Monday, June 29, 2009

Lie Like Broccoli

If it we had the summer schedule all year long, I think that I would be the most chill mama ever. Today Lily spilled yogurt all over the floor and instead of silently screaming in my head, I just handed her paper towels and taught her how to clean it up neatly. We have no schedule, no time constraints, the world really is our oyster!

I'd like to say that with this new found time, our house is immaculate, like something out of Good Housekeeping. Nope, I'm the same slacker housekeeper. There are about five baskets of unfolded laundry behind me as I type. I'd like to say that some major educatioanl enrichment is going on here. Nope, not really. We are all reading like crazy, but it's because that's what we like to do. We are still watching TV and have developed a fondness for silly obstacle course type shows (Wipeout, Super Stars). What we are doing is "lying like broccoli" or to use Caroline's term "chillaxin'".

But this chilled out state of mind makes it so much easier to manage my two alien children. One is morphing into a teen. This is a scary and frustrating process. Most sentences now begin with "God, Moomm," and end with an eye roll, teeth sucking or some sort of smart ass remark that secretly makes me proud of her budding humor level. I can simply look at her and calmly say "watch it" or "that's it you're grounded" without rising to her bait or engaging in a yelling contest. Boy, if only I could do this all year.

My other child, I can enjoy with minimal frustration. I don't mind chasing her down at the pool as she darts around wearing her towel like a cape and yelling "Super Lily! Falling ceases!" (guess what old timey phrase I tried to use to clam her down first?) I can catch her and put her in time out without running my hand frantically through my hair or deep breathing. I can even walk into the living room and watch her leap from the couch into an over turned rocking chair that she has laced through with shoe laces (she was making cargo netting). I can then calmly explain that obstacle courses are for outside and she could have crashed through the french door and been hurt. I can even answer her 50 questions about when each and everything was invented (her standard reply is the 1920's).

I have the time to pause and look at my leggy tanned girls and notice that all their baby fat is disappearing. I can breathe in the intoxicating smell of sunscreen, chlorine, and warm kid. All in all this is the best start to a summer in quite a while.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summertime and the Livin's......

I took the girls to the pediatrician for check ups today. It's only four days into summer break and they both already look like the poster children for what not to do in the summer. Their shoulders are sunburned nice and pink (I used sunscreen!) and Lily's legs have been eaten alive by mosquitoes (I used bug spray!). I wanted to tell the doctor that at least it proves I've taken them outside. The doctor didn't mind their state. But while we were waiting in the office, I thought of some summer predictions.

This summer I will repeatedly say the following (to play along try to guess which remark goes to which kid, no Rob does not count as a kid):

Your shoes are on the wrong feet. Switch them.
Get off the phone. Get off the phone, now!
Get off the computer. No not in ten minutes, now!
Leave her alone!
Popsicles are not breakfast, even though there's a picture of fruit on the front.
Come get sunscreen!
No TV. Not even a minute.
It's summer, you can't wear that.
I know it's not raining, but when it thunders pool's closed.
Who took my MP3 player?!
No, you can't have money for the ice cream man. There are Popsicles in the fridge.
Get down from there!
Come back, that's too deep.
Share with your sister!

I will be doing the following:

Traveling to both CT and IL with the kids. Visit will be fun, drive will be hell.
Chilling at the pool.
Using an entire bottle of red nail polish (girls need cute toe nails).
Using at least a bottle of sunscreen a week.
Using boxes and boxes of Aveeno oatmeal bath (poor itchy Lily).
Eating/passing out cases of Popsicles.
Spending countless hours at the library.
Reading a healthy balance of intellectual/brain candy.
Watching lots of Food Network.
Going through a gallon of bubbles.
Eating JoJo's ice cream at least three times.

Seems like a good start! Happy summer and wear sunscreen!

Alien Child

I'm sure that I'm not the first parent to think that their child is a visitor from another planet. Most days I look at Lily and think that she is just here collecting data on the daily habits of the suburban family. Navigating life as Lily's mom has been so different from Caroline. I understand Caroline because she is so like me. She wears her heart on her sleeve. Right or wrong, you always know where you stand (even if that's in earshot of screaming and crying).

Lily on the other hand seems so happy go lucky. Never upset, never worried. That couldn't be farther from the truth. It just shows in different ways, like rapid fire questions or bossing people around. I have quickly learned that I can avoid headaches and mess if I just answer her questions truthfully. Forget fairies and other magic stories, this kid wants the facts. That's not to say she doesn't have an imagination. She does, but make believe lives in it's own place (everything in her life has it's compartment), she will clearly tell you it's not real, it's just for fun. When people try to tease her and say things like "look there's a purple elephant!" Lily will chuckle knowingly and look at me, "Mom, that's not true! Elephants aren't purple."

