Life with Kids

Star Spangled Innocence

I grew up a die-hard patriot. Be true to the red, white and blue. Let freedom ring. Be all that you can be. God bless America!

I maintained a relatively untarnished view of our country through Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. Hostages. Inflation. Gulf War. Stain on a Dress.

September 11 found me riding the wave of refreshed national pride like most every other American. Bound by fear and anger and revulsion, United We Stood, singing Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA.

I liked the optimistic buoyancy of my youthful patriotism, and it still seems best to infuse my two daughters with it. As we decorated scooters yesterday, I thought of this, but still, even as opportunities arose to explain about national pride and history, I let them slide by. Sometimes it’s really really hard to love your country. This has been one of those times.

I need not have worried. Some things come with childhood–innocence, joy, believing in the good in things, and patriotism for patriotism’s sake. Today Elizabeth found a forgotten flag under a chair and said, “Mama, this one fell off my scooter!”

I told her, “No, it’s an extra. You can keep it.”

She ran to the front door and struggled to unlock it.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I have to see if it still waves!”

“Waves?” I asked her, opening the door.

“Yes! Over the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

I watched her, standing framed by the entry and looking out in the street, holding up her flag to the blinding light of the noonday sun, the day after North Korea tested its long-range missiles, notably long enough to reach the US, on a national holiday, just to be provocative.

She doesn’t need to know that, not yet. Nor of her enemies, enemies of the state, who plan their terror or their futures as players in an international stage for power.

She just needs to know where she’s from, that it can get better, and no matter the problem, we can get rid of it in about four years because that is how democracy works. How America works.

The Great Parade Competition

This Fourth of July, as we have since the girls were born, we gussied up some mode of kiddie transportation and traversed the route for the neighborhood holiday parade.

In some years, the competition between moms has been fierce for high-profile prizes such as Best Decorated Stroller, Most Colorful Bicycle, and Most Patriotic Wagon. Some years we have won (BDS 2003); others we’ve suffered the agony of defeat.

My best friend and nemesis, Stephanie, usually takes multiple prizes and this year was no exception. She snagged MCB and also the tricycle category, although we think a toddler with a bow-bedecked trike got robbed as Steph’s daughter’s “tricycle” was actually a bike with big training wheels. We would have demanded a recount, hanging chads and all. But it was clearly a liberal ballot.

During the parade this year, the girls rode scooters, an edgy category as the slender frame of this mode of transport does not provide much room for creativity. We did the best we could with flag and ribbon. I think the coup de grace, however, was Emily shedding her unflagging tomboyishness and donning a skirt my mom made for me in the 1976 Bi-centennial. The 30 year old outfit attracts attention with its red, white, and blue panels and trim.

Emily wanted to dash ahead and exploit the long smooth street leading up to the Country Club with daring speed. Elizabeth lagged behind with her dad about a quarter mile back. I lamented the loss of the duo, as I felt their matching scooter set was an asset sure to bring in the win, but girls will be girls.

We walked the grounds of the Club, moonjumping and water dunk boothing and eating cookies. We all grew edgy as the band finished their number and the neighborhood president took the mike to announce the winners. This was mainly, however, because Elizabeth demanded a flamingo balloon and we had picked the wrong twister. “Jelly Bean does those,” the clown said, pointing to a woman across the field with a snaking line leading from her table.

“Just make it pink, and fast,” I said. “She won’t know.” We had no time for flamingo hunting at a time like this!

And Elizabeth accepted her pink tangle without question.

We approached the stage and listened to categories. Emily was a bit tense, I noticed. She knew what was happening, and that she might win or lose. I wondered what would happen if one sister won and the other didn’t. I closed my eyes, sweat dripping between my shoulder blades. Howling, no doubt, would be involved.

“And we have two sisters taking the scooter category!” the man said. “Emily and Elizabeth!”

What were the odds of that? They must have been chosen separately, and when the entry numbers compared to names, decided they should share the prize. The girls headed up to the bandstand without prodding and accepted their prizes.

There must have been a parent on that judging panel who understood sibling rivalry. Thank God for that.

Have a good holiday, everyone.

Dancer Babe

I haven’t done a mommy blog in a while, all caught up in the novel stuff.

In the meantime, my little one had a recital!

The girls all dressed in their feathery flapper duds and did a ballet number to “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.”

I have some behind the scenes footage as I was the “stage mom” and stayed backstage with the girls rather than actually see the performance.

Elizabeth did great! She sang loud and didn’t get mad and push anybody over, which if I have forced you to watch some of the rehearsal videos I took, happened regularly!

