Category Archives: Family

Ode to Amy

Amy turns fortyish today and it’s high time I paid tribute to her, my BRF (Best Running Friend, for those of you not in the know).  We see each other almost every day…we work together, run together, even live near each other.  We keep each other sane at work and, more importantly, we hold each other accountable when it comes to gearing up for another race or just getting through that extra mile or two on a long Saturday run.

We talk about our running adventures at work so often that I’m pretty sure our co-workers (runners and non-runners alike) are over it.  This stops us exactly zero percent of the time.  Planning out a future race or hashing over the details of what went right or wrong on our last outing fills our days and occupies our minds when our jobs get a little boring.  Race details provide a pleasant (for us) and much needed distraction from yet another poor colon prep.

Side note, and a warning to sensitive readers: you may want to skip this next paragraph.  It is one of my very, VERY FAVORITE Amy stories and it is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.  My BRF is well known in our center for being one of the most badass GI nurses around.  This stems from a certain incident several years ago, during a particularly bad prep, in which we were playing our favorite game, Name That Food.  This game is every bit as disgusting and thrilling as it sounds.  The whole point of Name That Food is to identify a partially digested food particle appearing on the screen as something you think your co-worker might be about to consume in the very near future, in an attempt to gross them out of eating said food.  Some nurses are easier targets than others, and we prey on them mercilessly.  But my friend Amy?  Oh no.  Someone (might have been the doctor) identified (correctly we think, based on texture and smell) egg salad.  It was close to lunch time.  Amy promptly went out and purchased an egg salad sandwich at Starbucks and proceeded to eat it in the break room, to the joy and astonishment and gags of all around her.  She not only solidified her status as Ultimate Badass GI Nurse, but also set the bar for Name That Food just a little bit higher.  It was epic.

But I digress.  This story is about the importance of having a sucker by your side to make those long miles seem shorter and things like 200 mile relays seem not only like a good idea, but fun.

Most of you know that neither Amy nor I came to running early in life or in anything that could be described as a pretty manner.  The beauty of our friendship is based on the fact that we have real, normal bodies that nobody would ever pick out of a lineup as belonging to a runner.  And yet, here we are.  RUNNERS.  We’ve been through hot yoga and PopSugar Fitness videos and some misguided attempts at regimented training plans together, and it’s rarely pretty, but we keep showing up together.  She is my friend who has covered for me while I’ve peed just barely off the trail; the one who, mid-contorted-yoga-stretch, I can holler to from across the room ‘do you feel that one RIGHT HERE?!’ as I grab some nether region buried in my ass, and not only is she not disgusted (see above paragraph: nothing disgusts this girl) but I usually get a resounding ‘OH HELL YES’ in response.

Our closets are full of matching race shirts and we frequently show up for a quick little hill run on Wednesday morning wearing the exact same shirt, without having planned it.  Our chatter is near constant, despite the fact that we see each other nearly every day and you’d think we would have run out of things to say by now.  The one exception seems to be the hill climb on Wednesday…it’s our one nod to formal training, and we try to be religious about putting one day of hills in to our workout week.  It’s a relatively short route, only 3.something miles, but the climb begins right before you hit mile 1 and doesn’t stop until you’ve cleared mile 2.  During these miles, amidst all the wheezing (me), hand tingling (her), and slow plodding of feet (both of us), all you will hear is silence.  Any communication comes in the form of gasping curse words that would make my mother blush.  The swearing is how we check in with each other and make sure we’re still alive.  I love her but I’m sure as hell not turning around on that hill to go back and get her.  A well-timed f-bomb lets me know she’s right on my heels.

So, happy birthday to the girl who is Thing One to my Thing Two, the gal who knows important things like how many city blocks are in a mile and how much distance is left between this long run and my triple shot latte.  I wouldn’t be the runner I am today without you there to meet me on the corner of 128th and 86th.  I wish you yet another year of fun and craziness in the world of running!

Advertisements

Scene:  my dark, stormy neighborhood at 6:45 this morning, where there is currently no power.  Specifically, my garage, lit only by my weak flashlight and my daughter’s weaker (but blingier) Hannah Montana flashlight.

Problem:  how to disconnect a garage door opener, exactly?  So I can escape my house and go get a desperately needed cup of coffee at Starbucks?  I have already begun to solve this problem by rummaging through an entire kitchen drawer full of appliance manuals (an entire drawer!  how did this happen?!), locating the garage door opener manual, pretending I know what I’m doing by locating the page that says something about ‘disconnecting the blah-blehbetty-blah-blah, and resisting the urge to reorganize the drawer and throw out all the crap in there we don’t need or use anymore.  Priorities, Amy, FOCUS.  You will not get coffee until you free your car from the garage.

