Tuesday, May 19

Ani is THREE

Ani's birthday weekend

So, Ani. The PLAN was to have your cousins over and celebrate your birthday with them like last year. But they live in a different state now and are having van trouble, so that didn't happen. It was too late to orchestrate something else.

Your brothers helped bake your cupcakes and your sister iced them. They were watermelon flavored, to match this little watermelon dress we found. They sang you happy birthday and Cash didn't really give you the chance to see if you could blow out your candles, as he was so eager to help you.

You seemed a little confused about the whole flaming wax and singing thing, but you TOTALLY DUG the cupcakes and had two. (You would have had three, but I didn't want you to feel sick.)

Ani's birthday weekend

I attempted a little birthday photoshoot again, and by that I mean I took "the real camera" to church and snapped some photos of you. Still not what I want (which would be a clear, in-focus shot of you that show your pretty eyes and your real smile) but hey, it went better than last year!

Ani's birthday weekend

While I do not have photos that document your sweetness, trust me, it is there. You climbed in my lap last night and let me read you three whole books. What even? Sunday morning, we played a game where I put my hands over your ears and made a noise, and your eyes would light up at the way the sound would muffle. You thought this was hilarious. (No doubt there were bonus points because it made me seem insane at the same time.)

Happy birthday, Amanda!

We ran a gazillion errands on Sunday. Taking Cash to Amanda's birthday party, procuring dress wear for the big kids to be in Jordan's wedding, finding a gift I want to give my friend Samantha when she visits next weekend and the usual visit to WalMart to stock up on yogurt. We... eat a lot of yogurt in the Catoe house.

2nd grade Awards Day2nd grade Awards Day

The school year has wound to a close. Awards Day was yesterday, but the last day of school is Thursday. This makes my littles SUPER ANTSY. They know their teachers don't want them at school. But we can't let them stay home. Maybe in middle school? At what age can I leave my kids home alone while we are at work?

Monday, May 11

Ani talking

Ani will be three on Sunday. Ben commented on that this morning and wondered what her first words will be, since "she'll be talking when she's three."

"Well, do you count all the words she said this weekend?" I asked.

Because while they are not clearly enunciated (nor always used at the right time), we knew what they were.

When she said "please" for more chips and we told her to say "thank you" when we gave them to her and she tried. When she said "cracker" or "yellow" or "pretty" for the clip in her hair. (Yellow she was not using right and she seemed to think pretty meant "don't take it out" but hey, STILL WORDS.) When she told Cash "go" as he pushed her or said "BYE" when Kris went inside. That's talking, yo.

Pic by Zoe
(Zoe snapped this while she was using my phone to text on Saturday.)

Let me tell you a long story of Weeping on Mother's Day.

My children know that on many holidays, we go to Fultondale. Ben wanted to know if we were going on Mother's Day. Kris had an exhausting week and I have some sort of summer cold/allergy thing, so we said no. And he was like well, could Monk and Mink take them? That often happens, too.

But Kris' dad is finishing a job in Mobile, so after MawMaw's, he'd be heading south. Jan didn't think she could handle all three big kids solo. So Fultondale a no-go.

We did manage to get everybody ready in time to stop by and say Happy Mother's Day before church, and as we walked up the stairs, Ben said "could just I go?" (I'd already told Kris that it was okay with me to split the kids up if his mom wanted to take just Ben, as Ben was the only kid asking to go.)

Jan was game. She could have taken Zoe, too, but I thought that would break Cash's heart too much and Zoe hadn't been asking to go all morning. (Which worked out well as when they got there, the only other kid was a wee cousin that Ben played with for a long time, allowing the mom to stay for a good visit and I don't think the same would have happened if Zoe had been there.)

However, as we drove away from Kris' parents and Zoe and Cash realized Ben wasn't with us, the tears started. They cried all the way to church. Cash wanted Ben real bad and it was pitiful to hear him cry about wanting his brother. I had no idea it'd upset him that much, but I also thought it'd be better once I could console him.

So we rocked in the run room and he forgave me for sending Ben solo. But then he asked if we could go somewhere and buy a toy. And Zoe started angling for special post-naptime adventures. At which point, I dropped the Mom Law. "I'm good with consoling you guys, but I do not have to make anything up to you. I didn't do anything to you."

Children's church helped them de-funk and they were fine by lunchtime. And they napped for FOREVER, which is their Sunday way.

I told Kris my post-nap plans: let's take them to Big Lots (which is where I was gonna get Ani's birthday present) and let them pick out a toy and then go to Jack's on the river. And he told me I was a softie because he wouldn't have let them pick out a toy. Yeah, I can be.

Four years ago (on Father's Day, ha!), we picked up a toy stroller for Zoe. I saw them a few weeks ago and noticed it said ages 3+ — "oh, I'll get Ani one for her birthday."

