Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Life with Lola

We were playing Wii tennis the other day.

Lola missed a serve and it flew by her Mii character, untouched.

"Ace!" I said, teasing.

She stuck her hand on her hip, turned and faced me while rolling her eyes.

"Mom, this isn't cards."

I have failed as a mother. Ha.

Then again, last night, we spent a half-our last night discussing women's suffrage. So maybe I haven't completely failed. Yet.

This kid.

She turned 9 years old a couple of weeks ago. On Facebook, I said she's our "firecracker," and that's rather accurate. Everything she does is at full-speed. She lights up our lives with her drive, her passion, her hunger to understand everything in the whole world right now today.

When explaining or introducing Lola, I frequently say, "Lola is challenging," but I don't mean it in the sense of, she's challenging to deal with (though, trust me!, she can be) but I mean it in the sense of, she challenges the whys. She doesn't accept that "this is the way it has always been done." And, for that, I love her even more.

She's smart and competitive.

Sure, she's frequently referenced as my "mini me," but she's so much more than me. She's artistic and kind. Sweet by nature. She's driven and goal-oriented.

I will forever remember finding months the gymnastics report card that showed the still-missing checkmarks that she would need to move up to the next level. Every night for who knows how long she would use that piece of paper to mark her place in her latest book, focusing on the areas that she needed to improve in before she could move up.

And then, how quickly it was replaced by the congratulatory letter that came months later, inviting her to the "team."

She is always up for a new adventure, a new experience.

She brightens my days with stories and laughter. She is my go-to helper, my daytime partner, my friend.

But she will always be my baby.

She's at that age where she is pulling away, just a bit. More alone time in her bedroom, more time with her music and her journals, her friends, her hopes, her dreams.

But she always come back, for the occasional snuggle, for storytimes.

For comfort.

Because my imaginative kid has an all-too-real imagination that frequently blurs nightmares and reality.

It doesn't happen too often, but about once a month, she'll trudge into the living room, not awake, not asleep. Somewhere in the middle. She collapses in the couch next to me, dropping her head onto my lap as I lightly, so lightly, trace my fingertips along her shoulder blades.

We don't speak much. She won't remember it anyways. Tomorrow, she'll wrinkle her forehead when I talk about when she came out of bed. She won't recall any of it.

But I will.

I'll remember the warmth of her breath of my lap, the rise and fall of her chest with each breath, the baby-smoothness of her unblemished skin. I'll remember the lines from her swimsuit tan, fainter than my own; each knob along her spinal cord; the unpredictability of her thick hair, as it fell to wherever it wanted; the eventual sigh of relief as the tenseness in her body is released, as she finally finds peace.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fourth reflections

We celebrated our Fourth with sunshine and smiles.

We even trekked it down to the parade in town.

We don't always make it down for the parade this year but this year was a bit special.

It was Lola first time in the parade.

She joined her fellow gymnasts to celebrate the Fourth with cartwheels and walkovers.

I think my favorite line from the weekend came from Millie though.

We were getting ready for bathtime when she began arguing (nicely, in her Millie way) about which toys she should be allowed to play with in the tub. I have a fairly strict "No Barbies in bath" rule, which pretty much means that we don't get 10-inch-tall dolls wet; for whatever reason once their hair gets wet it gets all crunchy and the girls won't play with them again. So we tend to (try) to keep them dry.

Millie hates this rule. And letting Ariel be the exception to the rule hasn't helped much because if she can get wet, why can't the others? Ha.

Anyhow, it was early in the weekend when Millie began negotiating with me.

"But Mommy," she finally said. "Can Moana play in the water? Moana likes the water! She always goes back to the water, she likes it so much!"

Then she began singing the Moana song, just for effect...
See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me.

She got a big laugh, for originality.

But, no, Moana still didn't make it in the bath.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Millie's birthday!

Wow. I just turned the calendar to July. JULY!

