Friday, January 29, 2016

Baseball, Starting School, and One Lazy Mom

The Overlord has been talking to me about wanting to play baseball. I know next to nothing about sports. Thankfully, my husband knows what's up. After talking to him about it, I realized I better start looking into getting her hooked up ASAP, because I guess it's a spring and summer thing? Who knew!?

I did some digging around and found the local Little League group. I emailed the guy in charge to ask how I could go about signing my daughter up. Apparently there's a North and South league in my area, and I had no idea which one she belonged to. It's arranged according to the which school she'd be attending, I guess. I had to find out which one that is, and while doing so found a notice on the district's webpage telling me about a New Kindergarten Information meeting.

"Well," I said to myself. "That's coincidentally convenient."

I spent the first five years of my daughter's life researching schooling up the wazoo. As you all know, I've been undecided on the matter of sending her to school or homeschooling her myself. I told myself that ultimately the decision was up to her. If she wanted to stay home, I'd school her. If she wanted to go to school, I'd send her. But a lot of factors regarding the public school system in America these days gave me reservations about sending her.

So I said to myself, "Couldn't hurt to go to this meeting to learn more." And we did. Boy am I glad we did!

First of all, I had no idea that registration could begin so early. I thought it was one of those things parents rushed to do at the end of the summer. "Holy crap my kid is five/six now! I better enroll her in school!"

To my surprise, by the end of the night at this meeting I was signing my name to a paper to schedule an appointment in which to register her for school. We did that today. A friend of mine asked me why I decided to enroll her in public school instead of homeschooling. As I told her, there are a lot of factors.

Number one: The school district impresses me. Some time last year or the year before I read in the local paper about how they are taking education to the next level and have divided the high school into four basic focus groups of learning. Kids graduating with a diploma in this district also have the opportunity to graduate with an associate's degree in something on the side. That means they're entering college at 18 as Juniors. That's pretty impressive!

The presentation showed me that in kindergarten they use tablets and computers in their daily learning, along with everything else I remember from the pre-computer age. They aren't trying to keep technology from the children, and I approve. Electronics are our future and they should be regularly exposed to them. My kids already know how to work my NOOK, the TV, the DVD player, the Wii U and more. Our library has touch screen computers they can operate on their own chock full of learning games.

An amusing and shamelessly honest factor I like to throw out is my aversion toward teaching art. I've bought finger paints and play dough and all kinds of things, but I honestly don't like my children having them because of the mess. I also don't have an artistic bone in my body and think that the Overlord will benefit from having some outside instruction on that matter.

Now... I know. There are all kinds of programs available that I can sign my kids up for if I choose to homeschool. The other factor that I'm not ashamed to admit is that I'm lazy. The thought of scouring the Internet in search of places to go to where my children can learn something about something makes me tired. I'm an introvert and don't like leaving the house. I avoid doing things at all costs.

This is probably why I keep subconsciously putting off getting my driver's license again. I let it expire a long time ago. Oops. Now I have to go through the temps process all over again. The fact that I cannot legally drive and do not even have a car of my own in which to do so puts a damper on ideas such as daily road trips for learning. Sorry, kid. I just don't want to do it.

My daughter likes people. She's very outgoing and friendly. She asks me every single day, "Where are we going today? Where are we going tomorrow?" She wants to get out and do things. Somehow I gave birth to an extrovert, and she's exhausting. I'm frankly looking forward to the five-day-a-week break from her presence. I'm not sure her sister will survive, but that's another matter.

Another thing that ultimately eased my worries and solidified my decision to send the Overlord to school was when I independently researched the dress code. I am super pleased to discover and report that the dress code is completely nondiscriminatory where regarding gender. It is all-inclusive. No "girls have to" this "because distracting to boys." I'll have to look up the high school dress code when the time comes, but so far it seems that I do not have to destroy the school for sexualizing my little girl and prioritizing the rights of boys to learn over her.

It's all very reasonable and the faculty seem like intelligent, good people. The only worry I have left is religious exposure. I have it in mind to ask about the Pledge of Allegiance at the open house before the start of the school year. If I find out standing and reciting is mandatory, there will be hell to pay. I did wince slightly when the principal of the school she'll be attending mentioned Christmas parties, but in the same breath she said Halloween parties, so I think I'll be okay with that. So long as nobody in a position of authority is shoving Jesus down my child's throat, it's all good.