(Zoe chose a Sophia the First craft kit and Cash some sort of Hot Wheels ramp & motorcycle thing. I always like to see what they pick for themselves.)

We ate outside at Jack's; Cash and Zoe wanted to walk out on the pier and look at the boats. When we got home, they all broke into their new toys.

I put a stuffed monkey in the stroller to show Ani what it was for, because she kept sitting in it herself. And she got the idea and pushed it a little bit. When she left it alone to play with a puzzle with Kris, Cash took the stroller for a spin and once Ani heard her new stroller being used, she was away from the puzzle in a flash.

She sat in it and Cash pushed her around the house. When he'd stop, she'd say "go!" There was laughing and knocking stuff over. I'm surprised they didn't break the thing.

But as I told Kris... she's about to be 3 and this is her playing, just the right way with an age-appropriate toy. And interacting with her brother and TALKING and just... it got me.

Wednesday, May 6


Hello new van

Meet C3P-Go. (We don't usually name our vehicles, but we thought a gold van deserved a punny name. Kris came up with it as he is the better punster.)

We got our 2005 Kia Sedona in January 2010; this one is a 2009. As Ben said "there is nothing wrong with our van." True, it was a great van. (Remember how it was all about 5s? We traded it in on 5-5-15. How even. I hope it’s a blessing to its next owners like it was to us.)

It did have a few minor issues. Last year, the driver’s side window quit going down. Which was not a big deal. I don’t hit drive-thrus often. It was awkward that time when I ran a stop sign, because the cops don’t want you to open the door when they approach.

The paint started to chip off the gas tank flap. We meant to fix it but only got so far as covering it with a primer coat, so that an ENTIRELY WHITE gas tank flap stood out even more. Then on Sunday, as Kris backed the van out of the garage, the passenger side mirror didn’t clear. This has happened to me before. But I drive pretty slow in reverse. It’d bump and I’d correct. Boys and their speedy reverse driving. As soon as Kris hit it, the mirror like POPPED and exploded.

Bye old van

So we'd been saving for a new van for awhile. Since I liked my Kia just fine, we kept an eye out for newer used ones. It turns out used vans are not so easy to find. Newsflash: nobody is really stoked about driving a van. So there aren’t a lot of them out there. And if you want to spend less than $10,000, the ones out there are really old vans.

(There are much nicer vans out there, of course. But here’s the thing: I don’t drive a van cause I want to. If I was picking out a vehicle just because I wanted it, I’d have a Jeep Wrangler. I drive a van cause it holds all my kids. So why would I spend $10,000 more to get a nicer version of something I don’t really want anyway? Like, I bet there are really expensive deodorants, too, but that is not where I want to pony up.)

When Kris broke the rear-view mirror, I knew I wanted to drive around and look at vans. We scoped out several lots while the kids were with Kris' parents. And then we picked them up early and detoured through Rainbow City on the way home to hit all the lots along 77.

At the Kia lot was a 2009 gold van. I spotted it first, which is only notable in the sense that we can drive past car lots and they can be on MY side of the road, me who is NOT DRIVING and I have to scan and determine are there any vans? Oh, there's one! And Kris can give the lot like the barest of glances and go "yeah, but that's a Honda so it will be too much" or "yeah, but that one's older than ours." Like, HOW does he do that? (But this one he totally missed, so ha!)

The newest Kia vans changed the body style. Possibly added amenities, idk. But I saw that gold van there and just knew: this was somebody who liked their Kia van and decided to get a new one.

There was no price on it. We checked online and it seemed like it should be less than $10,000. Okay, go look at it tomorrow, I told Kris. He’d be in the area anyway as he dropped Ani at her new school.

They wanted more than $12,000 for it, so I was like “that’s too much.” But Kris said he knew why. The van is like new. Less than 70k miles. Interior in impeccable shape. It has window treatments. An auxiliary jack for the cd player. (Oh man, I wanted one of those!)

Because it was an older couple and they just came to trade it in for a new Kia van. (Ha! I KNEW IT.)

They wouldn’t come down much on the price. So Kris came and got my van so they could see what they’d offer for trade-in. And that is where they worked the magic. I assume it all comes down to how they can register losses and whatnot. Because while they didn’t lower the van price much, they gave us well over twice what we thought our old van was worth for a trade-in. (Like, more than we would have sold it for even.)

I really didn't want to have a car payment again. But technically, I do not. Kris does. Since he was the one running around, he did the financing. Which is sort of empowering even though it's like FINANCIAL SHACKLES. Because Kris got it all on his own. (His credit was in abysmal shape when we got married; for years everything has only been in my name. I think it’s good to get his credit on its own solid feet even if I don’t relish financing things.)

