Birthday Girl

Tomorrow Lorelei, our baby, will turn 11.  True to her birth order, she’s very much still the “baby” of the family, although she is surprisingly capable if no one is around to baby her.

Lorelei is homeschooled, and thus somewhat sheltered from a culture that pressures little girls to grow up too soon, and I like it that way.  Many 11-year-olds have already moved on from toys to boys.  Not this girl.

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True, she will be using those stuffed animals to star in the music videos that she films and uploads to her very own YouTube channel, but she also picks at least one to cuddle with every night.   She had names for each one of these picked out before her birthday even arrived.

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Right after her party guests left yesterday (we will be celebrating her actual birthday with dinner at Texas Roadhouse, her request), she went to film a video displaying her birthday gifts.  This is apparently a thing that “Kinz Tubers” (girls who make YouTube videos featuring their Webkinz stuffed toys) do whenever they have a birthday.  They also make videos of themselves unwrapping new toys when they come in the mail, and they work together to make collaborative videos called MEPs.  There is a whole language that comes along with this, and it has been fun to see Lorelei getting involved with her own little online world and teaching herself the many new skills that are involved in becoming part of it.

Being able to use stuffed toys as props in somewhat more grownup pursuits is a neat way for little girls on the edge of adolescence to keep a foot in both worlds.  I love the combination of big girl and little girl, but I hope the little girl part stays with us for awhile longer.

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These Shoes Were Made for Walking

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Lorelei is off to camp with her classmates this morning.  They will be spending three days at Camp Wesley Woods, about an hour from home.
This of course necessitated a lot of shopping.  And with one thing and another, I put off this shopping until yesterday.  Yesterday evening, to be exact.  Because it was my birthday, and Walmart was really not high on my list of places to spend it.
And turns out I overestimated Walmart, or at least its shoe department.  Because Lorelei wanted rain boots–insisted, in fact, that she was SUPPOSED to have rain boots (and she can get very obsessive about such things)–and the only rain boots at Walmart were in toddler sizes.
What the packing list really said she was required to have was “hiking boots or shoes” and “tennis shoes for creek walking.” (Or maybe it said sneakers for creek walking, but same thing.)
We decided that her school sneakers, which she only wears a couple of days a week and which are close to worn out anyway, could be used for creek walking.  But Walmart was also devoid of hiking boots or shoes.  And Payless (and all other shoe stores) were closed (it was Sunday) before we figured this out.  So Target was our only hope.
You see the results of the Target trip above.  I sure hope that’s close enough to be considered hiking shoes, because they were all that came close, and we had a choice between a size 2 and a size 6 (I think 5 would have been the best choice).  And Lorelei was not happy because they are BOY shoes.
I don’t usually get worked up about this kind of thing, being pretty traditional when it comes to gender roles and stereotypes, but I got irritated this morning when Lorelei and I were talking about her shoes.  Because there were no hiking shoes for little girls.  All the little girl shoes were pink or purple or rainbow or glittery.  The only boots in sight were strictly for fashion.  And I understand that little girls like pink and purple and glittery shoes, because Lorelei likes them too.  But there weren’t even pink glittery hiking shoes.   It was as if the people who make little girl shoes don’t think little girls might ever need serious shoes to do important things in. (Yes, I know they make little girl hiking shoes.  I know I could have ordered them from Lands End–which is where I got mine–or somewhere similar.  But most people shop at Walmart and Target and can’t afford to buy expensive hiking shoes for fast-growing kids, so why should a variety of shoes be available there as well?)

Not a Chip off THIS Block!

John and I were both well-behaved children, responsible, excelling in school without parental prompting, never giving our parents worry or trouble.
That’s why I think Karma is bullshit.
No, seriously, my kids aren’t that bad.   But they aren’t carbon copies of me and John either, which I guess is what I was maybe expecting.
I see this all the time in a multitude of ways, and I thought about it again last week at Lorelei’s 9th birthday party.
Lorelei had two parties:  a fashion party (her idea) with her school friends, consisting of manicures and makeovers courtesy of her big sister, and then decapitating and beating a pinata to death with a croquet mallet, followed by a family party in the evening.  I don’t remember my 9th birthday particularly, but I know it would have been a family affair, where we gathered with extended family around the kitchen table to sing and open presents.
Now I can tell you exactly what nine-year-old me would have asked for:  Books, Barbies, and Breyer horses.
Lorelei asked for stuffed animals, stuffed animals, and stuffed animals.  Lorelei has an Amazon Wish List, and roughly 95% of its SEVEN (!!) pages consists of stuffed animals.
Y’all, I had maybe two or three stuffed animals that I cared about even marginally as a child.  We got new bunnies for Easter each year, which I’d carry around for a few days, and then forget about.

