Fall Fun

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As I look back on the pictures from our fall adventures, September seems so long ago.  It feels like so much has happened in such a short period of time.  I guess moving will do that.  For those who may not have heard we are back in Roanoke.  It wasn’t something I planned and hadn’t been pursuing.  But when I got a message back in August that a night shift position was opening up, and asking if I would be interested in coming back I had to do it.  My first reaction was actually to say No.  To stay in Michigan and on the course I had mapped out for school.  But I realized if I turned this opportunity down it might not come up again, and if I didn’t take it I could never complain about how much I didn’t like it in Michigan.

So I tried to shut out all the “what if’s” bouncing around in my head, and went for it.  It hasn’t been the smoothest move.  We’re still homeless, and staying with friends. All of our belongings are still in Michigan.  I’m not sure how long we’ll be without a place of our own.  I’ve decided that since we left and came back, this is obviously where we want to be, so I’m getting my ducks in a row to buy us a house.

My school plans are only delayed.  I start back up again next semester.  It will take me a little bit longer.  But that’s the difference between my paying for it and someone else paying for it, so I’m okay with slowing down a little.

Annelise has adjusted very well.  I was very nervous about her starting a new school part way into the year, but she is doing wonderful.  She made friends easily, and is doing great academically.   I love that I’m able to walk her to and from school everyday.

We are back in Grandin Village, about two blocks from our old house.  We love being back in the neighborhood.  When I was pregnant and while Annelise was an infant on warm days I would have the windows open and could hear the children on the playground.  As I imagined school for her, Virginia Heights was always the school in my mind.  So while we aren’t in our little house any longer, I love that she’s at that school.  In the afternoons I stop to get coffee on the way to the school and then sit on the playground while she plays with her friends.  When we walk home, we peak in all the shop windows like we use to do when she was a baby.   I’m not sure if I’ll be able to afford to buy in this neighborhood and right now there isn’t a lot on the market, but I’m trying to be patient and hoping that just the right house becomes available.  We’d love to stay.

The other big event this fall was the start of Kindergarten.  Even though she has been in “school” since she was an infant, actually starting Kindergarten felt like a big deal.  I guess this is when it starts to count.

Ever since Annelise was a baby I’ve debated how I would handle school…  public school, private school, homeschool?  In the past year I really started to feel convicted about having her in public school and decided that she would go to whichever school we were zoned for no matter which school that is (I do have one exception though but hopefully it will never be an issue).  I feel very strongly about supporting our public schools and the best way to do that is to have her in one.

I was nervous about her starting in one school and then switching to another.  I kind of felt like she was getting robbed of a “normal” Kindergarten experience, but so far everything has worked out well.  She made the transition from one school to the other very well.

 

 

We had one big trip this fall.  We traveled to New York state to attend a retreat for SMC (Single Mothers by Choice) families at a YMCA camp.   Single Mother’s by Choice is a national organization and there are several organized groups throughout the country.  I’ve never lived in an area large enough to be active in one but in some of the larger cities the groups are quite large, meet regularly and plan activities together.  The Frost Valley trip is one of those activities that mainly New York SMCs have done for several years and others have joined in one.  I had heard about the trip in the past and it sounded interesting  but I never imagined it was something we could manage.  As the plans were being made last winter there was a message in one of the groups I’m in that there were two rooms left in one of the lodges.  I had just dropped my winter class so I had some extra funds so I decided why not? and made us a reservation.

As it came time for the retreat I almost cancelled.  We were in the middle of a move, I was dealing with a lot of stress, did I really want to drive over 12 hours to a camp in the middle of nowhere, where I wouldn’t know anyone, for a weekend?  I wavered on going several times, but in the end we went and I was so glad that we did.

Annelise and I have never been around another SMC family.  And being a SMC, I’m an outsider in most mommy groups.  I can’t really relate to moms who have partners, but I’m also not a traditional single mom.   I don’t have any baby daddy drama and we aren’t a single parent family due to loss.  And no matter what mommy group I’m in I have to keep complaining to a minimum, because there is always someone who wants to throw the fact that I chose this in my face.  I thought this would be a good opportunity for both of us, for once to be among a group of people where we were “normal.”   And while there were never any conversations about our shared unique status, it was nice to be among women who when they said “I know” you know that they actually do.  And that when Annelise was off playing with friends I didn’t have to worry if the “daddy” question would come up and how she would handle it.

We both had a great time, made some new friends and tried some new things.  I wasn’t sure what I expected, but there were daily activities for us to choose from.  We did arts and crafts, archery, canoeing, horse back riding, high ropes, made apple cider and took a hay ride.  On our last night we had a fire and made s’mores.  We crammed a lot into a weekend.

Before we left for Virginia we had one more visit to Lewis Farm Market for all the fun fall activities.

