Sunday, September 17, 2017

Burning Down The House

So, school is on week 4, we're knee-deep in after school activities, and I'm now home to manage it all. And manage it all I did NOT.

All week I put great store in my ability to create a chart over the weekend that would make all the weeks ahead simple and easy, but I think for once my faith in charts was too strong. Or my chart was too weak to support my faith in charts? All I know is, this didn't make me feel better.

Landon being able to do unassisted back handsprings and moving up a level in tumbling has basically ruined my life. Or just my Mondays and Wednesdays. He also starts running club in another week, which is twice a week after school- he's so excited, he never gets to do sports with school friends because he's a year off age-wise (have we discussed that I regret red shirting him? because I do and no one ever says that), and I think he'll love getting to run in a more organized way than the running he does around the yard on a daily basis. (Like swimming, track is just more suited to his athletic and competitive but not aggressive personality).

Aggressive Winston-ing

But zomg, that's 6 things in 4 days. I told him we can try. He LOVES the tumbling and he's so proud of his promotion. Given the gigantic state of his feet and his likely future height, I feel like there's really only so far he can probably go in that (to the exact you can really "go" anywhere in tumbling), so he should get to enjoy it now. Ultimately I think he'll join club swimming- I say this as a former swimmer and not a mother, he is just incredibly talented, but James and I both believe strongly in holding that off until at least middle school. So this is his time to do other stuff. We told him that if his grades stay where they are and his emotions stay in balance and homework doesn't become an issue, we'll make it work for a semester and reevaluate.

But ugh. After years of clinging tightly to nightly family dinners and limited activities, we've become a family who won't eat together at least two nights a week. And Cora doesn't even do any outside of school activities yet! I know this is far from unusual, but I hate it. I hate everyone being scattered and the girls eating at a different time than the boys on Mondays and Wednesdays (damn you 6:30-7:30 Tumbling II time slot). But my new chart and I are going to try to make it work for a few weeks. I'm hoping to make the best of it -- enjoy some extra quality girl time, and James will actually be picking Landon up from gymnastics (because it's so dang late [angry face]), so for the first time in two years, James will be able to watch some of Landon's other sport and they can chat on the drive home, and that's a good thing too.

And I'm just going to have to get over the fact everyone won't be in bed at 8 p.m. every night like they have been every night for the last decade or so. It's like no one even cares that I won't be able to get my photo books done while re-watching every episode of The Great British Baking Show. Probably because I'm complaining about something I helped create and am literally (and figuratively) paying for.

"Did he lose something under the dishwasher?
No, I think he was just walking by and then fell asleep like that."


Moving on. My parents continue to move forward while staying still. It remains hard. It's going to be hard for a long time. Submitting their insurance claim has been a trial. Pictures of everything; links to replacement items; somehow getting everything 4 to a page to PDF and send to their adjuster. They have a clean, separate apartment with wifi and it was still a huge multi-day project with lots of frustration and phone calls; as I think every time I talk to them, how do people in less fortunate circumstances do it? It is so hard. My dad and brother sent a few updated videos. The house is looking really good- or as good as a house missing it's bottom four feet can be. Moving forward...

I got a comment on the last post from someone in Tennessee who said she'd been reading the blog for years and never commented, but last week her daughter's school had adopted Kingwood High School and was collecting money to send in support. It made me teary. I sent it to my family and it made their eyes leaky too (in my dad's words). I love how sometimes the internet can make the world bigger and smaller all at the same time.

Let's see, in other news- Winston spent two solid days in a self-imposed timeout because he refused to leave his crate knowing he'd have to respond to a "sit" command when he did. In the words of our dog behaviorist, "Winston decided he didn't want to play this training game anymore and he is trying to see if it's an all-the-time thing. Do not let him break you." I'll admit I may have broken (have you SEEN his squishy face??), but Winston the Stubborn Bulldog had no idea how far James the Stubborn Human was willing to go. On Tuesday, after 10 hours in his crate (with no-play-on-leash-super-boring potty breaks and lots of opportunities to freaking sit on command and be free), he finally sauntered out of his crate, tucked his dainty little legs under his behind, and sat beautifully before trotting to the kitchen and eating the breakfast that had been there since 8 a.m.

