Category Archives: Kids


Tonight at bedtime I relaxed on my bed while the girls brushed their teeth, put on their pajamas and basically procrastinated the actual going to bed part.

Krystal came in and lay next to me on my bed.

“We don’t cuddle anymore, Mommy,” she said.

“I miss cuddling with you,” I said. And I realized it was true. She used to come into my bed early in the morning and we’d cuddle before getting up.

Then Belle came along, and our routine changed. Belle has one speed and it is HIGH. She is awake before anyone else in the house, and has strict instructions on clock-reading so she doesn’t start everyone’s day before a decent hour. Each morning — weekday, weekend, holiday, it doesn’t matter  — she bursts into my room, often startling the dogs into a frightened bark, and always setting my own heart a-jack-hammering. I don’t need an alarm clock, I have Belle.

Belle is not a cuddler. She is a bouncer, a mover, a kicker – a tornado. There is no relaxing in bed once she has arrived. So she and I usually get up and take the dogs out, feeding them and doing any little morning things we need to do. Krystal is still asleep, or pretending to be, at this point. Any time for cuddling has passed.

I miss cuddling with Krystal, and at age nine her cuddling days with mom are in their twilight, I fear. I miss the cuddling Belle and I have rarely done because she’s wired differently. I have a friend who predicts Belle will be the one tweezing my chin hairs from my nursing home. Maybe our cuddling days are still ahead of us then, roles reversed.

Sleeping Rivalry

Picture if you will this scene:

It is about 4 am. An exhausted mom slumbers in her bed. Surrounding her are the family’s two dogs, cuddled as close as can be on either side, and also sleeping peacefully.

Enter one very frightened six year old who bursts into the room!

I’m not sure if she scared the dogs, or if the dogs scared her, but Belle was screaming and the dogs were barking and the sleeping mom (that was me for a time) was awoken with a start.

Belle had had a bad dream and wanted to sleep with me. I sleepily agreed, and we all, people and dogs, settled down to go back to sleep. We all got up normally (me a tad less energetically than usual). Belle was her usual on-fire self and there seemed to be no lingering affects from her dream.

Until her sister got up.

The first thing Belle said to Krystal was “I slept with Mom last night.”

Krystal called her on her motives immediately, “Are you saying that to try to make me jealous? Because it’s not going to work!”

Why oh why is everything a competition with these two?

Bye Bye Hair

Yesterday, December 20th, was the day Krystal had written “Bye Bye Hair” on the calendar. She’s been growing her hair out for a good year now, always with the end goal of donating her hair. Several of her friends have done it over the last few years, and for a long time she was excited about it. As her hair got longer though, she started to cling to the idea of long hair.

We woke up to snow yesterday, and rather than deal with it, we decided to postpone the donation by a day. Today after school we washed it, and headed off for the big event.

The “before” photo:

Sectioning the hair into ponytails for easier cutting:

She is really not so sure this is a good idea:

Showing off the goods!

She sulked in the car all the way home about how ugly her new hair was. I aboslutely love it and think she looks completely adorable. It wasn’t till we got home and she was able to really look at herself in the mirror that she changed her tune. She asked for this photo to be taken and the smile is genuine:

I’m so proud of her. She can always grow it out again and donate it again (and again, and again), but for now I’m really looking forward to not fighting with her over keeping her hair brushed and out of her face!

Music to my ears

We have a new nighttime routine in our family. Like most things, it sort of evolved slowly over time, but I’d say we’ve been living our current version for several weeks now.

It goes something like this:

I leave work and pick up one child. Usually Krystal is first, but depending on my schedule for the day it might be Belle. Either way, whichever child and I have an enjoyable enough drive to pick up the other child. Sometimes we share parts of our day, sometimes we talk about what is for dinner, sometimes we sing along to the radio. It’s nearly always a pleasant time.

Then we pick up the next child. Cue the ominous music now.

Bicker, bicker, bicker, bicker.

That’s mine! You did it! No, you did it! Get out of my backpack! Don’t touch my homework! Mom! She’s touching me! Make her stop looking at me! She pinched me! Copycat!

I am serenaded by this all the way home. It really puts me in a “coming home at the end of a long day” state of mind.

Once we get home it’s not any better because suddenly there are chores to do. I need to get dinner on the table. Dogs need to go out and get fed. Krystal has homework. Often laundry needs folding and putting away and of course there are always toys, clothes and whatnot to be picked up everywhere we look. Couple this with the duet my children play with each other and it’s a real recipe for stress.

