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Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Fashionista

I have a story I have been saving up.  Here's to hoping the months that separate today from the actual events have dulled the humiliation.

One can hope.

To give the proper context, first you must understand the degree to which our oldest daughter requires autonomy in all matter of clothing.  From the time she was three she was insistent, to the point of tears, about what she put on her body.  We went through a year and a half stage where she only wore dresses.  And by dresses, I mean petticoat dresses.  She went to preschool in flower-girl-eque dresses, no matter the rain, the snow, the messy art project or the trip to the local farm.

Sledding day?  No problem. Tulle and silk can compress down into the forgiving legs of snow pants with just a small amount of effort.   And velour half shirts are surprisingly warm in a Maine winter.

When our younger, more sporty, daughter turned three and we opened up the totes of hand-me-down 3T clothes from her big sister, we sighed and remarked, "Ah, yes.  The dress phase," and we headed for the mall to get jeans and sweatshirts.

The summer Ella was three, we had purchased a yellow sundress from a friend's store and Ella fell in love with it.  She called it her "Twirly Dress" and she wore it at least 5 times a week.  My friend Emilie called it her summer uniform.  The summer she was four, we went back and bought another one in blue.

Year two, second string twirly dress. 
The original twirly dress.  

Come to think of it, age five, saw twirly dress number three.

And year three.

Dresses, dresses and more dresses....

Eclectic footwear was often roped into the game.

There was a lot of letting go about Ella's wardrobe as you can imagine.  I struggled to let her out of the house many days until a mom friend of mine said, "No one thinks you dressed her like that."  That was all I needed to make peace with it.

Anyone who knew Ella in these younger years can recount the specificity and eccentricity of her dress.   Dresses gave way to "fancy" clothes, matching sets and two piece shirts (the ones connected by thread at the top of the shoulder that get all twisted and inside out in the washer and make mothers lose days off their lives each time it comes through the laundry) with elaborate beadwork on the inside and a sheer, draping fabric on the outside.

Yes, my five-year-old needed to have her clothes washed on the delicate cycle.

In addition to being particular about the style of clothing she would wear, Ella has always been very specific about which items she would wear when.   Often she would want to wear an item that was still dirty or dream up a sweater that was in winter storage and feel an urgent need to wear it that day when we needed to leave for school in ten minutes.

Sometimes Ella would come downstairs in tears telling me that she just couldn't pick out her clothes.  Could I please, pretty please, pick out something for her?  I would fall for the trap, yet again, and head up to the wardrobe of my fashionista and pull together some things I thought would look cute together.

Approximately 98% of the time, she would look at my selection in disgust and say, "I cannot wear THAT."  She was six at the time.

Eventually I stopped falling for the rouse.  I also got tired of the power struggle of having my child come down in a tank top in February, fleece in August and insisting that the skirt "still fit" even though it wore more like a tutu. I was tired of the yelling and the crying.

We made two clothes rules:

1.  It has to fit.

2.  It has to be appropriate for the weather.

Fast forward a few years.  Ella has become much more mainstream about her clothing choices but still retains a wonderful flair to her dress.  She is, without a doubt, legitimately fashionable.  Her aunt, also a risky dresser, consults Ella for fashion opinions.

Last winter when we pulled out the totes of warm clothes, Ella was thrilled to see a pair of footed pjs from the previous year to which Maya had an identical pair.  If you have ever had the joyful task of being in charge of kids' clothes from season to season and size to size, you likely agree that it would be more fun to have a root canal.

The footed pjs, with their fuzzy little snowman, looked, shall we say, a tad stretched.  They wore more like spandex.  And instead of being cozy up around the neck, it stretched tight like a muscle shirt, exposing her collarbones.

We gently said, "Honey, those look a little too tight."

"NO!  These fit just fine.  I love them.  They are perfect," was the expected reply.

We let her wear them.  Pick your battles, as the age-old wisdom says.

Life went on.  We forgot about the inappropriately sized pajamas.

In the midst of the holiday clamor and ruckus that is December, Ella woke up one night with a painful throbbing in her toe.  Her toe was hot and red and the pain was significant enough to cause tears and sleeplessness.  Can children get gout we wondered?  We gave the requisite children's pain relievers and put her back to bed.

Her foot was mostly okay the next day but the pain woke her again the following night and the night after that.  This seemed to warrant a call to the pediatrician.  I took her in and our lovely pediatrician examined her toe, told me kids do not in fact get gout, asked a bunch of questions about Ella's activities as of late.  Had she banged it?  Stubbed it?  Fallen down?  Eventually the pediatrician turned to me and said she was concerned because of the location of the pain being in the toe knuckle (is there such a term?) and that fact that it was waking her up at night.

Tests were ordered, labs and x-ray.  Being the stellar mom that I am, I was aware that it was December and that this flurry of medical testing would both not be paid for by our insurance because we hadn't met our deductible for the year and would not apply to our deductible for the following year which was only a few short weeks away.

So I asked the question every star parent asks:  "Are you sure this is really necessary?"

The doctor's concerns were of a bone infection. Yes, this was necessary.  Since she is never one to jump the gun or cause unnecessary alarm, I nodded and proceeded to imaging and the lab.

I waited with anxious mom nerves for the test results and I think the prayer chain at Sandi's family church may even have been activated.  Bone infection?  Bone cancer?

But alas,  the problem was more close to home.  It turns out your doctor can't fully assess the situation without all of the pertinent details.

Ella's toe was fine and her labs were perfect.   Naturally, we were relieved it was nothing serious.

