There is no crying in hockey

We hit a crossroads two weeks ago at hockey. It was painful and dramatic and slightly embarassing for Steve. As is typical of most working parents with young children, our Saturday mornings are no longer lazy and pajama filled. We get more done by noon than most people and then we flop in sort of a stunned overwhelmed heap by 2pm. I had Connor at soccer (9:30), so Steve had Caroline at hockey (10:00). As I raced out of the building to head to hockey to see that last few moments of ice time, I got a frantic call from Steve and a tearful hockey player was whining in the background. It was only 10:35 and she was crying to get off the ice.

The dilemma.

All week long a little girl with curls tells us that Connor might like taking shots on his goal in the playroom, but SHE is a real hockey player. She practices her "hockey face" and tells us she is excited about playing and how many days until she gets to go again??? Saturday rolls in and that excitement turns into anxiety and even as I am racing to soccer with Connor, I can see that Steve has his work ahead of him to get her revved up, confident and dressed in $150 worth of equipment. He reports that she is excited until the very last moment when she is about to step on the ice, but she does great once she is out there. She skates well for a beginner, back and forth, shuffle gliding with her arms to the side. 10:35, WHAM! Complete and total breakdown, tears, begging to get off the ice. So what is a parent to do?

After this particular breakdown, which resulted in an early departure and a forgotten pink stick, we weren't sure what to do next? It's a fine line between forcing and encouraging at this age.

I talked with her about it later and the comment that stuck with me was "I just don't know what else to do." This I could work with. she was bored. A girl can only skate back and forth for so long before she is done and a four year old girl can only do it for about 30 minutes apparently before her dam of tolerance breaks and a flood of tears follows. We talked about it, that if she wanted to play we want to support her, but if it isn't fun, she should tell us. We reinforced this was her decision and no one would be mad if she changed her mind. We let her know that the expectation is for her to skate as long as she can each week and that if there were any future explosive cry fests she would be done for good. Tell us you want to come off, talk to us, basically we don't want anymore scenes that makes us and every other parent there uncomfortable. We considered talking to the organizer about moving her up a level, but Steve was hesitant about being "that Dad." We decided to watch the older group this past Saturday and see if she could handle it (we are not sure she is ready, but maybe if she chooses to do the next session she could start there?)

Last week there was no soccer so Connor and I were able to go watch and cheerlead. She got right out there, she skated great, she came over to bang on the glass and say hi to Connor. I watched her fall intentionally in front of instructors for attention, and get up and skate away as soon as she got their eye (smartie). She passed the 35 minute mark, 40 minutes, and at 45 she came off. The only tears were because she had lost sight of Steve in the crowd. This was a major win. We noticed other parents having the same discussion with their kids, even the amazing 3 year-old phenom nicknamed "hot dog" who could skate circles around the 6 year-olds. This week she and another girl got their sticks for the first time and she had a chance to play with a puck, but she chose not to.

I'm still not sure she is ready to sign on for session 2 in January, but we are incredibly proud of her for sticking with it, trying her best, and not losing her mind at minute 35. I think we weathered this ok. I never imagined things could be harder than trying to get Conner to Sleep for the love of god, but this is way harder. Steve and I had that awful discussion about how we can totally mess this up. You cannot help but think about the consequences of the way you handle things like this, the lessons it teaches, the not so nice message it might send. I'm proud of us for talking it through with her, reinforcing her power to make a decision and our support no matter which route she goes. Special kudos to Steve for not mentioning the hefty investment in equipment. I think he is counting on Connor to use it too. Our message was positive and supportive, with a dash of "you need to handle this like a big girl" thrown in for good measure. We may not have a hockey player on our hands, but this is teaching her important life skills we couldn't possibly teach her at home. So Caroline, when you read this in 10 or 20 years, I love you no matter what you do, how good you are at it, so long as yand try your best and are having fun, I will always be your biggest fan.

on being thankful

It's been a busy week; lots of running around, last minute holiday errands, a feverish pressure to get things done in my professional life before the holiday. I know I'm not alone in my pre-holiday fervor. The rest of the world is right there with me. They are packing shopping carts full of the makings of holiday meals, snatching up holiday decor (ALREADY?!!), searching the aisles of the liquor store for a lovely wine to accompany a turkey feast, buttoning up hard you wish you never met this woman cases! It's hard to keep our minds and hearts on the important part of this week; the being thankful part. If nothing else, my professional life reminds me daily that the most important things are family and health. If I have my family and we all have our health, the rest of it is gravy (har!).

