Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Gracie starts Pre-K

Gracie started pre-K this morning.

She was in the car, buckling herself in, before I was even ready to go. There weren't any huge emotions either way this morning. Once we were in the classroom, she was a bit nervous, but nothing out of the ordinary. We said our goodbyes, and as we walked out the door, her best friend walked in. I know she's doing just fine.

When we walked back out to the car, Lyla asked, "What we do now, Mommy?"

"Just play," I told her. And that's where we are.

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Middle child, not to be outdone, chooses tutu for her outfit today.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Part 2: The other kind of school worries

Here are a few of the more straight-forward, logistical worries I have (and one that's back to more touchy-feelies because you can't read this blog without being inundated with sap):
  • Getting three kids, aged 3 and under (for the first two weeks until Gracie turns 4) fed, dressed, and out the door by 8 a.m. with a showered, fed, and dressed mother. Gracie was only late two days the entire year last year and for the last four months, Poppy was with us; so I know it can be done! But prepping and shuttling around a newborn is a bit easier for me than a more wide awake, in every sense of the word, 6+-month-old.
  • The teacher being distracted. Not only is her own son in the class, but he also has certain special needs that will only be more distracting. It's not that I'm worried about someone in the class needing more assistance, not in the least, but rightfully, a mother is going to naturally pay more attention to her own child, even if she consciously tries to avoid it, and having that child have an additional reason to be focused on only compounds my hesitation. I'm confident this, unlike the first bullet, will quickly fade as the first few weeks get underway.
  • The class size being so much bigger. Last year, in the preschool 3s, Gracie was one of 10-11 depending on the time of year. I don't know how many students will be in pre-K with her yet, but last year pre-K had 19! Almost double the amount of kids is going to be quite a change for a girl who spends the vast majority of the time with her two sisters and her mom.
  • The girls' schedules. Poppy's naps are still (how can that be? hasn't this been happening for like year?) transitioning from 3 down to 2. So her naps are stressing me out anyway; add driving to school and back at set-in-stone times twice a day, and things are just going to have to figure themselves out. Also, I've been trying to move Lyla's naps half an hour later because Gracie's school will last half an hour longer, and she repeatedly tells me about 15 minutes in that she's ready for her nap. I'm not going to be like, "NO! You must stay up for 10 more minutes." So she's going to have to adjust as well.
  • And finally, the one that's crazy hard to admit: what I'm going to do with Lyla for that long by myself. Like I said yesterday, Gracie and Lyla have formed a tight-knit bond, as not only sisters, but friends this summer. And honestly, that means I don't spend very much time having to actively entertain a 2-year-old. It's not like when Gracie was that age and would just wander the house aimlessly, looking for trouble (and making more than I ever thought possible). Lyla spends her days following Gracie around and doing what she's doing. Sure, a lot of that ends up with me frustrated and cleaning up something I didn't expect, but a lot of time, it doesn't, and they really are just playing nicely. Without Gracie there for half the day, every day, now, I'm going to have to step up and be a lot better mother to Lyla than I have been. It's a good thing, but it will be a change I'll have to work for. On top of that good part of it is the fact that these few hours without Gracie will allow Lyla and Poppy to strengthen the bond that is, of course, already there, but understandably, nowhere near where the bond Gracie and Lyla had at their respective ages. This will be the time for the littles to link up and plant the seeds for their own sister-friendship to blossom.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Weekly Wednesday Photo - August 27, 2014

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7 a.m.

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Lyla was following me around pestering me like mad while I talked on the phone with my mom the other day. When I finally hung up and focused on her, I noticed she was, for no reason I could discern, carrying the rolling pin, a water bottle, and a funnel.

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I have a ton of better quality photos of Baby Pop this week, but I chose this one because of how tiny she looks.

I don't think of her as small anymore, now that she's outgrown her newborn days. But when I took this pic of her sleeping in my arms this week, I was stunned by just how small she looks against me.

The blatant obvious-ness of this fact doesn't take away from the heartbreak it causes one bit: she'll never be this little again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Part 1: this year's school worries

I guess this is becoming an annual post.

Gracie starts pre-K a week from today. She'll be going five half-days a week this year, instead of 3 like last year, and the class is half an hour longer. Added all up, that means she'll be going to school for almost twice as many hours as she did before.

I'm terrified.

Her birthday isn't until the 15th of next month, so she'll be one of the youngest, if not the very youngest in the class. Since my birthday is August 29, I was always the youngest, and it never bothered me. But at 3, 4, and 5, a few months (or even a whole year in some "redshirted" cases) can make a big difference. All that being said, I don't think holding her back in preschool 3s again this year is a good idea. She did fantastic last year, and the teacher assured me a number of times that she was ready to move on.

