Kate is 8!

My dearest Kate,

That is you, up there in the blog site banner, with the elephant masks going every which way. That image says so much about you.

Oh my spirited girl! Your mind is awhirl with thoughts, and I’m not sure you can keep up with yourself yet. But you are trying to learn how to engage your big, creative spirit. You are at your best with a project in your hands. Otherwise, you bounce and vibrate, looking for something to focus on.


You continue to amaze me. Your anger blazes up; your sadness is bigger than our household. On the plus side, your smile is bigger than your face, your heart bigger than your wiry little frame, and your love brighter than the sun. You are more extroverted than any 8-year-old in the history of 8-year-olds. You are a star.

Kate at 8
Kate the Great

The thing you need to work on for 8 is your worry, which is also large and very consuming. And I will try to help you. Your fretting knows no bounds; you sometimes give yourself tummy aches and headaches. Your father and I promise to help you deal with those worrisome thoughts.

And you and I need to be kinder and more patient with each other. I will do my part.

You will grow into your large spirit, of that I have no doubt. You reach out to others all the time, to talk, to help, to play.

Kate, you are great. Don’t stop reaching.


Surgery: All the Feels

Tuesday has been a day full of many feelings. Right now, I am sitting on the side of my daughter’s hospital bed, relieved that she is safely out of surgery. She’s woozy, and hasn’t truly woken up yet.

This morning went as smoothly as you would expect with two children who were not allowed to eat breakfast. That is, not very. Kate whinged her way through; M out-and-out melted down. Offering Gatorade did not stave off the whineys.

We got ready to leave around 9 a.m. I figured the hospital would be enough of a distraction from their bellies. The children got in the car, and Dan and I grabbed the bags.

Coming out to the car, M met me in the driveway. “Can I have gum?” he asked.

“No,” I said, then realized that I had gum in the car. Shit! What if he already had some, or Kate did?

I rushed to the car. “Kate, you didn’t have any gum, did you?”

“It’s not gum,” she said. “And Michael ate it all.”

M had gotten into mints I didn’t even know I had in my car, and had, indeed, eaten them all.

Well, shit again.

Realizing that there was nothing to do but find out what the docs would do when we got to the hospital, we stopped to vote (it was primary day here in Pennsylvania), and made our way to the hospital.

The children’s hospital we have in Pittsburgh is efficient. It really keeps things moving. Before I knew it, we were in a room ready to do surgery prep and paperwork.

I told them about M and the mints. As I had expected would happen, they took him off the list for surgery. His nickname for the day was miscreant.

I have to admit to being furious with M. I had gone through a lot of trouble to arrange things ‘just so’. My parents are in to help keep Flora’s day/week on track. I got Kate and M scheduled for the same day. I took unpaid time off my job.

And M, by virtue of being 3, and hungry, and not understanding why he couldn’t eat, threw a big giant flipping monkey wrench into the works.

I was *mad*.

Fortunately, everyone else was very understanding. It’s something that does happen. And, fortunately for my little miscreant, the doctor can fit him in tomorrow for tubes and adenoids.

Anyway, Dan suited up, Kate changed into scrubs, and they walked off to surgery. M and I went to the waiting room, and Dan joined us shortly.

“I got a little emotional in there,” he said.

“Did Kate see?” I asked.

“I kept it together,” Dan assured me.

I posted some things to Facebook and Twitter, let M eat, made arrangements to get him home (thank you, again, nonna and pap-pap), and waited. When I noticed the doctor approaching, I jumped up.

He was all smiles, very pleasant and reassuring. Kate had come through surgery fine. Her adenoids were blocking the eustachain tubes, which affected both her hearing and breathing. Her tonsils were nearly a four (on a scale that goes to four). She was waking up in the recovery room, and we’d be able to see her soon.

Dan went back first when Kate woke up. I got M and his carseat to my parents, and hurried back to see my baby girl.

Seeing her still woozy from the anaesthesia was heartbreaking. I was teary-eyed with relief though. Just seeing her so vulnerable, but on the other side of surgery — the safe side. It was overwhelmingly relieving.

