Mother’s Day Is Just The Worst

I saw all of your lovely pictures on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. There were a lot of nice breakfasts and brunches and early dinners. Plenty of hugs and kisses and homemade cards and pretty flowers. There were naps granted and lots of quiet time. One of my mom friends even got to read a book! It looked really nice. You all looked really nice.

I was excited yesterday, Mother’s Day, because the shower I took was long enough that I got to shave my legs. Well, from the knees down anyway. Not my whole legs. No one has time for that! But still, for a day that’s supposed to be all about me, that extra-long shower felt pretty luxurious. Sure, I had to let Millie watch a fifth episode of Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse in exchange but I say, “WORTH IT!” (Maybe. I don’t know. That show is really, really terrible.)

Mother’s Day has to be my least favorite holiday of all of the holidays. (And, that’s saying a lot because I find Halloween to be a giant all-around pain.) Mother’s Day is loaded with a weird combination of unrealistic expectations and forced relaxation. Like, for some reason I just expect that my kids will suddenly be more considerate and thoughtful and less screechy because it’s a special day for ME! Less bickering over the iPad and more playing Lego nicely with one another. Less hitting and more hugs. Fewer tantrums because the wind is blowing too hard and more general acceptance that I don’t control the weather. Surprisingly, that doesn’t magically happen. Also, there’s nothing more conducive to relaxation than everyone telling you repeatedly to “just go relax!” as the dishes pile up and someone spills a drink all over the kitchen table and you realize someone else showered with the curtain outside of the tub and everyone is fighting while all of next week’s prep is being ignored so you can sit in the bedroom and listen to your husband yell, “CHILL! OUT!” at the kids.

Such a special day.

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The high point of my Mother’s Day: brownie and ice cream consumed around 10:00 in the morning on Friday. It was all downhill from here.

My Mother’s Day weekend started on Thursday, when I sent Bob off on a weekend away with some of his high school friends. Now, in hindsight, the timing of this trip was probably ill-advised. However, the date was settled on back in September of last year and Bob deserves a weekend away and a break from the drudgery and some fun every once in awhile. He pledged to be home mid-day on Sunday so I got over all of this pretty quickly.

But, on Friday afternoon, I discovered something so awful in Millie’s bedroom that I don’t know if I can even adequately describe the horror. It rivaled the Great Poop Incident of 2013 only… it was pee. There was some sort of a horrible, absolutely tragic series of potty accidents followed by a completely misguided attempt to cover up what happened and then 24 hours passed before I realized that things were… wet… everywhere and it all resulted in me standing in the middle of her room cry-yelling, “WHY? WHY? WHY? WHYYYYYYY?” Millie, unfortunately, has not been able to answer that question because every time I ask her what in the sam hell happened in there, she politely requests to “talk about it later.”

Two things that made this situation worse: 1. Millie rarely has accidents and 2. the entire floor of Millie’s room was absolutely COVERED with stuff at the time this all went down. Despite our best efforts (asking nicely, cajoling, bribery, hollering), Millie’s bedroom closely resembles a pit of despair and garbage. She hoards anything and everything in her room so when she had an accident(s), there was TREMENDOUS collateral damage. I spent Friday, a good portion of Saturday and even Sunday sifting through the belongings I picked up off of her floor for anything that could be salvaged.

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Definitely not garbage. Must be kept. Do not throw away! Might smell a little like pee.

The good news? Millie’s room is finally picked up! The bad news? I sent an email to my dad asking him to bring their steam cleaner with him when he visits next week for… “unfortunate reasons.”

I haven’t even begun to recover from what I witnessed. I have a feeling it will be some time yet.

On Saturday morning, Charlie didn’t ask for breakfast when he woke up so the emergency red light emoji immediately started flashing in my brain. When he got dressed but also wanted to lay back down in bed, I knew it was all over. He was vomiting before we even hit 9:00 a.m. Now, normally, a stomach bug while solo parenting would send me into a bit of a panic but not this time. With what I had lived through the day before in Millie’s room, a little puke could barely make a dent in my armor. I set Charlie up with a floor bed to minimize damage, plopped a tiny screen in front of his face, refused his requests for food and got to work wiping down the house to prevent the spread of whatever he had.

Not to bright side Charlie’s stomach bug but having him out of commission meant relative peace and quiet for the other two kids who play together nicely. That gave me an opportunity to make progress on Millie’s “situation” and work on getting Charlie’s room ready for his new bed. Combined with a delivery of wine and cheese from friends Saturday afternoon, my Mother’s Day weekend was awful but manageable.

