Confessions

Well, it’s been a while . . . .

Last year was not my best year.  My life went through a myriad of changes.  It was definitely my most difficult year of my entire life.
Long story short:
I am divorced.  I have moved to a new house.  I am no longer a housewife.  I am working.
My head is still spinning after all of that.  But we are adjusting and getting used to a new normal.

So bring on 2017!  I have decided it is going to be a fantastic year.
(OK, I don’t know that, but I remain hopeful)
I have also made some agreements with myself:

  1. I will be true and honest with myself and with others around me, even when I disagree.
  2. I will stand up for myself and my opinion.  Because I matter.
  3. I will not compromise myself just to conform to others opinions/expectations.

    I am a fan of Momastery, and she wrote a blog post last summer that really resonated with me.
    Momastery Post

    My life is not hers, and our experiences are vastly different.  But there were a few things she said that have stuck with me.
    When she talks about being broken, and rebuilding  . . . .
    When she talks about being authentic . . . . . .
    And when she talks about what success means to her . . . . .

It took me a long time to realize how broken I was.  And I am still working on the rebuilding.  I have a feeling it will take a long time.  This was something I never thought I would go through or deal with and it was a struggle to be honest.

I have also learned that I have amazing friends and family who have been so INCREDIBLY supportive throughout everything.  Even when I didn’t deserve it, they loved me and showed up and made sure I knew that I was loved unconditionally.  I still cry a lot when I think about it all.  And I am still terrified of the future.  But it is a hopeful terrified.
And I know I can do this.

My Daughter is More Fantastic Than Yours

Ciara recently found out that one of her so-called friends hates her.
And then another “friend” said that she hated her too.
As a mother, I have had many feelings about this.
My first instinct was to find these girls, sit them down, and give them many reasons why they shouldn’t hate anyone, let alone my daughter who is fantastic.
But I realized that would just embarrass my daughter, and probably make those other girls hate her even more.
My next idea was to contact their mothers, and have a sit down meeting with everyone and hash this whole thing out (much like a meeting of the heads of the families in the Godfather).
But this is not a practical idea either.
The next idea that comes into my head is that maybe my daughter has done something that has created this kind of hate.  Maybe she was mean to them, or perhaps rude in some way.  I have seen some of the looks she gives me.  If she were to look at the friends this way, then I could totally understand why this happened.  But I can’t immediately jump to attack her and blame her for this.  That would just destroy her.  I did gently probe to see if she knows why they don’t like her, and she seems pretty clueless.
So then what options am I left with?
We talked about how her true friends won’t do this, that if they have a problem with something she has done, then they will (hopefully) seek her out to talk about it before just writing her off completely.
We talked about all the other friends she has.  I told her that there is always going to be someone out there that doesn’t like her.  There were girls who didn’t like me when I was her age, but it turned out to be so insignificant that I can’t even remember their names.  I also told her that one day she would grow up and move away from all these people, and that only the truly important ones would stay in her life.

I am still amazed at how much this has hurt me.  How dare some one not like my daughter!  I try to tell myself the same things I told her, but the over-protective Tigress inside is raging and ready to defend and destroy.
And I know this is only the beginning.  We have many more years of this ahead of us.
I need to pace myself.

Letting Go

Wow, what a summer!  It flew by, and I can’t believe that my kids have been back in school for almost a week.
We had pony camp, hockey camp, Kids Theatre Experience, life guarding class, lots of time at the pool, a quick trip to NYC, and then BAM!
School is back in session.
With my oldest starting middle school, it really hit me hard.
In just 7 short years, she will be ready for college and will most likely leave us.
(Imagine me hyperventilating)
SERIOUSLY?!?!?!?!
There is no way she is that old!
And then I start to reminisce about my middle school experience, which makes me want to wrap her in some sort of protective layer, and the lock her in her room until I have deem it safe enough for her to emerge (which may be NEVER).
But then the rational part of me realizes that locking her up is just not practical, so then I just hand her lunch and send her off to school, praying that she will find good friends to sit with in class, during lunch, during gym.  That she will find at least one friend that will have her back no matter what happens.
And that she will realize that she will move on from all these experiences one day, that middle school will not define her life.
I can’t even put into words all the things that I want her to know about middle school.

