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Archive for August, 2011

We’re taking it.

For so many reasons.

But it wasn’t a decision that was made lightly. Both Bill’s and my initial reaction was AW, HELL NO. We’re not going back in time. We agonized over the decision over whether to send Rowan to Kindergarten last year and then we agonized again the first five months when things were so rough on whether to pull her out or keep her in. When we made the decision to keep her there, we tried to make the best peace we could with her situation and MOVE FORWARD. Not backward.

When we found out we were number 55 on the waiting list for the charter school last January, we called and asked what our chances were of getting in for next fall- how far up the waiting list did they typically go in any given year. When they told us they almost never made it through the 30’s, we gave up hope. We put that school and the possibility of Rowan re-doing Kindergarten out of our head. Onward. Upward.

And she ended the year well. She really did. I know, academically she’s a strong First Grader. But. That’s only one piece of the puzzle, right? The thing about last year is that everything was so damn hard for her. She was the smallest kid in her class by a mile. She looked out of place. I didn’t feel like she really fit. And despite our reassurances, sometimes I think she felt it, too.

Truth is, last year I grossly sugar coated how I really felt about her school and specifically her teacher because I felt I had to make the best out of a shitty situation and I’m a grown-up and grown-ups don’t bash their child’s teacher/school on the Internet. But, Internet? SHE WAS AWFUL. It was awful. At morning drop-off my stomach would be in knots as I tried to quietly reassure Rowan that she’d have a good day while at the same time trying to coax her to not piss off her teacher. Then on the ride to pick her up I would be absolutely sick to my stomach worrying over what kind of report I’d get from Rowan or her teacher. I kept blaming myself or my kid, but as time wore on I could see the teacher was just not handling the class as a whole, the individual students or the freaking parents in a caring, professional or respectful manner. And despite attempts to work with the administration, they completely dismissed me and other parents’ attempts at a dialogue on how this class was being run. Before school started the district evangelized the importance of the parent/school communication connection but once the year started they slammed that door tight. I was more than a little appalled. But again- I thought, What am *I* doing wrong? What could *I* do to help them communicate better with me. But the plain truth was than there was nothing I could do and I learned that the hard way.

When the possibility of the charter school crept back in three days ago, I just kept thinking: Wow. We’d have to do that year over?! And then the more we calmly discussed the absurdity of such a thing, we both started saying: Wow. We’d get to do that year over?!

Really neither is true. If Lost taught me anything, it’s that What Happened, Happened. You can’t change the past. But you can learn from it. And we get the chance to maybe make the decision we should have made a year ago, which was to give our daughter another year of childhood. To let her grow into her own skin.

I asked Rowan how she would feel about going to a different school…

“But my friends will miss me!”

“Yes. And you’ll miss them.”

“Can I still see Ruby?”

“Of course, but you won’t see her everyday in school.”

“Oh. OK.”

And then I told her if she goes to this school she’d have to start back in Kindergarten. Her first reaction was similar to ours:

“But I already know all that stuff!”

“Yep. Good point, you do.”

She paused for a few seconds and said: “Mom? I DID learn all that stuff, but Kindergarten was really hard some of the times. Maybe if I tried it again everything wouldn’t be so hard all of the time.”

And after my heart finished thoroughly breaking, I said: “Did you feel like it was too hard last year?”

“I don’t know. Sometimes I just felt really tiny there. I didn’t like feeling that way.”

“OK, what do you think then?”

“I think I want to try the new school, but if I don’t like it, can go back to my old school?”

“We’ll figure it out if it comes to that, deal?”

“Deal.”

When I broached the subject with her I thought for sure she would fight tooth and nail against not only switching schools but repeating Kindergarten and that would be the deciding factor. When even Rowan seemed to think it was a smart move, Bill and I really started to entertain the idea and from there it became clearer and clearer what we needed to do. And once we realized how we felt? A huge feeling of relief and just, I don’t know, RIGHTNESS, washed over me. I felt good about my daughter’s education for the first time in…well, EVER.