And Emily is recovering well from her teeth incident. Lip swelling down. Tooth fairy did right by her.

Mother’s Daze

To kick off the Mother’s Day weekend, Elizabeth’s preschool class held a brunch for the moms. We all sat, perhaps 12 mothers and 3 grands, in the miniature chairs, cracking our knees on low tables. The children were instructed to serve us tea and we all managed to sip at it despite its strength, its oversweetness, an intense artificial lemon flavor.

The kids then lined up at the table of treats with empty plates, to pick out items to offer to mom.

Elizabeth selected a slice of pumpkin bread and three grapes. She brought them slowly and carefully, as all the children did, with exaggerated concentration. A couple kids tripped anyway, their offerings landing on the carpet and scooped up amidst tears. Elizabeth brought hers to me unscathed and plunked it on the table.

I eyed it with trepidation, as orange bread tends to come loaded with ginger, to which I am allergic, but Elizabeth tucked her hands behind her back and watched me with large blue eyes. I knew my duty. I pulled off a piece of the bread and thought, how much ginger could one slice have anyway? It’s probably half artificial as well.

“The bread’s from Great Harvest!” the teacher called over the heads of the kids.

Great, I thought. All natural and probably fresh ginger. I snatched a grape, hoping to avoid anymore of the bread.

“Mama! You’re not eating your bread!” Elizabeth said. “Don’t you like it? I got it just for you!”

I pulled another bite from the slice. Why hadn’t she picked the chocolate cookies, like the other children? The lemon bars? The marble cake?

“I like pumpkin bread,” she said.

Solution! “Here, I’ll share with you,” I said, sliding the plate closer to her. She picked up the slice and broke off a large chunk.

“Children!” the teacher called. “Time to go in the hall and practice our play!”

“Here mama, eat it fast!” She shoved the other half of the slice at me.


“Fast, Mama!”

“Okay.” I ate a large bite again and, in another role reversal for the day, hid the rest in my napkin like the kids often did when we served vegetables.

She scampered out with her class.

I chatted with a few mothers nearby, some of them still commenting on the Princess party. The familiar dizziness began then, and I drank the rest of my tea quickly to dilute the bread. The kids marched in and I leaned my elbow on the table. It would pass quickly, as little ginger as it had to be. I never get sick or anything, just a dizziness that would progress to feeling faint if I ingested too much.

The kids sang songs with motions and did a little cheer, “Two four six eight, who do we appreciate, mom, mom MOM!”

I felt somewhat better by the time it was done. Elizabeth asked me to play with her and I gladly sat on the floor by the doll houses. This was easier to manage than perching on a chair while the world spun. I watched as all the serving shifted back to the mothers, fetching apple juice and snacks for their kids, who clearly felt they had done enough for dear old mom.

We played until all the other mothers had left and I was well enough to walk without looking half drunk.

Happy Mom’s Day to all my mom friends!

Party Fit for a Princess

It’s over.

No more castle painting, skirt sewing, bead buying, crown hunting, jello jiggler making, no cakes no RSVPs no flower petals no more princess obsession!

We had 14 little princesses arrive on a rather glorious spring day. The overnight storms blew away and left everything green. The girls stuffed their tutus with flowers and petals and strung their beads. No one lost a crown. They all got roses and had their pictures taken with the castle.

I felt a little strange, immersed as I was in my old life. For those hours, I fit in again. Time drew back, shifted its red curtains, opened with the familiar overture.

But it’s done. And my baby is four!

A Mile and Then Some

Today, despite it being only hours before the big princess party (don’t even ASK how that happened), we ran the Family Mile, one of the races taking place in conjunction with the Health and Fitness Expo, a state-wide effort to get people to exercise.

The mile circled the Capitol Building. As we waited (we being me, the girls, and their dad–he organized this outing), I asked Emily if she wanted to run or walk the mile.

“Run!” she shouted. We looked down at Elizabeth, already jauntily tugging at her non-couture chicken t-shirt advertising the race, and wondered if this was a good idea.

The race started at 10:30 as we chased costumed figures depicting a giant chicken and a blue bear. The first quarter mile was extremely uphill. Eliza did all right for about 200 yards, huffing and shaking her blonde hair, then declared, “I feel the need for a drink of water.”