Once we got settled in Roanoke we got busy getting ready for Halloween.  I missed out on the trip to the pumpkin patch (had to work) but I know Annelise had a wonderful time with Kathy and Richard (the couple we’re staying with) and she picked out a pumpkin for each of us.  Annelise had a difficult time deciding on a costume this year but eventually settled on a lion, specifically Simba from Lion King.  She was very adamant that it have a red mane.  I bought all the material and pattern to make it, but when we found one at Target I convinced her to get it.  She said that it was okay that it’s mane wasn’t red, but I knew that was important to her so I scurried at the last minute and added red yarn to make it more like Simba.  I knew it was successful when we walked up to a house and the lady asked specifically if she was Simba.  I loved trick or treating in our neighborhood.  It felt like the way Halloween should be, lots of homes were decorated and it was easy to go from house to house.

We’ve enjoyed on extended Fall being here in Roanoke.  There were still many days in October and into November where the weather was warm enough to ride bikes and run around without jackets.  We’re developing new routines and traditions.  Every Sunday we go to Sweet Donkey for cinnamon rolls, and every Wednesday we have supper at the Community Inn.  When the weather cooperates we ride bikes and play at the park.  There are several parks within biking distance of where we are staying.  We are close enough to school that we walk everyday, although I’ve discovered that the bus stop is in front of our house.  The walks to and from school our my favorite, and on days I don’t have to work we stay late and play on the playground with her new friends.  When asked what she likes most about being back in Roanoke she says it’s being able to see John Henry.  We love being near our friends again.

 

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Our Last Pre-School Summer

While Annelise has been attending some form of “school” since she was 7 months old and we’ve always had a summer break, something felt different with Kindergarten looming at the end of this summer.  I think mostly it was just knowing that school starts to count now, and for the next 13 years our plans will be at the mercy of the public school system’s schedule.  Annelise is already starting to worry about what happens next year as she’ll most likely be attending a school that starts mid-August, and that will interfere with the County Fair.  I’ve told her that if it is that important to her I’ll take her out of school for a day or two to attend the fair (someday she’ll figure out that the Oceana County Fair is not that big a deal).

When I was a kid my summers were book-ended by the Asparagus Festival and the County Fair.  That’s basically been the case for Annelise.  We missed the Fair when she was an infant, but even when we were in Virginia our two summer trips back were during those times.  And while we’ve been living in Michigan they’ve continued to be the unofficial start and end to the summer.

I still had classes until the end of June, so our summer mostly consisted of July, and August.  Due to our many illnesses over the winter, I didn’t have any vacation time, so we were limited on trips we could take, but we made the best of it.

We took three trips, that were the highlights of our summer and then filled in the rest of the time with outings to the beach and the  park, bike rides, picnics, and hikes.  I worked really hard to get us out of the house as much as possible.  The thing I hate most about our current living situation is that we are on the upper level of an apartment building.  I know a slamming screen door is suppose to be an annoyance, but I would give just about anything to hear one as Annelise moves freely between the indoors and outdoors. She did get to spend quite a bit of time with my parents in Hart.  Typically she was there for at least two days a week while I was working and sleeping.  That at least got her out of our tiny apartment for a little bit each week.

Overall it was a wonderful summer and I think both of us are disappointed that it is coming to an end.  Annelise is excited to start school (she can’t wait to learn to read) and we’ll both be embarking on new adventures soon.

 Our Summer…

Asparagus Festival

The Asparagus Festival usually falls close to my birthday.  This year my birthday was mid week and due to work and class I didn’t even get to see Annelise on that day.  She spent the week in Hart and then I joined her for the weekend.  We celebrated my birthday with a bike ride to the Brown Bear via the rail trail, and then participated in all the usual Asparagus Festival activities, the craft fair, parade, and Fly In Breakfast.  We also enjoyed dinner and strawberry shortcake at Open Hearth.

 

Fourth of July

We had two opportunities to watch the fireworks.  Oceana County typically has three nights of fireworks.  In Hart on the second, Pentwater on the third, and Silver Lake on the fourth.  We went to both the Hart and Pentwater shows.  In Hart we rode our bikes to John Gurney Park.  This was Annelise’s first real night ride and she was very excited to use her lights.  We convinced Grandma and Grandpa to join us for the Pentwater fireworks on the beach, where Grandpa gave her a lesson on harbor lights.

 

Chicago

In the spring Annelise came to me and said that she didn’t think dinosaurs were real because she can’t find any fossils.  So I decided to take her somewhere to see fossils that have already been found.  Technically a trip to the Field Museum could have been done in a day, the train leaves Grand Rapids at 6 am, and the return train leaves Chicago at 6:30 pm.  But I figured that would be too long of a day for a five year old so we turned it into an overnight trip.