And who knows! Maybe this will turn out horribly! If parenting has taught me anything, it’s that THOU SHALT NOT GET COCKY ABOUT ANYTHING, NO SIR, NOT ONE DAMN THING.

But for now? The rightness feels really, really good.

The following day we called and accepted the spot and since then we’ve been filling out forms and making phone calls to the district and her old school and also? We got to do a little shopping.

Of course we didn't forget the bows, people.

As a past survivor of parochial school I'm no stranger to uniforms, but have to give a HUGE shout out to my mom who helped me sift through things to figure out what we need because uniforms = not cheap.

I'm sorry but if tiny uniform jumpers don't melt you to pieces then YOU, SIR/MADAM, should get that cavity in your chest where your heart should be checked out.

And don't worry, Internet. We didn't forget to outfit the damn American Girl doll either. PRIORITIES? We have them in droves.

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Two parties, one trip to the zoo, 2 cakes, 12 candles, 6 pizzas and many presents later we are finally done with Rowan’s marathon birthday week. Technically we were done last Sunday but with the crazy whirlwind-i-ness of this week {more on that dilemma after I’ve sufficiently drank enough to deal with discussing it further} I’m just getting around to processing and posting what a BIG FAT HAIRY DEAL six is. Because it’s very big, fat and hairy, Internet. Especially if you happen to be Rowan J Gunterpants. So without further ado, here are one thousandy pictures of what it takes to turn your five year old girl-child into six…

We kicked things off on Sunday the 14th with a party for Rowan and her school friends. This butterfly cake was made at a local bakery, the detail was amazing.

I must admit, 11 little people running around was sort of ambitious for our first kid party but my in-laws graciously offered up their yard and the kids had a blast. We borrowed a bounce house from the DCFI, bought a pinata and some water balloons and beyond sitting them down for pizza and cake we just let the kids play and do their own thing. I’d post more pictures of this event but they all include other people’s children so all you get is this cake.

NEXT!

On the 17th, her actual birthday, we had birthday breakfast, which included the requested fried egg with strawberries and whip cream on the side. Then she opened presents from Bill and I.

Rowan was most excited about Kanani, her second American Girl doll {I KNOW. FOR I AM POWERLESS INSIDE OF THAT STORE}. Keaton was most excited about her getting the next few Oz books, because they're really presents for all of us.

Next stop was the zoo, where we spent our time with the seals, gorillas, giraffes and lions. Of course we needed to cool off with a gigantic American-sized Popsicle. {Seriously?! You can't really tell here but the things were freakishly, unnecessarily gigantic. My children would NOT admit defeat, so even though it took a good 40 minutes at which point they were melting down to their arms and dripping off their elbows, they finished them.

Then it was off to the adjoining amusement park where OMFG SWINGS! They were in heaven.

They climbed upupup...

And giggled downdowndown.

After getting her face painted Rowan was too tuckered out to go on our annual carousel ride, so we headed back into town for pizza and kiddie cocktails {with extra cherries, duh}.

Her last gift from us was delivered while we were gone, the movie Return To Oz. The kids jammied up and we snuggled in to watch it. It’s a fairly creepy movie, way more along the lines of Labyrinth and The Neverending Story than the original Oz. It’s much more true to the style of writing and illustration of the original books though. Afterward I thought we’d be in for some trouble with nightmares but the kids loved it, slept straight through the night with no wake- ups and requested to watch it again the next day.

Then for our big family party, there was this…

A pirate themed luau, just, you know, because why the hell not.

The cutest hula pirates you ever done did see.

Of COURSE Rebecca and Kanani were invited.

There were saucy wenches...

And pirates with dead rodents stuck to their faces.

Mia had a ball. Literally, figuratively.

And Keaton and his best friend The Bounce House were reunited after a long six days apart.

The Deps and my brother were in rare form while defending their title as champions of this ridiculous fris-beer game. {Shout out to the classic DCFI face!}

Erica! was there!

And it's always special when you get to hang with BOTH your grammies.

Pirate Kitty. Best cake ever.

Deep breath in...wishing...wishing...

