Back To School: The Schedule, Kids' Edition

Last week was our first full week with the fall schedule (that means girls at school and Michael at daycare). It felt like a full-out sprint.

I am working hard to help myself and help my children with the transition back to fall. It’s been rocky so far. Lots of deep breaths on my part. My goal is to have a routine that the children can stick to. It needs to be simple and flexible.

One of my worries in general is that due to work and school and homework and activities and so on, that our kids are turning into little worker bees instead of little kids.

Flora has a test or quiz nearly every day of the week — math, English, spelling (a pretest and a test), science (every other week), and so on. It worries me, and I don’t want to pass my anxiety onto Flora. Not that she can’t do the work, she can — she’s very smart. But that The Work will just be the goal, instead of actual learning, and taking joy in learning.

Kate I am less worried about. She’s in full-day kindergarten, but she only has a page of homework once or twice a week. She usually comes home singing the songs they learn in her classroom. She is having a blast.

And Michael! Well, here’s a good thing: he transitioned very well back into his daycare. To date, he has not cried when I’ve dropped him off in the morning. He seems to be excited to see the toys and the care givers and other kids.

Here’s the crappy thing: He’s not getting enough rest. He’s sleeping between 10 and 11 hours at night (I try to get him in bed at 7:30 every night); during the day, he’s gone from 2 to 3 hour naps to 1 1/2 hour naps (if we’re lucky, 2). Evenings with him are very difficult — tantrums, meltdowns, clinginess. And he’s TIRED. He’s rubbing his eyes by 6 p.m. some nights.

Evenings in general are very difficult right now. I am the sole Parent On Duty, Monday through Thursday. What I need, especially from Flora and to a lesser extent from Kate, is some self-sufficiency and self-motivation. To help, I have a schedule to help them develop new habits.

We’re still learning it. I have told the girls that until they develop these good habits, there is no night time television. I have tried to be firm and consistent. I try not to yell.

I have held firm on television. I sometimes yell in frustration. But I’m trying.

Here’s the general outline:

When we get home, they have to get their stuff out of the car.
Once in the house, Flora should go to the dining room to start her homework. Kate needs to go to another room to play, or do her homework quietly with Flora. I give everyone a snack if they want.
While I make dinner, Kate has to occupy herself, Michael has to play or eat his snack, Flora should do her homework. Mileage varies so far.
Then we have dinner, clear the table. Sometimes the girls have a quick chore (putting their clean clothes away, running the vacuum). Then bath, books, bed. The end.

Here are the problems so far: Flora has a very difficult time focusing on her homework at home. She does fine in school because everyone is doing the same thing at the same time. But at home, her brother and sister are playing (or having a meltdown — I’m looking at you, Michael), and she is constantly distracted from her work. I am trying to make dinner. Kate has a very hard time leaving Flora alone.

What should be 15-20 minutes of homework a night gets stretched to an hour, sometimes more. Flora is constantly interrupting herself to get a drink, get a snack, complain about something, whinge about Kate. I am constantly chasing Kate away from the dining room or kitchen. Michael, feeling neglected (and probably hungry and tired) throws a fit.

I’m an awesome mom, by the way.

To date, since full-time school has started, the children have not had a night time show (not counting Fridays. They can do whatever the hell they want on Fridays, I honestly don’t care as long as no blood is shed). We do not get outside time at all. We really don’t get much downtime in the evenings in general, actually. I feel like it’s a full-out sprint (again) from picking up the children to bedtime.

And, frankly, I don’t know if there’s a damn thing I can do about it.

Are my expectations too high? Should I just give into the sprint until the weekends? Any ideas? Or should I just suck this up for the next nine months? (*sob*)

More later this week on MY schedule, and what I’m trying to do to help myself.

Random Thoughts: The Vacation Wrap-Up Edition

The five-day trip to Seven Springs was a nice little getaway for the family. The kids had a really good time. Dan and I did, too, although the only downside to the trip was that Dan and I didn’t get to spend much time together. We split POD time, and between naptimes and bedtimes, one of us was usually at the place while the other was either out with the other kids or visiting other family.

