Posts Tagged ‘I am Six!’

I guess it’s pretty clear that Ezra has been the star of the show here for the last 16 months. This is for two reasons, one of them being that it’s really sort of tricky to navigate what you should share about your kids once they get older and the second is TIME, as in, I don’t have any to write more than one substantial post a month. To remedy this, I’m going to try to do a quick family update each month when I post my photo sets so I can write down some of the cool/annoying/awesome stuff the rest of us are up to and at least give the illusion that our world doesn’t revolve around a despot toddler king {which it 100% does}. Ezra will still have his own post for the time being because he is my babaaaay and I’m not ready to let that go just yet.

So Let’s start with me. As it turns out I’ve become a bit obsessive and have absolutely loved documenting our every day family life over on Instagram for the My 365 Project. It has been a HUGE push to better my photography skills which are now somewhere between Does Not Suck and Can Sometimes be Okay When I’m Not Screwing It All Up. I take out my big camera pretty much every day and I love reading articles and watching video tutorials when I can squeeze them in. Recently I watched one about Newborn Photography which blew my mind… too bad there were so damn many precious, tiny babies in those videos, distracting me from actually retaining any of the information.

Here are my favorite shots from February 14, {the whole set is here}:

3.5.1 3.5.2 3.5.3 3.5.4 3.5.5 3.5.6 3.5.7 3.5.8 3.5.9

Other than being a chauffeur, homework overlord and packer of backpacks for the older two, I’m enjoying the calm before the {dance} storm. Competition fees have been turned in and we’re hoping one of the costumes will be handed out for decorating this week sometime. UPDATE!!: I now have a fringey pile of orange and pink and approximately 800 stones to affix to it! {Also: Sweet baby Jesus in heaven, please bless our room mom for not including those teeny/tiny/miniscule devil sequins, I am forever in her debt, AMEN.}   So: YAY! Let’s get this done! And: Oh God. I’m going to die from E-6000.

Here Lies Christy, who at 2am after 14 straight hours of gluing varying sizes of irritatingly small, iridescent stones, mistook her wine for the E-6000, gluing her throat shut. It was a good death. RIP.

Moving on to Bill… You remember him right? That guy I married? I wouldn’t really know since he’s done nothing but workworkwork for the last few months. Thankfully, he’s able to do part of this in the evenings on our couch but still, it’s been a really busy time for him both with work, personal projects and the side stuff. We divide and conquer from the hours of 4:30-8pm and then it’s back to his laptop until 11ish. Since he likes to watch stuff while he works, we pick a series to binge-watch so at least we have the pretense of together time. Against my better judgement, I let Bill choose the show this go-round and he picked Breaking Bad. We tried this show once a couple of years ago and after the third episode I told Bill if he wanted to keep watching it that was fine but I just couldn’t spend my relaxing time watching something so painful that I wanted to throw myself off a bridge after each episode. And yeah, I know, Best TV Show Of All Time, Is One of The Greats, yada-yada-accolade-cakes. I get that, I really do. My opinion though {which was right on the money after those first 3 episodes {re:THE PAINFULNESS} and unchanged when we watched it all the way through}, is that the first 2 seasons were pretty meh, save a couple of episodes, then in the third season they turned the characters into 100% unlikable, reprehensible shells of humans. There was no fading into gray for me, really. They went from conflicted, desperate and confused to The Most Terrible People and by the last third of the 4th season things blew up.

I’m not going to turn this family update into a BB recap but since it has dominated my time with my husband for the last 2 months I will say this. The writing and acting in the last 2 seasons was truly smart and really just downright phenomenal. But. And this is a big, huge, hairy but. I can’t handle watching shows where everyone is awful. There is no one to root for on this show, save maybe one, and even this guy has done so many despicable things and suffered such terrible losses, there’s no way he’ll ever come out functional. This makes each episode something you have to suffer through. Maybe other people could root for Walter White {but you’re probably a closet sociopath, FYI}. Not me though, not even at the end and I think it’s sort of troublesome if you actively want your protagonist to bite it. I get the whole idea of the “anti-hero” but man, I just found the whole thing to be so reprehensible, and even though I appreciate the art of it, {TL;DR!} you could not pay me to watch that shit again.

Okay, stay tuned for next month’s Bill update when I talk about True Detective, Scandal or House of Cards, because that is what our marriage has turned into at this point.

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Rowan: My first born has been a busy little bee with school and dance. She officially turned 8 and a half which is still just so weird to say. My kid is like, old and stuff. School has been going really well. So well, I feel like anything I write here will just sound like obnoxious bragging. I can take pretty much zero credit for this anyway, it just turns out I am raising the non-magical Hermione Granger, complete with tears when school is cancelled for the 6th snow day of 2014. She’s tested out of the curriculum reading assessments through third grade. She gets herself up early so she can read for fun and while math isn’t her favorite and she has to work hard, she gets great marks. She has an excellent memory so history tests are super fun for her and she aces them. Most weeks I forget to go over her spelling words with her {super mom, I know} and she has brought home a 15/15 every week, save one, the entire year. Do you see what I mean about the bragging? I sound like a total asshole right now but I don’t care. She works hard. She’s so independent. And I’m so proud of her.

Here is Hermione/Rowan reading a math book. For fun. Listen, guys. I know I was there and all when she was born and I'm fairly certain they placed her directly into my arms but there is just no possible way she can be my kid.

Here is Hermione/Rowan reading a math book before bed. For FUN. Listen, guys. I know I was there and all when she was born and I’m fairly certain they placed her directly into my arms but there is just no possible way she can be my kid. Like ZERO percent chance. Back me up, everyone who knows me…

Conversely, dance has been rough for her this year. I touched on this a few months ago, about the challenges of the flexibility amidst the other choreography and how it’s been tough for her. Rowan isn’t a Career Dancer. She doesn’t have the natural flexibility. She doesn’t have a family member that was or still is a dancer that can help her at home {for free} with the intricacies. She doesn’t have room in her house that she can practice without hitting the couch or a coffee table or another human. She also doesn’t have parents who have a huge disposable income for $50 worth of private lessons a week. Though this has always been the case for her, it was made really apparent this year as so many of the girls at the studio are doing this extra stuff. Rowan has always been very happy to just be a part of the group and work her hardest but based on all the extras the other kids are doing she’s starting to fall behind and feel what she’s contributing isn’t good enough for her team.

In most cases it’s not a matter of dance mom one-up-man-ship, but that all these kids really love dance, want to do their very best and they have very supportive parents that are making that happen for them. And while I personally feel some of it is getting a little out of hand, if it works for the individual family then that’s thier choice to make . Unfortunately, it doesn’t work for us which will be a tricky road to navigate if Rowan wants to keep dancing competitively. In the meantime we’ve done what we can to help her through. We share private lessons with others so they’re not so spendy. We go to open gym so she can work on flexibility instead of paying $30 an hour to work one-on-one with a gymnastics coach. She shows up every day ready to work her butt off and she really does. We practice at home, couches, coffee tables and other humans be damned. I feel guilty, like I’m not doing enough to support her sometimes, but the reality is, dance isn’t our family’s only reality and I just have to make peace with that and hope Rowan understands when the other girls are progressing in a way that she isn’t.