And blowing out.

I think these two managed to have a good time. Here's to an awesome six and nine!

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I tried breaking up with competition dance last week. It didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. Instead of going back to recreational, one of her teachers suggested she could go ahead and repeat the first year line. Because she was young for her current age group, she still fits the 4-6 age grouping of that line. To be honest, I’m {and don’t forget Bill!} not super excited about the prospect of another year filled with The Sequins and The Crazy from March through May. Of course Rowan really wants to do it even though she’ll probably be the only first grader in the class.

Or will she.

About 10 minutes ago I got a call from the charter school we fell in love with two years ago. Despite being told we had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting in {at number 55 on the waiting list} we were just offered a spot. Only way back last fall when we registered Rowan we were seriously considering pulling her from Kindergarten and holding her back a year so after going back and forth on it, I filled the application out for Kindergarten again. The offered spot for my very proud first grader is for K only.

So to sum up, The Ultimate Powers of the Universe seem to be offering us some sort of cosmic do-over of the shitstorm that was last year.

Only I don’t know that I want ANY of us to repeat last year. It was one of the hardest, most emotional, and inexplicably challenging years as a parent I’ve ever had to get through- its only competition being Keaton’s First Year of Screaming Screaminess. I don’t want to go in reverse. We came out bruised and battered from it but we made it to the other side with a lot of growth. I am so proud of Rowan’s accomplishments that she fought for last year and to send her back to Kindergarten, even if it is a different school, kind of seems like I’m invalidating all of that hard work. I know that the charter school has a reputation for academic rigorousness but still, the kid can already read, add, subtract and do story problems. The last thing I need is for her to get bored and then start assembling small explosives or figuring out how to rob a secure vault in her spare time. By all accounts she could end up in jail by third grade! SHUT UP, IT’S TOTALLY POSSIBLE.

I really just don’t think that we can do it.

But.

If I turn down this opportunity I feel like I’m screwing not only Rowan but Keaton who would automatically be accepted into Kindergarten there when the time comes. This is huge since I don’t want him in our assigned district school which is open-format, and I would never put another kid in with the Kindergarten teacher at the school we currently open-enroll to. I could roll the dice and see if he magically gets in when the time comes, or try our luck at open-enrolling into yet another school within the district but past experience tells me it’s a long shot not worth gambling on.

I used to think this charter school was The Perfect School. An Educational Utopia. After a year of hearing stories of some questionable admissions tactics on their part, I no longer think that. But I still think that it is superior, at least academically speaking, to our public school system. Plus she could get busing, which we can’t get now. And wow, I really just don’t know what the fuck to do. I would ask Rowan’s pediatrician, who has known her since birth, but she up and moved to a far-away state last month, leaving me without a professional opinion on any of this.

As of right now the school is holding her spot, but as school starts two weeks from today, time’s not really on our side. And…just…FUCK.

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Rowan J, what a year it has been. Year and a half really, if we’re starting from the time things got really rough. I have to be honest in saying that the first six months of Five kicked all of our asses thoroughly and completely. When I thought 4 was bad? BOY FREAKING HOWDY was I in for a shock at five.

But. Here you are. Here we are. At Six. And the girl I see right now is so very, very different from the girl of a year ago. I know there are a lot of contributing factors to this but mostly it’s because of you, Rowan. Your hard work. Your determination. Your never bending force of will. You learned some very valuable things without compromising who you are, perhaps even growing more into who you rightfully could and should be. The fight hasn’t gone out of you, not by a long shot, but somewhere in the sea of the last year you learned to convert that fight into something more productive. You learned to manage your emotions in a way that more positively reflected how you feel and because of that we all got a better idea of who this little being is, and you? Are nothing short of amazing.

