My mom adventures in Fort Collins

Impressions of Fort Collins: Parks and stuff

At this point, I am not so new to Fort Collins. We moved her in May of 2010, as renters. Although the house-buying process was arduous, and I have no desire to do it again, we have been here in our home since July 2010. In grown-up time, this is short. However, I just realized that for my kids this is home. As in, Hometown. Scout doesn’t even remember Denver, except to learn when we talk about it that it’s where we used to live and where she was born.

At this point, we have dentists and doctors, and a pre-school we love. There are grocery stores we frequent, and other places my children point out from the car window. We have done a fair amount of exploring and “Sunday driving.” All of our family has been to visit us in our new home. I think we are settled in many ways.

Since I have hereby established my legitimacy as a resident of Fort Collins, I would now like to divulge some of my thoughts.

Parks: Fort Collins is certainly known for parks, and rightfully so. I have explored a lot of parks, and I like many of them for different reasons, but here are my top three.

  1. I enjoy Miramont Park a great deal–very young-kid friendly playground equipment, sand (which is super fun to play in–I don’t personally like the woodchips as much for building castles) and plenty of open space to explore. This is a great park to take young kids–it’s playground equipment is far from the road, it offers bathrooms and a picnic shelter (read: shade) close to the equipment, and it’s rarely super busy.
  2.  I also love Lee Martinez Park, mainly for its proximity to The Farm and some awesome trails (let’s face it, I think my elementary school had better playground equipment when I went there 25 years ago). My kids love exploring the woods, and these endless-seeming trails offer some excellent exploring.
  3. And last, but certainly not least, I also enjoy Fossil Creek Park. There are so many reasons to love this park, but honestly I find the playground equipment kinda annoying–it’s awkward and non-traditional. However, what this park lacks in classic kid playground equipment it makes up for in quality space. This park is huge. There is a reservoir/pond and a fabulous walking path that goes around it. We have found crayfish claws on the path, we have taken picnics to the park, we have run up and down the hills. Best of all, in the summer we have enjoyed the sprinkler park–tucked away near the pond in a man-made rock outcropping, it offers a fun, wet playplace without all the craziness of a bigger sprinkle park.

On the topic of parks, I would like to add that my hopes going into the new year include exploring the Gardens on Spring Creek and checking out one of the natural areas in town.

Certainly, there are many wonderful things about living in Fort Collins. A favorite perk of our new hometown for our family is the proximity of Rocky Mountain National Park, but to be fair–that’s an hour FROM Fort Collins. Other stuff that I have enjoyed that is located in our fair city:

  1. I finally had a chance to discover the French Nest at their very last date of the 2011 season. This open-air market is so much fun, and, for the crafter in me, such an inspiration. There are so many wonderful vendors, there’s live music and food. Many of the vendors upcycle and create from already-existing items. It would be very easy for me to get carried away here.
  2. The farmers markets located around town are also a fantastic way to pass some time. I discovered The Drake Road Farmers’ Market usually has the people from Morning Fresh Dairy there, and they offer Noosa Yogurt at a deep discount compared to the grocery stores in town. However, the Fort Collins Farmers Market often has a vendor selling the most delicious homemade salsas and fresh chips (they are as good, if not better than Chipotle’s chips). Sometimes we go to both on a given weekend. I haven’t yet made it to a winter farmers’ market, though. There’s still time, I guess.
  3. And, as anyone would expect, we have truly loved the proximity to so many fabulous craft breweries. There are still more to explore! Cory buys a lot of his homebrewing supplies from Hops and Berries, which is next to Equinox Brewing, so this is probably where most of our growlers have come from. My favorite has been Odell Brewing. I just love their beer the best, I guess. Fort Collins Brewery is also right down the street from there, so it makes for an easy Odells/FCB combined trip. Coopersmith’s is a brewpub in Old Town and we have found this to be a family-friendly restaurant with delicious food and beer. Given that Cory does brew awesome beer, we don’t typically explore these places as much as we’d like to, but it sure is fun when we do.

There are so many more places to explore. In the past we have enjoyed the Colorado Brewer’s Festival and the Taste of Fort Collins, but maybe I’ll save all those fabulous festivals and events for an entirely separate post!

Unsolicited parenting advice
January 29, 2012, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Parenting

Said children for whom my parenting is reality

There are all sorts of parenting advice out there. Since no one asked me, and I’m nowhere near an expert, mine is unsolicited.

I think advice falls into three categories, Clear-cut tips, Slightly controversial suggestions, and Advice for which people would probably like to slap me. And before I go ahead with any of these, just let me say that in most cases, I’m a very open-minded, non-judgemental person. I have been humbled many times on this parenting road (and I’m sure there are countless teachable moments yet to come my way). Yet, I’m way too opinionated and outspoken to keep my mouth shut, so here goes.