Now, after reading her a new book, and letting her fall back to sleep, it’s a waiting game to see how she does with hydration and diet. Tomorrow will bring new challenges, logistical and emotional.

I am so glad Dan has been with us the whole time too. Feeling like a team, united in having all the emotions, and supporting each other through this. It’s kept me even-keeled. I hope he feels the same way.

Would you have told the doctors about M eating the candy mints? It didn’t cross my mind not to.

Oh My Kate

For Kate, 2014 so far has been the year of viruses. She has had the endless cough (still has it — it’s endless!), random fevers, vomiting, and on top of all that, she’s currently harboring a double ear infection (probably; scheduling an appointment with the pediatrician later today).

She’s been waking up at night; she is still having separation anxiety (if you ask me — again, she is wholly undiagnosed, which means I’m a mom talking out of my ass); behavior is still an issue, but we’re working on it.

Her pediatrician suspects her waking up is probably a form of sleep apnea. Her tonsils are HUGE, and she snores like a grown man when she sleeps. She’s been evaluated by an ENT. His preliminary assessment is that her tonsils and adenoids are going to have to come out, and ear tubes are going to have to go in. She’s on a course of allergy meds to see if that reduces the crud in her head, and it looks like she’s going to get antibiotics if she has ear infections.

She has a follow up appointment Friday to see if anything helped.

She’s missed five days of school (at a conservative estimate) this year. If we decide to have her tonsils out before summer, she’ll miss at least a week.


Kate had non-stop ear infections once she started full-time in daycare. (M was the same way.) In the year after she turned 1, she had at least ten infections — or three or four really long ones. She caught a break in the summer, because she didn’t have the runny nose endemic to children (and especially to children in daycare). But October hit, and she started right in with them again.

She had ear tube surgery the April after she turned 2. And it was like a miracle. The look on her face was pure amazement. She could *hear* things. The world was full of *sound*. At first she started at every little thing, but eventually she got used to this new reality. Her language development exploded. Within two weeks, she went from her occasional word to complete sentences.

Now, I stand in her room at night, and I listen. Children are beautiful when they sleep, in case you didn’t know. Kate is a vision: her smooth cheeks, rosy lips — open so that she can breathe — blonde hair all around her little face, dark lashes resting on her skin. And then she’ll twitch, her snoring will pause, and she’ll toss or turn, snort, and resume her snoring. It’s heartbreaking. (It also drives Flora straight up the wall. If she doesn’t fall asleep before Kate does, she’ll sometimes go sleep in our room. Even earplugs don’t always help. Kate snores LOUDLY.)

Is it too much to hope that having her tonsils removed would have a similar salutary effect as ear tubes? That taking out her adenoids would be as miraculous? I have no doubt that some of her behavior issues stem from the simple fact that she is TIRED. Being fully rested, and, especially, not being in pain from ear infections or sore throats (more from mouth-breathing than infections, but still) could change her world.


I just want her to feel better physically. I worry about my Kate, worry about how these physical issues are effecting her emotionally. I worry about how missing school is affecting her socially, or if it’s having a negative impact on her education.

Of course, Kate sucks a lot of my bandwidth the way she clamors for my attention. Getting rid of her tonsils and adenoids won’t change that, but at least if she’s rested we can all be more reasonable. One hopes, anyway.


I started this post on Monday — which was your seventh birthday. Here it is Wednesday, and I am just getting around to posting it.

And this pretty much probably justifies a lot of the way you are afflicted with “middle child” syndrome. Yes, I can give you all the reasons (excuses) why it’s taken so long to finish and post this letter to you. Work is ON FIRE; the weather is not, and has disrupted the routine we are trying to get back to. Plus, although your birthday is the first one of the year, because of its timing, it falls at the tail end of a lot activity. By the time we get to January, we are running on fumes. This seems patently unfair to you, and I hope by giving you birthday activities — just like we do for all our other children — we gloss over that fact.

Anyway, here’s your letter, my January star:

Dear Kate,

Every where we go, people know your name.

