Monday, August 25, 2014

Playgrounds are not for the weakest among us

I'm actually not a big fan of playgrounds.  In fact, they're kind of my last resort, we-need-to-get-out-of-this-house-and-I-can't-justify-another-trip-to-Target-quite-yet, option.  You might find yourself wondering something to the effect of "What is this malicious idiocy of which this woman writes??" right about now.  I know.  What normal parent revolts against a playground.  Isn't it the perfect way to let your kids act like little heathenish hooligans while you lounge on an uncomfortable bench in the blazing sun?  Perhaps for others...not for us.  Our children have this thing about playgrounds: we have to play with them there.  They insist on it, in fact.

Oh, the slides.

Oh, the ramps.

Oh, the ennnnnndless swing action.  Endless.  END-LESS. 

Both of the girls have this love-love relationship with swings.  They love them and don't want to get off of them because they looooove them (especially the baby swings with a nice little backrest, which our 5-year old would still use if given the option).  This means that whoever is on swing duty stands there in the aforementioned blazing sun mindlessly pushing a swing and staring at a) the back of the child (which is thrilling), b) other children playing (which starts to get creepy for the parents of the other children, I'm sure), or c) clouds (yay).  And if you try to multi-task while pushing a child in a swing, you WILL get whacked in the face.  You basically need to concentrate on doing nothing.  And the girls will do this for 20...25...30 minutes without a break.  That gives me enough time to start pulling out my hair with my non-pushing hand from the boredom.

Now that I'm down to 1 child during prime playground hours (i.e. the morning...have you noticed the kick-it-up-a-notch in humidity lately?), I'm giving it another go on the playground front and have scouted out a couple of near-ish playgrounds that the little sprout hasn't been to before, and they come with benefits...namely food.  Playground and a milkshake?  Yes, indeed.  Playground and some crepes?  Why, of course.  A little bit for the kid, a little bit for the mom.  Wait.  The kid gets in on the food action as well, so it's actually a two-fer for the kid and a one-fer for the mom.  But then again, I haven't told the boy or the oldest about taking the littlest on these adventures, and she doesn't blab, which turns out to be kind of a two-fer for the mom, too.  All is fair.

This morning, I took her to what is undoubtedly the coolest playground she has ever been within spitting distance of in her entire life, all 26 months of it.  AND, we were there allllll alllloooooonnnneeee.  This was some serious mojo working.  We had this sweet, sweet land of childhood all to ourselves, the sun was shining, we could still breath because it was only the mid-80s and around 80% humidity, and there was the promise of food at the end of it.  Happy morning to us all!!! 

And it was okay.  That's it.  Just okay.  'Cause the kid was kinda lost looking with such grandeur before her.  She wasn't on top of her playground game this morning, though we did hit up the swings 4 separate times, in between bouts of walking up ramps, walking across bridges, walking up ladders, and walking down steps.  Not a slide to be slid this morning.  I have no clue why; she's a slider usually. 

But the absolute low point of the morning happened when the teeter-totter got the best of me.  See, this was no ordinary teeter-totter but a 4-seater with reclining backs and extra resistance to account for the extra bodies.  In other words, 'ya actually had to work that sucker to get it to go if you're larger than an 8-year old.  Which I am.  Little one loved it, just 'bout as much as the swings.  Me?  Not so much.  Let's compare.

Teeter-totter:  in the blazing sun
Swings: all nestled in the shade

Teeter-totter: In order to work this one while sitting on it, I practically had to sit all the way down on the ground, and there was no give to it, so every time we went up, it was me standing straight up from that uber-awkward toddler squat position.  Hello, quad muscles.  Nice to meet you this fine morning.
Swings:  I stood there, fairly comfortably. 

