Monday, August 24

The six-year-old


So this guy is six now. He is at home with Kris and Ben today, after an overindulgence in leftover party food. (I know better than this. But the cake was there and it'd go bad, so I let them have too much. Shame on me.)

His celebrating began last weekend, when I took him to WalMart and let him pick out his presents. We wandered the aisles awhile before he chose a Lego City set and then a Nerf gun with his remaining funds. He and Ben built for hours that afternoon and even Ani has learned how to shoot the "Predator" gun. She yays for herself when she does so.


All we did to celebrate on his actual birthday was go outside and take photos of him holding up six fingers. (Unless you count dinner being something he'd requested we have sometime — he'd seen me making a box of pasta for lunch one Sunday and in the picture, it's covered in shrimp. "That's just a suggestion," I explained to him. "Can we do that sometime?" he asked. Sure. Just so happened that meal came around on his birthday.)


He came home from school heartbroken because one of the Edge teachers was going to let him get something out of the Treasure Box and it didn't happen. I got him calmed down and asked if a craft would make it better. (I'd picked up some pop-together My Little Ponys on clearance a few weeks back and stuck them in a closet.) Yes, a craft for the big kids made it all better.

On Friday, he had a solo adventure with Dad and Patsy. And then on Saturday, he had two friends over to spend the night.


After taking a photo of him and his buds together, I realized both of them are missing their two front teeth! Cash has yet to lose a tooth.


This was the first time for one of his friends to spend the night away from home (not counting at family's house). I was proud that he didn't want to go home. I know this is a thing that happens. I have called to go home from parties before. Still, it's like a little hostess badge for "child did not want to leave." (Thinking in Badge Terms because I read Lumberjanes vol.1 yesterday.)

It was another big night because it was the first time for Ani to sleep in her toddler bed in Zoe's room. We figured, already a crazy day. Good timing, too, in that when I went to get her out of the crib after nap, Ben showed me how Ani CAN TOTALLY CLIMB OUT OF THE CRIB. Okay then.

It was well past their bedtime when they all went down (Cash and his friends in the boys' room, me and a coughing Ben in the guest room, Kris by his lonesome), so Ani crashed hard and slept well in there. (We used a baby gate at the door. Less worry about her wandering the house and falling down the stairs.)

She napped in there on Sunday, too. Less spectacularly. Took them forever to fall asleep, so they napped crazy late into the afternoon.


So this was my first morning in, huh, I guess 8 months? Have I been doing this all year? To wake up in my own bed instead of the guest bed.

The celebration was short-lived, because I got up to find a vomit-encrusted Cash sitting on the bathroom floor. (I knew a boy was sick in the middle of the night and that Kris had gone downstairs with him. I didn't know that boy was Ben.)

It will be a long, long time before I buy a birthday cake again.

But hey, Ani's out of the crib and Cash is SIX!


Oh! And Robot's eyes are all cleared up and he's having less "accidents" so we aren't locking him in the bathroom anymore.


Friday, August 21

In the zone

Something we repeatedly say in the Catoe house is how smart all of our kids are. We're not trying to put pressure on them. We're trying to point out they are different kinds of smart. (Like, I got better grades than Kris. But he puts me to shame in spatial awareness. To shame.)

I know Ben is not me and that Cash is not Kris, but from pretty early ages, we could chart similarities. And I'm the kind of smart that got As in school. I'm Good Student smart.

Kris is a whole different kind of smart. A "how are so good at this? and this? and THIS?" He's Magic Kris, but he tanked in school.

Zoe and Ani are anomalies, of course. (No, not that kind.) But even though Ani isn't talking-talking yet, I can see in her busyness markers of intelligence. (And yes, I'm allowed bias.)

Ben came home this week with permission to have him evaluated for the enrichment program; Zoe did not. I think Zoe was mostly bummed that Ben got to leave class and she didn't.

But we don't want her to think she is somehow less smart.

Zoe is so, so smart. And this is obvious despite the deficits she working with: poor vision, the whole language shift we pulled on her when she was 4, etc.

Last year, I read The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. It had some really great passages on the different kinds of intelligence: analytical, creative, practical, emotional and social. Tests measure some of these but not the whole.

"intelligence and creativity are blood relatives ... you can be creative at anything at all — anything that involves your intelligence"

Even math!

I consider Design to be my Element. And that I discovered this in my teens.

"Finding the medium that excites your imagination, that you love to play and work in, is an important step to freeing your creative energies."

When I am designing something, I am content. I am in the zone.

The Element has a whole chapter devoted to being "In the Zone." It mentions markers of being in the zone to be "freedom and authenticity." Hey! Two of my favorite things!

"When we are doing something we love and are naturally good at, we are much more likely to feel centered in our true self — to be who we feel we truly are."