Everything about this trip fell together perfectly.  I ordered a couple of new books to surprise her with on the train including Dr. Scott’s (her paleontologist hero) “You can be a Paleontologist.”  Our hotel room turned out to be a suite the size of our apartment, the weather was perfect and the museum had a temporary exhibit called Jurassic World, which was basically Jurassic Park brought to life.

We had to get up early to catch the Amtrak train out of Grand Rapids.  I let Annelise sleep in her clothes so it would be easy to get her out of bed and ready to go.  I was hoping that maybe she’d fall asleep on the train but she didn’t.  We had breakfast on the train and then read stories (she was very excited about the new Dr. Scott book) and then she watched some videos while I knit.

I love travelling by train but I was a little nervous about this trip.  This was the first time I had gone anywhere with Annelise without our vehicle.  I felt a little insecure without having control direct control of our transportation and also limited by what we could carry in our suitcases.

Once we got to Chicago, everyone was extremely friendly and helpful as I relearned how to navigate the subway system (while hauling our luggage and trying to keep track of a preschooler).  My biggest fear was that we would somehow get separated and I fully prepared Annelise for how to get help if that happened.  But we did fine and arrived at our hotel without any problems.  By the end of the weekend we were public transportation pros.

We arrived in the morning but check in wasn’t until mid-afternoon.  I went to the hotel anticipating checking our luggage before heading out into the city, but when we got to the hotel they said our room was ready.  It was so nice to be able to unload, and relax for a bit.  And our “room” was incredible.  It included a kitchen, dining area, living room, separate bedroom, and bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub.

After getting settled we walked around the city, got lunch and did some basic site seeing.  We didn’t do a lot.  Annelise was very anxious to get back to the hotel so she could swim.

After we got back to the hotel we swam in the pool.  I fixed Annelise supper of mac and cheese in the room  and then ordered room service for myself.  We went to the pool one more time and then had popcorn in our room while watching the traffic below our window.  After Annelise went to bed, I finished off the leftovers from my gourmet meal, got a drink from the hotel bar, and soaked in the tub.  It was heavenly.

The next morning we headed to the Field Museum.   As soon as we arrived, Annelise headed straight toward Sue (a T-Rex Fossil).  While we were checking out Sue a museum volunteer approached us and asked Annelise if she would like to hold some fossils.  She gave her a couple of fossils and a magnifying glass to look at them.  This could have completed our trip.  Annelise was in awe of Sue and so excited to touch real fossils.  But of course there was more to see.  After visiting Sue we went to the Evolving World Exhibit (which included a lot of cast of dinosaur fossils).  And while that was only a small fraction of the museum that was all we saw.  She really wasn’t interested in seeing anything other than dinosaurs and fossils.  I figure there will be more trips in the future and we’ll eventually branch off into other exhibits, but for now I’d follow her interests.

The Jurassic World exhibit was pretty incredible (and a little terrifying for Annelise).  I think for a little bit she truly believed that they had brought dinosaurs back to life.  Thankfully I had brought her Boos and earphones.  The earphones blocked some of the stimulation and the Boos comforted her.  There was some clinging and maybe even a little fearful crying, but we made it through.  At the end they had several interactive activities that she enjoyed.

After Jurassic World we had a late lunch and then watched a 3D documentary on the discovery of Sue.  I wasn’t sure it would hold Annelise’s attention but she said it was her favorite part.  It chronicled the steps that where taken once Sue was found, it followed very closely and used the same terminology as her Dr. Scott book, “You can be a Paleontologist.”   After the movie we went back to see Sue again.  Annelise was very fascinated with her (and her head, which is kept separate).

Our train left Chicago at 6:30, so I made sure we had plenty of time to get back to the hotel, collect our bags and get to the train station.  I again thought she would sleep on the way home, but she stayed awake until about an hour before we pulled into our station.

Overall it was a wonderful trip, and even before we were home we were making plans to go back.  We going to add the aquarium next time.  Annelise has also decided that she wants to work at the Field Museum once she is a paleontologist.

Virginia/FloydFest

Our next trip was to Virginia for FloydFest.  My GPS gave me different directions than it usually does taking me south through Kalamazoo and then into Indiana (usually we go over to Ann Arbor and then down into Ohio).  At first I was going to just go with what we usually do, but then saw that would be fairly close to where my Grandparents use to live I decided to take a side trip and show Annelise the house my mom grew up in.  It also gave us an opportunity to visit my Grandparent and Great Grandparent’s graves.

I loved my Grandparents house and spent a lot of time there as a child.  I have so many fond memories of spending time there.  It was sold after my grandpa died, and I openly admit to stalking the new owners online.  They’ve totally redone it and it looks amazing.  I don’t think I want to see what it’s like inside.  In my mind it’s still the way it was when I would visit.