She seems so fearless, but she is terrified of the dark. One night she started crying about monsters. I pulled out my tried and true tale of "Monster Spray" that kept them away. Lily's response was "That can't be true because I know monsters aren't real, they just live in my head!" The look of annoyance on her face when she called me on my lie, cured me of that forever.

She seems to know no fear, but once she understands the dangers, she is so cautious. Once she knows that "This is a rule," she is a tyrant about it. The trick is to explain it to her satisfaction or she'll figure it out the hard way. The old advice about avoiding "over explaining to your child" doesn't apply here. You can't over explain to this kid.

My biggest problem with her is the comedy aspect. She is a certified "laughter junky." If she thinks that it will get a laugh, she'll do it. Sometimes even at the expense of known safety rules. Lily does impersonations of all of the people in her life and TV characters. She hears a story once and recites it from memory with added voices and dialogue. Suddenly she has decided that she is too old for "little kid shows" and wants to watch Caroline's shows. That lasted only one day before I got hit with the biggest wall of preteen attitude from my pint sized four year old. Caroline's shows have been deemed "iappopriate" (her word) for Lily. It is so hard to politely whisper to strangers " I know she's funny, but please don't laugh, she'll never stop."

Once we set a rule, God help us if we veer at all away from it. Lily first let us know and then the next time inform us that we let her do it once so she should get to do it again.

I know she's smart. I'm not saying this in that bragging mommy way (My little angel can sing on tune while reading the encyclopedia, while painting a recreation of Starry Night). Lily can just figure things out without any help from us. Rob borrowed money from her any she knew how much she had and how much she had left. I feel a little bad about her having us for parents. We are both pretty smart people. The problem is that we a very quiet and independent in our intelligence. We don't sit around having lofty discussions. We sit around trading smart ass barbs. I never pushed Caroline to read. I figured it would happen on it's own and it did. I've never been a flash card Mom or a factoid Mom. I love TV and have no reservations about it. I love the computer, but also love books just as much. I just think that Lily would be better off with parents who could teach her to use her skills for good instead of mayhem.

I am wondering if I should try to teach her to read and write this summer, but honestly, I'm kind of enjoying the ride. I like her unbridled wackiness. I don't want to button her up into academia. The other night after a particularly episode of kookiness involving costume changes, dialogue in song, and air quotes, Rob looked at me and said that she reminded him of a friend of ours from high school. This guy was one of the brightest and wittiest people that I've ever met, but with absolutely no drive or regard for structured education. He was in the gifted program, but barely passed, yet he blew his SATs out of the water. My first response was a sarcastic "great!" Then Rob said, "I bet he's a very interesting adult. Besides, I doubt he had a hard assed mother like you. You'll keep her in line."

The more I think about it, I think she came here from Planet Silly to loosen us up. Otherwise we'd be sitting around exchanging sarcastic quips then going right back to our books or computer. Alone, but separate. Lily unites us in wacky sweetness. I laugh at least a dozen times a day. She is unleashed joy. Maybe we'll just work on the comedic chops. She already has bunny ears. What do you think of getting her an fake arrow through the head?

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Our lives are full of transition right now. Both girls and I getting ready to start brand new lives in the fall and are getting ready to end our old ones this week.

Next year I will be teaching first grade. I have taught special education for 15 years. So much of my identity is wrapped up in being a special education teacher. I am excited about the change, but will miss so much of my old position. I wrote my last IEP this week and teared up on the way home. I know there is a class of 23 children waiting for my love and attention and all will be fine. I'll just miss my LD kiddos. The thought of someone else working with them makes me sad.

In two days Caroline will graduate from 5th grade. I can't believe she'll be in sixth grade. i was looking at the middle school website and couldn't believe how old the eighth graders looked. That will be her in three short years. She's had a rough year and I know this is just the tip of the iceberg. I know how amazing she is, but for some reason, she is a teasing magnet. She is so much like me. The difference is I can stand by her and help her stay strong and true to who she is. It will be strange for her to be at a school where I don't know everyone, but it will be good for both of us. She signed up for band and is very excited. She also has a week long orientation. That should help too.

Lily will be going to a brand new daycare/preschool in August. She has been with the same sitter since she was 7 months old. My sitter won't be watching kids next year, so we had to find a new place. I love the place we chose. it is brand new and right down the street. I'm sure she'll love it and they will love her (it's kind of hard not to). Right now, she's very excited, but I'm sure they'll be some tears in August.

For the time being, we have an entire lazy summer to look forward to. Lots of pool and library. We have two whole months to get ready for a new adventure and rest up from this one.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I was all set to write an uplifting post about the beauty of spring, the moving towards peacefulness. Then I got a phone call from my girl scout co-leader. The three year old brother of one of our girls drown in their pool this weekend. My heart breaks for this family. It was simply an accident. How often around here have we narrowly avoided tragedy? Almost daily.

I was going to pontificate and philosophize more, but I'll leave it at this. Hug your children. I going to go sit in my favorite chair and listen to Lily tease her Daddy instead of going to sleep.