Here is a recap of the things that brought you here…

We began the year of five in a fairly desperate state in terms of what to do with you and what you needed from us. In desperation we turned to occupational therapy in hopes that if they could help you with some of your mild to moderate sensory issues, we could better manage the other aspects. It was a really hard choice, but one of the best ones we’ve ever made as parents. What we found out was that your sensory quirks were exacerbated, if not caused by, a moderate vestibular disorder. Once we began in earnest working on getting your body to cross its mid-line and recognize its relationship to the ground, everything else fell into place. Your sensory issues dissipated when we started to treat the actual underlying problem and you were on the road to a happier you. It sounds so simple when I write it here but it took an incredible amount of work as a family to get you to this place. Somewhere around February we started seeing results and from there it went fast~ it was like we had our kid back. Last April, with a packet of homework and a wish of good luck, we were given your OT’s blessing to take an extended break to see how you managed without weekly sessions and we haven’t look back since.

Dance had a huge role in the success with treating the vestibular disorder. It also had a huge role in nearly driving mommy to the nut house covered in glue and sequins, but I’d gladly repeat this year knowing what a big difference it made in your ability to get comfortable in your own body. Now I love you with my whole big mama-bear heart, Kid, but you are NOT a natural dancer. We didn’t sign you up for competitive dance so you could shake your sequined-riddled butt up on stage, we kept you in it because it forced your body to learn to operate the way it’s naturally supposed to, to try and unwind from the tight, rigid, stiffness that defined it, only in your case it takes a lot of extremely hard work. After watching you that first month and seeing how far behind you were in terms of flexibility and know-how, I’m going to be honest, it was torture and I wanted to pull you out. Watching you stumble and fall over and over again, and then keeping my mouth shut when I just wanted to shout “Her brain is actually physically incapable of moving her body that way!!!” is one of the hardest tests as a parent I’ve come across. But you COULD do it- you proved that to us. It’s just ridiculously harder than it is for your average kid. Week after week you hung in there and you grew by leaps and bounds compared to where you started from. We are so proud of all you accomplished. I so wish we could keep you in at the level you are now but the commitment for this next year jumps from 3.5 hours a week to 9-10 hours a week and we just don’t see that working out with how this year seems to be shaping up. We have some other things planned that will help condition your body to keep functioning right which will hopefully be enough. This has been an agonizing decision for us but we’re pretty sure it’s the right one, especially because you want to keep up with piano which just wouldn’t be an option otherwise.

Moving on…Kindergarten certainly didn’t help an already rough patch. There are so many things I could say about last school year but I will keep it to this little nugget: I should have trusted my gut when it came to the class dynamic and the teacher. I should have moved you or pulled you out after the first couple of weeks. But being the stubborn lady I am {and optimistic at ALL THE WRONG TIMES} I kept you in and the year, though FAR FAR FAR less than idyllic, ended positively and you came out of it with good friends and a ton of new skills. Academically you really soared and watching you make and have your first real “best friend” was so sweet. Judging by how you’ve done with the reading and math exercises you’ve worked on this summer, I am excited for you to start first grade, not in small part because the teacher is the exact polar opposite of last year’s.

Rowan, this year you learned to add and subtract. You learned to read. You danced in a competitive line up on stage, in front of enormous audiences and panels of judges. You learned the 1st-5th ballet positions. You learned all the words and fell in love with Castle on a Cloud. You learned what a principal’s office looks like. You learned to read music. You learned to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. You learned to hold your breath under water. You’re on the verge of learning to swim. You laughed more this year than the three previous years combined due to your brother’s uncanny comedic timing with the uses of the words “fart” and “poop”. You made me so frustrated that I cried. You made me so proud I cried. You are always now, and ever, truly You.

And we love you, Rowan J. We really, really do.

Here is Rowan’s Year of Five slideshow. I know it’s long but you should know it’s a full five minutes shorter than last year’s which came in at a whopping 13 minutes. I’m sorry, Internet, but my photos are mah babies and it’s HARD to choose. At least the Justin Bieber stage was short-lived so you get to listen to Rowan’s current favorite, Florence and the Machine instead of “Baby, Baby, Baby, OHHHH, Like…”. Yeah. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Rowan’s Year of Five from Christy Gunter on Vimeo. Click here if you want to watch a larger version so your eyeballs don’t up and fall out of your head.

