02 November 2009

Halloween at Home

I suppose I'll begin this post back in the 80s somewhere. While I remember dressing up (as Princess Leia for several years in a row) and trolling the neighborhood for candy, I also seem to remember that this wasn't an every-year occasion. Sometimes, we'd just drive over to Grandpa's house and get candy and nickels from him and have powdered donuts and cider. At least those are the memories I have manufactured for myself; the reality may have been very different. I don't have very detailed recall about a lot of my childhood. My husband did not go out Trick-or-Treating often at all, if ever. He's not here at present for me to ask.

All that to say that Trick-or-Treating is not very important for us. We didn't do it very often; our kids probably won't, either. We don't even like getting dressed up: for an annual Halloween party we attend, I always try to think of a pun-type costume that allows me to wear normal clothes: one year, I was a Spice Girl, with spice jars strung in a necklace around my neck. Last year, I went as a Schizophrenic. I plastered normal clothes with dozens of different nametags. Done. Pass the candy corn.

This year was especially different. I will elaborate in a later post, but between Abe going up to his parents' house last week to do chores and the sickness that pervaded our house (Ruby may or may not have had H1N1), we figured it would be to everyone's advantage if we opted out of the Annual Halloween Party. Instead, we stayed home and had our own party. It was the best.

It has been a long week. We were sick, as I mentioned, and most nights, Abe didn't get home until after the kids had gone to bed. We hadn't been together as a family for a long, long time, and we desperately needed to. So on Halloween, we put Ruby to bed, covered the coffee table with plates and bowls of yummy things like chicken wings, tortilla chips and spinach artichoke dip, popcorn, donuts, cider, and heaps of candy, put in a movie and gorged ourselves silly. Then we cuddled up in blankets until the movie was over. The kids loved being able to eat all of the candy and junk they wanted to, they loved being allowed to eat in the living room, and we all loved just being in the same place at the same time.

It was nothing profound--just snacks and a movie--but at one point, snuggled in the recliner next to my little boy and looking across the room at my husband snuggled on the couch with his baby girl, I got a little teary-eyed at the beauty of it, of just enjoying being next to each other. I cannot imagine how life gets any better than that. I thought about taking a picture, but it was one of those moments where you're almost afraid to breathe and risk spoiling things; I was enjoying our family moment and I didn't want to break the spell. So I took lots of mental snapshots, and I will have those forever. It was a happy Halloween.

22 October 2009

Mama Bear Eats Suzie Applewood

When Charis was 18 months old, thw two of us were invited to a tea party. It was a tea party with real tea, real scones and finger sandwiches, and real, antique, heirloom china. I spent the whole time terrified Charis would drop the irreplaceable cup on the priceless saucer and I'd spend the next dozen years trying to track down a duplicate. There were only three families there that day--mine, which consisted of me and my 18 month old; a mother with three girls between the ages of 4 and 8; and a mother (the hostess) with twin 3 year old girls. The tea portion of the outing went well--Charis miraculously did not break anything--and then all of the girls scampered off to the next room over to play. After they'd played for a few minutes, I stuck my head in to make sure Charis wasn't drawing on the walls or something. She was not drawing on the walls, but she was sitting sweetly by herself watching the older girls play, and I heard one of the twins say to her, "You can't play with us. We're BIG girls. We don't like you. You're too little. Go away."

Well, for the first time in her precious little life, my baby girl was being mistreated by another kid, and the Mother Bear in me wanted to reach over and tear this three-year-old limb from limb, because that's what Bears do. That'll teach you to mess with my kid. Being the grownup I am, though, I refrained from issuing bodily harm to the toddler and instead tried to very gently let her know that Charis was pretty much a baby and merely fascinated by the older girls. Then I smacked her upside the head.

Oh, but I wanted to.

I still have a few hard feelings towards that little girl (because I am such a mature and forgiving person), and I will NEVER forget how much I wanted to scratch her eyes out for being mean to my baby. She was only two and a half feet tall--I probably could've taken her. But time marches on, and I didn't think about this incident very much.

Until we met stupid Suzie Applewood.

She has already called my Charis "silly," and told her she doesn't want to be friends with her, which made Charis very sad. And, not that I'm bitter or anything, but even though Suzie Applewood's mother is one of the head honcho PTA people, I have never once seen Suzie dressed according to the dress code--and apparently, this is just overlooked. I guess leadership has its perks. I was very thankful the day Charis was moved from sitting next to Suzie Applewood to sitting at an entirely different table--I hoped Charis would move on, make other friends, and forget about Suzie Applewood. Honestly, we've been without a Suzie Applewood incident for a while, and I thought things had gotten better.

But this morning, we sat waiting in the drop off line, and suddenly, Charis couldn't get her bag quickly enough. "Mom!! Can I go with them? Please? Can you let me out?" I looked, and there was Suzie Applewood and her mother and sibling. Charis wanted desperately to walk into school with them. I took a deep breath, told Charis I couldn't let her out because we were still moving, and hoped the Applewoods would pass quickly. Of course, they didn't. We rolled to a stop RIGHT NEXT TO Suzie Applewood, who was kissing her mother goodbye. I had no excuse not to let my girl out. So I did.

Suzie started to walk away before Charis was fully out of the car, but Charis ran as fast as her tiny little legs could carry her to try to catch up. And even though Charis was clearly inches from her, tapping her shoulder, trying to say hello, Suzie Applewood did not turn around once. She went directly to the teacher, gave her a hug, stood in line, and proceeded to ignore Charis as if she was not even there. I would love to have simply pulled away and not watched my beautiful little girl get snubbed, but I was stuck in line. And how do you pull away from your baby girl when your heart feels a little bit broken?

All of that happened an hour ago. The morning began just fine, but at that moment, a switch flipped. I became grumpy and short-tempered and considered pulling Charis out of school so I could teach her at home, where everyone loves her and enjoys her company. Sigh. I probably won't. But this Mama Bear is having a hard time calming down. I wonder what Suzie Applewood would look like without limbs.

Conversely (because while I feel angry, I would never, of course, hurt Suzie Applewood or even be mean to her because see: mature and forgiving), I am praying that Charis will not be so enamored of Suzie and pick one of the very sweet girls and boys in her class to be friends with. Could be Neil! Or Corey! Or Bailey! Or Paris! Or Allison!

Or. Sigh. Stupid Suzie Applewood.

Clearly I will have a harder time getting over this than Charis will.

21 October 2009

She's Walkin', Yes, Indeed

I've been meaning to tell you for about a month that our dear, sweet infant is now a toddler. This is where it gets fun. She walks. She runs. She climbs off of beds and the couch on her own. She goes up and down stairs at will and without assistance. She hates being cooped up in a stroller, wagon, or shopping cart; this girl wants to MOVE.