Me: Okay, Zoey.  According to this manual, there should be a cord we have to pull…towards the inside garage door.  I think?  Get your flashlight over here?  (I study the black box located directly over my car and begin–no, continue–to panic.  I need coffee.  Like, now.)

Zoey:  (scanning Hannah Montana in every direction but the one needed)  Mom!  What are you doing?

Me: (grunting)  Getting a chair to climb on.

Zoey:  (sternly)  Mom.  Should you call Uncle Paul?

Me:  OH FOR THE LOVE, ZOEY.  We can figure this out.  Don’t talk.  Look for a cord.

Zoey:  Mom!  Is it that red cord swinging right by the big garage door?

Me:  God bless you and your 20/20 vision.  Yes, that’s it.

What follows is a struggle to climb on a chair and pull (harder than what I feel should be necessary) until I hear a clunk that I figure means we’re either home free or doomed until the power comes back on.

Turns out, we’re golden!

I silently high-five my single parent self all the way to Starbucks and thru the drive-thru line.  I just solved an engineering problem at 6:45 in the morning!  With no coffee on board! 

I am greeted at the window by karma, that nasty old bitch, in the form of a good looking barista who normal works at the Starbucks across town and is now getting an eye full of my ratty hooded sweatshirt and my turquoise heart printed pajama pants.  I stop congratulating myself and start cringing instead.  He asks how my morning is going.

Great, Kevin.  It’s just…great.

Why single moms don’t typically write Christmas cards

I went to the Costco website today with every intention of creating a Christmas card.

Because on Saturday, after picking up the mail at the UPS store and heading home, my daughter sat in the backseat opening a bounty of Christmas cards and letters addressed to both of us.  And she was confused.  Mom.  Why did Auntie send us a picture of my cousins?  Is it her picture, did we get it by accident?

I had to explain the concept of Christmas cards to her.

So, you know, FAIL.

Back in my previous life, the life where Everything Was Going to Go a Certain Way, I was the queen of the Christmas card.  Started plotting them in September, actually.  They were fantastically witty letters accompanied by cute pictures of the new house we had just bought or what I realize now were really awful newborn photos of my daughter.  I probably made half of you want to puke and I’m sorry.  But, to my credit, even after the proverbial shit hit the fan and I realized Probably Nothing Will Ever Go My Way Again, I sporadically sent out cute pictures of my child at the holidays, usually after my friend Kelly not only photographed the child but created the card for me and did everything but pick up the order at Costco and address them for me.

But let’s be honest.  Nobody wants to read an annual recap of my single parenthood adventures except my mother, my sisters, maybe three of my closest friends, and my other unmarried, single parent friends.  You know, all two of them.  Doesn’t really make the economy pack of 50 cards from Costco.com seem worth it, does it?  Sending a falsely cheerful letter that highlights my year in terms of the races I ran or by telling saccharin sweet stories of my daughter’s development feels like bullshit.  Anyone could (and would) read straight between the lines.  Writing what I think would be an honest, hilarious, uncensored recap of 2013 would likely offend half the married people I know and be decidedly unfestive.

So there you have it.  I’m torn.  I used to love the Christmas letter but now I can’t seem to write anything that feels genuine and simultaneously in keeping with the season.  I imagine that most of my single mom counterparts feel the same.  Our lives revolve around things like praying our child doesn’t re-spike a fever at 4 a.m. because right now it’s 10 p.m. and we just gave that last dose of ibuprofen and the thought of bundling our sick kids in the car for a trip to Wal-Mart in the middle of the night makes us want to cry.  We are the be-all, end-all of creating Christmas in our homes and between borrowing a ladder to get the lights and the star on the tree and making cookies and don’t forget a gift for the teacher and what will you wear for your Christmas program and that goddamn f***ing elf who needs to be secretly moved to a new watchful spot every night, something has to give.  In my house, Christmas cards were the first tradition to go out the window.

Side note:  Seriously.  If I see one more post on the internet titled ‘look where the hubs hid the elf last night!’ I will begin punching people in the throat.  I hope you were fast asleep while hubby remembered to move the felt creature.  I hate you.  Merry Christmas.

You’re starting to see now that a holiday letter from me wouldn’t make it past your recycle bin, aren’t you?  I told you.

So there I was, on my couch this morning, palms all sweaty while navigating the Costco website.  Jesus.  Have I really not uploaded photos to this site since 2011?  (Likely the last year I sent a Christmas letter.)  I just couldn’t do it.  My daughter will have to chalk Christmas cards up to one of the many mysteries of Christmas, and work through her mother’s shortcomings later in life during therapy, just like everyone else.