Usually because I have to exclaim it a few times. Your behavior is not always ideal when we are out in public.

And you know what? I am starting to not mind so much. You know why? Because you’re not hurting anyone. You’re not causing a general uproar. You’re not being bad. You’re being spirited, enthusiastic, and, yes, loud.

Now, do I let you behave that way in the library or in church? No, I do not. Do I let you run around screaming in restaurants? Absolutely not. However, you are 7 now, and you are starting to learn appropriate behavior. (You still want to hug everyone, though.)

You are well-liked. You are funny and smart. You are the best big sister that a little boy (who is also funny, smart, and spirited) could have. (With apologies to Flora, but let’s face it. She likes her quiet time.)

I still worry about you and have my parenting challenges with you. You ricochet and vibrate; you plunge into frustration and sadness. You hate to be alone — it crushes you, it makes you sad. You sob. Sleeping through the night has become a challenge, for all of us. Separation anxiety is wearing us all out.

But, you know, we saw Frozen this past weekend, and I look at the way Elsa was instructed to hide herself, and I just can’t do that to you, my Kate. You’re a little more likely to set things on fire than build an ice palace to be alone, but the theory is the same. You don’t have to be a “good girl”. You are a good girl — but “good” doesn’t in your case mean meek, quiet, and instantly compliant. Your dad and I are making our peace with that.

Anyway, this birthday letter is two days late. Just consider it payback for how long you made me wait the week you were born.

I love you, my spirited, fiery second daughter, my demanding middle. I gave you lots of happy birthday wishes this year, and consider this my last one for now. Don’t change, don’t hide. Be the person you are.

All my heart,

Oh My Kate

Kate: Why do we have to go to school?
Me: To learn things.
K: What’s there to learn after you know your letters, your numbers?
Me: Kate, there are lots of interesting things to learn in school. Like math and science.
K: Math is just numbers.
Me: You go to school to learn about interesting things, and decide what you want to do when you grow up and work for a living.
K: Why do I have to work for a living?
Me: … You’ve got me there. For money, I guess.
K: Can’t I just have a baby and a house?
Me: Who’s going to pay for the baby and the house?
K: The plumber!

Two Kate Stories

Just because.


Kate usually pushes Flora’s buttons by humming or singing along to songs that we play in my car. I mean, it drives Flora around the bend. (I don’t notice Kate’s noise, but Flora’s whinging about it drives ME around the bend. Oy.)

On a recent trip to the library, they started in on each other, and to disrupt it, I said to Kate, “Tell us a story instead.”

Kate told her version of The Three Bears:

“Once upon a time, there were three bears who lived in the woods. One day they got up and decided to have porridge for breakfast. The papa bear took a bite and said, ‘This porridge is too hot! Patoie!’ The mama bear took a bite and said, ‘This porridge is too cold! Patoie!’ The baby bear said, ‘I’M DYING!'”

Maybe you had to hear her delivery, but Flora and I *broke up*.


We’ve had a periodic critter problem since we have moved into our house eight years ago. The mice find it nice and cozy in the wintertime.

Since demo’ing most of the basement, the activity on the main floor of the house has seen a significant upswing.

We don’t like it. We recently upgraded to snap traps from the glue traps we had been using. Somehow those fuckers have been able to get out of the glue traps.

Flora does not like the look of the snap traps. She finds it distressing to think of the mice dying like that.

Kate this morning blithely pointed out, “Yeah but Flora, those glue traps have caught your foot, Michael’s hand, and one mouse.”

Quandary: The Follow-Up

To review: Kate was acting sick in the morning. I suspected it had something to do with Classmate. I didn’t know what to do. (And THANK YOU to everyone who weighed in on that post.)

This is what happened since I wrote that.

1. I emailed Kate’s teacher Mrs. M about the situation. She emailed back saying she had noticed Kate dragging herself into the school, but said once she got into the classroom, all was fine. She proposed we meet to talk about Kate.