Lately, I have noticed that she no longer wants to walk right next to me and hold my hand.  (Except in NYC, she wouldn’t let go of my hand which I loved.  We may need to move there so she will hold my hand more often.)  She wants to be in front of me.  She has stopped following me, and started making her own trail, her own path.  Why can’t she just follow the carefully laid path I have prepared?  Doesn’t she know that if she listened to everything I say, she get to where i want her to go with minimal problems?
Yes, I am seeing a correlation here between our relationship with God, but since this post is about middle school, I am not going to delve into that topic.

But then I realize that perhaps where I want her to go, and where she wants to end up are probably 2 very different places.
So, I take a backseat and watch her blaze her own path and prepare myself for the things that are to come (boys, heartache, and just plain growing up).

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It’s That Time of Year

So, my oldest left for camp today.
We will not hear from her or see her until Friday late afternoon (except for a letter that she will be writing tonight and mailing out tomorrow).

A quick explanation about the camp:
At our school, all 5th graders get an opportunity to go to camp.  It is kind of like a rite of passage that our school has been doing for about 40 years.  The are gone from the day after Memorial Day until Friday.  There are no phones, no cell services, etc.  (Except for the principal who has a special phone for emergencies)
There are also no parents.
The teachers go, as well as some high school juniors who serve as the counselors.
The camp is located near Gettysburg, so they have a whole Civil War unit leading up to it.
They are divided into the Confederacy and Union, and then into cabins of 8 5th graders, with 2 counselors.
They have classes during the week, where they learn outdoor survival skills, build bird houses, study the stream, and then go and tour Gettysburg for a day.
They have also learned many line dances in preparation for the dance that takes place on the last night.
And, of course, they learn camp songs.

I LOVE that our school does this.  It is such a great program.
However, it is going to be hard having her gone.
But the biggest problem I am having is the fact that this camp signifies the end of her elementary/intermediate schooling.

Next year is MIDDLE SCHOOL.

Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I did NOT enjoy middle school.
It was when you learned just how mean some girls can get.
It also seemed to be when friends change a LOT, and perhaps, make bad decisions.
It usually involves a lot of CHANGE, which, while necessary, it not easy to handle, especially for emotional, hormone-filled, slightly unbalanced, pre-teen girls.

I miss the days when I could pick my daughter’s friends for her.
Yes, I realize that makes me sound super controlling.
Which I strive not to be.
Which is why I don’t actually pick her friends.
Even though I want to sometimes.
But I don’t.

Let’s just hope this next week goes well, and that she has many fun stories to share when she gets home.

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Seriously, how did we go from this ^
to middle school??

She’s Officially 11

As much as I tried to prevent it, Ciara actually turned 11.
I have been surprised at how much she has aged just in the last few months.
She has stopped playing with her dolls as much, never carries them around anymore.
She also packed away some clothes from Gymboree that will still fit, but she said she won’t wear them anymore because they are for “little kids.”
And then she has started with the online stuff….
She received her iPod touch, and was thrilled.  And then disappeared for the rest of the day.
I could hear her clicking away on the keys, texting and taking pictures.
She posted about 10 pictures to instagram, in which she has mastered the art of the “selfie face.”
(You know, lips puckered out. . . .no smiling allowed)
She even used her first hashtag.
I feel like I need a baby book to record all these firsts.  But we could call it a tween book.
So, as I did with Caden, here are some things about Ciara I would like to share:

1.  She was also a large baby, weighing in at 9lbs.  She also had long feet, limbs and fingers.  Unlike her brother, she did not grow fast, and didn’t weigh 19 lbs until she was a year old.  We keep hoping she will grow, but prefers to stay on the small end of the spectrum.