Sadly, not all families are as fortunate. Some are coping with an incomprehensible illness I have trouble even imagining. I can't think of many things more devastating than a sick child, except not being able to afford the care your child needs. I see those the ads for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital ® , they make me tear up, and though I haven't needed them myself, I'm grateful they are there. I'm supporting St. Jude Thanks and Giving® Campaign this holiday season. The amazing Ruckus Media Group has partnered to support this campaign and you can make a difference for families coping with immeasurable challenges this holiday season.

If your kids are like my kids, they are already big Ruckus Media Group fans. Spot the Dot, huge hit in the McCashew household. The Velveteen Rabbit, beloved by all. I could listen to Meryl Streep read that book all day. I might like it even more than Caroline.



During the St. Jude Thanks and Giving® Campaign, all Ruckus Media Group apps are being offered at the incredible sale price of just 1.99. All proceeds from the sales of any Rabbit Ears classic interactive storybook app will be donated to the St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign from now until December 31st. There are some great titles, all read by names you know. Caroline is into memorizing the plots of books and "reading" the books herself. This format is perfect for that and she enjoys the stunning illustrations. Here's some Black Friday shopping I can get behind. It's a deal and it makes a difference.


I'm downloading 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. It's a perfect holiday addition to our iPad and destined to be a favorite all year round. I can't wait to record myself reading it aloud for the kids and maybe later this season a certain pre-reader will record a bit herself!  I'll be donating the difference in the sale price to St. Jude's and then some. If you want to do the same, you can make a donation directly to the St. Jude Thanks and Giving® campaign or by calling 1-800-4STJUDE.

I don't do sponsored posts. I was not given any compensation, nor anything free for this message. It is simply the right thing to do. Buy an app for the kids in your life. Comment below and let me know which app you downloaded and I will match your donation to St. Jude Thanks and Giving® Campaign. (Steve's blood pressure just skyrocketed reading that.) It's a season of hustle and bustle and overwhleming stress at times. It's a season to be thankful for the important things and to make a difference however we can.

justification

It's no secret that I work full-time. With that comes a mortgage size child care payment each month. With two kids in day care/preschool, I was more concerned with making more than the cost of school than what my take home pay would be. I simply refuse to work to have the kids in school. If I am going to do this, there better be some fun involved. I shouldn't think twice about buying a sweater, picking up a new supply of tinted moisurizer, buying stamps. We should plan amazing trips to Disney World and summers on the Vineyard.

It wasn't long ago that I panicked over every penny. I worked a very flexible job three days a week and made enough to cover child care, enough to help out, but not enough to live panic-free. We were fine. We were always fine, I mean my lord, we got hosed on our house and we were still fine. We were fine because my penny pincher spouse had rubbed off on me. When we needed that safety net we had carefully saved, it was there, and that was all Steve. It was a big challenge for our family, but a storm we weathered with a relatively small amount of lost sleep. He was onto something.

My thoughts on finances have evolved, but I still hate denying myself.  I struggle with it more now than ever because I justify. "If I can't really consider buying this sweater, why do I work?!" "If I can't treat myself to a pumpkin muffie in the morning, what is the point, really?" Part of that is selfish, and part of it is true. I'm not just talking about things for me. That justification extends to groceries, housewares, things the kids need, and on and on. I still love a good deal, don't get me wrong. The highlight of my grocery shopping this week was a 75 cent coupon on Fruitables juice right there in the aisle next to the juice, no forward thinking, no planning necessary. My kind of coupon. Pre-full-time job, I would have bought one. I bought two. Justification. When I went to BJs this week for our monthly snack replenishment. Marc is onto something, I only buy Nutri Grains, Granola bars, pb crackers etc once a month. This has vastly improved my overall quality of living, it has saved us money too, but the initial investment is more and sometimes a bit overwhelming, especially if it includes diapers. Justification.

No one in our house puts everyone else's needs ahead of their own more than Steve. That throne is his alone to sit in. I tend to put the kids before myself, but I try to balance it with little perks for myself now and again and I don't think there is anything wrong with that, but I struggle with it. My heat resistant spoonula somehow got a piece broken off, bingo, flashy new purple one. I justify this because I use that heat resistant spoonula more than any other item in my kitchen. Justification. Steve would never do that. He would keep using the broken spoonula. It wouldn't bother him. He has two pairs of jeans that he likes, I suggest he get a new pair, "I have two pairs, I don't need a new pair of jeans!" complete with arm motions and emotion in voice. Thing is, he has gotten a lot better about coping with my unbridled justification lately, he just doesn't extend it to himself. I'm still calling it a win. I doubt his views on justification will ever change, it keeps life interesting, it keeps me honest. It keeps me realistic.