About a week before Ruby officially began walking, Abe and I were scheduled to be in Nursery B, which is the 12-18 month "early walkers" nursery. Our church is a little bit big, and our nurseries are crazy; no mere infant Nursery for us, no sir. We've got to separate them by ambulatory prowess. At this point in time, Ruby was still in Nursery A, "infants," because she was not yet walking. We thought it would be nice to have her in the nursery with us, though, so we temporarily bumped her up. I don't know if it was the power of suggestion or what, but within a week of being with all of those Early Walkers, she joined their ranks. She just stopped wanting to crawl and started running.

On a side note, she's a bit behind on her Well-Baby doctors' visits (she's my third child; what can I say), so I really have no concrete knowledge about her percentiles or anything, but when I saw her next to all of these other children her age--instead of standing next to a three month-old--I was astounded at how small she is. It's not like she's a dwarf or something (at least I don't think so...), but she is a tiny little peanut by comparison.

What she lack in size, though, she makes up in cuteness. And ambulatory prowess.

08 October 2009

Dancing Queen

For years now, Charis has wanted to take ballet lessons. We've postponed it again and again, for lots of reasons, but this fall worked out to be (I thought) a good time to plunk down the cash and let her learn. I am not personally a ballet-type of person; I took ONE gymnastics lesson as a child and was traumatized because they wanted me to take of my tennis shoes. My husband and I have, at various times in our lives, played and coached basketball and volleyball, respectively. We're really team sports people around here. But like it or lump it, Charis has always been fascinated by ballet. She twirls, she waves her arms, she believes she's really doing it...so we figured it was maybe time for some formal instruction.

The teacher I chose is Cathy K., who sat next to me in choir for years. That first picture of Charis is from circle time at the beginning of class. The girls each got a little plastic place mat to sit on so their space would be defined; they used it not so much to sit on, but to hold up, bend into a tube, wear as a hat, or use as a blanket. That picture was taken during the 4.7 seconds Charis actually sat on the mat.
Soon thereafter, it was time to move. Or, as I like to call it, "It's All Downhill From Here." They marched in a circle and performed actions as instructed by the song they were listening to, and on their march, Charis discovered her favorite thing ever: a giant mirror. She has always loved mirrors--she stares into them, makes funny faces, smiles at herself, poses--and this mirror was bigger than any mirror she has ever seen.
Not that it became a problem or anything.
Nope. The mirror didn't distract her one bit.
Okay, maybe a little.

Charis is not a very sit-still-and-listen kind of kid; she's usually fidgety and distracted unless she's absolutely engaged. Multiply the fidgety distraction by about a thousand, and you have Charis In Front of A Giant Mirror During Ballet Class. In my estimation, it was a bit of a disaster.

For the first few weeks, despite the presence of the huge reflective surface that allows Charis to watch her favorite program, "The Charis Show," Charis said she didn't really like ballet class. I think she imagined ballet class to be a big room where they played music and she could twirl to her heart's content. We missed last week because we were traveling, but this week is Parents Viewing Week, where the parents get to sit in the class and watch. I am a little nervous, truth be told. We'll see if she likes it any better.

And if she doesn't, we'll just have her stand in front of the mirror and make faces. She'll like that.

21 September 2009

Charis' First Day at the 'Garten (Part 2)

At precisely 8:00, the doors opened, and we made our way down to the classroom. The place was swarming with parents. That is, as a matter of fact, one of the reasons we chose this school; parental involvement is a fundamental part of the school's operating procedure. Parents volunteer for lunch and recess duty, volunteer to help with classroom projects and to drive on field trips, volunteer to bring snacks to the kids...the list goes on and on. We loved that when we visited. It is reassuring to know that we will know who our kids are friends with, and studies show that students whose parents are closely involved with their educational process are more likely to succeed. I've already had the opportunity to do lunch duty. I don't think Charis enjoyed it very much. Speaking of not liking things much, check out her face in this picture. She is SO not sure she likes this. I thought for a minute she might cry. It was this fact that actually kept me from crying; I figured it would be harder for her to leave me if we were both crying, and I really didn't want kindergarten to start that way for her. She should have fun! She should be excited to learn! Her evident fear helped me to be strong and encouraging in that moment.

When we arrived at Mrs. N's classroom, we noticed the the other kindergarteners were lined up against the wall. We stood there until Mrs. N began to usher the children in. She greeted them all warmly, shaking their hand and saying something like, "Welcome to class! I'm glad you're here, [Charis]." This is standard procedure, too. I guess it helps the kids learn good manners?

Then, before sending Charis into the classroom, she attempted to rip her head off. Oh, I kid. She cupped Charis' face in her hands and said, "I'm so glad to see you!"

And then Charis walked into the room and I thought I might die. I began to walk away, fumbling for my tissues, hoping I wouldn't make a fool of myself in front of the much-more-stoic parents of the upper grade children.
That is, until I noticed a couple of parents going INTO the classroom with their kids. Really? Are we allowed to do that? Shoot, who cares? I thought. I'm goin' in! I wiped away my solitary tear and marched right into the room, like I belonged there. Charis was identifying her cubby and hanging up her backpack. That red arrow is pointing to her arm. Glad I got that shot of her arm. She's really going to treasure that someday.

I watched Charis begin to color her butterfly picture (with a pencil).

I watched her tell her little sister what everything was.

I watched as the teacher directed them to their spots on the story rug.

And I watched as Charis was chosen to select her favorite donut as they chanted some kind of song.

And then, after I'd watched Charis acclimate for about 20 minutes, I slipped out with nary a tear. She seemed to be doing well. She was following directions. She wasn't crying.

Fast forward to 3:15. I took Judah and Ruby in with me to pick Charis up, eager to hear all about the fun she had and the friends she made and how much she loved it...only to find that she didn't. She didn't love it, she didn't make friends, and she was grumpy. VERY grumpy. It took me a while, but I finally realized that she hadn't, of course, had a nap. Charis was still napping up until Kindergarten Day 1. We knocked her bedtime back to 7:30 and hoped for the best for Day 2.

I never realized what a difficult transition it would be for her. I thought it would be all sunshine and happiness, and the first week brought only fatigue and loneliness. Even as I write this, she hasn't made any close friends. And around the 6th day of school or so, she seemed extra grumpy as she got into the car. I asked her what was wrong. "Suzie Applewood (not her real name) HATES me. She thinks I'm too silly and doesn't want to be my friend." My heart broke. Stupid Suzie Applewood. She should BE so lucky as to be friends with my wonderful little girl. I refrained from asking her where Suzie lived so we could go have a few choice words with her momma. I did, however, tell her that I was certain there were other very nice girls in her class who would like her exactly the way she is. It's Week 3, and she is still a bit of a loner. I never in a million years thought I'd write that about Charis. But I am confident that in time, she will find a sweet friend to be silly with. Maybe it will be Bella or Bailey orElla or Kaylie. Maybe it will be Yeaniva or Paris or Arylon or Allison. Maybe it will even be Suzie.

