that, then." 

At that point I was sure either A) I was about to be fired, or B) my boss was replaced by a Body Snatcher. Either way, I was running with it. DONE! Day off!! Wheeee! We GOT this, man! 

Then we got the letter from the elementary school this week, notifying us which teacher she will have. And "reminding" us about the "assessment appointments" in the afternoon on those three half-days. 

Um...come again?? No one said JACK about bringing my kid BACK to school after the half-day dismissal. Hi, some people work. WTH, people?? 

Oh-- the letter also "reminded us about the "Sneak Peek and Supply Drop-Off Day" on Tuesday. 
To meet the teacher and drop off the required supplies.
In the middle of the afternoon. Half an hour away from where I would be at work. 

I knew there was no way I'd be granted a half day off on Tuesday in ADDITION to my full day off on Wednesday. Luckily (??), it was actually taken out of my hands by a phone call on Monday from the school., letting me know they didn't have Monkey's school physical form. Um...whaaaaaat?? 

I told the health office person that we'd taken care of this FOUR MONTHS AGO, and she said she'd check again. She did, and called back a while later to let me know that they haven't seen it and it's not marked received. So, we still need that or she can't start school!!! 

Panic. Frustration. I work with sensitive, important paperwork all the time. You simply cannot lose shit like that, folks. It is decidedly NOT OK. 

Bottom line: They need the form. They would be there Tuesday for the supply drop-off. Thankfully, MDD keeps copies of everything from everywhere. We were able to drum up a copy without having to go back to the pediatrician. Thank goodness for our anal-retentiveness! 

Because that form had to get in, and we had to locate it and GET IT TO THE SCHOOL, I was (reluctantly) granted leave for Tuesday afternoon. I picked up Monkey from the babysitter and hauled ass to the elementary school, where we successfully turned in everything. Again. 

I tried, but couldn't stop myself from reminding the health office lady that we were turning in this form AGAIN, because we did so in April. She replied that she remembered talking to me, and "I still haven't come across the original copy, but then, we have all kinds of papers all over the place right now." Um....what??? (I have been saying/thinking that a lot, lately.) 

I bit my tongue, made sure the check-off sheet showed RECEIVED for that ever-so-crucial form, and left the office. I just wanted out of there before my big mouth made things messier. 

We know of a few fellow kindergarten kids entering this school. Our hope was maybe one or two would get the same teacher, so Monkey would have a familiar face in class. She did not get one or even two friends in her class... She got FIVE. 

FIVE of the SIX kids we know from either church or the neighborhood are IN this class. I warned the teacher already. She's gonna have her hands full...!! 

But that will be tomorrow.

Today, the clothes and supplies have been bought. The back-to-school hair trim has been done. The supplies are in her spot in the classroom, and everything is labeled with her name.

Tonight, we said goodbye to summer break. 

We splurged on a new Elsa and Anna water bottle for Monkey to proudly take to her new class. 

We got her scrubbed and pajama'ed and cozied in bed. 

We read a story... "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" and I made it through mostly the whole thing without actually crying. 

We tucked her in, and talked about how proud we are of this little girl, who entered the world feet-first with a big moon and a laugh, who always has her own way of doing things to this day. 

We encouraged her to pray before bed, since she was worried and a little anxious about something new and so big starting in the morning. I sat on my little girl's bed and heard her thank God for her Mommy and Daddy. 

She asked me to sing to her, so I did. The first thing that came to my head was "Simple Truths" by a band called Sidewalk Prophets. 

"It's three in the morning, and I'm still awake, so I picked up a pen and a page 
And I started writing just what I'd say if you and I were face to face 
I'd tell you just what you mean to me 
Tell you these simple truths: 
Be strong in the Lord, and never give up hope 
You're gonna do great things-- I already know 
God's got his hand on you 
So don't live life in fear 
Forgive and forget, but don't forget why you're here 
Take your time and pray These are the words I would say 

The last time we spoke, you said you were hurting, and I felt your pain in my heart
I want to tell you that I keep on praying His love will find you where you are 
And I know...'cuz I've already been there 
So please hear these simple truths: 

Be strong in the Lord, and never give up hope 
You're gonna do great things-- I already know 
God's got His hand on you 
So don't live life in fear 
Forgive and forget, but don't forget why you're here 
Take your time and pray 
These are the words I would say 

From one simple life, to another 
I will pray-- come find peace in the Father 

Be strong in the Lord 
Never give up hope
You're gonna do GREAT THINGS-- I already know
God's got His hand on you
So don't live life in fear
Forgive and forget, but don't forget why you're here
Take your time and pray
Thank God for each day
His love will find a way
These are the words I would say..."

No, I did NOT make it through that without tearing up.

I know this child is special, the fruit of my heart and the answer to so many prayers. I know she is going to go out into the world and touch lives and hearts and make it a brighter, better place to be, for all whose lives intersect hers, just by being who she IS.