Me with the ONE stuffed animal I saved until adulthood.
Me with the ONE stuffed animal I saved until adulthood.

When people started giving our kids stuffed animals pre-birth, I turned up my nose.  They’ll never play with those, I thought.  How boring and unimaginative, I thought.  What a waste of space, I thought.
By the time we had three kids, we had hundreds (I’m not sure that’s an exaggeration) of stuffed animals.  So many that I hung three animal hammocks in the corners of the bedrooms to corral them all.
But those infuriating children kept EMPTYING THE HAMMOCKS.  Yes, that’s right–they WANTED TO PLAY with the animals!
My kids named their stuffed animals, slept with them, carried them around with them everywhere.  Jake and Emily STILL expect the Easter Bunny to bring a stuffed bunny along with their baskets.
And Lorelei and William have taken this to even greater heights.  They don’t have as many animals but those they have are special, not just random gifts but ones they put on wish lists and were delighted to receive.  From “the ostrich from hell whose name is Blood” (I swear William once announced this to a random man in Shoney’s) to a horrifying stuffed possum to an actual stuffed FACEHUGGER, William cherishes his collection and keeps them arranged on his top bunk.
Lorelei carries hers around and talks to them as though they were real.  She dresses them up and gives them personalities for her make-believe games.  And naturally, she sleeps with them.  If I’m counting right, she received eight this year.
Stuffed giraffe she received from Aunt Betsy and Uncle Andy this year
Stuffed giraffe she received from Aunt Betsy and Uncle Andy this year

THANK YOU to the school friends who brought books.  I knew she’d like them even though she wouldn’t think to ask for them!

Pretty Pretty Princess

So it seems like everywhere I look lately I see articles about what not to say to your little girls.  Don’t mention that you have issues with your weight.  Don’t tell them they are pretty.  And for God’s sake, don’t call them Princess.
(Disclaimer:  I am not especially picking on the people who wrote the particular posts above.  Those are the first ones that show up in Google for each topic, that’s all.)
I’m pretty much on board with the first recommendation, if only because anorexia and bulimia are life-threatening, so let’s err on the side of caution.  I try not to talk about weight and diets, but rather about exercising and making healthy food choices.  I don’t limit what my kids eat, for the most part; I talk about listening to your body and not eating if you feel full.  I can report that when Lorelei hops on the scale she boasts about her weight gain and is proud to be heavier than her ten-year-old cousin.  We talk about how wonderful it is that she is so big and healthy and strong.  Does any of this matter?  Let me be honest:  at this point I’m not sure what matters.  When my big kids are about thirty I will ask them and let you know.
But I’m sorry, I’m not going to stop telling Lorelei that she’s pretty.  For one thing, she IS.  For another, soon enough she will lose her current conviction, which she totally believes, that she is the prettiest girl in the world.  There is nothing I can do to prevent her suffering adolescent pangs and a lifetime of worries over her appearance.  I don’t know ANY WOMAN who is free of these things.  So why shouldn’t I contribute to her body positive feelings now while she still believes me?  I remember REALLY BELIEVING that I was going to grow up and win the Miss America pageant.  It’s great to feel that confident, about your appearance or about anything.
Now, about calling little girls princesses . . . y’all, don’t you think we are TOTALLY overthinking this parenting thing?  Isn’t it freaking hard enough already? Maybe it’s because I’m a Southerner, and down here terms of endearment are sprinkled liberally throughout every encounter with friend and stranger alike, but I just cannot bring myself to believe that I am somehow limiting my daughter’s future options or affecting her self-worth if I address her as “my little princess” from time to time.
Here are some things I call Lorelei: pretty girl, precious angel, mommy’s baby, punkin, sweetheart, baby girl, cute girl, darlin’, sweetie pie, sugarplum, dumplin’, honey, and doll baby.  I really don’t think she is going to grow up to be a gourd, or remain a baby forever, and the sweetness (debatable) of her current demeanor is not influenced by these pet names in the least, I can assure you of that.  I remember my daddy referring to me and my sisters as “slick” and “slim.”  I wasn’t either then and I am neither now!
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What pet names DO convey is love.  And making kids feel loved will always be the most important role of a parent.