(On a side note: on the day I had lunch and recess duty, I met Suzie. "Hi," she said, "I'm Suzie. I sit next to Charis." "Oh, hello, Suzie," I replied. "I've heard a LOT about you. Tell me, are you being a very good friend to Charis?" Suzie looked flummoxed for a few seconds before finally uttering a very indecisive "yes?" Then I kicked her in the shin. Or maybe that part just happened in my head.)

Charis' First Day at the 'Garten (Part 1)

First of all, let's get this out of the way: take note of how dark it is in these first few pictures. Yes. It is essentially still nighttime, a fact Charis reminded me about when I went to wake her up that morning. It was the first day of school, though, and there wasn't any chance we were going to be late. I'd even arranged for Judah to spend the night at Auntie Beth's house the night before so I'd have one less child to get ready to go on the first morning. I woke up ridiculously early and shared morning space with my husband. We've never had to do that before. In fact, until school started, I'd convinced the kids to sleep until at least 8--well after the sun had established its place in the sky, and well after my husband had left for work.

Weren't the good old days great?

Plus, I didn't want to run out of time to take Charis' First Day picture. Every parent needs one of those, right? She stood patiently for this first one, but then...


"Almost done, sweetie. Just a few more."

"Mom, we need to go!"

"We neeeeeeddddd to gooooooooo!"

"Fine, then. go get buckled. We're pretty early, but at least we'll get a parking spot."

"Thanks Mom! I'm so EXCITING!"

You can't really tell it, but this photo was taken on a side street next to Charis' school. I knew I'd walk her in that first day, and as I drove through the parking lot and saw that EVERY. SINGLE. SPACE. WAS. TAKEN. (a full 20 minutes before school was to start, mind you), I figured my best bet was to head for the street and park as closely as I could.

I usually keep the van stocked with umbrellas, but the children have a habit of removing them. So that morning, we waited in a wee bit of drizzle until they let us in to the school.

Funny...the closer we got to the school and to her actual classroom, the more visibly nervous Charis became. I would never have guessed it to be so; Charis is by far one of the most social, outgoing little girls I know, and I was convinced that she'd take to the Kindergarten social scene like a koala to eucalyptus.

By the time we were next to the door, ready to be let in, she looked downright petrified. Charis, who ALWAYS has something to say, was speechless.

I had come prepared with tissues, knowing that I was likely to dissolve into some sort of tearful puddle as my baby girl walked triumphantly into class for the first time. I mean, we never even sent her to Preschool, so this was really, in all aspects, her first day of school ever. This was the first day I was sending my precious daughter to spend most of her day with complete strangers. The first day she'd carry a lunch with her and eat it with other kids, not sitting at the kitchen table with us. Yes, she's crazily independent, and of course, she'd love it wholeheartedly by the time the day was over, and no, I was not emotionally prepared to let her go do that.

to be continued...

Eye, Eye, Judah.

So a week or two ago, on the Big Canning Day, Beth and I were in the kitchen working when we heard Judah crying in the living room. All of our kids were in there, and it is just not unusual for one of them to be crying at any given moment when they're all together, so I was not initially alarmed. The crying continued and even escalated, though, so we went to investigate, and we found Judah really was upset. Apparently, he tripped and fell into the coffee table (not that piles of toys on the ground had anything to do with that, oh, no), narrowly avoiding putting his eye out with the corner.
The area around the eye swelled immediately. Judah's head injuries tend to get bad really fast--lots of blood in there?--and I figured we'd ice the area and watch its progression from this lovely shade of lavender to the green and yellow shades that always follow it.
When we woke in the morning, I realized it had to get worse before it got better. Judah could barely open his eye, and the gentle lavender color was replaced by this deep magenta hue. Also, the color extended all the way around his eye now. We had Sunday school the next day. We were worried about what people would think.
As always, though, Judah rolled with the punches. Here he is posing gamely for the camera. We were at Elise's birthday dinner. This is Judah after the french toast and bacon, and before...
he inserted his head in his ice cream cake.

Two weeks later, he is now back to normal, but may be steering clear of that coffee table.

03 September 2009

These Feet Were Made for Walking

Today, Ruby took 16 steps in a row, unaided and unprompted! That's right--she walked of her own volition! If I'd had my camera anywhere nearby, I would have taken some pictures. So sad. It was not nearby. But it seems we're seeing the beginning of the process, and before we know it, she'll be running! (I know this one from experience.)

27 August 2009

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

For a few months now, I have been actively trying NOT to think about the fact that my little girl is about to start Kindergarten. I'm sure I'd be emotional even if she were starting half days or every-other days of school, but the heart-wrenching fact of the matter is that she's about to start all-day, every day, school. Nothing like jumping into the deep end of the pool. Or, to further exploit the pool metaphor, it's like diving right into Lake Superior without getting used to the water first: it might feel great, but you also might get hypothermia. It's a stretch of a metaphor, I know, because the chances of Charis getting hypothermia at Kindergarten are pretty slim, but still.

I am so not prepared.

I realized my lack of preparedness when I was in the Back-to-School section at Meijer a few weeks back and I started to cry. I actually began to weep over packs of crayons and Princess lunchboxes. I hightailed it out of the section and pretended everything was normal and my life was not about to radically change. A week or so later, I braved the section again, hoping for a better, more beneficial outcome.

Nope. Not yet.

Finally, before our big vacation, I took Charis to pick out a backpack and a lunchbox. This was not so difficult, because I was shopping in preparation for "vacation," not for "letting my child go forever." While we were at it, I also picked up a box of crayons and a box of tissues. I knew I was finally making progress on our school supplies list, because, as everyone knows, tissues are the most difficult thing on the list. Or not--I figured if I pretended they were just normal tissues for our house, that would make them easier to purchase. It did.

But I spent the bulk of yesterday gathering the remaining bits of supply list odds and ends--roll of paper towels, check; dry erase markers, check; package of 9oz. cups, um, okay...check--because last night was Meet The Teacher night.

