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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Second grader

I remember being twenty eight and expecting Ella. It felt like the perfect age to be pregnant- young enough but not too young- and those first two years of having a young child honestly seemed as though they would never end. I don't mean that in a bad way.  It just seemed, despite the warnings from strangers in the grocery store, that time wasn't really passing.  I could see how much Ella was changing, but my world had so entirely inverted itself that I could not imagine it shifting again.  I was truly unprepared for the heartache of the inevitability of my baby growing into a child.

Yet here I am a thirty-six-year old mother of two who sometimes still has to do a double take at myself.  It seems impossible to conceptualize at times that time has marched so confidently on and that I am the PTO position-holding, mini-van driving person that answers to "MOM!" across a playground.  I am the alien woman I used to look at in my twenties, the one that was even somewhat inconceivable to me as a Baby Bjorn sporting twenty nine-year-old.

Somehow I woke up to find a second grader in my kitchen yesterday.

Sandi had to leave before Ella woke up so she left her a note on the back of a picture of Maya being silly for Ella to take in her backpack as well as her Irish ring that symbolizes strength for Ella to wear around her neck.  She didn't feel it quite went with her outfit so she tucked it the zippered pouch of her lunchbox.

Ella was feeling fairy good about starting school.  The open house the night before- seeing her friends, meeting her teacher, seeing her coveted second grade desk- helped immensely, plus she was stoked about wearing her new clothes and shoes.
 
On the way to school she told me her teacher was her favorite teacher yet (likely because she's under 30 and pretty) and that she was only nervous about remembering everything from the second grade handbook we had read the night before. I told her that her only job was to listen and that her teacher would spend the first several days teaching them about the class and the routines and she wasn't expected to know anything about being a second grader yet.  She said, "Oh phew.  So I don't need to worry about it?"
 
Tia called to wish her a good first day just as we were getting out of the car.

 
Ella made a very good case for why a second grader needs a wheeling backpack.  She looked a bit like a trendy young adult heading off to catch a plane.  Maya insisted on having the same backpack. It is larger than her torso and I have already made her a chiropractic appointment after the first week of preschool.


Maya and I left Ella at school, shed a few tears (me) and then enjoyed the quiet, conflict-free day. We did some projects, went to the gym and then went to school to help with kindergarten lunch.  The first day of school is an all-hands-on-deck kind of situation with these newbies and they need help with getting through the lunch line, opening their milk and learning the routines of clean-up.  Apparently there is often a lot of crying on day one, though thankfully I didn't see any. I might have had to return a crying child to his or her mother immediately. 





This will be year three for Maya helping in the lunch room and she has jobs.  She likes to take the silverware off the kids' trays and dump their milk in the bucket.  (Yes, I want to douse her in hand sanitizer the whole time.)  She took one girl's milk off her tray and the girl looked at me and said pointedly toward Maya, "That girl just stole my drink!"

Also overheard at kindergarten lunch: "That was the best dinner I ever had!" and "I only have a few drops of pee in my undies and I think I need to go to the bathroom."

It was evident that Maya missed her sister and asked me a few times when it would be time to get Ella.   The reunion warmed my heart and the girls were (mostly) thrilled to be together all afternoon.



Ella lost a tooth AND got a much sought-after McGraw Paw (an acknowledgment of going above and beyond at school).

Overall impressions of the first day:

"It was easier than I thought.  I thought we were going to start off needing to know minuses and having tests and stuff and mostly she just talked A LOT about how the room works."

"I LOVE my teacher."

"We got to pick anywhere in the room to work.  Except under the table."

"I like having a desk but it is weird to think that I'm home and my portfolio is at school."


As if this wasn't all enough for the first day of second grade, our beloved babysitter turned college student Becca was in town AND Ella got to try on her dress for Tricia's Sept 28th wedding.  She was recently upgraded from flower girl to junior bridesmaid and this has put her securely in a state of bliss.  She has only been asking about the arrival of her dress every other day for the past 4 weeks.
 



































 In all the dress shopping of early summer, Maya (a flower girl) has apparently acting much like an untrained monkey.  During one trip Sandi had to leave early with the girls because of Maya's antics and when Ella came through the door she said to me, "Maya ruined everything.  Doesn't she know how special dress shopping is?"

I think this answers that question.


I could not be prouder of my beautiful, growing up girl.  I would just like it if my aging process could slow now as hers seems to be catching speed.
 I have come to terms with the fact that part of what is so hard about having the girls return to school this year is that each year they go out in the world in this way feels (and forgive the seeming exageration here) that they are one step closer to leaving to go out in the world for good.  Each year they gain independence and ties outside of our family.  I can see the shift in Ella toward her friends. Luckily, she is a child that craves connection with her parents so I am funneling all the love and support into her that I can.  It is clear she needs less direction now and is wanting to find her own way much of the time.  I am working hard to allow her this space and not micro-manage her quite so much.  She is ready to find her place in the world. I'm pretty sure my job at this point is to stand alongside and cheer loudly rather than pointing out all potential pitfalls.