Saturday night we had thought to go up to the Rib and Wing Fest (yes, I know, the irony of a vegetarian at a Rib and Wing Fest) to see Bill Deasy. And we did go, but since we also went up with my parents and the kids, we spent a little more time with the kids than watching Deasy. And then although my mom was going to stay at the place with the kids after bedtime, Dan was wiped out from a late Friday night (or should I say Saturday morning?), so stayed there, too. I went a’visiting since it was our last night.

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Michael napped, and Michael slept through the night (except on Sunday, when he decided at 5:30 a.m. he wanted to sleep with/on me). That made a huge impact on the trip, the fact that Dan and I could really sleep (or, during naptime, take turns chilling). One morning, Flora even came in the room and got M out of the pack’n’play without waking Dan or me up! So when (if) we didn’t get adequate rest, it was our own fault. Of course, Thursday night I was so tired that since I was POD, I went to bed at 10 p.m. Whoo, vacation party time!

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Let’s see. We swam, played mini-golf, and played games in the arcade. We had waffles and pancakes with my sister-in-law and the four boys. The children ate a lot of mac’n’cheese and french fries. Flora got WAY too tired, and had a couple of melt downs. (Yeah, Flora, my eldest child.) We took the family photo. All-in-all it was great to catch up and see everyone. Dan had two nights out, and I had two nights out. Everyone commented on how adorable M is (it’s true, he is).

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The girls loved going to the pool, of course. M was ambivalent about it. He went in a couple of times, but was content to sit on the side of the pool with me and some snacks.

I don’t really like swimming with the kids. I’m not really crazy about swimming in general, so although I am able, it’s not something I do unless I have to. Thank goodness for swim lessons.

On Saturday, after the family photo and lunch, M went in for a nap, and I took the girls to the pool. They swam for nearly three hours straight. I sat in a lounge chair or on the side of the pool and watched them. My parents were on me a little bit about letting the girls go in the water alone, but I was keeping track of them. And, they weren’t really alone. When we go up to Seven Springs, we pretty much take over one of the pools. So Flora and Kate were in the pool with about a dozen or so of their cousins, with lots of adults watching.

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I did not take many pictures. I’ll have to look around and steal some from Facebook or see what my mother emails to me. However, I did capture a little of the family photo chaos:

The photographer is up on the ladder. We’ve already taken the BIG family photo, and now he’s getting a shot of the people who were not in the picture we took 12 years ago. That included a couple of spouses (like Dan) and most of the kids, whom we refer to as the 3rd Generation.

Here’s Kate and Michael during a pause in the action, and Kate’s expression pretty much says, “Now what, mom??” But she, Flora, and Michael did very well during the photos, which took about an hour, hour and a half. Thank goodness, once more, for snacks, including (at the end) red velvet cupcakes for a birthday.

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My sister traveled from North Carolina with her husband, her teenage stepdaughter, a friend of the stepdaugher, and two dogs. In a Honda Civic.

Her dogs are Boston terriers, and one of them, Buddy, is at least 15 years old. Maybe 18, I forget. And is literally on his last legs.

I cried when I said goodbye to him. I’m sure it was for the last time. He’s been a good dog, and he’s probably literally saved my sister when she has been in dark places.

We’ll never forget you, Buddy.

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Did I mention the arcade? While there are a few video games and pinball machines, the arcade at Seven Springs is largely given over to games that award tickets (skee ball, Deal or No Deal, a game where you can torpedo boats). By the end of the day Friday, Flora had 2500 tickets, and Kate had 800. Mostly through pure luck — it didn’t cost nearly as much as you might think. One machine had a 1000 ticket space — and Flora hit it twice. Kate got lucky on a couple other machines, plus shot the rainbow boat.

I helped them “shop” before we left on Sunday. They didn’t do too terribly (meaning I steered them away from the worst of the plastic junk).

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What do you like to do best on vacation?