And oh yeah. About baseball. We'll be registering her for that tomorrow.

All these activities are going to be the death of me.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mournful Reminiscences

Today I am 36 years and 13 days old. My birthday was back in December, like it is every year. Four days after Christmas. Two days before the turn of the New Year. The day of my birth has always seemed to be lacking in celebration, overshadowed by these other holidays. It's the sole reason why I try to make my girls' birthdays something memorable and special, and probably why I don't like Christmas too terribly much. I didn't much at all until my girls were born.

We celebrate my birthday quietly. I don't like parties, personally. Either I've grown accustomed to the quiet of "oh by the way happy birthday" or I actually do like it this way. It was a normal day like any other. The weekend before, my husband took me to see the new Star Wars film. I'm not as big a nerd for that franchise as I am for some others, but it's nice to know that they have planned another series of films for me to look forward to seeing for my birthday for the next several years.

On our way home from the movie, my husband and I stopped at Dairy Queen for dinner. There's one right up the street from us and it's hard not to eat their every day, never mind not being able to afford to. While waiting for our food to be finished to take home, I saw an oreo cookie crunch ice cream cake in the freezer and had an unreasonable craving. I pointed it out and said, "I want that for my birthday." My husband brought it home to me on his way from work that night several days later.

Half of it is still in my freezer. Please come eat it.
This year is probably going to be the hardest for me. I'm reminded of a concept I read about in the book Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman. Something to do with how women who have suffered the loss of their mothers trudge through the age in which they died, feeling a heavy shadow of fear and oppression, until that year passes and they can say, "I survived."

It feels utterly ridiculous for me to think that way. My mother wasn't terminally ill with some life-threatening disease that claimed her. I'm lead to believe she suffered mental illness, though. Some very strong depression in which she was on medication to try to combat. Her death certificate reads that single, pit-dropping-into-stomach word of suicide. Since discovering that "truth" in my teenage years, I have long since told myself that no matter how hard things got for me I would never be like her.

It's a conviction I've held onto strongly. I can say with satisfying honesty that there was only one point in my life in which I felt so downtrodden. And that was years and years ago, a lifetime before where I find myself now. I never attempted it. Only having the thought was enough, and I never had one like it again.

So it seems silly of me to think that I just have to make it through this year to have beat my mother's record, as it were. I can't say it's going to be hard. I like myself and my life too much. I love my husband and my children. I'm content. Though as a mother I definitely feel my daily stresses, I don't feel at all compelled to even remotely entertain the idea of ending it all. I want to see tomorrow, and all the days after it. I want to see my children grow. I want to see the adults they will become, and meet any possible grandchildren they might have of their own.

And yet... That heavy black cloud of mourning hangs heavily over me, making me think, "I only have to get through this year, and I will have surpassed her." She was 36 years and 256 days old the day she died. Her birthday was in September. She died in May. This year she will have been gone from my life for 28 years, and not a day goes by in which I do not miss her.

My father's birthday was two days ago. He would have been 72 years old. It was a cruel twist of fate that had him dying ten years, nearly precisely to the day, after my mother, his first wife. I imagine when I am 54 years old I will feel even more weighted down and terrified of the age. For that was how old he was at the time of his death, when his last and final heart attack claimed him. A family history of heart disease is more terrifying than one of suicide to bear, I think. Not to mention the breast cancer and bone cancer possibilities from my grandmothers on either side.

The one comfort I can find is in knowing, as my brother said, that my parents would be proud of the woman I have become today, of the choices I made to get where I am now. I know they would adore their grandchildren, though it saddens me beyond comprehension when I remember that they never met them. My children will never known their maternal grandparents but through pictures and the spotty memories I have of them.

I miss you terribly, Mom & Dad.
This is, I know, not the most uplifting way to start the year, but they are thoughts I felt compelled to get off my chest, to share. It has not been easy, raising my two baby girls without any parental support on my side whatsoever. I envy all my friends and neighbors who still have at least one living parent to support them, if not both. And I'm grateful for my brother, who helped me as I helped him, during the first few months of my Usurper's life.

Speaking of my Usurper... In just 23 days we will be celebrating the day of her birth, quietly. She turns three in February. Of course I have a big party planned for the weekend after her actual day of birth, but on her day we're going to go do something special as a family. I won't ruin the surprise by talking about it now. Hopefully I won't neglect to write about it later.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Starting New Traditions. Finally! A Live Tree!