2. I ran into Mrs. M at Flora’s violin concert. I will tell you right upfront: I did not want to drag Classmate’s name into it directly. Maybe see if she was having issues in general with her classmates or something like that. I had no intention of even mentioning Classmate if I didn’t have to.

3. Mrs. M mentioned Classmate right off the bat, and said she noticed the two girls were having conflict. So that was out in the open.

4. Mrs. M and I did finally get together this week to talk about this issue, and to talk about what we need to do moving forward.

Here’s the upshot:

(I’m paraphrasing Mrs. M here) Kate is a bright and social child. She gets along with everyone and is very well liked in her class. She gravitates toward Classmate because Classmate is also bright and well liked. However, Classmate is also melodramatic and knows the fine art of manipulation. She is mature beyond her years — she’s kind of had to grow up fast.

(To review, again, Classmate is the child of divorced parents who do NOT get along. Her father has remarried and has another child with Classmate’s stepmother. The women do not hide their antipathy toward each other, and the mother… when she talks about her ex-husband, I cringe. I wonder if she talks about him like that in front of Classmate, and I wonder how her current husband takes it. This sounds all gossipy, and I don’t mean to be gossipy, but this is all directly affecting my daughter, and this is my blog, so there ya go.)

(Paraphrasing, again) Mrs. M said she keeps a close eye on all the children in her classroom, and will be sure to watch interactions between Kate and Classmate. She says that when Classmate seems to be getting dramatic (in general), she tries to step in and stop it. She also has been working hard to keep the girls occupied in activities not with each other. If there’s group work, for example, she doesn’t put them in the same group. As a matter of fact, she told me about a time where she distinctly put Classmate and Kate in two different groups on purpose, and somehow they managed to team up anyway. So she’s going to watch out for that.

Here’s my take: Yes, Kate is bright, and Kate is social. Kate is also a little sister, and as such, I think she tends to take a follower role rather than a leader role. She’s not very alpha, in other words. Which is not to paint my Kate as a doormat or wallflower — oh, no. She is incredibly energetic and outgoing. I think I mentioned that recently. She likes to be with people, and she likes to be with people who attract other people. There’s also the dynamic between Flora and Kate that Kate is probably used to. You know, the bickering dynamic. While Flora and Kate *can* play very nicely together, they don’t *choose* to play nicely together all the time. Probably not even half the time, frankly. There is also the fact that Kate lives in a safe, stable, and loving home environment with little serious conflict. As such, she doesn’t have (or need yet) street smarts the way Classmate does.

While Mrs. M keeps an eye on things in the classroom, I will keep an eye on things at home. I plan to check in with Kate often. We have ground rules for going to school, even when Kate feels sick (in short, if she’s not running a temperature, she’s going).

For the record, I believe that Kate *is* sick, so to speak. I’m sure some mornings her stomach is churning and her head hurts. She’s having anxiety about going to school sometimes. It’s actually pretty normal, probably, to be anxious about going to school. She’s got to learn to deal with it, with support from me and her dad. And she has to know we’re on her side. I talked to her about my talk with Mrs. M. I talked to her about talking to Mrs. M and me if she has a problem with Classmate (or any classmate for that matter). At home, I try to treat the girls fairly, and I try to give each of the kids a little bit of individual attention. Even if it’s just five minutes a night, focused attention seems to help them.

I hope I handled everything okay, and I hope I continue to. What do you think, readers? Did I do all right? Anything else I should have my finger on going forward, so to speak?

Doing 6 Right

My dearest Kate,

You read to me.

One book, The Foot Book, but you read it.

You are bright, a bright shining thing in my life. Everyone loves you, and anyone touched by your continually irrepressible spirit never forgets you.

You embrace everything and everyone. Sometimes this backfires on you. Sometimes you get a little too close. You don’t know how to deal with conflict yet – why would you? Everyone loves you!

You love being a little girl, but you’re not girlie. You polish your nails and immediately shred them. You have two Barbies and play just as often with Michael’s cars. You like to cook. You’re good at it, too! You pay attention, my goodness, do you ever. You believe in true love, already. You like to dress up, which doesn’t stop you from playing rough. You hide from scary scenes in movies. You hate – HATE – being alone. You trail after me and Flora endlessly. This is tough for us; Flora and I are cut from the same cloth, and we need to be alone to recharge.