The last couple of years when we’d go back for FloydFest, we’d take extra time and spend about a week in Roanoke either before or after the Festival.  This year that didn’t happen.  Due to my lack of vacation time and commitments back in Michigan, we arrived the day before FloydFest and returned to Michigan straight from the festival.  So we had one day in Roanoke and that was it.  We had just about enough time to have coffee at our favorite coffee place, visit our favorite shops to update my fall wardrobe, visit the Star and have breakfast with a coworker.  Then it was off to FloydFest.

In all our years of going to FloydFest, I have never managed to take decent pictures.  I think it’s mainly because my phone which also functions as the camera spends most of its time off, or left in the tent.  I try to carry as little with me as possible, typically just my cup and some cash.

This year’s FloydFest was a little different.  It wasn’t roasting hot and it was rainy.  It always rains at some point, but this year it rained a lot and when it wasn’t raining it was colder than usual.  It was actually a nice break from the heat.  It seems like every year we’re just trying to find some relief.  It was nice to throw on a light jacket and feel comfortable.

This year the kids were also much more independent.  They could be trusted to play in Children’s Universe without direct parental supervision.  It was nice to be able to sit in the campsite and send them off to do their thing or to be able to go off by myself to get something or hear a band.  This was our fourth FloydFest.  I made the comment to Annelise that she’s been to almost every FloydFest since she was alive.  One morning we were walking back from the bathrooms and someone commented that it has been so nice watching the kids grow from year to year.

Upper Peninsula

Our last trip was to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  I camped in the UP when I was a kid, but haven’t been back in probably 20 years.  While we were living in Michigan there were several things I wanted to do with Annelise and one of them was a camping trip to the UP.  Since I didn’t have any vacation time, I shifted my schedule a little and we took a long weekend.  We had three days and I had three things planned for us to do.  We didn’t do any of them.  I again followed my daughter’s agenda. A laid back, no plans weekend was probably what I needed too.  Since we were so iffy on our plans I didn’t make any reservations and instead we just bought a map, picked a campground and headed that way.  We camped at the mouth of the Two Hearted River.  It was a rustic State Campground right on Lake Superior.  It was quite a ways out of the way, down dirt roads, and beyond cell coverage.  On the way up I really began to feel like we were in the middle of nowhere.  I had to drive through an area that had burned in 2012 and still looked pretty desolate.  The road was rough and at times I couldn’t go faster than 10 mph.  It felt like we were all alone, but when we got to the campground it was practically full.  Turns out its quite a popular spot.

We set up our campsite and that’s when we decided we were going to stay put instead of going out everyday.  The area was beautiful.  Annelise was immediately off on her bike.  There were several other families in the campground and it wasn’t too long before she found kids to play with.  There was a wide variety of campers.  A lot of them were there to ride ORVs on the trails in the area.  There were some solo campers that were hiking or kayaking in the area.  And some were just campers that came back year after year because they liked the area.

The first day we went back into town (an almost hour and a half trip) for a few supplies that we forgot.  On the way back we stopped at a Bear Ranch.  We had the opportunity to pet a bear cub and see the 40 bears that they have there.

We spent the rest of the time in and around the campground.  We rode bikes, hiked on the trails in the area, played on the beach, and collected rocks.  At night after supper we would play cards at the campsite until the sun would start to set.  Practically everyone in the campground would walk out to the beach to watch it.  Then Annelise and I would make s’mores, play a few more games before crawling into bed.  After reading to her, I’d usually slip back out of the tent and sit by the fire to do a little reading before turning in myself.  Our last night after it was dark I took her on a night hike.  We went back down to the beach and laid in the sand to look at the stars.  When I pointed out the big dipper, she exclaimed, “Wow, the big dipper is real!?!”  One afternoon we sat on the beach and watched a kayaker attempt to enter the mouth of the river from the lake.  This piqued Annelise’s interest in kayaking.  I didn’t make it happen on this trip, but next time we’re going to do some kayaking.  One of the things I had wanted to do was to see Pictured Rocks.  We would have had to do it from a ferry.  But since we didn’t make it, it’s still on our list of things to do, and maybe in a couple of years she’ll be able to do by kayak.

On our way home we stopped in Mackinaw City after crossing the bridge to stock up on fudge.  We had a picnic in the park near the Fort.  When I explained to her what it was she expressed an interest in seeing it.  We didn’t have time this trip, but I think in the next couple of years we may plan a Mackinaw vacation.

 

Those were our big vacation type trips.  The rest of our summer was filled with…

Dirt Dawgs

This was Annelise’s third summer riding with the Dirt Dawgs.  She moved up to the pedal group, which meant that I didn’t need to tag along on their rides.  Mondays became one of my favorite days of the week as she would ride with her team, I would ride by myself.  It was so nice to be back in the saddle again.

Annelise also had her first race on a pedal bike.  She wasn’t sure if she wanted to do it.  She’s not very competitive.  I told her that we were going to go and cheer on her teammates and if she decided to race she could.  She decided to race and did a great job.  She ended up finishing third.  She was so proud of herself.   She told me she was glad I signed her up and then she’d say, “Mom did you know I was the third fastest girl?”

