Monday, February 28, 2011

The Things We Do

I got my first introduction to the seedy underworld of pre-school registration recently. I had no idea this was such a cut-throat endeavor. I'd heard tales, of course. Seen bits in movies. But I honestly just thought they were urban legends. People don't really clamor for spots, do they?

They do.

When I went to the open house for my chosen pre-school, I was delighted and nervous when I saw just how many other prospective attendees were there. But when talk turned to the process for actual registration my nervousness turned to shock.

Registration was to take place at 6:30pm the following Friday. Parents would be given numbers as they arrived and that is the order they would be registered in. And what time did they think we should come? Well, last year parents began showing up around 10. That's TEN Ay Em. EIGHT AND A HALF HOURS BEFORE REGISTRATION.

When they said that, I snorted and turned to walk out. I wasn't going to waste any more of my time on this BS. But halfway to the door I started thinking. First, this is a great pre-school. I have several friends whose children have gone here and raved about it. Second, it is significantly less expensive than the others I was looking at. Sophie's experience is the most important factor but all other things being equal, if we can save a thousand dollars, I'm not going to turn that down. So I halted my stomping out in protest and decided to listen to the rest of what they had to say.

It turned out to be an enjoyable morning as Sophie took part in typical activities with her future classmates. The teachers were really nice and I believed it a good fit for my daughter.

But there was that registration looming over me.

Over the week and a half leading up to the registration day, I changed my mind a hundred times. Going. Not going. Going. Not going. The idea of lining up and sitting there ALL DAY to sign my daughter up for pre-school was not an appealing one. But in the end, I decided to make the sacrifice. Because I'm officially the best mom ever. Or the craziest. So I asked Neil's parents to watch Sophie for the day and I resigned myself to the insanity.

On the appointed day, I dropped off Sophie and headed to the school. I arrived about 10:30 and I was certain that I would be one of the first people there. Wrong. I was 11th. The first arrived at 6:30. Thaaaat's right. 6:30 am. For pre-school registration.

Fortunately, neither the school nor the other parents were super strict about how we spent our time waiting and while some chose to sit in chairs lined up at the door, I opted to sit within the comfort of my car reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo on my Ipad, with the occasional phone call or game of Angry Birds thrown in to break it up. Around 2, the kindly Katie took pity on me and showed up with a cookies and creme milkshake from Chick Fil A. Otherwise it was a quiet and uneventful day.

At about 6:15, we all lined up at the door of the school and prepared for the magic moment. We filed in and waited for our numbers to be called. With just 14 spots in the morning class I wanted and an unknown number already taken by children whose brothers or sisters had already come through the program, I was not optimistic that Sophie would get in. Sadly, my fears were justified, but there was a spot in the afternoon class. So, despite my concerns about this interfering with her naps, I signed her up. I don't mind telling you, I'm pretty excited for September. Sophie is going to love it there.

I know it's crazy, but those hours seem like a good investment on my daughter's future. Sure, it's just pre-school, but these are formative years, right? I guess I'll just have to chalk this up as yet another on the long and ever-growing list of things I never thought I would do as a parent.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Taste Memories

Another attempt at a Stream of Consciousness post. Here's what's jumbling around in my head at the moment. As always, the rules according to Fadra are thus: set the timer for 5 minutes, write, write, write and when the timer stops, that's it. No editing. 

I was making macaroni and cheese for Sophie today. Not the homemade kind, the kind that comes in a blue box. I'm domestic but not THAT domestic. As I was finishing up, I remembered from my childhood how my mother would make us the same macaroni and cheese and she would cut up real cheddar cheese and mix it in. Cheddar cheese being what it is, it didn't melt in very well and there were always chunks of cheese in with the macaroni. I loved scooping up a forkful and finding one of the pieces of extra cheese. Its one of those funny childhood memories that litter my brain.

So as I was preparing her not exactly healthy blue box variety, I decided to mix in some cheese. Give it that little touch of motherly love. Knowing she would love it as much as I had and a new memory would be created for this next generation, carrying on the tradition. So I got out the brick, just as my mother did, I sliced off a hunk and methodically cut it into small pieces. Not so small they couldn't be seen or tasted, but small enough to mix in a bit. I threw it in with the butter and milk and stirred and stirred until the powdery stuff was creamy and the perfect texture achieved.