I know that.
With every fiber of my being, I know, and understand that--as I have, ever since I first saw her blippy little heart pulsating on the ultrasound screen.

I pray that someday, SHE understands who she is, and who she is capable of being, the way I see her.

Until she knows, and believes it for her own truth, it's my job to show her.

To believe in her.
To encourage her, and to give her enough softness and equally enough "Suck it up, Buttercup"s, that she will have balance, and always-- ALWAYS-- my unfailing, unending, unfathomable love.

Being called "Mommy" by this amazing, prayed-for, loved-on, blessed child is the hardest and easiest and best job I could ever possibly have dreamed of having.

So, like the song says: "These are the words I would say."

I say them to her here, now, on this overheating laptop while I blink away tears at the realization that my baby is so NOT a baby anymore.

And man, she's gonna do GREAT THINGS.

I already know.

Love, MDMommy

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The End of an Era (when Nothing Is Not "Nothing")

For the past two years, Monkey has been attending the preschool/daycare on site at the university where I work. My commute (half an hour, each way) has been filled with some of the best, most random, beautiful, and bewildering conversations as we make our way from here to there, and back again.

In two days, her final summer session ends. This Friday, when I drive to work, I will be all alone in the car for the first time in two years.

I have something in my eye...

The perks to having my one and only girl right across campus, all day, every day, have been immeasurable. I became a calmer driver during my commute.  I finally started to make sure I actually leave my job somewhat on time, instead of staying to finish just one more/five more/ten more things.

Twice a week, the wee ones eat at the university cafeteria. I have lunch-bombed her several times unexpectedly, and more times that were planned.

Today is my last time doing that.


REALLY need to do something about these allergies...sniff...

I have been blessed to be able to meet and know her friends. And their parents. Because *I* have been the one dropping her off and picking her up (and hauling all her stuff in and out). I've been here, because I AM here.

And in two days, I won't be.

Some of the "working mommy guilt" has been diluted because it's been really freaking convenient to be just a couple of buildings away from her.

If she's sick or hurt? I can be there in about four minutes.
Question for the teachers? I can ask when I am back to pick her up after work.

I know her teachers, and I know the college students who work in the classrooms, and they all know me. Granted, most of them just refer to me as "Monkey's Mom" --but hey, that works. 

And now, I won't be in that role any more. I won't be the one dropping her off at school every day.

MDD will be bringing her to school, because I still have to make that half-hour commute and get to work by 8:00-- and her new, big-kid school doesn't open the doors until 8:40. Our friend from church will be picking Monkey up at school, since her own kids are there as well. I will be picking Monkey up from the babysitter's house again.

I know every parent probably gets misty-eyed seeing their youngest (in my case, only) baby move on to "real" school.  It's the end of an era.

For me, it is feeling a lot like a one-way ticket to Mommy-Guilt-Land.
Quite frankly, I really don't like it. Not a bit.

I know it's important for her to move on, to grow up, and make friends and find her way in the world. I KNOW that and I celebrate that...but I also am feeling my heart tugged so strongly by those little hands, which aren't so little anymore. Those hands are big enough to hold my whole hand now, instead of wrapping around just one or two of my fingers.

This is how it's supposed to be.

Doesn't mean I won't cry.

So today, I will dine in the university cafeteria with my girl, for the very last time.
I will try to forgive myself for not doing it more often. Because there are no more chances now.
I will give her an extra cookie and the biggest hug I can give without risking a total meltdown at the table. (Mine, not hers.)

I have been so grateful to be so close in proximity for these past two years. It's made my nearly intolerable job situation almost-somewhat-tolerable.

I have also learned so very much about my little girl, about who she is when she's not with her family.  I have learned what a good and kind friend she is to her peers, and what happens when she encounters injustice and bullies within her environment. She's a rock star. She stands up for the little ones and she is brave and honest and loving. My heart could burst from knowing she's mine.

This week just feels...BIG.
Monkey has added to it by suddenly becoming amazingly proficient in her reading.

Much like she did with walking-- when she was ready to do it, she just... got up and walked. Across the whole room. Like it was nothing. 

It's not nothing.

She's reading. She's counting by twos, threes, fives, and tens. Past 150.

She is jabbering endlessly about Harry Potter plot lines and side characters and creating clubs with her friends and endless, half-started rainbow loom creations and Kidz Bop music and so many little things.

None of which are "nothing."

She's becoming her own person, in her own ways. And I don't get to see her on random walks through campus anymore, or meet her friends or their parents at pickup and drop-off anymore.

It's not "nothing."

Everyone always says how quickly the time goes. Sometimes that feels true in the moment. Other times, like this, you only see it when you look behind you and see just how much distance you've covered.

We're rolling by, and it's going quickly, just like everyone warned me.

Today on the way home, we're going to blast the music and sing along.
All the way.

Because that's not nothing, either.