"Sorry dad"

Then he made up with his human.

Since then, he has been fully back on board with the training game/way of life. As a reward, I took him with me in the car on Friday to take Landon to a friend's house.

He loved it.

Until Landon got out; then he was concerned. (My brother was skeptical that that was Winston's concerned face, but he is clearly SUPER concerned.) But then he went back to loving it again. He can only worry about so much.

That night we went to get ice cream after dinner (a dinner of these AMAZING pesto pepperoni pizza rolls I made from scratch; note for next time - and there will BE a next time - double the recipe if you want to feed five hungry people who all love pizza, pesto, and pepperoni) as a treat from Papa and Gigi to celebrate the big kids' incredible progress reports and Cora's clear dedication to school that we're getting from her new daily picture updates (such focus; such concentration; those pictures are the highlight of my day).

Turns out, despite a lot of past protest, Cora likes ice cream. And she really likes CHOCOLATE ice cream.

I'm not sure why we keep trying to convince her she likes these terrible things, but much like playing board games, what's the point of having children if you can't get one or three of them to do a little indulging with you once in a while? I want Cora on board. And on board she now is.

On Saturday we had Claire's soccer game, but before that we had my millionth Orangetheory class in a row (using up 6 classes in the 9 days left in my billing cycle has been UNPLEASANT) and then Cora's epic tantrum after she dropped a piece of cheese on the floor. I'm not even sure who she was mad at. Surely not herself. Gravity, perhaps? The soccer game was good and then we had swimming and quiet time and then dinner at our favorite Austin restaurant that finally decided to come to Fort Worth!! Hopdoddy we've missed you!!

I only wish a few dozen people, some hills, and the hill country views would come too (and Polvos; omg I miss Polvos).

The wait was too long, but the parmesan truffle fries were every bit as magical as I remembered and the burger was the best I'd had in at least a year. Dammit Hop Doddy, I'll be back for you and your ridiculously long lines soon.

Unfortunately, as I was stuffing my hundredth fry in my mouth, I thought I'd move Cora's hamburger eating along by cutting her kid's burger in half so Claire could have some.


You'd have thought I cut her own hand off. Devastation. Tears. Wailing lamentations and gnashing of the teeth. James whisked her outside and the older couple next to us toasted their glasses in our direction as I signed the check and collected the larger children who were devouring Cora's burger, "we've been there."


It was a rookie mistake. I could have asked if she wanted to share her cheeseburger or have it cut in half, but I've never had a child who cared about these things before. Landon was all "eh whatever," Claire only cared if you were upset with her and then she was upset at you for being upset at her, but Cora. Cora will burn this motherfucker DOWN for such an infraction. She will light the world on fire and she will GO DOWN WITH IT if only so she can keep eye contact with you as you burn for your mistake.

Then she will pop her pink purse on her shoulder and prance about being utterly charming and complimenting stranger's outfits. As my dad noted, "when she is good and cute and amazing she is really spectacular but when she is bad she is also spectacularly good at that! What a girl."

Like this morning, while James and the big kids were grocery shopping and I was making fancy healthy Teff Pumpkin Pancakes, she randomly turned to me and said "Sorry mom." ... "Sorry I was yelling and crying about my booger." I took me a minute to even figure out what she was talking about. Then, after I translated booger to burger and we had a little chat about the proper channeling of emotions and not burning restaurants down, her favorite song popped up on my Spotify and she yelled "WAIT! Wait! I have to get ready!"

Twenty minutes later I've moved on to prepping the amazing, hearty, and healthy Superhero Muffins that are a vital part of our life and have long forgotten that we ever had music playing, and she yelled, "Okay! I ready now!"

And was she. Dance outfit, an audience, a Winston, and a very beautiful dance routine.