The first Christmas tree I can remember is the five or six foot artificial one my dad pulled out of the attic space in the garage every year. He kept it stored in a big box and setting it up took hours. The fake trunk had to be bolted into a metal base and every individual branch was color coded to fit into a specific slot on the posts that locked together in two or three different places.

Back then, in the '80s, there was no such thing as a pre-lit tree, as far as I know. After we got the tree put together, my dad spent another dozen hours griping and growling and cussing out the light string, unscrewing every single bulb one at a time and trying to figure out which one was burnt out to replace so that the whole thing would finally work. It was an event that I remember him tackling solo.

My brothers and me, long, long ago. Keith on the left, Mike on the right.
A couple years after my mom died, when my dad remarried, the tradition of the Christmas tree in our house changed greatly. My stepmother much preferred live trees. So for the next seven to eight years of my life, from 1990 to 1998, I remember us driving out to Galehouse Tree Farm to pick out a pre-cut tree. I don't remember ever hiking out to pick our own and cut it down. What I recall is my stepmother investigating every already cut tree available until she found the one with the perfect fullness that she liked. 

Every single year, she picked one out that was much too big to even fit in our living room. I'm sure we tried to talk her down to something shorter, but she wouldn't have it. The fullness and roundness was perfect, so we'd have them bind it and tote it home. My dad spent hours on the porch sawing off the extra three feet from the bottom just so it would stand up in our living room and not be bent at the top. Then we smothered it in boxes upon boxes of ornaments.

After my dad died, I don't recall much in the way of Christmas trees. I moved out of my stepmother's house, and even without him she still managed to get a too big tree into the front living room. I don't remember much of that Christmas. Nor much of the ones that followed. My brother had a fake tree he put up when I lived with him briefly, but I don't recall being much involved. 

Working retail crushed my Christmas spirit quite a lot. When I met my husband in 2002 I don't recall enjoying the season. We got married in 2003, and I'm sure we put up a tree in our first apartment. It started off small, and I'm sure it was a gift from a relative. Something prelit and fake just to have a tree. I bought a couple of boxes of bulbs and did it up in blue and silver. We had to replace that tree for a slightly bigger one at some point. They don't build the fake ones to be durable the way they used to be, like the one my dad fought with every year for the first eight to nine years of my life, and probably some time before I was even born.

Our girls have had to suffer fake trees in the early years of their lives. We started in one apartment, then a townhouse, and couldn't really afford a live tree until this year. For all the bad I might have suffered, those trips out to Galehouse Tree Farm every year is a fond one I wanted to carry forward. So this year, now that we're in a better financial position than we used to be, we took the 30 minute drive trip out to Doylestown to rekindle a tradition I enjoyed and bring it to our own family.

It may look dark and dreary from the outside, but inside that barn is a world of festive color and holiday joy. Of course, I remember the interior being much bigger when I was a kid. That memory had me relating to my own daughters and realizing just how magical it must be to them. Never mind how many times I had to tell them not to touch something because it was fragile. Some things were still pretty kid friendly.

My experiences with my stepmother taught me not to go too overboard and look for a tree that would actually fit in our living room. So we spent the extra energy and took the time to hike to the top of the hill and look for one that would last, smell nice, and look nice. It cost a little less to cut your own tree, so that was an added bonus.

Our little Usurper is a trooper. She didn't complain about the hike one bit. Never asked to be picked up. She doesn't like to be carried and much prefers to walk anywhere we go. For that I am super grateful because I am not a strong person and don't like being a vehicle for my children. Their independence pleases me greatly. 

So we found our tree, cut it down, toted it back down the hill to have it shaken and bound. We shoved it in our car, tied it between the seats, and drove it home. Then the most adorable thing happened. My husband had bought the tree stand the day before and explained to our girls what it was for. To keep them from turning it into a toy, he put it in the office at the back of the house. As soon as we got home, the Usurper ran to the office, picked up the stand, and well... This:


I'm constantly surprised by how much my littlest nerdling understands and remembers. She might not say much, and getting her to give up her pacifier completely is still a struggle at 2 1/2 years of age, but she's one smart cookie. This time last year I wouldn't have dared to bring home a live tree and set it up where she could reach all the ornaments, but she knows now not to touch and that's good. 