I know she's academically capable; I'm just worried about the amount of time. Five half days a week is what many (most around here) kids do for Kindergarten. That's a lot of time to be on her best behavior, be away from home and me, and be away from Lyla.

Last year, she did exceptionally well behavior-wise at school. In fact, the teacher repeatedly told me how calm and quiet she was every day. Literally the moment she stepped out the classroom door, she'd jump and scream and roll on the floor, and the teacher would laugh and say she had no idea who that girl was. Sure, it's great that she doesn't act out in school and saves it for me at home :/ but I don't want her to feel like she can't be herself at school. First and foremost, I love the way she is, and I never want her to feel like she has to be a completely different person to be "good." But also, acting like a placid little mouse is going to get old real quick for her, and I don't want her to start disliking school because she has to try so hard to be something she's not.

Gracie's always been an independent girl. And when she's really needy tends to gravitate toward McMister anyway. But this summer, she's turned toward me a lot more than before and is becoming a little more concerned with where I am in relation to her. I'm, of course, worried about the first week and the tears that will fall between the two of us, but I'm also worried about her being away from the house so much throughout the entire year. When I start to get especially worried about that aspect though, I remind myself that most kids are in daycare outside their home all day all week (including myself at her age), and they all turn out wonderful and happy and attached.

But the thing that makes me cry is how much she'll miss Lyla and Lyla will miss her. This summer was truly the summer they became best friends. They spend hours and hours and hours playing together, every day, all by themselves. They play dress up and pretend and "help" each other with puzzles and read books and ride bikes and sneak lollipops and makes messes and make each other smile and cry and laugh. I had no idea how special a bond two tiny people could have. And I'm tearing them apart for half the day now. I know it's going to happen sooner or later and it won't be half the day, it'll be all day. And of course that's the way it should be. But it just breaks my heart to think about how much they'll miss each other. The tears are streaming down my face just writing this.

McMister made a surprise decision this morning to take the day off and announced this evening that he's taking the rest of the week! This is not something that has ever happened before. It'll probably make things even tougher next week when reality sets in, but I can't worry about that. We're going to enjoy our last week of summer as a family and take this sudden staycation with happy, thankful hearts.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Gracie, Jr.

Poppy's been a champion wiggle worm since she was born. Her crazy moves always remind us of Gracie when she was that age, and recently, her wild antics have led my mom to dub her Gracie, Jr.

Apparently, Poppers didn't like that name much because Gracie pulled up to standing the weekend we moved to this house, the weekend she turned 8 months old, and here's Poppy this afternoon at 6 1/2 months old.

And that smile? I've never seen her do a smile that resembles that smirk at all. I guess that's her smug smile.

Uncle Curtis' wedding

My brother got married on Saturday. That means the girls and I are laying low today. McMister was a groomsman, and the girls were the flower girls; so after the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner Friday, pictures, ceremony, reception, and sleepless drive home on Saturday, and more family activity and long drives on Sunday, our hearts are bursting with happiness and love and our bodies are folding with exhaustion.

I took zero pictures at any of it. I didn't forget the camera; I chose not to bring it. They, of course, hired professional photographers, and every other person there was snapping away with their phones. So here are some cell phone pics that other people have posted or sent directly to me. I was busy having fun, chasing babies, and talking in 90-second half-conversations with all the people I love.

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It was not the plan for Poppy and me to walk down the aisle, but the big girls were pretty much the exact opposite of cooperative at the rehearsal. So everyone agreed me walking with them was the only way they'd do what was planned. That was true until the moment we were allowed to step foot on the path toward the aisle, and Lyla flat out booked it. She seriously sprinted toward the aisle, and I am so not used to walking in heels as a stay-at-home-mom that running in heels resulted in me rolling my ankle. Thankfully, it was before we actually reached the aisle so only about half the guests saw it happen :)

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My sister, me, Poppy, the bride, my brother, McMister, Lyla, and Gracie in the front.

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My (first) immediate family.

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Gracie was in full princess-bride-obsession mode the entire time. I spent the whole reception holding Poppy and following the bride because where the bride was, Gracie was. She literally went into the bathroom with her. I just know this will be her first real memory when she's older. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"I want to be a basketball player when I grow up," she told me.

It snowed here in 1996. How do I know that? Because I just googled what year the movie Tin Cup came out.

