It All Vanishes

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Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 11-10-2012

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I picked Anders up from school the other day and while I was waiting outside before the bell rang he came skipping out of his classroom with a lanky brown-haired girl. They raced towards the office together, on a mission to bring back something or other for their teacher, and I saw him reach out and fumble to take her hand. She hesitated, but gripped him amiably for a bit before they let go to swing their arms in a fist-pumping burst of speed.

He can be a loud boy, an obnoxious boy, occasionally a rude and selfish boy—but oh, he can be as tender as freshly fallen autumn leaf.

At seven years old he doesn’t have any idea that some kids might not want to hold hands and I felt a confusing whoosh of loving him so much for that gesture and being terrified that the girl would mock him for it. This age of big-little is filled with so many new things and I have chastised him, sometimes, for his tenderness, for weeping over small wounds or being afraid of movie scenes or whatever it is. Grow up, I’ve snapped.

I finished Rick Bragg’s The Prince of Frogtown last night. It’s a memoir inspired by Bragg’s relationship with his ten-year-old stepson, and towards the end, he writes,

The little boy started to fade, just like we left him in the sun too long. (…) He had been a ragamuffin, hurled into space by the seat of his pants. Suddenly, he shopped for shirts, and worried about his hair. He got too heavy to throw. (…) He turned twelve, then thirteen, and then the little boy just disappeared.
Just when you start to get used to it, to not minding it so much, it all vanishes, and the little boy you launched in the air stands at your shoulders like a man, and when you turn to say something you find yourself looking right into his eyes.
He is not helpless, not needy.
He is everything I rushed him to be.

Do you know how sometimes you read something, and it’s like the air in the room grows heavy? Like something you can touch, like you’re held fast by the words. I felt that way, last night. My god.

He is everything I rushed him to be.

Elementary Mommy On the Run for President

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Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 27-09-2012

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If I ever run for president, I will be a one issue candidate. My platform will simply be based on the eradication of extreme children’s birthday parties, and with the exception of the dissenting votes of Martha Stewart and Chuck E. Cheese, I will win the office unanimously.

If I could, I would actually run as First Lady because I am the Betty Ford of out-of-control children’s parties. I am a recovering addict, and therefore I am in the expert position to set up rehab for those mothers who need help. I will institute clinics at the end of elementary school car lines and the neighborhood Starbucks and supply my patients with overpriced themed goody bags filled with cupcakes and miniature Play-Doh in place of methadone.

As President, I will abolish all taxes and pay for every single requested social program, infrastructure improvement and the Pentagon’s annual budget with the money we save collectively from the extravagant affairs for 6 year olds. I’m also fairly certain I can even become more imperialistic and take over Canada and Mexico with a single season of MTV’s Sweet 16 expenditures. On my former pace, with 17 years of parties for 3 children, our household alone would have spent more than the GNP of some small European countries.

An invitation to a child’s party is a major financial and emotional commitment nowadays. They arrive in the mail with a prenup. Along with a box to check if you will be dining on the chicken (nuggets) or fish (sticks); you must vow to love, honor and obey whatever outlandish theme the mother of the flower girl has dreamed up.

But I suppose transforming a suburban backyard into the Neverland Ranch doesn’t come cheaply. On a typical Saturday afternoon neighborhood streets look like the Rose Bowl parade lined with floats and inflatable jumpy things with face painters who stand sentry at their webbed entrances for 200 bucks an hour while shoeless children bounce until they throw up on the $600 Dora the Explorer sculpted cake after riding on a pink and purple-dyed pony that cost two grand. With a chalk artist, magician and a pediatric acupuncturist, my friend’s four year-old party had more talent than this year’s Grammy Awards and more toddlerazzi snapping photos to prove it.

The exotic locals of many of these events must also be stopped. I had to get my children passports for one of their classmates’ Adolescence on the High Seas shindigs in Barbados. These off-site parties are so difficult for guests to logistically coordinate; I dread every single one like a recurring case of Montezuma’s Revenge. Every Saturday from 1-4pm we seem to arrive late for a party for some kid he met once 2 years ago in Gymboree for 10 minutes before he quit with 50 other bewildered invitees who also couldn’t recall the guest of honor’s last name. Protocol for the event will include the awkward standing just out of the way enough to be in the way, while I make sure my child tumbles down some germ-laden slide properly before making pirate cutlasses handcrafted with Swarovski crystals and pipe cleaners. Might I humbly suggest the re-institution of the drop-off party? Because if your soiree includes activities that require the supervision of 20 other adults that are not related or hired by you, chances are it’s not a party, it’s boot camp.

