Mostly Katie

One Day More

This time six years ago, I was still in labour. I had been for eighteen hours. I had psyched myself up for an 18-hour labour, so it was disheartening to reach that point with no end in sight. My midwife had arrived, my mom was feeding everyone, I was sucking the life out of an Entenox canister (nitrous oxide), and progress was not being made.

It feels like a million years ago and yesterday. As I type this Katie is writing in her Easter Diary for school. It's bathtime, and I'm trying to keep her on task, but she keeps challenging herself by using words with complicated spellings like "disobeyed" and "dangerous". Thankfully, she's referring to the Lion King's adventure, not her own. My mom took her to see the musical today, and it turned out to be a very special day for both of them.

When Katie finishes writing, I am going to scuttle her upstairs and zoom her through bath and stories. I've got some wrapping to do! I'd tell you what she's getting, but she's bound to read over my shoulder. I will say (for her benefit) that the chocolate cake is half made and will need some attention soon.

Ah, she seems to want to go upstairs now. :)

Lost and Lost and Found

Monday was Book Day at school. Everyone dressed up as a character from a book. For some children this was very loosely interpreted as there were a good number of Hannah Montanas and cheerleaders from High School Musical. Still, it's my favourite day of the year, because the creativity of the children and parents involved just blows me away. There was a Robin Hood, Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden, a Cat in the Hat, and a dozen Harry Potters and Ron Weasleys. There was even a TARDIS!

Katie went as Rapunzel complete with fake hair extensions bringing her normally long plait all the way down to her knees. She totally looked the part. She wore a princess dress we already had and the cloak Granny made for last year's Ella Enchanted costume. As a special treat she was even allowed to wear her gold party shoes. It was an already exciting day that was about to go over the top.

I picked up Katie from school and she'd lost the fake hair, but still looked very princessy. She showed me her wobbly tooth had made more progress. This was newsworthy because it hadn't wobbled any more for a few weeks since Katie tried to eat some corn on the cob. She waggled the tooth at me in alarming angles, and we went home.

Dinner passed uneventfully, but then brushing her teeth, the tooth fell out! Right into her little hand was a pearly little tooth. Katie was so excited she started to cry. I couldn't tell if she was upset about seeing blood or if she was happy about the tooth. I think it was a lot of emotions crashing into her at the same time. She ran downstairs to show Daddy and he was thrilled. She didn't calm down for a long time.

While the girls had their bath, I found a pouch to put the tooth in. It was black with a long cord, just in case the Tooth Fairy needed some help pulling it out from under Katie's pillow that night. Then we all sat around reading stories and kissed goodnight. Katie was still on a massive high and I asked once more to see the tooth before she went to bed. Katie giggled and pulled up her pillow and... it was gone! The big black pouch was completely not there. Life was playing out way too Charlie and Lola for my liking. Where could it have gone?

Katie decamped to our bed while we pulled off the covers, lifted the mattress and searched under the bed with a torch. No pouch. A big black pouch like that, where could it possibly have gone? We tore apart Buffy's bed just in case. Nothing. Finally we decided we'd just have to chance that the Tooth Fairy would understand and find Katie anyway. Borrowing yet another line from Charlie and Lola, Katie said she'd have happy dreams so she'd smile in her sleep. Then the Tooth Fairy would see her missing tooth and leave a coin.

It must have worked, because Katie woke the next morning to a shiny new pound! The Tooth Fairy is a bit more generous these days, it would seem. A whole pound for a missing tooth? Lucky Katie.

That day at school I had a brainwave. I checked where the pouch was normally kept and found it neatly put away. There was no tooth inside, so I figured Katie must have taken it out. Once I knew I was looking for a tooth, I found it straightaway.

I didn't want to ruin the experience by telling Katie off, but I was a little displeased that she had seen Andrew and I tearing apart her room in search for a POUCH when she knew all along it wasn't there. Bah. Oh well, I guess it gives us a good story to tell in the future.

Her second tooth is wobbling, so we'll see how the next one pans out.

Body Guard

Yesterday Katie and I went shopping for fake hair (her Rapunzel costume), new trainers (me), fabric (no prizes), and some lunch. I tried to be clever and bring one big bag-for-life, so we wouldn't be sidled with half a dozen plastic bags on the way home. Unfortunately, I kept forgetting it. Once we got to TK Maxx to look for my trainers, I set Katie on a bench with the bag underneath her feet. We were early, so there was no crowd. I browsed for some shoes and looked back at Katie. She was sprawled out over the bench with her arms and legs sticking out at weird angles. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"Guarding your bag," she answered.

