Thursday, October 23, 2014

Conversations with CNC

I know you probably come here for adorable stories about my children.  I know it's also probably a mistake to let you into my warped mind.  I'm going to throw all that out the window for today's "Conversations with CNC."  For the record, we apparently think we are hysterical.

This all started when CNC forwarded me an email titled "Georgia Aquarium Beliga Pregnancy Announcement".

CNC:  while you get panda pregnancy updates, I get Beluga whale updates.

Me:  2 things.  When I saw the title, I was like "caviar??  Why do we care about Beluga caviar?"  So, if I understand this correctly, the boy Beluga did his job, got her knocked up and then got to go on a vacation where he won't have to help worth the baby?????  What...the...February???"
[Editor's note for context:  the male Beluga got moved to a different aquarium.]

CNC:  well, they're not SEAHORSES, K.  Also, I don't know what kind of participatory parenting is going on in a Beluga whale tank anyway.

Me:  all's I'm sayin' is I don't know what's worse:  a deadbeat whale dad or a slutty panda.

CNC:  Maybe THEY should get together.

Me:  no, because with a deadbeat dad and a slutty mother, the child gets abandoned and the bit becomes the responsibility of the American public to raise and support the child through welfare programs.  Wait...isn't that what a zoo IS??



Sunday, June 22, 2014

KIC's first pony (show)

For some time, KIC has had the extreme privilege of dabbling in horseback riding.  I say dabbling, because we have truly been all over the place.  Her first real horseback ride came in the zillion degree heat on a horse affectionately named Hector Prince of Troy, courtesy of our wonderful friend Sarah.  It seemed as though KIC was a natural on horseback, so we've gone here and there, to and fro in search of the pursuit of equitation.  I say we, but really I mean NannyK, with me on the sidelines fretting and cheering, simultaneously.  I think I'm worn out more than KIC after a lesson and I'm now starting to get an understanding of why NannyK left!

Last week, KIC was able to attend a half day horse camp.  I found a great deal through our county recreation sign ups with the thought that this would be the catalyst we needed to go one way or the other - either she liked horses and wanted to continue to ride, or she liked them as the beautiful creatures that they are and didn't really need to ride them.  Only one of those outcomes would have terrifying consequences and I was pretty sure we were going to be safe after horse camp.

Except...KIC loved every minute of horse camp.  While it's true that she didn't always follow the pack during farm tours (horse jumps are fun for humans too, right??), apparently her equitation skills were impressive.  My usually close mouthed child told me that the instructors told her that her posting (the up and down motion) during the trot was awesome and that she was a "pro".  She never volunteers this information.  I started to think there may be something to this horse stuff for her.

On the last day of horse camp, I posted a picture of her on Facebook.  A friend of mine, having followed our journey closely, shocked me to the core when she offered to let KIC ride her solid as a rock pony in a local horse show.  After a brief consultation with KIC that ended with her dancing around the house, I jumped at the chance to let her ride in a show.  THIS!  This would be make or break.  If she couldn't keep it together during a show, then it was time to let go of the equitation thing altogether. 

We showed up to work with my friend Carla at her barn with her gorgeous pony, Gunnar.  According to Carla, Gunnar had a bad morning in dressage that morning, but none of that showed when he was with KIC.  KIC went through the motions of grooming like a pro, all the while learning everything Carla was teaching her in advance of quiz questions from the judges.

I'm going to take a side note here to say, I am not the best sideline mom.  I make vows to do better, but each time, I get frustrated with inattention on KIC's part and all my good intentions go out the window.  Carla kicked my butt in the best possible way when she told me to shut up after correcting KIC on her jumper form.  It has definitely helped me to see that my sideline hovering isn't always as helpful as I thought and if the experts are fine with it, then I gotta go with the flow.

After I stepped back into just MOM, I began to see some amazing things.  KIC knew most of what Carla was reinforcing with regards to form.  She knew "jump" position, something I had never seen before.  She was beyond confident in the saddle and was listening to Carla - something she could do easily without me in her head.  Her focus was phenomenal and she was in the zone.  Who was this kid?