Swimming Lessons

Annelise took swimming lessons through the YMCA this summer.  She is still in the most very introductory class.  She can float on her back, but still struggles to put her face in the water.  She’s signed up to take classes into the fall and I figure we’re going to keep doing it until she’s swimming independently.

 

Children’s Museums

We visited both the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and Sandcastles in Ludington.  I preferred Sandcastles, it seemed better organized and less chaotic.  But it was nice to have the option of either.  Whenever we went to Ludington we’d also go to the House of Flavors for lunch and when we were in GR we’d go to Buffalo Wild Wings.  I tried to save the museums for rainy days; fortunately we didn’t have too many of those.

Lewis Farm Market

The Farm Market is always one of our favorite summer activities.  This year we made a little goat friend.  He always seemed to be out and wondering free while we were there.  Of the all the goats there he was the only one to figure out how to escape.  Last year Annelise refused to go into the Aviary.  She didn’t like the birds.  But now that she knows that birds can be classified as dinosaurs she was very eager to go in and study them.

John Ball Zoo

There was a day at the zoo with cousins.

Beach Days

We had several beach days in Pentwater and at Kirk Park.  Annelise loved to play in the sand building castles and digging holes.

Parks and Picnics

This would definitely be the summer of picnics.  We hit up several parks, did some nature walks and took picnics every opportunity that we could.  I think one of the easiest ways for us to get outside was to ride our bikes to a park and have a picnic.  We discovered some new parks, one with some nature trails, and another with a splash pad.

County Fair

Annelise got an overdose of the Fair this year.  Typically we go on Children’s Day, but my work schedule got in the way again.  I took her on Entry Day for a preview.  She went with her aunts and cousins on children’s day while I was working and sleeping.  And then on Saturday I took her.  Since it was just the two of us I needed to go on the rides with her.  Thankfully she told me that Aunt Charity had taken her on the Ferris wheel the day before because she knew it scared me.  Repeats on the Tilt-a-whirl did a number on me and I suddenly felt very old.  She won another fish to go with the two she won last year.  We toured the barn several times. She was very into the animals this year and got attached to a particular calf named Chomper.

 

Tomorrow she starts Kindergarten.  We’ve spent the last official weekend of summer being lazy and just hanging around the apartment getting ready for school.  I had contemplated one more camping trip but I think we both needed some down time.  There’s barely a break before fall activities start up.  Dance begins this week, and swim lessons will resume next week.  Our next adventure will be a trip to a YMCA camp in New York to meet up with other SMC families.  We are very excited about it.  In addition to connecting with other families like ours, I’ll get to meet some friends that I’ve known for years, but never met in person, and the Catskills in early fall should be beautiful.

Two Years in…

Although our Michigan anniversary date is in June, it doesn’t feel like we’ve marked a year and started a new one until after our annual trip to FloydFest.

I’ve struggled with what to say about the past year.  It was difficult, but in a different way than our first year.  While our first year was marked mostly with being depressed and missing our life in Virginia, this past year was filled with anxiety.   I had to adjust my plans for school several times.  I completely wiped out our saving and had to return to work full time, while also keeping another part time job to make ends meet.   It felt like every time I made a plan, something would come up to block or delay it.  At some point during the year it also sank in that I’m in this alone.  There is never going to be a second income, or another retirement account.   The decisions I make about school and therefore my career and future earning potential suddenly felt very heavy.  And all this was playing out against the backdrop of the current state of our country.  Throughout the year the anxiety attacks got progressively worse, until I had one in April that was particularly crippling.  I’m now on an antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication.

And because whatever forces are directing my life have a sick sense of humor, just when I thought we had settled into a course of action things are changing again and there are more decisions to make that will affect our future.  I hate making decisions.  I always feel like I make the wrong one.  Two and a half years ago I made the decision to move back to Michigan.  At the time it felt like the right decision.  There are many times this past year when I have regretted it.  I’ve tried to just accept it for what it is.  I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the time and that’s all I can do with the decisions I still have to make.

So as we’re facing another year which could involve a lot of changes or none at all, here’s a pictorial review of what Annelise did during the past year.

June…

July…

August…

September…

October…

November…

December…

January…

February…

March…

April…

May…

June…

July…

More of this please…

Monday night I got a full night of sleep and woke up Tuesday feeling fully rested which is rare.  We had a nice breakfast and then it was off to swimming lessons.  Annelise’s swimming lessons are at the Downtown YMCA.  She calls it the big city Y.   We typically go to a smaller one closer to our apartment.  Every week after her lesson she asks me to give her a tour.  She likes to walk up to all the different levels and have me tell her about when I use to work out there (a decade ago when I was training and racing).  We peek into the cycling and yoga studios and I tell her about the classes I took.   We always go up to the courts to see if anyone is playing basketball and then over to the track to look out the windows to see the “big city.”