2.  She cried all day long for the first 4 months of her life.  They were definitely the hardest months of MY life.  But after 4 months, she stopped and became quite a pleasant baby.

3.  She was a neurotic toddler.  She would organize her tea set by color, and would lose her mind if anyone messed it up (so of course Rocky would constantly mess it up).  She also freaked out one night when my mom was babysitting because my mom didn’t put Ciara’s shoes in the exact right spot before she went to bed.  And Ciara was only 18 months old when she did all this.

4.  She has always loved baby dolls.  Always, which is why it was such a sad day when she finally stopped playing with them.  Her first baby doll was Rachel, and she would constantly tell me that she had a baby in her belly.  After I had Caden, she would feed her baby when I fed Caden, change her baby when I changed Caden.  She was pretty sure her baby was just as real as my baby.

5.  During her last year of preschool, her teacher sought me out to talk to me.  Apparently, all the boys in the class were in love with my daughter, and it was becoming a problem.  Luckily, Ciara wasn’t doing anything to encourage them, and she seemed quite oblivious to what was going on.  But her teacher explained that many fights would break out on a daily basis because they all wanted to sit next to her, or marry her, or whatever.  I remember the mom of one of the little boys told me how her son was saving up his money to buy presents for the babies that he and Ciara would be having one day.  We don’t seem to have this problem now, for which I am VERY grateful.

6.  Ciara looks and acts just like her father.  It is scary how much their personalities are the same.

7.  A few years ago, Ciara decided that she was a “sporty girl.”  The only sport she has played is soccer.  She is not the most coordinated kid.  And she doesn’t want to try any other sports (except ice hockey).  So I am not sure how she decided that she was sporty.  But we go with it.

8.  Her career ambitions have changed over the years.  Originally, she wanted to be an actress, but when she realized she would have to get up in front of people and act, she decided against it.  Then, for a few years, she wanted to be a marine biologist.  She still has a thing for dolphins.  Currently, she has decided to be a teacher.  We will see how long this career lasts.  But I love that she has such diverse interests.

9.  She is the most stubborn person I have ever met.  She chose to sit and watch all of us eat ice cream at the Penn State Berkey Creamery instead of admit to something she did.  We all had our own bowl, and she sat there with nothing in front of her.  And watched us eat our ice cream.  And still didn’t break.  (She did finally admit to her wrong-doing at around 8:30pm that evening, after a 12 hour stand-off.)

10.  Her love of dolls has transferred over to babies and toddlers.  If any of her friends have younger siblings, especially of the toddler variety, she loves to play with the siblings almost as much as her friends.  And the toddlers love her too.

So happy birthday to the girl who made me a mother!

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Tween

April is a big birthday month for my family, since both of my kids were born in April.
We have already had one birthday, and the next one is coming up soon.
This next one is harder for me, because my daughter is getting too old.  I have tried to prevent this from happening, but, alas, I cannot.  I tried to institute a rule where 10 is as old as they get, and so after 10 they will go back to 9 (instead of 11) and then back to 8, and so on until they are a baby, and then we can go back up to 10.
I have a feeling that even with this agreement, my daughter will still be 11, and not 9, on her next birthday.
I honestly start to have heart palpitations at the thought of the tween/preteen/middle school years.
Recently, I have started to let my daughter text her friends.
No, she does not have her own cell phone.  She has been using mine to talk to her friends.
I like it because I have the ultimate control over when she gets to text them.
Plus, since it is my phone, I can read everything.
But it does get annoying handing over my cell phone every afternoon so she can catch up.
So we have decided to get her an iPod touch for her birthday.
(please, if you see her, don’t tell her)
She has been begging for one for about a year now, and we have said no for many reasons.  But we now think it is time to allow her some freedom.  But freedom that we can still monitor.
It does terrify me to think that we are letting her loose into the wide world of internet and online communication.  But then I remember that she will not be “let loose” and that we will have restrictions, and an Internet Safety Contract in place, along with many other rules regarding device and internet use.
Yes, you all probably think I am a tad over-bearing and kind of a control freak.
But I am OK with that.
I am the parent.  And some of that comes with the territory.
(I do try to keep it in check, and not be too crazy.)
I feel like this marks the moment when my daughter stops being a child, and becomes something a bit more grown up.
(but not too much more grown up, because I need to be eased into her grown-up-ness)

