Monthly Archives: September 2012

Kindergarten can really change your life

We have survived our first month of kindergarten.

I say ‘we’ because the collective exhaustion and nervous excitement in our house is as much mine as my daughter’s.  We have launched in to the start of elementary school, a private school with an excellent academic program (read: FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN) and what is turning out to be a rigorous amount of volunteer work to be done and service projects to consider, not to mention about 50 things that must be remembered each week, such as wear red on Thursday because we’re talking about the letter R this week! and library books are due Wednesday! and by the way, come up with a  community service project for your family that you can present in poster board fashion to the entire campus by the end of October!…it’s been a little draining.  Happy, and satisfying, even…but very, very draining.

As with any shift in the family routine, you learn things about yourself, and particularly about your child, that you might not have seen before.  For instance, my daughter, my beautiful, spunky, desperately-wants-to-do-everything-right-the-first-time child, who has never slept willingly in her long five year span on this earth, now collapses willingly in to bed each night between 7:00 and 7:30.  Gone are the days when bedtime routines took an hour of my evening and I spent the small chunk of time between her bedtime and mine returning her to bed and re-tucking her in.  I now have at least an hour to myself each evening.  It feels foreign.  I have used the time to start re-watching my favorite TV show of all time, the Gilmore Girls.  Don’t mock.  I’m halfway through season one and I have season two waiting patiently in my Netflix queue.  Lorelei Gilmore is sort of my single mom role model.  One child.  Prissy private school.  Lots of coffee.  A spunky attitude that I can hopefully hang on to until my child survives adolescence…I figure there are worse people I could be looking up to.

So there’s been this shift, and some learning curves.  Apparently my child CAN sleep and I actually DO enjoy watching TV.  And oh, the joy of being in kindergarten!  That part is wonderful and all-consuming and keeps me going on the days when I realize I’m only a month in to this process and I already don’t like packing lunches.  Did you know kindergartners at Zoey’s school get three recesses?  And that one of them, the one before lunch, is LONGER than any recess they ever got in Pre-K?  It’s a joy my child revels in each and every day.  The opportunity to spend long stretches of time on the impressive playground equipment at her school brings her nothing but happiness.  The after-school program that initially struck fear in Zoey’s heart has actually brought us full circle, which is to say that if I surprise her and pick her up early, before after-school care, there is foot-stomping and feeling mad and making Mom feel like a total loser.  I remember this from last year.  If I dared to pick her up early, before outside-time, there was hell to pay.  She’s happy in after-school care.  If I had her darling teacher, Miss Megan, to paint my face and create owls from card stock and bake scones with me, every day from 3:15-5:00,  I’d be pissed if someone picked me up early too.  I need to start remembering this.  Next time I get off work early, I’m creating my own grown-up version of after-school care, and I’m going to call it NAP TIME.

Because DAMN AM I TIRED.

Single parenting is no small task, people.  Well.  Single parenting THE RIGHT WAY is no easy task.  And I don’t mean to sound all perfectionist here, but we all acknowledge on some level that there is a basic right and wrong way to parent children in the year 2012.  Sitting on your couch all day and smoking cigarette while you watch horrible daytime programming, and forget to pick up your child from school?  Wrong.  Forgetting that Friday is school spirit day and you have to wear Cascade Christian something-or-other?  Also wrong.  It’s a large spectrum, I’ll give you that, but I don’t intend to fall anywhere on it.  I have always been this way and I probably won’t change.  (You can reference the above paragraph, in which I point out that Zoey is trying desperately hard to do everything right in kindergarten, to the point that she comes home exhausted every day, and go ahead and wonder where that comes from.)  The problem, when you’re a single parent and elementary school routines smack you in the face, is that you don’t really have another grown up in your house to rely on, to pick up the slack.  Not that Bryan would have been one to remember that the Phone-a-Thon is coming up and the school wants volunteers, or that childcare needs to be arranged for the days in November when Zoey doesn’t have school, or that our daughter takes show and tell to school every Monday and the stakes are higher now, you can’t just bring anything you want like those babies back in Pre-K, IT HAS TO START WITH THE LETTER OF THE WEEK, but he WAS, back in the days before he was a drug addict, one who could remember that Friday was trash day or that the cars needed oil changes or the damn cat puked on the bed again and everything needs to be thrown in the wash.  He used to be a guy who enjoyed starting dinner if he got home first.  He enjoyed the whole bath time routine that I, personally, can’t stand.  There is supposed to be someone else here, someone just as invested in this whole educating-a-child as I am.   When Zoey collapses in a puddle of emotional tears for the 17th night in a row, the signal that it must be 7 p.m., there is supposed to be someone here that I can occasionally wave at and smile as I yell ‘have fun with that, I’m going to Target’.

At this point, I can’t even get him to arrange weekend visitation by Wednesday.