Then, on Sunday, with Charlie feeling better, the kids all started fighting again before I even swallowed ONE SIP of coffee, Bob had not arrived home yet, the house was getting trashed and everything was becoming awful rather quickly. My friend, Jenn, texted me Mother’s Day greetings and by the end of our messaging, I got the impression that she was actually putting her phone down and backing away slowly, like I was a bomb about to go off.

Bob arrived home with a funny card and some chocolate and flowers and that all helped but our kids were AWFUL yesterday. WE didn’t even want to hang out with them. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Now, leave me alone.

Anyway, it’s all over now. Except for the stomach bug. That’s not over. Millie woke up this morning, asked for the barf bucket and then promptly went back to sleep for FOUR hours.

A mother’s job is never done, amirite?

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The Cutoff Kid

A few weeks ago, I was slicing up a pizza for the kids for dinner, Millie by my side watching intently. I sliced it once and Millie piped up, “You made two halves!” I replied, “Very good, Millie.” When I sliced it through once more, Millie said, “Now you made four quarters.” Thinking I would be able to stump her because besting my kids brings me great joy as a parent, I then made two more cuts and asked, “Alright, smartypants. What comes next after four quarters?” Casually, she replied, “Eighths!”

I’m exceptionally bad at math so I was super surprised that she knew the answer which, was probably less an inherit ability to do complex math and more of a working knowledge gained from an iPad app. But still, Millie’s bright.

Millie has always shown an early aptitude for school. And, by “early aptitude,” I basically mean she was preceded in birth order by two boys. Henry and Charlie are both intelligent, eager and highly skilled in many areas but they certainly weren’t demanding to do homework at three years of age or crying unconsolably at four because they didn’t know how to read. Millie was.

Whether Millie’s aptitude is the byproduct of being third in line in succession behind two boys or true, unbridled genius, I can’t yet tell. Regardless, she has always had this Matilda-esque ability to pick up new skills, revel in novel ideas and master concepts that often times leave Bob and I sort of staring at each other, slack-jawed.

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Obviously the work of a genius. Just look at those jazz hands.

I can’t remember exactly when – probably at some point when I was researching schools during our move to Northern Virginia – I came across the Virginia regulation that mandates incoming students must be five years of age on or before September 30 to be accepted into kindergarten. The boys’ birthdays fall nowhere near the cutoff date so I guess I just hadn’t paid attention to the language before but with an October 12 birthdate, Millie would miss kindergarten admission by 12 days. No exceptions, it would seem.

This means, for the past couple of years, as Millie’s abilities have become more apparent, I have absolutely fretted about her kindergarten start. That is the only word to describe my anxiety over when and where and how this would all play out.

There didn’t seem to be any way around the September 30 regulation and, because so many preschool programs also abide by local school system policy, we kept running into it, like a brick wall. When we enrolled Millie in preschool at almost four years of age, she was the oldest in a class of mostly young three-year-olds. She deeply enjoyed the curriculum and we adored her school but her overarching daily complaint was that several of her classmates didn’t “behave,” were always in her face and “annoying” her. It was simply an issue of maturity but I bemoaned the cutoff date responsible for her placement.

As the months marched on towards her fifth birthday, I stopped asking for kindergarten advice when the responses were, “Don’t rush her.” Or, “You should just enjoy this time.” It was hard to explain but in actuality, it wasn’t that I was pushing her, it was that I was trying to keep up with her. There is a huge difference between the two.

Millie was academically and socially ready to be with her peers. She’s been ready. It was endlessly frustrating that twelve days made such a huge difference.

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Wedding anniversary tribute. Missing that pesky silent E.

Everything came to a head this past fall. With a kindergartner ready for kindergarten but no kindergarten to attend, we were left with three options:

  1. More preschool.
  2. Private school.
  3. Homeschool.

My least favorite option was private school. Not only does our rural setting make the getting to and picking up from a traditional private school in the nearest major town logistically impossible, the tone deaf suggestion of, “Well, you could always private school!” consistently enraged me.

While additional preschool would have given me the brief respite I needed from the unrelenting care of three children, I still didn’t feel like it would meet Millie’s needs best. She adored all of the art projects and circle time at her preschool but had been pushing us at home to do more of the work she had seen her brothers doing for school. I knew her preschool wasn’t offering that type of enrichment.