I will say that the coolest thing to witness was a few weeks ago when parents were invited in to watch and the instructor was working on turns with them, which need some work all around. Some of the girls have been doing these turns for well over a year or two in various solos and small groups but a little over half have just started them in earnest since January and Rowan was having trouble finding the rhythm of them. She struggled the Tuesday before big time and when her teacher asked her to do it in front of everyone I held my breath, fighting the urge to throw my hands over my eyes but… she did okay, and compared to where she was the week before, okay was AWESOME. And when she was done her teacher gave her an approving smile and the other girls clapped for her and it was so, so sweet. She really is in with a great group of very kind kids, which is important to us because she spends so much time there.


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After a completely activity-free fall, Keaton has been enjoying swimming lessons, a basketball clinic and joining the boys/partners dance at the studio. Swimming has been going well for him I think, but it’s stressful because Bill has to handle the two boys while I take Rowan to ballet. Ezra goes to baby swim from 6-6:30pm and Keaton does level 3 from 6:30-7pm. I haven’t seen Ezra at all and have only been able to watch Keaton 1.5 times which makes me feel shitty but just the way things worked out this time around.

Basketball was… sort of hilarious. Keaton definitely has an aptitude for sports; he has a good eye and great coordination. Since he’s never had trouble picking these sorts of things up, I thought this would transfer to basketball but it totally did not. The six sessions he had, he made a total of 8 baskets. He is not tall, on the contrary, he is a peanut compared to the other boys and while his fancy footwork was awesome while playing defense, you could totally tell they were the feet of a dancer, not a ball player. Still, the whole point was to get him out of the house for a couple of hours on Saturdays and to have fun, and both of these things were accomplished so I’ll call it a win while recognizing that we are NOT raising a hoops star.


In January we were asked if Keaton was interested in doing the big boys’ number at the studio. At first he didn’t want to do it and I practically had to drag him there but after a few practices he fell back in love with the booty-shaking and I’ll admit, it’s been pretty fun to watch him again. It was most definitely the right decision for him and our family sanity to pull him from the line numbers but I’m glad he’s still able to dance in some capacity~ plus it will give him something to do one of the days we’re in Florida for Nationals this June.

School has been going really well for him. He loves his teacher, his classmates and has gotten a green light every day so far. His reading skills have really taken off in the last month. He can now read Frog and Toad style books all by himself and while getting him to stop jumping around the living room like a maniac can be hard after a long day at school, once he gets settled in he really gets into the story. I’m so proud of how great he’s doing although I will say, he has been having some attitude and listening problems at home that are driving both his father and I nuts. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he is the child that requires the least amount of our time and energy. He’s so laid back and easy-going so we tend to just let him do his own thing which sometimes results in him feeling left out, and then he acts out, not terribly, but just enough to push our buttons. I hate that it’s come to this so we’re trying to make an extra effort to spend one-on-one time with him in hopes that the attitude and listening issues will work themselves out.

Okay! Wow! I’m… gonna stop now. That was really, really long. I had a lot to catch up on but the good news is, that shouldn’t be an issue if I keep this up month to month. Of course this is me we’re talking about so no guarantees. Hope everyone made it though February alive and here’s looking to somewhat of a thaw by the end of March.


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This boy.

So much, all at once.

Slashing, pewing, round-house kicking.

Jumping, wiggling, couch-flips.

Spinning, twirling, split-jumps.

Hugging, snuggling, kisses blown.

A spy. A ninja, both regular and turtle. A Jedi. A Stormtrooper. A puppy. A little boy whose mom died in a tragic motorcycle accident. A police officer. A fireman. A big guy teenager. A SYTYCD contestant who always gets a ticket to Vegas. A doctor. A patient. A baseballer. A footballer. A basketballer. A soccer baller. Not a hockey pucker, mom, I don’t like to skate. An olympic diver.

A dreamer of dreams so big and so small.


A little brother, a big brother.

A middle child.

Writer of names and random pronouns.

Reader of Dr. Seuss, Mo Willems, and whoever wrote all those stupid Star Wars books.

Lover and love of everyone around him.

Beautiful face, beautiful heart.

Energetic boy. Sweet boy. Our boy.

This boy.

We love you, Keaton.



Now blow out the candles on your cake... ah. shit. Well, we all know mama's not great with the numbers...

Now blow out the six candles on your cake… ah, shit. Well, we all know mama’s not that great with the numbers…

There we go. That's more like it, six year old.

There we go. That’s more like it, six year old.

Gratuitous lash picture...

Gratuitous lash picture…

Happy Birthday, Big Guy.

Happy Birthday, Big Guy.


{* Last two pics, Christine Welsh Photography, First three pics, Christina “I can’t count to six” Gunter Photography}

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I had a great post outlined about the reasons this election is so important to me. Why it’s important for the civil rights of a great many Minnesotans and how passionately I feel about not limiting the freedom to marry. How utterly ridiculous that this nation can’t seem to get that we were founded on the idea of separation of church and state. How life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should be FOR ALL, not just those attracted to the opposite sex. Then I woke up this morning shaking violently from head to toe and after a hot shower didn’t warm me up Bill ordered me back to bed where he shoved a thermometer in my mouth… 102.8! Off to the doctor to get treated for mastitis, which is just about as fun as it sounds.

Even still, after my appointment I dragged myself to our polling place because, you guys? It really is THAT important. Unfortunately the early stats show that Vote Yes {that marriage only should exist only between a man and woman} is probably going to win, but no matter how shitty I physically feel right now {stupid boobs}, I can feel good about my vote. I know it’s naive to think it will make a difference but there it is…

One of my proudest moments of being a mom happened right before I took this picture last August. I really wanted to share the story with you, Internet, but between the fever and the sleeping baby in my arms, it will have to wait for another day.

Needless to say, this child’s heart never ceases to amaze me.

Bill and I will randomly talk politics within earshot of the kids but we don’t preach or polarize things in front of them and rarely use names. Since the baby has come we haven’t discussed anything much more profound than Subway vs. Jimmy John’s, prefolds vs. one size diapers or Dexter vs. Homeland. Last week Keaton got to ‘vote’ for president at preschool {they also got to vote for what to eat at snack time and when to go outside to play} and he came home with his ballot.

If you’ve known me for more than five minutes it will come as no surprise that I gave him a high 5 after he showed me this.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go feed my shark baby with my broken knockers. It’s a good thing he’s so cute…

And smart to boot.