Teeter-totter:  Quickly, I realized that I didn't have to sit on the contraption in order to bounce it up and down but could push at it like I was trying to resuscitate it's heart.  You feel somewhat conspicuous doing that with cars driving by.  What in the world is that crazy lady doing?  Does she even understand how to use a teeter-totter...maybe I should pull over and show her that you can actually sit on it and make it move.  My discovery precipitated this conversation.  Sweet cheeks (SC): What you doing, Mommy?  Me: It's too hard for me to fit on the teeter-totter.  My legs were giving out.  SC (flying up and down through the air with nary a care in the world):  My legs are giving out, too.  Me:  No, they're not.  SC:  Yes, they are.  My legs are giving out, too.  [Now imagine that she kept saying this for the next 2 minutes before getting off the device while she muttered it yet again as in "Mommy, I'm done.  My legs are giving out."]
Swing:  Still just standing there pushing every so often.

It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to feel decrepit in the face of childhood bliss when you barely feel grown up as it is.  Apparently, the 30s are when it gets real.  Firmly I believe, playgrounds are not for the weakest among us.  That would, obviously, be me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Living with a Kindergarten-er

I didn't shed even the smallest tear when our #1 started Kindergarten last week.  Not one.  There...I said it.  I don't have it in me to be "that mom."  I can sympathize with those who do, but I'm not hiding it any more.  I don't have many of those prototypical mom emotions that seem to bedevil many a friend. 

I've never once gotten squeemish or sad when watching my kids get shots.  Nope.  Hand me those chubby thighs.  I'll hold 'em down, no problem.

All kids get fevers.  They'll get over them, and they often don't mean much of anything.  Suck it up, buttercup.

It's my baby's first day of school.  Those aren't tears of melancholy welling up; they're tears of anxiety that she's going to alienate her classmates by telling them how they're playing wrong.  I exaggerate.  But still...not much.  In fact, I wasn't there for either drop-off or pick-up on the first day, and it bothered me not a bit.  It's not like I won't be doing it the other 181 days of the school year.

It strikes me how big and grown up she seems when she's in my car as we drive to/from school, and she's chatting my ear off with every detail she can think of about her day ("We had recess two times today, once with everyone and once with just our class, but I don't like it as much when everyone is out there I really just like it when our class is alone and I only sit on the swings when everyone is out there because it's too crowded but I go down the slides too when it's just our class and I was on a swing beside Anna and Conner goes down the slides too...").  But then as soon as she melds into the mass of kids being disgorged from the school buses, she just seems so very tiny in frame and stature.
 But, she walks with a purpose and is learning that her space is just as valuable as anyone's.  She doesn't shrink back but presses on to her classroom, a place of enjoyment and interest for her.  She has a cubby there and a space to store some gym shoes.  She knows where her hook is and has some measure of comfort that she has her own supplies, which are hers and hers alone to use.  She delights in earning "pennies" for good deeds and "staying on green all day."  She is a part of a group, which is still something of a new concept for her, and we appreciate that she has the chance to learn in this manner of building relationships and working cooperatively.

Admittedly, my educator's mind keeps flashing forward to what this group of littles will be in 2027, their graduating year.  Which one will she be crushing on when she's sixteen?  Which one will be her stand mate in band class?  Which one will we roll our eyes about when they're best friends?  Which ones will fall by the wayside, either moving to a new school or simply moving on with their individual lives?

And how did this little sprout, so shy and wanting to hold back and observe before taking action or speaking to others,

turn into this verifiable kid, who seemed ready for the new challenge in all regards from day 1?

There wasn't a single part of this whole full-time Kindergarten show that I was at all looking forward to prior to last week.  The whole thing felt like a soul-sucking endeavor from beginning to end, 18 years later.  Seven days in, I'm tentatively going to pop my own mopey bubble and admit that there are a couple of things that are nice about it.  The kid-who-likes-me-best is a pretty sweet little nut to hang out with alone all day.  She's up for any errand, any time.  And we have the best conversations, though there is no break in them when big sis isn't around to take over. 

We're still not in love with a few things about this whole full-day Kindergarten with iPads scenario, but when the final bell rings each day, they've been good ones so far.  And that means I don't have to gnash my teeth about making the wrong choice for her...yet.   

Monday, August 4, 2014

Kids at a wedding

Claim: My two daughters tried to double handedly derail their uncle's wedding this past weekend.