I read this line somewhere recently:  "Mothers are good at builing roots, not so much at giving wings."  I want to be a wing-giving mother, but damn, I think that will be about as easy as a pigeon turning itself into an elephant. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

folk festival

Somehow it is that time of year again. Time for the Bangor Waterfront Folk Festival that is such fun and sadly marks the end of summer.   We've gone each of the eleven years and our kids love it as much as we do.
 

Miraculously, bribery had unprecedented success this weekend when I told the girls if they wanted to stay out late they needed to sleep before we went. The festival starts Friday evening around 7 (their bedtime) so it was imperative to have well-rested children if they were to last the whole weekend.  To my utter shock, they BOTH took naps.  This NEVER happens.  EVER. 

They stayed up till way after dark, listening to the beautiful Gaelic melodies under a starry sky.  Asleep just before 10, I was frightened for the next day which starts at noon and goes till late. I once again told them they needed to nap and THEY DID. 

Maya did some crazy, CRAZY dancing the first night at one of the more lively stages. I got it on video but for the life of me I cannot figure out how to get it here. She was a ton of fun at the "folk festible" as both the girls call it but the stimulation of 120,000 people also amped her up a bit and by the second day she was kinda, sorta out of control and she tested each limit until Sandi had to take her home. Ella and I stayed with my mom and I wondered how to give a child a consequence that isn't also a punishment for the parents.

One of the staffers had this awesome t-shirt on.  I think I need this tattooed to my forehead.

We always hang out with Ange, Matt and the kids and the adults actually listen to the music while the kids have a dancing free for all.  This year, they had to go to Cape Cod for the entire weekend and miss the whole thing.  And, boy, didn't we miss them. 





 


We ran into our friends the Parkers and the festival photographer took our picture!
 
If you "kick" in a donation at the festival you get a sticker, a different color for each day. There are giant donation buckets at the entrance to give people such an opportunity. The festival is technically free but organizers have been very clear with festival attendees that if donations don't increase, admission will have to be charged. They have the "bucket brigade" circulating- volunteers holding buckets to collect money- all around the festival.
My mom volunteers every year at the festival and this year she had a shift as part of the bucket brigade. Ella and I helped her out.  We were happy to find so many individuals sporting stickers but it was kind of shocking the response some non-sticker wearing people who were enjoying the festivities would give when asked.

First let me explain my approach. In order to maximize on the traffic in our small city for this major event, some sponsors/businesses have offered incentives for donating. For instance, Governor's Restaurant, a home cooking sort of place that serves desserts as big as my head, offers free pie (with purchase of food) to anyone who has a sticker.

So there we were wandering around the festival, my mom holding the bucket, Ella holding the role of stickers and me asking people if they wanted free pie. One lady said, "Sure, I guess I will have free pie," and reached out a hand for a sticker. I said, "Well you have to donate something to the bucket, even just $.50 or $1." She said, "Forget it."

I simply don't understand this. I try not to be judgemental but I really can't fathom it. I mean, aside from flaky pastry, look at all you can do with a sticker:




Ella carried "Daisy" around with her for two days in this backpack.

 
Day three promised to be hot and Maya opted to go with Sandi to a mandatory school party at a pool.  We found lots of friends, including the twins who Ella somehow spied out of the massive crowd.    Here they are eating donut kebabs:



 
 

Ella is a fierce hula hooper.  There is a lady each year who has these water-weighted hoops at one of the stages and we bought Ella one two years ago because she was so good at it.  Here she is twirling 4 hoops.


I decided this would be the moment I learned to hula hoop.  It is as much fun as it looks.

But for sure the best part of the weekend was watching my mother learn.  She had been gone when the woman was teaching me and when she returned I said, "You should totally do this mom.  It's so fun."  She said, "No way," and 5 minutes later she was swinging her hips to hula hooping success.

When we came home Sunday from the festival a tired Ella was in tears, knowing what the end of the festival signals.  "Please take me back to the festival. I will feel so much better if you just take me back." "I don't want to go to school."  "It's not fair that I have to go.  Summer is so short and school is so loooooong."  "I want to stay home and have fun with Maya and you."  "I don't like school. There is nothing fun about it."  "I don't want to be apart from you all year."