I scooped a small amount of this now precious dish into the cute little Winnie the Pooh bowl and stuck one of her plastic Ikea spoons into the mix. I called her to the table and with my own dish in hand, sat hers down in front of her with a smile and a twinkle in my eye.

She twirled the fork, watching the stringy strands of cheese stretch from fork to bowl. My own mouth watered in anticipation as she eyed up this delicacy. Then, just as she seemed to be about to take a bite, she pushed the plate away and said, with great finality: NO. And just like that, my dreams for this heirloom treat were shattered.

So I pulled her bowl over to my placemat and ate all of that tasty mac and cheese myself. That picky little thing might not like it, but I'm not letting it go to waste.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

THE Best Valentimes Card

There are some moments that you later realize were pivotal to how you experience life moving forward. Of course you have your most obvious moments: marriages, births, promotions, but there are also moments that shape your world in smaller ways. For me, one of those days was in June of 2008 when a run of the mill weekly trip to the grocery store turned into a conversation in the check out line with another new mother who was there with her son. He was just a few months younger than Sophie and we bonded over the finer points (and failures from a mother's perspective) of grocery cart design. We exchanged numbers and email addresses. I don't think either of us could have guessed how significant that meeting would be.

Two and a half years later and that chance encounter has turned into one of the best friends I have. Katie has become a confidante, co-conspirator, companion, commiserater and emergency babysitter. We have our weekly trips to Chick Fil A, filling our tanks (and saddlebags, in my case) on milkshakes while the kids run like hooligans in the play area. We've spent countless hours at the library and the park and each others' houses. She's the kind of friend that I'm not embarrassed to have come over when my house is a mess and my daughter is wearing a swimsuit in the middle of winter.

Our children have grown up as close as two non-siblings can. They fight, of course, but they can also be so very cute, like when they spontaneously curl up on the sofa together for a little Diego. I don't think I'm the only one that not-so-secretly hopes they someday get married.

Because it is a requirement* in my friends, she is also super funny and terribly creative. So no surprise that she "helped" her son make the cutest Valentines card for Sophie. Christopher presented Sophie with her card when they stopped over after our return from a long ski weekend. (For those of you unfamiliar with Sophie's signature phase, check out this post.)

I think I'll probably frame it.

Thanks for everything, Katie, you're the best!

*More of a guideline than a strict rule, really.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Moments

My second go at a Stream of Consciousness post. This time I actually thought out what I was going to write before, which seems a little like a cheat, but I felt so ill-prepared last week. Anyhoo, here's what's jumbling around in my head at the moment. As always, the rules according to Fadra are thus: set the timer for 5 minutes, write, write, write and when the timer stops, that's it. No editing.

Most of my memories from my childhood are not full fledged memories as I know them as an adult. They are not full recollections of activities but more snapshots. Moments in time captured. We got a fair amount of snow last week. We live across from the fields of an elementary school and part of those fields are the sledding hills for the area. Whenever there is enough accumulation to make it possible, the kids come out in droves, lining up along the ridge and tearing down the short run before picking themselves up and racing back up to the top for another go.

I am certain that there were numerous sledding adventures in my childhood. Probably at least once every year, my sister and I hit the snow covered hills in our area. But there is one such outing that stands out. It happened when we lived in Heidelberg, Germany. And strangely it isn't really the sledding that I remember, although there are flashes of that. Tearing down the hill on the old-style curved toboggan or one of the metal and wood runner sleds. What I remember is afterward, when red-faced and wild-haired, we all trooped to the nearest fast food restaurant and sat down for french fries and hot cocoa. An unlikely combination but at 10 years old, after a cold afternoon spent sledding, they were divine. I remember all of us sitting around, my parents, my sister, and some family friends and their kids who were our age. In the snapshot in my mind, everyone is laughing as we cup the cocoa in cold hands.

I think about that image and how happy I was that day and I wonder what snapshots my daughter will take with her of her childhood. What unlikely event will be the amalgam for a group of happy memories? I know I can't possibly pick and choose which it will be, but it certainly makes me aware of each moment that I share with my daughter. And in that awareness, attempt to make every experience matter. Its easy to make the big moments spectacular, the magic is in making the little ones even more so.