The national tragedy to all of this is that some of the most memorable parties I’ve hosted or attended have been those that have been the smallest, simplest and least expensive. Trust me; your child is not going to remember if the balloon animal artist could make Spongebob or not. The only thing they care about is being happily inflated by being surrounded by the people who love him singing Happy Birthday out of tune in silly hats on his special day.

And again, parents, I’ve been where you are, I feel your pain. But I am living proof there is hope for recovery for even the strongest addiction. All you have to do is balance your checkbook during the birthday month and it has a rather sobering effect.

And even if I am unsuccessful in my presidential bid, after this campaign speech, at least I know I’ll be successful in being McCarthy-ed off every guest list forever.

I Am My Mom (isms)

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Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 09-08-2012

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“I can’t believe I’m sending my child to school dressed like a ragamuffin!”

“I am so perturbed right now, Kirsten, I’m going to sell you to the gypsies!”

“Do you know how many hours I have to work to pay for this closet full of clothing that you never wear?”

“Who turned the heat up to frantic!”

“Do not make me pull this car over!!!”

“Were you raised in a barn?”

“Because I said so!”

“You are skating on thin ice!”

“If (insert friends name here) jumped off a bridge, would you do that too?”

“I have had it up to HERE!”

“You cannot go out with wet hair — you will catch a cold!”

–Kirsten’s mom, circa anywhere between 1971 and today.

I always laugh about the go-to Momisms. My mom isn’t just the person who brings me birthday presents in July when my birthday is in January. I wish I was kidding about that.  My mom, the person who gave birth to me on a cold January day, brought me a birthday card and a box of pretty note cards with a fancy cursive K on the front on a hot day in July. But that is a post for another day. She is also the queen of the one-liners.

Apparently, I was the cold-catching wet-haired ragamuffin who was getting sold to the gypsies. Also, I never wore any of my clothes and I was clearly raised in a barn. Sold to the gypsies? Really? Is that a thing? Did people actually get sold to gypsies? I never once took ice skating lessons, so how could I skate on thin ice?

And yet… I found myself sending my daughter to chorus camp this morning in ripped cut-off jean shorts, a purple-flowered tank top under a green t-shirt that she had ripped the bottom third off and also cut up the sleeves, yellow flip flops and a too-large navy blue hoodie. I tend to let my kids have some freedom with their wardrobe, especially during the summer. So I surprised myself when it just poured out of my mouth, “I can’t believe I’m sending my child out dressed like a ragamuffin!”

I guess I better brush up on my on-liners, because, well, apparently I am my mother. Lord help me if I bring my daughters, who were born on a hot August day, birthday presents on a cold, rainy day in February sometime in the future.

August Unplugged

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Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 02-08-2012

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The calendar flipped over into August yesterday which means we are in the last month of summer. We have a week long lake vacation to look forward to this month, but I can definitely feel the summer starting to wind down as the Back to School ads start heating up. However, we are going to eek out every last moment of summer over here.

For most people, summer means a much more laid-back lifestyle of more ice cream and fewer baths; later bedtimes and less homework. And for us it certainly means a lot of those things. I mean, you will not see any homework around here until after August 28th, I can assure you. But int he last little while, my kids have become something of slothy, sugar-addicted monsters who, well, kind of can’t stand to be in the same room with each other.

I am ready for things to change. So, as of today, there are some new rules afoot at Casa de Patel.

We are keeping sugar to am minimum. Sugar has become an expectation around here and not a treat. I can’t stand that. I firmly believe that treats and sugary things are wonderful for kids… in moderation. But it’s a slippery slope, that moderation thing. And multiple visits from family and friends and many get-togethers and playdates and birthday parties have given my kids an awful case of the gimmies. Gimme ice cream! Gimme cookies! Gimme chocolate!

We are keeping screens to a minimum: iPads, iTouches, televisions, computers, xboxes, wiis. The kids are pretty addicted, and since their evenings are no longer filled with school work, they have taken to plopping in front of screens and slothing the night away. One hour a day — they can watch the Olympics, and that is it. The weather has been idyllic and I want them taking full advantage by spending time practicing archery (their latest obsession), hitting balls in the backyard, painting chalk masterpieces on the driveway, on their bikes or playing Clue.

