Tuesday, September 23, 2014

This and That

I've been neglecting this old blog for way too long as I wait for all the random thoughts in my head to organize themselves into something cohesive, but on this gloomy morning I give up on that.  It's time for an update.

Now that school is in full swing and has been for the last several weeks, I am feeling almost all the way settled here.  After so many jaunts around Beaufort for school, library, TJMaxx, all the nice antique stores, I no longer need to rely on the GPS.  That's always a relief because the hardest thing about being in a new place to me is feeling so lost all the time.  Every weekday morning I leave between 7:35 and 7:45, depending on the day, to take the girls to school 25 minutes away.  Every afternoon we pick leave to pick them up at 10 of 3, and most of the time I have to wake Timmy up from his nap.  The girls are taking ballet one afternoon a week.  I've joined the Y, which is just a few minutes outside the gate.  I do yoga two mornings a week there, run on the treadmill, and Timmy gets the socialization he's really wanting every time he asks me if he can go to school.  [The answer to that is definitely no, because I see no reason to spend the extra time and gas on dropping off and picking up another kid somewhere.  Next year I'll probably let him do Pre-K at the DoD school, and he'll take a bus.]  The girls will be doing soccer at the Y starting next month.
Dance party in the rain after school
The girls seem happy at school.  Annie was the one I really worried about the first few days when she'd say things like, "I don't like school" and "I don't want to go back."  But now when I pick her up she tells me about her friends, trips that they're going to go on, all kinds of things.  She reads to me every night from the books her teacher sends home, and I don't have to remind her to do it.  She's doing great with sounding out words, and starting to recognize sight words, and I can tell her confidence is growing.  She'll say to me, "I bet I know how to spell ___."  And then she'll say the letters and get most, if not all, right.  Tonight at her teacher's open house, I got a look at her math journal, where she solves problems by drawing pictures.  Her teachers told me that she talks a streak to the other kids but still doesn't want to talk to them or any adults. Oh, Annie.  We've got to fix that.  Delaney likes school pretty much too, and is always cheerful at drop-off and pick-up.  Aside from her 20-minute reading requirement, she usually doesn't have any homework.  It is so nice.  No more long afternoons at the table with a timer.  I quickly learned to save every bit of writing and art that makes it home in her folder, whereas last year I needed to be a lot more selective with what work of art or writing exercise was worth keeping.  At this school they have a policy of not using much paper, and they will creatively find ways to avoid printing lots of paper.  I approve of that 100%.  At a volunteer orientation I was told about how one deck of cards replaces 2000 math worksheets.  Yay for fewer worksheets and not having to be Delaney's jailer every day!  Although, as Tim pointed out, it does make it harder to know what she's learning at school without the paper trail.  It was a big change to go from the chunky binder and paper overload last year to this year with the emailed (vague) reports that say she's doing well, and every now and then a math handout or picture she drew that makes it home.  The math so far is fairly easy addition and subtraction, so not yet where she was at the end of last year.  Lately she's been telling me a lot of South Carolina facts, such as the state bird is the carolina wren and the state butterfly is the tiger swallowtail.  They went on a walking tour of downtown Beaufort a few days ago to look at landmarks and got to handle the little crabs who live by the water.  I don't doubt that a lot of learning is taking place, but I think once I start volunteering, I will get a much better idea of it.

I've joined the Officer Spouses Club for the first time ever since becoming a spouse.  Living here on base, it was like 'why not?'  Their president is the first person to reach out to me back when we were still looking around and trying to decide where to live.  She lives right down the street from me and her teenage daughter is now my kids' babysitter, and they love her and so do we.  I was invited to eat with their dinner club that night back in February, and they were all so welcoming.  They have a few 'sub clubs' that I've joined: dinner club, playgroup, book club, and I may or may not join the wine club.  I do like my wine.:)  So now I'm on a friendly wave, hi and chitchat basis with several of them, but it's too soon to tell whether any real friendships will come out of this for me.