Her Christmas letters will probably be fabulous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Things in my Fridge and My Feelings Regarding Said Five Things

Found this writing prompt over on my friend Ginny’s blog and thought I would copy her!  A random post on fridge contents seemed fun to write, until I actually opened my fridge…

1.  Coffee creamer.  Duh.  This is self-explanatory to those who know me, but in case you’re wondering, YES it is imperative that I have five different varieties of creamer open at the same time.  Two are sugar-free and therefore not consumed by me because they are awful.  Those we save for Grandma, who comes each morning to shuttle my daughter to school, and if the only thing I can do to repay her is to keep sugar-free pumpkin spice and peppermint mocha flavors available, then so be it.  I keep the hard stuff, the REAL peppermint mocha, on hand for me, but only during the late fall and early winter months.  Yes, I know it’s available year round.  But drinking peppermint mocha creamer in July is wrong.  There are certain cues I look for to signal the seasons are changing and the holidays are approaching, and the arrival of peppermint mocha creamer is one of them.  The first time I saw it displayed in the dairy case in the early summer, I nearly panicked.  Also, my new favorite?  Vanilla caramel (my good old year round standby) mixed with just a little vanilla heat.  Vanilla heat on it’s own is a recipe for a gastric ulcer, but tamed by a tablespoon of vanilla caramel?  It’s perfection.

(Anyone else notice my passion for describing coffee creamer?  You have no idea how much editing I just had to do on that paragraph because apparently I could have gone on for quite some time.  Am adding ‘passion for coffee creamer’ to my ever-growing list titled ‘Why I Am Single’.)

2.  Containers of pre-cut vegetables and fruits.  There is little chance my child and I would ever consume veggies if I didn’t run my fridge this way.  I dread the buying and the prepping and the cutting and the goddammit-where-is-the-round-red-lid-to-fit-this-round-red-bowl that precedes the shelf full of veggies, but let me tell you, it makes packing lunches in the morning a dream.  HAHA!  Kidding.  I hate packing lunches and nothing will ever make it dream-like, short of a healthy lunch that packs itself.  But it does help.  If I had to contemplate peeling carrots at 5:45 in the morning just to make sure we both get a serving of veggies at lunch?  Yeah.  It would be Doritos all the way.

3.  Buttermilk.  I’m far too lazy to prepare real breakfast foods early in the morning, plus the ingredients are usually buried behind all that coffee creamer and let’s be honest, the creamer is all I’m interested in for most of the morning.  Lately I’m a fan of breakfast-for-dinner, which means yummy yummy pancakes made from scratch instead of Bisquick.  I compensate at dinner for the skills I lack at breakfast time.  Bonus: they re-heat nicely in the toaster the next morning.

4.  Three quarters of a bottle of Asian Ginger salad dressing that I will never finish because it leaked from my lunch bag all down the back of my scrubs as I was walking in to work one morning.  It took me 20 minutes of sniffing to realize my backside smelled of ginger, and then I had to go home and change.  The lingering stench in the bottom of my lunch bag made me gag and proved impossible to wash out.  I don’t think I want to smell this salad dressing ever again, let alone eat it, so if you’re over at my house any time soon feel free to take it off my hands.  Otherwise, it will probably sit in the fridge until it grows mold.

5.  Approximately 12 applesauce squeezy packets that my daughter just loooooved until I bought the Costco-sized box of them.

Thanks for the blog prompt, Ginny!  This has been fun to write, even if four out of five of my items are liquids.  Trust me, we eat real food in this house.  I guess we just have to dig around the fluids to find them.

I’m considering breaking up with my gym

I have been a loyal, devoted fan of the YMCA for nearly five years and I’m sad to report I think our relationship is headed for the toilet.

I remember when my daughter was young(er) and the weather seemed perpetually crappy and the Y offered us needed solace on Wednesday afternoons.  I threw her in any class I could find, regardless of her skill or enthusiasm.  Gymnastics?  Sure!  Ballet?  You have no talent whatsoever, but you look so cute in those wee little shoes!  And…a 30 minute guaranteed time suck?  SIGN US UP.  Swim lessons were a must.  We bumbled our way through Family Zumba and vowed never to return, no matter how many tambourines they let us dance with.  Several weeks later we wandered in to a late Friday evening Family Circuit class and both loved it.  And I’m pretty sure I’ve spoken here often of my love/hate relationship with the indoor track.

My point?  I’ve always loved the Y.  Until this past Monday morning at approximately 10:42 a.m.