I didn't tell Charis about it until the day before, because her grasp of the passage of time is still a little shaky. That morning, though, and all throughout the day, she asked me: "Is it time to go meet my teacher yet?" We practiced her teacher's name over and over, so she'd remember, we went to Meijer again for some items I'd forgotten, and I made sure she was all clean and trimmed and sparkly. A good first impression is important no matter how old you are. We took ribbon and pictures and a clipboard with us for a project--scrapbooking on Charis' paperwork clipboard so she'd have pictures of loved ones to comfort her. We dropped of Judah and Ruby at Yia Yia's house so it would be just the three of us--Dad, Mom, and Charis.

Finally, it was time.

We drove to the school, parked, grabbed our truckload of supplies, and headed for the classroom. We wandered down to the Kindergarten wing, but soon realized we weren't really sure where Charis' classroom was. We did eventually find it--I recognized it based on the font on all of the paperwork we've received from Mrs. N.
The first thing we spotted when we got inside the classroom was a cubby with Charis' name on it. I'm not sure what this cubby will be used for, and right now, it seems to be holding random classroom stuff, but it was exciting and a little too realistic that our little girl's name is printed on labels and signs and all sorts of things all over the classroom.

It's happening. She's going to school. This is going to be her classroom. I might be developing an ulcer.

This is the top of Charis' teacher's head as she shows Charis her place at the table. Charis is seated really close to Mrs. N's teaching spot, which will be very good for her, I think. Charis has a Virtues Box for jewels she may receive during the year for exhibiting behavior that coincides with the Moral Focus for the month. She also has a crayon holder with her name on it. Doesn't she look excited?

The longer we were there, the more she seemed to warm to the idea of school. We began work on her clipboard, then, with Charis picking out the pictures and Abe pasting them on for her. She picked really random photos, and I almost tried to press some different ones on her, but I took a deep breath and realized that a good first step in my letting her go be a student would be letting her do the project the way she wanted to. We sat through a New Parent Orientation and then headed home.

This morning, the first thing Charis asked me was when she could go back to her school.

Oh, I am still so unprepared. We counted today, and there are 12 days until school. 12 days until everything changes.

I may go back to Meijer and pick up another box of tissues.

19 August 2009

A Toothy Grin

p.s. Yesterday, Ruby cut her first upper tooth, bringing her tooth total to 3. Her dental delay continues to amaze me!

By the Shining Big-Sea Water

We've just returned from a wonderful vacation to Michigan's Upper Peninsula--eight days of outdoor adventure, delectable food, games and laughter. Ruby threatened to start walking, but is still resisting it. Judah skinned his knees approximately 14 times. Charis got her teeth knocked in so many times, her front tooth is now loose. I took senior pictures for three kids. I've got over 1000 vacation photos to wade through, but once I do, I will show and tell all about our fabulous trip!

22 July 2009


The other day, on the way up to my in-law's AGAIN to help with their garage sale, I was introducing the kids to my good friend, Billy Joel. Mostly, while we are in the car, we listen to kids' music or just the wind blowing through our hair (we have no AC), but on this day, I needed something different. Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Volume 3 it was.

First, we listened to "The River of Dreams" (In the middle of the night/I go walking in my sleep/To the waters of faith/To the river so deep...) . Then, because I was in a sentimental mood, we listened to Lullaby (Goodnight, My Angel, now it's time to sleep...) about ten times in a row because I wanted to be able to sing it to the kids at bedtime. It's such a sweet-sounding song. In fact, Charis asked why I was listening to it so much, and I told her. Later, at bedtime, she asked me to sing "that song from the car" to her, so I sang her "Goodnight, My Angel." "No, mama," she said. "The one about the RIVER." (Meanwhile, Judah asks for the "one about the rain." I presume he means "To Make You Feel My Love:" When the rain is blowing in your face/And the whole world is on your case/I can offer you a warm embrace/To make you feel my love.")

Later in our car ride, we listened to "We Didn't Start the Fire," to which Charis' response was, "They are lying. They DID start the fire."

Later, at the garage sale, Charis was perched, along with Ruby, near the cage that held the kitties that were for sale. A woman with several small children happened by. "Oh, how cute!" she said, eyeing the kittens. Charis looked her square in the face and said, "You cannot buy her. She is my SISTER."

15 July 2009

Newsletter for Today

Just a few tidbits to share:

A) Yesterday, Ruby stood unaided for about 20 seconds. We tried to get her to walk to me, but that scared her too much, so she sunk to her knees and crawled instead. It won't be long, now...

2) While we're on the subject of Ruby, I thought she was teething recently, but no teeth have popped. It was apparently a false alarm. Perhaps she'll have teeth by the time she's seven.

III) She's also becoming more vocal, and seems to understand the command "Say..." If you say, "Say mama!" She says, "mamamamama." If you say, "Say goodnight!" She might wave at you, or say "aaaackkagkkkk."

M) Judah has been becoming more and more comfortable on the bike. It's almost time to start training him for the Tour de France.

17) Judah is gong to have a sleepover with Gideon and the daddies this Friday, and Charis is having a sleepover with Elise and the mommies (and Ruby and Isaiah). Then we're all going to our favorite parade and garage sales together. Also, the boys are going to the annual fireman's pancake breakfast. The girls are not. Get up early to eat pancakes of lead? Not for me.

18) We've been getting a lot of literature in the mail pertaining to Charis' starting school in the fall. Supply lists, teacher assignments, dress code information... Frankly, I'm kind of excited about the dress code. It should make getting dressed in the morning much easier.

XI) Charis had to say goodbye to one of her favorite friends this weekend. Katie G. officially moved to Florida, where her father got a new position. We're very sad to see the Gortons go--we always enjoyed our playdates so much! The Gortons' kids are all the same ages as our kids, within about 4 weeks of each other. That was (obviously) unplanned, but fun to have that in common. Of course, they have all girls, so poor Judah is the odd man out.

3) We're going on vacation up North in a few weeks. It will be our first trek to Family Camp at Gitche Gumee Bible Camp. The kids are constantly asking, "Is it almost time for 'acation?"

That's all for now. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

10 July 2009

License to Thrill

Here's one from the story archives, one that I've been meaning to post for quite some time now. It is about Judah, our minivan, and the mind of a three year-old.

I mentioned that Tim and Beth's family is growing; they just added Isaiah Reed to their household a month ago. He's very cute, as are all babies belonging to people you like a lot, and shortly after they returned from the hospital with their little bundle, the kids and I went over too see and hold him. It was so soon after their return from the hospital that they didn't even have their other kids back from Grandma's house yet. This turned out to be a very good thing.