(And, yes, I realize that it's not quite July yet but in my world of freelancing and writing, meeting deadlines, etc., I'm always a week ahead of what the real date is. It's probably why I never know what the heck the date really is, on those very rare times when I'm actually filling out a check or signing some kind of document.)

So, let's catch up on June!

First and foremost, my littlest girl turned 6 years old last week!

Millie brings us so much joy. She loves to make people laugh and smile. She loves to be the center of attention and I truly believe that she will in some way find her way to some kind of stage as she gets a bit older.

She has outgrown nearly all her struggles and while we can still occasionally get hung up on a certain word or phrase that we don't immediately recognize, that is becoming more rare. It is definitely the exception these days.

She loves Jesus and fancy dresses. She loves Shimmer and Shine and Moana. She loves swimming and playing with any kind of gooey substance (slime, putty, play sand, etc.).

She's my picky eater who would survive on yogurt and fruit snacks, if I would let her.

She's afraid of being left alone. She hates going to bed alone and wakes herself early in the morning (usually) just so she can come out and be with others.

She loves puppies, kitties, and babies.

She hates physical activity and will fight me on every walk. We've even made up a song just to keep her going: Going for a walk with Millie, Because she's so silly, walk walk walk, Laugh laugh laugh, Going for a walk with Millie...

Her arrival into my world changed everything: priorities, goals, personal viewpoints, beliefs. Everything. She's got me wrapped around her little finger and knows it. She's plays me like a fiddle, knowing the exact moments to offer a hug or goofy grin.

"You're my best in my whole world!" she says now, whenever I agree (or am debating whether to agree) with whatever transactions she's offering.

She lives in her own little world. Whatever catches her eye is the most important thing in the world and nothing will distract her from that.

Take this photo, for example, from when we walked into Athleta:

She walked in the door, immediately sat on down in the middle of the store, and began yoga-ing with the mannequin. I mean, who does that?! But it made me smile.

She always makes me smile. Happy birthday, Kiddo. I hope it was grand.


But, there has been more to life than Millie's birthday these days (just don't tell her that!).

We've been baking!

We've been to the zoo, and spent time getting to know some butterflies.

We've gone on rides...

The girls played in foam!

We've visited Itasca!

The girls have gotten a few new dresses (and a new haircut for Lola).

Lola has broadened her horizons and tried a high-ropes course, which she loved.

This is summer -- and summer is awesome.

Friday, June 9, 2017


There is, seriously, nothing better.

 Mommy, I'm making snow angels!
Which, were, really, dandelion-fluff angels!

Our first calla of the season.
Ray planted these for me when we first got the house.
Callas, our wedding flowers. *aww!*

The weather has been perfect thus far! We are soaking up the sunshine and the smiles. Sure, I'm still adjusting to this whole kids-home-24/7-and-Ray-is-gone-working thing but I think we're doing great so far! Lots of outside play, gardening, biking, tennis-ing, walking, and sprinkler-ing.

Great times.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Life with Lola

When I was a kid, I remember one day when I was frustrated with having to do chores. (I was a lazy kid, I'll be honest. I hated any kind of work.)

I was crabbin' and whining at my mom at my mother that day: "I can't wait til I'M a mom and I can make my own kid do all this stuff s I don't have to."

"Ha, you have to raise them first," she responded.

WELL, I'm happy to say -- thrilled, really -- to finally be at the stage where I can pass off all the crappier jobs to my 8-year-old.

Or, really, mainly, the stupid hose.

I hate the hose. It's on the "wrong" side of the house, so it's the furthest away from the garden and the flowers, etc. It's long and it's dirty and I hate unwinding it from the stupid holder thing, pulling it out, getting out the kinks, just to use it for 30-40 minutes and then have to coil it back up, a few feet at a time.

I find the whole process ridiculously annoying. I used to pray for rain just so I didn't have to water. (OK, so I'm still lazy.)