But last night in the car, somewhere after a “Stop breathing at me!” from one child to the other, my hero intervened. Taylor Swift, singing “You Belong with Me” started wafting over the radio, and both girls were suddenly focused only on that song. They quieted down to hear it, and then joined in.

Music to my ears.

The Highs and Lows of Meeting the Teacher and New Math

I look forward to meeting the teacher each year at the Open House. Last night I got to meet Krystal’s 3rd grade teacher.

Now, for most of the past year, Krystal has been saying “I hope I get Mrs. C. for 3rd grade!” I heard it so many times, and I kept telling her that I was sure all the teachers would be great and that she shouldn’t get her hopes up for one particular teacher. Class lists were posted at the school the week we were away on vacation, so the day we came home we didn’t even go home first – we went straight to the school to check whose class she was in.

Of course, she didn’t get Mrs. C. She got Mrs. M. Tears ensued. It was not a great homecoming. (Plus, it was cold and raining! Insult to injury I tell you!)

On the first day of school (last week), Krystal came home saying it was a horrible day because none of her friends were in her class, and oh yeah, her teacher yelled at her. Yelled at her? She says it was for putting a chair up on the desk the wrong way.

Two days later she was forgiving Mrs. M. for the chair incident, chalking it up to stress on the first day of school. By day 5 she was declaring her love for Mrs. M. Phew.

My first impressions: Wow, Krystal’s school grows some tall teachers. Her 2nd grade teacher was quite tall, and so is this one – 5’10” I want to say. I loved her attitude, her apparent sense of humor and her honesty. She described the curriculum and said it is heavily weighted to reading, writing and math (the ole 3 R’s haven’t gone out of style!). She said any social studies or science they do is usually tied into reading and math. She even said, quoting here as best I can – “Our social studies program is a little weak. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say that.” I appreciate hearing that from her – I know she has to follow the guidelines she’s given, but it also gives me the chance to supplement it at home, especially since Krystal is interested in history and current events.

When talking about the math program, she said, “We use Everyday Math (which Krystal has been using since 1st grade) and a lot of parents hate it. The math is totally different from the way we all learned it.” The kids are thick into multiplication this year, which Krystal got a good head start on last year, but 3rd grade is the Year of Multiplication (or so I have deemed it). She said they use the lattice method to teach it. Hanging around the room were various things the kids had done in the first week of school, including a sheet on their expectations, hopes and dreams for the year. Krystal’s said she was excited about learning lattice math. So I asked her about it. Turns out she had no idea what it was, but thought it sounded cool.

So I looked it up. Let me see if I can give you a picture (you’re welcome to read more about it by following the link). Try this problem: 14 x 56.


Oh. My. God. What a mess! I get it…..but I don’t get why you would want to teach a child to use this method. It takes up a lot of scratch paper, way too much pencil lead and is confusing as heck! What’s wrong with the way I learned??

I suppose I’ll have to help Krystal work on her problems this way, but I think I’ll teach her my way too.

Crazy new math.

Well Blow Me Over and Stick a Pig in my Eye

Krystal and Belle are both attending the local YMCA day camp this summer. It is near our home and my work and is a (relatively) affordable option for full time care for them while I work. This is Krystal’s third summer there, and Belle’s first. Despite having to send them off in jeans and sweatshirts everyday for the first two weeks, they’ve both been having a great time. Krystal has been reporting major drama with the other girls in her group (oh, I am never going to survive the teen years!) but Belle, who I was originally worried about, has been having a BALL! She loves camp!

Every Friday at the morning opening ceremony each group designates a “Camper of the Week”. The other years Krystal has attended it’s been one camper for the whole camp, but this year the counselor(s) of each group, which consists of 8-10 kids, pick a camper, so there are a lot more kids getting this honor each week. As you might expect, this goes to the camper who has been the most helpful, with the best attitude, blah, blah, blah.

Two weeks ago Krystal was Camper of the Week and I was so proud! Her certificate (with our last name spelled wrong – oh well) is displayed with pride on our refrigerator.

Tonight when I arrived at camp to pick up the girls Krystal couldn’t wait to tell me that Belle was a Camper of the Week this week! I could not have been more surprised! And proud, of course! Her certificate, which also has our last name spelled wrong (oh well again!) is there on the frig now too.