Meatless Monday: CSA Edition

I am reposting this because I’ve gotten a lot of questions about what CSA means, especially from other people doing the Project: Food Budget with me. I made some minor edits to make it more current.

I’ll just state upfront that joining a CSA is one of the best things I have done for my family. The quality of the produce we receive is incomparable to store-bought produce. We also get coffee and cheese, and I am exploring the possibility of getting beef and chicken (which we would share with my in-laws). I can’t think of enough good things to say.

If you don’t have a CSA in your area, another way to get the freshest produce is to frequent farmers markets. Just an idea if you are trying to go local and/or organic in the produce aisle.

It’s Michael Pollan‘s fault I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm.

I am sure I am not alone in declaring that.

In the summer of 2009, I ended up on the waiting list of Kretschmann Organic Farm. That winter they contacted me, and I started receiving winter boxes, which were chock full of winter veggie and fruit goodness (apples, squash, potatoes, carrots).

I started receiving their summer season boxes in the summer of 2009. And I love them.

As Dan stated one other day at dinner, “This is how salad is supposed to taste.” Flora, likewise, has declared salads made with their greens, “the best salad I’ve ever tasted.” [Kate, too, loves her salads now.]

This pleases me to no end, for obvious reasons. We’ve gotten mesclun greens, bibb lettuce, arugula, and green leaf lettuce, as well as spinach. So, so good.

The trickiest thing about receiving so much tasty, fresh, organic produce and herbs is, simply, using it all. [To solve this problem, I’ve started splitting my boxes with my sister-in-law and her family. Often my MIL will also get some goodies, like basil, blueberries, and soon beef.]

I’ve twice had to ditch the Swiss chard because it wilted before I could saute it with garlic. I wanted to make pesto with the sweet pea greens I got the first week, but they wilted before I got to them too.

Much of this, of course, is not having tons of time to cook throughout the week, or for that matter, the weekend. I’ve started making it more of a priority, though, because it’s too depressing to lose these fresh greens. We chow down on salads pretty steadily Thursday through Monday (Thursday is the day I pick up my box), which means eating more at home, which in itself is a relief.

I was hoping to have some new recipes, too, but really, you all know how to make a salad.

I’ve also been getting beets, and here’s what you can do with beets (to my knowledge): roast ’em or boil ’em. We had boiled beets this past weekend (the kids won’t try them yet), and they were so good and sweet. Neither Dan nor I even put anything on them, no butter, no salt, no pepper. And they are super easy: cut off the greens, leaving about 2 inches of the tops; boil for about 40 minutes; cool and peel. [Update: Kate loves beets. LOVES. Asks if I am making any. Eats about a whole beet when I do. I’ve also made a beet soup with sour cream that is delicious.]

Heavenly.

We’ve been getting strawberries, too, and all you need to know about strawberries is they don’t last a day in my house. Between the four of us, we pretty much devour them instantly. I barely get them washed before the kids are eating them — straight, no sugar. [I am betting that Michael will like them too.]

I’d love to get some and have them last long enough to make muffins, but so far, I haven’t managed to hide them fast enough.

I’ll try harder with the blueberries, due to start showing up this week.

I not going to get up on any type of locavore, organic foods soapbox here — there are plenty of activists and authors out there who have intelligent, interesting things to say (Michael Pollan being right up there). I’ll just leave you with the first line from Pollan’s book In Defense of Food, which is pretty much all you need to know:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Do you shop at farmers markets or get produce from a CSA? What’s your favorite thing to do with produce?

Random Thoughts: More Sibling Issues

Flora gets to do stuff that Kate doesn’t get to do.

Flora got a DSi for Christmas when she was 6. Flora got her first sleepover (for her birthday) when she turned 7. Flora and I sometimes have events to attend at her school, while I have to leave the younger sibs at home with a babysitter. Flora bowls every other Sunday. Dan usually takes her.

This is difficult for Kate, watching her sister go off and do stuff she can’t do yet.