Being divorced, and a single parent, just adds an extra layer of grief and stress to the normal shifting of life.  There are all the joys (playgrounds! solving the Mystery Animal clues every Thursday!) and the heartache (nobody wanted to play with me today because I’m too bossy! My name didn’t get called at Assembly and I really wanted to go up on stage because I won a 3-R award in my class!) and, of course, the Remembering 50 Things All At Once.  (Box Tops.  Box Tops, people…you know those little squares on certain food and paper items that you can cut out and send in to your school for money, the little squares that I’ve spent my entire adult life paying no mind to?  I just remembered I need you to start cutting those out and saving them for me.)  And along with all of these things, these very important and normal life-changing THINGS, the voice in the back of your single parent head, the voice who normally stays in her corner like she’s supposed to, rears her ugly head and reminds you ‘there is supposed to be somebody else here’.

I don’t know if the voice ever goes away.  Maybe she does, years and years down the road, when your child is grown and gone and you aren’t really faced any more with the day-to-day tasks that overwhelm you and leave you wishing for someone to back you up.  Maybe the voice sorts herself out when the days of wondering if he’ll even want to visit with his child this weekend are long gone.  I think she’ll find her place in my head eventually, and calm down already, maybe when Zoey is grown and doing well.  Maybe.  I hope.

And, until then, I have about 50 things on my weekend to-do list, starting with Kindergarten Homework, and a weekly newsletter I need to read so I can compose my list for the week of 50 Things to Remember.

The 13.1 that we totally rocked

You can go back and read my post from a couple weeks ago, the one in which I worry and fret that I won’t make it across the finish line in one piece at the You Go Girl! half marathon, and completely disregard it.

The three of us running buddies, in matching Badass Mother Runner shirts, totally blew this race out of the water.  It was awesome.

I think I was right (man, it feels good to say that!)–the combination of race-day adrenaline and a primarily downhill course helped Amy and I cross the finish line in 2 hours 12 minutes.  For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a full 13 minutes faster than we ran last year.  And Carrie?  Our resident firecracker, Ms. I Mean Business, So Get Out of My Way?  She crossed the finish line in 2 hours 2 minutes!

It was a beautiful day for a race: clear skies, cool temps when we crossed the start line at 8:45.  Having done the race before helped me mentally keep score of where we were at, and how far we had to go.  For instance, I used the first out-and-back as my warm up, telling myself I’d be set to go by the second leg of the race, as we wound our way up to Wright Park in Tacoma.  The third section of the race was the biggest mental challenge, although it was also the prettiest part of the course.  We had gorgeous views of the waterfront and the sun on our backs as we ran down Ruston Way, but at the turnaround point (mile 9.5), the sun was full in our (already warm) faces and we still had the biggest physical challenge left to tackle…the last three miles.

Amy and I, normally both chatty during training runs, were unusually quiet during most of the race.  The last section of the course, back on Ruston Way and up over a hill (such a little hill!) to round the final curve to the finish line, left us whispering to each other ‘just a little more’ and ‘we’re almost there’.  The best part of the run, by far, was the last half a mile, when we saw Amy’s family first, and then…just as I was about to come around that last turn to the finish, I could hear a familiar voice chanting ‘Go Mama!  Go Mama!  Go Mama!’  And then, there she was!  Right before the finish line, I saw Zoey with my aunt Cindy, grins on their faces, holding a great sign proclaiming GO MOMMY! with awesome illustrations of me running and Zoey cheering.

And then?  I looked up and saw our time.  I remember yelling ‘holy sh*t, Amy, look at our time!’ just as she was yelling at me ‘come on, strong finish!’  We sprinted across the finish line together and we felt great.  We found Carrie and posed for group photos.  We shared post-race water and snacks with our kids.  We stood around soaking up our Badass Mother Runner-ness for just a little bit.

So there you have it.  We met our goals.  We trained hard for this race and we felt great afterwards.  My daughter got to see me cross a finish line and I have to believe that somewhere in her young, developing brain, this is leaving a lasting impression on her.  I went home that day and, instead of wanting to collapse, I took Zoey to a play date at her friend’s house.  I swept my floors and finished laundry and shuttled Zoey off to bed at a reasonable hour.  (Full disclosure:  I did not cook dinner.  Cindy suggested we come to dinner at her house and I eagerly took her up on this before the offer was fully out of her mouth.)  This, the rest of my Sunday, in my mind, was the greatest victory.  I ran 13.1 miles like it was any other weekend run.

And now we set our sights on the next half, coming up the first weekend in October…

12.4 miles of ‘OMG I’ll never make it’

Hard to believe this coming Sunday is the You Go Girl! half marathon we’ve been training for all summer.

Remember that goal we had, to turn the 10 mile run in to our new 8 mile, feel good run?  We got close enough to meeting that goal that I’m going to go ahead and check it off the list.  (Physically we’re capable of completing 10 miles without wanting to die.  Mentally, we still dread this distance.  So, like I said…close enough.)

And that other goal?  The one where we wanted to complete 13.1 miles as if it were just any other Saturday jog?

Yeah.  Not gonna happen.