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Knowing that this fall and a new sibling would bring many changes, I really wanted to make an effort to make this summer about hanging out with Rowan and Keaton and enjoying the relative get up and go freedom that comes with a 4.5 and 6.5 year old- something that we’ll be missing for the next couple of years as we start this whole parenting adventure over with our new little guy. Pregnancy in general, plus the anemia and fatigue I get along with it, sometimes made things tough but we accomplished a lot of what I wanted to do {water park!, beach! bike rides!} did more of some things than I thought possible {so. much. dance.} and had to skip a couple of bigger ideas {lake superior getaway} due to lack of time/funds. Overall? I think we did a pretty good job of soaking summer up…

Went for a firefly walk, Rowan even made friends with one.

Talked to a real pirate.

Made a pirate flag. That rainbow is really gonna strike fear into the hearts of other pirates, huh?

Made a butterfly ring.

Played on the sandbar on White Bear Lake that Mama grew up playing on.

Weaved on a loom.

Went to science camp.

Watched a ridiculous amount of swimming events during the Olympics. Here is Keaton “on the block”.

Splashed mighty splashes in puddles.

Not wanting to be left in his sister’s dust, learned to ride a two-wheel bike at 4.

Ate ridiculously bright-colored ice cream. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the brighter the hue the more natural and healthy it is…


Pretended to be cuddle fish at the beach.

Pretended to be lifeguards at the beach.

Took swimming lessons in a pool where we held our breath under water for many seconds and even really swam all on our own.

Refused to put our faces in the “yucky brown lake water” and also refused to swim without a life jacket at the lake which was the whole point of those lessons in the first place.

Hugged curious George at the Children’s Museum.

Planted peas and beans.

Went to Cascade Bay where we chilled on the lazy river and went down the big tube water slide.

Swam with flippers for the first time.

Rode bikes to the park.

Went swinging!

Went to a T-ball clinic with dad.

Went to a watercolor and acrylic class.

Picked carrots, peas and raspberries from our friends’ garden.

Shot a bow and arrow.

Ate Popsicles.

Had breakfast outside.

Told stories by candlelight during the power outage at Mallinger’s.

Went out for pizza with our cousins.

Slipped and slide-ed.

Visited Jorie’s work.

Went to Mama’s doctor appointment where we got to use a doplar on mom’s tummy and listen to our brother’s heartbeat.

Turned into Spiderman.

Turned into a butterfly.

Turned into a giant douchecanoe.

Hung out at the fire station.

Went to the N. St. Paul car show to see the cool cars and get ice cream.

Got into a water fight.

Watched the fireworks with our cousins. (Not Keaton, who went to grammy’s to watch Frosty the Snowman instead.)

Made marshmallow pops.

Turned 4 and a half!

Turned 7.

Got pet betta fish! Named them Harry Potter, Olympic Swimmer and Shimmer Dufenshmirtz Jr.

FINALLY gave up pull-ups at night so mom gets to enjoy approximately 3 whole months diaper free.

Went to the county fair and pet a fluffy bunny and went on rides.

Were ceremoniously introduced to daddy’s boyhood passion, TMNT.

Did not disappoint dad.

Had 3 friends over for a pajama-movie-night birthday party.

Went down the log chute and rode the big swings with daddy at Nickelodeon universe.

Had a fancy lunch at the American Girl Bistro.

Got Rebecca and Kanani’s hair done at the salon.

Had another birthday luau with Ellie!

Went to a summer ballet clinic.

Worked really hard at stretching and can almost do the splits.

Took first comp dance class.

Made the next line up in competition dance!

Got to be a flower girl.

Got to be a ring bearer.

Danced the night away at Auntie Susie’s wedding.

Finally decided it was safe to swim with heads underwater at the beach. Had a blast swimming around like fish, looking for shells and practicing underwater hand stands.

Finished my pre-k workbook and started working in my kindergarten workbook!

Passed the first two levels of Super Mario Bros for Wii.

Did the monkey bars all by ourselves.

Helped the neighbor girl with a lemonade stand to raise money for Tanzania.

Completed 20 hours of summer reading for the library’s Bookawocky program by devouring Cam Jansen, Disney Fairies and Rebecca and Kanani books.

Was brave enough to finally try the big scary silver slide.

Went for a sunset climb.

And? On Tuesday it will be on to new things…first grade, pre-k, new dance classes, new piano teacher and a very full schedule. After being so sick and apart from the kids all late winter and spring, I hope that what we did this summer made up for the time they spent watching me crawl from my crypt of a bedroom to the bathroom, only to miserably crawl right back in again. I know they won’t retain it all but hopefully the memories they do keep tucked away in the folds of their little brains will tide them over until their next adventure of becoming a big big sister and a big brother begins in October.

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Oh…hi! Remember when I used to blog about, uh, you know…stuff? Yeah. I kind of quit doing that with any sort of regularity and now when I write I feel the need to try to re-cap weeks or even months of activity for our little family and these posts are long, wordy, self-important look-at-what-my-precious-babies-are-doing-even-though-all-the-other-precious-babies-are-doing-the-same-goddamn-things and quite frankly they are as exhausting to write as I’m sure they are to read. What I’m saying is, I’m going to stop doing that. HA! Just kidding. I’m going to do it right now because I have woefully neglected to write Rowan’s end of the year re-cap and Internet? It was an amazing year that deserves to be re-lived on these blog pages. I’ll do my best to keep it short {just so you all realize my version of short is three, uh… seven, uh… 1000 times longer than anyone else’s. Sorry about that.}

Who ordered a Rowan on the rocks?

At this time last year I was so extremely relieved that the summer had come so we could leave that awful year and awful teacher in the dust. We knew the first grade teacher at that school had a great reputation so even though I wasn’t excited for Rowan to return there in the fall we were at least hopeful that she would have a better year. Then things changed. After we made the tough decision to hold her back when we were offered the spot at her current school we made our peace but still fretted over any repercussions we might face for “red-shirting” a very academically solid 1st grader back to Kindergarten.

A year later, with our Hindsight-is-20/20 goggles firmly in place, here is what I have to tell you…

Academic Cons: I think Rowan slipped at bit in math. One of the biggest arguments against holding your child back is that the earlier you get the knowledge in, the better it will stick; the 5-6 year old brain is more malleable than the 6-7 year old brain and all that jazz. Rowan ended her first year of K very solid in math knowledge. More so than the age factor though was that her last school was VERY math centric. About a third of the way into the school year they had workbook pages in math homework nearly every night for the rest of the year. By the end of the year she was adding, subtracting and counting money on her own with ease.