Oh, but trust me, it’s been brewing longer than that.  I think Pierce County’s population exploded somewhere back in 2011.  Suddenly everyone and their mother joined the Y and decided Tuesday evenings were a perfect time to work out on the equipment that, duh, is totally mine at that time.  At first, I blew them off with a judgmental little self talk, all ‘pfffft, look at these New Years Resolution people…I can’t wait for February when they’ll inevitably go back to their Doritos and get off my track’.  Except they didn’t go away.  In fact, they multiplied like irritating little rabbits, making it impossible to do a circuit in the weight room.  Or get my child in to the fast-filling swim lesson time slot I needed.  Hell, I couldn’t even find parking.  Sorry, child, you can kiss that coveted gymnastics class goodbye!

These minor irritations remained only that–minor–for quite some time.  I was cool skipping a swim session every now and then.  Whatever, we need a break.  But wait, what?  Swim lessons are now only 25 minutes?  Yes, I’m sure all these preschoolers can completely absorb all the skills they need to save themselves from drowning while they elbow the other four children in the class out of the way for their five minutes of actual pool time.  Not to mention, how does one squeeze in a workout in 25 minutes while their child is “swimming”?  It’s entirely possible to wait that amount of time trying to use one machine in the weight room.  These triceps aren’t going to exercise themselves, people!

And don’t even get me started on the locker room situation AFTER swim lessons are over.  Let’s just say you want me to have more than 25 minutes of exercise to put myself in the zen state needed to do battle with the prepubescent shower hogs who occupy more than their fair share of real estate in the shower line while 40 shivering toddlers wait for what will surely be a cold shower.

Again, I dealt well with all these nuisances.  I never killed a preteen and I only once or twice cut off a walker in the jogging lane of the track.  Price you pay for one family fitness center serving way too large a population, am I right?

And then.

They changed the Family Circuit class from 6 pm to 4:30 pm.  Hey, thanks there, you considerate staff members!  Way to support your worker bee families who pay your salaries!  Those of us with real jobs can totally make it to an exercise class that starts before 5 pm!

And then.

They changed the swim lesson registration process from a lottery system that I had only just now, after five years, begun to understand and navigate relatively well, to a first-come-first-served system.  This new system required you to set up online accounts and passwords and to log on to their website at a certain date and time to register for your classes.  10 am on a Monday morning.  Again, totally cool with this, you YMCA assholes!  Let me just simultaneously start this patient’s IV and get their colonoscopy off to a smooth start while I also log on to your website and find the Wednesday evening Minnow class.

Let’s just say the registration process didn’t go so smoothly this past Monday.  I was ready at 10 am.  The colonoscopy was, in fact, off to a smooth start.  The YMCA website, however, would not let me log on and by 10:45 all the classes were full and me and my little Minnow were shit out of luck.

I am now essentially paying this organization $72.50 per month for no parking spaces, cold showers, crowded weight rooms, class times that cater to people who clearly don’t work, and no swim lessons.

Oh.  Wait.  There is an opening!  I can get her in to a Monday-Wednesday class from 3:15-3:40!

Fail.

Sorry, YMCA.  I just don’t see our relationship going anywhere.  Not when there’s a perfectly nice high school minutes from my house that offers evening swim lessons to children with parents who have jobs.  You served my little family so well for so long, it’s hard to say goodbye…I’ll always look back fondly to the Wednesday afternoons that didn’t require I sell my soul to the devil to get my preschooler in to a tumbling class.  Maybe someday when you aren’t spreading your love quite so thin, we’ll come back.  Until then, I’ll be braving the dark, cold streets to run outside year ’round and my daughter will be at the high school learning to swim.

I hope they have hot showers.

On parenting a feral cat

Pilgrim is not the cat I was hoping to bring home from the shelter eight years ago.

It was a time when I was married, pre-child, living in a new town with few (okay, zero) friends.  I projected my loneliness on to my overly friendly cat, Henry, and imagined he needed some feline company.  Being jobless and friendless afforded me ample time to surf the internet for local cat shelters.  And it was there, on the internet, that I found Pilgrim, her picture posted on the website of a no-kill animal shelter a little over an hour away.

Her little black and white face looked so sweet and vaguely sad.  She had been at the shelter longer than any other cat, and really, she became mine as soon as I read that.  For over a year, Pilgrim had hunkered down in her cage, shying away from families and other cat lovers, too scared to come out and greet those who could potentially be her forever family.  She chose instead to eat herself up to a robust 12 or 13 pounds, preferring food over human company I suppose.  I had decided she would be perfect for us.  Surely all she needed was a quiet house to live in, and Henry’s eager company, to come out of her shell.  Plenty of kibble too.  Girlfriend clearly liked her snacks.