Kate does not like to be alone. Ever. At all. She won’t go upstairs by herself. Or stay in the kitchen by herself (and Michael in his high chair doesn’t count some days). There are times she won’t even go pee by herself. (This is the habit of hers I am trying hardest to break.) And forget going to bed by herself. Not happening.

Flora’s already asking when she gets to have a room to herself (again).

Saturday night, Flora got invited to sleep over at a friend’s house. In a couple of weeks, she has a Father-Daughter dance that she is going to attend at her school.

Part of me wants to do special things with Kate in direct reaction to these special events. Flora goes on a sleepover; Kate and I go get pedicures. Dan and Flora have a special event; Kate and I go see a movie. Just her and me.

But another part of me wonders if this is a good strategy. After all, Flora is going to get to do stuff that Kate won’t get to do for a number of years yet.

I honestly don’t know what to do, if anything.

Also, I may have already told Kate that we were going to get pedicures on Sunday.

Should Kate get special things because her sister gets special things? Should she just get special things — or special time — because each kid needs special time? Or does she have to just suck it up until it is her turn?

Weekend Update: Skating Edition

On Sunday, we attended a birthday party for Niece and Nephew at a local roller skating rink.

This was the first time (to my knowledge) that my girls had been on roller skates. I felt a little bad for my husband because he was going to have to help them around the rink with no backup help from moi.

But the girls surprised me. After a couple of times around with Daddy (and after we traded Kate’s regular roller skates for those plastic ones you can put on with shoes), they went off on their own. I think for most of the second hour we were there, they made their way around without adult help. (Except for the guy who has to help Flora up in the first video.)

Some things I learned:

1. My BIL-IL can skate backwards. I didn’t even know he could skate forward.
2. Nephew, in his own words, “is like a cheetah out there on my skates.”
3. Aside from the music, roller skating rinks have not changed in… oh, 30-some years.
4. My children can limbo on roller skates. I don’t know where they picked that up.
5. Kate is unstoppable. I mean, I knew that, but she demostrated it in spades on Sunday.
6. Even being afraid of falling and hitting her head did not stop Flora.

Sorry about the crappy camera work, but I think I managed to capture the fun and delight of the experience. I couldn’t exactly run (or skate, obvs) alongside.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GSFiy2yALk&fs=1&hl=en_US] [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMmBhtjDuTo&fs=1&hl=en_US] [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VTLgGjIY3U&fs=1&hl=en_US]

I really could not have been prouder of the girls. They dithered at first, and Flora was whining a little bit when she first started, but once Dan & I explained that skating was something they had to learn, that they wouldn’t be able to do it without some practice, they got into it.

Now they want to know when we’re going back.

Public Service Announcement

An open letter to husbands:

Your wife’s birthday is a very, very special day. And it should be treated accordingly.

It is the day that the beautiful woman whom you charmed (and/or conned) into marrying you was born.

It is the day that (in many cases) the mother of your children was brought into this world. Which means, also, that it is the day that your green bean supplier was born.

You like green beans, don’t you?

Go to the calendar — now, go — and mark the day of your wife’s birth on it. Big, bold lettering — use a sharpie, maybe a couple of stickers. Make it stand out on your palm pilot — have it play her favorite song on your work computer calendar.

On the day of your wife’s birthday, do something special. Actually, do whatever she decides she wants to do to make it special.

If it’s on a weekend, get up, and get yourself and the kids out of the house. Let her sleep in on her birthday. You and the kids can pick up her present now, or some cards, maybe even a birthday cake. Doesn’t have to be fancy, but chocolate will probably win you some points.

Do something that lets her know you are aware that it is her special day, and that you, too, celebrate the day that she was born. Send flowers to the office. Leave a wrapped present under her pillow. Make her breakfast, or lunch, or dinner.

Hire a babysitter and take her out. Or send the kids to your parents’ (or her parents’) house over night, and stay in. Light some candles.

Buy her a spa certificate. Or even better: schedule her a spa day on her birthday. Drop her off, and let her know you’ll come get her in a couple of hours.