All About Caden

Since it is Caden’s birthday, I thought I would share a few things about him.

1.  He was almost 10 lbs at birth, and then doubled his weight by the time he was 4 months old.  He has slowed down since, but is still a pretty solid kid (we get a letter almost every year from the school saying his BMI is too high and that he is at risk for obesity).  He is in no way overweight, but is just built solid.

2.  He has always loved to eat.  ALWAYS.  He used to eat until he threw up.  I would always ask his doctor about the quantities of food he should be eating, and they would tell me that he would stop when he was hungry.  Up until he was about 3, he would eat until he threw up, at which point I would take away his food.

3.  He is my snuggle-iest child.  He loved to cuddle as a baby, and luckily that hasn’t changed.

4.  He is a smart kid, and he tends to think he is smarter than everyone.  We have had many discussions about this.  I have tried to explain that, yes, he is smarter than the average 9 year old, but he is NOT smarter than me.  Where does he think he gets his smarts from?

5.  He loves sports.  All sports.  He may not play them all, but he loves to watch Sports Center and memorize stats.  Hockey is, by far, his favorite.  But he watches and records just about any sport.  If we can’t find anything to watch on TV, he will ask, “What’s on ESPN?”

6.  He may look a LOT like his dad, but his personality is totally me.

7.  He has always preferred to hang out with guys.  Even as a tiny baby,  he preferred my dad to my mom, which was the opposite of Ciara.  His favorite teacher was a man (Mr. Hostetler, whom he compares all teachers to).

8.  If you are friends with me on Facebook, you are probably aware of the interesting things he has said.  Just last night, he gave the cat a talking to because our cat was not being nice to another cat outside.  He went and sat next to our cat, and whispered to him for about 5 minutes.  Then came back and told me that it was all good now.

9.  His current ambition is to play in the NHL.  But he has a  detailed plan as to how he will get there.  First, he will play college hockey for either Minnesota State or North Dakota.  Then he will play AHL for the Worcester Sharks.  He will eventually be called to play up with the San Jose Sharks.  (Although I just read that the Worcester Sharks are moving to San Jose to play as the San Jose Barracuda.  He may change his plans)

10.  A few years ago, he was convinced that he was Canadian.  He has since realized that he is NOT Canadian, but now aspires to be Canadian.  He is pretty set on learning French, so he will be able to understand the coaches for the Montreal Canadiens.

I could go on and on about Caden, but I will stop for now.

Happy Birthday!

Central PA Survival Guide

After 5 years of living here in PA, I still find myself being introduced to new things that are unique to this area.
If you have grown up in Central PA, then you probably have no idea what I am talking about.
For those of you that are transplants, like myself, then you may have a few things in mind.
So, for those of you that aren’t familiar with this area, here are a few things I have learned in my 5 years (I still can’t believe we have been here this long!).

