Friday, July 29, 2011

First Impressions

Here in my Georgia county, school is starting in a mere 12 days, 17 hours, and 42 minutes - give or take a few on the minutes. I doubt anyone is shocked by my attention to detail. I suspect that 90% of the mommies out there are counting down the hours to that first, official day of school - and that the remaining 10% who say they aren't are lying.

But while I'm excited to be settled back down into the routine of a school year, I'm pretty nervous about the girls' first day in a new school. After all, our family isn't exactly known for making the best first impressions. Just a few short years ago, I was trying to get Emily and Evie enrolled in a local pre-school program. Ella was already a student there, and most of the teachers knew our situation - that I had a three-year old, 2 two-year olds, and a new baby. I was desperate to secure spots for two kids in a program notorious for its long waiting list.

As I stood in the school hallway pleading my case to the pre-school director, Ella dragged her baby brother up and down the carpeted hall in an attempt to keep the kid who couldn't crawl yet "out of trouble." Although she had the 5-month old by his feet, I was actually more distracted by Evie whining at me for a treat. As the director turned to bribe Evie with a handful of M&M's, I glanced over at Emily, who had a finger half way up her nose. Before I could react, she walked over to the director with an offering. "Here," she said, handing Ms. J the booger.

Honestly, I'm still shocked we ever got the twins into Ms. J's program, but one week before school started, I got the call that they were accepted. I didn't think the girls had made a particularly good first impression, but thought perhaps the director was used to such things. Or she felt sorry for me. Or she was so scarred by the experience that she had completely blocked Emily's little "gift" from her mind. Whatever her reason, I was delighted to send my three girls to school that first day.

The girls, however, were not so delighted. As I pulled up to the front of the carpool line to unload my kids, the twins started shrieking. I have no idea what set them off, but they were clearly not about to get out of the van. Quicker than I would've thought possible, they launched themselves over the back seat and into the trunk. Ella, who was already unloading from the car, waved over her shoulder and shouted a goodbye. The teachers assisting with carpool just stood there with their mouths hanging open while Emily and Evie clung to each other in the trunk of the car and screamed.

I stammered out something to the effect of, "Um, let me just pull up a little ways," drove my car forward, and put it in park. With the rest of the carpool parents looking on, I opened my trunk and pried two sobbing children out of the back while trying to calm them with things like, "You're going to have such a good time at school with your teacher Ms. N!" I doubt the other parents - whose kids were also enrolled with Ms. N - were feeling as confident after observing the two newest class additions.

Still, I worked very hard to overcome those rocky first impressions, and I feel like these last few years of pre-school could be termed a success for our family. Ty is even going to be in Ms. N's class this year - despite his reputation as the Terror of the Two-Year Olds. However, Ella and her sisters are moving on to public school to begin 1st Grade and Kindergarten, and I feel like I'm starting all over again - and sadly, I'm already behind the 8-Ball.

It turns out that there is a Kindergarten "Round-Up" the spring before the rising kindergartners actually start school. I did not know that - until the day before Round-Up. I was way behind on laundry and ended up dressing the twins in a couple of old t-shirts and some jean shorts. While I was fixing Emily's hair, Evie wandered into the bathroom with blue marker all over her mouth and shirt... PERMANENT blue marker. Already late, she had to go as is - marker and all.

While signing the girls in for their classroom tour, one of the teacher aides said, "Aw, you have twins! My goodness, how do you tell them apart?"

"Well, Evie has a little birthmark by her left eye."

"Which one is she?

"The blue one."



I'm not giving up hope, though, that we can make a decent first impression when the school year starts. For one thing, what are the chances that a teacher's aide will remember one blue-faced child amidst a sea of new kindergartners? Better yet, the girls will be riding the bus this year. The last time I checked, buses don't have trunks.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Can I Get on Some Sort of Payment Plan?

2 adorable orange kittens delivered to the children on Christmas morning?


7 months' supply of wet food, dry food, and kitty litter for the adorable orange kittens?


Replacing the kitchen faucet after a freak accident caused by one of the adorable orange kittens?


Emergency surgery after one of the adorable orange kittens ate a piece of string so long the surgeon had to follow it down the length of her digestive tract - tongue to bum?


Eating the words, "Honey I think we should get the kids these adorable orange kittens for Christmas. They won't cost us a thing!"?


