And off they go…

to another year of school.

(Warning:  another dull catch-up post from my Aug/Sept. nonblogging run.  Sorry.)

It comes every fall, and every fall it’s bittersweet.  Happy for them, sad for me, happy for me.  We had a lot of big changes this year:  Rachael started middle school (!), Megan started a new elementary school, and Ethan started kindergarten.  Naturally, these milestones have occurred under the roof of my parents’ house, which will create lasting memories for my children of that cherished season of their childhood in which Mom and Dad couldn’t get their crap together.  My good kids bear it well.  And they were each thrilled to tackle their new adventures.  I was excited for them.  Kind of.

Skinny-jeaned up and ready to go.  Rachael was so excited for middle school.

Dorky Mom has to take a picture of her walking to the building.  Yes, I have attachment issues.

Megan has a gift for knowing just how much bling is required to make an impression at a new elementary school. (I can only dream of being cute enough to pull off a sparkly silver scarf in August.)

Ethan has a will as steely as the metallic guitars on his shirt, and we fought hard over this outfit.  I wanted him to wear a classy new white polo and plaid shorts I’d bought him, but Ethan’s no dummy.  He knows what kind of clothes get you beat up on the playground.

Ethan was dying to ride the bus to school, so after several days of positive self-talk, I finally let him.  I have never had any of my kids ride the bus before, so this was a big stretch for me.  It’s like a little adventure every day and he absolutely loves it.

I must admit, I was a little depressed after dropping the kids off the first morning.  Okay, really depressed.  As in, teary-eyed-all-day-long-depressed.  But as soon as I picked up Rache and saw her face all lit up with excitement, gushing about how cool middle school is, my mood lifted.  Megan gave the same glowing review, as did Ethan with kindergarten.  I’m sad my kids are slowly leaving my side, but I’m so thankful that they like school.  And now that we’re into it, I’m really just happy to have a little break every day.  (My motherly sentiment always gives way, eventually, to my womanly selfishness.)

And now I want to know from you, my three faithfuls:  What are you happiest/saddest about with the coming of the new school year?  I really want to know–it will make me feel better.  Don’t even think of reading this and bypassing the comment section.  (Do I need to name names, Ashley/Emily/Rachel/Cheryl/Brooks/Stephanie?)  No, I’ve decided against naming names.  You know who you are.

I can’t believe it, either.

While walking through the screaming, steaming, teeming, germ-infested labryinth that is Chuck E. Cheeses, little Ethan squeezed my hand and whispered in astonishment, “I can’t believe I’m five!”  He said this with the same reverent awe that a young bride might say on the morning of her wedding–I can’t believe I’m getting married!–his voice full of wonder and hope.

I can’t believe it, either.  How could five years have passed since I brought our pink-and-white baby home from the hospital?  How can we already be done with bottles, diapers, potty-training, and tantrums?  (Okay, three out of four’s not bad.)  How can my youngest, the baby, already be telling jokes, drawing masterpieces, taking showers, asking if he can drive, and be in full-time Jedi training?  How can his funny, spunky personality already have seen five Christmases and Easters?

And who taught him, in those five years, to hold the door open for his mom every single time she walks through it?  Not me.  Who taught him that you say goodbye and goodnight with a crisp kiss on each cheek, ala the French?  Still not me.  (Our family usually hugs.) And who taught him that, even at his advanced age of five, mom and dad’s bed is still the comfiest place to get a good night’s sleep? Definitely not me.  Mostly, I want to know who taught him that a lollipop is a good way to top off his breakfast, any and every day of the week?  (It was me, okay?  It was most definitely me.)

I want someone to explain to me where the time went.  I’ve been so busy, I hadn’t noticed my children were growing up.  The only thing worse than having your oldest face middle school is having your baby officially out of toddlerhood and into the straight “little kid” category.  I’ve long since graduated from Young Motherhood, but this birthday eliminates me from the Mother-of-Young-Children category as well.  I’m toast.  (Cue Sunrise, Sunset please.)

In spite of Ethan’s treacherous act of getting older, we had a very happy birthday.  Just once in their young lifespan, I allow each of my children a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheeses. (Megan rejected this offer.)  (She is completely terrified of Chuck E.)  (Smart girl.)  So it happened that Year Five was when Ethan’s robust boyhood dreams would come true.