Clear cut tip #1

If you are considering buying a play make-up set for a four-year-old (particularly a four-year-old with a two-year-old sister), please consider how this will affect your home and everyone in it (including inanimate objects).

Clear cut tip #2

Only buy washable markers, crayons, and paint. Restrict the other kind from entering your home, particularly see to it that it never makes its way to the grout in your tile floor.

Controversial suggestion #1

When your child is having a tantrum in public, do not say anything out loud for the benefit of others. For example, saying “See, this is why you should have had a nap” loud enough so that others can hear you is both unnecessary and untrue. It’s unnecessary because tantrums are a normal part of human development (presuming your child is 2-years-old in this instance, not 15). No need to make excuses for your kid. And while you may not recognize it as wholly “untrue,” it’s likely that what you should be saying is something directed to your child exclusively and it goes something like this, “I’m sorry that my need to [insert word(s) here, i.e. “go to the grocery store”] trumped your needs today. Let’s get out of here as soon as we can.” Because, let’s face it, this is MORE true. And I get it! I totally 100% get it! I don’t always enjoy being held hostage by a toddler and sometimes you gotta get stuff done. So you do it! None of us (well, at least, I hope none of us) enjoys pushing our children to the brink of a melt-down, but depending on our busy lives and the personality of our children there are times when this is practically unavoidable. You do not owe anyone an apology (other than possibly your child).

Controversial suggestion #2

Go ahead and shower and put on non-pajama-apparel before heading out in public. Neglecting hygiene needs is a slippery slope. Parenthood is a long haul. Don’t make habits now that will become hard to break. Take this from someone who once answered the door to my insurance adjuster while wearing my white fluffy robe that was covered in poop. In my defense, I didn’t know it was covered in poop (I was holding a baby who’d apparently had a blow-out on me) and this lady came to ME, not the other way around.

All-out-get-ready-to-slap-me advice #1

Don’t ever dispense advice or judgement as though you are some sort of sage of wisdom. This will make other parents annoyed, and (I have plenty of evidence to back me up on this) as soon as you shut your mouth you will be putting your own advice to the test. I have found the biggest offenders of this tactic are people who read a lot of parenting books. Just an observation. I myself prepare to take the road that I know damn-near-nothing about parenting my OWN kids, let alone YOUR kids, so why would I even want to go there: I’d look like a fool.

All-out-get-ready-to-slap-me advice #2

Be prepared to be a hypocrite. It’s like the good Lord knows every time you make a statement involving the phrase, “I will never let my kids…” or “My kids know better than to…” To say that you will be humbled is like saying the Elephant Man was mildly disfigured. I once called my friend “a cute little hippie” for nursing her baby for 18-months. I have been eating those words big time since, ahem, Ruby is still nursing.

I’m sure there will be more unsolicited advice to dispense. You better believe I won’t be smart enough to keep my mouth shut.

Ongoing family planning indecisiveness
January 28, 2012, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Parenting

I have never ever been decisive. I’m just not that much of a planner–I don’t have “goals” per se.

So, it should come as no shock that on the issue of the size of our family I am a flip-flopper. When I was pregnant with Scout, the thought of doing this whole thing more than once would give me even more nausea that I already had. Once Ruby was born, she was just this angel baby and I felt convinced we could have twenty of these darling offspring. I have been all across the board on this issue.

Today, I toy with the idea of having another baby. Tomorrow, I might not. Next week, I might have a fleeting thought about getting a puppy to satisfy my baby lust. In essence, I have no clue what we’re doing here.

Another difficulty is that Cory is a flip-flopper too. He comes from a family of three, so to him three would be great. Yet, he’s very content with our two. After Ruby was born, he often mentioned having another. Lately, he claims that he’s “ready to move on from the baby-stage.” It’s true, we are moving on from this stage and turning around to re-do another round of infancy doesn’t really sound like fun. Nor does pregnancy. But truth be told, there is little in life that’s truly awesome that isn’t also an awful lot of hard work.

My theory on family planning is that you have to start with a plan. If you are like Cory and me, and you are going to make it up as you go along, you will likely scrap any idea at having three or more children once the transition from 1 to 2 children kicks your ass. If you tell yourself you want to have two different sexes, that might keep you going for a minute, but there’s not a lot of people I know who have 4 or 5 children who didn’t start with some idea that they wanted a big family. Because big families don’t just happen. You have to start with that goal in mind, or else you will throw in the towel.

Cory and I might be done. And I’d be okay with that. We have two beautiful, healthy girls and that is more than I could have ever asked for. Likewise, my pregnancies (or really the labor/delivery/post-partum) were not exactly ideal. My 35th birthday is right around the corner, and with that comes the realization that time to do this might be running out. I know, I know, women have babies at 40 and beyond all the time these days–but what they don’t often talk about is that at 40 your body doesn’t bounce back from a pregnancy the way it did at 33. There is a physical reality to our bodies, right?

