Kindergarten is happening

Wednesday night

Lunch prep: Day 1

Lunch prep: Day 1

Tonight I put together Olivia's lunch for school. Tomorrow. Because school starts tomorrow.

I never really understood the people who created designer lunches. Sushi shaped like faces. Carrot smiles and sandwich cut-outs to look like eyes, pretzel noses and broccoli ears.

It's complete overkill. But now I kind of get it. Because whatever I put in this little flower-patterned lunch bag is what she will have when I'm not there. This is what I send with her. And I want there to be a moment in her day when she opens the bag and sees how much I love her. How much I believe in her, and how I'm so proud. Even though she's bravely entering this world of school and new friends and new activities, I want her to know that her mama is still here loving her and I always, always will be.

Now how do I show that with food?

Thursday morning

We got up at the earliest possible time. I wrote out our plan on my white board (Lord I love white boards) and referred to it occasionally. As long as I get out of the shower by 6:40 this will all work out.

It didn't matter. We got to school a half hour before the bell rang. Like maniacs. There were still cars pulling in as we left, way after the bell, and the worst part of me was like, how are all these people *just* now getting here? Don't they love their children??!! (kidding)

We went into the cafeteria where the kids wait for their teachers to come and get them and lead them off to class. Several families looked like ours: two parents, a little sibling, all eyes on the kindergartner. Olivia looked so small and her backpack looked so big and the school seemed enormous and perfectly clean and the parking lot was chaos but inside everything ran like a well-oiled machine.

Two kids from Olivia's daycare ran up to her and hugged her, so excited to see her after hardly seeing her at all during the summer. And I sent a little prayer of thanks up to the heavens. Thank you! Thank you for sending these friends to her. Please let them be helpful and nice and make her look cool and popular. Okay, just joking about that last part but if it's not too much trouble, it wouldn't hurt, you know?

Eventually the moment came where we had to say goodbye and we had to do it without crying. That would have completely freaked her out. So I smiled my biggest smile at her, and gave her one last hug.

"Have fun today, okay?"

"Okay, mama."

"But not TOO much fun, okay?"

"Mo-om!" (laughter)

And the bell rang, and the teacher gathered her group, and the little ducklings waddled off behind her single-file. And the two parents and the little brother watched until she was down the hall and out of sight.

"Olivia school," Henry said. "Yes."

Saturday night

My sister and I were talking. It always starts innocent enough. How are you! How's the house? Ok, so how is Kindergarten going? How's it really going?

Okay, well, here's the story. So I told her how it went.

"This is not an easy story to hear," she said to me. Or maybe there was an exclamation point there, because it wasn't easy [!] It was hard! There were tears!

And so we had some tears, her and I. It felt good to be understood. Even though I still don't completely understand.

Sunday night (1 week later)

Sunday was book club night. Several mamas whose children haven't started school yet, some with no school kids, and two of us who just started. So it was a good time to hash it out. We talked about the details, the pick-ups and drop-offs, the classrooms we hadn't fully seen inside, and the kids who were mean on the playground this week.

These are all part of the picture. But it's still hard to explain the emotions behind the Kindergarten transition.

Earlier in the summer I really didn't think it would be a big deal. Lil O has been going to daycare since she was 8 months old, and she loves it! She loved the summer preschool program we enrolled her in. And I knew she would. Because she is social kid. A rule-follower. A born learner. Like me, she tries to get all the gold stars. Like Jake, she is charismatic, she thrives in a crowd.

But she is also my baby. Watching her walk down the big hall of this big school in single-file behind a teacher I felt like I was watching her walk straight into this next phase of life. A very tangible transition.

When a baby learns to walk, there is no "first step." People try to capture this moment and they might tell you that they did. They'll say that Baby So-and-So walked on THIS date. But in reality, learning to walk is a long process. It's a lot of inching out and falling down, inching, letting go of the coffee table for a second, then grabbing again, then letting go, falling, getting up, and so on. One day you look at her and realize she's walking more than crawling. Thank goodness, you think, that took forever. 

Not school! School happens on one day, ready or not. There's no grabbing the coffee table a little longer for stability. You just let go. The bell literally rings, and you let go of them, and they walk into Kindergarten. It's beautiful. And heart-wrenching. And perfectly normal.