The next morning, we showed up to Carla's not really sure what to expect from the day.  We loaded up into Carla's truck and headed to this totally nondescript arena.  My nerves were all over the place, but I shouldn't have been concerned.  Carla, with her many years of experience, had this, and more importantly, KIC did too.  In a big bad way.

I registered KIC and got her rider number.  392 would be indelibly burned in my brain that day and my ears would strain to hear her number after each of the three classes she was registered in closed.  In the time that it took for me to register KIC, Carla was able to complete the transformation from unsure little girl, to confident young lady.

KIC registered for three classes:  100% rider (where she would be the only one judged), 50% rider/50% horse (where she and Gunnar would be judged equally) and 100% horse (where only Gunnar would be judged).  They would be walked around the ring on a lead line by Carla whose unflagging energy only added to KIC's calm and comfort.  I repeat, who was this girl?

It would not be a runaway class.  There was another little girl in the class with KIC.  I'm sure they did well, but my eyes were only on the Black and White, 14 hand Welsh X pony and his rider.  When the first class, 100% rider was complete, I was disappointed when the number 1 rider was announced - 192.  Wait, 192 - Kaitlyn Shoup??  Did she just win a blue ribbon?????  HOLY CRAP!  Cooler heads prevailed, as well as the fear of another correction from Carla, so I didn't not do cartwheels ringside.  But wait, there's more??  They ride again??  KIC would go on to take blue ribbons in the next two classes as well, giving her "Class Champion" for the day.  I don't think I've ever seen her grin so wide.

June 22, 2014 Lead Line Class Champion
Kaitlyn Shoup riding Artwork, aka Gunnar
Owned by the incomparable Carla Rollins

Honestly, have you ever seen a kid who belonged on a horse more???  And truly, have you ever seen a more attractive horse?  And his owner is no slouch either!

I think that in four years, if you were to ask KIC what one of her favorite days ever was, she will list the birth of her brother first with her first pony show being a close second.  Carla has very generously offered to let KIC ride Gunnar again this show season and KIC has excitedly told anyone who will listen how much she wants to ride again, so I hope we can make it happen.  But if not, the fact that a shy little girl was given such an amazing opportunity to learn and to SHINE, thanks to so many people, will ALWAYS be my favorite memory.

Monday, April 28, 2014

We're hiring!! Maybe

Almost two years ago, to the day, I turned to Brent and told him we were hiring a nanny for the summer.  I was concerned about KIC's penchant for blending in with the class and not really participating and wanted her to have some one on one time.  I was also very cognizant of the fact that soon, she would be starting school with days not quite so carefree and wanted to give her the summer of her young life.  Bless my husband, he went with the flow.  Once we talked about it, he felt the same way I did and was willing to at least entertain having a nanny, if only for the summer.  We could do ANYTHING temporarily.

Enter NannyK.  We were looking for a nanny around the time she was available for hire.  One might call it kismet.  Any time you bring someone new playing a critical role in the life of your child, there is some anxiety and tension, but I just knew we were doing the right thing for KIC and felt more comfortable about KIC's care than I had in a long time.  We all entered into the arrangement with the agreement that it would be for the summer only.  However, I knew pretty soon into the arrangement that she would be the best teacher for KIC in that period of her life.  As KIC began to warm up to the arrangement, NannyK felt comfortable agreeing to stay on long term.

NannyK has been with us the past two years and the transformation in KIC has been a sight to behold.  Where she was withdrawn and shy around new people, she can confidently interact with folks she doesn't know.  The amount of things she has learned from NannyK has been awe inspiring and we have found a learning style that works really well for KIC, thanks to NannyK.  KIC has someone to be silly with, to be creative with and to dance around the kitchen singing "Frozen" songs with.  The bond the two of them now have is something beyond my wildest imagination and something I know KIC cherishes.

While I hoped for, and really, expected, growth in KIC due to this wonderful opportunity, I had no expectations beyond that.  The past two years, NannyK has been invaluable in the lives of B and I as well.  During kitten season, I know I can count on NannyK to check on the kittens - that is, when she isn't bringing me pregnant teenage moms.  She has been a source of comfort during hard times, a dynamo in crunch times and just a good friend.  I have, quite unexpectedly, broadened my own horizons.  I say regularly that we are lucky to have NannyK and I mean it.  She came into our lives when we had no idea how much we needed her and has wormed her way into our family.  At this point, we couldn't get rid of her if we tried!  Not that we ever want to.