Tim and Beth have a whole lot of acres, and more importantly to this story, their house is set about a quarter mile off the road, making it a really secure place for the kids to run around unattended. The kids aren't allowed into the woods by themselves, but if we can see them from the house--whose windows offer sweeping vistas of the yard--we let them play out there on their own. It's so secure that not only don't I lock my van, I leave the keys right in it, sitting on the drivers' seat or the dash. This was the case on this particular day. Since Gideon and Elise weren't there, it was just Charis and Judah running around outside, playing in the sand, playing on the swingset, being safe and obedient (or so I thought).

I was inside cuddling Mr Isaiah, thinking to myself I could do this again, when Charis barged into the house.

"Mom! Hurry! The van is rolling!!!!"

"What?!?!?" I asked, incredulous. Stupid van, I thought. Just one more thing for Abe to fix. Now the gear shift doesn't even work right. Still, though I wasn't concerned too much about where the van was headed, it being parked in front of a hill, I thought I'd better hustle out and look into it.

When I got outside, there was Judah, walking towards me, sobbing, and speaking words I couldn't quite make out. Of course he'd be afraid--who wouldn't be afraid if they were standing next to a van that started moving of its own volition? I saw Transformers, and even Shia Leboeuf was scared of self-moving vehicles.

As I got closer, I could tell Judah was sobbing, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

"What do you mean, buddy?" I asked.

"I'm sorry I moved the van!"

Let me tell you, it's a good thing I already knew everyone was safe. I had no idea that the van wasn't actually moving of its own accord...it was actually Judah, who had somehow selected the right key, put it in the ignition, and had turned the key just enough so that he could slip the van into neutral, thereby letting it roll until it stopped on its way up the hill. Judah's first driving experience had terrified him, hopefully sufficiently to keep him from making the same mistake, at least until he's old enough to see over the dash. Apparently, when the van started rolling, Judah got really, really scared, and JUMPED OUT OF THE VAN.

As a million possibilities raced through my head--What if he had gotten trapped under the wheels? What if Charis or Gideon or Elise had been standing nearby? What if this had happened in our driveway?--I started to have myself a tiny little panic attack. It was short-lived, of course, because none of those What Ifs was the case, and everyone was in one piece. But still. My little guy somehow figured out how to move a ton of steel, and lived to tell about it.

As you might expect, a couple of things changed after this event:
1) The children are no longer allowed to play in the van, or any vehicle that had wheels and/or an engine.
2) I take my keys with me now. You just never know

09 July 2009

Just a thought

It's berry season 'round these parts, and at our house, that means black raspberries. They're wild, they're tart and sweet, and even though they're a little bit seedy, they're super tasty just the same. The kids and I go out every day to pick, and we usually end up with about 3 cups of berries. Well. I end up with three cups. Charis and Judah end up with berry-full bellies. My rule for them is that they may eat whatever they pick, but whatever berries end up in my bowl are off-limits. I mean, they still get to eat them in the end, tossed with sugar and topped with whipped cream, or flipped into a pancake. But while we're by the bushes, my bowl of berries is a hands-off zone.

Besides producing a bumper crop of berries, our backyard, situated 1/4 mile away from a pond, and wooded, sees more than its fair share of mosquitoes. And it seems the mosquitoes LOVE the berry patches. They positively swarm. Which also means I get attacked whilst picking, making the berry harvest a true labor of love. So in the midst of picking, swatting, and protecting my berry bowl from greedy little hands, I try to distract myself by thinking deep thoughts that will pull my mind away from my present strife. Usually, my thoughts get no further than gee, maybe I should go get the insect repellent, but the other day, I actually came up with something worthwhile, and I wanted to share it with you.

Our black raspberries are wild, as far as I know. The vines are very thorny, and since they're not cultivated by us, they grow in a very haphazard way. They proliferate along the border of our woods, so between the thorns and the woody brush, any black raspberries that are not within arm's length are out of bounds. They will rot on the vine and never make it to plate or belly. But it always seems like the biggest, juiciest-looking berries, shiny, with the most beautiful purple-black bunches, are always just out of reach, while the tiniest, dry-looking shrively berries are the close offerings the vine has for us. So the other day, despite the fact that I was wearing non-thorn-friendly shorts and a tank top, I decided to approach the berries from the back, through the woods, hopefully securing for my family the choicest black raspberries. I was fairly salivating as I tramped through the brush, swatting away ever more bugs, treading so carefully lest I encounter poison ivy or a snake. There were prickers there, too, which made the going even tougher than I'd imagined. Finally, many minutes and scratches later, I arrived at the back of the patch and reached out my hand for the Promised Berries. Huh. Somehow, up close, they weren't as juicy-looking and plentiful. I picked a small handful and disappointedly made my way out of the woods.

It was the old grass-is-greener phenomenon; the berries that were out of my reach looked so fabulous compared to the inferior berries I was picking, but upon closer inspection, they were just the same old berries, just farther away.

Extrapolate with me, will you? Abe's sister and her husband are some of our dearest friends in the whole entire world. We spend all kinds of time together, because in every way, we are compatible. Beth and I have similar interests, Abe and Tim like the same things, too, and our kids, when they're not antagonizing each other, get along swimmingly. Up until recently, they rented a home. Then they got an amazing deal on a huge house and 37 wooded acres and upgraded from their teeny tiny rental. Suddenly, my house looked so tiny, so inferior. I was wildly jealous for a while, until I realized that it's just a house. It's a beautiful house, sure. But God provided us with a lovely house, too. THEN, to add insult to injury, they recently had to purchase a mini van to accommodate their growing family. The van they acquired is newer, shinier, and lots prettier than our heap. Again, I could taste envy. I was so ungrateful for my van, with its lack of air conditioning and TV screens. But again, I realized it's just a van. Ours works just fine, even if it is a little less posh. But their house and their van were like those berries--so beautiful from afar, but up close, they were just a house, and just a van. Just like we have.

Around the corner from us, there's a business that has a sign reading: "Fight the recession: Learn to be satisfied." Whether you're talking about recession, berries, or bigger things, I think that's pretty sage advice.

I almost fell for the juicier-berries lure again today. But I did not succumb. The berries we have are perfectly delicious.

(photo acquired from oregonberry.com)

20 June 2009

Ruby's 1st Happy Birthday Post

Dear Ruby,

It's late as I type this--nearly two in the morning--and uncharacteristically, you've kept me up for a while now. I suspect that you are teething, or maybe you can't sleep because you ate way too much at our birthday feast tonight, but the romantic part of me chooses to believe it's because you want me to wallow in nostalgia and get all weepy-eyed. Yes, I think that's definitely part of it. A year ago tonight, I was also up because of you, and there were also drugs involved, though tonight, it's Oragel and baby Tylenol, and then, it was a powerful epidural. A year ago tonight, I was miraculously pain-free, a switch from the seven weeks prior, and anxiously awaiting your arrival.