Having to start over at the beginning of the year with stuff like writing the numbers and counting to 50 was boring for her and by mid-year when they were starting in on the more difficult concepts she slid and honestly she lost a fair amount of the knowledge she had acquired the previous year especially when it came to identifying and counting actual money. Her current school doesn’t focus much on homework for Kindergarten, choosing instead to promote the classroom-home connection, meaning that every week we were given tons of info on what the kids were doing during the day and specific ideas on how to incorporate those ideas into our everyday home-life. Such as, “we are learning to count by 2’s, please sing this “Doubles Rap” with your child every night”, or “here are the sight words we’re working on, please place them on cards around your house and have your child find and read them”. Also this school places equal value on reading and math whereas the previous school didn’t do anything for reading outside of one month where we counted up how many books Rowan read or was read to for an end-of-the-month reward. {In fact, when I asked her teacher if she had any tips or resources for helping Rowan with a few phonics issues, she gave me a puzzled look and said “oh, they just figure it out on their own”. WHAT?! This might be true for some kids- it actually was in Rowan’s case for the most part, but COME ON, LADY. As a kid who struggled with reading big time, that sort of outlook is absolute CRAP, especially for an educator.}

Anyway! By the end of the year, with a little effort Rowan picked things up and is doing just fine at math but I definitely did see a back-slide due to the school/curriculum change. Other than that there have been exactly zero other academic cons that I can see at this point. Her reading took off ZOOOOOOM even though the curriculum was definitely set up for pre-reading, and this is due to having an awesome teacher and a school that was willing to work with her abilities. About mid way through the year, she gained the confidence to read chapter books “inside her brain” instead of out loud and has been devouring any Cam Jansen, Jigsaw Jones or Disney Fairy series book that she can get her hands on as well as reading storybooks to her brother almost every night. After years of reading out loud to a child and then months and months of having them stumble their way through easy readers, it’s a pretty flipping gratifying experience to wonder why the hell things have all of a sudden gotten so quiet and when you rush into the bedroom, find your 6 year old curled up on the bed next to the cat deeply engrossed in a good story.

Social cons: NONE. ZERO. I thought there would be some issues but there was absolutely not. Rowan made friends with just about every kid in her class and had no issues with her peers. At the beginning of the year she reported some behaviors by a girl in her class- you know the one who is 5 going on 15? The mean girl who tells secrets and tries to dictate who to and not to be friends with and makes you feel like a queen one minute and a pile of shit the next? Also known as THE GIRL WHO IS NOT EVEN SUPPOSED TO EXIST FOR AT LEAST 8-10 YEARS? Yeah, so that one tried her bullshit out on Rowan, who sort of half-mentioned some random incidents before coming to me at the end of the second week of school with the conclusion that this girl wasn’t kind to her friends so she was just going to play with other kids who were kind. I commended her on her analysis and decision, not wanting to make too big a deal out of it but in my mind I gave that child a stupid-proud grin and the kind of standing ovation where your hands go numb from clapping so hard.

As for the pros? Confidence. When you are the smallest kid, no matter how big a personality you have, you tend to be overlooked {except during those times when all the kids take turns picking you up and {literally} pass you around because “look at how small Rowan is, I can pick her up!” *passes my child to the next kid* “Ha! Me too!”}. There was only one other kid who even came within two inches of Rowan’s height that first year but all the rest were a good head-plus taller. She looked out of place and while that would never have merited a good enough reason to hold her back on its own, it certainly played a role in the grand scheme of things. At the beginning of this year it was so weird to see her fit in size-wise even though it didn’t last. I’d say at the beginning of the ’11-’12 school year Rowan was in the top third of her class height-wise but even though she gained two inches or so over the course of the school year, by the last week there she was, all 44 inches and 37 pounds of her, having been passed up by most of her classmates, she was one of the shortest again although this time the difference isn’t so huge.

And size wasn’t the only confidence builder. Having gone through K before, we talked a lot about her being a “professional” so it was up to her to set a good example for the other kids. This is a job she really took to heart both at school and dance. She went from getting “table time” and “frowny faces” on a daily basis the previous year to getting no “red lights” and only 4 “yellow lights” during the course of the entire year. That is amaze-balls, people. How many of us can say we only had 4 off days during the last nine months of our lives? I certainly can’t. A big part of this can be traced back to having a teacher that has more in her bag of tricks than punitive measures but we really noticed a huge difference in Rowan’s happiness in school which SURPRISE! Led to better behavior in all aspects of her life.

Would I make this decision again? IN A HEARTBEAT. Kindergarten is an adjustment for any kid and all kids are bound to have some struggles along the way, but what we went through that first year was beyond ridiculous. I have no doubt had Rowan been able to start out at her current school there would have definitely been a few more bumps but it would have been nothing like that first year. She would have thrived in the positive environment and would now be a second grader, but I think honestly she is where she’s meant to be and for that I am thankful.

That positive environment was definitely the other biggest pro. Listen, I get that there needs to be punitive measures for bad behavior. Kids can sometimes be assholes and assholes need to know their behavior isn’t welcome- But it should never be the first direct approach you take with 5-6 year olds. At this age these little beings WANT you to love them, they want to please you. An 8-10 year old who knows the ropes but screws around anyway, sure, call them out, separate them, send them to the principal’s office- whatever, but a five year old? JUST NO.

After spending a year in a positive environment, these were the things Rowan was willing to attempt outside of school that she was convinced she could not or would not ever do:

Ride her bike sans trainers. BAM.

Be a leader in dance after a really tough first year. BAM.

Get up in front of a big audience to perform her piano recital piece darn near perfectly. BAM.

Practice monkeybars, jumprope and cartwheels and other super scary/hard things for kids with vestibular disorders and low upper body muscle tone over and over and over. BAM

Get her ears pierced even after swearing she would rather die a cold, long death than put holes in her ears. Double BAM.

Just being another year older played a factor in things I’m sure, but I’m willing to bet that hearing “I know you can do this!” day in and day out helped Rowan to see that she wasn’t going to get yelled at or shunned to the back of the room every time she didn’t get something right on the first couple of tries. That it was OK to make mistakes as long as you did your best. That the mistake wasn’t the biggest deal and that apologizing, making it right and moving on go a LONG way. That learning from love yields WAY better results than learning from fear.

And you know what, kid? You CAN do this. All of it. Because you’re pretty awesome.

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For most people spring is a time of new beginnings. Fresh grass, chirping birds, renewing rain, tiny buds. For us spring means learning to sew one kind of unforgiving material onto another type of unforgiving material, hour after hour of sequining, stoning, glittering and long hours at the studio. It is a time of HURRY UP, oh just kidding wait, NO SERIOUSLY HURRY UP and wait some more. It is a time to part with money, and in Bill’s case, a good part of his dignity. It is dance competition season.

I have to say I couldn’t have timed this pregnancy and its accompanying sickness better or worse. On the one hand HA HA, GOOD LUCK, BILL. On the other hand, I could tell Rowan felt bad that all the other moms were there every week, working on costumes and watching the kids’ progress. “But I want YOU to take me” was a familiar theme on Saturdays when Bill was getting her ready and I had to explain for the 416th time that no one would appreciate mommy throwing up all over the shiny waxed dance floor.

For his part, Bill was a complete trooper. He had no desire to keep Rowan in comp dance- he was definitely pushing for her to join her brother at karate- but he kept most of his frustrations to himself and hardly complained at all when he somehow found himself in charge of an incredible amount of sewing for Rowan’s two costumes. It also helps that there is a HUGE learning curve to being a part of this studio’s comp dance lines and the utter unpredictability/chaos of it all, but having been initiated last year, we were old pros and rolling with the punches definitely came easier this year.

