Kī tōnu taku waka topaki i te tuna

Grandpa and Friend2

This morning,  Janie and I wrestled a tri-fold foam board festooned with all things New Zealand— including charts, timeline dates, photos, economic facts, phrases in one of the three official languages and a big, green map—in and out of the car, along with a box containing a traditional Māori design, if the Māori culture had ever favored burlap-covered foam board.  The six-page New Zealand Gazette: the Awesomest Kiwi News Evah!* and the thirty-slide PowerPoint project was e-mailed to her teacher Sunday afternoon.

Two glue sticks, twelve sheets of red and blue construction paper, three cartridges of printer ink,** an entire roll of double-sided tape, a photo album of my parents’ precious vacation photos that I carried safely through a snowstorm and back again to scan,*** a brown marker swiped from Sunny’s vast collection, and an adorable stuffed kiwi bird.

Yes, it’s Academic Fair Week.

Jane’s grade did states last year—remember Delaware’s State Macroinvertebrate?  I do.

This year, they’re doing countries, and we all now know more about New Zealand than any non-native on our side of the planet really needs to.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s an amazing place.^  But we’re experiencing the giddy joy of finally checking off everything on the Academic Fair Project List.

All Jane has left is a short class presentation Tuesday and all the rest of us have to do is show up on Academic Fair Night Thursday.^^

The kids will be celebrating a job well done with a skiing day this Friday.

The parents are resting up for next year—My husband and I are especially looking forward to both kids having projects due on the same day.

Until then, E āta inu ana au . . .

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*Hey, it’s not our project, it’s Janie’s project.  Which is why the map is . . . not quite how a couple of forty-year-olds would have done it and why my husband and I have bite marks halfway through our tongues.

**New Zealand is a gorgeous country, but does it have to be so green?

***Beat that, Bilbo.

^Jane and I are about ready to pack our bags.  Did you know that New Zealand was the first country to install sign language as an official national language?   And the first (self-governing) country to give women the vote?  And the first country to legislate an 8-hour workday?  Or that the temperature in Central Otago got down to -25.6°C (or about -14°F) in 1903—and there hasn’t been a recorded temperature that low in the country since?   Dude, that last one  alone is almost worth the hassle of expatriating . . .

^^With my laptop, so everyone can see Jane’s PowerPoint show, which includes images of my then-68-year old father (the gentleman being menaced by the Kiwi at the top of this post) bungy jumping off the Kawarau Bridge in 2000.  I’m serious:

Bungy3

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Tuesday Morning Ramblings

Right before I left the house with the kids this morning, I told my MIL, “It’s going to snow, because I decided to wear my favorite flats instead of my boots.”hate-snow-Lucy

By the time I backed out of the garage, there were fat flakes sailing through the air and a nice fluffy layer on the ground.  It must have started the moment I slipped on my shoes.

So I turned on the windshield wipers and said, “I’m going to win the lottery, because all that money would be a terrible inconvenience.”

I’ll let you know how that goes.

CD PLayerThe kids understood my need for radio silence during the snowy drive to school, and helped out by singing the first two lines—and only the first two, over and over—of their current favorite songs, at the top of their lungs.  When I protested, Jane explained that she was just showing me which songs she was planning to earn with her good homework behavior* this week.

I didn’t tell her that hearing the first line of the homemade KidzBop version of “Wrecking Ball” wasn’t doing anything for my level of parental follow-through.**  Maybe I should have . . .

Sunny gave me an extra hug when I dropped her off—I suspect that she wanted to see me skate around the car again like a moose on ice, but the reward was worth it.

Had a close call on the way to work with a minivan driver, who thought I should have gone through the yellowred light at a slick intersection, despite the two cars that had already stopped in front of me.

Honking while sitting at a red light because the driver in front of you won’t try to defy the laws of physics, not to mention the traffic laws, at your psychic command doesn’t just display your self-righteous impatience—it also makes you a jerk.

Red LightActually, honking at any red light makes you a jerk.  Turning on red is allowed in most of the U.S., but it isn’t required, and we aren’t allowed to decide when the driver in front of us can safely turn.  If we believe that we are allowed—nay, required—to make these judgment calls, we should keep in mind that our line of sight is impeded by distance, other vehicles, and by having our heads lodged where the sun can’t get to our corneas.  It’s physically and karmically safer to wait for the green light.

CoffeeOne of the tiny, drive-through coffee houses that punctuate my morning commute had a new sign up this morning:  New Soup and Pumpkin Flavors!

I thought that a tomato-pumpkin parmesan latte didn’t sound so bad—sort of like bisque with a caffeinated kick to it.  But I expect the pumpkin chicken noodle mocha wouldn’t go down so easily—up, maybe.

When I arrived at the library at quarter to eight, I had a breakfast bar, cracked open the first diet Pepsi of the day, and decided to reward myself for hopping on the exercise bike this morning by having a grilled chicken salad at my favorite lunch place.