Yet, when I look at my family, I don’t know if I’ve closed the chapter on the baby years. I don’t know if I look at a photo of the four of us and feel a sense of peace, a sense of being settled. Instead, I ponder seeing another member of the family. Does having a larger family really mean that I myself need to be pregnant and give birth? I don’t know the answer to that question either. On the topic of fostering, Cory is uninterested. We’ve never seriously talked about adoption.

My main reason for wanting another member of the family is that I feel like I’m just now getting the hang of things. Why stop now!?! Maybe I could be an awesome mom, and I might actually have a shot with kid #3!!! Sure, as a young child, I remember looking at my mom’s family (she’s one of six kids), and wanting a large family. Once I learned how difficult it is to care for those children (and, let’s face it, how expensive it is to care for them), I definitely thought six kids a completely unreasonable number! Forget those families of 12 or whatever, who on God’s green earth wants to do that?

But one more? Maybe just one more? That sounds so reasonable. I could do that. And then there’s a night of all-night family puking, and I think, “Maybe not.”

My two beautiful, healthy, funny, perfect girls

The gift of another year
January 27, 2012, 5:54 am
Filed under: Parenting

I continue to consume all things kindergarten. Tonight I went to my 5th school meeting, at O’Dea Core Knowledge. And tomorrow I will go sit in at Shepardson, our neighborhood school and most likely candidate for “Where Scout will go to elementary school.”

And yesterday, I spent a long time thinking and talking about whether or not Scout is ready for Kindergarten. I talked with her teacher from last year, I talked with her teacher this year, my friend and former teacher Ginger, and I talked with my mom. Everyone was wonderfully helpful and supportive. Today, I spent time talking with her beloved Aunt Lexie, my good friends Hilary and Kerri, and another preschool mom. Again, totally supportive and lovely.

The result of all of these wonderful conversations was a real paradigm shift. First a language shift: I am not “holding her back” a year, but “giving her the gift” of another year.

We need to stop calling the choice to keep these beautiful children home another year to prepare for kindergarten “holding back.” It’s limiting. It sounds like we’re restraining our kids and preventing them from achieving their full potential. Quite the contrary, we are giving our children the time and the appropriate environment to grow and mature so that kindergarten (and school and academics, in general) can be met with all the enthusiasm and skills possible.

Let’s banish second guessing the parents who give their children this gift. Prior to this experience (like many different lessons in parenthood), I had no idea how difficult this decision could be. I can claim pure ignorance. I really came late to this realization. But, truthfully, thank goodness I came to this realization before it was too late. Good thing my silly pride didn’t get in the way of opening my eyes and my heart to the possibility that my beloved daughter might be better served by doing something slightly unconventional. Children need not attend kindergarten simply because they are chronilogically ready.

And that is my second paradigm shift. My responsibility to do right by Scout trumps whatever I previously thought I would do, what I envisioned for her. In my head, my five-year-old goes to kindergarten. Not my six-year-old. But what does a matter of months really mean? Who cares? I need to let go of this imaginary set of rules that I would very much like to rely on. My child, especially as the oldest, is–and I mean this in the best way possible–a bit of an experiment. I am new at this. My parenting will always be a series of doing-the-best-I-can decisions, because, sadly, there is no rulebook. Scout herself is trying to teach me how to parent her and I can’t always know how to interpret her.

But my reservations in sending her to kindergarten are there. And if they were purely academic, I think we’d roll with it. But school is so much more than academics, and I cannot imagine her struggling. As her mom, I don’t ever want her to struggle. Her tears the other day killed me. Here she was explaining how two girls at the “Kids Club” (the day-care at the gym I go to) told her they didn’t want to play with her. She was devastated, and apparently the only thing that would improve this situation was if these girls would play with her. The whole ride home I said, “Why would you want to play with someone who doesn’t want to play with you? Why would you want to play with girls who say mean things to you?” She remained steadfast. “I don’t like to play alone, mom. I want to play with friends.” She didn’t distinguish the girls who hurt her feelings from “friends.” These situations make me angry. Kids are mean, true. But I want Scout to take one look at those mean girls and stick up for herself. At the very least, I don’t want her to want to run into the arms of the children who break her heart.

There are so many instances I could give where my kind, good-hearted girl simply lacks the skills and experience to navigate increasingly difficult social situations. I’m left to think: She’s not ready. Maybe another year to mature, grow, gain confidence while in the loving environment of her home and her supportive pre-school would benefit her.  At the very least, it can’t hurt her. I won’t know for sure if this is the best decision possible for her. But I think I’m willing to listen to my girl as best as I can right now. And she is telling me, I think, that she needs a minute yet before the pace picks up and the stakes are ratcheted up a notch. Image

The great school anxiety

Doesn’t she look ready to take on the world…Including Kindergarten?