1.  Slippy = Slippery.  I NEVER hear anyone say slippery, they all say slippy.  My kids have started to say the word slippy, and I keep trying to fix this.
2.  “Let” and “Leave” are interchangeable.  There are signs posted in my doctor’s office that say “Please do not let children unattended.”  SERIOUSLY?  But it is quite common to hear “let” where you would expect to hear “leave.”
3.  If you go to a local restaurant and order Chicken Pot Pie, it will NOT be a pie.  It will be more similar to chicken and dumplings.
4.  “Yepper” and “Yepper-doodle” both mean yes, or yep, or yeah.  Grown adults will actually use these words in regular conversation.
5.  Hostess items will be hard to find.  You will be able to find Tastykake in abundance (and they have there own versions of cake, like Butterscotch Krimpets,  and Kandykake: a version of another PA delicacy: tandy cake).
6.  Scrapple is a gross PA delicacy, it is a weird gray meat thing.  Tandy Cake, on the other hand, is not too bad.  It is a vanilla sponge cake topped with peanut butter and chocolate.  They also have things called “walking tacos” which is basically a bag of Fritos filled with taco meat, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.
7.  It seems like EVERYONE loves the chocolate/peanut butter combination.
8.  You may think Sheetz is just a gas station.  But it is also a restaurant.  And people LOVE it.
9.  People also tend to leave out words when talking.  If you drive a truck, then here in PA you “drive truck.”  If something needs to be washed, then here in PA it “needs washed.”
10.  Apparently mountains are different here as well.  What they call mountains, I call hills.  But here, they are mountains.  (But in reality, they are just hills)
11.  People are very specific about where they are from.  I can’t tell you how many times I have asked some one if they are from the area, and they will respond, “No, I grew up in Middleburg.”  Middleburg is only about 15 minutes away.  I consider that part of “the area.”  But no one else does.  And do not confuse Shamokin, Mount Carmel and Coal Township.  They may be right next to each other on the map, but you can cause fights by assuming they are all the same.  Also, Shamokin and Shamokin Dam are 2 very different places and not that close together.  The same with Trevorton and Port Trevorton.  For the longest time I thought that people were just shortening the names, but then figured out they are actually different towns.
12.  There are no cities.  Well, I think Sunbury may actually be a city, as is Shamokin.  And there is only one Town – Bloomsburg.  Everything else is divided up into Boroughs, and Townships.  Your address may say Selinsgrove, but in reality, you could live in Monroe or Penn Township.  When we first moved here, I was registering my kids for school and they wanted to know what municipality we lived in.  I had NO CLUE what they were talking about.  I knew our address, but had no idea what they were asking for.  After 5 years, I am finally familiar with some (not all) of the surrounding areas.
13.  “A while” is another phrase that is used excessively.  When ordering at restaurants, it is not unusual to hear, “Can I get you a drink a while?”

Those are all I can think of for now.  And I hope you don’t think I am knocking Central PA.  I really have enjoyed our 5 years here, and look forward to enjoying the next however many years we stay!

Dance (or Sports) Moms (or Parents)

I am not sure how it all started.
I was flipping through the channels one day and landed on Dance Moms.
I knew nothing about the show, but the girls were dancing.  As a former dancer myself, I wanted to see what the kids could do.
I was immediately impressed by their skills, so I continued to watch.
And I have kept watching, and even went back to start from the beginning.
What began as a mild curiosity has turned into an obsession.
(I guess that is how most addictions start, but that is the topic for another post).

The reason that the show is so “controversial” is because of the demanding (and occasionally demeaning) dance teacher, and the drama of the mom’s themselves.
I often wonder if the show were based on a sports team, would it be received any differently?
I feel like coaches of sporting teams are often hard on the kids on their team, and the public sometimes expects it.  So why is it different when it is dance?  And this isn’t regular ballet class.  This is a competitive dance team.  They go out to win just as much as any sport team.  I will admit that the dance teacher does cross the line on occasion, but so do  many coaches.
Yet no one seems to bat an eye.

And yes, the moms are a bit crazy.
But again, no more than some sporting parents that I have met.
Who doesn’t want their kid to perform their best?
But at what point does teaching them to work hard and give 100% become over-bearing and pushy?
When does making sure your child has every opportunity to develop their talent become “cheating” or “sneaky”?

