Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kiddo's First Conference

Me: "Clare, it's time to go upstairs for quiet time now."

Clare, not turning around: "I can't understand you."

Me: "What."

Clare: "I can't understand you. That's why I am not listening to you."

Okay, I had to laugh. There is a certain logic to it, isn't there? If she pretends she can't understand, then she doesn't have to do what I say.

We had Clare's first preschool conference last night. The teacher had good things to say, of course. Clare loves art and follows directions well. (Which I was happy to hear, because she frequently does not follow directions well at home.) She knows her colors and shapes (except, inexplicably, the circle. At least, she refused to tell her teacher the name of that particular shape. I am pretty sure she knows what a circle is). She needs some work on holding pencils and scissors. She really can't cut with scissors at all, actually. She switches hands frequently when writing, so maybe she is left-handed and needs left-handed scissors? I don't know. She is only three, right? She'll figure it out.

Her teacher also said that she notices Clare kind of "drifting off" during rug time, which I am sure stems from boredom. She focuses fine on things she is interested in, like "Daniel Tiger" and "Jake and the Neverland Pirates." Or the 100 books she reads each day. Anyway, school is going well. Despite my worries earlier this year, I think we made the right choice.

We've been in a good place behavior-wise since school started, too. I think being in a more specific routine has helped.

I spent a morning at her school a few weeks ago. Beforehand, she informed me she didn't want me to come. "It's my school," she said. "I'll go by myself and then tell you about it later."  I think she was glad I was there, though, despite her initial protestations.

I am glad she loves school. And I am sure she will figure out what a circle is before she graduates from high school.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


We threw a first birthday bash for Christopher at our house, on his actual birthday. He had fun, although he was incredibly confused when we were singing happy birthday. He was definitely wondering what the heck we were doing.

His guests included all four of his grandparents, both of my grandmothers, Great Aunt Karen, Aunt Katie and Uncle Andrew, his second cousin Gavin, his Godparents Missy and Nate (parents of Gavin), and friends James, Simon, Brendan, Rowan, Fern and Reed and their parents. I was so happy both of my grandmothers could be there. My grandma Clara (Clare's name sake), had never been to my house before. That she was able to make the trip from La Crosse was really special. My grandma Jean came with my parents, so we got her for the whole weekend. It was so nice.

Christopher didn't really care about his presents, but Clare was more than happy to "help" him open them. That lucky girl got some gifts herself, too.

We ate sandwiches and cake and washed it down with beer and juice boxes. It was fun to celebrate Christopher with so many of his family and friends, and to celebrate making it through year one.

Oh, and Christopher was pretty happy with the cake. Somehow, I don't have a picture of him eating it. Next year!

With Great Grandma Clara.
Clare and Meema Jo.
Kids and Great Grandma Jean.
Opening presents. (He proceeded to try to eat the wrapping paper.)
Birthday boy.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

12 Months

The first month of Christopher's life was one of the hardest of my life. During the second, third, fourth and fifth months I was just thrilled if I got two hours of sleep in a row. The last seven months, though, have been an absolute joy.

And now he is one. He has started throwing tantrums once in awhile. The first time he did it - laying on his belly, hands slamming the floor, crying because I took away the rolling pin he was using to bash the floor - I started laughing. Now that they have become more frequent, though, I don't find them quite as funny. As my friend Kerry said, this is a disappointing development.

Christopher is just so full of joy about everything in life the rest of the time, though, and it is absolutely contagious. I can't help but feel happy when he flashes one of his 1,000 watt smiles at me. He cuddles. He laughs. He acts silly on purpose so I'll laugh. I must give him 100 kisses a day. I can't get enough of him.

At 12 months, his favorite things are balls and trucks. He plays catch with himself by throwing the ball across the room, crawling over to pick it up, and throwing it again. Sometimes he crawls around with a ball in his mouth like a puppy. He dances when he hears anything even resembling a beat, including my breast pump. His dance moves basically consist of rocking back and forth while sitting on the floor, smiling, of course.

He loves food. He'll eat basically anything, and lots of it. He loves fruit, especially peaches. He also enjoys bananas, cheese, wheat puffs and avocado. He does not particularly enjoy frozen mixed vegetables, but if they are the only thing on offer he will eat them. He has also eaten crayons, rocks, sand, unused toilet paper, and sticks. Oops. (Seriously though. What is with the eating of toilet paper? When he sees the bathroom door open, he beelines for it so he can get his hands on the roll and stuff it into his mouth.)

He enjoys looking at books, especially anything with different textures.

If he is crying in the car, he will always stop when Free To Be You and Me comes on.

I now hate Free To Be You and Me.

He adores Clare, even when she yells at him. He does not like it when she takes toys from him, but as long as he is given a replacement toy he is happy. So so happy, all the time.