It was a difficult pregnancy that you and I had; while my pregnancies with Charis and Judah were smooth-sailing and uneventful, you and I had a bit of a struggle. Diagnosed with placenta previa at 18 weeks, I had to hang up volleyball season. It was a big disappointment, but of course, your health wasn't worth the risk. Then, at 31 weeks, during a visit to your Grandma and Grandpa's house, I was blindsided by a kidney stone, and shortly thereafter, underwent a minor surgical procedure to insert a stent. While the doctors didn't see any medical need to prescribe bed rest for me at that point, the pain and discomfort I felt led me to self-prescribe bed rest; no other position was tolerable. But physician-advised bed rest was soon to follow, after I went into very scary pre-term labor a week later. Your dad rushed me to the hospital, and we were terrified--as much as we longed to meet you, it was far too early for you to arrive. They admitted me to the hospital, and twice that night, we thought a c-section was in order. Placenta previa made a more typical delivery an impossibility, but it seemed you needed OUT. But the hospital staff administered some very very strong and very very nasty drugs, and things slowed down. You stayed put, and so did I--for five says they kept me on all sorts of drugs and machines, sending me home only when they were totally convinced we were out of the woods.

As soon as things were under control, they gave me steroids to boost your development. We met with neonatologists who shared with us the challenges we might expect if we gave birth to you at 32 weeks. And finally, we had not elected to find out whether you were a boy or a girl--we like to be surprised--but curiously, the nurses and doctors kept asking what you were. They shared with us that your odds of thriving were much greater if you were a girl, so we ordered an ultrasound and found out you were a She. It was still a surprise, just a little bit earlier than normal for us.

The next seven weeks were some of the hardest in my life. I'm sure it is only because of the strength God provided and the kindnesses offered by many that got us through. Because I was completely unable to do anything beyond laying on my side, your Grandpa very generously offered to come stay and take care of me. Charis and Judah went to stay with Yia-yia, and they'd come by for occasional visits and weekends home. It was a particular time of misery and solitude, of loneliness and longing to hold you and your brother and sister, and Trinie, my midwife, warned me against holding it against you.

I never even conceived of holding it against you.

It's not your fault that my body struggled to fight off infection after infection in those weeks, not your fault that we were in and out of the hospital with false labor more times than I could count. Our separation as a family had nothing to do with you--I will blame my own weirdo body for that. You were mercifully spared, amazingly and miraculously kept safe in the womb until the perfect time had arrived.

I was in the bathtub when I began having contractions, one year ago tonight. I spent a lot of time in the bathtub in those final weeks--it was the only place I truly felt comfortable. My water had broken, though I did not realize it at the time, being in the tub and all. I was hesitant to wake your dad and drag him to the hospital for yet another of my false alarms, but I timed my contractions, and they were getting closer, and more importantly, they were getting harder. I knew it was really time.

Dad and I scurried to the hospital. Auntie Beth came, too. With Charis and Judah, I delivered drug-free; with you, I couldn't bear the thought. I didn't honestly think I had that kind of strength in me after all of those painful, sleepless weeks. So they gave me some very powerful drugs that made your delivery a dream--it truly was wonderful. And when it was over, and they handed me your tiny, squirmy, healthy body, all I could do was weep and say over and over again, "I'm so glad you're here! I'm so glad you're here!"

Ruby Belle, if I had to do it all over again to end up with a prize like you, I'd do it--a thousand times over. You are absolutely worth it. You are such a delight to me, such a mild-mannered, pleasant peanut of a girl, and now that you've been here a year, I cannot imagine a life without you. You make my heart leap when I see you after a long absence. Cuddling with you will turn any dreary day sunny. Your constant smile and cheerful giggle are high points of any day. In times like this, when I really allow myself to think about how very much I love you, I think my heart will shatter into a thousand pieces for the weight of it. Like all of my children, you are my very heart embodied, and in a way that you will only understand when you are a parent, the amount of love I feel for you is at times terrifying; if I lost you, I just don't know what I'd do.

When you started crying tonight, the irony of my being up on the eve of your birthday was not lost on me. It was just a chance to reflect on that night one year ago, and on what we went through to bring you into this world safely, a chance to think about how in one way, we earned you, but in a much more overwhelming way, we didn't earn you, and don't deserve you. You are one of the three most precious gifts God has benevolently given to us, and this one year with you has only made us hungry for more. Even after you had stopped crying tonight, I just kept holding you and rocking you, remembering holding you and rocking you almost precisely one year ago. On both occasions, I cried.

Happy 1st Birthday, Ruby Belle. Thanks for waking me up tonight to let me ponder you.

I love you!

16 June 2009

Happy Birthday, Charis!

Dear Charis,

Today, we celebrated your fifth birthday. FIFTH! How on earth can this be? Just yesterday, we brought home all six pounds, three ounces of you. Today, you're 38 pounds of energy and laughter, a delight to everyone who knows you (and even a lot of people you don't).

Yesterday, I asked you if you'd like to go to the park today for a pizza picnic, just for something special to do. "Yes," you replied, "but can I bring all of my friends?" So today at noon, we went to the park and had pizza, chips, cake, ice cream, and pop (enjoy the junk--and don't get used to it!) and you and your friends ran around until you dropped. Katie and Travis were there, and so were Gideon and Elise, Lizzie and Daniel, Emily, and Katie, Alyssa, and Emily G. You've got a lot of "favorite" friends for a 5 year old, but that's part of what makes you YOU. You are extremely social and friendly, and almost always sweet and kind. Even when you were very small, you were outgoing and fun, and time has not diminished that one bit.

You're also unafraid to try new things. When I was a little girl, new things terrified me--it was years before I learned to ride a bike or play kickball, years when I missed out on the fun. You, on the other hand, are pretty fearless. When I asked you what gifts you'd like to receive for your birthday, you named only one item. I asked again and again, for weeks, certain that you'd change your mind, but the answer remained the same: "All I want is a pogo stick." A pogo stick? Really? But that's part of what makes you YOU. Hopping around precariously appeals to you. Trying new and potentially dangerous things sounds good to you. You're not afraid to fail, and I love that about you. I know that you will accomplish fantastic things because of that.

You're curious. Today, before your party, we went to "Little Sneezers" (as you call it) to pick up a few pizzas for your party. When we pulled in, you announced, "We're at the renstraunt! Can you say that, Judah? You say 'Ren-straunt.'" "Actually," I said, "it's pronounced 'REST-raunt." You cocked your head to the side, and squinting, asked, "Why is it REST? Why do they want you to REST?" This is part of what makes you YOU. You want to know why, to understand everything about everything.