I like our new parish even more since we started going to the 9:30 a.m. Sunday Mass at the Air Station 20 minutes away instead of the quiet little Saturday evening Mass here at Parris Island.  I like how many young families I see walking in the door (the pews are far from being filled up, but still).  I would really, really like to get to know some of those families more, but beyond a few introductions (thanks also to my friend in the OSC who is active in that parish) that hasn't happened yet.  I know I'm partly to blame for that because once Mass is over, and then CCD which lasts until noon, all I want to do is get home and take a break.  There was a picnic starting at noon a couple weeks ago and I told Tim I couldn't even imagine a picnic at noon -- swatting at flies and making small talk when all I want is to eat and nap.  I am not good at the mingling and socializing stuff, even when there's time to kill between Mass and CCD, and then during CCD.  It's a strange paradox: I like people but I don't want to make any of the effort required to get to know them.  I just want to skip to the part where we see each other and go, "Hey!"
Sending Daddy off on a trip
Tim travels frequently with this new job, about two weeks out of every month, give or take.  I am back to doing a lot of solo parenting during the week, but at least he's almost always home on the weekends.  I'll take have him traveling a couple weeks a month over him being gone months at a time on a deployment.  When he's here, his office is about a block away from where we live.  I thought that his being so close would mean that he'd be home a lot more in the afternoons/evenings, but that hasn't been the case.  If he's able to get home at a decent time he'll tell me in the morning, "Text me to remind me to get home by 5."  Most of the time he's home just in time for dinner at 6 which is later than I'd like.  Sometimes he'll just tell me not to expect him for dinner, he has catching up to do, he'll get there when he gets there.  At our last duty station he had the 15-minute commute, but when he was around, he was home easily in time for 5:30 dinner most nights.  Having him so close and his days still so long is not what I expected, but that's OK, I know he's got to do what he's got to do.

This next paragraph was originally a long-winded and whiny paragraph about how Tim had to go right to work immediately after checking in here and never had a big chunk of time to devote to getting things done around here before he started being gone a lot, blah blah.  And how we can't decide whether to paint or which color to use, blah blah.  How I ordered new curtains and I'm worried I'll hate them when they get here.  And how I have no decorating sense at all and I've been begging my sister Anna for ideas, which she has been happy to give.  And how we still don't have enough furnishings to fill these big spaces, and I don't know when it will ever look the way I want.  Reading through it was very boring and tiresome.  I truly am grateful, despite the challenges it poses, to have all this space in a house.  I would rather have this problem than the opposite problem!  One of these days I'll get it the way I want it, or at least mostly, and hopefully I don't drive Tim too crazy in the process.

One bit of miscellany that I'm a little late in sharing: A few weeks ago I got a text from Jessica, whose house was the first playgroup we attended here.  It was very strange, out of the blue: "Are any of you allergic to poison ivy?"  I replied, "Not that I know of.  Why?"  She said, "I just found Delaney's crab in a patch of it."  I let out a whoop of joy, thanked her (and silently St. Anthony) and within a short while Crabby and Snappy were reunited.  Delaney was very ho-hum about it -- I guess she'd already moved on -- but it makes me smile to see the two of them sitting on her bed.  Sometimes it's the little things that bring you the most joy.  And yes, I realize sometimes the little things become way too big of a deal.
When the conditions are just right -- me, him, the couch, his Wuddy (Lovey) and his thumb -- he'll snuggle up with me.  It's the best!
Another thing I'm happy to share -- my bubba is already nighttime potty trained!  It took a couple years and a whole other process to get the girls nighttime trained, but he already keeps his pull-up dry 99 times out of 100 on his own, less than two months after daytime potty training.  I'll use up this last package of pull-ups I have, and then I'm done buying those too.  For the first time in seven years, no diapers or pull-ups.  Imagine that.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Helicopter Parent's Paradise

I had really, really been looking forward to a beach trip on Saturday all week long.  It had been too many weeks since the last one, and I had it written on the whiteboard too, which is the same thing as etched in stone as far as we're all concerned.  But on Friday night when it started looking like the weather wasn't going to cooperate, we needed to come up with a plan b.  After a quick Google search I decided the Children's Museum in Savannah was just the thing for a rainy day.  I hoped it wouldn't be too crowded.  We hadn't been to Savannah before, and depending on how the day went, I thought maybe we could do some exploring elsewhere too.

It was a nice, scenic hour-long drive with lots of lovely marsh views, tree-lined highways and one big tall bridge over a river where the kids went "Wheeeee!" and then we were there.  The Children's Museum and the Georgia State Railroad Museum share the same space, so when we parked all we saw were trains and no sign of a children's museum.  Entry to either or both museums is through the gift shop, of course, so that's where we went to buy our tickets and find out where we were going.