"From whom?"

"FROM THAT WOMAN THERE!" she shouted, pointing.

I spun around and saw a blushing, kindly, elderly lady standing not two feet away.

Gee, thanks, Katie.

To Katie's credit, the woman did not even try to steal our bag.

Make Your Child Brilliant

Like most parents we know, we've been watching Make Your Child Brilliant on Channel Five. Like most Channel Five fare, it's a bit style over substance, but the underlying message is good: All children are gifted, just in very different ways. I'm not exactly sure that's what the expert is trying to say, but that's certainly what I'm taking away from it. With the right bit of perspective and the right support any child can shine beyond all expectations.

I was raised to believe that we all were born with an equal parcel of talents, and I shouldn't believe mine were superior or inferior to anyone else's. That is easier said than done. It's easy to feel superior when you ace every spelling test, and all too easy to feel inferior when you can't catch a ball to save your life. It's only now in my thirties that I am really getting a handle on Who I Am. How to impart that comfort in your own skin to your children? Especially when they inherited a healthy dose of your hypersensitivity.

Mostly I am thinking of Katie. She shines so brightly in an academic setting. She's also brillantly active and strong, but her gifts will likely be off of the sports field. I don't want to heap expectations on her, but she is our daughter afterall. My big worry is that being good at school is a poor indication of being good at life. We worry so much less about our bold little risk-taker, Buffy. Whatever life throws at her, we're pretty sure she'll roll with it. She'll give us a few million heart attacks along the way, but we're sure she can deal. Katie, logician that she is, will need to develop those skills in a thoughtful way.

In this lifelong quest to know our children, we'll keep watching loony Channel Five serials and keep reading whatever this loony teacher has to say. With any luck, some of it will rub off.

Super Katie

Lately I have been so proud of Katie that I am compelled to spill over here. She is our little petal. Our sensitive flower. Sometimes we forget that she is remarkably strong. A steel magnolia, if you will.

On Tuesday our petal took ill. She was on a school trip which ran well past normal pick-up time. I was told I could meet the class at the train station rather than having to wait for them to snake back up to the school. As soon as we saw the class the teachers and parents chorused together to tell me Katie was exhausted. The other girls looked tired, so this must have been exceptional. One teacher told me there had been some tears. A parent told me Katie had fallen asleep on the train. Then my Katie pushed through the throngs to me and collapsed in my arms.

Her face was ashen. She had dark circles around her eyes. She felt limp in my arms, but, self-aware as ever, she asked to walk. Once we'd turned the corner away from her class, she started to slump again. Buffy was full of energy, so I negotiated a buggy exchange. Within minutes Katie was asleep in the buggy. We pushed Katie slowly home so Buffy could examine every leaf, insect, rock and speck of dust along the way. We weren't in any particular hurry, and it was good for Katie to have a rest. She always perks up at home, so I knew she wouldn't sleep until bedtime.


Once at home Katie did wake up, but only long enough to remove her outerwear and curl up under a blanket on the sofa. She asked to watch television, but shut her eyes as soon as the screen lit up. Poor dear, I thought and turned out the lights and left her to sleep.

Andrew came home, we ate dinner, and Buffy was bathed before Katie stirred. She moaned that we'd forgotten to feed her dinner. I assured her that we had saved hers for her and she just needed to walk into the kitchen to eat. She made it down one stair before stumbling and crying she was too wobbly to walk. This worried me only a little because she had just woken from a deep sleep. Dinner was the simple and always popular baked beans on toast, but Katie only ate one bite. She complained it tasted funny and just wanted to go to bed.

That was fine by me, so I tried to get her upstairs. Katie refused to walk, saying she felt too dizzy. I tried to carry her, but she cried her neck hurt too much. Now I was starting to worry. Dizziness, bad tasting food, and neck stiffness coupled with fever and headache does not add up to something nice. Andrew gently dressed Katie for bed while I frantically looked up meningitis information for the 2,000th time since having children.

Katie was struggling to stay awake on the toilet and seemed to be falling asleep between sentences. I decided to call NHS Direct for some professional advice. The nurse was concerned about the symptoms I was describing and wanted me to ask Katie some further questions. Katie kept falling asleep before she answered, so I was really starting to freak out. The nurse's concern wasn't particularly helping me stay calm either. Finally the nurse advised some fever-lowering medicine and to see if that didn't help matters.

An hour later I visited Katie to see if the fever had broken. It hadn't, and she took a long time to wake. She started babbling incoherently, as she often does when she comes out of a dream. "I'm so sorry, Mommie. I fix it. I fix it, okay?"