After our tour we headed home.  I packed us a lunch and then we rode our bikes to the park.  We spent the rest of the morning playing soccer and frisbee.  We had a great picnic and then she played on the playground.  After school got out in the spring we had a hard time keeping her 7 pm bedtime, so I gave her a choice, keep the early bedtime or stay up later and take a nap.  Surprisingly she chose a nap.  So after our picnic in the park we rode home and took our usual afternoon nap.  I love our daily nap.

After our nap Annelise played Legos in the livingroom while I worked in the kitchen.  Now that I’m done with my class and don’t need her to be entertained while I study we’ve tried to cut back on TV time.  Tuesdays are now TV free Tuesday.  While she was playing I cleaned up the kitchen.  The house is a mess after being focused on school for the last couple of months and we established a plan to thoroughly clean one room a day until the apartment was back to normal again.  Tuesday was the kitchen.

Later we took Kikapu out for her afternoon walk.  Typically I just take her out and let her go, but since we were having a laid back day Annelise went with me and we took a walk through the complex and around the neighborhood.  She took her scooter and rode ahead of us.  She is getting more confident with her scooting ability, and got a little reckless resulting in a crash.  I could see it happen before it did.  I almost called out to her to be careful, but didn’t.  I don’t know if that was a bad parenting decision or not.  I did the same thing right before she crashed her bike a couple of weeks ago.  I had a sense of what was about to happen but rather than warn her I remained quiet.   I know I can tend to be overprotective and I think sometimes she needs less “honey please be careful” and more encouragement to push her limits and be adventurous.  Well, it resulted in a skinned knee.

After deciding that the injury was severe enough to warrant a Paw Patrol band aid, she crawled into my lap for a little comfort.  I know the days of her being able to fit in my lap and wanting to be there are limited so I’m trying to take full advantage of the times she wants to cuddle.  As I sat on the bathroom floor rocking her back and forth I told her about all the times I rocked her as a baby.  How I would feed her and then rock her in the rocking chair until she fell asleep and then just hold her while she slept and then after she’d wake up we’d just sit and rock all day.  (Seriously, that’s how I spent my maternity leave.  Sometimes if the weather was nice I’d put her in a carrier and we’d take a walk, but basically I held her the entire time.)  And then she asked if I’d rock her in the rocking chair again.  I couldn’t remember the last time we’d rocked in our rocking chair.  So we went into the living room and we rocked.  She asked if I’d read to her.  And that’s how we spent the rest of the afternoon; rocking in the rocking chair and reading all her favorite books.

I fixed us supper and because I had the night off from work and there wasn’t anywhere we needed to be I could take my time and actually fix something instead of just assembling what I could in hurry.  I was feeling so laid back I opened a bottle of wine and enjoyed a glass while I was cooking and a glass with supper.

After supper Annelise went back to playing on her own while I cleaned up the kitchen.  I had time to actually clean up and put things away properly instead of just stacking the dishes in the sink to be gotten to when I had a chance.  And then we got out the puzzles and games.  We spent the evening putting together a puzzle and then playing games.  We popped popcorn and drank orange pop.

At bedtime, we read a couple of more stories and then Annelise went to sleep and for the first time in probably two years I picked up a book that wasn’t a textbook (trying to stick to our no TV policy).  I read for a little bit, took Kikapu out one last time and then went to bed at a decent hour.

I want everyday to be like this.  I know it can’t.  I have to work and for the time being I have to also squeeze in school.  I shifted my schedule for the summer so that hopefully we can have at least one of these days a week.  Days when I’m there both when she wakes up and when she goes to bed and when there isn’t anything we have to do in between.  Days we can just enjoy being together.  Kindergarten is on the horizon.  She’s been in “school” since she was seven months old, but sending her off to Kindergarten feels different and I have a lot of anxiety about it.

And while these days of nothing are peaceful, they also mess with me psychologically.  It actually takes a lot of effort for me to do nothing.  In part because I am a workaholic (I come from a long line of workaholics), but also because I’m use to being stressed and feeling rushed and busy.  When that pressure and hurriedness isn’t there I feel a sense of anxiety and panic.  I’m pretty sure that some of the chaos of my life is of my own creation in an attempt to create an atmosphere in which I feel comfortable.  I really do love these days of doing nothing but with them comes a certain level of anxiety because it is out of my comfort zone.  I’m working on it, maybe with enough practice I’ll get good at being lazy.

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Not My Holiday

It was Father’s Day today and along with all the well wishes and tributes to fathers there were several shout outs to single moms doing the job of two parents.  There were also several single moms sharing how they are celebrating being both mom and dad.  And while I appreciate the sentiment behind the well wishes, and shortly after Annelise was born I think I did refer to it as Mother’s Day the Sequel, there is no need to wish me a Happy Father’s Day.  My views on the day and how I approach parenting have evolved as I get a better understanding of what it means to raise Annelise without a dad.