We assured her water was coming at the end, and I swung her up on my hip and we kept running. We passed some people; others passed us. About halfway through the mile I handed her over to her dad and Emily and I ran together. We decided to run fast and sprinted a good bit, passing all but the first kids who had dashed unencumbered the whole race. We slowed and let Dad and Elizabeth catch up and I carried Elizabeth for the rest of the race. No other parents were carrying their kids and also trying to actually run the race, so about a bazillion pictures were taking of me and my blonde baggage.

Despite lugging a 4-year old for almost the entire length of the race, the four of us finished in under ten minutes, coming in the top quarter. The girls got their medals and a hug from the big chicken, and we went on to the rest of our day.

Coming up: the princess party. Got another RSVP this morning! Nuts! Sewing one more tutu…cutting jello jigglers in the shape of hearts, and finalizing the castle. Whew!

Party Progress

So, my eldest daughter is a tomboy, and wears her hair pulled back and cries if she can’t stay in jeans and tennis shoes. She wanted mini-golf for a birthday and tends to hang with boys. She likes video games and math and to build things, especially elaborate structures from anything she can get her hands on, but mostly walls formed by stretching ropes between furniture and doorknobs, then covered with blankets. She can fill a living room with a “boat” or a “castle.” She likes to make what she calls “contraptions” with various bits of things–legos and rubber bands and hunks of playdough.

So then comes Elizabeth. The fluff of pink. The blonde babe. We all know about her princess-ness. This is culminating in her 4th birthday party, which is this Saturday.

Elizabeth suffers from second child-itis, so all her parties prior to this have been small family affairs, nothing like the crazy kid and clown fests of Emily’s toddlerhood, where balloon twisters, face painters, moonjumps, catered food, and bazillions of invitees ruled the day. (We hadn’t quite worked up to pony rides, but it was in the works. Oh, that and one of the little trains that can be set up to go around your house…)

But those were the old days.

This party is elaborate but primarily labor intensive rather than flashy. Ten little girls, ten pink tutus (still being sewn by mama), ten princess crowns, a whole lotta beads and string for jewelry, and well, the castle. My ex and his dad are both engineers. I knew they could pull off a castle. First I gave them a rough sketch.

They graphed the outline onto two sections of 8 foot plywood and cut it out. They added a hinge to the middle for stability and then hinged on two more sections of plywood for the sides to make it stand.

I came in and began painting, first the outline of the front of the castle, then outlining the towers and peaks to be filled in with other colors. When the base colors dried, I sponged on bricks and other details.

I still hope to add more detail and perspective, perhaps some windows, but for now I have to get back to the tutus. The castle is close enough for now, although we will add vines and flags to it before it goes to the park, a section of my old neighborhood that has a real forest feel.

The party is Saturday, so let’s hope for NO RAIN! (Any anti-rain dances you know, start boogeying.) Then little Eliza gets to be a princess, and I guess that makes me the QUEEN!

Sprout Man

This is what Elizabeth brought from preschool today. Her new best friend. Her prize possession.

She carried it home, tight in her little grip, upset if we made her walk too fast. “I might drop it!” she cried.

Now it’s home.

What the heck do I do with it?

Sunburned and Golf Dazed

Usually I can count on an outdoor April birthday party for my eldest daughter to be risky. Rain. Tornadoes.

Today, unexpected heat.

No one expected to swelter at Peter Pan Mini Golf with 16 kids and 14 grownups. But the day was glorious, we had lots of bottled water, and the party went well. One darling mischief maker sent his golf ball sailing over the fence and into McDonald’s parking lot. But no windshields were involved. Hallelujah.

My baby is seven. My little wriggling squawler who cried 14 hours a day until she was 4 months old, who crawled late and walked early, who colored in the lines at two and still suffers from perfectionist tendencies to the point of not completing her work at times, has her own friends, whispers things I can’t hear to them, and kicks my butt at Frogger. Days like this I’d like to freeze time, but when it hits 86 degrees, I guess nothing much will even stay cold.

I hated to miss Spamarama. Hope you guys who went ingested plenty of canned meat product on my behalf.
Back when I was seven, we ate Spam with Karo syrup.

Thank goodness we do grow up!

Spring Break in Pictures, Part 2

My nephew Eric plays with a resident at the nursing home where my grandparents live.

Elizabeth takes another riding lesson from Aunt Traci.

Emily doesn’t panic, pulling back on the reins to stop Who Dat when he unexpectedly takes off into a gallop across the arena. Aunt Traci is proud. Mama and Emily cry like babies afterward.

Deanna decides that at 35 she’ll start counting backwards, so she celebrates her 34th with niece Holly.

Spring break is over, and now it’s back to the same ol’ same ol’ (thank goodness.)