You're a great sister. Ruby is crawling fast these days, and we don't always have all of the safety gates up that we need. Not only will you alert me when she is crawling toward dangerous territory, you'll also snatch her up as if she's a tiny kitten and scurry her away to a safer place. In a similar way, you're a little mother to Judah when you think he needs it. He does not always agree that he needs it, but you are willing to look out for him just the same. And this is part of what makes you YOU; your family is very important to you, and you will always do your best to make sure they are well looked after.

You really are sweet. Today, after our family-only party, you approached Auntie Moriah and thanked her specifically for the bracelet and hair clips she gave to you. And the funny thing was that this isn't strange behavior for you; it is totally like you to thank me for making you a piece of toast or to thank Judah for sharing a handful of cereal with you. THis is a very YOU part of you; you're a kind girl, and I pray that that will always be the case.

This fall, you will begin school. While a part of me will mourn your absence during the day (I get that from your Grandpa), another part of me (the part I got from Grandma) is totally excited for this new phase in your life. I have no doubt that you will love the learning, the activity, the creativity, and the social interaction you'll find in your kindergarten class. So while I'll be a bit jealous that these other people will get to spend so much quality time with you during the day, another part of me thinks Lucky them. They will get to know an outgoing, fun, curious, kind and sweet girl, the YOU that I have cherished for five years now.

Happy Birthday, baby girl. You are the best firstborn I can imagine. I love you!

20 May 2009

An Important Time In Every Child's Life

Today, as the kids and I were outside trying to determine if our garden is sprouting anything other than weeds, I heard the familiar chimes of the ice cream man. And, like any kid-at-heart would do, I went running.

Growing up in Cleveland, we heard a lot of the ice cream man. In Old Brooklyn, the section of Cleveland where I grew up, the streets are narrow and grid-like, packed full of tiny post-war era houses, and sounds carry with ease. Ice cream truck music ("Do your ears hang low/Do they wobble to and fro/Can you tie them in a knot/Can you tie them in a bow...") was largely the soundtrack to my childhood. I grew up on a main street, though, where ice cream trucks won't stop for you no matter how desperate you look. So if we wanted to partake, we had to grab money (often kept strategically near the door) and sprint around the block to the side streets. But, oh, the orange push-ups that awaited at the end of the jog, with their cool polka dot tubes and plastic sticks. And oh, the bomb pops. And the sno-cones. And the memories.

Fast forward to my college years, when my dear friend Stephanie moved to Chicago for a summer to drive an ice cream truck. I went to visit her on the weekend of my 21st birthday and spent a day riding around with her. I was in heaven, except for the incessant plinking of the ice cream tunes, whose repetitive melodies lodged themselves in my head for weeks. I reorganized the freezer. I listened to the order and tried to gather the goodies as quickly as I could. I marveled at the newfangled novelties: Choco Tacos. Lemon Sharks. Chipwiches. Stephanie knew all the best places to go; namely, places populated densely with people, places like apartment complexes and baseball fields. Side streets aren't super profitable--to much area to cover, not enough patrons. Sidelines at soccer games, on the other hand, with their throngs of indulgent parents and hungry kids, are perfect. I loved riding in that truck with her--I felt like I was looking behind the curtain at the Wizard of Oz, and it wasn't just some short guy in a costume. It was an actual Wizard.

These days, we live on 2.5 acres, on a road that is not a part of a neighborhood. I never even considered it a possibility that the ice cream man might venture our way. We've lived here almost 6 years, and I don't think I've ever heard an ice cream truck before. So today, when I heard the gentle strains of the music, I grabbed money and ran for the street, yelling for my kids to COME HERE! FAST!! HURRY!!! Who knows when this opportunity might present itself again? And I have such fond memories of the ice cream truck, I wanted to give my kids those memories, too.

While we had a long talk about how it is inappropriate to run towards the street unless mom is telling you to do it, we tucked into our frozen treats. We each selected sno-cones. They were $2.50 EACH. I then explained to the kids this was a once-in-a-great-while treat, on account of the second mortgage we'd have to get to pay for our FROZEN WATER. On a side note, the man driving the truck had to use a calculator to total our tab ($2.50 x 3) AND ALSO to make change from the $10 I gave him. I'm no math whiz myself, but that's pretty bad.

Anyway. I didn't have the forethought to grab my camera along with the cash in my dash for the street, but I did capture these photos shortly thereafter. Duly documented.

Mmmmm. Memories like this taste good.

16 May 2009

Is It Too Much to Ask, Really?

Is a good family picture too much to ask?

Apparently so.

Congratulations to Shaun and Emily! What a lovely wedding. Thanks for making my husband wear a tux! And kids, when you look back on these pictures, just remember: WE TRIED.

15 May 2009

Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dancer

Today, I've been in the kitchen finishing up my baking duties for Shaun and Emily's wedding tomorrow. Yesterday, I did three loaves of Pumpkin bread, early this morning, I did two loaves of Zucchini bread, and I just put a Lemon Pound Cake into the oven. Let me just say that the Lemon thing had better come out tasty, because that sucker was what I like to call LABOR INTENSIVE. Jeesh. Zest the lemons. Rub the zest into the caster sugar. Supreme the lemons. Soak the eggs in hot water for 10 minutes (really?). Anywho, to keep at least one of the kids from getting underfoot, I put in Barbie: 12 Dancing Princesses. Charis was enraptured.

She was enraptured mostly because she so badly wants to take ballet lessons. Last week, I took her to a pre-ballet dance recital to gauge her interest, and it turns out her interest is high. Two highlights for me were: A) When two groups of the youngest girls filed onstage and promptly got confused. Charis noticed that they were all mixed up, and spoke up about it: "MAMA, THOSE GIRLS HAVE GOT TO STAY WITH THEIR TEAMS!" You probably can't tell we're more about team sports than ballet at our house. B) When the littlest girls were doing the "Circle Dance." The voice in the song would tell them "circle right," and "circle left," and those instructions had no bearing whatsoever on which directions the girls circled. I CANNOT wait until Charis is a part of this.

Anyway, when I came into the living room to check up on her midway through the ARDUOUS CAKE PROCESS, I caught her gracefully twirling and spinning (are those the same things?). I reached for my camera, but she got shy all of a sudden (Charis? Shy?) and wouldn't let me. So this fall, she'll be joining other 5-year-olds in learning how to circle left and stay with their teams. Should make for some good video! Hopefully, she'll let me take pictures of her then in her frilly "uniform."

(Ballet. What has my life come to?)