Lest you think it’s a special case of DO AS I SAY AND AS I DO type of thing, I want you to know that these rules are for ME as well. I’m mostly off sugar right now. I had my last bowl of homemade vanilla ice cream yesterday, as I was starting to get a bad case of the gimmies too. Gimme cookie dough! Gimme cupcakes! Gimme Starbucks cakepops!

I’m mostly off of screens right now as well. I mean, I have a few comittments that require me to be in front of a screen for a certain amount of time each day, but for the majority of the day, I will be mostly unplugged. I’ll be spending time hitting balls in the backyard, painting chalk masterpieces on the driveway and practicing archery. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed they don’t ask me to play Clue with them.

At this very moment my kids are out in the sunny backyard creating flowers, bookmarks and even flip flops out of duct tape. TOGETHER. Without being forced. It was their idea even.

It is going to be a fabulous August. I just wish I had a Starbucks cakepop.

Duct Tape Flowers!

An Apology To All Mothers of Singletons

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Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 26-07-2012

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Mothers of one child I owe you an apology. I must admit, I have never walked in your shoes for more than 24 hours at most. My first baby turned out to be babies so I have never been a mother of one. In my twin moms group, we’d refer to babies born one at a time as singletons, with only a slight mocking tone. As we pushed our double strollers and discussed our futile attempts to feed both babies at the same time or get them on the same sleep schedule, we’d stare with envious eyes at moms who could wander through Baby Gap with one tiny baby strapped in a baby carrier leaving one hand free to hold an iced latte.

Twins are hard, yes. I know that one baby at a time is hard too. As my twins got older, I definitely started to see the benefits. For instance, built in playmates! Lucky for me my twins enjoy each other and have always played well together. I was never nervous sending them off to preschool since I knew they at least had each other. When my singleton son came along my girls already had to share their mother, so one more sibling was not a huge deal for them. And if you are going to have more than two children, twins are certainly more efficient! Two kids for the price of one pregnancy.

But back to my apology. For two weeks in July my twin girls were at sleep away camp, leaving a mother of one seven year old boy for the very first time.  This was going to be a cake walk.

Actually, it was not a cake walk. Yes, the house was quieter and cleaner.  There was less laundry and far fewer dishes to clean up. However, how does one cook for one child?  Do you make an entire box of macaroni and cheese for one kid to have five bites? Turns out it really isn’t that easy to scramble one egg at a time when you are used to scrambling up to five at a time. All my meals were slightly off since I had to cut every recipe in half and doing math in my head is really not my forte.

I’m pretty sure that my son missed his sisters too. Every day he had to sit thisclosetome on the couch and my usually somewhat quiet son was non-stop chatter and questions. I think he was bored.   I played more Connect Four, Battleship and toss the football in those two weeks than I did in my entire childhood. Being alone with one child was… intense.  My usual refrain of take it outside and play for a while felt a little mean if I was banishing him all by himself.

So, mothers of one, I am so sorry for thinking you have it so easy. I don’t know how you do it.

Hoping For a Little Magic

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Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 05-07-2012

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I started going to sleep away camp the summer before I entered 4th grade. It was a small camp in the Santa Cruz mountains with a focus on the Bible. I knew I wanted my kids to have a sleep away camp experience, but I wanted one without the focus on the Bible (but that is a post for another day).

For the past six years we’ve been vacationing at a little known lake just south of Yosemite. It turns out there is also a summer sleep away camp located right on the lake. We took a little tour last summer and I knew it was exactly the kind of camp I wanted for my kids. From their website:

Skylake is a summer camp where kids experience the slower pace of life of times gone by, where they play all day and just come home for dinner. Our camp counselors strive to create an atmosphere where boys and girls ages 7-15 feel safe as they experience life without mom and dad. Kids discover a special magic feeling that promotes real friendships, opportunities for true growth and development, and memories that last a lifetime.

Exactly. It’s not a camp focused on a specific sport or activity. It’s not focused on religion. It’s an old-fashioned place where they can unwind and rediscover what it’s like to just be a kid in the summer with no obligations.

This past Sunday we took the now familiar four hour drive to the mountains.