So, yesterday, in a fit of frustration (not that I ever get frustrated!) I asked (ordered, probably not too nicely), Lola to be in charge of the hose and she did MARVELOUS.

Even better, she did it without complaining or whining.

Which basically tells me she's a better kid than I was at her age. Ha.


At some point this spring, we were at school for something for Lola and she was flipping and cartwheeling all around her campus. Despite our reminders to please stop doing gymnastics, it continued when she thought we weren't looking.

One of the staffers caught her and asked, "Do you gymnastics like that at home too?" in a kind of warm-but-warning kind of way. As in, Please stop doing that now.

Lola's response? "Yup."

But Ray laughed. And he tells the story about when he was a kid, and we would be caught tossing a football around school during times that he probably wasn't supposed to do that either.

"Do you throw that around in your house at home too?" he recalled a teacher asking him, when he was a kid, in that same Please stop doing that voice that adults get.

His response. "Yup."

Like father like daughter.

Some days.  :)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Millie musings

Millie stared longingly at the candy and snacks surrounding us as we moved toward finding a checkout lane at the grocery store.

"Me good girl. Me treat?" she asked.

I shook my head, "Not today," and settled into place at the end of a not-too-terribly-long line in some random lane.

Millie wandered a few feet forward to "just look" at the candy varieties, wishing and hoping.

She asked several -- many -- random questions about the things that caught her eye.

She asked a few -- lots -- of questions about "what's next," what we will do when we got home.

Will we make Jello? Will we eat lunch? What is for lunch? Will she have to eat her whole sandwich? Will she be able to have fruit snacks? If she eats her whole sandwich, could she earn a pack of fruit snacks? Can she watch iPad today? Can she watch TV? If she watches TV, can she watch Shimmer and Shine? But is it a new Shimmer and Shine? How come there's no new Shimmer and Shine? How come she couldn't get a new Shimmer and Shine book today? Can she get a new book tomorrow? Hey, will we read books before bed tonight? Two books? Three books? But it's not bedtime yet, right? How long is it until bedtime? What will do in the morning? What will we eat for breakfast in the morning?

You get the gist: Lots of questions. Lots and lots and lots of random stream-of-thought questions.

Finally, as the man in front of us wrapped up his turn, at the last moment he added a two-pack of ring pops to his purchase ... and turned around to give them to Millie.

"You've been such a good girl," he said, kindly, telling us that he was impressed by how nicely she waited our turn.

He was an older man, wearing a ballcap. Millie (and I) didn't know who he was, but she gladly took the unexpected treat and, with a little prompting, she thanked him.

Then, we chatted a few minutes. He works with kids; he's been a longtime bus driver, and this week, as school wraps, he'll have a bag of apples to give the kids as an end-of-the-year bonus.

I told him I had originally gone to college to be a teacher but very quickly learned I didn't have enough patience to deal with so many kids so long each day. We laughed about that, about patience as a virtue.

Millie, of course, asked his name.

(Anyone who has spent any time with Millie these days can count on two things: She will ask you your name and, then, follow that up with a barrage of questions about whether you really, truly know each of her grandparents, her teachers, her friends, etc.)

His name was Butch.

I asked her to say his name, to work on the pronunciation of it. She refused. I moved on.

We talked a little bit more with him, with Millie promising to save the other ring pop for Lola, as an after-school surprise for her older sister. But we, eventually, parted ways as he moved on with his day.

A few minutes after he'd gone, Millie asked me what our car's name is.

Um, we've never named it?

We should name it, she said.

OK, what name do you think it should have?

I don't know, she said.

"Well, is it a girl car or a boy car?" I asked, still loading bagged groceries into the cart.


"OK, well, what's a good name for a girl and a boy?"

She thought really hard.

I loaded more bagged groceries.

"Butch!" she finally said, stating it clearly and excitedly.

I laughed. "You sure?"

She nodded.

And then asked the checkout lady her name.

Later, as we walked to the car from the store, Millie skipped forward, "Hi Butch!" she shouted at the car.