So much yes.

"being in the zone doesn't take energy from you; it gives it to you"

The author talks about watching politicians and wondering why they aren't exhausted.

"The very thing that would wear me out is fueling them up."

I feel tired a lot lately. Parenting and Reporting are not my Elements, not my Zones. They drain me.

"The more alive we feel, the more we can contribute to the lives of others."

I need those moments that make me feel alive. I want my kids to find their Element.

"Left to their own devices, what are they drawn to? What kinds of activities do they tend to engage in voluntarily?"

Books. Blocks. Each other.

Sometimes I have Mom Guilt over the extracurriculars my children are not in. Soccer. Dance. Etc.

But it was always such a hassle to get them to these things and they always seemed to complain about them and want to quit them. (The same with trying to get them to ride a bike.)

Zoe never asks to ride her bike. She often asks to get her skates out and is happy when things are scheduled for the skating rink.

Ben likes to read and draw.

Cash and Ani like to build things.

Life is happier in your Element.

(Sorry for this post. You probably just want to know how Robot is doing. He started eating regular cat food last night!)

Monday, August 17

Hey, remember that time?


In hindsight, this could have all been avoided had I not sent that text.

When we got to church yesterday morning, Kris got out of the van to greet his brother who was visiting. The kids exited because they always want to go see if somebody brought donuts. But as I was putting my phone in the diaper bag, I saw I had a text from Samantha, so I paused to answer.

Which had me just a few steps behind my family. Which is exactly how many steps it took to be there for the itty bitty kitten trying to get in the church.

He was so, so small. And one of his eyes was so grossly full of goop, we couldn't even tell if he still had that eye. Several of us stood around wondering "what do we do?"

And then Pamela side-stepped him, going in the church and he followed her and she couldn't close the door on him and now this itsy bitsy kitty was inside the church and there are my children, donut in one hand, petting a possibly feral cat with the other.

So I picked him up.

Which is how you get a cat.


I knew he was way too small to be separated from his mother. There would be no "fending for himself" if somebody didn't take him home. I showed him to Liz and she said the goopy eyes might just be because his mom wasn't there to clean them.

Vets aren't open on Sunday. Animal control isn't open on Sunday. Left alone, he'd die.

So I kept him tucked to my chest. He was shaking until I shifted him to where he could feel my heartbeat. Then he calmed down, licked me, rocked his head back and forth and fell asleep.

We really, really weren't ready to get a cat.

Walking to school last week, we passed a house with a German Shepherd in the yard. The kids asked if we could get a dog. "We'd sooner get a cat," I told them. "But we aren't getting anything until Ani starts using the potty."

The kids were super excited about this cat in my arms. Were we keeping it? "I... don't know. Ask Daddy."

They didn't want to ask Daddy.

Whhhhyyyy was there a teensy kitten in front of the church? In the history of never has this happened. Whhhhhyyyyy did it come in with my family?

I didn't know if it was a girl cat or a boy cat.

"Robot is an equal opportunity badass name." (x)

No. Oh, no. It is over once you've picked out a name for it.

I showed the cat to Kris.

He was unimpressed.

Until he thought about the parallels that this cat was having issues with its eyes and somebody ditched it in a place where it had a chance of survival.

"I guess we have a cat."

I texted Samantha again.

So. There is The Plan and there is How Things Turn Out.

We've got a cat. I named him Robot. (The kids probably think this is because "he looks like a robot" or something. No, children. It's because your mom is a Big Fat Nerd and Robot is what Grantaire names the cat in the modern Les Mis AU that everybody refers to as "the kitten one." The kids gave him the middle name Tiger. Robot Tiger Catoe.)

Kris took our new cat to the vet this morning.

It's a boy. About 4 weeks old.

He's a good kitty.


Monday, August 10

Back to school

We now have a first-grader and two third-graders. (And a two-day-a-week 3k'r not pictured.)

They were prepped for this with haircuts on Friday night.

Untitled Untitled Untitled


And a skate party on Saturday.


Gotta keep 'em educated.

Monday, July 27




That's the way that Ani pronounces "hot." My cup of coffee? Stuff on the stove?


Big kids have their last week of swimming lessons. We found out who their teachers are for the upcoming year.


We cleaned out the basement a little of recycling and donations for Goodwill. And while we did this, we mapped out how to turn half the basement into an entertainment area/could be mini-apartment someday. There's a corner big enough for a couple of small couches. A television could go on the wall. A little mini-counter could go on one side and maybe wee bistro seating opposite it. If we could fit a half-bath (or maybe a small shower?) in the other corner: hey, somewhere for the kids to host people and be out of our hair!

Because that time will come, no?