She was very happy about our new tree. I almost feel like it was the best Christmas present she could have ever asked for! And she didn't even ask for one! She was so happy that she spent a good ten minutes or so smothering her daddy in hugs.

I tried for another video, but apparently it's too big for blogger.
We got the tree up without any hassle. The girls even helped hold it steady while we screwed it secure to the base. Amusingly, the trunk was almost too small! We got it to work, though, and then the decorating happened.

When it was all said and done, our girls were so happy that the Overlord even made up a song about it. I think it's safe to say that they love our tree this year. I give myself an A+ for creating memories my girls will hopefully remember for all time, and a tradition that we'll continue with from here on out. And I... Well. I'm surprised by how happy this one simple little thing made me. It's been 17 or 18 years since I last had a live tree in a house I called my own. This gives me so much joy... I can't even.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

How a Stuffed Giraffe Became an Important Lesson On Loss

Today, the Overlord ran up the stairs from her play room, all the way to my office, to tell me, "Mommy! Giraffey's broken! His music winder thingy doesn't work anymore. Look! Can you fix him?"

Giraffey never had a name before today, by the way. The toy in question is a baby toy that Great-Grandma sent the Usurper when she was born. I think. The whys and the whens and wherefores aren't so very important to this story, though.

Basically, Giraffey is a plush music box. There's a wind-up key attached to its side. You wind it up. It plays a song. Well. No more, unfortunately. Something inside is broken, and neither me nor my husband know how to fix it. So...

Sadly, I told her, "No, honey. I'm sorry, but I can't fix this. There's nothing we can do about it. He's broken."

There was a look of absolute heartache on her face. The pout and the moisture in her eyes was nearly unbearable.

"Honey, I'm sorry, but I think it's time to say good-bye to Giraffey."

Her daddy came in to join us in the talk saying he couldn't fix Giraffey either. He told her she had the choice to keep him as is, broken but still able to be played with, or we could say good-bye. She chose to say good-bye. So I told her we'd send him to a faraway place where broken toys go after they can't be played with anymore.

This seemed kinder to me than telling her we were going to throw the toy in the trash. Little did I know it was going to turn into an elaborate story about Toy Heaven.

Later, I found her playing downstairs with her sister. They were having fun, giggling and make-believing with their My Little Pony toys. Then Lilah looked up with a pout and asked, "Mommy, where's Giraffey?"

"Honey..." The toy was upstairs, still. Her daddy was investigating it and trying to figure out if there really was any way to repair it, but we both knew it was a lost cause. So I told her, "Giraffey went to a faraway place where broken stuffies go when they no longer work, where they can live with other stuffies and be happy even though they can't be played with anymore."

As a nonreligious individual raising my children pretty much atheist, I never thought I'd be making a Heaven analogy to help my daughter deal with loss.

She accepted this story.

Later, upstairs while watching TV, she was pouting about Giraffey still, talking about how much she missed him. There were actual tears. I hugged her and told her, "Oh, honey. It's okay to feel sad when you miss something you love very much."

Wiping the tears off her cheeks broke me.

"Would it make you feel better to see Giraffey one more time, if he came back from the faraway place to say good-bye?"

"Yeah," she said.

So I got him back out of the closet where I'd stashed him to hide so she wouldn't keep asking us to try to fix him. She gathered him up in her arms and held him tight.

Unfortunately, her little sister was right there and wanted to play with Giraffey, too. It was a struggle getting her to let Amelia have the toy, but she relented when I told her to let her say good-bye in her own way. This was a concept that had to be drilled into her head repeatedly by both her father and me.

My husband told her, "You let Amelia say good-bye to Giraffey in her own way. He will stay with us until bedtime, and then he has to go."

Eventually she stopped trying to tell her sister to tell Giraffey good-bye. Some time later, she brought the toy back to me in my office.

"Mom, 'Melia put Giraffey down," she said, handing me the broken toy.

"Do you think Amelia's done saying good-bye to him then, in her own way?" I asked.


Amelia didn't come running back to my office crying, so I figured it was true enough. Though, I'm also pretty sure she had no idea what was going on. The Usurper is only two and a half to the Overlord's almost five now!

Somehow she got the impression that the faraway place I mentioned was an island. I didn't correct her. I like the idea of it being an island. Somehow I'm sure that makes it seem more soothing and an okay place to be.

"Is the Faraway Island magical?" she asked me.