We recently completed the final steps to getting our Mass Saves Heat Loan and are now the happy and comfortably toasty owners of a Lockinvar system with tankless water heater. We have been ticking off items for our house improvement google doc at the fastest speed we have ever tackled a google doc spreadsheet. Overgrown bushes in the front of the house, GONE. New Heater, INSTALLED. Firewood, ARRIVED. Powerwash the house, UNMILDEWED. (It looks amazing! I think it is actually a different COLOR) Interior panting estimate to rid the house of her PINK walls, completed, awaiting discussion on coughing up the money to neutralize the crap out of the upstairs; ie awaiting justification. I'm happy ticking things off, justification never felt so good. Steve wrings his hands wondering if we have done too much at once. I've learned a thing or two in ten years, including inviting the powerwash/painter in to give an estimate on some challenging walls in the interior and "hey, could you just do an estimate for the whole upstairs so we can see how much it would be?"

Enter holidays. I am trying to improve in this area. I am an over zealous organizing fiend, complete with you guessed it, a google doc spreadsheet. I tackle each person, tracking ideas, costs, shipment details. This isn't where I try to improve, I'm all over the organization piece. It's the justifying. It's the inner battle of a sensible holiday vs. a smidge of over the top magic. Christmas morning is going to be pretty amazing this year. Dollhouse, some felt food for the kitchen, Basket full of BALLS. It's not about quantity or cost, it's that our kids acutally have likes and dislikes, things they are into, and we have an attack plan. A sensible attack plan. We're planning on mostly shared items (less fighting), a few things of their own to open, and stockings. I stood in Toys R Us this week, another perk of my job, the ability to snag some time at Toys R Us to debate the differences between dollhouses. I splurged on the snazzier dollhouse. I justified, the same way I do for those occasional treats to myself.

More than improvements to the house, I'm working on improvements to myself, laying off the justification a bit. That being said, I pretty much love this little $30 justified splurge.

Improvements, mostly small, but exponetially improving quality of life. Justification can sometimes make it warmer, more of a home, a place where roots are tended with care and life's moments of perfect simple daily love are showcased. They are reminders that justification cannot recreate any one of these moments. The only thing I will continue to fiecely defend and justify is the temperature on the thermostat. I'm not willing to budge on this one.


what it is about

We recently caught some moments with a pile of leaves. It may have been the first time Caroline took a running start at the leaf pile. Connor dipped a toe in, but refused to jump. He did not take too kindly to getting tossed in, though he was quite partial to the kid sized rakes I picked up earlier this season. I'm on the hunt for the kid sized shovel. I also wish these had been taken post amazing "Operation Power Wash."












 Caroline took this one of connor.

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I played with the Disney videos some more, mostly because I had never edited any video prior to this. There are still two highlight reels (if you will), but they more accurately depict our trip than the chronological strung together first attempts. Highlights I alone could be the only video of what we DID, Highlihts II is more of the characters and the details.

I'm posting here as more of a placeholder to myself, a public place other than you tube to post them. I'm also probably posting them today because I had a dream last night we were taking the kids for a getaway weekend... to Disney World. Everyone's response, "already?!?!"



challenging

We are mid week of week 2 in the 30 Day Vegan Challenge, almost halfway through. I have to say, I don't really miss the meat portion of this challenge all that much. My appetite has been more than met. I am far from starving, but I miss cheese. A lot.

I forgot how much I liked smoothies. Connor has been particularly helpful is blending up frozen fruit, soy milk, orange juice and peanut butter. We made one for Steve at the end of last week and he liked it so much he didn't need the "to go cup" we had prepared it in for him. Connor is good for a small cup himself, which is far better than the breakfast he typically has. Caroline has not fully accepted this new breakfast idea. With  a smoothie under my belt, I am good until lunch and they are so yummy. I made a cup of coffee last week with soy milk and it was only ehhh, but I think I could learn to drink my coffee a bit darker, or skip it all together.

I'm struggling a bit sometimes with lunch. Hummus wraps with fresh veggies during the week, some fruit, maybe some nuts. I'm on the go in the car and I loathe spending money on lunch, so this has been a bit of a challenge. Fluffernutters have been a welcome treat. I'm planning to use the handy chart the author provides for making a grain salad to bring next week a few days. Weekends have been easier because I can make a bigger, more exciting sandwich and I have just been to the grocery store, so the ingredients are fresher and fancier. You would have thought I was eating gold on Saturday with my hummus, sprout, cucumber, tomato and avocado flat bread.