It also helped that this time around there is a room mom whose main purpose is communication and she is so super organized and lets everyone know exactly how they can help, what they should be doing and where they should be at, leaving no one guessing which takes away much of the mystery. This was obviously a huge help since I couldn’t be there to ask questions.

As far as the costumes went, because the communication was so clear and I felt like each task was given a manageable time frame, I felt like the assembly and bedazzlement was way easier than last year. After reviewing what was actually done though, it probably had more to do with the fact that Bill did a HUGE amount of work while I was praying for death in the next room.

Pictures? Of course.

Jazz Costume, "Smurfs*".

This costume was custom-made by the studio’s sewers. The good part: It was made out of pre-sequined material! The not so good part: See all of the blue? That was lovingly hand sewn on by us, as the only thing pre-made was the white dress shell and also the flowers were assembled and glittered by two brave moms from our group. Before I got sick I sewed two long blue ruffles together and then sewed them along the bottom of the dress. This was the first time I sewed since I got a D+ on a pair of boxer shorts in 7th grade home ec. so I was pretty proud of myself. It was also the only major contribution I made to this costume besides stoning the collar. Bill was stuck with: Sewing a very full tutu to a petticoat, then sewing both of those to dance briefs; sewing three teeny tiny snaps onto the dress to connect to the teeny tiny snaps sewn onto the petticoat so the dress wouldn’t fly up during the dance; sewing snaps onto the gloves and dress and all of the flowers; sewing the thin blue belt onto the dress; sewing the ruffles on the socks and the hair flowers onto the barrettes. And this was the “easy” costume.

*I cannot count the number of Saturday mornings my little sister and I would torture my father by jumping on his bed at 8am while loudly belting out “La-la-la-la-la-laaa, la-la-la-la-laaa”. I’m pretty sad he’s not here to be serenaded by his granddaughter’s dance, but I think it might be one of those few times he’s probably happier where he is, adding the booming back beat and hip-hoppity lyrics to an already annoying song is almost too much for anyone to bear.

On to tap! This costume was ordered from a costume catalog which for some reason made me think that we would get away without having to do as much to it. WRONG.

This is what it looked like upon purchase:

Cute, huh? Well not cute enough. Admittedly, in real life the skirt was not nearly so full and poofy but hung rather limply and those little shiny sparkles someone added in Photoshop were actually not included {I know, what a rip-off!}.

After we were through Dr. Frankensteining it, this is what it looked like…

Tap costume, "Mr. Sandman".

And assorted accessories for feet, hands and hair.

Again, we thanked a benevolent god/universe for providing us with an already sequined bodice. My contributions: Sequining the top three layers of tulle on the original tap skirt {which ended up being mostly for nothing because in the end we gathered the pink layers at the waist, hiding many hours of sequin work. On the plus side this tulle was very soft and pliable, making it relatively easy to sequin, so no great loss.} Next? Sequining the entire top layer of the GIGANTIC blue tutu {that was at least 5 sizes too big for Rowan} plus sequining three rows up on the next two layers. This took approximately forever because this tulle was suuuuuper stiff. In some alternative universe I am still sitting in bed trying not to throw up all over her costume as I try to affix countless sequins to the stiff, unforgiving fabric that was in no way made to have things glued to it. Here is where I admit that I actually don’t mind sequining, in fact I find it almost enjoyable {I SAID ALMOST}. The biggest problem here being that when you’re pregnant you cannot drink alcohol and I really can’t in good conscience recommend sequining without it. Lastly I sequined the socks which though tiny were complete assholes about the whole thing. Bill tried to do a row and I swear to god he almost started crying in frustration because the sequins will not stick and *PING* go flying off the sock after you spent two long, agonizing minutes lovingly and gently trying to coax it on, praying that it will stay when you pull the toothpick away, but haha no, it doesn’t feel like it, sucker. So I took over sock duty as Bill had his hands full with the sewing. I also stoned the shoulder straps.

Work Bill was stuck with: carefully seam ripping to remove the original pink sequin straps, the pink sequin top border and the light pink top ruffle. Sewing on two new tan straps, gathering and re-sewing on the light pink ruffle and sewing on a new blue top ruffle {which Rowan will not hesitate to tell you itches like a mother and will be the first thing to come off after the season is over so she can still wear the costume for dress-up}. For the huge blue tutu, he had to re-size and sew the waist to fit Rowan and then tack it under the pink skirt. He then gathered and tacked all 6 or so layers of the pink skirt and the top layer of the gigantic blue tutu to give the poofy effect. Sewed the snaps to the gloves and accompanying flowers. He then had to sew snaps on the dress to affix the 2 shoulder and two waist flowers to, plus sew a number of pedals of each of the flowers to the dress as well, to ensure we don’t have any flying/floppy flower accidents during a performance. All the flowers were {thankfully} hand-made and glitterfied by another brave mom, so we were {YAY!} spared that.

I actually love her costumes to pieces this year as I think they are adorable and age appropriate. Last years’ were cute as well but Rowan is just not a big Mickey Mouse fan so while the tap dress was cute, it has stayed hanging in her closet since last May. She still likes to wear her tutu from the jazz costume {which BLEEDS colorful sequins all over my house every time she puts it on} but the jean vest is not super practical for dress-up or regular wear and I was just NOT a big fan of thigh highs with bows on a five-year old. Thigh highs, I’m sorry…they are solely for strippers in my book. I know Rowan will love to dress up in this years’ costumes which definitely makes it more worth it when you know the kid is going to get some extended use out of them, even if that just means pirouetting around the living room.

***I actually started this post a few weeks ago, working on it intermittently since things have been so up and down, but sort of forgot about it as things have been decidedly down the last week or so. Since I last updated…

Rowan had her first of only two competitions this season, the second being tomorrow evening {the rest of the studio is heading to Las Vegas in June for Nationals but we opted out because of me being sick with Sammy Davis Junior Junior}. She did a really great job, though like last year, on her first dance she looked a little nervous to be up in front of so many people, but by the second dance she was ALL smiles. For that dance she has a little part where she comes up front, circles around the center boy and does a Russian jump. I was a little confused why her teacher picked her for this solo move since Rowan is not known for her flexibility, but she worked really hard all year on it and to be honest I didn’t care how high she got her legs or how pointed her toes were, I just PRAYED that she wouldn’t fall because she has a tendency to lean over too far when reaching for her toes, causing her to fall forward and this move takes place at the front edge of the stage- the last thing I need is a trip to the ER for a freak dancing accident. She, thankfully, did a beautiful job and I finally got to exhale after holding my breath all morning in anticipation- now I just have to get her through one more competition and two recitals in one piece.

So! There you have it! Bedazzlement 2012 is over and it remains to be seen if there will be a bedazzlement 2013. Rowan had previously decided she wanted to be done with dance, but like last year, as soon as the fun and bustle of competition season hits she remembers that she actually likes and enjoys it and has now requested to go on to the next level. The time commitment is… intense, to put it nicely, and it conflicts with her school day so I honestly don’t know if it’s even a possibility at this point but we’ll most likely put her in the three sessions of summer dance and decide in August if she can/should continue on.