"Yes, dear. The Faraway Island is a magical place where all stuffies and broken toys can talk to each other and be happy when they can't be played with anymore."

I do not regret expounding upon my lie.

"Oh. I never heard Giraffey talk."

"Well, maybe if you listen very closely you'll hear him talk to you. ... Are you done saying good-bye now?"


After dinner, we revisited with Giraffey one last time. I brought him out of my office and told Lilah, "Giraffey doesn't want you to be sad when he leaves, Lilah, so he told me he'd like to take a picture with you so you'll always have something to look at and remember him by."

So we took a couple of pictures, both of Lilah with Giraffey and Amelia with Giraffey.

Lilah came back to talk to me a little more about Giraffey and the Faraway Island. She told me she really wanted to see the Island and see all the talking toys. I told her that'd be nice. She asked where it was. "Is it up in the sky?"

"Maybe," I told her. "It's so faraway that even I don't know where it is, honey. I've never seen it. I'm not a toy, so I can't go there."

"Oh," she said. "I hope there's a moon there. The moon is magical. It's like an island."

All I could do was smile as she walked away.

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year! Old news. (Mostly pictures.)


Hello, Loyal Fans!

As you can plainly see, I have been very remiss in updating this blog. The last time I wrote an article for this thing was back in August with Hello Not-a-Kitty, in which I talked about the newly created Hello Kitty Convention that I'd some day love to take my girls to.

Since that time, quite a lot has happened! Here's a run-down of everything you missed in 2014 before we get started on 2015:

In September, Your Future Overlord met her very first toad at her friend Addison's house. We were invited to a barbecue and had a very good time. At their old house (they have since moved), there were apparently a lot of toads in the yard and Addison had a habit of collecting them. A very good experience overall.

We started our second year of dance classes! The Usurper is not yet old enough to join a class, but she is learning quite a bit from her sister already. The Overlord is taking traditional ballet again this year as well as tap. It's been a rocky road so far, in which she fluctuates between wanting to participate and not. I'm told this is normal for her age.

Both of my girls have an amazing imagination, but at not even 2-years-old I think the youngest has the eldest beat. Her imaginative play has been amazing these past few months, and continues to astound me. The above picture was taken in September. She and her sister got dressed up and set this up all by themselves.

Which brings me to October. You may remember the article I wrote in July titled "Keep the Shears Away," in which I talked about how I refuse to take my girl to get her haircut until she tells me she wants one. Well, that happened. We turned it into a big birthday event, and I'll write about that later, because it's worthy of it's own individual article.

That's right. Your Future Overlord is now 4 years old! I'm a big slacker for having not covered her birthday like I should have. Not like I can't write about it later, though. It'll give me some material to work with when I'm floundering later on. Your job, Loyal Fans, is to constantly harass me about it until I do. So don't forget to pester.

We found some time to help Daddy rake (and play in) the leaves!
And then Halloween happened.

In November, we joined the Overlord's best friend Addison in celebrating her 4th birthday as well. And then of course all the Thanksgivings happened.

Before that, it snowed. It was the most amazing thing the Usurper had ever seen. I regret that we did not yet have appropriate snow attire so that the girls could go outside and enjoy it. The Overlord had to have asked me a hundred times.

The Usurper has been making quite a lot of discoveries lately. I absolutely love this gleam in her eye that she gets when she finds something new and fascinating, and everything is new and fascinating to her. I hope she never loses this investigative spirit that she has. My little scientist.

We slacked off a lot in December. Didn't put our tree up until a few days before Christmas. Didn't even really put up any other decorations. And to be honest, our tree is still up. We should probably work on tearing it down and putting everything away.

At least I remembered to stash our creepy ass Elf on the Shelf. I'm a terrible person and hardly remember to move that sucker and sure as shit don't do anything fun with it. Except, Fred (our girl elf) does leave a present for the girls on Christmas Eve. That's a tradition I'm sticking with. Fresh PJs every year.

Christmas came and went like it always does. Being a non-religious household, we don't put a lot of emphasis on the holiday other than Santa Claus. Magic, family, and the Winter Solstice are our reasons for the season. Your mileage may vary.

So now here we are in January. The turn of a new year. Your Future Overlord is 4 years old, and in less than a month the Usurper turns 2! I have quite a few stories to fill you in on that I have neglected to tell, so stay tuned. Hopefully another four months doesn't go by before I update again.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hello Not-a-Kitty!