NannyK has done a very unspeakable thing:  she has gone and got herself the (almost) perfect job in her field of choice.  Her departure is extremely bittersweet and we will all miss her terribly.  I might have thrown a couple of private, okay, public too, tantrums in the days leading up to her departure. 

With this news, comes some big decisions.  We are currently deciding if we want to go back to the day care route or hire another nanny.  I know that no matter what I choose, it will cannot possibly compare to our time with NannyK.  KIC has already told me this, though not in so many words.  More like eye rolls and sighs.  So much for having some time until teenagehood!  Pray for me! 

We wish all the best for NannyK and appreciate having her in our lives the past two years.  We will miss her terribly but know that she'll always have a place in our home and our hearts.  Thank you, NannyK.  You rock our socks!

Monday, March 3, 2014

"I don't get why she's special"

In October, I talked about our struggles with Sunshine's health.  Since August, Sunshine has had pneumonia every month.  We can almost set our calendars to when she gets it.  On top of her diabetes, arthritis and compressed disc diagnoses, she has recently been diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis.  This condition makes her more prone to pneumonia, but, ironically, the treatment for it would me she would get pneumonia three times as much.  Not sure how that works, but it definitely provides muscle behind the argument that not every surgery is a good surgery.  Some pneumonia episodes have been more advanced than others and our vet has seen my ugly cry more times than I am comfortable with, but every single time she bounces back.

The battle with her immune system has taken a toll on her compressed discs.  The movement in her back feet has degenerated to the point that she no longer fixes her positions on her own as she is unaware that there is a problem until she loses her balance.  The cart we got in September has been a tremendous help for every one, obviously, most especially Sunshine.  Her doggie grin as we walk around the block makes my heart smile every time!

On a recent walk, a little boy on the cranky neighbor side came up and asked if he could pet Sushine and Noelle.  He said that he recognized Sunshine from when she used to go to the bus stop.  He said that his dog didn't need a cart and when I told him Sunshine needed a cart because she was special, he said, in the honest way of children "I don't get why she's special."  I asked him how many dogs he had seen using carts and when he replied none, I said "That's why she's special.  Not many other dogs could sport a piece of equipment this impressive."

By now, I'm used to the curious looks and pitying looks.  I think that people think we are prolonging her life unnecessarily.  You need only to visit us to see how much life she still has in her to know that she will most assuredly let us know when she is ready.  But, as always, I began to draw parallels to folks with special needs.  We call them special needs to be kind, or PC, but how many people think to themselves "I don't get why they're special?"  How many people are still using "retarded" to describe some friend's antics (btw, if you ARE still using "retarded" at all, Google why you shouldn't.  When you use "retarded" to describe something or someone, you aren't actually insulting the person you are talking about, you're insulting a person with special needs.  The more you know...) 

We're all special in our own way, but those who are working so hard to overcome the physical and developmental challenges life has placed in their way are "extra special".  Shouldn't we do more to celebrate them, and their victories, great and small, instead of trying to shut them out?  We do so much unintentional harm to fragile psyches when we ignore folks who work so hard to walk, or to feed themselves, or to communicate with us, when a smile or a nod or a simple "hello" would cost us so little and provide so much reward.  I'd rather have a little boy saying "I don't get why she's special" as it provides a gateway to education, acceptance and understanding.

Again, I hesitate to draw parallels between what we experience with our differently abled dog and differently abled humans, but by and large, the human reaction to disabilities remains the same.  Hopefully, the next time that little boy sees a differently abled human, or animal, he'll "get" why they are special. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reality Check

Kids are known for having no filter when they speak, and KIC is no exception.  She frequently has those of us who know better laughing at her pointed observations.  She means no harm, but girlfriend has a way of finding your Achilles' heel.

Recently, I was chatting with a friend who has not yet made it to the altar.  This is a point of contention for my friend for many reasons, but as far as I know, KIC remains blissfully unaware of my friend's feelings.  We were having a conversation about getting married.  I had just explained to KIC that marriage isn't just between a man and a woman any more.  For some reason, KIC started to talk about who she knew that was married.