Dinners have been amazing! I've been skeptical every single night. I brace myself for Steve's scoff or starving eyes. I chop and stir and hold my breath and every single night he has been not only a willing participant, but he tells me how good it is. Even if he doesn't always mean it, it helps to hear. I made a bean chili last night with peppers and onions and corn, for the boy who asks me if I can find a good recipe for a meat loves chili, sans beans. I planned to get two meals from it, but we enjoyed it so much that I think we will need to eat it over baked potatoes to get another dinner from it.

The kids have totally embraced dinner, though Connor's diapers say we need to start rationing his bean intake. Kid loves beans! We put together some amazing black bean burritos this week. I tweeted that they enjoyed them so much I was awestruck. We have a taco night occasionally and the kids usually get on board with making tacos with the various ingredients, but this was different. I lined up bowls of fresh toppings on the table; shredded Boston lettuce, fresh salsa, cheese for the kids and Steve, and fresh made guacamole. Caroline scrunched her nose up at the green spread, but asked for seconds and thirds. GUACAMOLE?? I had to practically fight her off to get the last spoonful. Last night while she ate some chicken and tots with corn she asked me if we can have "that dinner we had before" again. I saved the extra beans (seasoned with cumin, s/p, and chili powder) and I am going to whip up another batch of guacamole because are you kidding me, bean burritos Caroline?!?

So thoughts - this challenge is HARD yo. I miss cheese. I haven't been 100% faithful to the no dairy component of my challenge, especially with the Halloween candy. I'm trying not to deny myself something I really want because I don't want to become discouraged or resent that I am doing this. Good choices when possible. Steve has really surprised me with his enthusiasm and support, except for last Thursday when he brought home an entire 3 foot long Italian sub from the FSU/BC tailgate and asked me if I wanted a slice. I did. and it was amazing. The kids have been much more open to trying new things. Connor loves plain ol' seasoned beans so much. Caroline asking for a second round of bean burritos. Are these my kids? my picky Caroline and my meat lover Connor?

We're saving money too. Sure, I'm making a trip to Trader Joe's each week for some more wallet friendly vegan options (their frozen brown and jasmine rice, bean dip, multigrain tortillas, soy milk, spiced pecans, organge flavored cranberries). Even with that extra trip we are still spending about 30 dollars less each week.

Do I think it will stick? Honestly, no. I didn't expect it to, but I think I have my family's blessing to incorporate these new meals and options into our everyday. That's a win in my book.

a week

It's been a week. I am well aware that today is Monday and that line sounds confusing, but I'm talking about a long 7-day stretch.

We ended last weekend the same way most people around here did; without power. Thankfully only half our town was out and we were able to cross a main road and find power, heat, and a freezer at Kiki and Papa's. We shacked up with not only Steve's parents, but also our delightfully adorable nephew. His sweetness would literally break your teeth; that cute. Naturally Caroline was working the deep Phoebe voice all day and she was enjoying the new husky tone until the sun set and we heard the beginnings of croup in her cough. We put her to bed, said a quick prayer, and got woken up at 11:45 to a sobbing barking girl. To Auntie Colleen's credit, she beat me to the bedroom, Mom ear in full effect. It was a long night. Lots of trips down the steps with a blanket to sit on the steps in the night air. She was having a really hard time breathing and the air helped, but I hardly slept a wink I was so worried. I googled, I fretted about her symptoms and what it woud be like to venture out in the middle of the night during a massive outage. What would the hospital even be like under these ridiculous circumstances?

Nana and Granda were on day Day 2 without power, with a sump pump not functioning thanks to the outage, bailing huge buckets of water from their basement, every 10 minutes round the clock, by candlelight.

Monday. No power. No school. Thanks to Auntie C and Kiki I jetted to my morning meeting and then excused myself for the day. By noon it was clear that she needed to be seen by the pediatrician, who wait for it, had no power. They gave her some steroid at the office, where they were all wearing coats for warmth, and sent us on our way with best wishes for a better night. It was Halloween and while Steve was annoyed, I was so relieved when our town delayed Halloween Trick or Treat until Friday. Poor girl would not have made it. Power was restored, we slept at home.

Nana and Granda endured Day 3 without power and continued their round the clock bailing.