I have photo evidence of their scheming prior to the ceremony, and then the photographer has a smattering of shots where they were caught in the act.  In hindsight, it probably would have been better to dump the wailing bundle of childhood in a back pew and smile on, hoping that no one would notice.  But I'm getting ahead of myself, and despite the shenanigans (intentionally gendered), we/I did experience more good times than not.

Rehearsal:  The girls had a great time watching the goings on, albeit from a vantage point in the choir loft as we got there after things had started, and it was a good way to slip in quietly.  In hindsight, that might have been a better place during the actual ceremony.  This experience led me to an inflated sense of confidence that the girls would "love" the ceremony itself given the amount of giggles and rapt attention that was happening during the yadda-yadda-yaddas of the rehearsal.

Ceremony:  No.  Rapt attention--gone.  Giggles--gone.  Whining complaints--very much present.  Boredom--well established.  Diversions--none.  It turns out that a wedding is not an ideal place to teach some hard lessons to a five-year old about patience in the face of boredom.  Check out her mug pre-ceremony (far right); parents and non-parents alike can see this one coming.

What is that you notice?  Sweet cheeks (second from left) is also looking less than thrilled to be here?  Why, yes.  You have made a good observation.  Now fast forward to the blessed moment where she whacked her head, loudly, against the back of the wooden pew and began wailing, loudly, out of shock.  Fortunately, it wasn't at any important moment in the ceremony...just the start of the vows.  Scratch that.  You can apologize all you want for your children's embarrasingly bad timing, and those apologies are generally well received, but it is what it is: frustrating for all.  At least #1 wasn't complaining tooo loudly so that at least 3 pews could hear how she thought this was boooorrrinng.  Right.  Scratch that too.  But, I didn't have to deal with her as our girls annoy gravitate to their preferred parent 100% of the time.

What else is it that you notice from the above picture?  My nephew isn't looking quite so angelic either?  He's a bit of a light switch.  The above picture was taken at 3:30 p.m.  This next picture was taken immediately after it, also at 3:30 p.m.

He looks a bit better, eh?  My  And this next shot, again taken immediately after the one before it, is one of my favorites.

This young man...I tell 'ya.  He was my hot date at the reception after the hubs took the girls home.  But, I only got half a dance out of him, he has a mega-six-year-old crush on his new aunt, and he didn't even bring me any cake, so our date night wasn't the stuff that Hollywood movies are made of.  Then again, he was quite the dapper little man in his wedding finery and would enjoy a turn on a red carpet.

Meanwhile, daughter #2 has an intense devotion to her belly button (her "boo-y button"), which is pretty great that she can take her lovey with her wherever she goes and it never gets lost.  But then things like this happen:

The dress is in her way.  She spent a good amount of the ceremony and reception with it hiked up to her armpits so she could find it.

Also, I brought our camera along for one purpose only, knowing that a photographer will obviously be covering the rest.  I wanted one...just one...good picture of the girls together, dressed up and happy.  This is the best I got:

We had to negotiate for a while before #2 would stop chewing on the naked babydoll's face.  And #1 can't help mugging when there's a camera in her face.  For some reason, we decided that having them pose on a seriously ugly couch would also make the picture better.  Which it didn't.

All of this leads us to the pictures after the ceremony.  This is where I don't have visual evidence, and I rather wish that no one else did either, but someone does, and it's probably going to wind up in one of those horrid "21 worst wedding pictures" lists on Buzzfeed before long.  Picture this: #1 thrown more or less over her dad's shoulder as she's kicking and screaming about who-knows-what-and-it-doesn't-matter-cause-you're-not-getting-your-way-anyway-dangit while my entire family clusters, as happily as we can, around the happy couple.  I've never been involved in wedding pictures that have moved along as quickly as these did.  Not that our daughter was the only reason for this, but I have to think that she contributed her part in getting everyone out the door of the church and on to the party.  Parent of the year award right there.

And that, my friend, is why we have already lined up babysitting for the next two weddings we are attending this year.