This is something I think everybody has heard about by now, and apparently has shocked millions of loyal fans worldwide. Honestly, I'm not the least bit surprised by this news. When I first heard about it, I think one of my friends tagged me in a Facebook post saying the tweets for this thing were amusing. I'm not very good at following Twitter, so I had no idea what she was talking abut. Then I saw a link on my Google+ feed from a friend and read about it this morning.

All these discoveries keep falling under the category of Things I Wish I Had Known About Sooner, because I am not made of money and I would love to be a part of this sort of epic celebration. What are you rambling about now, Stacey? Oh. Right. Well.

Newsflash: Hello Kitty has never been a cat.

I am not the least bit blown away by this news as I think so many other people have been, crying in outrage. It probably helps that we own quite a large collection of Hello Kitty cartoon DVDs and that my eldest, Your Future Overlord, watches them constantly. Our love for Hello Kitty in this house is not unknown. At least 40% of my daughters' wardrobes consist of Hello Kitty something-or-other, and every time one particular outfit of Lilah's is washed and available for wearing in her drawer, she immediately picks it out to put on.

The Overlord's current favorite outfit.
Hello Kitty has become such a big thing since I've had children. I fondly remember it from my own childhood, but never knew it quite so well then as I do now. To children everywhere, she is not a kitty in any case. Even to my daughter she has always been "a friend" and "a little girl" just like her. As far as my daughter is concerned, she is Kitty White, and her little sister is Mimmy White, which is conveniently coincidental since we've dubbed the Usurper with the nickname Mimi since as long as Lilah first started trying to say her name. She responds to that more than her actual name.

We have so many Hello Kitty accessories and toys in this house that I don't even think I could ever gather them all together for a "collection" picture. Besides, I don't do collectibles all too well. In my daughters' eyes, these are toys, and to keep them from playing with them would be too cruel for me to bear. Every year around Valentine's Day my husband has traditionally found the Overlord a new TY Beanie Baby, and Santa even put one in her stocking once. We're up to four now, and are likely to eventually end up with a swimming pool full of the things by the time she heads off to college or a trade school or an apprenticeship, whichever she chooses to do with herself.

"Snowman Kitty," "Glasses Kitty," "Kitty," and "Lollipop Kitty."
As for the celebration I mentioned above? Well, it turns out that Hello Kitty is turning 40 this year, and there's a first ever annual Hello Kitty Convention scheduled to take place in Los Angeles, California at the end of October! By the looks of things, tickets are going to run us $60/day for me and my husband to attend. Fortunately, both the Overlord and the Usurper are young enough to get in free. If we went for just one day, that would be all right. All four days add up to more money than we should be willing to spend, but gosh wouldn't it be nice!

Add on top of that figuring out how we're going to get there. I, personally, have never flown on a plane before in my entire life, and admit a little bit of trepidation. It's not really the plane itself that makes me nervous so much as all the security and check points and degrading searches people have to go through these days in America, that I've heard of, just to travel. Flying would be the fastest and probably best way to get there with two small children, I imagine, but I have no idea how much it would cost! Very likely it would exceed our budget.

Traveling by train would be a fun adventure for all of us. Again, I have no idea how much that would cost, but I would not be averse to the idea. With two small children, I'm even reasonable enough to consider only going to one day of the convention and not trying for the couple hundred dollars worth of an entire weekend trip. Seeing more of California on the side would be a bonus, though.

Attending Hello Kitty Con would be a better first convention for my girls than Bronycon, I think, which I still want to go to with them some day. But why does it have to be so far away? This gives me a sad.

I always find myself envious of my sister-in-law and her family going on all these family vacations anywhere. I envy my friends who go on family vacations. We have never been on a family vacation. Ever. Had I known about this sooner, I would have squirreled away so much money so that we could go, if even just for one day to the convention. Factoring in the cost of hotel stays, too, and it's just not something we can afford at all. So, so terribly disappointing.

Oh well. I suppose I can hope that they'll do it again next year. I'm going to start saving now, just in case.

Because we love it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back to Zoo

At the beginning of this week my Facebook wall was flooded with photos of all these kids posing for their first day of Back to School. Many of my mom friends rejoice about this time of year with exasperated relief. Finally! I hear them shout, because once again they get to be rid of their children for several hours a day, five days a week.