The car lot could get him a rate like 4.8% and I was like "yeah, not bad but I'm pretty sure the credit union could still do better." Our credit union, which happens to run an auto loan special in May. (Spoiler alert: they had a better rate and the difference over the life of the loan is like two whole payments.)

They were trying to finagle it so Kris could take the van home on Monday, and I didn't want that. I wanted to wait until the actual loan papers were signed, and also I wanted the kids to help clean the van out. I think it's good for them.

So Tuesday we picked them up from school in the new van. They were excited and wanted to take it on a van-venture. Sorry, kiddos, it's Tuesday. The only van-venture we are taking is to pick up Daddy's truck. (But I did drive them to school in it this morning at their request.)


Tuesday, May 5

New school


Ani started her new school yesterday and it went well. She saw her vision therapist for the last time. (Because Early Intervention ends at 3 and Ani turns 3 this month.)

I was looking over the typed IEP that the school system sent (she will do two days at Even Start beginning in August, so she has her very own IEP just like her big sister) and it's depressing to see so many of her developmental delays all laid out like that.

But there are upsides. Outlining something she does not do (which I cannot remember the term for and am too lazy to go get the IEP out of the cabinet and check), the example given was "uh-oh." As in, she does not say things like "uh-oh."

This came from an assessment performed in March. But during the last week of April, as I stood watching Ani climb the little hill in our side yard, when she stumbled, she'd right herself and say "uh-oh." And when she drops the spoon (THAT SHE TOTALLY USES TO FEED HERSELF, NEVER GETTING OVER THAT), she has begun to say "uh-oh."

She keeps changing.

A year ago, I had Ani strapped to my chest in the Ergo on one of our WalMart runs. An older lady came over to speak to her. (Which happens all the time. Have a cute kid with you and just watch the friendly strangers come out of the woodwork. True, give the kid white hair and you may add overly curious strangers but this was the garden variety nice kind.) She tried to speak to Ani and got the Blank Face.

I take Ani's Blank Face as a coping mechanism. A polite way to shut down in a situation she does not know how to read. (These days if a kind stranger approached Ani, she is much more apt to reach up her hands and try to go to them. So... interactive, yes! The right social cue, no, but eh, all things in time.)

I don't know what strangers see in Ani's Blank Face. I have my guesses. But when Ani did not react to this lady, she smiled at me and said "I have a Special child, too."

And I. Just. I smiled at her, and willed the urge to cry away.

I don't want Ani to be "special" in the way she meant.

And I don't think she is. I think my youngest daughter was born with poor vision. Everything else I consider something that happened to her and can be (slowly) undone.

But this lady's child was probably grown. And still Special.

If Ani didn't keep changing... If she hadn't made all the progress she has since that day... she would still deserve parents. It's what kids are supposed to get.

I don't think Ani is broken and that we are trying to fix her.

I think wrong things were done to her and we're trying to rectify that.

She likes to swing now. Her siblings are already annoyed at how often she wants them to swing with her. (But they usually indulge her anyway.)

She likes for me to do "this little piggy."

She likes for me to put a blanket over her head, but she wants it over my head, too so she can look up at me.

She still likes to bounce on the big red ball, but the huge cardboard box is getting less play and can we take that out of the living room now?

And she liked having a bowl of ice cream last night while her siblings had cones.

I like the way she is changing.


Monday, May 4

Twelve years!

Twelve years!

Kris and I celebrated our 12th year of marriage by:

— Me getting locked in the bathroom*
— Him totally busting one of the rearview mirrors on the van**
— Sitting Ani on the potty seat multiple times in the day because she pooped through her first outfit of the day and that really makes you want her to potty train, y’know?
— Me having lunch outside solo with the big kids
— Kris attending Marit’s 3rd birthday solo while I stayed home for the kids to nap
— Going through boxes from my parents’ house (which is always both sweet and sad)
— Kris watching Game of Thrones in the living room while I read Les Mis AUs in the guest room

Twelve. Years.

*Okay, so weeks ago the doorknob fell off the bathroom door, see? But the door will still close, you just have to tug on the lock. I have been doing this for weeks.

But yesterday morning, somebody opened the window in the bathroom and when I went to tug the door shut, the open window caused a vacuum, sucking the door closed. And yeah, there was no way it was gonna open without the doorknob. Which was sitting on the dresser in our bedroom. My phone was downstairs.

I yelled for Kris and it took him locating three different screwdrivers to finally get the door opened. I could not get over the notion “but what if this happened while you were at work?”

Because I don’t take my phone into the bathroom when I am getting ready for work. I would have been locked in the bathroom ALL DAY. I’d have had water, nail polish and a dusty copy of the Bible. I would have gone INSANE.