I don’t think there are any clear cut answers to these questions, but I do appreciate that the show makes me think about my own situation with my kids and their sports (hockey, horseback riding and soccer so far, perhaps some lacrosse in the future).  And it helps me to put into perspective what I want them to get out of their sporting experience.
Is it just winning? Is it learning to play as a team?  Or is it maximizing heir potential?
(And please don’t judge me for watching the show.)

A Christmas Letter

Seriously, how did it get to be December?  The last thing I remember was celebrating our anniversary in September, and then BAM!

CHRISTMAS!

I have been so behind this year that I have not even ordered Christmas cards.
Which means I will most likely not be sending any out this year.
I promise to do better next year.

In lieu of the traditional card, I have decided to write this blog post to all of you as my Christmas Letter.
Here it goes:

I was going to start with a run down on our year, but to be honest, I cannot even remember what we were doing in January!
We still own our business, which I personally hate.  Rocky used to enjoy it, but I get the feeling that it is beginning to wear on him (he has the hair loss and grey hairs to prove it!).  I still struggle with working, and Rocky still struggles with employing me.  He loves to remind me that I am probably the worst employee ever (which, let’s face it, is probably true.  I am “working” as I type this blog post).
I was able to take a Girl’s Trip to NYC, which was probably one of the most fun weekends ever had by anyone in existence.  We also went on a cruise with my family for Thanksgiving, which was also fun.  The kids had a blast being with cousins, and I enjoyed not cooking or cleaning for a blessed 7 days!

Our dog, Willow, has continued to be a disappointing hunter.  She loves birds, but not guns.  Rocky is not giving up on having a perfect hunting dog, but I am content to just let her be a family dog.  I try to tell him that she is just delicate, while he prefers to refer to her as a wuss.

Ciara still enjoys soccer, and has started horseback riding.  I introduced the idea to her, and am now regretting it because she now thinks we need a horse.  She started the flute as well, which sounded like a good idea at the time, but I am getting a bit tired of hearing scales and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  She has also become a 5th grader and a tween.  If you have read the article The Multiple Personalities of a Tween Girl, then you should get an idea of Ciara’s personalities.  One of my favorite examples of her drama was when she won some ribbons from horseback riding.  She decorated her door with them, and 5 minutes later I heard weeping and wailing and knashing of teeth.  I ran upstairs to see what was going on.
Ciara’s response:  “Caden looked at them like they weren’t a big deal!”
Me:  “Did he say anything mean about them?”
Ciara:  “No, but he just looked at them like they weren’t important.”
Meanwhile, Caden sat there with a bewildered expression on his face, clueless as to what had happened.

Caden can be summed up in one word:
Hockey.
If he isn’t playing it on the ice, then he is playing it outside or in the basement.  Or playing on the playstation.  Or watching it on TV.  Or talking to me about it.  He continues to play on our local team, and has had some great opportunities to play during the intermission of Penn State, The Hershey Bears, and the Philadelphia Flyers.  His favorite teams are the San Jose Sharks, Montreal Canadiens, and the Minnesota Wild.  He is pretty sure he is going to be a professional hockey player when he gets older.
Luckily, he does well in school so he has something to fall back on if his hockey career doesn’t pan out
(and let’s be honest, neither Rocky nor I are known for our athletic ability, so chances of him having a sporting career are slim).

In church news, I continue to be 1st counselor in the Stake Primary, and I also teach the Sunbeams (which is composed of same 8 nursery children I taught last year). I hope one day to only have one calling, but that doesn’t seem likely.
Rocky is now a primary teacher too.  He teaches the 5 year-olds and has a class full of rowdy boys.  He likens it to a wrestling match, less than actual teaching.

I hope you all have had a wonderful year!
To those far away, please know that I do think of you often.
(okay, maybe not often, but at least occasionally, and if not occasionally, then once in a while)
And even though I have dropped the ball and not sent out a card, please continue to send them to me!
I love seeing pictures of everyone’s families!

Love,

Nici (and the rest of the PA Baers)