Two Campers of the Week.

And one of them was Belle.


Real Sisters

Yesterday Belle came home from camp and announced:

“Beth [her counselor] asked if me and sissy are real sisters. I said yes, because duh, what else would we be.”

I was at once annoyed with the counselor for asking something so personal, and proud of my girl’s answer, even if she didn’t really understand the meaning behind the question.

Later, after dinner, I brought it up with both girls and asked if anyone else had ever asked if they were real sisters, and what did they think that meant. Krystal supposed it meant that they weren’t step-sisters or friends, but she clearly didn’t really have any idea*. I prodded by asking what sorts of things did sisters do? What let you know that two people were sisters?

The list we came up with was that sisters have the same parents (check), love each other sometimes (check), drive each other crazy (check and check) and are a family (check-a-rooni).

Yep, my daughters are real sisters, all right.

* I also explained what people really meant when they asked the question.

Fairy Houses

Yesterday the girls and I attended an event for building fairy houses. It was hosted by Tracy Kane, the author of a series of books about fairies and building houses for them.

Belle’s house was mostly done by me, in relatively short order, in the crook of a large pine near the pond. Here she is modeling her finished project:

Belle's Fairy Houses

She had a lot of fun digging in the dirt in front of her house building large swimming pools and fire pits and playgrounds, while Krystal worked on hers.

Krystal chose a spot on the other side of the same tree. You can see in the photo above how close we were to the pond (a not-small-pond either), and it was a rather cool and windy day for late May (see the sweaters?). The wind was quite insistent off that not-small pond, and it caused angst in the way of structural challenges for Krystal. I lost count of how many times her work would be demolished by the wind, and we were both getting frustrated.

And then I suggested a design change, and while there were still some wind issues, it came together much more quickly.

Krystal Fairy House

I don’t expect Krystal to be a structural engineer or architect, but I think she does have an eye for detail:

Fairy House Interior

It’s hard to tell from this photo, but there is a couch on the left (the pine cone is the cushion), across from a TV (where she got the idea for the twig rabbit ears I have no idea, since her generation has never seen them!), a fireplace in the middle, and in the back a stone bed with a leaf coverlet.

Her big surprise though, was this:

FH Welcome

Even the photographer making the rounds was delighted with that. He said we may be on their web site by mid-week. How exciting!

FH Photographer

I think this is something we’ll do at home – both girls had a lot of fun, and I loved the creative aspect.

Twisted Sisters

I had very much a “love-hate” relationship with my sister, who was 3 years younger. Mostly, I loved to hate her and could be pretty awful to her. I was smarter (book-wise anyway), stronger and older. I could be emotionally manipulative and cruel. I clearly remember one time saying (or possibly just thinking), that I hated her so much I wish I could kill her with a knife (I was around 8 or 9).

Of course as an adult, I can recognize that I was most likely just angry about something, or jealous of some attention she was getting. I didn’t really wish her dead, or wish to cause it myself. Really! It wasn’t till we hit our teens that we melded. I learned that we were more alike than different, and that she was actually a pretty cool kid. Which hurt all the more when she was taken, via cancer, at age 17. I miss my sister, both the person that she was, and would be, as well as the “idea” of a sister. A built-in friend who has known you forever.

In college, less than a year after my sister died, a good friend was baking her sister cookies to send to her for her birthday. A couple of us were hanging out while she baked and I’m sure we all helped a little. We were laughing and talking and enjoying each other’s company. Then she boxed up those freshly baked cookies and started writing her sister’s name and address on the box. I clearly remember watching her with that Sharpie and having the realization that I would never be able to bake cookies for my sister. I got up and left, without a word to my friends, in tears. The grief was overwhelming, and I tear up now, some 26 years later, thinking about it.

In deciding to become a parent to two children, a huge motivator for me was to provide my kids (who are both girls) with a sister. I know, first hand, how awful sisters can be to each other. I also know that not all sisters become friends as adults. But I wanted to give them that chance.

Krystal and Belle became sisters almost three years ago, when Krystal was 5 and Belle was 2. They had very different lives before that time, and we all went through a big transition that first year. My two daughters have very different personalities, and of course because of their ages, they are at different developmental stages. They are very different, but they are very much like my sister and me.