You don’t. You never run out of energy. I don’t know how sleep stops you. It must sneak up behind you and club you over the head.

For your birthday, you made pancakes with Daddy, and I took you to your party at Chuck E. Cheese. CEC was your third choice. Your first was our house (no way, Jose — our house is still upside down from the backup in the basement and the holidays), your second was the roller skating rink (booked), CEC was your default. It worked. About 14 of your classmates came. The moms and dads looked at me like I was nuts, but you know what: they do it all for you, the kids have fun and haul home a bunch of plastic crap to eventually throw out, and I didn’t have to clean before or after. And I had plenty of beer at home to help me recover from the noise.

We stumble, you and I. I stumble, as your parent. You are spirited, more spirited than I know what to do with sometimes – a lot of the time. I am flummoxed by you, and I have to stop letting it show. But oh my goodness, little girl, you light up my life. You are fierce and feisty and, occasionally with me, fragile. And I have to learn how to handle you with care. I think back to being pregnant with you, how you scared us, how we prayed.

I will always pray that hard for you, Kate. You are my special epiphany, no pun.

You are 6. Six is going to be good for you. As your sister comes into grace, you will come into focus. You will come into your own.

I hope you had the Best Birthday Ever (So Far)TM. I love you, baby girl.


Dear Kate: 5

My dearest second daughter,

Putting this letter together for you on this, the occasion of your fifth birthday presents its difficulty.

I don’t want to compare you to your siblings, not because you (or they) may look bad in comparison, but simply because you are incomparable. You are a force and a personality onto yourself.

We have made progress this year, and we (okay *I*) have made missteps. I do most of my parenting dancing with you. Because even though you are my middle child, I don’t want to treat you like my middle child (whatever that means). I want to give you the attention you need so that you don’t have to go out of your way to get my attention. Mileage varies.

You make an impression on everyone you meet. Sometimes literally.

Your teachers have nothing but praise for you. You have no shortage of energy or personality — except when you are sick. As a matter of fact, it’s about the only way we know you are sick: you are still, prone on the couch, quiet.

I know people reading this blog who have met you don’t believe such a creature — a still, quiet Kate — can exist. You are unforgettable, my dear.

You are also clever, mischievous, fun-loving, and you love to make people laugh. And yet you are not a people-pleaser. You don’t seek approval; you seek notice, on your own terms.

Our favorite thing to do together is cook. You are so focused in the kitchen, and you listen to me give direction. It’s our “thing”. Someday it may be pedicures, but for now I like the baking.

You are full to bursting. With life, with ideas, with things to tell me, with things to do. With love, love, and love.

I love you, whole-heartedly, right back. Happy birthday, baby girl.

Hugs and kisses,

Kate Explains Stuff to Me

“Kate, you came in our bed last night.”
“I had a bad dream.”
“Kate, you’re not supposed to come into the bed. You are supposed to get daddy and go back to your bed.”
[Yes, I *totally* threw Dan under the bus on that one.]

“I didn’t have a bad dream. I had a nightmare. A nightmare is a scary bad dream. Babies have bad dreams, and they can’t get out of them. That’s why babies cry. But I can leave a bad dream. But a nightmare I can’t leave. So I have to come to bed with you. A baby can come to bed if it’s just a bad dream. But I can only come if it’s a nightmare.”


On Sunday, Flora decided to run away. Kate decided to run away with her. Flora decided this was okay.

They ran away to the playset in the back yard.

“We took beans,” Kate pointed out. “And drinks and chips. You have to eat. And we took some toys. You have to play. And a blanket. Next time we run away to our new house, we’ll do it on a sunny day.”


Kate built a few new “creatures” with the K’Nex sets she got for Christmas last year. Each time she added or changed something, she introduced it with a flourish: “And now for my latest convention!”

She’s so awesome.