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Okay, where were we? Ah yes. Kids grow up, allowing you more time to drink, which is good because they shun you so much you need something to drown your sorrows in etc. etc.

Now. About the drinking.

There was no mob mentality this year, as there has been in years past, it being just the two families this go round. In my experience we need at least three of my siblings grouped together to bring about the competitive drinking that is most likely etched somewhere in our Felland DNA. However that didn’t mean that we all weren’t feeling the effects of that first drink by 11am most days because, PLEASE. This is still Cabin Vacation. This is why the Bloody Mary was invented, Internet. My cousin recently went on a cabin vacation of her own with her family, but they are not Fellands, and therefore drinking doesn’t fall under their “Pastime” category.

This conversation is paraphrased. Because I was drinking {duh} and can’t fully remember the exact dialogue.

Me: How was your vacation?

Erica: Really good! We just relaxed, read and enjoyed each others’ company. It’s not like YOUR family. I had maybe one drink per night.

Me: ##%????%##doesnotcompute###???%%

Huh?

Erica: And that one drink earned me the title of Booze Hound.

Me: But what did you do?

Erica: Like I said- I read a lot, rested and spent time with my family.

Me: But what did you DO???!!!

Erica: …seriously?

Me: I’m really confused right now.

Things were actually pretty tame except for maybe Tuesday night but you can go ahead and blame that on The Shirts. Tuesday was the only day that we had patchy, rainy weather for the most part. It was cloudy and thundery all morning so we decided to head into Longville and our first stop was at Old Man Shirt. Last year Bill had trouble finding the right fit for his ridiculous t-shirt purchase and while he was ultimately happy with Wild Stallions Running on Clouds, he ended up stumbling upon Old Man Shirt afterward and was so thoroughly impressed by his selection of terrible t-shirts that he purchased Moose Fight, which broke one of the cardinal rules of Cabin Vacation Ridiculous T-shirting, which is that you’re only allowed one shirt per year. This is why Moose Fight hasn’t received any blog air time because it is an Illegitimate T-Shirt. A Bastard T-shirt. THAT SHIRT DOES NOT COUNT. Even now it lies is shame, under all the other shirts, barely ever worn due to the scandalous nature with which it was purchased.

Ahem. So this year Bill went straight to the gold mine that is Old Man Shirt {the shop is actually called Marie Baker’s Shirts but it is owned and run by an 87 year old husband and 85 year old wife [presumably Mrs. Baker] and the husband in particular is very fond of his shirt collection, thusly: Old Man Shirt.} Bill went in with a solid idea of what he wanted which was something to do with pumas, only he pronounces it “pewma” in what I can only deduce is a strong and deep desire to be stabbed repeatedly in his sleep by me.

Here is the essence of a discussion we had regarding this before we even left on vacation:

Bill: I’m going to get a pewma shirt. I am already visualizing how awesome it will be.What do you think?

Christy: Um, NO. Because you will call it your ‘pewma shirt’ and if you do that I will have no other choice but to murder you and then divorce you posthumously.

Bill: What? WHY? Pewma is awesome. And fun to say. Come on. Say it…you know you want to.

Christy: Puma.

Bill: Pewma.

Christy: PUMA.

Bill: PEWMA.

Christy: PPPPPPPUUUUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMMAAAAAAAAAA….

This might have gone on for awhile, but you get the gist right?

Anyway it was thankfully all for not, as Old Man Shirt knew exactly what shirt Bill was describing and had to break it to him that the puma shirt had been discontinued earlier in the year {Jesus Christ I CAN’T IMAGINE WHY?}. The only other obvious choice was Eagle and they had a nice matching father/son set that Bill was happy with, so it was almost time to go and then BAM. It happened. Jay purchased his own eagle shirt, while Jen went with a nice, feminine loon and we were all but out the door when Jennifer and Bill joined evil forces and not-so-quietly remarked that I would probably ruin vacation if I didn’t purchase a shirt of my own.

Me: Nope! I’m good! Let’s head out!