Except the drive did not feel familiar at all. I spent the entire four hours telling my girls how much I was going to miss them and how much fun I just knew they were going to have. They spent the entire drive reassuring me that they would miss me too, but they were excited. I reminded them not to buy too much candy at the trading post, where the pre-stamped envelopes were in their luggage, what to do if they couldn’t get to sleep and to seek out new experiences.

As soon as we pulled in the camp driveway, I was glad I was wearing sunglasses. I could feel the tears welling up in my throat. I wasn’t crying because I was going to miss them. After all, I still have Anders at home to keep me busy. I was crying because it was too much. Millions of kids all over the planet attend summer camp, but these two are mine. My little girls who are on the cusp of turning 10 years old. My little girls who I knew would be just fine without me. Better than fine actually, they were about to experience something magical they could not even conceive of yet. I was crying because it’s just too much for me to process.

We quickly met their counselors and discovered that their cabins were right next door to each other. Just as I predicted, Macy chose a bottom bunk and Avery chose a top bunk. I snapped this picture before we walked back to the car.

 

They look relaxed, happy… ready. But as we were saying good bye they both looked nervous and a little scared. Two weeks is a long time. I felt the tears coming again, so I quickly hugged them both and walked to the car without looking back.

Immediately, I started doubting myself. Did I pack proper footwear, did we label all their underwear, should I have helped them lay out their sleeping bags, is two weeks really too long, are they ready for this, what if their flashlight batteries die???

Everyday I obsessively check the camp website for photos. So far I’ve seen Avery eating some toast. That’s good, she likes toast. And we’ve seen Macy with a ropes course harness on and a huge smile. That’s good, she’s trying something she was afraid of.

I’ll still be holding my breath until July 14th when I can hug them and listen to their stories of summer camp magic for four straight hours.

Swifter, Higher, Stronger

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Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 28-06-2012

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Dear First Grade Teachers,

I want to thank you for a fantastic year. My son was happy to go to school each morning, his writing improved and he mastered some new math skills. Most importantly, he was excited about what he was learning and would come home and look things up on the internet he wanted to know more about and he would teach me new facts.  This kind of enthusiasm only comes when teachers are also happy to be in the classroom and excited about what they are teaching. So I tip my hat to you for creating classrooms that were engaging and relevant to six and seven year olds.

I love that you ended the year learning about the upcoming London Olympics, brilliant and so timely. We are huge Olympic fans in our house. The Olympics gives the world a chance to celebrate our shared humanity, put aside our differences and come together in the spirit of athletics and competition.  The object is to perform fairly and honestly and to the best of our natural abilities. The Olympic spirit can be felt not just by the athletes that compete and not just in those who take home medals. The real spirit of the Olympics is seen in the athletes from poorer parts of the world with limited resources who represent their country with pride and dignity. As the Olympic Creed says:

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

It’s moments like this that get me every time:

watch?v=HFKpZnok10s&feature=player_embedded

I love that my son is feeling patriotic.

I love that he (almost!) knows the Olympic motto and can explain to his sisters how the Olympics started in Greece.  I love that he knows the colors of each ring and that they represent the five continents.
I love that he is obsessed with checking the progress of the Olympic torch every morning and he’s looking forward to the moment they light the flame during the opening ceremonies in London.
I love that he can tell me all kinds of crazy facts about Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps.  I love that he is anxious to watch and learn about athletes whose names we don’t know yet, but are making their way to London right now.  These athletes whose stories and Olympic moments we will be talking about for long after the closing ceremonies.
I’m looking forward to showing my kids that sometimes it’s not about the most talented athlete. Sometimes it’s about who trained for that extra hour or two every day. Sometimes it’s about who’s underestimated, who wants it just a little bit more, who has more guts, grit and determination.
I love that you spent time learning about a variety of sports, not just track and field and gymnastics.

But.

Team Handball?

My son is now fascinated with Team Handball.  I thought I knew everything there was to know about the Olympics, and I had never heard of team handball before. Anders has watched every YouTube video featuring team handball, almost all 20,000 of them.  My husband says it looks like a sport for short guys that can’t play basketball, which might not be such a bad thing for Anders.

I have been searching for a team somewhere within a 50 mile radius that will train a seven year old in team handball.  Shockingly, I’m having a bit of a hard time with that.