Friday, July 10

Pressure’s on, kid

Ani first family meal at the table

As I took this, the Big Kids pointed out Ani has eaten at the table before. I explained “she has had snacks at the table, but this is her first dinner.” (Shut up, jerks-who-think-you-are-right-all-the-time.)

Also, what really got me is a moment before, she had looked over at Zoe and how Zoe had her elbows on the table and Ani made this concentrated effort, one elbow at a time, to hoist hers up as well. Emulating her big sis. IT WAS A MOMENT.

Cash keeps bringing me the insert that came with a set of Chima legos. Like “I want this one and this one and this one.”

Sure, we can look for that on the internet. And I keep telling him his option is one gift and a party or a bunch of gifts and no party but he can have a friend come spend the night.

Because I am over planning kid parties, you guys. How many do I have under my belt now? (I can’t just add the kids’ ages since I didn’t have Zoe until she was 4 and we didn’t start parties for each kid until they were at least 3.) BUT A LOT OF KID PARTIES.

Though I wasn’t trying to push much. He knew where he wanted to have a party. But these Chima legos. Siren call. I think he’s caving.

(Zoe hasn’t caved yet. She still wants a party.)

I feel certain I can get Ben to cave in March. He’s pragmatic.

“What will we do for Ani’s birthday?” Zoe wants to know.

“I hope she’ll be talking well enough by then to tell us what she’d like to do,” I answer.

Ani’s done well eating at the table this week. Sayonara, high chair.

I’d let her out of the crib sooner except for how her toddler bed will be in Zoe’s room which is right next to the staircase and I have “but what if my three year old falls down the stairs in the dark” fears that weren’t in place for the boys because their room is down the hall.

There’s that family age thing, too. I think it’s unusual for a kid of 3 to still be in a crib? But for a less than 18-month-old, not odd at all. (Ani has been home for about 15 months.)

So. We’re still in the mode of Waiting for her to Master Speech > POTTY TRAINING > Move to Zoe’s room. Because once she can use the toilet, she can no longer sleep in the crib.

AND THEN I GET MY ROOM BACK. And maybe won’t spend so much time in the guest bed? We shall see.

Monday, July 6

This year


When you get a three-day weekend for the 4th of July, you sort of count on sunshine and blue skies. It was a bummer to wake up to rain each day.

Cash had asked when we could go to the movies again, so on Friday I sent Kris with the big three to see Inside Out. They had a nice time (and I had a nice time finishing a book on the sun porch while Ani napped) but they were bummed that I couldn’t be there, too.

“Then we need to teach Ani how to watch TV,” I told them. (I just don’t peg her for sitting still in the dark that long when she wouldn’t be watching the movie at all. Plus, she still turns into a crazy person in the afternoon/evening with no midday nap. So. No movie for moi.)

But when it came to hitting the Finlayson pool for the 4th, she was all about it! (Last year, she spent the whole time either in the Ergo or the playpen.) Her new favorite thing is Commandeering An Adult and she played this game many, many times. She commandeered both Jennifer and Brook and also many of their guests.

The swam her in the pool, fed her fruit, bounced her on their laps. She had a great time.


Her speech is at that place where other people can sometimes tell what she’s saying (like Liz, Jennifer and I all knew she was saying “dog” but none of us knew what she meant — “I want to see the dog?” “Keep me safe from the dog?” “Yep, that is a… dog?”) and sometimes only Kris or I would know what she said. “She wants you to ‘sit down.’”

The big kids skipped back and forth between the pool and the hot tub for hours. But the boys began to tire out and whined for an hour that they were tired until we gave up and came home. So no fireworks this year. Maybe next time.

(Sometimes, it bothers me big time how I can’t dictate my own schedule. What if I wanted to stay up and watch the fireworks, huh? But mostly, I’ve crafted a way to stay sane where I am. “Great, let’s go home. Sooner you guys go to bed, sooner I can read that new chapter my Tumblr buddy just posted.”)

I didn’t get to pester Chris about Sense8 because he had to work (boo, adulthood!) BUT Liz had watched it and so I got to pester her instead! Win.

Kris got to put up the posts and lights on the deck as he wanted to for years now. And it is glorious. A veritable fairyland. You can’t really bask in their wonderment until 8pm, but this fall, man, the deck will be a delight.

New party deck lights. Ooo. I can't wait to try them out!

A photo posted by Kris Catoe (@kriscatoe) on

The Big Kids start summer camp at the YMCA this week. Ani had her second week attending Kids Church instead of hanging out with Kris in the run room. We are thinking of putting the high chair on the curb to keep us from using it as a crutch. (She is about to outgrow it, but man, she still spills a lot of food. It’s easier to tether her to the chair for such mess.)