I have to admit, if she doesn’t I will miss the adorable costumes…

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We have been so busy celebrating this season that I’ve had approximately zero time to document the last two weeks. Rest assured it was full of bright colors, over-excited/over-sugared children and lots of time together as a family. We have a get together with my mom’s side of the family tonight which will end our Christmas celebrations just in time for the New Year’s Eve party tomorrow night. So the best way I can recap is to show you a butt-load of pictures and call it a day, okay? Okay.


At six and four we have two expert cookie decorators.

And expert cookie eaters.

We enjoyed the subtle lights on our house...

And the not so subtle lights of Santa waterskiing at the Lights in the Park display.

One of our favorite advent activities.

Followed closely by this one. Such an understated design, don't you think?

As macabre as it sounds, my favorite moment of the season was this beautiful, peaceful walk through my dad's cemetery. It's been a completely brown December, but we got this dusting on the 23rd. It lasted a whole 24 hours, but it was a pretty 24 hours.

Christmas Eve morning we headed over to Bill's parents' house for brunch and of course...

Presents! Around three we left for mass which was long and packed and hot and not the most fun I've ever had. The kids did well considering, but two hours is a long time for a four year old to suppress his four-year-old-liness.

That night Santa was a busy guy, assembling a huge arts and crafts kit for Rowan J...

and the world's loudest drum set for Keaton Sir. {We will not speak of my stupidity over this one for the time being, I'm sure this lovely instrument will be heavily featured as my worthy foe over the coming weeks before it has an untimely, unfortunate and violent meeting down both of our staircases.}

Christmas morning, enduring the torturous obligatory photo at the top of the stairs before seeing what Santa left.

We had a relaxing morning playing with Santa's spoils.

And decapitating Santa in his chocolate form.

Christmas Day was spent at my mom's with all these crazy kids, ranging from 21 months to 17 years.

A more accurate pictorial description.

After the intense process of present opening for 20 people we chatted and relaxed by the wood stove...

and watched the kids dance while my mom accompanied on the piano.

For all its busy-ness, we had a pretty awesome holiday. Bill was off all this week and we planned absolutely nothing so most of our time was spent in our jammies playing with the kids. This weekend is packed full of more holiday crap and then Tuesday we’re back to reality and a diet with 98% less chocolate Santas. Hope everyone’s holiday was wonderful and here’s looking to 2012…

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Okay, I’m so sorry to do this but I need to document all this Christmasy crap in one big she-bang of a post. I promise it’s not because I want to torture you, Internet, although my reasons are mostly selfish. With the economy the way it is, I need a little insurance for mine and Bill’s future so I need fully documented proof that I was a super awesome mom to my kids so when I’m making my case for the fancy nursing home in the Bahamas, they might overlook all the ways I warped them and focus on all the Christmas magic. Essentially, this post is my retirement plan. Who needs stocks and a fat 401k when you can just write a blog post? You don’t need to say it, I know I’m a super genius.

So we went ahead with the advent activity calendar and about halfway through it? I’M TIRED OF DOING ALL THE THINGS. Because we are doing things. All of them. But after the fact I’m always glad we did them so here’s the run down and many lazy Instagram pictures of how we’ve been spending the season…

This year I put each activity in a decorative hodge-podge of envelopes I found hanging around the house. I conveniently just tucked in the flap so I could cheat depending on how lazy/ambitious I am on any certain day.

Day One: Get Christmas tree and decorate house for the season.

I already told you that this day didn’t go exactly as planned. Since we were stuck at home, and all the decorations were tucked conveniently in the back corner, Bill and I spent the morning digging through and organizing the Closet of Death, which was…not fun. What was fun was being able to donate bag after bag of old kids’ clothes and so many old coats and toys and afterward we had our bright, shiny closet back {which lasted all of one week before it was so stuffed with Christmas presents that it looked like a war-zone again}. Rowan was sick so Bill and Keaton went to get the tree, only the tree farm guy forgot to give it a fresh cut. Realizing his mistake he looked up our address {which they have because we are a part of their CSA} and he popped over to give it a cut. Only Bill and Keaton had stopped somewhere else and weren’t back yet and I had been busy with the closet and taking care of a very sick Rowan and it’s entirely possible that I answered the door to this poor guy with a white shirt and no bra on {trust me, this was a lot less hot than it sounds since I hadn’t showered in, well, awhile.} Anyway, it was very sweet of him to come but I think I scared him out of making house calls for a while. After a very long day the tree finally made it up. Here are our favorite ornaments…

This is my favorite, hanging on every Christmas tree for all my 31 years. It's the only one I won't let the kids touch as it is precious and liable to break due to its extreme old age.

I'll give you one guess as to whose favorite this is. And if you get it wrong you're kicked off this website. Forever.

*Sigh.* Keaton has displayed his undying love for this ornament by playing the "Who rang that bell?" sequence 4,896 times. Last year he broke off and lost Dorothy and this year the Scarecrow has been re-glued twice, as evidenced by the pool of glue at his feet. Tinman, Lion and Doorman? Your days are most likely numbered.

Bet you don't have a Grandma Walnut Butt Face on your tree. But if you did it would be your husband's favorite.

Our December 2nd Activity: Make Hand/foot print Rudolph.

It was mostly fun to see the differences in my kids' shoe size, most notably how flippin' wide Keaton's feet are compared to his sister's. I had to paint in an area of hers so Rudolph didn't look anorexic, which would be a great topic for a Lifetime Christmas movie but not so much for my wall.

December 3rd: Write letter to Santa. I transcribed Keaton's for him and Rowan got as far as making fancy, twirling lettering for her opening and then gave up saying "Santa's smart, he'll figure it out." I told her Santa is going to bring her Bare Essentials moisturizer and a nice bottle of Malbec if she doesn't finish that letter soon.

December 4th: Celebrate a special Christmas-time birthday.

Done and Done…the afterparty…

December 5th: Write a Christmas Story together. This being one of those numbers where everybody adds a line. Here’s ours…

One day in Christmastown Rudolph was sad. He was sad because one of the other reindeer wasn’t sharing his jingle bells. He asked the reindeer to share but he didn’t. Then he just ran home and went up to his bedroom and got a book out and read it and then he went to bed. The next morning he woke up to the beautiful elf chorus singing his favorite song. The song was about sharing and the Christmas spirit and it reminded him to spread good cheer. And then he looked and saw a letter and he opened it up and it was from the other reindeer. And then Rudolph went to the fair and bought a shiny new red nose. When he got back to Christmastown he ran into Santa. Just then the Bumble came out, snatched up Santa and Rudolph and then the Bumble took them back to his cave and started a fire. But they had a key and they unlocked the door and they runnnnnned back to Christmastown. Whew, that was close. When they had returned they found out the reindeer who wouldn’t share got eatened by the Bumble! They were so sad that he got eated that they wanted to make another reindeer but they couldn’t! They made a robot reindeer instead. His name was Snarfles. THE END.

