Tuesday, August 26, 2014

School Year's Eve, 2014-15 Edition

So...here 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.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sort of Everyone, or *EVERYONE* Everyone?

Le Monk is starting to read. This is both endlessly entertaining and slightly terrifying, as we can no longer reliably spell out words to keep her from knowing what we're saying. I REALLY thought we'd get a little more time with that lovely parenting trick. Foiled again!

So, yesterday, we're sitting in church waiting for the service to start. There's always a banner hanging up behind the altar.  The designs change from time to time depending on what's happening at that point in the year.

We go to a very liberal, open-minded church, which takes a very strong stance as being open and affirming.   Basically, if you wanna be there, we wanna have you here. Period.

Whoever you are, whatever you need-- come look for it, here with us.

I love, love LOVE our church for that. Among a bunch of other reasons, but that is a biggie.

Anyhoo-- the banner this week is one I like a lot. It has multi-colored outlines of outreached hands of all shapes, sizes, and colors. The center of the banner states, "All are welcome here."

Monkey was reading it, though she needed a little help with the word "welcome."

She read it, then asked me, "What does that mean??"

Me: It means anyone who wants to come here, can.
Monkey: But this is a (*redacted hometown) church.
                   *Name of our town redacted for privacy... I chose to share my perspective on our life online, but my child did not make that choice. Some things fall into that territory. <shrug>

Me: Yes, I know, but you don't have to live in this town to come here. Anyone is welcome to come here.

Monkey: Anyone??
Me: Yes. Anyone.


Monkey: Even...*BRITISH PEOPLE*???

Died. Laughing. As the beautiful prelude music was starting, I was snort laughing and shaking the pew. 

Me: Yes... Even them.

<Monk looked at me, incredulous.>

MDD joined us in the pew right about then, saw me losing it, and didn't even ask. Some things you just take in stride, I guess.

I shared this little anecdote with our pastor as we left the sanctuary.  She laughed-- hard-- and then leaned down to Monkey and added, "Even...CANADIANS. Shhhh...!!"

And, see? *This* is why I love our church. 
The end. :)