That night, as the kids were getting into bed, Ella in her trusty, spandex footed pjs,  complained, "My toe still hurts."

My wife, Sandi, looked at me with a stunned expression on her face.  "It is the footed pajamas,"  she said calmly.  "They are too tight and they are causing her toe to hurt.  We just spent $600 on medical tests because of pajamas that are too tight."

Yes, you heard it here.  Our child's profound dedication to fashion freedom cost us $600 out of pocket. 

I marched up to Target the next day and bought her a pair of footed pjs so big the feet pool like puddles on the floor.  And I can promise that the next time a random ache or pain presents itself, I will consider the clothes in my first line of questioning.

Friday, September 11, 2015

summer in the rear view

It has been a crazy, fun summer.  It has also been a crazy fun summer.  Regardless of the punctuation,  this summer has flown by in a blur of high energy sunny days spent near water (partnered with all the insidious packing and unpacking that goes along with such fun), playing with the people we love and squeezing every last drop of the brevity and splendor that is summer in Maine. 

(Warning: you about to be inundated with photos.  I apologize and have no valid excuse except that I didn't keep up with blogging at all this summer and I should get some credit for whittling it down from the nearly 1300 photos that were taken.) 

We spent a lot of time at camp this summer.  Sandi's mom built an amazing second camp (dubbed the "bunkhouse" even though it feels more like an actual house) which means there are more creature comforts and space for everyone.

The kids struggled to enjoy it. 

One of the massive thunderstorms we love at camp.

My family made the trip a couple of times this summer as well and it is really such a blessing how well our families get along.

Maya was her usual serious self this summer.

Ella adores her Grampie. 
My beautiful wife. 

Maya also adores her Grampie. 

It turns out our family likes to do a lot of jumping. 

Turns out jumping isn't just for kids.

This is a baby snapping turtle Ella found in a nearby swamp.  After being told she could not take it home as a pet she reluctantly set it free into the lake where now I have to worry about it getting big and biting my toes off.

Even with all that fun, there is work to be done.  (For the record, I think Ella might me the most fashionable fisherman going.)

My family loves to get on Dwight's lobster boat.

Braeden's first fish ever!

Our girl at work on the sea.

Our ever increasingly handsome nephew in his element. 
I never, ever tire of this view.

My favorite picture of the summer of the blondie cousins who look like sisters. 

The girls and I made it up to Lake Moxie to Ange and Matt's family's camp for an overnight while Sandi was working.  It was so chill and relaxed with happy kids, campfire, sweatshirts and games of cribbage.  

I am proud to say I overcame a few of my fears this summer.  I took some more daring tube rides that put my bravery to the test.  I swam in unknown lake water (I am slightly neurotic about what lies beneath murky lake water) because I don't want to be a sissy,  I went skinny dipping IN THE DARK (see above fear for while this was a huge deal), and I jumped off a highish rock near a freezing cold waterfall.

(Thank you Tom for taking these great pictures!)

Brady and I share the same nose-plugging form when we jump from up high.  Although I think he looks much cooler than me. 

Both of the girls were rather daring too!

Ella has really come into herself this summer and before we knew it she said, "I want to try to waterski."  And just like that, she did. 

She said once she got up, she was like, "Now what do I do?!" (This was a total, bubbling up, proud mom moment.)

Then, before you know it the first day of school is mere days away and you are soaking every last drop out of summer.

I said to the kids, "Who is happy that school is starting?!" They gave me this.  (MAYA.)

The last weekend before school starts means the American Folk Festival.  This means too much kettle corn, Ella's favorite pizza of all time, running into practically everyone you know on the Bangor waterfront, a bucket brigade volunteer shift and lots of amazing music.

 (I wrote this blog post for the AFF website as in infomercial about why you should volunteer.  There is always next year!)
Ella and Skyler looking adorable. 

Ella and Maya with Isabella and a giant sleeve of popcorn.

This year, the festival treated us to the amazing Red Trouser show.  These guys are street performers on steroids with a high-energy, comical show with some astounding acrobats.  Our kids, especially Maya, were riveted.  We had to watch it 3 times plus I recorded it and Maya has watched it at home.  I think she is studying for her future.

Here they are doing a head to head balance.  CRAZY.

Henna tatoos for school. 

It is always hard when summer ends.  I get very sentimental about our girls entering a new grade and the fact that they are growing up so fast.  

 I feeling incredibly grateful to be able to play so much with my girls during the summer and to have so many opportunies afforded us for fun and family time.  I ran into a mom at the grocery store who has to work full time in the summer and pack all their family summer fun in on the weekends.  It gave me pause to appreciate that I get to be with the kids all summer, even if it means inordinate amounts of planning and creativity to see two massage clients in a morning, falling behind on all the pedestrian parts of life that need doing and drinking more ice coffee than I have business drinking.

I also feel like I need a giant nap.  Going from a year of homeschool to a packed summer has left me rather exhausted and not knowing which end it up.  I find myself craving some schedule and routine and (shockingly) a day that doesn't involve ice cream.

Which brings me to my next big thing:  Ella is very happily going back to school for fifth grade!

I have a second grader who seems to be growing like Jack's beanstalk and a fifth grader who has nearly the same size foot as me and is within 8 inches of me.  Sigh. 

There.  I have done it.  I have finished my summer blog posts, I have mostly caught up on the neglected household stuff and I have made up for lost time on my bike.  Now my plan is to make a writing schedule and stick with it so I can write the book that I need to write.  Feel free to hold me to it.