Pretty sure I'll be paying for those the rest of my life!!!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More Trials, More Tribulations

It's been thirty days since I wrote this post, documenting a complete inability to potty train my son. Thirty days of wet pants. Thirty days of extra laundry. Thirty days of abused rugs. Thirty days of tears - a few of his, but mostly mine.

But since misery loves company, I thought it was time to share... my misery.

Day 15

I quit potty training yesterday. Just gave FLAT. OUT. UP. Ty's back in diapers and hardly notices the difference, since his Pull-Up, like his big boy underwear, has Cars characters on it. That boy is just all about Cars.

The problem is, time is ticking away. Ty can't go to pre-school until he's potty trained. And Mommy really need him to go to pre-school.

Day 20

My mom thinks maybe I gave up too soon. She said this while watching my son change his own diaper. Maybe she's right. What if I was just one day away from diaper freedom and I threw in the towel? I'm going to do some more research. Maybe there's a radical new training method I missed.

Day 21

Research sucks.

Day 22

Mom thinks Ty needs some visual motivation for his efforts. I showed her my empty bag of M&M's, but she thinks the boy might need something BIGGER. Her friend's friend's daughter's kid was apparently difficult to potty train, but was eventually motivated by seeing a big, wrapped present dangling over the potty. I think the method is called "Present for Pee-Pee," or something like that. I'm willing to try anything at this point.

Day 23

Mom and I went shopping tonight to try and find the perfect Present for Pee-Pee. We figure that the key is, it needs to be BIG. We finally settled on a T-ball set and bought some Cars paper to wrap it in. If a big package wrapped in Cars paper doesn't work, nothing will.

As we were heading to the check-out line, we veered off to the book section to see if there was any additional potty research we'd missed. We found a children's book called The Potty Book for Boys. It comes with flushing toilet sound effects. Basically, if your child isn't afraid of the sound of a flushing potty before pushing that book button, he'll be totally freaked out after. That is one seriously scary flush. I think Ty has enough issues, so we just went with the T-ball set.

Day 24

Ella is so excited about Ty's present, she can't shut up about it. She and the twins are dying to find out what's inside. They keep dragging their brother to the bathroom every 3 minutes and making him stand in front of the potty with his Congressman out. They're all getting pretty frustrated with Ty's lack of progress. The last time they were in there, Ella said, "Come on Ty. This is your moment, boy. Make it count!"

Day 25

I think the Congressman has stage fright. The girls are no longer allowed in the bathroom with their little brother.

Day 31

"Present for Pee-Pee" has not been a stellar success. Every time Ty wets his pants, I ask him, "Don't you want to open your BIG present, Ty? You have to put your pee-pee in the potty if you want to open your BIG present!" He usually replies, "I'll open it tomorrow, Mommy."

Day 33

I threw away my bathroom rug today. Ty informed me that, "It's not tomorrow yet, Mom."

Day 35

At the beginning of this process, I was worried about getting Ty potty-trained in time for pre-school. Now I'm starting to worry that he might not make it in time for the 6th grade. I mean, middle-schoolers can be brutal!

Day 37

"Present for Pee-pee" is now plural. So far, Ty has been promised the following: the Cars-wrapped T-ball set, a shopping trip with Daddy, ice cream with Mommy, an overnight visit to Grandma's house, and a spend-the-day at Nana's house. If I didn't know better, I'd say this kid is negotiating for the deed to the house. It may come to that.

Day 38

I had a dream last night. Ty was 16 and asking to borrow the car. I told him, "Yes. So long as you make pee-pee in the potty first."

Day 39

It's tough love time. I've been way too accommodating to this kid, and now it's no longer Mr. Nice Mom. The gloves are off. From now on, he cleans up his own mess on the floor and gets hosed down in a cold shower every time I find him sitting in wet pants. Ty hates the shower.

I know this is going to work. In fact, I'm so confident this is going to work that I'm calling the carpet cleaners and making an appointment. Ty has tinkled on every floor of this house except the stairs and my germophobic brain is starting to shut down.

Day 40

Ty took six showers yesterday. This morning, he walked upstairs with his hands on his face and announced he'd had an accident. "It's okay, Mommy," he said, as he peeked out between his fingers. "I'll just cover my eyes while you hose me down!"

Oh, and he tinkled on the stairs.