Krystal can be manipulative and cruel. She’s a lot like I was to my sister at that age. She thinks of herself as a second mother at times, and I’ve cringed hearing my words coming out of her mouth more than once.

Belle is an instigator. She is a much stronger personality than my sister was. She knows how to push Krystal’s buttons, and pushes with alacrity. Krystal has not yet learned the art of ignoring. I tell her all the time that when she reacts, she gives Belle the satisfaction of knowing she got to her. Someday…

Last night during the bedtime routine I was in one bathroom doing my thing, telling the girls who kept shadowing me to: go brush your teeth, brush your hair, put on your PJ’s, pick out your book, leave the dog alone. It was a revolving door with one kid passing the other to and from where I was and having to give explicit directions to do the things we do every single night.

At one point they were both off doing what they were supposed to do, presumably, and I was alone. Ah, bliss. For a minute, until Belle came in.

Belle: Mom, Krystal is hogging the sink and I can’t brush my teeth!

Me:  Hmmmmm (trying not to engage)

Belle [running back to the bathroom]: Krystal, Mom says “Hmmmm!” That means you need to let me brush!

Or something else that happens quite frequently is that Krystal will find me to say that Belle has done something naughty. Perhaps she’s pulled the dog’s tail, scribbled on her homework, broken something, gotten into a forbidden item, or just been annoying to Krystal in some way. She will end her tattling session with “Mom, you need to talk to her.”

Managing the relationship between my girls is the second most stressful part of parenting them (the first is another post altogether – more news next week). It is also something I did not adequately prepare for. I thought parenting two children would be difficult logistically – getting two kids ready for school in the morning, finding activities that we all enjoy, etc). While there are challenges in that area, especially as the only adult in the home, I have found them to be mostly workable (no small thanks to a flexible work situation). It’s their relationship that requires constant management.

My kids are still young, and they are different. But I still think I did the right thing in giving them each other. Time will tell.

Big Sister, Little Sister

This is something I wrote on June 26, 2006, just three weeks after adopting Belle. It’s one of my favorite pieces, and given that Belle is now the same age Krystal was when I wrote it, I thought I’d revisit it. This was originally posted on the blog I kept for family members during the adoption trip itself, so this is it’s first “public” appearance. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up on how things have changed since then in a few days. Or maybe not. Either way, here you go!

Sometimes you get a glimmer of something extra in a person you thought you knew as well as you know yourself.

I always saw my daughter Krystal as a little girl. When I imagined a sibling in our family, I still saw her as the youngest sister. Our friends nearly all have kids her age or older, and she just seemed to fit as the youngest child. Of course, with adoption you can arrange so your youngest child stays that way, but I didn’t want to do this. I wanted to adopt a younger child, for many reasons, hardly any of which had anything to do with Krystal.

Adding Belle to our family has been, is, and will continue to be a transition for all of us, probably for awhile. Belle is a gift all on her own, but the added dimension she has brought out in her older sister is a gift for me too. By no means do I intend to say Krystal is having an easy time being the big sister. In fact, she is probably having the toughest time of the three of us adjusting to all the changes. But because of her new role in our family I am seeing things in Krystal I didn’t know were there. Within hours of meeting Belle she was making her laugh, and she continues to take on this job with relish. If Belle is cranky, Krystal will take it upon herself to do something to snap her out of it. She is generous, offering up the first turn on the swing. She has happily passed on toys, and enjoys playing Mama with her when I need a few minutes to get something done.

Of course, Krystal has also said she wishes it were just she and me again, that she’s not sure she likes having a sister after all. I’ve said I understand her feeling, and that she’s allowed to feel that way. But Belle is a part of our family now forever, just like she is. When I baby Belle, Krystal wants to be babied too. She has said she wishes she were little like Belle again. And then I remind her of all she can do that Belle can’t, and she turns content to be herself again.

Suddenly, my little five year old seems like a big five year old. Maybe I appreciate all she can do for herself now that I have someone younger and smaller who needs my help with so many things. Maybe she was a big kid all along, and it was me who needed a little kid to be able to see it. But maybe shedding some of the little kid stuff has allowed that new, green, raw big kid stuff to show through. Though my patience is being tested in new ways everyday right now, my heart is overflowing with love for my two girls – Krystal who I have known and loved for over four years and who I get to see new things in, and Belle who I have only just met but who peels away a new piece of herself everyday, showing me the beauty within. What a ride.