Saturday, August 31, 2013

1st week of school

Tim made her cute little sign.  
First week of school is done.  Phew.  It was a bumpy start this year.

I loved getting away on a vacation the week right before school, and I wouldn't go back and change a thing,  but .. it turns out that it would have made life a little easier had we gone to the school's open house which took place during that week.  At the open house, parents filled out some important forms, and they also received the teacher's supply list.  At the top of the paper the list is written on, it says to drop the supplies off on the day of the open house.  But that list was not mailed to us before the open house.  It ended up coming home with Delaney on the first day.  That was annoying.  We had used the generic 1st grade list provided on the school's website to do our last minute shopping trip the weekend before.  Her teacher's list was a lot different, and some of the items on it could not be found anywhere.  I've been out and back to several stores looking for things like marble composition books.  And I've experienced a lot of confusion because many of the things I've sent in have been coming back to me in her backpack untouched.  The start of kindergarten seemed to be a lot more organized and less hectic.
It was tough having to get her up at 10 after 6 again.  The bus still picks her up around 7 and drops her off in the afternoon around 3:15.  She already has homework, even though it's review for right now.  We also have to read books together every night.  Delaney is a great reader, but it's hard to get her to do anything when she's in a terrible mood.  She gets plenty of sleep but she's not a morning person, and I think she's just going to need some time to get used to school days again.  I can't blame her for that as we've all been trying to get over our "summer hangover", as Tim put it.  There were times she just collapsed on the floor and cried her eyes out.

Tim didn't go back to work until Wednesday, and I was really glad to have him there to help get Delaney back on track.

Toward the end of last school year, I found it easier to just leave at 7:30 and drive her to school in the morning, and I believe I'll start doing that again.  This way she gets a little more sleep since she doesn't have to get up until around 6:45.  Tim and I disagree a little on this.  He thinks that if I drive her to school, I'm letting her determine the routine since that's what she'd rather do.  Furthermore, if the school provides a bus, why use our own gas to get her there?  Another thing that just occurred to me is that if Delaney gets up later, she'll be missing that time in the morning with Tim before he goes to work, and his days can be very long.  He is also better at dealing with them in those first few minutes, and motivating them to complete their chores (if Delaney's up, Annie is too).  If they sleep until 6:45, Tim will already be out the door and I'll be on my own.  But I did it on my own last year and it was fine.  I also pack her lunch and pick her clothes every night, so that's always done.

On the other hand, her school is a seven-minute drive away, but her morning bus ride is almost an hour.  An hour on the bus to go to a school that's just a few miles away seems excessive to me, and makes her day unnecessarily long.  Once we start extracurriculars, those could be VERY long days.  My neighbor says she's going to start driving her son to school after daylight savings time starts (or ends?), because that's when she starts having a hard time getting him up.  But I see no reason to wait that long if I already know that taking her to school is the better option.  As far as time with Tim in the morning .. hmm.  As long as he's home for dinner most nights, they'll have enough time together.  We gave the morning bus a try this week, and now I think I'll start driving her next week.  I'm still happy with her afternoon bus ride since she's one of the first stops, and because I don't have to interfere with naptime.  The new bus stop is about a stone's throw from our driveway, which is a bonus this year.
Her eczema is starting to flare up again just like I knew it would with increased time spent outdoors in the heat and humidity and less time in the pool.  But she gives me a hard time when I want to put the prescription cream on before school.  I'm trying to help and prevent it from getting as bad as it got in the spring, a scaly mess of broken and red skin on the backs of her knees.  She tries to evade me and half the time the she leaves the house with no moisturizer on her legs.  I put a jar of it in her backpack, but I tried that last year too, and she never remembered to do it.  I made a note about it to her teacher just so she's aware (like if she notices Delaney scratching a ton), but I wouldn't expect the teacher to remind her.  She has enough going on as it is.  How do I get Delaney to take some responsibility for her own skin care?  She starts soccer again in a couple weeks, and I'd hate to watch her have another season of standing on the field itching and barely participating.

Yesterday she got off the bus and started running with a big smile on her face.  It was so nice to see.  She told me that they'd celebrated her birthday at school that day.  She'd gotten to eat a cupcake and pick something out of the treasure box.  She waved her little plastic butterfly excitedly.  ".. And tonight is movie night!  It's the best day ever!"  I'd been holding my breath every day waiting to see which Delaney would get off the bus -- grumpy, happy, or just OK -- so it was a breath of fresh air to see her so joyful.