My first inkling that all might not be well was the sheer, overwhelming gratitude from the staff at the no-kill shelter when we drove down to pick up our new cat.  There was profuse thanking and a strange sense that we were taking their problem child off their hands.  Surely, she can’t be THAT shy…?

Yes.  Yes she was.  All that shy and plenty, plenty more.

She did not come happily in to our cozy little home.  The details of those first weeks are fuzzy in my mind, but it seems I can’t remember seeing much of her for roughly the first, oh, year or so.  She darted clumsily from beneath various pieces of furniture, making a beeline for the litter box or her food dish, then back to a new spot under another couch or arm chair.  She never once came out to our coaxing and flinched each time one of us got close enough to pet her gently.  Loud noises terrified her.  I vaguely remember quite a bit of hissing and spitting in those early months.  I had not brought home a loving cat and Henry kept giving me WTF? looks when his friendly advances were swatted away.

Around the one year mark, Pilgrim had, at the very least, adjusted to our presence.  She would sit in the living room while we were lounging on the couch, always positioned near an exit and ready to dart if we were to do something frightening, like walk to the kitchen for a snack.  But somehow we had just gotten used to her and, mostly, let her be.  The fact that she was sitting on the floor in plain sight of humans was progress for her.  I gave up on the idea having a cuddly cat who would curl up with me in bed, and we came to love her low maintenance profile, always chuckling and saying “Oh, Pilgrim…” when we would scare her by walking in to the room.  She never seemed to adjust to living with humans, always wary and baffled by our loud ways.  ‘Wary’ seems to be the best way to describe our new, antisocial cat.

Having a baby in December 2006, a little more than a year after bringing her home, did NOTHING to help coax her out of her shell.

She hid anywhere she could conceal her substantial bulk until roughly 2010.

And then…it was very strange.  My then 3 1/2 year old daughter and I were living in an apartment, with both Henry and Pilgrim, following a traumatic split from my ex-husband.  The cats had come from a large, 2200 square foot house, to a 900 square foot apartment, and appeared to love it.  I’m not sure if it was the smaller, more controlled space, that made Pilgrim finally start to relax, or if she was simply getting older and maybe slipping in to senility, but we started to see her more.  She would sit disdainfully in the living room in the morning as I sipped my coffee, staring out the sliding glass window at the birds, just like a normal cat.  She would come out at night and yowl a bit, making her presence known.  We discovered this random, fuzzy, black and white stuffed toy she loved, and would chase maniacally around the apartment.  Like a real cat.  In a chaotic, sad time in our lives, Pilgrim and Henry brought us just a little bit of joy.  She still avoided my daughter like the plague (however, so did ultra-friendly Henry) but she can hardly be blamed for that.  She’s not stupid.

My daughter got older and marginally quieter, Henry came to realize she was an excellent source of dropped treats, and Pilgrim could even be seen watching her cautiously from her new favorite perch on the high pillow shams of my bed.  The fact that she was not darting beneath the bed the second she heard my clomping child coming down the hall was major progress.  At some point last year (7 years after adopting her, for those of you keeping score at home), my incredibly skittish rescue cat would even lie beside me in bed at night, not letting me pet her–no false moves there, lady, unless you want to be missing a fingertip–but still.  Gradually, after months of no false moves, she would let me gently pet her under the chin.  She became a surprising fan of being brushed, and even let me cut out a few clumps of matted fur that had developed due to her, ahem, weight issues.  (It’s hard to groom properly when you’re shaped like a barrel, am I right?)

We’ve been in our new house for over six months now and everyone, Pilgrim included, is settling in nicely.  She still skirts the perimeter of the room when people are visiting, and any time my daughter has friends over to play, you can find Pilgrim (hell, even Henry) hunkered down under the guest bed until safety and quiet are restored.  She regularly hops up on my bed at night, preferring the spot near my feet where I drape my sweatshirt and extra clothes.  I think she likes my smell.

I heard her purr for the first time a few months ago.  It was beautiful.

And then she got sick.  Last week, she started sneezing and I noticed she was hiding even more than normal.  Leaving kibble in her bowl in the morning (highly unusual) and even throwing up a few times.  I kept a watchful eye on her but didn’t think too much of it.  This is the trouble with feral cats…they can be even harder to detect illness in than cats with a social temperament.  If Henry had disappeared under the bed for two days, I’d know something was up.  Pilgrim?  Not so much.

Saturday, I went in to the guest room to grab something and happened to glance at Pilgrim, resting as usual on all the pillow shams.  Except she looked…not well.  Eyes dull and something…oh gross, something smelly…stained on the pillow cases beneath her.  Alarmed, I ran to get the cat carrier, even though I knew she wouldn’t go in without a fight.  Nothing turned Pilgrim in to a hissing, spitting maniac faster than being shoved in to a cage.

Except she let me pick her up and set her oh so gently in the crate.  I wanted to cry.  Something was had to be wrong.

I rushed her to the vet clinic (blessedly open until 4 p.m. on Saturdays) where, for the first time in 8 years, I held her gently in my arms and cuddled her while waiting to see the doctor.  She seemed too sick to fight her way out of my arms, the way she normally would; too lethargic to care that a human was this close to her.  When the vet walked in, I burst out with “I’ve had this cat for 8 years and I have never, EVER held her.  Never.  She has to be sick.”

And yes, she was.  On exam, the vet found a large, gaping, recently-exploded abscess down near her lady bits.  It looked ragged and oh so very, very painful.  They whisked her away in to the back of the clinic to put her under anesthesia, so they could clean and stitch her up.  I had to leave her there for several hours and, for the first time, I had to consider just how very attached I am to this cat.

I’ve always been open about my love for Henry.  He’s so social and outgoing, it’s hard not to love him.  And Pilgrim?  Well, she’s always been rather like a shadow, not the friendly and happy lap cat I was hoping to add to our family so many years ago.  But…now I can see the value in her low maintenance, hang-back-and-watch demeanor.  She saves her loving for just the right moment, and if you’re present and available, she’ll come right up to you and head-butt you until you scratch under her chin.  She’s stingy with her loving, but to hear her purr feels like you’ve won a battle.  She’s taught my daughter the value of patience (how many hours she spent peering under a bed, diaper-bottomed tush up in the air, trying in vain to coax Pilgrim out to play).  She has her place in our family.

And now, a week out from her illness, we’re beginning to get back to our normal rhythm.  Pilgrim spent a week under quarantine in the extra bedroom, with her own litter pan and food and, most difficult of all, a collar she was required to wear until the stitches came out.  She let me squeeze in between the bed and the wall several times a day to scratch under her chin.  By day four, she had figured out how to wriggle out of the collar each night.  I would open the door in the morning, find her standing there waiting for me, triumphant, having escaped the cone again.  I would sigh and swear and call her and asshole and feed her and then wrangle her back in to the collar.  We would repeat this scene at least twice a day.  Until I gave up.  She’s been out and about in the house for two days now, asserting her will and not letting Henry near her, unless she jumps up on my bed at night to snuggle in next to him.

And so, instead of bringing home a lap cat way back in 2005, I brought home a mystery animal.  A mystery who will, just occasionally, if you listen really close, purr if you scratch her under the chin.

Dear Kindergarten Teachers,

I am writing to lodge a complaint.

It’s May.  As in, school will be out in one month.  So, as a somewhat whiny mother who has volunteered countless hours of her precious few days off in your classroom, I just want to know:  can we slow it down a little?

I have sent my child to school every Monday with her homework folder completed, even if it meant waging battle with said child on both Saturday AND Sunday morning, before I was even adequately caffeinated.  Show and Tell?  For 26 weeks, we came up with an item to share with the class, something that starts with the Letter of the Week, even when the letter was X, and when the final letter item was stowed in the little backpack and I had breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to use high levels of thinking anymore to help find age-appropriate show and tell items, you threw me a curve ball:  now we’re sending sh*t that starts with a SOUND, like ‘th’ or ‘sh’.  Well played, my friend.  I didn’t see that coming.  You know what starts with ‘wh’?  Whiskey.  You’re lucky I didn’t send in a poster board of inappropriate words that start with ‘sh’.  Can we stop the Show and Tell madness?  I’m tired.

And thanks ever so much for starting the new tradition–ONE MONTH OUT FROM THE END OF SCHOOL–of math homework every. night.  Because it’s not hard enough to convince a squirrely six year old to go to bed when it’s still daylight…now I have to practically sit on her while yelling ‘you can’t play outside, you have HOMEWORK’ every weeknight.  I’m not going to lie, I was hoping I could delay this nightly-homework-ritual for a few more years.  It takes her approximately 27 seconds to complete the worksheet, once she starts.  It takes upwards of 27 minutes to get her to sit down and start.  I feel there are better ways I could be spending these 30 minutes every evening.  Like drinking wine.  OH WAIT.  Math homework and wine drinking go hand in hand.

I’m almost done, I promise.

Just to remind you, we’ve done a lot for these kids this year.  You’ve prepped fine, smart, almost-first-graders.  I’ve sent endless cupcakes and paper cups and large boxes of Goldfish crackers to help keep your classroom running.  I’ve sat in tiny plastic chairs and cut out large scarecrow body parts and Johnny Appleseed body parts and other paper body parts that were destined for the recycle bin before I even finished snipping them from the page.  We’ve endured countless emails from the Room Mom regarding everything from volunteer schedules to field trip schedules to school auction donation schedules.  I’ve sent my child dressed up for every theme you ever dreamed up, and trust me, there was a stretch near the beginning of the year when you had a theme for EVERY SINGLE FRIDAY.  I want you to know, my standards are much lower than this.  If my child shows up at school fully clothed, I’ve done my job.  Bonus points if the clothing she’s wearing actually matches.  An every-Friday-theme added a level of stress to my life I hadn’t stopped to consider prior to sending my child off to elementary school.   I somehow missed the Farm Day theme and felt briefly guilty until my daughter asked me ‘what’s farm wear, anyway?’  But don’t worry, I made up for it on Silly Slipper Day and School Pride Day and Color War Day and even Camouflage Day.  I hate camouflage.  My grandmother bought her a $7 camo shirt from WalMart so she could wear it exactly once.  You’re welcome.

I think what I’m saying here is that we’re all tired.  The moms are tired.  The kids just want to play outside all the damn time.  YOU have to be tired.  So feel free to slow it down.  Together, we’ve raised 19 kids who can read and do simple addition and subtraction.  They can mostly keep their mouths shut when they’re supposed to and, thanks to your handy classroom chart, they only use the bathroom four times a day.  Call it a victory and let’s just coast thru this last month of school, shall we?

Laundry

Can we just talk about laundry for a moment?

Running five days a week has put a serious toll on the washers and dryers living in our houses.  Especially when it comes to sports bras and running shorts…you might think I am constantly running these machines because I am keeping up with my six year old who changes her clothes on a whim, but you would be wrong.  She, naturally, has enough clothing stuffed in her closet to last until the end of third grade.  Her mother, on the other hand, has twos pairs of running shorts and only one running skirt she feels comfortable wearing in public at the moment.

And sports bras.

Amy and I both own a hierarchy of sports bras, ranging in fit and comfort from super-snug-and-supportive to why-bother.  It costs a lot of money to keep the girls from swinging up and punching me in the face, so my rotation contains only three bras.  The oldest, and most stretched, resides on the bottom of the pile, so that when I pull it out and buckle it on (yes, buckle, as in 11 hooks from top to bottom), I know it’s time to run another load of laundry.  Way back in February, I swear I never even reached the bottom of the bra pile.  Now, thanks to a training plan and unexpectedly gorgeous weather early in the year, I’m wearing my why-bother bra more often than I would like.

So, when you come to visit my house, and you hear the hum of the washing machine in the background, take pity on the machine.  It’s been so overworked lately.

Dear Zoey

Dear Zoey,

This weekend we “celebrated” your sixth birthday.  I use the quotations because the curse of your having been born in December means you are sick on your birthday more often than not.  All the more reason to be thankful for hosting that roller skating birthday party for your friends back in July!  As your mom, it is always hard for a December 8 to go by without acknowledging how much you have changed my life, and to marvel at how far we’ve come together in the past year.

And I’m not going to lie, parenting you this past year has not exactly been a picnic.

Five was rough.  So much change, and so much drama: some anticipated, much of it unwelcome.  Your father disappeared back in March, leaving you sad and confused until mid-summer, when he suddenly resurfaced.  I, of course, knew exactly where he was, but you need at least five more years under your belt before I believe you can handle the truth of why he disappears and where he goes on these long stretches of absence.  This time was particularly rough because you had so many questions I couldn’t answer (because damn, are you smart) and you were fearful of letting me out of your sight (nobody could blame you).  You also developed a bit of a sass-mouth that I blame in equal parts on your genetic link to me and those awful girls in Pre-K who introduced you to Justin Bieber at such a young age.  Pre-K!  This year you left your beloved daycare, graduating from Ms. Cheryl’s Pre-K class in August, launching in to the wide world of elementary school in the early fall.  This change was just as hard on me as it was on you.  We grieved together.  I still look fondly across the street from my work at your old daycare, and remember all the mornings of early drop-offs and the love that surrounded you (and me) while you went there.  Kindergarten has been an entirely new ball game.  New teachers and new rules, every week a new theme, School Spirit Days to remember (God forbid you be the only child not dressed in camouflage when Mrs. Gee’s class is vying for the big prize of movie day), fundraisers every other week, and, your favorite aspect of school: homework.