Thank Heaven for Little Girls

I love sharing pictures of my new house with you and I hope you like seeing how far we’ve come since September.  The reason these postings are few and far between is that the rooms have to be clean before I photograph them (got to keep it Pinterest safe!).
Today’s feature is Lorelei’s room.  Her room makes me really happy because it is a blend of a few salvaged things from our old life and new things that were given with so much love.
I also love it because she’s seven and it’s about time she had a nice room to call her own.  When she was born we still lived in our big Victorian house.  There were four generous bedrooms and one small one–so guess who didn’t have a room of her own?  Not that she cared–she slept in bed with Mommy and Daddy, we kept her clothes in a dresser in William’s room, and her toys were in a basket in the den.  We were excited when we moved to the next house–there was a small room just right for Lorelei.  There were problems, though.  No closet–except for the utility one with the leaky, noisy AC equipment.  Her room was part of what had originally been a mother-in-law apartment, which meant she had to go through Teddy’s room to get to hers–and Teddy did not always want her barging in.  Finally, it was a long way to Mommy in the middle of the night!  Inevitably, she ended up sleeping with us again.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Her room suffered only water and smoke damage, so we saved a few things, some of them quite precious, as you will see in the pictures.
This picture (one of a pair) hung on the wall of my Uncle Walter’s nursery, just about 100 years ago.   My grandmother unearthed them when my little sister was a baby, and they hung in her room throughout her childhood.  When we moved to the Victorian house, we put them in William’s room (he was the baby then).  I don’t even remember why, but they were not hanging up at the time of them fire, but were in a sheltered spot in the basement where they suffered very little damage.  My middle sister had them reframed behind special glass to preserve these treasures and now I have them back–the only family heirloom I have left.

Detail from the picture above

Here’s another picture that made it.  Actually all the pictures on Lorelei’s walls were saved, but most have now been relocated to other ares in the house–including a couple now in the room of their original owner, big sister Emily.
One of the very first people to respond with concrete assistance after the fire was Laura, a friend from law school days whose generosity I wrote of in an earlier post.   Her little girl is growing up and was ready to part with her four poster bed and matching mirror, and her Disney Princess lamp.  And Laura loaded all this up in a U-Haul trailer and drove to and from Nashville (that’s six hours round trip, folks) less than a week after the fire.  Did I mention that we had not even seen her in over ten years?  I hope it won’t be that long until we see her and her family again.

A bed needs a mattress and sheets and pillows and such, of course, and those were provided by friends from church.  They had them ready long before we had a house to set them up in.  Aren’t they pretty?  And other people provided spares, both old and new.
We used an end table (and where it came from I couldn’t say) but we still needed a dresser.  Enter more Good Samaritans!  If you live in Knoxville you’ll have heard of The Brown Squirrel furniture store.  I’ve been hearing the commercials my whole life!  And its owners have kids at KCHS.  Mrs. Matthews came by the house with a notebook and a measuring tape, asking what we still needed.  Within a couple of days, we had a dresser and a rocking chair.

Note the afghan, another treasure salvaged from Lorelei’s room. It’s the one Mima made for Teddy’s crib.

One last piece of furniture rounds out the room–the fanciful bookshelf below, which was a gift to Emily on her–I think–seventh birthday.  I did the best I could, but it’s still a little sooty.  Like so much of the furniture we once had, it came from Myrtle’s Mess.

Oh, and did I mention the closet?  No one likes to think of a little girl having all her pretty clothes burn up.  When it came to donated clothes, Lorelei won the jackpot.  I had friends I’ve never even met in real life mailing her boxes of beautiful things.  So thank goodness that her new room also has a walk-in closet!

Here is Lorelei on her very first night in a new bed in a new room in a new house:

Just don’t ask me where she sleeps now.