Day 41

I sent the girls away for a weekend at Nana's. It's my last-ditch attempt at training Ty before throwing in the towel - or any more of my rugs - again. My husband and I decided that perhaps Ty is just too overwhelmed by the size of an adult potty. And our little potty isn't very (ahem) "boy-proof" so we drove to the store to pick out a new one.

They sell a Cars potty.

It has a stick shift and everything. Really. Ty can sit on his throne and push the stick forward (and his Congressman down). It makes a revving sound when he pushes it - the stick, not the Congressman - and I'm telling you that the kid is going to LOVE it!

Day 42

WE HAVE A DEPOSIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ty insisted on keeping his new potty in his room last night. At 6:30 this morning, I heard him yelling for me, "Mommy! I went pee-pee on the potty!" I have to admit that I did NOT go running into his room. I've heard that announcement before, only to have my hopes dashed and another rug ruined. But he did it - and he went sprinting nude down the hallway as soon as I opened his door yelling, "I'm going to open my present now!!!"

Needless to say, my husband was playing T-ball with the boy at 6:35 this morning. After 7:00, we started calling the grandparents. Nana said something to the effect of, "Wow - just think if you'd bought that Cars potty a few weeks ago!"

They didn't sell Cars potties a few weeks ago. It's brand new on the market.

I HAVE to believe that, anyway.

Day 43

Ty can only go potty if the toilet has a stick shift. I'm going to have to teach him to drive an automatic before pre-school starts.


Six weeks and counting...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Out of the Box

I'm about to cop to a level of nerdiness I've tried not to reveal before. You see, when I was thirteen, I had a friend with the most beautiful doll and the most amazing collection of doll accessories I'd ever seen. She was a 1940's catalogue doll named Molly - from the American Girl collection - and even though I was well past the age of actually playing with dolls, I coveted the Molly doll. But it was my little sister Julie who got her for Christmas that year; my other younger sister got the Victorian-era Samantha doll. I can't remember what I got, but I'm sure it was something much more age-appropriate than a doll.

I'm dating myself here, but in my day there was only one other American Girl doll available for purchase - a pioneer girl named Kirsten. Not wanting the same doll as my sisters, I found myself obsessing over the rather pricey pioneer. Eventually - at now fourteen years old - I spent the bulk of my babysitting savings to buy my very own American Girl doll. The rationale? "My sisters will have these beautiful dolls to pass on to their daughters one day and my daughter will feel left out!"

Ugh. I am such a nerd.

And God has a sense of humor, as I became the owner of one American Girl doll... and the mother of three daughters.

I had no idea at fourteen how enormously popular American Girl dolls would become. The catalogue is now a store and restaurant, Samantha and Kirsten are officially "retired," and I've lost count of how many historical dolls and friends are currently on the market. Plus, there's an entire collection of "My" AG dolls that you can pick from to match your child's skin, hair, and eye color. You can even purchase doll-sized ice skates, glasses, and head gear. No joke.

I wasn't sure any of my girls would be excited about a 20-year old doll that isn't even sold in stores anymore, but when Ella started asking for her own American Girl doll this past Christmas, I saw an opportunity. Kirsten looked so much like Ella, with her wavy, dirty blond hair and blue eyes. And since Kirsten's previous owner was too -ahem - old to play with dolls when she bought her, Kirsten looked brand new. I asked my mom to dig the doll out of storage and wrap her up for Ella to open Christmas Eve.

I was so excited about this 20-year gift-in-the-making, I could hardly wait for Ella to open her present. But I also wanted her to know how special the doll was. Yes, Ella could change her into whatever kind of doll she wanted, and even give her a new name, but this was my Kirsten doll - the one I had purchased especially for my daughter long before she was ever born.

I may have over-anticipated the moment.

Ella opened the box, gasped at the beautiful doll inside, and then... put the lid back on the box.

"I love my American Girl doll, Mommy. Thank you!"

"You can take her out of the box if you'd like, Ella."

"No, that's okay."

Ella carried her box around the entire night, cradling it in her arms the way most little girls would cradle the doll inside. When asked what her favorite gift was, she hugged her box tight and said, "My American Girl doll."

"Her name is Kirsten, Ella. You can name her something else though, if you'd like."

But Ella stuck with "my American Girl doll," and while her sisters and brother played with their new gifts, Ella sat with the box in her lap and a big smile on her face. It was - in the words of my sister - one of the saddest things we'd ever seen. Ella had no idea what to do with the gift inside her box.