J&B: Oh come on. You have to at least join the wolf pack. Look at this wolf shirt! It’s Mountain quality!

Me: Yeah, that’s real nice but I like my shirts a little less wolf- heavy and a little more fashion heavy. {For the purpose of this argument Fashion=a plain white, probably stained t-shirt. That maybe also has holes.}

J&B: You HAVE to get this one… look! It has FOUR wolves howling at the moon! That’s so much more sophisticated than last year’s measly three wolves. I mean FOUR WHOLE WOLVES? When are you going to get another opportunity like this? Plus, you’ll probably ruin vacation if you don’t get one. Don’t wreck it for the rest of us, Christy. Think of the children. And the wolves.

Me: FUCK. Rowan! If mama has to wear this shit so do you. Pick out a goddamn wolf shirt.

So after we returned to the cabin I made Bill mix me a drink and I donned my very own wolf shirt and since one drink didn’t seem to be enough I just kept right on going until that shirt actually seemed pretty awesome.

That came around drink number 5 or 6, I don't really know, things are a little fuzzy there but I had four motherfucking wolves on my shirt so it didn't really matter anymore.

The Wolf Packettes. Notice how Rowan's shirt only has three wolves. That's because it isn't as awesome as mine.

We played bean bag toss and bocce ball and ended the night with a game of Bullshit that determined who would go on to compete in this year’s challenge, which was pretty much the same as last year’s challenge except it involved 38% more monkey, 100% less dead fish and an artificial, artificial mustache. I was the biggest loser in Bullshit which by all accounts should have put me in the running for jumping in the lake but thankfully for me, drunk people aren’t so good at calling the stakes beforehand so I got out of it for the 4th year in a row.

FORESHADOWING.

So Bill, Deps and Jen played Jenga, with their personal self-respect and dignity at stake.

For a bunch of drunks I was really, really impressed with how long the game lasted but alas...

it had to come down sometime.

Poor Jennifer was NOT pleased that her husband, the one and only Deputy Chief Fire Idiot, did not fall on his own damn sword and knock the Jenga tower over and I can guarantee you next time he will, but for this year, Jen ended up in the lake. AGAIN. Since we neglected to bring a fresh supply of fake mustaches, we had to improvise with a fake, fake mustache.

With washable marker. Because that is not ghetto AT ALL.

Jorie dutifully noted that we were missing a sole patch which is key when jumping into a freezing lake at one-thirty in the morning.

Jen was thrilled of course. It's the details, really.

It was a fun night. The next morning was slightly less fun, as you can probably imagine. Not that we really had time to nurse any sort of hangover as…

There were giant fish to catch, by the tall...

And the small,

and very important games to play,

and lakes to jump into.

Thursday evening we planned to have a bonfire a little before dusk, but when we went to get things started we discovered that the garbage cans by the pit hadn’t been emptied and the horse and deer flies were terrible, which is saying something because they were really thick everywhere up there this year. Every time we left the cabin we were attacked; all of us were covered with bites by the end of the 1st full day and these suckers seemed to be immune to deep woods bug repellent varieties packed with {super great for you!} DEET-y goodness. Needless to say we went ahead and skipped the bonfire, but in an effort to appease the disappointed children who felt swindled of their right to gooey marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker desert, a new and better tradition was born, BEHOLD:

Mini-Donut-Boat-Riiiide, ya'll!

This is AMERICA! Of course we brought our own mini donuts on vacation.

I think mini-donut-boat-ride sufficiently made up for the skipped campfire and smores.

And how can you go wrong with mini donuts on a boat ride, I mean REALLY.

It was very seriously one of the funnest {albeit most stupid} things I've ever done. The wine is of course optional.

But the crazy boat hair,

and the amazing sunset are not. I recommend everyone go on at least one mini-donut-boat-ride in their lifetime.

I promise you'll be a better, happier person for it.

And there you have it, folks! Cabin Vacation Elevensies is sadly just a alcohol soaked, 4 wolved, mini-donut encrusted memory, but surely one that will keep us warm and blissfully happy…

Until next time...

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