Cheese FriesAt the writing of this paragraph some hours later, I have decided that “reward” and “salad” do not belong in the same sentence.  “Burger and bacon cheese fries,” on the other hand, might.***

I can always hire a personal trainer and chef—and a chauffeur and homework tutor—once the lottery thing pays out, right?

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* My library subscribes to Freegal™, which allows our cardholders—including those of us with staff cards—to download three free songs a week.  Since Jane has a card from a different city, I told her that she could earn my songs throughout the week, if she did her homework without complaint and to the teachers’ standards—or mine, if her teachers don’t make their directions clear to me.  If Freegal™ doesn’t have a song she wants, Jane can save up three free songs for one that I’ll buy for her.  I get song veto rights, because I’m not stupid.  We made this pact after her report card arrived Friday—it told us in no uncertain terms that we have a bright kid with a bad homework attitude, which wasn’t exactly a surprise.  We’ve tried everything else to get her to understand why homework is important and thought we’d might as well move on the bribery.

** Nor is the realization that I’ve been humming that one line to myself all #%$&ing morning.

***It says a lot about my nutritional attitude that I already had image of cheese fries in my media file.  But I’m not inclined to listen today.

Tiger Blanket, Hidden Sunny

Last week, Sunny’s teacher sent us an e-mail saying that our darling was refusing—at high volume—to do her work in class because she was “too tired,” and had been held in from recess for several days in a row to complete her assignments, which she said she didn’t mind, because again, “too tired.”

Was this something that we’d experienced at home?

Hoo boy.

While some of this is a I-Hate-Homework phase she learned from her older sister, it didn’t much surprise us that Sunny was tired during the day  because she is a determined little night owl who believe with all her heart that naps are for babies.

We could make her go to bed on time. We could even cajole/bribe/threaten her into staying in her own bed all night, with limited success.

But we couldn’t get her to drop off before ten p.m.

There were subtle signs that this wasn’t the ideal situation, and most of those can be described as three-hour, epic, screaming, weekend meltdowns, often triggered by asking her to do some terrible, overwhelming task, like moving her socks from the living room floor to the hamper in her bedroom, setting the table, or putting on her own shoes.

I e-mailed the teacher to tell her that we were all in the same boat, but that we would be taking steps to get Sunny to settle down at a more reasonable hour and see if that helped.

And then I dusted off my parenting books, perused some parenting blogs and found us some steps.

So, Sunny now has an earlier bedtime—something that tickles her older sister no end—and a Bedtime Song, which she chose herself, because empowering your children this way means they won’t have  an excuse to stay up for forty minutes complaining about it.

If you’d  told me before I had kids that I would eventually allow one of them to pick a bedtime song by a group called the Bare Naked Ladies . . . okay, yeah, I would have been fine with that, because I’ve always liked them, but my point is, I’d probably be okay with a song by the Sadistic Cannibal Hippo Warts as long as it was guaranteed to put her to—no, let’s rephrase that—soothe her to sleep within twenty minutes.

But since guilt is not something I actually enjoy, I’m glad she chose this one:

We’re currently playing it over and over and dear God over on my laptop*—with the door closed so Mommy doesn’t drop where she stands by the third repetition–until Sunny’s asleep, or at least too far gone to object to us turning it off.  Over the past four nights,** it’s taken less and less time to get her there and eventually, we hope to be able to play it once or twice with the same effect.

I also thought I’d make her a special sleep blanket, because it wouldn’t hurt to have another signal that it’s time she started peddling the ol’ REM cycle, plus fleece was on sale at the fabric store.  So we went and looked at a display full of pastel bolts with sheep and flowers and cuddly pandas and sleepy kittens.

Naturally, she bypassed them all and went straight for this:

Blanket

It just screams sleep, doesn’t it?   But that’s what she wanted, empowering kids is important (see above), and it was less than three bucks a yard.  So I caved.***

The woman who measured out two yards of the stuff for us told me that her daughter would love a throw like this for her college dorm room.  I replied that it was supposed to be a nap blanket for my six-year old, and she grinned said her daughter would probably appreciate that, too.

We had a discussion about tying the edges versus hemming them—I was all for tying, since tying means cutting a fringe and, well, tying it, while hemming would mean pinning every few inches and dragging out the sewing machine and buying pink thread and unraveling a bobbin and filling a bobbin and paying attention to what I was doing, and one of the best things about fleece is that hemming is optional.

And then Sunny bounced up with matching two-inch ribbon . . .

So I spent the afternoon ironing lengths of the ribbon in half with my hair straightening wand and folding it around the raw ends of the fleece and jabbing myself with pins and sewing it down as a sort of ruffle for added texture^ and trying not to go blind.

Blanket Hem

And then I had a short nap.

When I woke up, I did a kid count and found Sunny in her bed, warm in her new bright pink, tiger-striped cocoon, letting the geese take her away . . .

Tiger Blanket, Hidden Sunny

Score.

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*I have (legally) downloaded backups of this song on every electronic device we own, possibly including the TV remote.

**Although the second night, I went in to check on her and she sat up and said, “Mommy!  It’s played seven times!”  I know, honey.  Head on your pillow, please.