It is heart wrenching to hold your child while she pours her pain out like this.  It can send even the most sane mom into wild thoughts of home-schooling and calculations of the real risk of not getting an education. I knew it was coming. I had been looking for it.  It doesn't make it easier.  I had this same experience each year as a child when summer ended.  Even as an adult I am grieving the loss of summer in a huge way. I am relieved for a little breathing room, a bit more sleep, a break from being "on" all day every day, but I will miss my girls and waking up on a sunny day and deciding which beach to go to. 

And even more, I grieve that fact that next time we have this time, they will be a whole year older.  These annual events and looking at pictures of them at the same place across different years, shreds my heart a little.

So yesterday with t-minus 2 days until school, the girls and I went on a little "hike" in the woods, saw all sorts of nature, held hands and enjoyed each other.  Ella said to me, "You know, I feel better about school now after I had that big cry." 

Yes, darling.  Of course you did. You are just like me.  Big feelings, big shifts.


Maya was VERY proud to spot this monstrous, and hopefully abandoned bee hive (hornet's nest?) on our hike.
 All I can say is that I hope all the love of this summer has enough grounding to hold them steady as they venture back out into the world.

You know what we are doing on this last rainy day of summer before tonight's open house to welcome kids back to school?  We are going to see "Brave" with Ange and the kids and, naturally, to go eat free pie at Governor's.

Monday, August 27, 2012

school shopping


In order to soften the blow of back-to-school, I've tried to make school shopping for our little fashionista kind of special.  First of all, she needed basically an entire new wardrobe, having outgrown everything this summer.  We've paced ourselves so as not to have the crying in Old Navy (me) or the whining about not being able to buy the spangled, open-toed shoes with a chunky heel (not her, but could be).

On Friday, I arranged for Maya to play with her friend Katie (thank you Megan and Katie!) and Ella and I had 3 whole hours to take our time and peruse her favorite stores.  Maya has enough clothes to not repeat an outfit for 3 weeks and, because she isn't getting anything, she gets restless with the shopping scene. Ella literally needed new shoes, coat, fleece, leggings, under clothes, t-shirts, long sleeves, pants, tights and sweatshirts plus all the school supplies.  Oh, and a ladybug snap watch, of course. 

We went to a couple of stores and then she looked at me and sighed, "I'm getting tired of clothes shopping." 

WHAT?!

Short of still needing some pants, we had most of the stuff checked off.  I asked her what she would like to do during our special time alone together.  Petco.  To look at the animals. 

Now, I'm trying hard here to be a smidge less in charge of everyone around me.  Petco it was.  After a stern warning that we would not be leaving with a pet.

(Back story:  Since having to give up her cat last year due to Maya's severe allergy to it, Ella has wanted a "pet of my own."  We went through a brief consideration of a parakeet and, after that was voted down by both her parents, she was crushed.  She has a bunny that she plays with and we are not interested in any more caged animals.  Then our dog passed in June and since then all the girls in my house have been on the puppy train.  I am in zero denial of what having a puppy entails and am in no way ready for one. I keep telling the girls that I hope I will be ready for one someday, but that this is not someday.  I can hardly handle all I've got.  Hope liveth strong in my house, though.)

So Ella and I go in to "look" at the animals, reminding me of my pet rescue days when I used to go to the Humane Society to "visit."  At one point in my adult life I had 3 dogs and 3 cats.  True story.

I spent the entire first part of the excursion shuddering while I looked in at all the rodents.  We had a mouse/rat infestation in our house this year and I found a live one in my living room one bleak winter day.  Just the thought of them makes this pacifist, vegetarian want to reach for the D-Con.

Yup, this is Ella school shopping:


Then it was on to the reptile tanks where she held a baby snake, causing me to shudder down to my toes.  I honestly think she was trying to embrace the idea of owning a snake so she could then convince me it was the pet of her dreams.  (For the record, I was really proud of her for being so brave.)
 
When it was time to go get Maya, she reluctantly made her way to the door and said, "We really can't get anything today, Mom?"  I asked her if she really thought I would say yes, after having told her we absolutely wouldn't. 
 
"I was hoping," she answered.  See?  Hope springs eternal.
 
While I made my way into traffic from the Petco parking lot, I said, conversationally: "Well, I have to say, seeing all those rodents and reptiles made a puppy much more appealing to me."
 
From the back seat, I hear an excited, "Really?  That is what I was hoping for!" 
 
I had just been duped by my seven-year-old. 
 
It is amazing what a few hours apart can do for some sisters.  Before I knew it Ella was carrying Maya through the mall on her back.  And likely whispering about how Project Get-A-Pet was going exactly as they had planned.

schoodic: last call






We've had our last hurrah at camp for the summer (sniff, sniff).  It is downright painful to leave that is for certain.  I don't know that there would be such a thing as getting enough of Schoodic; we just have to be immensely grateful for the time we squirrel away there.