I couldn't get out of her what she had fixed, and then she started giggling. Staying calm was becoming harder. I asked her some silly questions to see if she was confused. I asked her my name, and she thought for a while and then decided she didn't know. Then she said my name was Silly. Crap. I told her my name and then asked Daddy's name. Andrew. Okay, fine. Gramma's name? Katie thought for a second and then fell asleep. Damn. I woke her again and asked her her sister's name. Buffy. I thought she was finally truly awake and understanding me, and I was satisfied she was coherent.

After another hour I checked on her again. This time she woke easily and told me her headache was gone. Phew! She didn't feel overheated either. I felt enormous relief and let her go to sleep in peace, checking on her only once more in the night.

Andrew and I were completely convinced she would stay home on Wednesday, but Katie had other plans. She woke at 6:30, dressed herself, pulled out clothes for Buffy, took herself off to the toilet, and then perkily came to wake me up. All morning I quizzed her on her wellbeing. She looked alright, but surely she couldn't be all better already, having been so very ill. Katie looked at me square in the eye and said, "Mommie. I told you my headache was gone. I really feel better, and I want to go to school."

We agreed she could go to school, but she must tell the teacher if she started to feel at all unwell again. She didn't at all and had a great day. That night she seemed very tired again, so I offered some more medicine. She looked at me again and said, "I don't think so, Mommie. My headache is gone, and I really don't need any medicine."

So brave. So strong.

Then last night we got stuck in a hailstorm and my little flower braved it and even made up a song about how amusing the thunder was to be clapping so loudly right above our heads. As we huddled together against the wall of an apartment building, it was Katie who kept me going. Her strength got us home when I just wanted to crumple up and admit defeat against the elements. She's amazing, is that girl. She may be a sensitive flower, but she's going to be alright. Always.


Dearest Katie,

I don't usually write these directly to you and your sister, but there are times I really want to preserve the moment. Right now is definitely one of those times. You are officially five-and-three-quarters. You love saying the three-quarters bit on the end. It means you're seriously on your way to being six. You promise me that you'll be happy being six and won't hurry off to turn seven, but I know better. You're going to be in a mad rush to be older until you hit twenty-five. Then things start to slow down in the wishing department. Sadly, not so much slowing in the reality department.

So, what's so special about now? Yesterday you got your first wobbly tooth. Many of your friends have lost teeth, and the timing is right. Still, I was unsure as you've cried wobbly tooth several times before; usually right around the times your friends lost their teeth. This tooth though? It wobbles. It really wobbles.

Oh, your little face was so ecstatic when I confirmed I too could feel the wobble. You were so pleased. I was too. So proud. And so sad. I'm sorry, I can't help it. It's not that I don't want you to grow up, it's just that I'm so helpless against it. On the contrary, I really want you to grow up. That's what I'm here for - to help you grow up. Dammit if you aren't doing just that.

Last night you lay in bed, nose three-inches deep in some fairy/princess/pony novel, when you stopped and looked up. Thoughtful as ever, you said, "You know, I've never had a wobbly tooth before, so this is all new to me." It was such a mature and amazing thing to say, it blew me away. Of course it's all perfectly obvious and true, but your awareness is sensational.

I plan to take a few hundred pictures of your spectacular smile in the next few precious days. Weeks? Could I be so lucky to have weeks more with your perfect tiny-toothed smile? Your mouth is going to go through some fantastic changes in the next few years. First you'll have cute little gaps in your smile. Then the big teeth will crowd in and your mouth will be a crowded jumble. It takes some time to grow into those big teeth. Each of these smiles will be precious and wonderful, but very different to the one I know by heart.

You were cursed with an American mother who cares about things like straight teeth. I apologise now for the years you and Buffy will have to have braces. I am sorry. I know from experience that you won't regret it when you're grown. Ask Grandma, it's so much easier to do these things when you're young. If you're further cursed by me, you'll get an insane incisor that wants to grow in sideways and way too high. Like up through a nostril high. Then you might need surgery as I did. Gosh, baby, I am so sorry.

Really this journey started the day you sprouted your first tooth at eight months. It was never going to last. It is probably even the tooth that is right now wobbling back and forth as you finish your latest fairy/princess/pony book. Realising that makes me want to cry all over again. You know, when I signed on for this parenting thing, I knew it'd be an emotional ride. I really didn't know, though, that I'd fall to pieces over one teeny, tiny wobbly tooth.

I bet when you read this, if you ask, I'll still have that tooth somewhere.


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