I have mixed feelings about this phenomenon. On the one hand, I am super envious. I wish I could be free of my children for several hours a day, five days a week. I would love to have more than a couple minutes a day to myself in which I can just sit down to think and don't have to meet the needs of my demanding little monsters, only one of which can form actual sentences and talk to me, whereas the other just points and squeals urgently to get my attention for the things she wants. More aggravatingly often than not, she wants to sit on my lap and keep me from doing anything at all but being her chair.

Don't get me wrong. I love my children. I wish them only the best. I want to do right by them. I want them to have the best education possible. I want to see them succeed in their futures and not be delegated to just another fast food drive-thru attendant. I also super hope that by the time they are adults all this misogyny and gender stereotyping that goes on these days is obliterated from the world entirely.

While I would love to be rid of them for just a little while, to have a vacation to myself, I still find myself frowning at all these bright and smiling faces of children dressed up in the nicest thing they're likely to put on all year in an effort to make a good first impression. I remember those days with a certain sort of eye-rolling bitterness. What you wore the first day of school sealed your fate for the entire year. Either you'd be that kid with the brand new designer jeans that will instantly make you everybody's best friend, or you'd be the kid in your Great Aunt Lucy's hand-me-downs taken in at the waist to better fit you and ridiculed the rest of your life.

These are things I don't have to worry about with my children, yet, and desperately hope I never will. I think the only guarantee that I won't have to put them through that sort of exhausting social ringer is if I stick with my plan to home school. But that also means sacrificing my sanity and me time, and as an introvert this is an extremely difficult need for me to give up.

On the other hand, however, I've noticed that with so many other kids going back to school, everywhere else becomes virtually abandoned for several hours a day, five days a week. This is a bonus for us, with my husband's new work schedule. On the first of September he'll have switched up his week to having Sundays and Mondays off. This is nice because most of the nation goes to church (which we do not) on Sundays and kids are in school most Mondays (except those pesky holidays that always seem to fall on one; I'm looking at you, Labor Day). Therefore, the world is our family outing oyster! Free of crowds! An introvert's dream come true!

Last week was a primary example of the wonders of not being bound to society's expected nine to five grind. We took the opportunity of most of Cleveland going back to school last week and decided to have one last final end of Summer hurrah by visiting the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, just the four of us. The place was wonderfully deserted. Though we were a little sad to see the dinosaur exhibit was no longer operating, it was nice to be able to walk the park (even the Usurper) without having to dodge around the self-important and rude we encounter just about everywhere else.

The girls loved it. My husband and I loved the fact that we could actually enjoy ourselves and not get super cranky from having to deal with so many people. The last time we were at the Cleveland Zoo, we went with his sister and family, and the littlest monster pictured above left was so tiny that she slept in her car seat in the stroller the entire time. The place was packed with people then. We missed out on some of the exhibits both times, but it was nice to sit in the picnic patio and eat overpriced McDonald's for dinner without another living soul around us this time around. We actually got to hear the lions roar when they came out of their cave to bask on the sun rock. 

This time we got to see the timber wolves, too, unlike last time, but neither me nor my husband could get a good picture of them. However, the littlest Usurper was immediately drawn to these statues, so she and her sister stopped to ride on them a little bit. I think, perhaps, she was remembering our temporary dog Lucky who went back to live with his original family before she was even crawling. 

Sadly, the tiger was napping in his cave by the time we got to him. This was more disappointing to me, I think, because I was the only one who knew what we had hoped to see. The Usurper's favorite animal in the world is a tiger. She absolutely loves them. Probably in part thanks to Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. Had she seen the tiger, though, I think she would have tried to climb into the exhibit, like she kept trying to do when we walked through Kangaroo Land and saw the grizzly bears. Regardless of constantly having to battle her with her insistence on walking everywhere (I'm shocked she didn't pass out in the car on the way home), we had a good time. Admittedly, it was nice to be able to unleash her without fear of losing her in a crowd. Though having to pull her down off of everything and keep her from trying to squeeze herself through the bars of certain enclosures was an adventure, let me tell you.

We'll be going back to the zoo in a little over a month, but not the one in Cleveland. Ever since the Overlord was born, we've tried to continue carrying on a tradition with our friends to attend the Akron Zoo's Boo at the Zoo event. Of course, Cleveland does this too, but Akron is much closer for everyone involved. I'm hoping this year to get a bigger group of us together, now that more of my friends are having kids too. So look forward to October when I'll talk all about it!