KIC about the friend:  "She's not even MARRIED!!  Mom, you and Dad are on the married list.". (looks at friend). "YOU are  not on the married list."

If you want a good laugh, sit down and have a conversation with KIC.  If you want your self esteem to remain intact, run far far away.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Love Thy Brother

People have been asking how KIC is adjusting to having a baby brother and no longer being the single focus of our lives.  Truth be told, I think she is adjusting better than we are!  It was definitely something we were concerned about from the very beginning and made a concerted effort to involve her in all aspects of the pregnancy. 

Prior to being pregnant with Bean, if you asked KIC if she wanted a sibling, she would tell you very emphatically that one child was enough for this family.  For many many months, she never wavered in her stance that she was the only child we needed.  When we told her, we told her on a night that we engaged in a family craft project that would yield a Barbie play house for her. 
KIC picked out her shirt that day, not even knowing what it said!

On the night we told her, she asserted that we would be having a boy (side note:  she thinks that the baby magically came into my tummy the night we told her.  It's not something I am going to correct any time soon!).  It was too early in the pregnancy to know the gender, so we cautioned her that it might not be a boy and tried to prepare her for a little sister.  KIC, in her wise beyond her years way, basically told us that she would be fine if it was a girl, but it was a boy so no further discussion was really warranted.  We, as the smug, all knowing adults we are, gave her the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head and bided our time until the big reveal then looked at each other with wide eyed wonder when her prediction came true. 

 "It's a brother!  I knew it!"

From the point that we told KIC about the pregnancy, it was game on for her.  Strangers were treated to the information that she was having a baby and it was going to be a boy.  We took her to the gender reveal ultrasound, baby registry shopping as well as various and sundry other activities to keep the momentum going.  Daily questions or thoughts or statements came from her regarding babies and her baby brother in general, especially regarding his arrival.  Thank goodness we had Christmas to use as a timeframe, otherwise, I think we would all have gone crazy!!

When the big day finally came, I can't honestly say it was love at first sight for KIC.  She was in love with him before he was even born.  But the luster hasn't faded for her.  She's not annoying with her love, in his fact constantly demanding his attention.  But when she feels that we are doing a poor job as parents, she's not afraid to step in with quiet censure.

Often, when I'm in the kitchen making dinner before Brent gets home, I'll look into the family room and see her absently rocking him, or giving him a pacifier if he's fussy.  She makes a beeline for him when she gets home from an event where he hasn't been in attendance.  When I first got home, anything I did for him, her question was "Did the doctor tell you you could feed him from a bottle??" or "Did the doctor say he could sleep in his crib??"  I finally had to tell her that I actually KNEW some stuff, that the doctors don't tell you everything.

I think the sweetest exchange, so far, happened the other night.  Brent and I are working hard to get Bean used to sleeping in a crib.  His preferred position is our chest, and that's all well and good, but man, is it exhausting.  So we have been experimenting with the whole "put him in the crib and let him self soothe".  Which means nobody is getting any rest.  But I digress.  On the evening in question, we Bean was in his crib and we were taking the hard line in letting him soothe himself.  KIC, on her way to her room, found this treatment to be unsatisfactory.  She stopped in his room and made a beeline for the music box on the side of his crib.  She helpfully turned it on for him.  His crying stopped until he realized her goal was not to pick him up and put him out of his misery.  When his crying resumed, we saw her (courtesy of the video baby monitor) helpfully offer him one of her Barbies.  She whipped that Barbie into his crib so fast, Barbie's head spun.  When THAT didn't help, she whipped Barbie back out, turned off the music and left the room.  If he wasn't going to appreciate her efforts, she was taking her toys and going home!  Brent and I left our hearts melted into a puddle on the family room floor that night. 

Having a brother of my own, I'm not naive enough to think that this utopia of sibling love is destined to go on forever.  There will be fits and starts and times when the are not speaking to each other.  Alternately, I hope there will be times when we see them voluntarily spending time with each other, loving and appreciating each other.  For now, I will cherish the insta-bond these two have and pray that it continues to grow.  I can only hope their bond is as strong as the one my brother and I have.