I mean, when they aren't being the worst, toddlers can just be the freaking best.

[Now rearranging the chairs because her "polar bear can't see" and killing me.]

The rest of today was cleaning and organizing and baking and making charts. A wax appointment, a walk with Winston, some soccer in the front yard with Claire, and our first inaugural game of Ticket to Ride which was recommended on a Law Mama facebook post and I was horrified to find had a million Amazon reviews and I'd never even heard of it! I LOVE board games! And this one is super fun! Landon and Claire played their own hands and they definitely had the hang of it by the end. I look forward to many more afternoons building train routes this fall and winter.

Friends came over to swim and then we were supposed to eat a delicious pot roast I had simmering in the crock pot all day, but it still had an hour to go and we were starving so we left it in the crock pot and went and bought expensive delicious pizza instead. Oops. Sorry not sorry.

And now it's after 11:30 again- as far as I can tell, blogging only happens close to midnight, and I'm supposed to go to Orangetheory again in the morning (last one! for this cycle anyway), so I must go join my softly snoring husband and loudly snoring Winston. May your weeks be full of benevolent toddlers and charts that really do make your life easier. Night!


  1. I thought of you when I saw this. I know it's not funfetti, but figured it might do in a pinch.

    Anon - jlv

    1. Love it!! Though it will not help my summer margarita weight and its stubborn refusal to melt away without my remotely changing my lifestyle or calorie intake.

  2. Why do you regret red shirting Landon?

    1. Regret might be a little strong, but if we'd known Landon would almost instantly morph into a confident, brilliant, super academically engaged kid the moment he stepped into "real" school, we never would have kept him back. At the time we did it because we moved to Fort Worth after Kindergarten registration (we could have registered late of course, it's public school, but we didn't know anything and it all felt a little overwhelming) and before Landon showed ANY interest in academics of any kind. His premie status still felt relevant and James had always disliked being the youngest in his class growing up. Everyone always says "you never regret starting them later" so we were like okay, we'll just wait.

      But now we're spent each year talking with his teachers about having him skip a grade because he really should just be with his peers. He never had any social or maturity reasons to start late; he's incredibly bright; size/development wise he's right on track... I just wish he was up in the grade where he should have started. He's fine, we have wonderful friends in his current grade, and luckily, like me he loves the social aspects as school as much as the academic so it's not like he's bored (or to the extent he is, his boredom isn't a problem), but to the extent every one always says "you never regret it," (and everyone says that) I'd add a little voice that says, I do, a bit.

    2. Thank you for elaborating on this! My 3rd kid is a late July birthday and was born a month early - his due date was August 20th. We already get a ton of questions about if we'll keep him back a year, but my thought now is barring some very, very extreme issues, we wouldn't mostly because I look forward to those blissful 3 years (he can start in full-day pre-K at our Elementary school which goes through 6th grade) when all 3 of my kids will be in the same place.

    3. It is really nice to read something other than "you will never regret it." My son just turned five at the end of July and started kindergarten this year. He is a little immature, and had a head injury last spring (that he seems to be fully recovered from) so I had considered holding him back, but my gut tells me that it is rarely truly necessary. I've read a lot about it and as much as there seems to be that"small but not insignificant advantage" to being a little bit older, there can also be a benefit to being challenged. I also did not want to pay for another year of preschool. I was always one of the youngest, and I know that it can be different for boys, but I don't think it even affected me academically.

      When I was a child in the good old '80s kids just repeated kindergarten. My husband and I decided that the only way to know if he was ready was to start him, and if necessary he can do it again. Any "stigma" to that was always slight and quickly forgotten. I can remember the older kids in each grade explaining, without hesitation, that they were already [insert age here] because they repeated kindergarten. I feel like parents now are very averse to their kids failing (losing at anything, really...hence all the trophies kids get now that we all had to actually earn) and it has bled into this trend of red-shirting for whatever academic, physical, or social advantage it might give. Just my two cents :)