She climbed in. I opened her ring pop.

I unloaded groceries and we began driving toward home.

With her sucking on her ring pop, I turned the music slightly up, appreciating the few moments free from backseat chitter-chatter.

But then, after a few minutes, she said, very randomly, "Beautiful."

"What is beautiful?" I started looking outside, at the overcast and cool day, wondering if she saw a new flower or noticed a cute dog.

"Butch beautiful," she said.

"The car?" It needs, badly, to be washed and vacuumed; it can't be that beautiful.

"Not car," she shrieked, laughing.

"The car isn't beautiful?"

"No, Butch. The man. Him beautiful."

"Yeah? You think so? What made him beautiful?"

"I dunno," she murmured, less speaking and more grunting.

But then, after a pause, she answered, "Nice. Him nice. Him heart beautiful."

Friday, May 26, 2017

the graduate!

Rewind back to March 2014. Millie was not 3 and receiving several different types of therapies. They each were helping, but Ray and I knew that she would greatly benefit from being in a school setting.

She needed to be in preschool.

But, there was that whole not-really-talking thing. Back then, sign language was her language.

Fortunately, our church's preschool is awesome and Lola went there so we knew some of the staff. After a few email exchanges, they offered to sit down and meet Millie and see how it might work out.

Sure, we had a few bumps along the way, but her first preschool teacher actually took an ASL class that summer in preparation for Millie's enrollment that next fall -- I told you they were awesome! -- and between texts and video-messaging, they could almost always figure out what she was trying to "say" with her hands.

My favorite memory, I think, was that very first Christmas program. She got her line a couple of weeks in advance and she and I worked diligently to get the sign language correct. Then, when it was time to actually do the program, she saw the microphone. And that was the end of the sign language! She was going to say her line in the mic, just like everyone else. It was the cutest thing.

Anyhow, for three years now, her preschool has been her home away from home.

And now, last night, we had to say goodbye (but not really because it's still our church and so we will see a lot of the same faces -- but, yeah, from here on out, it will always be different).

Millie graduated!

So proud of you, Kiddo. We can't wait to see where life leads you.

Thursday, May 25, 2017


We all survived "Showcase" weekend!

It's the big end-of-the-year show for gymnastics. As a family, we have so many hours we have to volunteer each year so I ended up helping with decorating. Which, for me, meant I was more or less in charge of creating the "photobooth."

The whole show was Super Hero themed so that continued into the photobooth, or at least that was my plan. Ha.

But, of course, the weekend was really about the gymnasts, or, for us, Lola.

In past year's she has been super nervous but this year, though she had a few butterflies, she was mostly excited to show off what she can do.

She did great, of course!

She had three shows and she did awesome in all three. She opted to do her handspring in the tumbling portion of her routine and she was most nervous for this, afraid she wouldn't land it. She landed it all three times.

(Ray took video but I haven't gotten it yet -- you'll just have to take my word on it.)

I absolutely love watching her grow in confidence. Sports were a big part of both my and Ray's lives so it's been very special for me to watch Lola develop and learn to love what her body is capable of doing.

We are so very proud of this girl. Not just for her athletics, of course, but for the person she has become. There is not a mean bone in this kid's body. She is so kind, so gentle, so caring. She's going to do amazing things -- and I can't wait to watch.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

'I dabble in a little English'

I loved watching Gilmore Girls and Parenthood so I've been reading Lauren Graham's latest book this week. It's a fun, easy read, which is kind of what I wanted, as summer is too quickly approaching.

I enjoy Lauren's work as an actor which is why I'm reading the book of course, but I also have long appreciated the work of her significant other, Peter Krause.

Peter Krause, to me, will always and forever be Casey McCall from Sports Night, my favorite show. (Well, I think it's my favorite. It at least used to be my favorite. I'm finding I enjoy re-watching Studio 60 at least as much as I enjoy re-watching Sports Night. I'm obviously a big Sorkin fan.)