12.4 miles with Carrie (and I use the term ‘with’ loosely, as she started itching to ditch around mile 8, and gave up and DID ditch me at mile 10) has me going in to race day this Sunday feeling a little uneasy.  Physically, my body just wanted to be done at mile 11.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t keep going, because I did.  I just didn’t waaaaant to.  And I really, really wanted to see the finish line on race day and think ‘ooh, I could keep going!’.  Walking down my street for a cool down last Saturday, I realized I am not going to finish 13 miles feeling stellar.  In fact, I will likely drag my tired ass across the finish line, just like I did last year.  I will probably want to nap and sleep like the dead by 2 p.m. that afternoon.  I need to suck it up and be okay with these things.

Maybe the goal is the problem.  I have been known to hold to unrealistic expectations in the past.  Maybe you aren’t supposed to finish a half marathon feeling like a million bucks.  They call it training for a reason, right?  13.1 miles is not easy, at least not for me.  And I’ve been working to fool my body in to thinking that 13.1 is the same as my happy 8, but my brain is not about to be duped.

Or, the hope that I’m still clinging to at least a little bit, is that we trained on harder courses than the race course, so maybe we’ll  work that to our advantage on Sunday.  Race day adrenaline will be coursing through our veins AND there are no (count them, NO) killer hills to contend with, if memory from last year serves me well.  This past Saturday, we tackled the killer hill twice.  Without walking.  Possibly, this is why my brain started sending ‘Emergency!  Abort mission!’ signals to my legs right at mile 11.  Maybe with no killer hills, I’ll still be feeling fresh as a daisy at mile 11 on Sunday.

Stop laughing.

Whatever happens on Sunday, at least I know I prepped as best I could.  If Amy and I finish in the same amount of time as last year, so what?  (Carrie, I’m assuming, will be long gone before mile 5.)  It’s likely the two of us will lapse in to our normal routine of 11-minute miles and plenty of chatter to keep us distracted for at least two hours.  One of us will probably feel a little stronger than the other and do some heavy-duty pep talking for the last few miles.  (I did this for her at the You Go Girl! last year and she returned the favor at the Wenatchee Half this past April.)  We will both want to lapse in to a coma by mid-afternoon, but so what?

We will have just completed 13.1 miles.  We will have earned the nap.

First Day

It’s here!  It’s here!  The first day of kindergarten is finally here!

Yesterday we went to Zoey’s school to find her classroom and meet her teacher.  I instantly liked Mrs. Gee, a woman who has taught kindergarten for more than 20 years.  She just looks the part.  First day this morning, she arrived wearing a long denim dress appliqued with apples around the wide, round collar.  Glasses on a chain.  Soft, yet cheery, voice.  All very, very reassuring.

My little one went to sleep easily last night, after some tears about not being able to spend Wednesdays with Mommy any more.  I kept assuring her how much fun she would have at school, and how the first day was such a big deal!  It’s such a big day tomorrow, bug!  Until she said…Mommy, I know.  Stop saying that.  She drifted off and my tears fell at that point.  Looking at her, sweetly sleeping, felt like I was putting a baby to bed and knowing that a big girl would wake up in her place the next morning.  I stroked her hair the same way I did when I first held her in the hospital, right after she was born…yesterday, right?  Wasn’t that JUST yesterday?

This morning, my big kid bounced out of bed at 6:30, excited and anxious for her big day.  I was so relieved her first day fell on my day off…it gave us the morning to do some special things (new outfit!  waffles for breakfast!) and some things just the same as always (read to me, Mommy, just like we always do, please?).  We arrived at school a bit early, on a perfect late summer morning: beautiful blue skies, with just the slightest chill in the air.  I thought of the conversation I had with my sister, Abby, last night.  She is teaching college level English classes and one of her sessions yesterday was filled with college freshman…eager and excited, a classroom full of young people filled with positive energy.  We were comparing her students to Zoey’s kindergarten class, and marveling at how energizing it is to be surrounded by all that hopeful anticipation and excitement.  This morning, Zoey’s classroom was filled with just that.  21 wriggling, excited, anxious bodies happily found their hooks to hang their backpacks and their cubby filled with chunky Crayola crayons.  I looked around and just soaked up all the potential.  Kindergartners radiate potential.

As parents began to file out of the room, I kissed Zoey goodbye and told her I had to leave.  A few brief moments of panic ensued.  Don’t leave, Mommy!  I want you to stay!  Mrs. Gee told me it was fine to stay a few more minutes, but I knew I needed to get out of there, for Zoey’s sake and for mine.  I wasn’t teary–in fact, I had anticipated being far more emotional–but the time had come to leave her in the hands of this competent, denim-clad woman.  So I did.  And Zoey was fine.  I watched with some of my friends from the doorway as the first day of kindergarten began.  Zoey looked quite grown up, and yet very small, all at the same time.

And now here we are, Wednesday afternoon, a day that’s been totally strange for me.  I’ve had Zoey with me nearly every Wednesday since we moved home in 2009.  It seems strange to have so many hours to fill on my own, without having to accommodate the needs of my hungry/bored/wiggly/talkative sidekick.  I miss her!  I can hardly wait to pick her up.

Kindergarten potential!  Energy!  Happiness!  Let’s hear it for the new school year!