Do not, under any circumstances, do something you want to do on her birthday. Do not buy her a present that you would like for her birthday. I understand that sometimes husbands get confused and think what they like is what their wives like. Please disabuse yourselves of this notion, stat. (Credit: BurghBaby)

And if your wife wants to go out to dinner with you and the kids, then go. Even if it means going up to the horribly crowded consumer mecca nearby. Entertain the children during the wait, eat at a family-friendly place. Take them to the germ pit at the mall and let your wife shop for a little bit. It’s her birthday.

If you are angry with your wife, put it aside. Please do not ruin her birthday by fighting with her — or fight with her early enough that you can get it all out of the way soon, before dinner or her spa day. You have a right to your anger, but she has the right to her special day. Work it out.

Remember: Birthdays are not just for children. (Credit: ClumberKim)

Also remember: Before you and the children came along, her birthday was a day all for her, a day that she probably set aside to do something on her own: go to a museum or a movie, or spend a day in a bookstore or a coffee shop, reading a book.

Christmas is about the kids (and baby Jesus); everyone does something special on Valentine’s Day; Easter is a weird day to give gifts; Mother’s Day… she tends to think that’s for your mother (you have to train the kids to treat her special on this one). One day out of the year, her birthday should be “her day”. You have the power to make it so. You can make it or break it, buddy.

Make it.

Let it all be about her and whatever she wants.

Love it. Love her. Show it. Celebrate it.

She deserves it.

Surviving the Game II: Some Good Advice

Last time I was on my own to watch the Steelers playoff game, it was difficult. But we all survived, and I did discover some strategies to mix toddler management with watching football.

This time, for Sunday’s game, I decided to see if Misfit Hausfrau‘s advice would work. She suggested a slumber party in one of the girls’ rooms (see the comments from Surviving the Game I). I called it movie night instead, and we held it in Monkey’s room.

I couldn’t find the in-laws’ portable DVD player, so I unearthed my 13″ television with a built-in VCR player, purloined some VHS tapes from next door, and set the girls up in Monkey’s room, complete with a kid couch and snack delivery (during commercials).

Monkey was so excited to have a TV in her room, watching movies was like gravy. She kept jumping up and down: “I have a TV in my room. I have a TV in my room!” She wanted to know who bought it for her (no one, I said, it’s an old TV of Mommy’s), and if it was going to live in her room from now on (no).

After I got both girls bathed and in pajamas, I put on “Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown” — as an aside, DearDR picked out the VHS tapes, and I’m not sure I would have made the same selections: Mulan, the aforementioned Charlie Brown, The Little Mermaid TV series on VHS, and a Christmas sing-along video.

Monkey was captivated, and although she wanted me to watch with her, she seemed resigned to letting me watch the Steelers.

Bun, as per usual, was a different story. Are you sensing a trend with Bun? It used to be that she would do anything Monkey would do. With the exception of the They Might Be Giants DVDs, watching television has never been big on her list, though. And I guess she didn’t feel like hanging with her sister. Not when she had Mommy and Daddy all to herself downstairs!

I don’t think Bun was upstairs for five minutes. When I lured her back to Monkey’s room with snacks, she announced “Eyeont like it, Mommy” referring to the video. She came back downstairs again, and stayed for the rest of the first half. (Both girls went to bed at halftime.)

Both girls, as a matter of fact, “watched” the final two minutes of the half. They decided to put some of their toys to bed, so we turned off the light. Bun actually shushed me when I clapped for a Steelers’ sack of Flacco. “Shhh, Mommy,” she said. “Baby shleepin’.”

It was okay, though. Monkey did fine in her room. I did watch a little of the Little Mermaid with her toward the end of the first half. Daddy actually played with Bun during the game. And Bun didn’t bug us to turn the game off or put something else on the television.

The results were mixed, but for the most part it was a successful strategy, and I will be using it again, although not for Super Bowl XLIII. Because I have a babysitter, and a plethora of outside-the-house viewing options.

Score!

‘Twas the Day After Christmas

… And all through the house were contented children. Or so I imagine. I went to work.