And now the long weekend begins.  We'll do some shopping at the big mall in Durham and get her some running shoes she can wear with socks.  She hated the cute closed-toe Keen-like sandals I got her this past spring that I thought would be perfect.  Her feet sweated in them.  Annie got a pair like them and her feet sweated too and got super stinky.  Those two have the sweatiest feet around.  I can't buy them those Croc ballet flats anymore either.  Flipflops, completely open sandals, or shoes with socks, those are the options.  We all need some new things so we're going to make a day of it.  It's daunting, but we did it last fall and survived.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Emerald Isle

We just got back from a week-long stay in a beach house in Emerald Isle, NC.  We had such a great time.  In almost every way it was perfect, and exactly what I hoped that this summer's last hurrah would be.  Being the weather.com addict that I am, I must have checked the forecast for that week at least 25 times, and every time it looked like crap, thunderstorms every day.  We hoped for at least an hour or two of sun here and there, but instead we were gifted with six gorgeous blue sky days in a row.  Tim and I were both a little leery of what kind of house we were getting into, after what happened at Topsail.  But the house was clean and comfortable, and decorated with bright colors and happy fishies and flipflops.  No nasty surprises after dark.  As always, the best thing of all was that view and the smell of that salty air.  It is my dream to live on the beach some day.  Tim is in the throes of midlife crisis right now (but he's not even 39, isn't that a little young?), and he's always talking about a new car, truck or boat.  I said to him, "How about we have a midlife crisis together and get a beach house?"  Beachfront houses too expensive?  We can trade in my nice car for a beater and get rid of cable.  Or live in a big van down by the beach.  It is fun to dream.
Delaney lost her first tooth on Sunday morning.  She was very proud and kept wanting to hold it and look at it.  She smiles for pictures in such a way as to make sure that gap shows.  Love this kid.
We went out for dinner three times.  Two of those times were to nice seafood restaurants, and one was just a burger joint.  Going out so many times in one week made me giddy.  I think the last time we'd gone out to eat before this vacation must have been when Grace was visiting.  We go out to eat only on vacations and when relatives visit.  It is true that Tim cooks as good and usually better meals at home, and I am happy to not have the hassle of hiring a babysitter.  But sometimes I love to put on something nice and have a change of scenery.  I called one of the places to verify that we should bring the kids, since the website looked kind of fancy.  They told me it was fine to bring kids, so no problem there.  However, the food was mediocre and that was disappointing since it had been highly recommended to us.  I blame Tim for making me into a food snob, particularly when it comes to seafood.  I can't stand an overcooked frozen scallop at the restaurant that boasts of being a premiere waterfront dining experience.  It's his fault, he made me this way.  Before I met him I was content with cheeseburgers at Ruby Tuesday.  Also, the view was not great.  Even still, I liked being out.  And we went for ice cream afterward.

But the restaurant we went to on night two was so nice.  I loved the food, loved the view, loved the wine.  And the kids were very good.  Come to think of it, I can't remember the last time one of our kids was disruptive in a restaurant.  Even Timmy is at his best when we're out to eat, especially if there's a window he can look out or something else interesting to watch.   Maybe we should do this more often, like once a month.
I said that we had six sunny days in a row, but now that I look at the pictures I remember that's not completely true.  The morning of day three was rainy.  The girls and I sat at the table and we played Disney Princess Uno, which is almost exactly like regular Uno, with only a few variations.  It's a lot of fun, and it even holds Annie's interest for a good half hour or so.  The only problem is that when it doesn't go her way she loses her temper.  We refuse to let her win.  She is capable of winning fair and square, and she did at least a couple times.  The other times she was not a graceful loser.  Still it was a nice way to make some time go by on a rainy morning.  Then it cleared up and we were back to beach activities (thank goodness because that was the only game I'd brought -- not very well prepared, was I, in light of the bad weather forecast?).  
These next few pictures took place after dinner that day, I believe.  We'd gone outside only to fly kites, and for awhile that was what everybody did.  But the tide was in and there were these long shallow pools that proved too enticing for the kiddos.  At first they contented themselves with running and stomping and splashing.
But the splashes got bigger and their clothes got wetter until Delaney decided to completely submerge herself.  Once she did that and they all saw that we weren't going to stop them, the other two abandoned any remaining pretense of trying to stay dry, since that was a lost cause anyway.
Dried off and ready for bed
Day 4 began with Tim taking the girls on a walk at sunrise while Timmy and I slept.  That boy makes up for being such a handful by being a solid sleeper, even on vacation.  
Then we spent a few hours on the beach.  Throughout this whole day I noticed a curious phenomenon, where it was sunny on the side of the sky that the ocean was on, but if I looked behind me there were lots of dark gray clouds.  I kept thinking that those clouds were going to roll over and there would be a storm, but it's like they knew to stay back.   Good clouds!
Later on, Tim made us a yummy dinner of burgers, pasta salad (from the grocery store deli), and corn on the cob.  He makes my life easier in so many ways when he's around.
Delaney liked not having to make any effort to keep her kite aloft.  Here she is digging in the sand, not having to think about her kite flying high above.
This was the night of the Blue Moon and Tim and I were obsessed with trying to get a good picture of it.  But our camera has its limitations (or maybe just we do) and a picture can't do it justice anyway.  We had a spectacular view of the moon every night of the week.  I can't remember paying so much attention to the moon at any other time in my life.  I left the curtains open over the sliding glass doors in our bedroom and looked at it every night before I went to sleep.
On Wednesday, day 5, we took our scheduled dolphin hunt boat tour.  Tim amused himself by asking Delaney, "So, what do we use to catch the dolphins?"  "What are we going to do with the dolphins when we bring them home?"  Delaney would tell him in exasperation, "No, Daddy, that's not what dolphin hunt means.  It just means we look at them!"  The boat ride was about an hour and 15 minutes long.  It was hot.  There were red, shiny faces all around.  It was the only time during this vacation that I wished for clouds.  I told Tim later that I know for sure now that we are not boat people.  I have more appreciation than ever for being on shore.  Tim argued that having your own boat is a way different experience than being stuck on someone else's boat.  Perhaps he's right, but I am still have no wish to get a boat.
The boat we rode on was in the same port in Morehead City where Tim got on a ship two and a half years ago.  The ship he was on was much bigger, though.  The one pictured above that we saw as we left the port is an LPD, the USS New York -- an amphibious transport dock ship.  

We did see dolphins.  But we also saw dolphins just standing on the beach at our house.  We also saw the Spanish Mustangs on Shackleford Island too, but they were very far away and .. meh.  The captain would stop the boat so we could look, but there was no breeze and we sat there baking.  We had to keep passing Timmy back and forth and make sure he didn't climb up and over the side.  I was relieved when it was over. This tour would probably be lovely on a cooler, breezier, or and/or cloudier day.  And without a two-year-old.
The next two days passed in a blur.  Beach, naps, dinners, ice cream, kites, walks, a game of Princess Uno once or twice .. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from Thursday and Friday:
OK, this isn't actually from Thursday or Friday, but it could have been.  We went to The Sweet Spot three nights in a row.  After one time we were hooked.  They have a gazillion flavors of ice cream and a toy corner in the back, with toys that are actually for sale, but the kids knew they got to just play with them and put them back.  They forgot all about the ice cream when they saw the toys.

Delaney had some money to spend, from the Tooth Fairy and from doing chores.  She spent all her money on a stuffed crab mama with baby that she found at The Sweet Spot.  But it wasn't an easy decision.  Tim took her to three different stores, and she told me that she hadn't found anything she liked.  Instead she wanted to buy a stuffed German Shepherd puppy on Toys 'R Us online.  I looked back and forth between the two of them and said, "You are clearly your father's daughter."  I know that at the age of 6 I could have (and did) walked into Wings or any other souvenir place and found all kinds of things to waste money on happily.  A young Tim, on the other hand, would have just kept shopping around, finding fault with everything, and saving his money for something he really liked.  Not that there's anything wrong with that -- just that being such a discerning shopper was not something I had learned as a small child.  In the end, she found "Crabsy" and "Snapper" and really liked them, so that's what she got.
We were watching the moon rise.  Timmy was saying, "Moon."
3 + hour naps every afternoon.  I took this picture when I had to wake him up to get ready for dinner.
This skinny little man is still wearing his trunks from last summer that are size 12 months and 12-18 respectively.  And the 12-18 month ones are too big!  It's not unheard of, though.  A friend of mine once told me her four-year-old son is on his third year in the same swim trunks.
Timmy was really being the Turd on Friday morning and I was getting fed up.  He wouldn't leave me alone.  He would take my hand and say, "Come on," indicating the water, but then would want to be picked up because he was suddenly "scared."  Even though he hasn't been scared of the ocean at any other time this whole summer.  He would say, "Up, up," and cry when I sat in the chair with him instead of standing while holding him.  Then Tim, after reminding me for the umpteenth time about how I had made Timmy this way, decided to take all the kids on a walk and give me a break.  I was never so happy to see their retreating figures.  I watched them walk away for awhile until I was sure that Timmy wouldn't turn around and freak out when he saw me going in the water.
On an unrelated note, another thing Tim and I liked about our location was that at any given time we were out there, we had our stretch of beach almost all to ourselves.  We would see clusters of people up and down the beach, but our area for whatever reason, was not very populated.  We liked having space.
I really wish I'd have gotten a picture of Tim holding his Princess Uno cards, or one of he and Annie staring each other down after he won.  Best of all would have been a video of he and Delaney doing their victory dance after we played as teams and they beat Annie and me.
Looking for seashells on our last night
We were talking today about the things that made this vacation so wonderful and what makes us miss it so much.  For me it was how relaxing it was and how even the mundane (like bathing kids or cleaning the kitchen) felt special with that view out the window.  I was in a different mindset.  I laughed more, I had more patience, and didn't worry about anything.  Tim mentioned that he liked being away from "our stuff."  When he's here he feels like there are so many things that need to be taken care of, cleaned, fixed, or maintained in some other way.  That's what vacation is supposed to be, a break from the everyday and all the "stuff" that weighs us down, and a chance to just enjoy each other's company.  That's not to say the kids never got on each other's nerves or our nerves, and needed to be disciplined at times.  But it was all somehow easier to deal with in this setting.  It was only 40 minutes away but it was a world away.

We spent the rest of the this weekend in a post-vacation funk.  It was inevitable.  We did some last-minute shopping for school supplies in the picked-over aisles of Target and Walmart.  Delaney moped all day today and told us many times that she does not want to go back to school.  I feel like the biggest slacker mom ever because she has nothing new to wear to school.  I took the only two things that weren't stained out of her closet, and that's what she's wearing tomorrow.  

And with that, our summer's over.  It was a great one.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

This and that

At this point in the day, a little after 1, when the kids are having naptime/ quiet time, that's when my brain wants to shut down too.  But today I'm determined that it won't because this is my blogging time, and the only time I have lately for it.  I've got my coffee next to me, and I'm going to see if I can't throw together some kind of summer update.  I've been starting and stopping a lot with this post, even though I have all kinds of things to talk about.  Maybe I'm feeling a little discouraged about it.  Sometimes I forget my whole purpose in starting it in the first place -- it's not to showcase my extraordinary writing talent (*eye roll*), but really just a way that I can take snapshots of our life from time to time, that I will get to have forever and pass on to the kids.  A living scrapbook and journal, I guess.  The secondary but also very important purpose, is to give our geographically distant family and friends a window into our lives, and to allow them to watch the kids grow and change along with us.  Those were my two reasons for starting this thing in the first place, but another beautiful thing that has emerged is what it does just for me.  It allows me to step back and take a look at us and be like, 'You know what, we have a great life.  We have a lot to be thankful for.  It may feel like bumbling but we are doing a pretty good job of raising this family, loving each other and making the most of what we're given.'  I love the perspective it gives me.  Over the four years I've been doing this, I've also eagerly followed the blogs of my friends.  I'm sure they had some of the same reasons as me for starting theirs, but I've seen so many of them fall by the wayside.  It makes me sad, but I do understand that there are a limited number of hours in the day and so very many things to do in those precious few hours that we get to decide what to do with.  I don't know where the inspiration is coming from to make me keep coming back, but I know that it is just as much a gift to myself as the occasional pedicure or working out and eating healthy.

Sometimes the perfectionist in me gets so caught up in looking for ways to improve, trying to find just the right way to say something, and worst of all, criticizing and nitpicking everything I've ever written here.  When I hold myself to some unattainable standard of perfection, I find myself coming up short in all kinds of ways, but most of all just feeling so bland, ordinary and uninteresting.  And cheesy.  Like, why would anyone want to read this crap?  But I know better than that.  I know what a horrible waste of time it is to think that way.  I've said it before but I really need to believe it -- the handful of people who love me/us (or at least like us a lot) will love this, and those who don't aren't even reading.  There's nobody to impress.

So here goes..

This week is the last typical week of summer for us, and not only that, but it's our last summer in North Carolina.  Next week we'll be on vacation in Emerald Isle, another lovely spot close by to where we live. Nothing like arriving at your destination after less than an hour, with a car full of groceries!  Delaney will start school the Monday after we get back.  It makes me sad to think of this being the last summer here.  I'm a creature of habit, and the daily habit of working out and then taking the kids to the pool can't be beat, in my opinion.  Now that Tim's home, I don't even have to fit in a big grocery trip -- Tim goes to the commissary for me, and all I have to do is make short produce runs a few times a week.  I know that pools and gyms and Ys and fun summers exist in places other than North Carolina, but I can't help but wonder will I like it just as much?  Another thing: how long will it take me to make friends after we move?  All I did the first few months after moving here was complain about how I lived all alone on a suburban island.  Then gradually I got to know some great people, and so many more who are just friendly faces.  As introverted as I am, I love to belong, and I feel like I belong here.  Have I learned any lessons so as to avoid the pain of getting to this point in whatever location we find ourselves in next?  That I can't say.  Maybe I will just take it more in stride and understand that I have to go through a fish-out-of-water stage before I settle in.  So my goal for this week has been to keep the cranky to a minimum and take a deep breath when Annie asks me for the umpteenth time, "What are we doing (in the morning?  after naps? next?)", and remember to appreciate the here and now.

The girls are taking swim lessons this week.  Delaney is a pretty strong swimmer, but her freestyle needs a lot of work.  It's like watching myself in the water.  I never could get the hang of that.  I think she enjoys it a lot, and I may have her do another session of lessons in the fall, her and Annie both.  Annie is coming along too.  She can jump in and swim without her floatie but she prefers to have it on most of the time.
Tim has been helping me a lot these past few weeks with getting the girls back into the habit of keeping their beds made, and their room and playroom clean.  I kind of let it all go while he was gone, and just didn't want to bother most of the time.  But it is so important to instill good habits and get them to help out more.  Another thing is, whenever we take them to a store they want this or that, and Tim says, "Where's your money?"  They need an opportunity to earn some because we're not just going to give them an allowance which is money for nothing.  I have heard the argument that you should not be giving kids money for doing the things they're supposed to do around the house anyway, and maybe that is true.  But coming up with any kind of system is so hard and we need to start somewhere.  So this is attempt #3 at a chore chart, and we'll see how long it lasts.  I've made it possible to only earn whole dollar amounts because last time we did this I made every star worth 10 cents.  Then I got annoyed at the end of the week when I had to count out dimes.  Now, if one of them earns 29 stars one week, we'll say, "One more and you could have earned $3.  You'll have to try harder next week."  This will allow them to have their own money to buy the little stuffed animals and other little things they like.  Maybe after we've gotten them used to helping out and then seeing the "fruits of their labors," we can then start to figure out a way to get them to give as well.  But one thing at a time.  
I took Timmy for a haircut last Monday, and it's the most hair he's ever had cut off.  I can't believe how it transformed him to looking like such a bigger boy.  He's so handsome and I love seeing his forehead and ears again.  I had grown rather attached to his shaggy surfer dude look, but this really suits him too.  It must also be so much cooler in the heat, although he doesn't seem to care either way.
Tim calls him "Timmy the Turd", and unfortunately he's said it around the girls and they think it's funny to call him that too.  "TimmytheTurd!" "TimmytheTurd!"  Timmy is rather undisciplined and doesn't like to follow instructions, and sometimes tries to bolt out into the street or across a parking lot.  He can also be whiny and demanding and clingy.  You know why, right?  Because of me, of course.  I raised him that way while Tim was deployed.  Sarcasm aside, there does seem to be a connection between his worst behavior and my presence.  Tim will tell me that while I was gone, he was "Timmy the Terrific!"  As soon as he sees me, he starts to cry and want to be held.  He is so needy that I don't know what to do with him sometimes.  Even just holding him isn't always enough.  He says, "Up, up" and tries to climb higher on me and tighten his arms around my neck.  I don't remember going through this with the girls.  By the time they were his age, there was another baby and they quickly grew accustomed to not being the one I was holding all the time.  It also helped that Tim was home at least a good portion every day for the first couple months of Annie's life, and he and and Delaney got to be good buddies.  Every situation is so different that it's hard to compare.  I don't like to admit this and lend any credence to Tim's opinion, but it may be just be the tiniest bit possible that I foster that neediness in him.  I love to lavish him with affection because he's so darn cute.  Perhaps I spoil him with all the holding.  But I hasten to add that I do tell him no whenever and wherever he needs to be told.  The only thing worse than a two-year-old who is whining and crying to get his way is the two-year-old who knows he can always get his way.  I might be encouraging him to be a mama's boy, but NOT a brat.

I'm going to wrap this up with a few random pictures, seeing as how I've run out of things to say and naptime is over.
The beach is so much more fun with Daddy around.  I believe this was taken the same day he rescued a couple of kids out of the ocean.  It really IS good to have him around.
Fun Friday!