Thank you. Thank you first grade teachers for sparking the Olympic spirit in Anders. But perhaps next time scratch team handball from the curriculum.

Sincerely,

Kirsten

 

Tales of a 4th Grade Something

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Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 21-06-2012

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My twin girls just finished 4th grade. Here they are back in late August 2011 on the first day of school, ready and excited to get started.

In many ways it was a great year. I loved their teachers, they learned a ton, grew in leaps and bounds, were much more independent in getting their homework done and developed confidence in themselves. But in many ways, I couldn’t wait for 4th grade to be over. There were days I had to literally wipe the tears away as I dropped them off at school and watched them walk onto the playground. I felt like I was throwing them to the wolves.

Let me back up a bit… while my girls are twins and definitely have similar traits, they are not identical. They are very different in many ways and experience school in very different ways.  Since kindergarten we’ve had them in separate classes and this has worked very well for our family.

Third grade was a rough year for Macy. There was a new girl in class and a girl Macy considered her BFF was suddenly much more interested in playing with the new girl. They made up a secret handshake and wouldn’t teach it to Macy.  It was clear things had changed and she was experiencing something like a break-up with her friend.  This is all very normal, I know this. But those tears were so painful for me to wipe away. I felt like I was experiencing the whole thing with her. I encouraged her to write a note to her friend and tell her how she felt.  The note she got back (which I still have) was signed by three different girls and said, “we like you, but we are not going to teach you our handshake. It’s OURS, so stop talking about it.” Ouch.

It was hard, so hard, to watch Macy go through this. But Macy is a talker. She has no problem talking to me about what is going on at school.  She would come home, sit with me on the couch and we would cry together. She would listen to my advice and was willing to talk to her teacher and the school counselor.  She didn’t wish ill will on these girls, she wanted to be included with them, and she still does. I’ll spare you all the details, but it got more complicated and then better and then more complicated again.  Many tears were shed, and many lessons were learned by both of us. She came out of third grade with just a little bit more maturity. She definitely learned that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

During this whole time, I never once worried about Avery. She was the kid who had zero interest in girl drama. Where Macy’s playdates were spent in her bedroom flipping through American Girl magazines and making up dances to Selena Gomez songs, Avery’s were spent in the backyard kicking a soccer ball, climbing trees or feeding carrots to the bunny. All she wanted to do at recess was find a kickball or four square game. Her friends were whoever was playing freeze tag that day. Her classroom didn’t seem to have the same relational aggression going on.  At least not that I could see.  She supported her sister and even called a couple of these girls out once for making her sister cry on the playground. Other than that, Avery didn’t really get involved.

Then 4th grade started.

Macy seemed to be having a much better year. She still had the same little group of friends, but she made some new ones too. She knew there would be drama, but she also knew that she could deal with it and it was normal. It was Avery who seemed to be having a hard time.  The transformation was slow and subtle. I would wait for them on the playground after school and Avery would come out by herself, shoulders slumped and head down.  I could tell by the look on her face it had been a bad day. She would lean her whole body in to mine as if she wanted to disappear into me, or shift the weight of whatever pain she was carrying onto my shoulders. She would start to tell me about something that happened and I would brush her off and tell her we would talk about it later. There was always another parent I needed to talk to, or we were late for softball, lacrosse, chorus, soccer, art class or whatever. Big mistake on my part.

Avery is not a talker. She never wanted to talk about it later. I had no idea how bad things were getting for her. You see, Avery is fiercely competitive. This is a trait that serves her well on the soccer field and sometimes even in the classroom. She wants to be the fastest, the smartest, the first one finished. This is not a trait that serves her well on the 4th grade playground. Like any relationship, friendship is give and take and learning acquiese sometimes.  I knew in my gut, this was a lesson that would be hard for Avery to learn. Both of my girls have watched other girls in their class form these tight, one-on-one friendships that sometimes last for a couple of years, sometimes maybe only one school year, and sometimes only for a few weeks or months.  I’ve never encouraged this with any of my kids.  But that doesn’t mean that my kids didn’t watch these BFF friendships with envy.  Avery wanted to be someones number one BFF and she made some mistakes along the way.