Yeah, I'd say KIC is rocking this big sister gig.  Even more, she's making us so so proud to be her parents. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Craft Night Fun??

We aren't much for structured activities in the Shoup House.  This is largely due to the fact that, as a champion procrastinator, some of my best ideas come spur of the moment.  And also, because at any given moment, some random activity that wasn't even on our radar suddenly HAS TO BE DONE RIGHT NOW!  Family movie night on Friday nights is about as structured and planned as it gets 'round these parts. 

Recently, in an effort to help KIC and NannyK with a project they would be distributing to a retirement facility, we turned a random Saturday night into family craft night.  The craft was deceptively simple:  cut out two shapes that resembled silver bells, tie a jingle bell onto a ribbon, knot the ribbon on the end without the jingle bell, glue and smash together. 

Test sample

Initially, NannyK and KIC had to take a break from making them because they ran out of glue stick.  Of the 40 bells they needed, they had been able to complete 10.  30 jingle bells left?  No problem.  We got this.  KIC and I picked up a six pack of glue sticks (only because I'm pregnant and any other type of six pack is frowned upon, though I would soon see alcoholic enhancement should have been listed as a requirement in the instructions) and merrily went on our way.  The crafting would commence that evening!!!  

The evening of crafting began with KIC distributing two glue sticks to each of us.  Proud parent moment is when your Kindergartener conquers division without even knowing it!  DH cut the ribbon, based upon a length of ribbon NannyK used, I traced and cut out bells and KIC glued the ribbon and the bells and smashed them together.  Our first snag came when I traced the bell on the white border of the scrapbook paper.  When I saw what I did, and realized it was too late to salvage those bells, I was forced to admit my mistake after a most vehement "Awwww, man!"  KIC, seeing my distress, immediately came over and said "Don't feel bad about yourself."  Mind you, the activity had just started.  With my child telling me to not feel bad about myself, when I wasn't planning on it anyway, I could tell we were in for a long evening.

When we started the craft, I envisioned this well oiled manufacturing machine, a la Henry Ford.  I would be in charge of the bell cutting, DH would be in charge of the bell stringing and KIC would put it all together.  On the first bell, I could see why NannyK and KIC had run out of glue - KIC was gluing the bells, and the tablecloth, like they were a cake ordered with extra frosting.  Not one to mess with creativity, I let it go, taking comfort in the fact that the tablecloth was vinyl.  Not even done with his first bell (remember, the process is string bell and tie at the top), DH complained that his fingers were not small enough to tie the bell at the top.  It was at this point, KIC started chanting "Never give up, never give up!" and I started fantasizing about a mojito.

We soon discovered that we would be running out of ribbon and would not be able to complete the assembly of the 30 additional bells.  We calculated we would be able to finish about 12.  Somehow, our calculations were of extreme disappointment to KIC because it was at that point she confiscated the glue sticks from DH and I, saying "I think it was a mistake for you and Daddy to have these."  She of the glue layers so thick you couldn't see the paper through the purple of the glue stick.  I started fantasizing about a second mojito and saw DH smirking, waiting for me to acknowledge family craft night was a bust!  NOT ON MY WATCH, BUSTER!!!

I went out and purchased some additional ribbon and DH and I finished the remaining 18 bells well after KIC had gone to bed - my ego had taken as much beating as it could withstand that night.  It was a good thing too because with the snow storm, NannyK and KIC would not have had time to complete the bells.  I would like to state for the record that had it not been for the glue stick pancaked on the bell cut outs, they actually would not have stuck together.  Who knew???  Well, KIC did, but that's not surprising!

I am happy to report that 37 out of the 38 residents at the retirement community were thrilled to receive bells.  One lady wasn't that into it, but we'll work on her.  Valentine's day will knock her socks off!  Bonus was KIC got to work on her interactions with stranger skills, something that has been steadily improving much to everyone's delight.

As for me, the moral of the story goes like this:  Parents don't know anything about gluing stuff, if you mess up, don't feel bad about yourself, and if you want to retain some semblance of self-respect, don't craft with a 5 year old.