These days become memories that last forever:


Cousins


One of my favorite things about this summer is how much time we've gotten to spend with these three amazing individuals.  Between all the parades, their frequent visits to camp and all the time spent of Facebook trying to change the world (or at least Maine) in time for the November 6th election has allowed me to know and love them in a new way.
 
Does anyone else find this picture of Maya hilarious?  She's assaulting the swimmers with water whilst losing her bottoms.


A lot of things get thrown around at Schoodic:








I SWEAR Ella didn't throw this dog.  She was throwing sand and the dog was jumping up to catch it.  But this picture is priceless.


There is never enough time for all the dock jumping that must be done:


For any adults who are scared to learn new things, please post this picture on your wall.  Noah, blind, jumping off the dock.  Oh, and he also downhill skis.  And horseback rides.  And runs cross country.  I'm just saying...



Grampy and Brevan



Krisit's friend who was at a nearby camp had to try the somersault jump off the dock that Sandi has perfected.  (And no, damn, I don't have any photos of it...better rush back to camp.) 



Proof that I am a wimp.  I did succeed at the somersault but certain precautions had to be taken.  The photo failed to capture the flip but managed to get the nose plugging.




I can't remember if he was pulling me or I was trying to stop him, but either way, Uncle Buck and I went in together.

I guess despite our wishes to the contrary, summer is wrapping up.  Ella starts school in just two days.  The local pools are closed and the air on my pre-dawn runs (actually it is dark and I can see stars and planets) has a distinct nip. I can feel fall around the corner.  It is time to gear up for a new part of the year and I just want to stomp my feet like a petulant child and lay my body down on the warm sand at Schoodic and refuse to go to school.


Friday, August 24, 2012

birthday, actual

I still don't know how it was that the scheduling Gods and the powers that be in the world of anesthesia clinicals aligned on my birthday, but they did and Sandi was able to spend the day with us.

Sandi has a 3 week break from her advanced anesthesia course in Portland (study for which has comprised her weekend hours) and so for my birthday weekend she spent three entire days with us.  Holy moly I felt like a new woman. 

She said she was sorry she hadn't planned well for my birthday regarding cards and gifts and the girls.  I told her I only wanted one thing and that was her- uninterrupted time with her.

We spent the weekend at camp for Suzapalooza and then came home Sunday night and together tackled the mountain of unpacking and cleaning up.  As I watched Sandi sit at the table picking out the 5 lobsters her mom had sent home with us, I was overcome with sheer joy at her assistance. I truly did not remember what it was like to have help.  This summer whenever she has been able to carve out time for fun, she can never help on either end.  Usually as soon as we get home she has to go to the hospital for her next day's assignments and start working on anesthesia plans for her patients.

Sandi turned to me as she finished cutting watermelon for the next day's picnic and said, "What else can I do?"  I swear it was the hottest thing she's said to me in quite some time.

I woke up early the next morning (my actual birthday) and rode 36 miles for my 36th birthday.  Actually it was 37 miles, but I'm still only 36.  Then I came home for a warm shower and the table beautifully set with fresh bagels, fruit and scrambled eggs.  I got some awesome homemade gifts and a card from the girls. 

I told them there was one thing I really, really wanted on my birthday and that was to have them get along.  No fighting.  Maya said okay.  Ella shrugged and said she would try, but she sounded doubtful.  Thirty minutes later they were in the car ready to head to the beach and Maya pinched Ella (for reasons that are still unclear) and Ella laid her out against the console, causing a sizeable egg to form on her head. 

I guess it was too much to ask.

We headed for Sand Beach in Acadia National Park for a day at the beach with the girls:


And, of course, these guys:


airborn



lounging in the lagoon
 




Leah and Lindsay



The only picture of the fast moving Skyler we managed to get


I'm pretty sure this is the moment when Beckett realized Sandi was taking him in the opposite direction of his mother


fishing



 
We left the beach in favor of homemade ice cream at Ben and Bill's in downtown Bar Harbor and some school shopping on the way home.  Maya tried on sneakers that she declined to purchase because they weren't fast enough for her and Ella asked me why I was looking for a new pair of sunglasses for myself when we were supposed to be school shopping for her.  Yeah, this isn't like the birthdays of old paddling in a kayak alongside Sandi till the dark drove us home, but we will take it.  Indian take-out for supper and a few more hours to forget the intrusion of school in our lives and my birthday was complete.
 
I'm pretty sure that I'm proud to be 36 if being so means that I have this amazing life.  I didn't have any of this when I was 26 (although I had less wrinkles and got more sleep) and I wouldn't trade not a single stitch of it.