In Which We Travel To NoVA So The Kiddos Can Make Themselves Dizzy

I took gymnastics for one horrifying month many years ago. I think I felt like the only kid on the whole planet who couldn’t do a cartwheel and I was hoping gymnastics would fix that. (That I imagined Modesto was somehow representative of “the planet” was the mother of all cognitive distortions.) Anyway, I have always hated being upside down. Gymnastics was not going to fix that, so here I am decades later, never having figured out cartwheels or ever having started astronaut training.

But my kids love gymnastics! They have been doing a Sunday night Special Olympics class for years, gently guided by enthusiastic college students. Whether Maria would by now be able to deal with a neurotypical class is not the point, although I have fretted about it on this blog before. (And if I thought her destiny lay in that direction, we would make different decisions, but, I can assure you, it does not not.)

Anyway, the meet was yesterday up in the ‘burbs of D.C., so off we went. Maria did great, as always, and she will not hesitate to tell you that.

And Tom also did great, but that’s an understatement.

Not part of the competition, but the boy is a very good flipper.

There was a lot of goofing off and snuggling with friends (Maria) and Daddy (Tom).

Sometimes I get mad at Jeff for being “Fun Daddy,” but when I really, really need him to be fun, he always comes though.

The hugeness of Tom’s participation in this competition cannot be overstated. Last year, in the thick of his crises, he had to drop out of the practices because he got so upset, over and over. That he not only finished this year but also did the whole competition (minus the awards, and seriously, it lasted HOURS), despite being visibly nervous and clingy (I have not been so snuggled in years. It was kind of nice!), is proof that he came back in spades. It was a big, great day for him.

Maria's Milestones

Maria is nine years old!

“The days are long but the years are short” is the best summation of parenting I’ve heard. She’s half way to (ostensible) adulthood, people! On Monday I found myself trying to visualize those next nine years, and for the first time, I felt like I have enough data to predict that course of her life and our lives within a few degrees of accuracy. We know what middle and high school she’ll go to. We know approximately what her teenage rituals will be and where they’ll take place. She may learn to drive a car we currently own. That’s weird, right? I mean, shit happens, etc., but in all likelihood, we can tell where this story is going.

So her birthday was on a school day, and she wanted a pink bean bag chair, and a trip to Great Wolf Lodge, and an oreo ice cream cake from Donut on a Stick and these things were easy to arrange.

The birthday hat! And a handmade card from Val, ALL THE WAY FROM ENGLAND.
ChikfilA lunch. Birthday shirt by Grandparents Niehaus!
The pre-musical candle cake.

Grandma managed to find this crazy candle that lights up and spins, and, well, just watch the video:

Maria has a close friend who has the same birthday. It’s fun being a little girl with a birthday twin. She joined us at Great Wolf Lodge.

Climbing stuff he shouldn’t climb is one of his life’s greatest pleasures.

I made them go to school the day after Great Wolf Lodge because I AM THE MEANEST MOM EVER, yes! My t-shirt is currently being made.

(Seriously, though, my first impression of the Lodge was negative, and I have been proven mostly right. Yeah, the kids love it, but it’s loud, expensive, and a bit like swimming around in a warm, bacterial soup. I will not weep when they’ve decided they’re done with this place.)

So, there we go. She has a light post-birthday funk, just in time for her first SOLs, ha!


Some Lies Are Sweeter Than Others

Maria has lost two teeth in two weeks, so there has been renewed interest in the Tooth Fairy. Maria is in a hazy area of childhood where she doesn’t really believe but does very much like all the benefits that come with believing. In preparation for TF, she made a “Tooth Fairy Rest Area” in her room, because, hey, collecting teeth is work.

This is a lounge area for the Tooth Fairy.

To compound all the drama that goes with tooth losing, she lost her second tooth at school and then LOST the tooth AT SCHOOL, which resulted in many tears. Her teacher sent home a note, attesting that no, she really did lose a tooth, and there were many witnesses!

However, friends were worried, so this appeared for her at school:

Maria: “Why would my friends lie about being the Tooth Fairy?”

Me: “Is it possible that they were worried about you and wanted to make sure you were ok?”

Maria has an Absolute Truth At All Times policy, which can be very, very problematic, and we are working on that.

Case in point, yesterday her brother was upset and I reassured him that we all love him, and Maria said, “Yeah. But sometimes I kinda hate him, too.”


Spring Break, proper

So, in some kind of delusional or possibly fugue state, I decided to take the kiddos to Baltimore for a couple of days during spring break, without Jeff. I had a lot of anxiety about how spring break would go if I didn’t have activities planned and it was just the three of us trying to amuse ourselves for a week at home. It went mostly okay, however. There was that short period on I-495 when Maria’s iPad died and she decided the only thing that could save her from the despair of boredom was to annoy the hell out of her brother by staring at him (right out of the classic sibling playbook), but really, on the whole, it could have gone a lot worse.

Two things saved us on this break. One, the boy is seriously into mazes right now and I found a game where you can make you own mazes. It’s always hit or miss with this crap but he actually loved it.

A sample. He made many, many mazes. The little pieces are magnetic.

The second thing was that Maria and I found a (free!) app where kids can make their own animations, and she made at least a dozen. You don’t even need wifi for it, so she could do it in the car.

She’s still working on the whole “content “thing.

On the way to Baltimore we stopped at Clemyjontri playground. I knew it was supposed to be a super inclusive playground, but I didn’t fully grasp what that meant until I saw that it has a series of pretend roads for kids in wheel chairs.

However, the signs are clear that the pretend road is definitely intended for kids in wheelchairs, NOT kids on scooters. Fortunately, we were the only kids there for a good forty five minutes, so we broke the rules, super hard.

Did I mention there was also a maze (for wheelchairs NOT scooters)?

I mean, it’s the best illegal scootering playground ever.

Eventually we got back on the non-pretend road and made it to Baltimore and the kids swam and ate pizza.

Maria made a new friend every time she went swimming. It’s kind of becoming her thing these days.

The next day we went to the B&O Railroad Museum, which was a most excellent train museum. You know how lots of museums have trains that you’re not allowed to go on or touch? This was NOT one of those.

The caboose was their favorite. They spent a good twenty minutes locking each other in a caboose closet and pretending it was jail.
It’s a model train set in a train car! Mind blown!

After the museum it was touch and go, but there was a another playground, some ice cream, more swimming, and eventually all three of us falling into unconsciousness at nine pm.

The next day we went to the Climbzone, which was practically empty, because, woohoo, it wasn’t spring break in Maryland!

We headed home after and got back Thursday evening. By Friday evening the natives were restless. Here was Maria’s face on Saturday:

On Sunday we went to the Kroc center in Norfolk, which we have a bunch of free passes for because something horrible has gone wrong with the pool nearly every time we’ve been there. Fun was had, but the bickering about who got to go down the waterslide began about 35 minutes in. At this point it was pretty obvious everyone needed to be back in school.

That was it! Did I survive a trip without Jeff? Yes I did! Would I make it a regular occurrence? Eh. I think he should feel pretty secure in his husband/dad job.