Early on in the year, Macy was invited to a friend’s house to spend the night so I had Avery invite a classmate to spend the night here. That Friday at pick up, I could tell that it had not been a good day for Avery. The whole way home from school she could not stop talking about how Cathy (not her real name), the girl coming to spend the night that very night, had got three prizes from the drawbox and Avery had not got any.  There had been other signs that Avery was jealous of Cathy for many other reasons too, but this prize thing seemed to really get under her skin. We talked about it and I thought she seemed OK before Cathy arrived at our house.  Later, as the girls were going to bed, I stood just outside the door and listened to their conversation.  Avery kept saying how lucky she was to have gotten three prizes that day. Cathy kept insisting that she really only got two, and yes, she felt lucky. It was getting tense and Avery would not let it go and Cathy was getting visibly uncomfortable. I finally walked in and told Avery she had to drop it, it’s not her fault that her name got pulled twice. Let it go. Things didn’t really improve. My daughter spent the rest of sleepover with a chip on her shoulder and in a very sullen mood. It was hard to watch.

Shortly after this, Avery’s teacher called me in to talk.  I had a pit in my stomach since I knew things with Avery were just not right.  My happy, sporty daughter was morphing into a withdrawn, unhappy girl. Her teacher showed me some notes that she had found and I was floored. They were notes written by my daughter and they were not nice.  I didn’t recognize the girl who wrote those notes and yet, I did recognize her.  I didn’t eat or sleep for days.  I wanted desperately to help her, to tell her that this is not how you make friends, by hurting those that hurt you.  I have to say here that her teacher was so great about the whole situation, she clearly wanted to help Avery and help me understand what was going on. She told her teacher that she sometimes can’t help herself when she acts “mean” to other kids.

I carved out some time to spend alone with Avery and confronted her about the notes and everything else that was going on at school. She was embarrassed that I had seen them, and had zero interest in talking to me about it. She just kept saying, “I know I’m a mean person.”  Let me just say, that is so very hard to hear your nine year old daughter say. It was even harder for me to accept that she didn’t want to hear my advice. It was not like with Macy, where she wanted nothing more than to talk to me about things and get my advice.

Just like everything with pre-teen age girls, it’s all much more complicated than I can write about here. It was clear that Avery was getting a reputation as a “mean girl.”  Once she had that label, it’s been a struggle to over come it… a struggle for both of us. It’s fractured my friendships with some of the other mom’s in 4th grade and left me desperate to get in to Avery’s head and help her turn things around, while still maintaining her trust and letting her be who she is. In my head, I know that the most powerful thing I can do is show her by example how to be a good friend and let her learn the hard lessons on her own.  I was also the kid that didn’t want to talk to my mom about anything school or friend related.  I am much more comfortable typing out my feelings from behind my computer screen than actually saying the words out loud.  For Avery, she communicates with notes.  Notes that I find under her pillows and hidden in the pockets of her backpack.

So what have I learned from all this? I’ve learned that 4th grade is hard. I’ve learned that none of these girls are “mean” and none of them deserve that label. Even the girls who made up a secret handshake and wouldn’t teach it to Macy are not “mean girls.”  They are simply nine and ten year olds trying to find their way, making mistakes and growing up. Avery and Macy will continue to make mistakes and I will too. I’ve learned little ways to let Avery know that I love her no matter what. I’ve learned that occasionally, she is in the mood to talk and I need to stop and listen even if that means we will be late to soccer practice or skip it all together. I’ve learned that you really have no control over the essence of who your children are and how they relate to the world, but it’s your responsibility to guide them and let them know that you will always be there to pick up the pieces when they feel broken.

Even if she rolls her eyes, I will continue to leave notes with song lyrics in Avery’s lunch box and under her pillow.  I want this girl back.

We will soldier on together, because I have a feeling this is just the very beginning of this roller coaster. Please send wine.

At Least It’s Not a Tie

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Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 14-06-2012

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If aliens descended on our planet on Father’s Day morning, they would wonder what kind of strange civilization honors it’s patriarchs with automated tie racks, golf ball washers and valet charging stations.

Every year when I start to feel guilty that I have no idea what to get for Father’s Day, I simply take one look at a sales circular from any retailer to know that I am not alone. It’s the saddest gift selection since Lincoln’s birthday.

At least on Mother’s Day, our traditional gifts range from bath salts to a gift certificate for a pedicure. I feel sorry for all of the men out there who don’t particularly like rolling their own quarters or embossing golf balls.