**We are probably buying a new van tomorrow. (New to us. I will have a car payment. And complain about that. But it's a good van.)

Friday, May 1

A Les Mis AU double playlist

Y'know, I would not be able to articulate the HOW and WHY of my love for modern Les Misérables alternate universe stories. I just... LOVE THEM SO MUCH. You know what that means.

I haven't made a mix in a couple months since our computer died, so I'm back at it with a double playlist. (Of course.) I wanted to make a double since seeing this one. And it's been awhile since I did an all dude vocals mix or an all-ladies mix.

Side 1: Grantaire
Side 2: Eponine

They had to have the same number of tracks so the art would line up:

But each mix needed to clock in at under 40 minutes so I could burn them to the same cd. (Listening to music on cds in the van or watching television shows on DVD is like living as my grandmothers with their landlines.)

So, while I doubt any of you care about my BURNING DEVOTION TO THE AMIS, I wanted a post to tag "playlist." What is nerdom without organization?

Friday, April 24

Let's talk hair (yes, again)

It's been three weeks since Kris did my hair. Every three weeks was how often we went to the salon to touch up my roots — because as my mostly silver hair grew in when the rest of the hair was dyed dark brown, you get a skunk stripe, but not in a cool Rogue way. So this is the 1st weekend where we don't have to hit the Moxie to do my color.

Except, HA! We are going to hit the salon this weekend anyway. Kris wants to chop some more off the ends and I'm game, because the reason I was growing it out was that I had a bee in my bonnet to wear a ponytail every once in awhile. And get this: I don't like the way the blonde hair looks in a ponytail. I discovered that this week. (The first two weeks, the hair was in SUCH UTTER SHOCK, I didn't even attempt a ponytail.)

BUT. While I'm like "eww, this blonde ponytail? no..." the flipside is that I think I look better in all my sunglasses. Is this a light hair thing? I am always telling Kris that I don't know how to pick out sunglasses for my face shape or whatever and often joking how it's not fair that all mine look better on Zoe... And then Kris was like "hey, those sunglasses look better with your blonde hair." I'll take it.

I feel like a poser when people comment on how I "went blonde." Because I see it as I "ended up blonde" because I was going for gray/pink. (Oh man, in the realm of Poser I have this whole other tale involving a t-shirt for a sports team. I think I'll save it for another day, though.)

Going blonde on purpose is just not something that ever crossed my radar. I'm going to assume that for the majority of people who go blonde, they do so because they like the way it looks? But for me, personally, attempting to have blonde hair is like trying to be something I am not? (I had no idea that I had such deeply rooted notions about myself and blonde hair until oops, I had blonde hair.)

Anecdote from a blog I once followed:

When I was a child, my father would tell me that rednecks loved blonde women best – especially when they had black eyebrows. He said a woman who bleached her hair was proving her willingness to please a man.

That... of course has nothing to do with my hair color but does point out that there are Social Implications to blonde hair. Which I now have.

Nah, I'm gonna get into the other Poser story anyway. (I wanted to hold off until I had a photo to go with, but eh, like you even care one way or another!)

I hit Goodwill after first going blonde, looking for some new shirts because my whole wardrobe was based on being a brunette. I was flipping through the blue shirts (hey, my eye color didn't change) and saw a v-neck tee. (Ever since my pregnancies, I can't stand the feel of a crewneck. It's vee or scoopneck all the way these days.) I pull out the shirt and it's an Auburn tee.

I care, basically, less than nothing about football. But I always said "Alabama" when people wanted to know which school I rooted for, because it's where my parents met. If you need to pick a side, I figured fall on the one where I wouldn't exist if not for the school, right?

A couple years ago, Ben decided he was an Auburn fan. Okay, sure. So I see this shirt and it's blue and has a little off-white in the design "hey, like my new hair" and I think "well, I'll side with Ben and be an Auburn fan now."

So I got the shirt because:

Matched my hair
My son might like it

(I only wish it had occurred to me to buy it as a big joke that AU stands for Alternate Universe in fanfiction and how much do I love AU fics?!?)

However. When I wear the shirt in public, other people don't know why I bought the shirt. I look just like a regular ol' Auburn fan to them. A blonde one. I'm doubly misrepresenting.

I wore my Auburn tee to jury duty on Monday. "Maybe it will save me," I said. (Most people around here are Alabama fans.)

I was minding my own business, reading my Amy Tan book (that I will never, ever finish, whyisthisbooktakingsolong?), when I hear a voice say "sorry, you have to sit next to Auburn over there." I don't bother to look up, but another guy answers "I don't think we'd get along."

Dude, you are so right. I mean, you probably care about football.

So. Still not used to this blonde thing. Happy that we don't have to color my hair this weekend.