Please, God, let her just walk into that classroom like it's no big deal. Let her fit right in. Let those JCPenney clothes be just the right thing we were supposed to buy. Let her backpack be cute. Let her lunch remind her that her mom and dad love her. But do not let the carrot sticks remind her too much of home. Keep homesickness at bay, please oh Lord. If there are tears, let them be mine. If there are scraped knees, let them be some other kid's. Or maybe hers. Let her days be filled with equal parts challenge and triumph, timidity and reassurance. May she grow to love learning. May she grow a bit slower (please?) but always just surrounded by love.

LightLife Guide: How to Manage Children's Birthday Parties

Everyone has been asking me how to politely manage the many issues surrounding children's birthday parties. Fear not! I'm here to offer my answers to your pressing questions with 100% accuracy as per Ms. Manners.

1. It says "No gifts." Do I bring a gift?

Maybe. Obviously the child's mother wrote this, not the child, and not generally the dad. Unless there are two dads, then it was a dad. Best thing to do is to ask the mom, "Why no gifts?" Do it just like that. The fewer words the better. Don't be judgy (Why on Earth would you deprive your kid of gifts?!), and don't be relieved (Thank goodness, no gifts! I didn't want to spend a dime on that kid of yours!). She will either tell you that she really doesn't want any more clutter and the kid is fine (that means don't bring a gift). Or she will tell you that she just put that so the grandparents don't go overboard. That's code for "bring a small gift, gifts are happening."

2. I was invited to a party where I don't know anyone, do I have to go?

Three possible answers here:

a) Your kid and their kid are besties: You should go.

b) Your kid doesn't really know anyone either: Don't go.

c) Your kid doesn't know anyone but you know the adults there in some professional way and it would be good to make an appearance: You should go for a short time.

3. If I'm only going to the party for a short time, how do I get out of there politely?

Don't tell the hosts you are leaving if they are busy. In fact, wait until they're occupied with something else. Then tell a mutual friend that you are leaving (so that no one thinks you got abducted). Why? Because the party parents don't need any wet blankets thrown on their fun. They (and most people present) are having fun. You are ending your fun. That's fine, but it's your thing, so let the fun train keep on rolling. Make sure you've done something memorable or thoughtful during your time there. Like winning the 3-legged race. Or eating your slice of cake without using your hands. Nom nom!

4. I can't go to the party but I feel really bad about it, should I RSVP as "maybe"? 

Here's the common convention on Facebook invites, Evite and the like: 

"Yes" is the new "maybe" 

"Maybe" is the new "no"  

"No" is the new "f*@# you" 

*I actually stole that from somewhere. It's hilarious, but sad, but probably true. 

Here is another plan of attack when you must regretfully decline:

a) Be the first to decline. Everyone forgives the first person to decline.  

b) If you can't be the first to decline, state your reason for missing it (assuming it's a good reason) and apologize a bunch. Not excuses (no one cares), just sad emoticons and sorrys. 

c) If there's now more than 5 people declining, don't pile on. Just don't RSVP. Don't "Maybe"!  

d) If you have to RSVP, send a separate message to the host with a funny self-deprecating explanation. This will add a touch of sincerity and (if done well), will generate a laugh, further endearing you to the host.   

e) If you forgot to do all of the above, your only option left is this one: The Last Minute Cancel. 

The Last Minute Cancel is controversial. It looks suspicious (how could they have forgotten about this visit from MeeMaw when I sent the Evite??). It looks a little insincere and cold. But! It happens sometimes. People get that. Be super DUPER sorry, only state a reason if it's real good, and make fun of your delinquent inability to keep a proper calendar. You silly goose.  

Another thing about "good reasons:" let me be clear, your child's nap is not a good reason. This has always somewhat irritated me. Not because I don't think kids should nap. Obviously, they should, they turn into total monsters without naps. Not the kind of monsters I'd want at a party. But that doesn't mean you go and TELL THE HOST that your kid's nap is more important than the day of their child's birth. All I'm saying is this: do what you need to do regarding naps, just don't tell the host all about your napping woes. They're celebrating the day their child entered the world and their lives were forever changed, glory halleluia! Don't be all "yeah, but Baby Joey needs his full 91 minutes of snoozy time!" It won't play well.