Logic should have it the opposite way, wouldn’t it? We women who traditionally like to shop should be really good at choosing the perfect gifts for our male mates. And yet we continue to choose from the same stocking stuffer table that didn’t sell at Christmas. Tired gadgets that no one —  including men — care about.

Never once has by husband wanted to separate his sock drawer with an organizer, yet it’s on sale this week. The words, “you know, I do like the convenience and relative low cost of beer available at the grocery store, but it sure would be great to try a really expense, horrible-tasting, potentially lethal home brew with a package of yeast and a plastic barrel shaped like a football on the weekend,” have never been uttered in our home. And yet these are at the top of the Father’s Day gift guides every year.

At this point in the game, I feel like when my husband needs a new razor, he should just be able to go out and buy that item for himself and not wait until the next holiday. So on these parental gift occasions my husband and I exchange simply for the benefit of the kids because nothing says “You’re a Great Dad!” better than a metal detector or a monogrammed money clip.

So aliens standing at the windowsill laughing, could we perhaps import some curios from your side of the universe? Because I honestly have no earthly idea what to get for Father’s Day.

A Day Late and A Dollar Short

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Posted by Kirsten Patel, Elementary Mommie-on-the-Run | Posted in Kirsten Patel | Posted on 17-05-2012

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I am so sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner…

This seems to be how I start all my email messages lately. I am waving the white flag.  I am overwhelmed.

This time of year is crazy for all parents of school age children.  Judging from my playground conversations, everyone is feeling the pressure and ready for summer. For me in particular, the past few months I’ve felt like I am barely keeping my head above water.  I have three children and we have been juggling 5 different sports teams since February. Both of my daughters play club (but not on the same team, of course), one of my daughters plays lacrosse and the other plays softball.  My son plays baseball and my husband coaches his team. I am the team mom for two of these various teams.

Let me just state for the record that this is simply too much to manage.  We knew this back in January, and we knew this would be a rough spring. Now that we are here in May and all these sports are winding down, I am so very tired and omgweareneverdoingthisagain.

One of my twins, Avery, has been playing club soccer for the past three years. When she first tried out, her twin sister, Macy, didn’t really have any interest. After watching her sister play for one year, Macy wanted to try out.  The tryouts were three afternoons in a row.  She went to one tryout and decided it wasn’t for her. Then last fall, as Avery was gearing up for tryouts yet again, Macy decided she would like to try out too.  After the first tryout, I was surprised that she wanted to go back. Then I was surprised again when she seemed to be sticking with it.  But I know my kids and I knew club soccer would lose its charm for Macy eventually. To make a long story short, it took Macy half way through the Spring season to realize that club soccer was not for her.  We are not quitters though, and she is sticking it out through June.

Some might judge my choice to let her join a team, knowing that she would lose her enthusiasm. However, again, I know my kids and I she had to experience it and learn for herself. Otherwise she would be watching her sister at try outs each fall and wondering. It may be at the price of my sanity, but at least now she knows.

In addition to making sure everyone has all the gear, water, energy bars, clean socks and proper footwear for all their games and practices, I seem to have bitten off more than I can chew as a school volunteer this year.  I didn’t take on any large, major jobs, but rather a whole bunch of smaller, what seemed like more manageable jobs. Do you know what you get when you take on several small volunteer jobs?

You get binders. Every volunteer job comes with a binder. I cringe every time I open my desk cupboard and the binders all seem to be saying, “YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO HAVE THOSE NOTES DONE TWO WEEKS AGO” or “WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO SEND THOSE EMAILS AND UPDATE THAT SPREADSHEET!” I want to set fire to the binders right now.

When I run in to people, their first words are usually, “did you get my email about…”  Yes, I got your email and I am getting to it. Every thing in my life is a day late and a dollar short right now.  I am barely keeping my head above water just trying to stay afloat until summer when I can possibly catch my breath and clean out my gmail in box. And maybe actually meet some deadlines (see this blog post, which was supposed to be done this morning!)

I take all my little projects (and the big ones!) seriously and the frenzied pace we’ve been maintaining has caused me a to flounder in many areas.  I just finished up a big, very close to my heart project and I know I could have given it so much more.  It was amazing and came together far better than I expected, but still.   I don’t like the constant feeling of needing to play catch up. I don’t like starting all my emails with, sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner…