Life with Kids

Kindergarten Hoopla

So, many of you know that a few weeks ago, after attending a rather chaotic camp for kindergartners, Elizabeth decided she did not want to start school.

It’s been a rough month or so since that camp, each day Elizabeth asking if THIS was the day her horrid parents would send her off to the evil of public school (that she’s loved for two years as part of their preschool program.)

She’s cried. She’s clung. She pouted even when shopping for school clothes, insisting she was NOT going. Meet the teacher day went pretty badly last Friday, both Elizabeth AND Mama bawling as the baby begged not to be sent away.

Fortunately, one of the on-top-of-things moms from the kindergarten class passed out invitations to a little party for the class held on Saturday. We went, of course, and while Elizabeth still didn’t want to talk about kindergarten, she did meet more classmates and had great fun at the party.

Elizabeth woke up in a good mood this morning and happily dressed and arranged her backpack. When we arrived at the school, all the parents were funneled to the cafeteria, where the kids were arranged by grades. Emily had to be sent to the 3rd grade table, even though she was looking a little nervous herself, but immediately squeezed in between friends and was laughing.

Elizabeth watched Emily leave without Mama and Daddy and instantly performed her famous knee clutch. Her dad tickled her to get her loose and I stayed out of grabbing range.

Unlike the older kids, whose parents just sent them on their way, the kindergarten parents would not be thwarted by any “Let the children follow their teacher” business and got in line with their miniature progeny, cameras rolling. Elizabeth remained calm as we walked through the halls.

Once in the room, she looked a little more concerned, but then three miraculous things had happened:

  • Her seat, which had “faced the wrong way,” (one of her newest reasons for not wanting to go to school) was facing the other direction.
  • The boy from camp that concerned her was sitting across the room and far away.
  • Her best friend Sophia was now right across from her.

God bless her teacher. Or God blessed us.

She sat down, started drawing, and looked like the Elizabeth I had expected all along. We hugged her; she pretty much ignored us.

And we left.

All my babies are in school.

NOW Mama can start crying.

High School Musical Mania

Okay, I admit it. I’m in LOOOOOOVE.
Gabriella. Troy. Sharpay. Ryan. All of it!

Yes, I have “High School Musical 2 Premiere” written on my calendar (August. 17!)

And I preordered the sound track for the sequel. $10 on I-tunes, comes with bonus calendar and digital album of images. Whoop!

But best of all, last weekend I went to the theater version of High School Musical at Zach Scott.
The show was wonderful. It took about two scenes to adjust to the difference in characters and feel from the movie, but after that, the live musical cleared up a number of plot and character flubs from the movie (like the mildly creepy Sharpay and Ryan sibling relationship).

And the romance between Gabriella and Troy is considerably less Disney-fied. The basketball “Keep Your Head in the Game” scene is unbelievably choreographed and pulled off. The addition of the school broadcaster to help the audience understand the scene locations (the set itself changes very little) was brilliant.

If you are a fan of the movie and thought there was *some little something* missing–let me assure you, the Zach Scott version does not disappoint!
Overall, the theater version serves up a more cohesive story and a lot more comedy. Both Emily and Elizabeth loved it. But I think I enjoyed it the most, leaving the theater feeling very excited and upbeat!
So go see if it you can! And don’t call me on Aug. 17 (unless you’re coming over to watch HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2!)

With my kids!

I can’t wait!

Couldn’t Resist

Ever since I showed Elizabeth a YouTube clip of Shirley Temple performing “Good Ship Lollipop,” which is her recital song for ballet class, Elizabeth has been star struck. We have gorged on Shirley Temple, and I find it amusing when my little diva starts imitating her.

I’ll enjoy these days, because very soon it will be pop idols like Britney Spears she emulates.
This is her recital costume. They are only little such a short time!

Snow Day!

Today we got snow! This is only the second time in Emily’s life she’s seen it, and Elizabeth was only a baby then.
We’ll go out again later in the day as it accumulates. Elizabeth wore her “snowman” clothes in anticipation of building the big guy. Let’s hope if we manage to get there, she doesn’t think it will sing and dance and say “Happy Birthday!”
I may be snow-bound another day or two even. Sigh.

I hope everyone else is having fun in the wintry weather.

Christmas Highlights

So, the last post hit the low points, here’s a happier post about my favorite moments this holiday.

Trail of Lights.

Always a fun tradition, we had a cool but not cold night to run around and see the sights in Zilker park and spin under the tree.

Santa Visit.

Emily tested our mettle this year by refusing to divulge any of her requests to the Big Man in Red. Of course, she also mailed her letter to the North Pole. And we made sure Santa got it. But when we saw the head gift guy himself at Barton Creek Mall, we got that picture perfect moment every parents dreams of–perfect behavior, the right clothes, and all parties involved still whole heartedly (even if cautiously testing it) believing in Santa Claus. It’s probably our last year of innocence.

New Car.

Even though my friends mostly dissed the PT Cruiser, I bought one anyway. The kids love it–that’s their little heads poking out the sunroof–and we’ve been dashing all over town in it since last Wednesday. I’m having fun with it, especially with my new little Ipod Shuffle that plugs right into the dash!

The girls are in toy heaven and I’ve spent a couple days working on the new novel and completing little projects left neglected since the Christmas portrait season started.

Merry Christmas to all of you–and see you when I’m back just in time for the New Year!

Trick or Drinkin’

This was, hands down, one of the best Halloweens I have had since I was a kid.

I spent much of the day preparing for NaNo, creating an outline and organizing my notecards. Then I picked up the girls and we got all costumed up and met other little Westlake kids to trick or treat in the neighborhood. I had not done this for several years, letting their dad take them. But this year he wanted me to do it, so I packed up my little Belle and Harry Potter’s friend Hermione and headed over to the meeting place.

The moms were emptying a bottle of wine into plastic cups. “Here’s yours!” they called merrily and outfitted me with a good 12 oz glass. “This should get us around the block then we’ll call for reinforcements to run us out another bottle!”

We lined the kids up for a group picture then began walking the block. All the parents waited at the ends of the long walkways as the kids climbed endless steps in the hilly neighborhood. Everyone sported wine or beer or opaque cups with sippin’ straws. One of the women who opened the door glanced up at us. “I see you all are trick or drinkin’!” she called. We toasted her with our white cups and rounded up the kids to push along to the next manicured lawn.

The streets were mobbed and kids called out to each other in every direction. Here everyone knew everyone else. I had forgotten the camaraderie–the genteel sheen glossing every conversation. We did have fun.

After the girls complained their loot had gotten too heavy, I whisked them back to their father to prepare for the kickoff for National Novel Writing Month.

I missed kick off by some three minutes, but settled down and spun out my first two thousand words of the miscarriage novel. I have posted them to the novel blog. I discovered some of the women in other time zones were actually counting down the minutes until I started writing the book! This will be way fun, even though the book will be an undeniably heavy read. It’s only been 12 hours since I posted the first chapter, and 200 people have already surfed over to read it. I have SO got to sell this sucker! They are counting on me!

I worked at Katz’s until 2:30 a.m. and then got my blog updated as well as other minutiae until 4 a.m.

A most extraordinary day! Good luck to all my fellow wrimo friends!

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Proud Mama of a Big Brave Rock Climber

I blog so often about little Elizabeth, as she is the diva and the attention grabber of my pair, but two weekends ago, seven-year-old Emily and I went on a mother-daughter camping trip.

Much of the activities were a bit scary even for a second grader–jumping off a huge dock onto a giant inflated raft called the “blob” about the size of an 18-wheeler, swinging off a 50-foot rope into the lake, and even the archery was a bit hard to manage for the girls.

But in one of the sports that sent almost all the girls into paroxysms of fear, Emily kicked some tail–rock climbing.

The camp had set up a rock wall that was a good two stories high. Most of the girls put on the harness and gave it a try, but few got beyond the reach of their mothers. I could see the difficulty, even with the harness you had to both cling to the rocks with your hands and push up on others with your feet while at an angle that felt like you were falling. Many tears were shed; many panicked kids begged to be brought down.

Emily was the third to the last to go. I was a little anxious, as only three girls out of the 15 had managed the climb even partway and only two had reached the buzzer. Emily watched her best friends come right down after going a mere three feet up, but she seemed loose and ready.

I shouldn’t have worried. She no more had her legs in the harness when she began scaling the wall rapidly and methodically, looking up for the next handhold and never glancing at the ground until she pushed the buzzer. When it came time to slide down the rope, she shoved away from the wall and sped down the line so fast even I felt a flutter of panic.

But then she waited her turn and did it again.

That’s my girl!

I Have Been Phantomed!

Yesterday, on the front porch of the house where my kids live, we discovered a white bag covered in Halloween stickers. Inside were Halloween toys, skull pens, Pez, candy, and a note that read:

You have been phantomed!

You must phantom 2 other families!

Here are the rules:

1. Make 2 copies of The Phantom and rules.
2. Hang The Phantom you received in your front window to display that you have been phantomed. Once you have been phantomed, you cannot be phantomed again.
3. Within 48 hours you must phantom 2 other families with a set of rules, a picture of phantom (ghost), and some treats (treats may be cookies, candy, or something that you think the family would like.)
4. Phantoming stops Halloween night!


Normally, I do not like chain letters. I especially hate the ones that warn of dire consequences if you break the chain.

But I like this. It’s easy enough. Make two bags for Halloween and deliver them. No nastiness about breaking the chain. And it’s finite–a clear end-date.

Yesterday Emily and Elizabeth and I picked out treats for the other families. We delivered them easily and ran around looking at windows but didn’t find any others who had been phantomed. I have no idea who started it, or who picked us, but it’s a great idea, and I encourage you to do it too. Emily and Elizabeth had a blast!

Hopelessly in Happy

Okay. So blogs tend to be bottom-heavy. We dump things in them. Snarky observations. Bad days. Laments. Link-shock.

Not today. I am going to take a few minutes to say–whoa, it’s been a good day. Very good day. Yes, it’s only noon. Things can take a dive at any moment–but all is well in Deanna-ville.

Babysat for my friend Stephanie and the girls had a blast with her (see image one in the ball pond.) Stephanie arrived back to collect the baby just before my photo appointment showed. The girls stayed quietly downstairs and played while I did the sitting.

The mom almost cried at the images. Her daughter had never smiled in a picture before. She asked just “how big” could she order one.

Now I’m free to chat with friends, play with girls, and learn new web site software. I have to put up a site from our scooter tour of Austin yesterday–which involved the Hike & Bike Trail, visiting Stevie’s statue, the pedestrian bridge over town lake, City Hall, the Governor’s Mansion, Whole Foods, and of course, Zilker park for snow cones and play. This mirrors our “red wagon” tour last year where we hit all the highlights of Austin in one day–Capitol, Congress, UT, Mount Bonnell. I want my girls to love their hometown. So far, they do.

Yep. It’s all good.

Popcorn Summer

This has been the summer of the movie. The girls saw the requisite new releases, Over the Hedge and Cars. We also saw lots of kid film festival reruns–Wallace and Gromit, March of the Penguins, Shrek, Nanny McPhee, Jimmy Neutron, and many more. We took in at least one movie a week, sometimes two. Slipping out of the triple digit heat and into the air conditioned world of cinema has been our favorite retreat now that both girls are old enough to sit still.

This week definitely got off schedule. Our pick for Tuesday, Curious George, got filled up and we were sent to Cheaper by the Dozen 2. Five minutes from the end, the screen filled with an image of melting celluloid and the movie stopped. We didn’t get to see the rest.

Today we headed out early to ensure a seat. Realizing the overwhelming popularity of the inquisitive monkey, Regal Westgate added a second screen. We found a seat easily and the girls laughed more than at any movie this summer. The little jungle ape was infectiously cute. As the credits came up, Elizabeth, the younger, slapped her hands against the red armrest and said, “Well that’s it. Summer’s last movie!” She hopped up and we followed her through the crowd out into the hall.

Cheaper by the Dozen 2 had not let out yet. “Should we sneak in and see the end?” I asked Emily. She nodded. We slipped into the theater and stood by the wall. The scenes splashing across the screen were only seconds before the point it had cut off on Tuesday.

Now, I’ll admit, I’m a sap. I don’t think we’ve watched a summer movie yet that didn’t make me cry. But the end to Cheaper 2–Good Lord. I’m bawling. Steve Martin gets his first grandchild, the big speech about perfect parents not exisiting, but many greats ones. The last summer at Lake Winetka and the first baby. It’s too much.

We walk out of the cold and into the hot sun. Both girls take a hand as we cross the busy parking lot, leaving behind the smell of popcorn for the hazy heat of asphalt crisscrossed with fading yellow stripes. I realize that so many of their firsts are behind them–first baths, first tooth, first steps, first day of school. We have more to go, surely, but at what point does the seesaw tip the other way, when you have more lasts than firsts? When does a parent look at a child and realize–they’ve grown up. They’re leaving. They’re leading their own lives.

We got to the car and Emily kept my hand even though little Elizabeth dropped hers and leaned against the car with an exhausted sigh. “Mama?” Emily said. “Didn’t we get just a little more summer movie? We thought we were done but we got just a little bit more.”

I held her still, hoping to imprint the way such a small hand feels in my bigger, not quite yet old one. “That’s right, Emily. We did.”

Emily whistled in her self conscious way, knowing she’d made some symbolic point–bonus for proving Elizabeth wrong. How often do we get one last little taste of something that is ending? It’s like the son coming back out the airport tunnel for one more quick hug. Or the unexpected chance to stop back by your grandparents’ house before it is sold, months after they leave it empty.

A movie isn’t a death. A snippet of a story isn’t the return of lost time. But sometimes little things remind you of big ones–that everything about our lives is finite, mommies only get so long to hold their children in their lap, and that popcorn summers all too quickly give way to school days, education, maturity, and the empty nest.