We kicked off the big day with the traditional birthday breakfast in bed.
(He likes a glass of bubbly to get him going in the morning.)

As you may have guessed, we followed up this meal with a much-needed haircut.
(Why can’t we pull off the long-retro-curls thing with E’s gorgeous locks?  It just doesn’t work.)
Hours of anguished waiting later, it was finally time to meet Chuck E.
He did not disappoint.
Sorry about cutting off your head in this photo, Chuck E.  
But at least I didn’t do it for real.
Which is what I really wanted to do.

The kids were invited to dance with the creepy oversized mouse Chuck E., 
but Ethan had other plans.
Isn’t this a sweet picture of the birthday boy and an adorable little girl
helping him blow out the candles?  
At least, we assumed she was adorable.  
We didn’t know her.
At all.
She just wandered over and helped herself to our cupcakes. By the end of the night, three other anonymous girls had followed suit.  We didn’t mind.
Their parents are the ones who had to worry about stranger danger.
No skin off our frosting.
A young stud who knows he looks tough in the 
world’s coolest crown.
(Which apparently doubles as a flotation device.)
You cannot imagine the sweaty head that lurked beneath that latex.
A good-lookin’ (okay, tired and greasy) crew.
Notice Chuck E.’s frazzled gaze in the background, still
reeling from Megan’s rejection.
All kidding aside, we actually had a great time at the “restaurant,” and the pizza is really not that bad (concedes the hostess, three slices later.)  The kids played, danced, ate, and spent tokens like high rollers in Vegas drunk off orange Crush.  It was such a hoppin’ party, in fact, that we all stayed an hour longer than we’d planned–and on a school night!  (No one accuses me of not being a fun mom.)  The highlight of the evening, however, awaited Mr. E. when we arrived home:
This gift from Mom and Dad went over like an inflatable red crown embedded
with gold tokens:  beautifully!  And he’s a pretty impressive shooter, too.

Impressive–and adored–in so many ways.
Let the years keep on coming.
We’re loving every minute of it.

Happy Birthday, Easy E!  

Born in the year of the rabbit

1999, to be exact.  Eleven years ago.

According to Chinese tradition, this means that Rachael is articulate, talented, ambitious, virtuous, and has excellent taste.  I must admit, the accuracy of this description lends credence to those oft-underestimated Chinese horoscopes with which our daughter has recently become fascinated.

Forgive the cliche, but raising Rachael really has been eleven years of joy. She is kind, intelligent, talented, happy, freakishly creative, energetic, fun, mature beyond her years, spiritual beyond her years, with a capacity to love well beyond her years.  She is sensitive to others, always thinking of others, always worrying about others, always going out of her way to make others happy.  So this year we decided to Bring Honor to her not once, but twice.  She deserved every bit of it.

Honor #1:  “Chinese New Year” party at Grandma’s on New Years Eve.  We had it early so she could celebrate with her cousins who were visiting for the holidays.

We had fun painting scrolls

hanging lanterns

trying to eat Costco’s Orange Chicken with chopsticks (spearing works)

admiring the New Years Baby

and enjoying a few choice moments of sibling harmony.

We wrapped up the night by making origami face masks and watching Kung Fu Panda.
Afterward, the kids relished their annual chance to stay up until midnight.
It was a perfect way to ring in the new year.

Honor #2:  Last night, on her birthday’s eve, Derrick and I took Rachael to PF Changs, sans extra siblings, for the first time ever.  Rachael loves Chinese food and has always wanted to go to PF Changs to try the “real” kind (we don’t get our kids out much.)  It did not disappoint.  Through the evening, I sat back and noticed that Rachael’s behavior during her birthday dinner was typical of her behavior at large.  She was happy.  She was enthusiastic.  She was thankful, gracious, polite, chatty, funny, playful and thrilled with everything.  She was impressive with her ten-minute dissertation on the role Abigail Adams played in Revolutionary America and the continued effect Ms. Adams has on our country’s women today.  She was tickled (as were her moochy parents) when our server upgraded her free mini-dessert to a free big dessert in honor, I can only assume, of her general cuteness and likeability.  The server’s generosity was not wasted; the flourless chocolate dome was fairly licked off the platter.

We had a great time with much luck, the biggest indicator of which is that we can call this phenomenal little girl our own.

Happy Birthday, Rachey!  You bring honor to us all.