5. If I miss the party, do I still send a gift?

No. 

6. What do I wear to kids' birthdays?

Clothes, generally. No bikinis. No beer shirts. No visibile stains (this goes for your kids as well ... if you own such a thing).

That's about it. You're all ready for your next Bday invitation! Go forth and celebrate!

 

Naps: A Memoir

I posted this picture of our recent nap FAIL, and it got me thinking about everything I've learned about naps.

He's got this beige thing going. (But not the nap thing) #wildmongoose #ontheloose

A photo posted by Hmv (@hmvlife) on

Here it is, a short memoir in naps:

  1. First baby: Naps rule the world. Baby needs naps. Mama and daddy really need naps. Does baby #1 nap? No. I obsessed over this for roughly 36 months.
  2. Second baby: Naps are ... optional. We got things to do, people to see, playdates to attend. Naps for baby #2 are bound to happen, don't get me wrong. But more as a result of the sheer human need for rest. Not so much the motherly compulsion to put baby down to rest in a timely and ordered manner each and every day.
  3. Normal babies vs. colicky babies: This makes all the difference. Normal babies lie down, and if they are tired enough, they eventually fall asleep (est. 10 minutes). Colicky babies lie down, panic ensues, sleep is the enemy, where is Mommy?! Dear God, where is Mommy?!! And so on.
  4. Mommy: The mommy of colicky baby is a hot mess. She obsesses. She nurses on demand, for serious. The mommy of normal baby relaxes and waits. She knows that normal baby will either be asleep in about 10 minutes or not. I was this mommy today. I snapped this picture of Baby Henry not sleeping and all twisted up because it cracked me up. Afterward I scooped him up, took him out to the living room, let him play another 30 minutes or so, then tried again. Finally, he slept. Like he should. Like normal babies should.
  5. Panic begets panic, chill attitudes beget chill households: This is the rule that we should hear about, not that "sleep begets sleep" bullshit. (If you haven't heard, this is the notion that babies who sleep well during the day will sleep well at night. I have no idea if it is true, but I believed it for a long time (kinda still do) and it can make you crazy trying to get good daytime sleep to happen.) Really, if you have a panicky baby who wakes up at the slightest thing, only wants to be held in your arms, and insists on one parent over the other, this stuff will make you panicky as well. The household feels like it's on eggshells. Whereas chill attitudes from mom or baby or dad or all of the above (preferably!) somehow seem to create an atmosphere of chillness. This is very chicken vs. egg. "Is our second baby calmer because WE are calmer?" No one knows. But the aura of calm is very nice, isn't it?
  6. Postpartum nonsense: Postpartum depression, folks. IT IS REAL. It affects everything. I just have to mention it with regard to naps because it plays a role in every aspect of parenting. I've had friends who had it with Baby #1 or with Baby #2 or #3. PPD lies to you, and tells you that the babe is not napping because of you. I'm here to tell you: this is nonsense. This parenting stuff is hard. It's not hard because you're doing it wrong. It's hard because it's hard. But it will pass. It will get better.
  7. Finally: nap time is parent time. We all know this. But the second time around I understand this like it's my gosh darn JOB. As soon as kids are asleep, I'm reading my book or searching for flights or washing my dishes or WHAT-ever. Whatever needs to be done, it's the first thing I do. This is precious time! It doesn't last forever. Stop farting around on Facebook and get your shit done! And if "your shit" involves some time with the husby or some time with the peaceful quiet or even (whoa) a nap for yourself, then get on it! And have a blast.

Love ~
hmv

How to Have the Best Maternity Leave Ever in 5 Steps

It has been my lifelong quest to have the "best" everything, and maternity leave was no different. I started planning for it, literally, from the moment I started to think about getting pregnant.  There is no perfect recipe for a maternity leave, but for my money, I'd say I got pretty close.