I didn’t get within 10 feet of a computer yesterday, so I didn’t even get a chance to say “Merry Christmas”! I hope everyone had a nice holiday and/or day off. Our Christmas Eve and Christmas were wonderful.

The pictures suck, though. I think I know why someone gave us this camera!

Anyhoo:


Christmas Eve was for decorating the tree. DearDR did all the lights before we went to my in-laws for Christmas Eve dinner and the first gift exchange.


We did the rest after the kids were in bed.


DearDR had some last minute adjustments. We used probably two-thirds of the ornaments we had. It was a skinny tree!


But very pretty.


Santa came later that night.


Monkey couldn’t wait to get into the gifts — it was definitely the first year that she had to be distracted from presents until Bun and Daddy were awake.


She made out pretty well.


Those are Bun’s gifts, still all wrapped up after Monkey was done with hers. I was surprised at how little interest Bun had in opening them. She just wanted to play with her baby doll, which Bella had bought her.

DearDR is not so good at taking pictures. I have no idea what the focus of this picture is supposed to be. But the kids were probably moving around a lot, too. Moving right along…


…I managed to get a picture of Monkey in her Christmas dress. I never got Bun though. When she got up from her nap, I was already next door with Monkey. DearDR thought she was in pajamas, and changed her… into some clothes that Monkey had been wearing earlier in the day. Aside from the fact that they were kind of lounge-around-the-house clothes (i.e. not holiday party clothes), the scary thing was that the clothes fit pretty well. How is my not-even-2-year-old fitting into 3- or 4T clothes??

Anyway, it was a merry time for everyone involved. Hope yours was just as good. Tomorrow we travel to Erie to see my family and for gift exchange number three.

Tradition!

The holidays are upon us, and I have been seeing and hearing talk about what people will be eating on Thursday.

Obviously, as a vegetarian for almost 20 years, my Thanksgiving meals are a little different. But even looking back, I can see that my family is just a bit untraditional.

The most glaring example of this is the green bean casserole. My mother has never made the green bean casserole. I have never eaten green bean casserole. I think for the past couple of years when my mother has had her Thanksgiving meal catered by her country club (which makes her sound a terrible snob, I realize, and she’s not), I think they have sent something akin to green bean casserole: green beans in a cream of mushroom sauce. It doesn’t come with those crunchy onion thingies, though.

The crunchy onion thingies: aside from green bean casserole, what are they used for?

Another example is sweet potatoes. I dimly remember some goopy sweet potato dish with marshmallows from my youth. I don’t remember eating it. At some point, my mother’s traditional sweet potato dish was simply slices of apples and sweet potatoes baked in their own juices together. Very tasty.

Occasionally, my mother serves raviolis with Thanksgiving dinner; they are traditional fare at Christmas time. She does all meat, all cheese, and/or cheese and spinach ravioli (“ravs” as they are referred to in my household); the past few years she also has been experimenting with meat-substitute fillings, with tasty results.

Of course throwing a vegetarian daughter and grandchildren into the mix has provided its own challenges. Hence the ravioli upon occasion. I have brought my own dishes (Chick Pea Tahini Casserole, Lentil Roulade with Chestnut Stuffing — which I am making again this year). We’ve had Tofurky, but we’re not crazy about it. It’s okay. Some of the sides are prepared separately from the turkey, although I do remember about 12 years ago having to make my own potatoes because my mom threw everything in with the bird.

The one dish that my mother absolutely clings to is cranberry relish. She makes it every year, and every year puts it in her relish dish (which is a rooster for some reason), and every year, her children make fun of her. No one in her family eats it: not Dad, not my brother, not my sister, not me. God Bless the outlaws, DearDR and WonderSIL because they eat it, and purport to like it. The first couple years, I figured in DearDR’s case is was kissing butt, but I may have underestimated his true love for cranberry relish. Or for his mother-in-law.