I was 13 years old that winter, and while I sat inside on that blustery night watching the cutesy Kevin Costner romantic comedy with my parents and sister, my brother was outside in the driveway practicing free throws. I remember walking by and looking out the window to see him, in the pitch black night, under the glow of the porch light and the soft, falling snow and thinking to myself that I'd remember it forever.

Tonight, I saw that same dedication, that same passion, for that same sport, in that same driveway. Only this time, it was my 3-year-old daughter.

Gracie's always loved basketball. (I do realize how crazy that sounds when talking about a 3-year-old.) But it's been a long time since she played. The past few days, she taken a small, lightweight ball and tossed it up toward the 10-foot hoop. The first night she did, McMister came home and saw her casually throw it up.

"She actually got kind of close earlier today," I said, never in a million years thinking she'd make any on that size hoop.

Tonight, she went out there again, but was filled with determination. The times before, it was like she wasn't even thinking about it. She'd walk by, see the ball, toss it up, and barely even notice where it went. Today, she was trying.

Again and again, she tried. Some were close and some went above and behind her head. After a few minutes, and countless shots, the ball hit the backboard, hit the rim, then fell in.

McMister and I leapt in the air and were both screaming at the top of our lungs. Gracie beamed my absolute favorite smile of hers: her proud smile. Her body almost shrinks when it happens. Her arms turn in and her head bows down, and her cheeks are cherry red from the joy.

McMister picked her up and hugged her while we went crazy with shock and excitement, and when I went behind him to look at her, she had tears in her eyes. I don't know who was prouder - her or us - but I do know whose tears fell first: mine.

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A couple days ago, we got a new bookshelf in the mail that needed to be assembled. The girls all "helped" me put it together, and when McMister walked in, I said, "Look! We made this."

"Mommy made this," Gracie said. "And she didn't give up! It was hard, but she just kept trying anyway."

McMister didn't realize what she had said, but it made a deep, happy impression on me. I know I think this about the girls all the time; I even think about wanting them to know it and how I can make it clear to them, but I really didn't think I had done a good job expressing it. But in that moment, she showed me that she heard me. The fact that I "made" it was great, but so was the fact that I didn't give up. She was proud of me, and I was proud of me for something else entirely.


As McMister held her tonight, I heard him saying the same things to her. We hadn't talked about the bookshelf moment, but there he was telling her how proud he was of her for not giving up. For her dogged determination and her effort.

He put her back down, and she went straight back to the ball. 

"I'm gonna make another one," she said, and she did. It took a few minutes and a new chalk line on the driveway that McMister placed after watching her and seeing where she sent most of her shots, but she made another one, and we were stunned once again. There were no tears this time, just jubilation and laughter when she said, "I'm gonna do it again."

After countless misses and a few makes, she said, "I'm gonna make 12."

McMister and I both looked at each other thinking, This is going to end badly. Dinner was waiting, with bath and bedtime coming up behind it. 

I told we wouldn't have time for 12 because we had to go in and eat, but that she could come back and work on it some more once she was done.

"I know!" she said. "Put the dinner on a plate, and bring it out here and put it right here next to the line. Then, I can take a bite and take a shot. Then take another bite and take another shot!"

McMister agreed in a heartbeat, and we all ate dinner in the driveway.

She was diligent. Shot after shot after shot. Even though she missed again and again between each basket, she was on a pretty consistent pattern until she got to 8. She was so tired and the fierce concentration that burned in her eyes before was fading. 

"Gracie Girl, I am so proud of you," I told her. "How about we be done now and go inside and have a cookie since you did such a great job tonight?"

"OK!" she said, and I was a little surprised it was that easy. "You go in and get the cookie and bring it back out here."

"No," I said softly. "We'll eat the cookie and be done for the night."

"Then, we'll eat the cookie to celebrate when I get to 12."

I went in to go to the bathroom and when I came out, Lyla was clapping and chanting, "Go, Gracie, Go!" My former-head-cheerleader heart skipped a beat. 

I went and sat in the grass with McMister and the little girls, and Gracie said to us without even turning her head, "Everyone yell 'Go, Gracie, Go!'"

We laughed and indulged her in a round of all-in "Go, Gracie, Go!"

"Say 'Go, Gracie, Go!' the whole time," she said when we stopped. "Say it until I get to 12."

We said it for a little while longer and stopped.

But she kept going. 

Almost exactly an hour after she made that first shot, she made her twelfth. On a 10-foot hoop. 

She was elated and exhausted and so, so proud. And so were we.

Go, Gracie, Go!