December 6th: Go to a special Christmas concert. Rowan’s teacher asked her to do a reading when the previous kid they asked got stage fright. I was so nervous for her since she spent the majority of the previous week whispering because she’d lost her voice, and then once we got there and saw there was EASILY 1,ooo to 1,500 people packed in the gym I was just short of panicking but she did awesome. A mom of one of her classmates shot this great video of her doing her reading which I’m so thankful for since ours was shot with an iPhone from 7.32 miles away.

December 7th: Read Christmas books by the fire. This is my favorite. Fun, easy and comes with a decorative cat.

December 8th: Give toys to Toys for Tots. I slowly want to integrate more charitable activities into our advent routine, but want to make them meaningful. At this age it’s really hard to explain that some kids don’t have homes or enough to eat, let alone a pile of toys on Christmas morning. What do you say to a six-year-old who says, “But mom, Santa will bring them food and toys!”? I tried to explain that sometimes we have to be each others’ Santa but at this point my kids so thoroughly believe in the magic of it all, it’s hard for them to understand. So we’re starting small and I had them each pick out a Toy and place it in the Toys for Tots bin.

December 9th: Christmas tree sleepover! This one went a lot smoother than last year, as there was 8 times more sleeping and 78% less zombies. This night was actually our only unscheduled weekend night of the season and so far it has been the best. We all snuggled in with jammas and popcorn and had a Christmas Carol marathon, which included the Mickey Mouse, Mr. Magoo, and Muppets versions. This is one of my favorite Christmas stories- I’ve been reading the regular old Dickens’ version to Rowan. I sort of thought she’d get bored with it right away but she asks for it and is taking in the story through all that 19th century prose, which is really cool. So after the movies we snuggled the kids in for the night in their sleeping bags.

Best night-light ever.

December 10th: Go ice-skating. JUST KIDDING, THERE IS BARELY ANY SNOW AND NO SKATE WORTHY ICE. Instead I cheated and changed the card to “Spend time with cousins and family”. This year instead of a sibling Christmas drawing for gifts we decided to do a night of Christmas cheer. My brother hosted and we spent the evening letting the kids run around together while we enjoyed good beer, wine and each others’ company.

These two trouble makers decided that instead of spreading Christmas cheer they were going to spread dry kitty food. All over the basement. They were hereby confined to this chair where they watched Cars 2 as punishment. We maybe need to work on our disciplinary tactics.

December 11: Visit Santa Claus! Sunday morning the kids had their Sunday school Christmas program, which is a small affair of a few carols sung after mass. Afterward we headed to see Mall Santa, which was a little nerve-wracking since Keaton had a rough time sleeping the night before. We were able to coax him through the 40 minute wait and thankfully he did great once he was with the Big Guy {Rowan’s always been a pro at schmoozing Santa}.

We’ve had the same Santa for the last three to four years; he’s very quiet and peaceful, with a real beard and well, I’m sort of sure he actually IS Santa. He probably just likes to fuck with parents but after he finished up with the kids they were picking out suckers and he made eye contact with me and said with a twinkle “They sure have grown a lot this year.” I don’t know what it was- the tone of his voice, the look in his eye, but he seriously seemed like he KNEW my kids, or at the very least remembered them from previous years which would be very near impossible, considering the amount of kids that display must attract each season. Anyway, it was a good trick because he left me questioning if I actually am the one who purchases and lays out all that crap on Christmas Eve.

And {finally!} today, December 12th: Give food to the food shelf. This will be done tonight during Bill’s trip to the grocery store, where you can fill bags and leave them right there for the local food shelf, which will hopefully do some good this holiday season.

Overall this season has seemed more stressful than in the past {although I’m sure I say this every year}. With the amount of stuff the kids are in, plus special events for ballet, school, Bill’s work and church, it makes it hard to carve out time for special family activities. Every weekend has been completely booked and the time crunch to figure out shopping and such has been daunting. Plus with temperatures in the 40s all the snow is melting so it barely feels like Christmas in Minnesota. But. I’m ultimately glad we’re following through with our calender. Taking time out each day to do things together or think of others is something we should be more aware of at all times of the year, but especially at the time when that sort of thing tends to get lost in the tinsel and gingerbread. Now I’m off to see if there’s a way I can inject dayquil directly into my temples as the kids passed their lovely sickness to me and I’d really prefer to be hopped up on cold medicine when I attack the giant pile of laundry that’s currently requesting my presence.

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I will now turn your attention away from our {pretty!} entryway floor so we can focus on a little lady who is doing some amazing things. Last week we met with Rowan’s teacher for school-wide conferences and let me just tell you the major differences between my preparation for last year’s conference versus this year’s.

Last year…

– Made list, upon list, upon list outlining the details of the issues Rowan was having and possible solutions.

– Lost HOURS of sleep worrying with sheer terror.

– Requested a conference three times the normal length so we’d have ample minutes to talk about how awful my kid was.

– Prepared countless reactions to the things the teacher might say.

– Doubted myself as her mother.

– Doubted Rowan’s abilities.

– Underestimated and marginalized my kid.

– Cried.

– Showed up sweating bullets as I sat across from the unaffected teacher.

This Year:

– Filled out a short questionnaire the teacher sent out.

– Didn’t make one goddamn list.

– Showed up for the allotted 15 minutes smiling, and left smiling.

I know I sound like a broken record comparing the serious terribleness of last year to the serious wonderfulness of this year but I cannot help it. I knew things were off last year but I didn’t realize just how bad until we became part of a healthy, encouraging, positive learning environment for 5 and 6 year olds. But seriously, if you don’t want to read about how awesome my kid is {um, understandable} or how awesome her school is, feel free to skip this one…

First I’m going to jump back to the beginning of October when Rowan’s teacher noticed Rowan was acting a little tired, dragging a bit. When I came in to volunteer for Centers her teacher asked if there might be anything bothering her at home, or if her sleeping had been off and I said no, that she was doing great at home and hadn’t mentioned any troubles. The teacher asked me to question Rowan about school to see if there was anything that was bothering her and when I did she said school was great. Her exact words were “I LOVE it mom, it’s so easy! I know everything already!” Ugh.

I reported this back to the teacher who said yeah, she was afraid the issue might be boredom. Honestly, we knew this particular problem was going to crop up. Academically, Rowan is a strong first grader and we knew going in there would be a lot of repetition of the skills she had already mastered. Considering this teacher has 28 other little people to get to know as individuals and assess academically, we made the decision up front to be patient, figuring that we could work together with her teacher to come up with some ideas to challenge Rowan once everyone was settled in, probably late November or December.