06 May 2009

The Ruby Belle Diet

This has been the week of the Pediatrician--we had both Ruby's (better late than never) 9-month well-baby appointment and Charis' getting-ready-for-Kindergarten appointment. Charis' appointment was fairly uneventful. Her hearing is fine, her vision is fine, she didn't appreciate getting the shots, and apart from the fact that she was traumatized by the idea of having to pee in a cup (and, I guess, by the shots themselves), it was a relatively painless appointment. She got free markers, bubbles, animal crackers, and a juice box. And a book! She pretty much wants to go back tomorrow.

Ruby also had shots (not a fan), and developmentally, she's right on track. She even got bonus points for her aptitude with the M sound, and her plugged tear duct is a thing of the past. Way to go, Roo! However, while she has been gaining weight, her weight percentile has been declining. This puzzled me--the girl eats like a horse. Seriously, people are shocked at the amount of food she can fit in her little belly. But the kicker is that I've apparently been feeding her food that is too "healthy." Poor girl isn't getting enough fat and calories. Her deadbeat mom gives her too many veggies. Now, wouldn't that be the best doctor's appointment ever?

"Well, ma'am, your health looks fine. But I'm a little concerned about your weight."

"My weight?"

"Yes. It's far too low. You don't have nearly enough fat and calories in your diet. I'm going to suggest that you lay off of the green beans and oatmeal, and add multiple daily doses of cheese, butter, pancakes with syrup, full-fat yogurt..."

Poor Roo. So, for the past four days or so, I've had to "fortify" her food with powdered formula, and she did literally have pancakes with butter and syrup for breakfast yesterday. She also gets expensive YoBaby yogurt (Try to find full-fat yogurt. I dare you.) and avocadoes, along with actual grown-up cheese. I've also tried full-fat cottage cheese with applesauce, cheesy hashbrown casserole, and I broke down and bought baby food--jars of "dinners" with meat in them. She liked the chicken and Vegetables, but did NOT appreciate the Turkey and Gravy. I don't even think we're going to attempt the Ham and Ham Gravy.

(However, at about 12:30 that night, I heard the unmistakeable sound of a baby jar being knocked to the floor. Muirne had herself a nice Stage 2 snack. Licked the bottle clean.)

We're scheduled to go back in about a month to have her weighed. At her appointment this week, she was 17 lbs., 1 oz. My goal for her is 30 pounds by May 29th.

Oh, I kid.

But since I'm eating sympathetically fatty foods, there is a chance I'll have gained 30 pounds by May 29th.

p.s. I should add that Judah and Charis refer to the canister of formula as "The Fat," as in, "Can I scoop The Fat into her food?" And when Uncle Tim came over to watch the kids yesterday, Charis assured me she'd show Uncle Tim where the "Fat and Calories" were when Ruby got hungry.

28 April 2009

Charis' Excellent Adventure

My baby girl. It seems minutes ago we were figuring out a feeding schedule for her, watching her learn to walk, and changing her diapers. Somehow, in the blink of an eye, she has grown into a pretty self-sufficient kid who feeds herself, runs around at warp speed, and fetches diapers for her baby sister. And who is on the cusp of beginning school.

This first picture was taken from the drivers' seat (duh) while we sat at Sonic and waited for our treats after Charis' Kindergarten screening. I was so proud of her, I even let her get a toy. Here's how it all went down. That morning, we dropped my aunt off at the airport. She had been visiting with us for a week, and the kids were wired with excitement to be able to see the baggage return belts and climb on the airport chairs again. Charis, in particular, was everywhere, completely ignoring all of my instructions and admonitions and running amok. I was already a nervous wreck thinking about her testing, and not sure how she'd do; though I've tried to prepare her well and give her plenty of opportunities to grow socially, emotionally, and intellectually, we didn't send her to a formal preschool, and I was afraid that would be to her detriment when it came time to be tested. Seeing Charis running wild, my aunt suggested I have a talk with her about how important it was to follow her teacher's instructions and obey. I assured her we'd have a long, long chat about that on the way there.

I dropped off Judah and Ruby at a friend's house, and Charis and I headed over to the school. On the whole ride there, I was trying to quiz her and prepare her for the evaluation. The only problem was that I myself didn't know what to expect from it. Charis has a knack for knowing when you're trying to elicit information from her, and loves to thwart your efforts; she'll do things like insert an L into her numbers when counting or toss a 7 into her alphabet, just to be funny and to give me gray hair. So we talked long and hard about obedience and cooperation, and about how it was a day to show the teachers how very smart she is. "No being funny, Charis. This is serious, and you have to answer all of their questions as best you can," I said. We arrived a few minutes early, prayed, and marched into the school.

She's so confident, is the thing. In my personal opinion, she's brilliant and charming and funny and beautiful, and I can't imagine a world where she wouldn't be invited into Kindergarten with open arms. But I am her mother, and so I realize I have a certain bias and that professional educators might want to put my still-four-year-old, who will just have turned five this summer, into the Young Fives program to give her a chance to mature a little more. I tried to give myself the pep talk wherein I convince myself that admission into the Young Fives program is not tantamount to parental failure (because it really isn't), and handed her over to the teachers for the evaluation.

Several people have asked me about what sorts of things they asked her or required her to do, and the real answer is that I do not know. There were six tables set up: four tables were occupied by the teachers doing the screening, and two tables were activity tables for the children who were waiting to be screened. Then there was a semi-circle of chairs set up for the parents--all of of whom looked terrified. We were given a packet of information and a checklist to fill out with our child's abilities and told to wait there while our kids were being tested. I fruitlessly strained to hear what was going on at the teachers' tables. Charis had a few minutes to wait between teachers, during which I tried to ascertain what they'd asked of her. Mostly she said things like, "Don't worry, mom. It was really easy."

And just like that, it was over. "Is that it?" I asked.

"That's it," they answered.

Charis beamed. "Mom, I didn't even say anything funny! I did a good job!"

I glanced at the folders, a pile of which was sitting on one of the tables. I noted that Charis had comparitively high-ish scores, but I had no idea what the numbers actually meant, so it was little consolation. I knew we'd be notified by mail what decision they'd reached, so my anxiety didn't subside for a while. Treats at Sonic helped, as did some one-on-one time with Charis where I realized that it really didn't matter a whole lot whether she was assigned to Young Fives or regular (all day! everyday!) Kindergarten, because she's a happy, well-adjusted kid who will bloom well wherever she's planted. (All the same, I was glad to learn, two days later, that she'd been accepted into the Kindergarten program. I'm still human.)

Twelve minutes ago, she was a little spitting up, diaper-clad, rice cereal-faced bundle of joy. Four minutes ago, she was a walking, potty training toddler. And tomorrow, she'll be off to Kindergarten. Just like that. But she'll always be my baby girl.