I think this is what we Christians do with Jesus. He's an amazing gift - one that God the Father prepared and specially wrapped just for us. If we enter into the relationship with Jesus that the Father intended for us, the results are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22). But more often than not, we accept the gift and keep the lid on the box. "I'm happy with my gift of eternal life, God, but I think I'll just keep the other stuff tucked in this box."

Ella is making progress, though. After a week or so in the box, Kirsten finally made an appearace. For the past several months, she's been parked on the bookshelf where Ella can see her. But lately I've noticed Kirsten participating in more of the girls' playtime. She's even had her shoes off once or twice.

This Thursday is Ella's 7th birthday, and her grandmothers and I are taking her to the American Girl store for shopping and lunch. I'm taking a big risk, but Kirsten is coming with us. I think Ella might be ready to change her doll's clothes.

Or at least take a peek at them in their box.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

Last year, our neighborhood organized its first - and what appears this year to be its last - 4th of July parade. The idea was to get the neighborhood kids together to decorate their bikes and "parade" up to the swim and tennis clubhouse for a pool party and cookout. Sounds like a fun, all-American time, right?
Of course, what seemed like a great idea at the time quickly turned into an all-American family disaster. For starters, my compulsive perfectionism kicked in and I decided that our family was going to have the best-looking bikes in the parade. Of course, it kicked in mere hours before the parade was supposed to start, and it didn't receive any kind of financial blessing from my wallet. I ended up driving myself and four small children to the local Party City, where I tormented us all by looking at - but not buying - any of the really cool patriotic stuff. No, in the end my wallet forced me to settle for some red, white, and blue crepe paper, a bag of balloons, a package of cardboard stars, and three paper tiaras. Meh. It also cost me a year's worth of sanity to successfully drag four children in and out of a store that stocks more candy than Willy Wonka's factory.

By the time we got home, I was fried, and the parade was less than an hour away. The kids wanted to help decorate their bikes, but lost interest when they realized there was no painting involved. While they headed into the air-conditioned house in search of snacks, my parents and I - armed with a roll of Scotch tape - attempted to decorate 3 bikes and a wagon in 95+ degree heat. Apparently, Scotch tape loses it's adhesive qualities upwards of 94 degrees, so we were pretty much hosed. Plus, Ty wandered into the garage at one point and completely freaked out at the idea of having balloons attached to his wagon. In the end, he agreed to 3 small cardboard stars dangling off the back of his ride - and nothing else.

Meanwhile, the parade participants were congregating at the base of our driveway. Wagons draped in patriotic bunting, motorized riding toys strung with red, white and blue lights, and bikes so patriotic you couldn't find the Made in China sticker on them lined the street. As my girls rode down to take their places in the pack, Ty ripped off one of his stars, the last of Ella's balloons popped, and Emily's crepe paper unwound from her handle bars. I think a little of my compulsive perfectionism just up and died right then.

But the piece de resistance was Evie, who was having a tough time even pedaling her bike. Sweat was pouring down her red, overheated face as she strained to get her bike up the hill.

"Why are we doing this?"

"It's supposed to be fun, Evie."


I doubt Evie would've made it to the next mailbox, except that just then she spotted a neighbor tossing lolly pops into the crowd.

"Are they throwing candy???"

I have to say, I've never seen Evie ride a bike so fast in her life - she was off like a shot, with my mom and me jogging just to keep up with her. By the time the parade reached the pool, she and Emily had two suckers in their mouths and three in each hand. Ty, too, had quite a stockpile going in his pitifully unpatriotic wagon. Only Ella was unhappy. Apparently, she missed out on a cupcake somewhere along the parade route.

The adults all opted at this point to skip the pool party and cookout and head home to enjoy a just-family gathering at the house. The Lolly Pop Brigade was gone, so it took a whole lot longer to get the kids home from the pool than it took them to get there, but we eventually made it home, where we grilled some burgers and dogs, and then played one of the great, all-American outdoor games - Duck, Duck, Goose.

The kids have been asking me what we're doing for this year's 4th of July festivities. Evie is particularly interested in whether or not we'll be riding our bikes while "people throw candy at us." The answer is, "Uh, NO." I think I'll be content with a repeat of Part 2 of last year's celebration - a good, all-American cookout with family, and perhaps a game or two. Maybe we'll step it up a bit and try something a little more advanced - like Freeze Tag.

Best of all, there will be no decorations involved!