    4. Both my boys are, by far, the youngest in their grades, and they are absolutely thriving socially and academically. My older son started on time (Feb birthday) but skipped 7th grade. Now he's 13 and in 9th grade. [And getting him skipped ahead took a full year of arguing with the school that, really, he needed it despite his age and wasn't until they saw his standardized test scores and I threatened to home school him that they decided it was a good idea too. I mean, he took the ACT at 12 and scored a 27, which is significantly higher than the minimum required to get into the local university. But I digress.] My younger son has an August birthday and started school in the Northeast, where the cut off is in October or even December depending on the district. We've since moved to a state with an Aug 1 cut off, so that puts him a year younger than many kids in his class. And nearly 2 years younger than any kid who was redshirted. He just turned 10, and is in 5th grade. So, that's my "anecdata" about boys who are young for their grades but still doing better than fine.

    5. I don't regret it, but even though my boy is one of the oldest in his class (other than more aggressive red shirts); he is STILL about the shortest (I'm 5'2" and husband is 5'8")- my youngest (Feb birthday) will be even shorter by comparison, but because of his personality, I'm not worried. But as to oldest kiddo- he is social and wants to be friends with everyone and WITH the redshirt he's a foot shorter than a lot of classmates; I just cannot imagine if we would have pushed him ahead. He's also super intense and that's another factor. He's super bright but is just in advanced math and gifted and it's fine. But a tall, calm kid- I get why you would regret it! MAYBE easier to skip ahead than be held back, too?

      And omg with the family dinners I have always admired your persistence and sad to see it end, for you! We are underscheduled by comparison but still struggle to all sit at dinner together during the week, it is about the expectation, planning and discipline! As long as you insist on making it happen when it can, you should be good! And yay for 8 pm bedtime when you can, my 13 year old still needs at least 10 hours so our bedtime is 830, and people look at us like we are crazy sometimes but it's SO important!

  3. Love Ticket to Ride! We recently got Viticulture (I love it) and Twilight Struggle (so complicated, takes so long to play, strategy is no use, my other half loves it, I am more meh about it).

  4. I had the same reaction when my daughter, last year, decided she needed to add 3rd grade basketball to our already very busy weeknights. All of a sudden we were a family who had to have fast food dinner (at least) one night a week, or sometimes a "real" restaurant if time allowed, because there was just no other way to make it work. Husband and I learned to handoff kids in a parking lot - one to go home for homework and the other to practice - and we're doing it again this year due to piano lessons, but I still don't love it. The kids don't seem to mind and I tell myself it's only temporary... but it's hard to get used to not being at home, together, every night. Wish I had a solution but I don't. I think our job is to support them as they explore and try things. Unless it's not feasible... then our job is to say, "Sorry, we cannot add one more activity right now" and not feel guilty about it.

  5. Speaking of activities, when did you start the kids on swim lessons? I know your situation is unique with having a swim coach for a husband, but I figure you also probably have a lot of insight about how early is too early. Is 3 months old too early? 6 months? I really want my daughter (currently 3 months) to grow up loving the water like me.

    1. Just take her swimming. She doesn't need formal lessons for a while (personally, age 3, but Lag Liv may have a different view). Mine all love the water and we just swim a lot for fun.

  6. Your writing is great as always. My daughter is Cora's age with similar, um, strong feelings, and has made Daniel Tiger songs her therapy for such occasions. Now we all sing them (when you feel so mad/that you want to ROAR...). It seems to help.

  7. Outing myself as a total nerd here, but I'm so glad that you've discovered Ticket to Ride! My husband and I have a similar love of board games and Ticket to Ride was our gateway drug into a whole host of more complex, adult (or older kid) oriented board games. If you're looking for other board games, I'd recommend Settlers of Catan, Dominion, Carcassone and 7 Wonders. So much fun!

  8. Am I only only one that read the title of this post and had a sudden panic attack imagining your parent's house being so far gone that they just had to burn it down??

    I mean, I TOTALLY get that an angry toddler can be terrible. But, I am SO GLAD it's that and not the alternative!! 🙃