***I sometimes wonder how many posts one can pull up on this blog using that sentence in a search, or what the number would say about my parenting style.  Never mind.

^And because I couldn’t be fussed to make sure the ribbon edges lined up perfectly.  But it turned out like I did it on purpose, so as far as anyone who doesn’t read this blog knows, I did.

Cover Me . . .

Sunny at 16mo

It’s School Picture Day today for Sunny, and miracle of miracles, we had no arguments over her outfit or her hair—the child is stylin’—nor did she sustain damage from the Wesson Family semi-traditional, pre-Picture Day, concrete faceplant this weekend, as was so lovingly captured in her 16th month photo above.

She said her tummy hurt, but I decided to go with my mother’s patented No Fever, No Excuse policy, in the hopes that if her discomfort actually exists, and is caused by a more pernicious bug than butterflies, any repercussions of my parental Blinders o’ Optimism will hold off until the photographer snaps the shutter.

We’ll see.

But tomorrow is Janie’s Picture Day, which is a potential concrete faceplant of a completely different nature.

There’s a standard equation for these things, and the math isn’t pretty:

Picture Day + Precocious Pre-Teen + School Dress Requirements + Responsible Parents = Armageddon

You could argue that every kid is different, of course, and that I’m weighing heavily on the side of pessimism.  And I won’t argue.

I mean, Jane’s already chosen her favorite dress, which looked stunning on her last Christmas . . . when she was four inches shorter . . .  and only just starting to wear training undergarments that have since lost their amateur status.

So there’s that, plus weather predictions for tomorrow that appear just a tad too Brazilian rainforest for woolen knit—and an overheated Jane is not  a Sweetness & Light Jane®, whom her teachers much prefer.

I’ve been gently suggesting alternative outfits all week, but I’m not sure I’m getting through.

Shoes might also be a problem, since her best pair of black flats disintegrated immediately upon contact with her feet—or so she claims—and the heel of one of her dressy-enough-boots fell off at the beginning of summer.  Her barefoot state is all the fault of her neglectful parents, of course, as we didn’t immediately go hunting for new winter boots among all the sandals and flip-flops.

In other words, those of you who live in our hemisphere might want to close your windows between 7pm and 7am CST, in case we get a little loud.

Vaudeville, Schmaudeville

It’s the second full week of school and we’re all settling into our new routines.

We’ve been opening with  Little Night Owl ‘s Morning Song, during which Sunny whines warbles that I’m torturing her with sleep deprivation,  followed by a refrain of loud denials that her refusal to stay in bed—or her own bed, anyway—between 8:30 and 10:30pm has anything to do with it.*  She’s still a little pitchy, but we’re working on it.

This is followed by the Breakfast Quiz, in which Jane is starving for a food item she can’t name or identify, except that it doesn’t appear to be present in our kitchen and nothing else will do if we expect her to consume more than one slow, reluctant molecule at a time.

After a brief bathroom ballet, we segue into the Small Sock Opera, during which Sunny cries that she has no clean socks—the ones she chose the night before have disappeared or are now inexplicably yucky—until someone digs through her drawer to find several pairs,** none of which she would be caught dead wearing, until her parents inform her through gritted teeth that she really doesn’t want to put that option on the table, when we should have left ten minutes ago.

And no morning commute would be complete without the Packed Lunch Review Revue, in which I’m reminded*** about the foods that were their sole acceptable form of nutrition not twelve hours ago and now cannot be touched with a ten-foot pole and the Poison Control Center on speed dial.  So can they have five bucks for hot lunch instead?^

But behind the scenes, Jane is busy doing her homework on time and seems to be keeping good track of her scheduled assignments—her part of our agreement that she can be on the volleyball team this semester.^^  She reported yesterday that she needs two shark-fin headbands by Thursday—if she can keep her mother and aunt from going overboard with the construction paper, it’ll be a piece of cake.

Sunny is not only enjoying her PE classes this year—“We’re gonna do gymnastics, Mommy!”—she may have a small crush on the new teacher.  She’s also on top of her twenty-minute daily reading assignment, with her grandmother’s enthusiastic help.

And so far, despite the always-complex and slightly risqué Wesson Improvisational Dance of the Schedules, the forms have been (mostly) filled out, the required parental meetings have been attended, and someone has always remembered to pick up the kids.

Vaudeville ain’t got nothing on us.

How Routine are Your Routines?

Drama Mama

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*I’m so open to suggestions, here, since our old bedtime routine (warm bath, stories, cuddles) isn’t working.  She claims she’s too bored to sleep, which is frankly bizarre, as is her insistence on seeing what we’re doing—we’re not that interesting, either.  Maybe music?

**I.e., “of the same general length,” because wearing socks of the same color is apparently only for formal occasions, unless you’re a total dork.

***I.e., “told for the first time ever.”

^No,  If I had cash, I wouldn’t be schlepping Campbell’s Bag o’Soup and microwave popcorn to work every day.

^^ Our part of that routine is calling her pediatrician every day to get her physical form signed so the coach can legally coach her, trying to remember about kneepads, and worrying about the  Concussion Information Form we were given.