Step 1: Plan WAY Ahead

Step 1 of the plan is to plan. I know. But seriously you need to think ahead if you're going to do this right. For one thing, does your employer have a family leave policy? Oh they don't?! Join the club! No one does. Your precious unborn child will need you after he or she is born. Somehow this fact is lost on the entire country, but take it from me, you'll need some paid time off. Your options:

  • Sign up for a short-term disability policy. Try and do that BEFORE you get pregnant because you'll get a larger benefit. Also you need to jump on it during open enrollment.
  • Save up your sick leave and vacation days. Make sure your employer lets you use sick time during maternity leave. Isn't that sneaky, sometimes they don't!
  • Consider a leave of absence. Without pay. Sometimes this is allowed, sometimes not. Talk to HR. Talk to other ladies who have had children at your work.
  • Save up. Obviously. How you gonna live without paychecks??

Step 1 part B: Talk to your boss. If you're comfortable.

Obviously this is very subjective. Think about whether this will do more harm than good. In my case, it did a lot of good. I have a great boss who is also a mom. She also appreciates the ability to plan ahead for our office. Lastly (and this is important!) she can keep a secret like a mother-. We had some coffee and a chat about 3 months before I actually got pregnant. I told her that my husband and I were hoping to expand our family. We didn't know when, exactly, but it might be a few months ahead. She thanked me for letting her know and for trusting her.

Based on our previous track record, my husband and I had been pretty fortunate in the fertility department. If we weren't fortunate this time, I'd probably want her to know that too because secondary infertility is no small deal. But as it turned out we were fortunate. Four months later she was asking me about this big conference scheduled for September. I had to tell her, no, that wasn't going to work because ... baby time 2015! She was over-the-moon excited. And then she kept that secret for a few more weeks until I was ready to share. I freakin love my job so much.

Whoa! Get out of the office before the baby gets out of you.

Step 2: Get out of the office before your water breaks over everything.

The question: When to start your maternity leave?

The answer: At exactly the point where you can't TAKE IT ANYMORE. You don't want to go too soon because you only have so much paid leave time. You don't want to go too late because you'll just hate life and all your coworkers and your cankles.

I had to ask around about this one, and the consensus was this. Try hard to stay at work until your due date. But don't stay past that. You're going to be struggling in weeks 38, 39, 40. But you can do it. I started leaving work early in week 39, and people were super understanding. Once we entered week 41 I was like No. Can't do it anymore. I'm not going back there without a baby.

Step 3. Decide: Take As Much Time Off As You Can -or- Spread Out Your Time Off 

In one camp, we've got TAMTOAYC. As much time off as you can get, all at once. Pros: 

- you get this incredible block of time off that you may never get again
- no work distractions 
- never need to do laundry, really, because PJs are always OK and never dirty  

In the other camp, we've got SOYTO. You take some concentrated time off at first, then spread out your days as you gradually return to full time work. Pros: 

- you'll get days off with your little one well into their 4th, 5th or 6th months of life
- breastfeeding is easier to keep going because you can keep up your supply on your days off with baby
- you'll also have regular face time with your coworkers and boss, who will see that you are committed to the team and also that you haven't died in a tragic laundry avalanche

I decided on a hybrid approach. It went like this:

  • Weeks 1-7: Totally off work. I think I answered 1 work email.
  • Week 8: Worked 1/2 day.
  • Weeks 9-14: Worked two 1/2 days per week. Tuesday/Thursday afternoons specifically.
  • Next month: Worked full time, but took Wednesdays off.
  • Next month: Worked full time.

This arrangement was amaaaazing. I worked it all out ahead of time. Most of my work was transferred to coworkers. But I asked to keep one project (a yearly report) that I do each year in December/January. This way I'd have one succinct project to focus on. I left my "out of office" message on and did not answer email unless it was easy/necessary. When that project was done, I started catching up on everything and got back in the groove. Gradually.

Step 3 part B: If Your Partner Can Take Time Off, Do That Too

My husband's time off was also hybrid:

  • Weeks 1-3: Totally off work.
  • Weeks 4-8: Worked full time, but took 1 day off per week.
  • Weeks 9-14: Worked full time, but covered for me on Tuesday/Thursday afternoons. (As in, he was off work and watching the kids during this time.)
  • Next month: Totally off work.

Doing paternity leave like a boss

Having some days home with me throughout my leave was the BEST. I was very worried about getting the postpartum depression, so this was integral to building up my support network. Also integral: regular visits with friends, play dates, coffee dates, visits from family, Christmas (that happened), social media, oh and WellMama too. Definitely WellMama.

Jake's decision to take that last month off work had two major advantages, aside from his total delight at taking a month off to bond with his baby. First, it prolonged Baby Henry's time home with us. He got lots of one-on-one attention. And no daycare germs until he was 4 1/2 months old. And no daycare expenses.

More importantly, I firmly believe that partners become really great partners when they get the chance to parent alone. Let your husband or partner (husband in my case) take charge for a while. Maybe it's a month, maybe it's just a weekend. But try and let them figure the parenting thing out. Babies will take a bottle, eventually. Dads will find things that soothe the baby. Together they will develop their own special relationship. Staying home all day with a baby (or multiple kids) is exhausting. Both parents should experience it if they can. It creates a healthy appreciation for stay-at-home parents, for daycare providers, for the work and drudgery and, at times, the joy of full time parenting.

Step 4: While on Maternity Leave, It is OK to Have a To-Do List, but... 

...You probably know what I'm going to say. Adjust yo' expectations. If you are Type A like me, this will be very difficult. In all likelihood, you will fail at this. Try this: first, go ahead and write out your whole crazy list, just go nuts. Think of everything you'd love to get done during this time "off." 3 months off from work? WA-HOO! Right?  

Wrong. Three months will fly by. Your list is way too ambitious. Don't torture yourself. Parenthood, especially NEW parenthood, is hard enough. 

But that doesn't mean you can't accomplish a few things. I hate it when everyone tells you to just calm down and embrace your baby and do nothing. I ... can't ... not ... do all the things!

So now that you have your crazy long list, start prioritizing. Slash and dash. But remember, it's very satisfying to cross some things off your list, so throw a few low-hanging fruits on there. 

Lastly, consider keeping a "Done List." You can create a Done List by writing down everything you got "done" that day. Include whatever you want: grocery shopping, creating a shopping list, watching HGTV, watching the baby sleep on your chest, building a custom bunk-bed. (Just kidding. Who builds things, honestly?) 

I've always been big on lists (can you tell?), so I was a little scared to give up my to-do list in favor of a Done List. But in the end, I'm so glad I did. I did it with only 10 days to go, but oh well. Now I have a few pages of memories of what I did, which grew increasingly funny and self-centered (Day 9: watched HGTV! Had coffee with Missy!).

Step 5: Enjoy.

Enjoy. This final tip goes for all the mamas who are on good footing health-wise. Who are not struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety. Who have reached a point of peaceful acceptance with their laundry-drenched living rooms and never-clean kitchen sinks.

Just enjoy. You never get to have a baby this small again. That is true every day that goes by. Don't drive yourself crazy thinking about it (as I did, at times). Just embrace it. And embrace that tiny baby.

Enjoy the little moments you get to have. It won't be a picnic every minute of every day. Sometimes it will be friggin unbearable. But sometimes you will get to have a great playdate with your stay-at-home mom friend at the local kids' gym, and you'll watch the kids goofing around and you'll think, this is so fun. It's 2:00 on a Tuesday! Sometimes you'll get to make coffee for your friend and you'll hear about her baby who is waking up every 1.5 hours at night. Your baby will chill out for a while, allowing you to be there for her and really listen.

I thought I would do these fun things "all the time!" As in, "we can go to the library for storytime all the time!" "I can write on the blog all the time!" It didn't happen. It took me a while to figure out that it wasn't physically possible to watch HGTV and take the kids to the park and catch up on my online course all at the same time all the time!

I enjoyed the moments though. I ticked a lot of things off my list. A couple of favorites:

1. Letting my baby fall asleep on my chest.

2. Going to WellMama and feeling the mama love.

3. Waking up late each morning next to my baby and trying to make Henry smile. Sometimes Olivia too.

That's what counts. Enjoy, mamas.

How are you doing, mama?

You want to know how I'm doing. You want to ask. But you don't know how to say what you mean ... how are you really doing? Are you sad? Depressed? Did it get you, the postpartum?

Oh the postpartum depression. I've talked about it before, you know I'm involved in the cause, and my little circle of family and friends (and me) have been waiting and watching to see if I'm OK this time. I want so badly to be OK this time. I really do. I am FIGHTING the good fight to be OK this time. And I think so far I'm winning. We're all winning--my support system and me. But the battle is not over, and this won't be the last thing I write about the topic of perinatal mood disorders. I need to leave that door open because if it gets me again, I don't want to feel like a failure. I don't want to feel like I've let people down.

How am I really doing? I think I'm really doing OK. My mood fluctuates a bit from day to day hour to hour, but overall? Overall I am actually doing pretty well. I would put my mood waves in the "probably pretty normal" camp. I'm definitely not in the "all systems down/red alert/panic time" camp. Nor am I in the "devastating sadness" or the "pulsating with anxiety" camps. I've visited there. It's awful. Not recommended.

One week postpartum, the second time around. Taking in some sunshine and some quiet.

One week postpartum, the second time around. Taking in some sunshine and some quiet.

I think about that first postpartum period often now. I compare how things are going now to how they were back then. Gosh I was having a rough time. I had such high expectations of myself and my little baby. Neither of us lived up to them. She had the colic and couldn't sleep very well...ever. And I had to fill every spare moment with job applications and job searching, and I would inevitably become interrupted, hungry, tired, and then sad. I would start the day will all kinds of hope and possibility, and end each day in tears and disappointment and a sense that things would never get better. Things would always be hopeless and we would surely go broke.

One sign that things are better this time: I know that all that hopeless despair self-talk is a lie.

If I could say a few words to my old new-mama self I would tell her that. Depression lies to you. It is not hopeless. You are a hero, and you deserve to take a break.

Sometimes I wonder why didn't anyone else tell me this? Why didn't someone ask if I was OK?

The fact is, people did reach out. They did ask, how are you doing? I didn't hear them. They would ask, "how are you doing?" and all I would hear was "Tell us about how grateful you are for your new baby." I was grateful, I really was so very grateful that it killed me to be having a hard time emotionally. I was also so tired of failing at life (it seemed) that I wanted to succeed at this one thing. Admitting anything else felt like admitting that I was a terrible mom.

Oh, old me, all of that was a lie. No one was expecting you to be grateful at all times.

Other new moms (if you are out there listening), hear this! Please, open your ears and your heart to the well-intentioned questions that people are asking. Try to focus on the voices that are reaching out. They may be muffled by the all-encompassing sound of doubt and criticism and the fear of looking like a bad mom. But the voice that is criticizing your every move, the one that tells you this crap:
...that you didn't try hard enough
...that other moms' babies don't cry this much
...that other moms don't cry this much
...that you really need to be grateful that you even get to be a mom at all
...that you need to smile more because you're going to make your baby sad.

That voice is lying. Even if that voice is your own.

Listen, mama, even if you don't believe it quite yet...trust me, you will some day soon:
You are enough.
You are the best mama for your little one.
For your baby, the sun rises and sets with you, just the way you are. Just your sweet presence warms that baby's heart.
The love will grow.
You can cry.
You can tell people that you don't feel well.
You can get help. Any kind of help you need.
Resist the urge to judge yourself and your need for help. We all need help.

You are enough, mama. Yes, yes you are.

Watching her watch her first movie

I feel almost silly about how exciting it was to watch Lil O watching her first movie on the big screen. But I have a theory about this.

Walking into the discount movie theater in Springfield I felt like I was walking into a theater for the first time. I was reminded of the Garland theater in Spokane where I grew up. My mom would take us to see $1 movies, and we would always ALWAYS buy the big popcorn. Free refills, y'all. And it all cost about $5 because this was the 1990s and we hadn't all been swindled into $17 diet sodas just yet.

First movie. So excited.

Anyways, the fun of going to see a movie was definitely amplified by the fact that O had never been to a movie theater before, and we were seeing everything through her eyes.

"What are doing here?"

"This is where we buy the tickets. Then we buy the popcorn, then we go see the movie." And all of that is so new and exciting. It's the best!

We slowly walked into the dark theater (we were late on purpose, there was no way she could make it through the whole movie, let alone all the previews on top of it). There was some panic when she did not immediately see Elsa and Ana on the screen.

"Is this Frozen? Mommy that is not--"

"I know honey, but remember we need to be quiet here. Shhh"

Then they played some strange Mickey Mouse cartoon thing that served no purpose. Except that it annoyed Jake with its nonstop violence. Weird.

Ahh...and then it started. O began wiggling in her seat when the opening scene appeared. (She has seen Frozen before, at her daycare on movie day. We learned this when she started singing along to "Let It Go" on our Disney Pandora music channel. Hmmmm, so that's what the kids are into these days.)

By the time the opening song started, she was completely abuzz. Her little fists were balled up next to her face and shaking in excitement. She looked at me, then quickly over to Jake. "Look! Look! This is Frozen!!"

Jake and I could have melted into a gooey puddle. It was so fun.

Sometimes she would lean over to tell us some about some obvious detail. "That's Elsa!" "It's snowing!" And we got way into it too.  When the big song started and Jake realized it, he leaned over to tell her, "Hey! Let It Go!!"

Now, I think we can all agree that the American movie-going experience is really some kind of wonderful. It isn't enough that we have the enormous screen and amazing sound effects (O grabbed her ears several times), but we also add the best, most deliciously unhealthy food to the mix. Within minutes, O was grabbing handfuls of popcorn without even looking. She was demanding "more chocolate!" from Jake. She was a monster. An all-American monster.

Eventually the snacks ran out. I even let her have some soda (four sips total, no one freak out!). But it was not enough to keep her attention. She took a lengthy bathroom break with Jake and then the show was almost done. We let her wander around in our row a little, and when she got more and more cranky we were done. They stepped out and I managed to catch the last 3 minutes of adorable Disney ending.

Somehow the whole experience ended with quite a few tears. These things happen, I guess. So much fun and so much candy and so much loud dancing non-stop cartoon princess magic...there is only so much a girl can take. But we will definitely be back.

Took this picture in the pitch dark. iPhones are pretty amazing.

Took this picture in the pitch dark. iPhones are pretty amazing.

When you love something, when you really enjoy something --whether it is the music or sports or yes even movies-- it is kind of thrilling to see your child enjoying the same thing. Plus, there is nothing like seeing a "first" happen right in front of you. I loved seeing Olivia light up and scoot to the edge of her seat. Her eyes were so wide open. Her joy was infectious. We couldn't not smile. I hope I never forget it.

Light Life Moments: When Your Child Is Hurt

Last weekend we went on a little outing to the Science Factory, which was super fun and entertaining and funny until everything went terribly wrong and I left feeling furious.

So how did that happen?

The Science Factory is a delightful local place where families go to let their kids run around and play with the displays and experiment with science a little. When we went, we had the added bonus of seeing a reptile display (and the very entertaining family of handlers whose obsession with snakes and lizards can only be described as ... all-encompassing).

The very last thing we looked at was a display that had some kind of wind-up tool that you would whirl around to see how fast you can burn calories (I think). Little did we know that this particular display had a knack for chomping up little fingers that found their way into its path. And Lil O learned this the hard way.

It is one of the things I like least in life, or in parenting especially, when you go from a super high to a super low. It is hard to switch gears so quickly, and you don't want to switch gears. You want to keep the fun part going. You don't want the bummer part to be real. So I feel very tempted to ignore it or move quickly past it.

But when your child is hurt, everything comes to a screeching halt.

O screamed and *PAUSED* takeabigbreath and SCREAAAAAMed some more. It was intense. I grabbed her and rushed her into the bathroom and we washed off her scraped little finger as I tried to figure out what had just happened.

When we came back out, Jake had gone over to the desk to ask for a band-aid, which they gave us. Okay. But this didn't seem like enough. I couldn't understand why they were standing there letting other patrons in while they could see my child crying.

"Do you want to talk to them?" Jake was sort of cringing. I sort of was too. I hate being "that mom." But WTF...you just can't go around hurting my kid with your calorie machines!

I went over and fumbled some words at them. The front desk lady had me fill out an accident report. Okay. We put exactly three things down on the paper. Not enough.

I didn't really know what to do next. I still don't. I told them that they really need to rethink putting that display out there for kids, because the little warning sign is too small, written in absurd font, and oh yeah...MY KID CAN'T READ.  Grrr.

Later, of course, I thought of more things to say ("I am a lawyer goddammit! And that should make you more concerned than you are currently acting!!"). And I felt a bit embarrassed that I didn't do or say more. I didn't exactly turn on the mama bear instincts. Or the lawyer ones, I guess. But I am not certain it would have done any good. I could have made a scene, threatened them, probably freaked Olivia out. Not exactly my style.

But that doesn't stop me from feeling that parental self-doubt. Or regret. Guilt, perhaps? There's always guilt.

I guess at the end of the day I just want her to know that I will be there for her; that if the mama bear was needed, I would do it. (I pity the children's museum that ever does real harm to my child. I will RAIN down on that place like a hurricane of fists and subpoenas.)

But I didn't think it was necessary in this instance, and ultimately I think we will get to a better result by acting rationally. That's the goal anyways, I still need to give them a call back. And I'm planning* to be perfectly reasonable.

*provided they do what I ask

A little faith

Dear Olivia,

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This summer you were baptized at the St. Ann's Catholic Church in Spokane, where your grandparents live.  You were one year old.

Your godparents are Melissa and Joe Matella, our very dear friends.  

And everyone was so excited to see you and celebrate the sprinkling of water on your little head.

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You, on the other hand, were having NONE of it.

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But we laughed through it, and once we got to the cake, you were happy as a clam.

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A day may come, Olivia, when you wonder why we had you baptized.  You may ask why we don't go to church as often as some of your friends.  Or you may have other questions about God, Jesus, religion, the Saints, and the whole issue of faith in general.

Let me tell you why I have chosen this baptism for you.  At your baptism, we are welcoming you into a community of faith.  It may not be the community that you remain in for the rest of your life, but it is a community that loves and accepts you, no matter what.  The people of St. Ann's parish are not all related to you; they do not know you like we do, but they still welcome you in with open arms and hearts.  This church reflects the values that your father and I believe in: the importance of social justice, charity, and a faith that keys in on the Bible's core values - loving your neighbor, living a life that is balanced, striving to be good, giving of yourself to those who are less fortunate.

There may come a time when you start to wonder why there is so much evil in the world.  How could a loving God allow so much suffering here on Earth?  I do not know the answers to these questions.  But I have had times like this in my life as well.  And often I turned to my faith. Sometimes that meant going to church, sometimes praying, and sometimes it just meant taking some quiet time to reflect and regroup and consider the meaning of life. 

Religion has it's limitations.  That is certain.  By the time that you are old enough to read this post, you will know that you have been blessed with parents that encourage you to question authority and conformity.  We want you to blaze your own path, Olivia.  But I also want you know that you come from a place.  A place that welcomes you and loves you.  It is also a place of ritual and tradition.  Ritual and tradition can be comforting when they are meant as expressions of love.

We have an expression in the Catholic religion, it goes "We Are the Church." 

(At least, I grew up learning this expression.  Does the church still believe this and preach it?  I don't know.  Right now the Catholic church is going in a direction that I don't understand and I can't follow.   I have faith that it will find its way back though.  I hope it will.)

  "We are the church" means that the PEOPLE are the church.  The very term "church" means "the people," or the children of God.  And it follows from this core idea that God speaks through us. God is still speaking.  Through us, to us, around us.  You must be very careful to hear this voice.  It is not necessarily the voice of a priest, or the church hierarchy, or the rigid interpretation of a book that was written hundreds of years ago.  "A church" is a place we sometimes go to hear this voice.  It is also a place we go because we are a part of a community that is bigger than ourselves.  But you are the church, wherever you are.  When you do something kind for someone else who needs a friend, or when you thank your parents and grandparents and hug your aunts and uncles and cousins, you are sending love out into the world.  And I believe that is what God wants for us, from us?  The words are little confusing, but I hope you get the point.

I can already see that spirit of love inside of you, sweet Olivia.  Don't hesitate to share your light.  We are so delighted to have you here.

Love,

Mom

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