When you have a child, you are vaguely aware that some day this child will leave your side and go off into the world without you.

Slowly, you build up to such a major event. For Scout, I left her at a child care provider’s home when she was 8 weeks old. I was tearing up against my will, I did NOT want to let her go. Well, here we are over four years later, and I’m obsessing about sending her to school. More specifically, to kindergarten. This fall.

Namely, there are two main sources of anxiety: 1) Is she ready for Kindergarten? and 2) What school do we send her to?

To address the first question–It’s odd, this bothered me last fall, then I put it to bed, now it’s bothering me again. Scout has a June birthday. Around here, it seems lots of parents hold their summer-birthday-kids back. I personally found that odd, but as a total flip-flopper, I can see their perspective: You have to think long-term. It’s not so much a question of “Is she ready for Kindergarten?” as it is a question of, “Will she always be playing catch-up? Feel younger? Be less mature than her classmates?” You have to think of the big picture, right?

I am going to solicit her pre-school teachers input on this question. I also put a phone call in to our local school to ask if I can sit in on some classes. While I think she’s ready (she is independent, she can count/recite letters/knows plenty of letter-sounds/can write many letters, and she really truly enjoys school), I can’t be sure. I can talk to a hundred people and truth be told, I won’t really know even then.

And to speak to the second issue, where do we send this girl (if we do send her next year)? Unlike when I grew up, there are all these choices. It’s good to have a choice, but it’s also more involved to have a choice–there’s more to this decision. There is a great neighborhood school nearby (within walking distance)… but there’s a great bilingual school near her pre-school (about 10 minutes in the car), and another cool charter school down the road, and the list goes on and on. Some of this decision is out of our hands because the charter and bilingual school have lotteries to enter. The neighborhood school is ours for the taking, we are assured a spot there.

I visited four schools. The schools host informational sessions in the evenings for parents. I visited Ridgeview Classical School, Shepardson Elementary, Harris Bilingual and Olander Elementary. Honestly, I liked all of them for various reasons. Any of these would be good schools. Yet, I am confident that some schools would be a better fit for Scout, better fit overall for our family than others. I did call Shepardson today to schedule a time to sit in on the class and observe. The receptionist acted as if this was a strange request, but I asked an individual teacher the night of the info session and she recommended it. I’ll wait until the principal returns my phone call to determine how to proceed with that. I have been told by many parents and teachers alike that the best way to get a feel for the school would be to tour it while class is in session.

So, there it is. My anxiety in print.

I try not to get bogged down in these decisions. We have great options, and we’re very lucky to have any options at all. We can’t take these things for granted! Complaining about these choices would be like complaining because you get multiple job offers–“Aw, jeez, I just don’t know WHAT to do?” So many people would wish they had these kinds of choices. I get it. That doesn’t save me from making this into the issue du jour and wrestling on and on with the many different ways this could all play out.

My own ramblings
January 23, 2012, 5:50 am
Filed under: Blogging | Tags: ,

When I began writing my thoughts here, I had hopes of grandeur. Maybe I could be like one of those awesome mommy bloggers that I read. Flash forward nearly two years and, what, maybe 5 posts later? Nada. Nothing. Zip.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

See, the world probably doesn’t need another mommy blogger. Clearly if this was my God-given talent, you’d think I’d write more than once since my last post a year ago.

I do however have so much to talk about. I was just thinking today–I want to ramble on and on about all sorts of stuff. Not so much with the intent of an audience ever reading these thoughts, but moreso on a journal-type-basis. My thoughts, my ramblings, in no particular order. Nothing for others’ consumption. Not like an actual journal–since I’m obviously capable of writing a word processing document and hitting save–but a place to keep those thoughts. Tame thoughts, mind you, nothing that COULDN’T necessarily be seen by another human being, just no intention of ever sharing. If that makes any sense.

Future topics for my own enjoyment:

Kindergarten meetings–and my impressions of these fine schools

The slow road of deciding what school to send our daughter to, and why

To send or not to send (AKA Should my June-baby test the school waters, or stay safely in the preschool shallow end?)

Eating real peanut butter, and why I love my new kitchen gadgetry

My ongoing flip-flopping on the issue of having another baby

Being a grown up looking for friendship and community

P.S. And also finding a faith community

So, yeah, let’s start there. Should be fun. For me anyway. Thank God my poor family doesn’t have to hear about me agonize over these concepts. I’ll just pour my heart out right here and I should be good to go. Ha.