Anyhow, I knew Peter Krause was from Minnesota but I never really researched or read up on his background.

That was, until this week.

Because I quite honestly squealed when I read this in Lauren's book: (please note the third sentence of the second graf)

I lived on County Road C!

That said, County Road C is a pretty big road that travels through something like a dozen suburbs in the Cities so I can't really claim this as "my" County Road C. Nor can I recall observing any kind of strange puppet incident on the road outside of my childhood home.

But still, this pretty much made my whole day!


Random thought of the day: As long as I'm thinking about Sports Night, in today's era of re-boots and remakes, I have this dream of Sorkin revisiting Sports Night, more specifically Casey McCall's son, Charlie. When I'm out running sometimes, my mind wanders and I plot out stories about Charlie. I imagine he tried to both follow and not follow in his famous dad's footsteps, becoming instead of a TV sports reporter, a newspaper sports reporter. But he loses his job as the industry falters and he has to move back in with his dad to re-invent his career.

Ha. Running. I come up with all sorts of great ideas that I never follow through on. :)

Speaking of running, I did something yesterday that was once unimaginable to me, ha! I made a "running wall" -- with my three bids (my 5K, 10K, and half), my medal from last year's half-marathon, and then my calendar scripting out this summer's running plan, assuming I decide to train for another race this fall.

I kind of like it. I see it many times a day now and it makes me smile. So hopefully it keeps me on track and motivated moving forward, on track for Oct. 14.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

picture post!

This is what happens when I get around to organizing my photos each month or so: a picture post!

It makes for an easy -- and cuter! -- update to what we've been up to.

Millie update!
She's still our little ham. Every morning starts with the same question: "Can I wear a fancy dress today?" to be followed by, "Fancy heels too?"

She loves to be pretty and twirly and to put on "shows" for us, dancing and spinning around.

A few weeks ago, she was in her glory when it was finally time for her Easter program at school. And, as expected, she loved every minute of it.

She also FINALLY got a big-girl haircut!

I've been battling with her for months, years, it seems. She hates having her hair tied back. In either a big pony or a little one. And I hate never being able to see her face.

So, I brought her with me to the grown-up salon and she got her first-ever "real" haircut.

We were there about three hours total! -- (for the both of us) -- and she did great. She loved every single minute.



She aged about four years I think! Oh my goodness. She loves it, I love it. Everyone's happy!

In other Millie news, she is finally into crafting. So we "make something" almost every day these days. Which I love. Super fun times together, my favorite.

Millie had her "first day" of kindergarten last night too, just going to her new school for an hour, experiencing her first circle time and meeting her new teacher (who just happens to be Lola's teacher this year, and last year actually as well. Super excited about that! She's pretty awesome.)

Lola update!
She's becoming a little lady. Every day I watch in awe and admiration as she grows more confident, more sure of herself and who she wants to be.

This months, she had her Spring concert at school and she was awesome. I loved it. Sure, she still had to kind of battle through those initial nerves at first -- "But, Mom, the actions are really hard this time!" -- but she did wonderful.

She also got some great news at gymnastics, when she learned that she would be moving up two levels this summer! She was absolutely ecstatic!

It's probably because she's learned how to things like this:

She's also been working super hard this spring on her school project, but I'll write more about that later, when I see the finished product later this week.

General "family" update!
We've been out exploring this spring quite a bit, mostly by bicycle now that we seem to be getting comfortable with them.

Lola, especially, is learning to push herself on the bike to reach new distances, though I'm not sure she is always loving it. Ha. But we try to take some breaks along the way.

May Day! The baskets were a big deal in our house this year. Loved it.

Millie has a, um, style of her own. No, it is not raining, but, yes, she insisted on her umbrella. No, I didn't fight her on it. Life's too short. Carry the dang umbrella if you want to (just don't give it to me -- oh wait, she did that five minutes later this pic was taken, of course. Haha.)

Life is good.