I am not her dad and I am not doing the work of two parents.  I have been clear from the beginning that Annelise does not have a dad, biological or otherwise.  The person contributing her other 23 chromosomes is a donor, that is all.  Her dad is not absent, and I’m not picking up the slack his absence creates.  I’m her mother and everything I do for her is because I am her mother.  Our family is complete the way it is.  To claim this holiday for myself or take credit for doing a dad’s job is sending the message that just a mom is not enough and that our family is missing someone.

This is not to say that dads aren’t important.  If you are a dad, you are important to your children.  If you have a dad, whether present or absent, they have an impact on you.  We became a single parent family not because of a break up or abandonment, but because I chose to become a mother.  There was no loss for Annelise.  I don’t need to step up and fill in for the person who left.  I just need to be the best mom I can be.

Annelise is doing just fine without a father.   She somehow thinks she chose this and told me that having just a mom is a dream come true.  She also thinks that I didn’t get married specifically so that it could be just me and her.  I’ve always been open with her and we talk about our unique family situation and that I used a donor.  We have occasionally talked about the possibility that I might date and marry someday.   She’s not too keen on the idea and is very skeptical of any men I introduce to her.  When I’ve asked her how she feels about it she’ll say, “maybe someday, but not for right not.”  I don’t know if that will ever happen, but I do know that if she ever calls someone “dad” it will be because she is choosing to recognize that person as a father.

I know there are a lot of single moms who didn’t choose this path and they may choose to celebrate their extra effort on Father’s Day.  But for us, on Father’s Day, Annelise will celebrate her Grandpa and that is all.  I’ve got Mother’s Day, that’s enough for me.

 

 

The Winter that Wasn’t

Now that we are at the unofficial start of summer, I suppose it’s time to sum up our winter.  It didn’t exactly go as planned.  In bracing our attitude to make the best of our time here in Michigan I had planned to take full advantage of a Michigan winter.  Unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t cooperate.  We also took a hit health wise.

I had planned for a lot of playing in the snow, and we were off to a good start with a white Christmas, but it didn’t last beyond that.  Some of the things I had planned were skiing, sledding, and ice skating.  I’d also planned an overnight “camping” trip to a state park to stay in a yurt and a trip to Great Wolf Lodge.  The mild winter prohibited the winter sporting events and an extended illness for both Annelise and I cancelled our trips.

For Christmas I gave Annelise ski lessons along with all the necessary paraphernalia minus the actual skis.  Skis were provided with the lessons and if they had gone well I would have looked into getting a pair for her.  She was suppose to have five lessons.  It rained on four of the lesson days cancelling them.  They were able to give one make up lesson but that was it.  The two lessons she did have went very well, so we’ll plan to do it again next year.  I unfortunately didn’t get any skiing in.  I had hoped we could have had a couple of ski weekends but that didn’t happen.  Expense did factor into that.  At this point she could probably only handle being out there for an hour or two at a time, and the one or two days we could have gone I just couldn’t justify the expense of passes and ski rentals for both of us for that short of time period.  Next year she’ll have a season pass provided by the Dirt Dawgs so maybe if I get one for myself and we can find some inexpensive used skis we’ll get some more skiing in.  I had also hoped to get some cross country skiing in, but it seemed that any day that would have been a good day for me to go, she was home sick from school, so that didn’t happen.

Being sick was a common theme of the winter.  She came down with a fever on February 1st and it wasn’t until nearly the end of March that she was back to full health.  I try not to be a “run to the doctor asking for antibiotics for every little sniffle” type mom, but we did eventually end up there and she needed a course of antibiotics for a ruptured eardrum.  She missed a lot of school..  It seemed to be this endless cycle of fever, recovery and then fever again before she could even get back to class.  Her pediatrician said that we weren’t the only ones struggling with this.  She had several parents who were convinced their kids had autoimmune diseases because they just couldn’t shake the fever and respiratory infection cycle.  And of course whatever she gets I get.  For most of February and March I struggled with a low fever and fatigue.  I burned through all of my time off from work, which will make our summer plans difficult (right now I’m working on some creative scheduling so that we can still do everything we had planned to do).

By the time we were feeling like ourselves again the winter was over and it was time to move on to spring.  The one thing we did do over the winter was get a membership to our local YMCA.  I initially signed her up for a membership so that she could get a discount on classes.  Both her dance classes and ski classes were through them and we are also planning on swim lessons this summer.  I added a membership for myself in hopes that I would be motivated to workout while she was in dance class.  That happened a couple of times, but mostly we used our membership to access the pool.  We got into a routine of going swimming on Sunday afternoon and then picking up bread sticks on the way home.