Tim and I had a quick discussion as we stood in line about which tickets we ought to buy.  He was in favor of the Railroad Museum because he thought the kids would find it more interesting.  I said no way, they'd be bored out of their minds after 10 minutes of a guided tour of trains, and they'd be complaining about the heat.  He said, "Okay.."

After paying admission we were instructed to walk outside and go toward a brick building with blue beams and we'd find our way from there.  We saw the blue beams right away and headed toward them.  The building is kind of hard to describe. It obviously used to be part of a train station in some way.  It was a tall brick structure with pretty architecture and no roof.  Way down in what was maybe a basement at one point we caught glimpses of plants and umbrellas and colorful things that could maybe be for kids.  Tim said to me, "I hope we didn't just pay $40 for them to play in a park."  He suggested that maybe I could have done a little more research about this particular museum.  I walked toward the staircase which was guarded by two cheerful teenage girls who told me that yes, that open area below was the entire children's museum.  [I just looked at the website again, and I see it does say in fine print right there on the main page that it is an outdoor venue.  And the pictures have grass in them.  Oops.  Next time I won't do my research on my iPhone; I'm not too good at seeing everything on that tiny screen.]  If it rained like the weather report called for, we were all in trouble.

Initially we were very unimpressed, but after a few minutes I decided that I like the open air children's museum a lot better than the other museums I've been to in Richmond, VA, Cincinnati and Providence, RI.  That exhausted, claustrophobic feeling I got in those other places, I did not get here.  Once we'd descended down inside the bricks it got a little cooler, kind of like being in a basement.  Everything was pretty to look at in the natural light.  At one end was a garden and at another end was a maze with little activities along the way.  Along the sides of the building under the arches were little stations for building with blocks, reading books, dressing up, and who knows what else.  They climbed walls, they went down slides, they played under a mister when it got hotter, and they found the most adorable little frogs in the garden.

The one thing that annoyed Tim and me was that it was a helicopter parenting paradise.  The kids had plenty to do to engage their imaginations and keep themselves busy without Mom or Dad breathing down their necks.  And not only that, we quickly found out that the hovering was being enforced by the staff.  After Tim took Timmy to the bathroom, which was in an adjacent building, he saw that the girls at the top of the stairs were stopping kids on their way down and making sure they waited for their adults.  We could understand stopping a kid who's on their way out of the gate to the parking lot, but on the way down into a safe, enclosed space where it's clear that every inch has been approved by OSHA?  Come on, the adults should be allowed to drink coffee from the balcony and relax if they feel like it.  Now that I think of it, all children's museums are helicopter parenting paradises by design.  He should be grateful he got to witness it in open spaces with fresh air instead of the confined indoor spaces of other museums.

Tim and I spent much of our time parked near the garden (quietly) making fun of the hovering parents, but I also had to chuckle at the irony that I was hovering worse than anyone while I took pictures of our kids.
Building a "tower"
Drawing on a chalkboard inside the maze
They stopped en route to the bathroom so Timmy could find his sisters in the maze.
Wish my camera had the capability to focus on that itty-bitty frog.
"The boy took my (hard) hat," he told us.
After we'd been there about an hour-and-a-half it started to rain a little and  I took Timmy to use the potty one more time.  To my surprise, in the building that had the bathroom, there was also a big model train set.  I don't know how Tim ever pried him away from it the first time.  He was so excited, running from one side of it to another, calling out every move the trains made.  "Now it's coming out of the tunnel!"  "Now it's going under the bridge!"  And he wanted to talk about all the other details, the houses, the cars, fire trucks, etc.  
After that Tim and the girls found us, and after a few more minutes of train-watching we went outside to enjoy the picnic lunch that Tim had packed the day before for the beach.  It had stopped raining and it was pretty comfortable under the trees.  I slapped at ants on my feet and said, "Now I remember why I don't do picnics."  Then we had the kids pose for one last picture before we headed home in time for naps at 1:30.  We decided against any more exploring in the city because we were all too tired.  We'll have to plan something else to do in Savannah next time.  I don't know if we'll be back to the Children's Museum anytime soon because I know Tim didn't think it was worthwhile, but I think it was a fun way to spend half of a not-too-rainy Saturday.