Turns out we didn’t have to wait because as soon as her teacher felt Rowan was bored she went completely above and beyond our expectations, which admittedly were low after last year, but still. After assessing Rowan’s reading she went to the two other Kindergarten teachers and asked if they had any students that were near, at, or around Rowan’s level so she could put together a group of kids who could read to each other. When it was determined there was not, she went to the lower school principal and made the case for Rowan to go to a first grade class for reading. Due to increasing class sizes they had quit allowing that practice but because Rowan was the only one, her teacher went to bat for her, the principal approved it and one of the first grade teachers agreed to take her when the schedule allowed. So one to two times a week Rowan gets exposure reading to, and being read to, by other kids at her level which is really important in gaining confidence in reading.

And it doesn’t stop there. Her teacher got Rowan her own special drawing pages, where she learns more difficult sight-words and then follows the instructions to draw an animal. Also she got her a workbook that incorporates artwork and reading comprehension {how well does she know my kid?!}. At conferences we talked about how much she loved to work in the workbook and we started paging through to see how much our little diligent worker had done. Here I was prepared to be dazzled by my {obviously advanced genius} child but in typical Rowan fashion of Knocking Us Down Three Pegs we saw that instead of answering the questions at the end of each story, she had quit after 3 stories and jumped ahead to color the pages for half the book. I was mildly horrified at the little stinkerpants, but her teacher just laughed as we all agreed on this kid’s propensity to go into law or politics.

Socially and maturity-wise she is fitting in great with her class. She follows the rules, is independent and a leader without being bossy or controlling {she saves those lovely traits for home and her little brother}. She doesn’t discriminate between boys and girls, she plays great with both. She will be getting some more challenging math instruction once all the fall assessments are done and the kids can be split between those who need to review and those that are ready for more. One of the coolest things was that the teacher seemed genuinely interested in whether Rowan was happy with her school day and more specifically happy with her, the teacher. She not only seemed to like my kid but also seemed to genuinely like being a teacher. She wants the kids to be comfortable with their environment so they’re relaxed enough to learn. It just makes so much sense.

All this has been carrying over to every aspect of life for Ms. Gunterpants. She’s more affectionate. She smiles so much easier. We can joke around with her in a way we couldn’t before because she took everything so seriously, so literally. She comes bounding to the car everyday, excited to tell me all about her day. She’ll always be a little type A, but she’s loosened up so much compared to the little bundle of frustration she was the previous year. I know that part of it is that she’s experienced Kindergarten before, but leaving what you know and all of your friends can be a tough thing for a kid- but she didn’t skip a beat during the switch and has grown in leaps and bounds since starting school here.

Other than school, Rowan’s extracurriculars are going well. She has a busy schedule but I don’t feel too bad about it, considering school is less challenging for her at the moment. She loves her weekly ballet lessons at the little studio in town and is excited to be in the Frosty the Snowman number at their Holiday performance. She also dances twice a week on the baby competition line at her normal studio and I can’t even begin to tell you how much better this year is going. I watched the dance of the line she was supposed to be on this year last Saturday and after seeing how difficult and crazy fast it was, I feel very, very good about keeping Rowan in the baby line, as there is no way she would have been ready for that. Plus as it turns out there are two first graders on her line as well, so she’s not out of place. She’s gaining confidence at mastering the steps she struggled with last year {which has the positive side effect of her not being the one yelled at week after week} and because of this, she is much more willing to practice at home. On the downside, this year her jazz dance is to the re-mixed Smurf song which she loves but sort of makes me want to duct tape my earholes shut.

Piano is going fine, uh, I think. Her program is really hands off as in, Stupid Parents Don’t Yell At Your Children While They’re Practicing Or Even Make Them Practice, You’ll Crush Their Delicate Musical Spirits. As we don’t even have a piano this isn’t an issue for me but we’ll be inheriting one of my moms in January so there will be plenty of time to crush her musical spirit then, I’m sure.

And other than that? We’re reading a ton. She’s still very into the Oz series. We’re almost done with the fourth book which honestly isn’t my favorite but she seems to be enjoying enough. She devours every book she checks out from her class library, and is getting better and better at sounding out tough and tricky words. She also has fallen back in love with art and drawing which, funnily enough, she really seemed to lose interest in, in all the turmoil of  last year, and that made us {particularly her dad} so sad. So while the influx of drawings of Belle and Mr. Fredrickson and flowers and monsters and dragons and dresses and cats etc. etc. are mildly daunting, they are very, very welcome.

I don’t know if we’ve finally reached that magical {mythical?} age that everyone has been talking about, when things just seem to fall into place and are not so damn hard all the time or if it’s the positive change in schools, but life with this little lady has been downright awesome the last few months. It makes me sad and angry that we had to live through last year. That I doubted Rowan was capable of so many things. That I blamed her and wished she could just be different. Just do better. That part of me resigned myself to the fact that this was just how it was always going to be. But here we are, in such a happy, fun place in her development and sometimes in the moments after I pick her up and she is babbling excitedly to me about The Great Wall of China or the Pyramids in Egypt or about that one game she and her friends played at recess where they chase all the boys, I just stop and breathe it in, all of it, and smile. It’s true, how much sweeter these moments are, knowing how bad things can be. So there’s that, I guess. Every kid has their quirks and sticking points and Rowan is definitely no execption~ for a long time, too long, that’s all we were seeing. Now who she is, is shining through and we’re so ridiculously proud of her.

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So you know when, against all good parenting sense, we were really smart and let the kids watch Lord of the Rings? And I was so worried about the disfigured Orcs and bloody battles giving them horrific nightmares?

Well, Rowan had a terrible nightmare last night. I heard her sobs over the monitor around midnight and with a sinking feeling that this was all coming back to bite me in the ass, I ran up to her. Normally once she sees that I’ve come in the room she calms right down, but not this time. She climbed down the ladder and flung herself into my lap, still shaking with sobs of the remnants of whatever invaded her mind.

I always ask what her bad dream was about so we can talk it over and I can try to make her feel better before tucking her back in but I was a little hesitant as I was sure she was going to recount Gandalf being engulfed by a fiery flaming monster or Gollum biting off Frodo’s finger and that was going to make me look really, really bad, Internet.

But I made this Orc-filled bed so I sucked in a breath and said, “What was your bad dream about?”

And with a still trembling voice she replied, “A mean strawberry.”

“Oh, sweetie, mama’s so sorry she let you watch that mov-…Whaaa…What?”

” A mean, giant strawberry that was trying to smoosh me.”

“A …strawberry?”

“That was trying to smoosh me. It was really big.”

“Smoosh you into jelly?”

A smile crept across her face, “Yep. Rowan Jelly.”

“That is a bad dream. You’re pretty sweet but I wouldn’t want to eat you on toast.”

After she was done giggling, we sang Castle on a Cloud as we rocked in the glow of the nightlight and then I said it was time to snug back into bed.

Before climbing back up she said, “I don’t think I’m going to color in my Strawberry Shortcake coloring book for a little while. I colored so many pictures yesterday that it gave me bad dreams.”

Freaking Strawberry Shortcake, you guys. And not even a show with the sinister Purple Pie Man…a COLORING BOOK. Filled with smiling, glee-filled fruit people. I have to be perfectly honest. I… just…I just don’t get this parenting thing sometimes.

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