Annelise continued with dance throughout the winter.  I really wan’t sure how she would like dance lessons but she has loved it.  I’m glad we went with lessons at the YMCA instead of a dance studio.  They seemed to be more laid back than what I’ve seen from the studios.  I personally loved watching her go into class excited, laughing and joking with her instructor and classmates.  Those wrapped up last weekend, well take a break for the summer and then hopefully more dancing in the fall.

Now that our winter is over and we’re well on our way to summer, we have other adventures planned.  We’ve started to put together our summer bucket list.  The first part of the summer I’m in class, then I’ll have two months off from school.  During that time we’ll hopefully be moving and getting settled before Annelise starts Kindergarten in the fall.

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Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo 2010, one of those days that stands out in my memory.  I had signed up to receive daily messages from “the Universe” via email.  Just fun little daily affirmations.  That morning I had received my first one.  It said, “Never compromise a dream.  Always compromise how it will come true.”

I had started contemplating becoming a mother on my own shortly after I turned 30.  Initially I had looked at adoption.  But since I hadn’t quite given up on finding Mr. Right I put it off until December of 2009 when I guess you could say my biological clock started ticking so loud I couldn’t hear anything else.

By May of 2010 I was still just thinking about it.  I had started talking about it a little bit with friends; putting the idea out there to see what kind of response I got.

May 5, 2010 wasn’t all that unusual of a day.  It was of course Cinco de Mayo.  I got my message from the Universe that morning.  I spent part of the day riding at Carvin’s Cove.  Met my friend Rob and some of his coworkers for margaritas at El Toreo on the way home.  Went home, showered, changed and then met him and other friends down at Table 50 for more Cinco de Mayo fun.  Then the lightweights went home and Beth, Dave and I went back to the Waterheater where we fried fish and drank bourbon until the wee hours of the morning.

Maybe it was the combination of the Universe’s message and alcohol, or just the courage that good friends give you, but for whatever reason I woke up the next day and decided I was going to do.  I called my doctor, made an appointment and got the ball rolling on what would be my journey toward motherhood.

Three days later I started blogging at “It’s Definitely Possible.”  Anonymously at first, but then later I became more open and invited friends and family to also follow along.

Initially the blog was a way to record my thoughts and document my journey.  It eventually turned into a way to connect with other women who were on similar journeys.  In the early days of trying to get pregnant, being pregnant and then adapting to living as a Single Mom by Choice the blog was my lifeline.

Fifty people read my first post there.  It peaked at over a thousand readers a day, which was somewhat intimidating and one of the reasons I eventually shut it down.

Sometimes I miss that blog.  I haven’t found my grove here.  I know that’s partially because I’m more reserved with what I say here.  The relationships I developed with other bloggers have moved into other spaces, so the confessions and intimate details get shared in safer places.  I link this space to Facebook, so now when I write I have to run through the impact and consequences my words will have on my real life relationships.  Venting is kept at a minimum.  And lets face it, venting is the best type of blogging.  Conflict makes for good content.  Day to day life is kind of boring.

So I’ve been a slacker when it comes to blogging.  After Oberon died, I was reminded that there were other reasons I blog, it’s not just about venting my frustrations, and I vowed to do better in 2017.  Yeah… that hasn’t gone so well.  I’ve actually written more than I’ve publish.  Often I’ll start writing, and then decided there really isn’t any reason for anyone to read it other than myself and someday Annelise, so I’ll save it in draft mode and never publish.  It feels somewhat arrogant to think anyone would care what I have to say, especially since I’m not particularly elegant with my words.  But I still find myself visiting my blog list and hoping my blogger friends will post something new.  While some of them are excellent writers, most are like myself just average people sharing their experiences.  And so I’m going to try to do better, because maybe there is someone out there who still connects with what I have to say.  Unfortunately, writing about parenting and going back to school aren’t as exciting as writing about trying to knock myself up.

 

Today while I was looking back through the posts on “It’s Definitely Possible”, I actually found one titled “Cinco de Mayo.”  It was May 5, 2011, a year after I started the blog and my attempt to become a mother.

Cinco de Mayo 2011.  I went out with friends.  Two of them were pregnant.  I had made it known that I was trying, so there were conversations about that.  I was about a week into my third and final cycle.  I was having horrible side effects from the Clomid and had already decided that I wan’t going to use it again in subsequent cycles.  I was also injecting myself with Bravelle without telling my doctor.  Not a the full dosage, just what I had left over from the previous cycle when I did injectibles.  I knew that if this cycle failed it would be months before I could try again.  Within a week after Cinco de Mayo I was pregnant.

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Cinco de Mayo 2012.  Annelise was a baby.   I left her alone on the floor for a couple of minutes while I let the dogs out and come back to find that she had rolled over for the first time and I had missed it.

Cinco de Mayo 2017.  I worked the night before.  Slept all day while Annelise watched cartoons and colored and then went back to work.

Wow, my life has become boring.