Yes, homework.  Let’s move away from the difficulties of parenting you at age five and focus on the great things about you.  You love homework.  Prior to kindergarten, you hoarded preschool workbooks Gigi seemed to buy you in mass quantities, and worked on them intently any chance you had.  At the beginning of kindergarten, you whipped through the worksheets and reading homework sent home every Friday, then you would cry because it was all done before dinner and now you had to wait a whole ‘nother week to get some more.  You learned to pace yourself sometime in October, savoring your worksheets every Friday evening, working on some, saving others for Saturday or even Sunday.   Mrs. Gee raised the bar in November and now sends you harder reading homework each week, a Level 2 Chapter book every Friday with a quiz at the end.  This can keep you busy, content (and even sometimes frustrated) for nearly an hour.  You almost gave up on the first mystery book she sent home because halfway through, long before the Mystery of the Double Cross was solved, you got scared and didn’t want to finish.  You read the last few chapters with one hand over your face, peeking through your fingers.

Oh Zoey.  You spent this year playing school, working on puzzles of the United States, forcing me to read all those god-awful Fairy books, mass-producing some great art work, and obsessively listening to Mr. Know It All, by Kelly Clarkson.  You learned to fall asleep in your own bed and that a few days spent at Oma and Grandpa Paul’s house could be good for the soul (also that Mommy will always come back to get you).  We spent hours playing Slamwich and, late in the year, much to my joy, you discovered you like the show the Gilmore Girls, which I started watching from Season One sometime early in the fall.  You are fascinated by Paris Geller and Luke’s nephew, Jess.  You don’t know it yet, but we’re on Season Three and Rory is about to graduate from high school, which means she’ll soon be sleeping around and the show will take on a few more “adult themes”, so I’ll have to censor the episodes you watch with me.

In fact, the Gilmore Girls on DVD was part of the way we “celebrated” your birthday this weekend, as you squirmed uncomfortably on the couch, fighting off a fever and a wicked cough.  We spent your day watching movies, ordering pizza, and huddling under blankets together.  Not really the weekend we had planned, but I didn’t mind and you didn’t seem to mind, either.  My days of your wanting to spend hours on end curled at my side are coming to an end, I’m sure, and I don’t think there will many more birthdays where I write about how you spent most of the year wanting to be stitched to my side.  Happy Six, Zo-Bug.  Your mama loves you.

9.5 in the rain

How to know you need to run off a few extra Thanksgiving inches: it’s post-Thanksgiving feast time in your sister’s living room, and you are getting in some snuggles on the couch with your daughter and your niece.  Your niece pats your tummy, looks at you sweetly, and asks “Auntie, do you have a baby in your tummy?”  Your daughter fills in your amused/horrified silence by answering “no, and she never will again”.

So when Amy asked if I wanted to run the day after Thanksgiving, I agreed, despite having to get creative in finding someone to watch the kiddo and the fact that outside offered a bone-chilling heavy mist.

We chose the out-and-back route of the Orting Trail, I think because we are both growing weary of the loop from my house and the loop from Amy’s.  I’m not a huge fan of out-and-back, but mixing up the scenery is one of the biggest challenges in running.  The ‘out’ portion wasn’t bad…4.75 miles of drizzle, but I could still see out of my glasses and my ear warmer came off before we reached the turnaround point.  The ‘and-back’ portion, though?  I swear, I think God was watching us and merely waiting for us to turn around, so he could dial up the weather a few notches.  By mile 7.5, I was carrying my glasses (no point in wearing them when the heavy rain coats them every few seconds) and the soaked front of my running pants made me feel like I was running with weights strapped to my legs.  We both stripped from the waist up as soon as we got back to the parking lot (no worries about flashing anyone, as we were the only idiots out in this weather) and put on dry shirts (our one smart move of the day), then headed immediately for Starbucks.  Amy asked, as we pulled in to the parking lot, “go in?  Drive thru?”  Ha.  Drive thru.  Let’s not frighten the other patrons who were smart enough to stay indoors today.

Hot chocolate in hand, I headed out to pick up Zoey from a playdate at her friend’s house.  Thankfully, she didn’t give me much grief about leaving as I stood, teeth chattering, waiting for her to get in the car.  And the hot shower that was just waiting for me to walk in the door??  Totally made the 9.5 miles worth it.

But I think I have a few more workouts to tackle this weekend, in a continued effort to ditch the flabby tummy.  Time to go find another babysitter!