One tradition we definitely hew to is eating all day long. We start at noon with a soup course, in our case Italian wedding soup (with a Thai vegetable and tofu soup for the vegetarians). Around 3 or 4 p.m. we have salad. The main course starts at 5 p.m., and if we’re lucky, we can sit at the table for an hour. (I probably won’t be that lucky, with speed eater Bun in the mix.) And then, dessert around 7 p.m. And plenty of libations, of course: beer, apertifs, wine, coffee with Baileys, and cordials.

It’s exhausting! We work off a few calories cleaning, of course. And there will probably be some running around in the snow in which to engage with the kids. Football is usually background, not something we watch seriously (unless the Steelers are playing).

Whatever you are doing this Thanksgiving, have a happy one. Travel safely. Be thankful. Eat well. Drink moderately. Love one another.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Weekend Retrospective

I should be noted that Bun is too young for Kennywood. Or perhaps it should be noted that Bun should not be taken anywhere, not even outside for a walk, if she has not taken her daily two-hour nap.

I would love to tell you how much fun we had at Kennywood on Saturday. I would love to go on and on about what a fabulous day it was, and how great the food was, and how it wasn’t really that boiling hot.

I would also love to show you some pictures of how much fun we were having BUT, Monkey having dropped the digital camera INTO THE SINK the night before, I cannot show you any pictures.

I do have video, and once they are downloaded to Google or YouTube, I will show them to you. If I use Google, it will be sometime around the next Olympics before they are done, but at least I have a visual record. And not just the memories seared into my brain by the fiery hot Pittsburgh sun.

Yeah, you read that right.

The fact of the matter (if you haven’t guessed by now) is that Bun at Kennywood was much more work and much less fun than I had anticipated. Let’s just say that I wildly underestimated just how NOT FUN it would be. She would not stand still; she would not sit in the stroller; she would not hold hands; she did occasionally consent to be carried, but that was its own special brand of hell. Did I mention it was hot? She did, by some grace of the gods of the amusement park, go on some rides with her big sister. Other times she invented her own rides, and at the very least was in one easily monitored spot. Although there were times I sincerely wished that spot were much, much shadier.

Monkey, on the other hand, had a blast. Monkey made memories and rode rides and rode the merry-go-round and named her horse Horace the Horse and had cotton candy and fudge and did ride in the stroller. Monkey made it completely worth the hot sweaty stressful trip.

And let’s put it this way: It only cost us $20 to get in. We also put out for two bottles of water, some strawberries and cream, Potato Patch fries and pop (eaten at the hottest table in Kennywood — I swear to Noah’s Ark the sun was a white hot spotlight determined to make the cheese on those hot, salty fries boil), cotton candy, and fudge. Lunch was on the company, and the pavilion also featured pop and water to drink. FREE. Oh, and I also packed food. Like I could get the kids to sit still long enough to eat. (Something healthful at any rate. Monkey and Bun looked like they had been instantly transported to heaven when they got their first tastes of cotton candy.)

Back in the car as we were leaving around 6:30 p.m., DearDR turned to me. (It should be noted at this point: DearDR was a champ. He saw me melting down a couple of times, and whisked Bun off of my hands. We were a good team at Kennywood. And he didn’t bitch once about not getting to go on any grown-up rides. He didn’t bitch once about anything, actually.) Fortunately, he had already turned on the air conditioning. He said, “Look, I know you were stressed about today. But it was a success. No one got kidnapped, no one is missing a limb. No one was even out of view for five seconds. It didn’t rain. Our daughters had fun. Monkey will remember how much fun she had.” He went on to say (something I have been trying to tell him for almost four years now), “It is not about how much fun we have. We’re working at these things. We don’t go on vacation; we take the kids on vacation.”

In other words, RPM, it’s not about you. We didn’t go to Kennywood, we took the kids to Kennywood.

And it was a good time.

Also, I’m not taking Bun back until she’s four.

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Friday night with these ladies was FUN. I was bummed I had to bolt around 10 p.m. because DearDR got stuck with a patient in crisis. I can’t wait to see them all again, and read about them and their kids, and find Burgh Baby’s Mom a place she can get a strawberry daiquiri (how hard can it be people??).