So, in the end, I felt that Millie’s needs could best be met by homeschooling her for kindergarten. Bob concurred. If there wasn’t a spot for her at our school, we’d have to make do at home.

We’ve been making do at our little ad hoc at-home kindergarten since last September. Our curriculum consists of workbook time, artwork time, inappropriate wearing of pajamas all day, occasional coffee with friends, extensive field trips to Target and A LOT of iPad learning-to-read apps. It’s the most relaxed syllabus in kindergarten history. Millie also plays for hours in her room with all of her toys and dolls and little treasures. She’s doing a lot of imagination building this year which, I tell myself when life gets in the way of our schoolwork, is a key component of kindergarten.

I have put zero pressure on myself to accomplish huge things this year with Millie’s education. I’m not a trained teacher so my main goal was to keep her engaged and interested in learning through this odd gap year. I think we’re achieving that goal even if she’s still frustrated that she can’t yet read Little House on the Prairie.

There are some states that address cutoff kids with Transitional Kindergarten programs to help fill just such a gap year. Targeted specifically at children that fall in the months right around that cutoff date, they offer classroom experience with less rigorous curriculums. Something like this would have been ideal for Millie.

But, we had to settle for our dining room table instead.

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And, as much as I’m sure Bob would prefer to stop talking about it, the dilemma over Millie’s education isn’t over quite yet. We have additional decisions to make this fall about whether to place her in kindergarten again or test her into first grade.

Even if she is academically and emotionally ready to rejoin her peers in first grade, I have serious reservations about her being the youngest in her class as she advances through middle and high school. Since “redshirting” kindergartners has become more commonplace, Millie could potentially be starting high school with kids that are much older. Not to mention, entering college at 17. I quickly run off the rails with what-ifs.

My concern isn’t without precedent since I lived this exact scenario. I tested into kindergarten at four years of age and was successful throughout middle and high school but burned out spectacularly my freshman year of college. I rebounded but have wondered, as I’ve walked this path with Millie, if having an extra year under my belt would have made a difference down the educational line.

However, holding her back because of her age and not ability is exactly what we’ve been railing against for two years. This is all so confusing. And, the decisions seem so momentous and long-reaching. Wanting to do right by your kids sure is emotionally taxing!

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Millie says this is me. At least I’m smiling?

While there are still moments when I wish this year would have been different for Millie, when I wish she could have joined a classroom that she so badly wanted to be a part of, I’ve mostly treasured our time together. She is an eager learner, game for almost any adventure and, just this week, emptied the dishwasher for the first time all by herself. In summary, she is a superb student.

A Whole Hand

She was one.

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Then, two.

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Next came three.

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Followed by four.

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And, now five.

img_9225It’s Millie’s fifth birthday today. She was once a baby and now she’s not. She’s five.

At five years of age, Millie’s favorite thing in life is stuff. Food also ranks pretty high up there but mostly it’s her “stuff” that she treasures most. It seems like such a distinctly Girl Thing (the boys aren’t like this) but Millie surrounds herself with little odds and ends from every corner and crevice of the house. She fills her bedroom with random cardboard boxes, an array of Lego pieces, torn slips of paper too important to toss, broken toys, extra blankets, costume jewelry, innumerable barrettes and hairbands, bread bag ties, instruction manuals, rocks, flower petals, stuffed animals, American Girl catalogues and an assortment of other flotsam that all takes up valuable real estate in her small space.

I’ve never known a child to be so content surrounded by so much chaos. But, Millie is. And, although we certainly try, I can’t fault her for her belongings. Millie has an incredible imagination and each of her treasures has a place in it. Her mind turns an Amazon delivery box into a three part play and a lowly piece of wobbly furniture becomes a fully stocked writer’s desk. She spends hours upon hours in her bedroom creating a world with all of her special things. Everything makes sense to her even if the rest of us find the accumulation of crap maddening.

Sometimes, when Bob and I check on her at night before heading to bed, we find she has relocated to the floor to sleep; a selection of her favorite items surrounding her head. Sort of like a halo made entirely of junk from the recycling bin. We try to tuck her in the best we can, removing the piece of cutlery from beneath her arm and the produce rubber band from her wrist.

A couple of months ago, I tried to get Millie to tackle her messy bedroom. As I stood there, chastising her for the condition of her room, she looked at me, pointed a finger in my direction and said, “But, Moooo-oooom. This is my fun zone.”

Indeed, Millie. Happy birthday to the biggest fan of fun I’ve ever known.