Tuesday. Fever-free (with ibuprofen - don't hate) and having a full and restful sleep behind her off to school both children went. Coughs from both children. Drippy noses. We held our breath.

Nana and Granda fought through Day 4 without power, bailing somehow still kept up with.


Wednesday. Fever-free (again with ibuprophen - again don't hate). It seemed our girl was free of croup, but fighting one nasty cold. She was up most of the night coughing, spent most of the night in bed with us. She looked awful.

Nana and Granda labored through Day 5 without power, bailing effecting their ability to think clearly. I convinced them to order a generator with overnite delivery. Moods vastly improved knowing end of bailing in sight.


Thursday. We played out our school options out and made the executive decision to keep her home so we could decide for ourselves if she was able to manage Friday. Ain't no Director gonna dictate my day! Steve worked from home with the little miss at his side, coughing. He asked me about cough medicine, I made call to pedi because I thought cough medicines were ill-advised. Nurse asked about symptoms, hears that 102 fever has been pretty consistent and we bring her back for re-eval. Pneumonia and strep ruled out. We held onto hope that a nice restful night's sleep thanks to Delsym, abuterol, and ibuprofen would make a world of difference.

Nana and Granda enter Day 6 without power, but welcomed the arrival of their generator! No more bailing!

Friday. Caroline not ready to go back to school. Kiki saves the day. I plan to be home before her afternoon appointment, but patient in Revere changes time from 10 to 2pm. My day erupts and poops all over me. Auntie C saves the day and braves a Lyle and Caro trip to Marshalls while Kiki goes to her appointment. Caro is still sick, but getting better. Connor coughing and drippy. Trick or Treating. Cowgirl Jessie ran screaming from first house deemed "too spooky." Connor holds out bucket "tick o teet."

Nana and Granda somehow get through Day 7, generator working hard, they wonder how they kept up with bailing?

Saturday. Connor kicks it at soccer. Caroline not sure about hockey. The buzzer at soccer sounds and I literally screech from the parking lot to make it to the very end of her session at the rink. She looks great out there, skating better than I've ever seen here, but she wants to get off before the end. She tells me later she wants to go back, but she doesn't know what else to do on the ice. She's 4, her attention is limited, she gets tired easily. She's still positive, but we're not so sure. We'll see. Coughing and dripping continues. There is no end in sight.

Nana and Granda begin the day without power on Day 8, but get it back finally! Unsure of light switch locations from lack of use, not clear on directions for turning on oven, blinded by the evidence of power in the house.

Sunday. All seems better. Kids still sick, but look and sound less like death. I attend Annual Memorial Service for work. We cook our day 5 Vegan Challenge dinner (Veggie Stir Fry with Jasmine Rice!) and settle in for the night. We are thankful, oh so thankful that this week that kicked us repeatedly while we were down was over.

Nana and Granda delighting in having an oven. They make Asparagus Quiche for dinner. I drool over the thought of light fluffy eggs. (More on Vegan Challenge later)

Monday. Connor wakes up and cannot open his eyes. They are swollen shut and crusted over. We suspect conjuctivitis, but cannot open his eyes to look. I give him ibuprofen (wheee!) and we attempt to pry open his poor lids which are literally turned under they are so swollen to drop medicine into them. Yay for sick hour at the pedi. We are third in line and out of there (huge crowd!) by 8:30. No school for 24 hours. It's my turn to stay home. We stop at Kiki's on the way home for assistance with more drops since I'm pretty sure nothing got into his eyes earlier in the day. We play with play dough, we color, yougurt smoothie (for Connor) and strawberries (for us both) at snack time. Connor takes advantage of Caroline's absence and commandiers Baby Katie. He feeds her ketchup and surrounds her with his favorite thing, balls. Eyes looking better. We reorganize the entire play area of the downstairs to make first steps towards plans for magnetized chalkboard wall.



It's been a week. I'm ready for the weekend already, but the week literally looms ahead. I have to find a way to get back into the scary monastery this week and my eyes are itchy (just knowing he has conjuctivitis makes me itch!), but at least we have power. It really was something reading about all those without who were reconnecting with family, supporting neighbors and families, binding together, a wonder of humanity really. In the grand scheme, we know we are incredibly lucky, but this past week reminds us that a long winter looms ahead of us. Try not to look, I dare you. People who live with (and are responsible for) short people, you cannot help but peek down the long, dark tunnel of doom that is winter at daycare. Can't wait to see how this plays out with our new Health Savings Account Medical Insurance.