He loves baths, and gets super excited when he knows he is going to take one. Usually bath time is Ben's domain, but I was on bath duty last week. Christopher stood next to the tub, and when I turned on the water he started grunting happily. His grunts started getting louder and more high pitched as the tub filled. He was just so excited. I plopped him in the tub and he splashed happily. I took a look at my phone (I know), and suddenly I saw something pink in the corner of my eye. I look over, and Christopher was standing in the tub, holding his pink elephant bath toy right next to my face and grinning like a maniac. As soon as I looked at him, he started laughing hysterically. Then he sat down and started splashing the water as hard as he could. By the end of the bath, I was as wet as he was, but it was worth it.

My little Christopher Lewis. How is it that you are turning one? Happy birthday to my favorite boy in the world. I love you more than I can say.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Up North

I read something recently that said we are so busy taking pictures, we aren't making memories. The article explained that memories form more fully if you actually live in the moment, rather than try to capture it on your camera (or your phone, in my case). I thought about that a lot a few weeks ago when I was on vacation in northern Minnesota.

We stayed at Golden Eagle Lodge on the Gunflint Trail. We've been there before, and it was just as lovely this time. It was cloudy and cold, but so beautiful. The colors on the trees were beginning to turn, the air was crisp and fresh. My in-laws were with us as well, and we spent a lot of time reading, playing cards, hiking and canoeing. I tried to really be there, to be present in these small moments with my family.

The first morning , Clare was in a great hurry to go down to the lake. I walked with her, wearing a hat and gloves and counting the minutes until I could go back to the warm cabin. Her excitement was contagious, though, and soon we were standing on the dock looking at the trees surrounding the lake. Clare was talking about everything she saw. Then, I noticed a loon swimming about 200 yards way. I crouched down next to Clare, whispered in her ear, and pointed. When the loon dove underwater, she was full of questions. What kind of fish does the loon eat? Where did it go? Suddenly, it surfaced, a mere five feet from our dock. "There it is!" Clare whisper-yelled. It was just really cool.

It was cloudy most of the weekend, but when the sun broke through on Sunday afternoon I grabbed my coat and Christopher and hiked down to the lake. The sun was hitting the trees at the perfect angle, making them somehow sharp and soft at the same time. The late evening light shows the beautiful north woods at their best. The lake was calm, the water reflecting the sun and the trees. I looked down the lake at the docks with the boats anchored to them, casting their shadows on the water. It was quiet, except for Christopher chatting and laughing in my arms. I kissed his cold nose and turned around on the dock, taking in as much of the lake as I could see.

That night, Ben's parents came to our cabin and ordered Ben and I down to the lake. We stood on the dock, staring up at thousands of stars. The Milky Way was crystal clear. Ben saw a shooting star. We tried to pick out constellations. Nothing compares to the night sky when there is no light pollution. It makes me feel so small, but also so awed. It is almost spiritual.

I don't have pictures of any of these moments, but I want to remember them. Writing things down helps me remember things in a way pictures can't. I suppose in the act of writing, I may also be altering the memory in some way. I just know that sometimes feeling present in the moment means putting away the camera.

Oh all right. I took some pictures too.

Clare at the top of Honeymoon Bluff.

Ready for the woods.

Clare on her canoe trip into the BWCA with Ben and my in-laws.

Fascinated by our fox friend. She helpfully informed Christopher not to be scared, because we were inside the cabin. 
My little man.

At Gooseberry Falls on our way home. Clare was thrilled by the "big lake." Christopher was not.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

First Day of Preschool


She did great. I barely slept last night (partly because of nerves, and partly because of a sick baby), but when I woke her up she seemed refreshed and happy to get ready for school. When we got there, she charged into the building like she owned the place, without so much as a backwards glance at me. I didn't even get a chance to give her a hug. When I picked her up, though, she came running into my arms. We went out to lunch (her pick: Noodles and Company) to celebrate. She told me all about her day, which included art projects, Spanish class, time on the playground and the all important snack. (Cheese crackers.)

I think this preschool thing is going to work out just fine.

Yesterday, I was not so sure anything was going to work out fine. Christopher woke up with a fever of 102.5 and was obviously sick. He was not himself at all. While at the doctor to check for a possible ear infection, Clare received her flu mist and acted as though her arms were being cut off. I had to pin her down while Christopher screamed in the arms of the nurse that was brought in to assist us. Later, Clare fell flat on her face, resulting in a bloody nose and lots and lots of crying. (I was worried she would look pretty gruesome for her first day of school picture, but her nose doesn't look too bad - just some slight bruising.) Dealing with all of this on top of some projects and housework I needed to do, it was a day. 

And Christopher. The poor baby has six (!) teeth coming in right now. I don't think that caused his fever (teething can cause fevers, but they are not usually that high). He seems much better today, but we had to miss our first day at ECFE. We went shopping instead. I don't think I should make a habit of this, but it was nice having just one child along for errands. Especially one that I can contain in a stroller.

We are going up north this weekend. I am looking forward to breathing some fresh, crisp air and celebrating Clare's successful first week at preschool. Assuming all goes well on Thursday. I think it will.

This silly face had Christopher in hysterics. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

11 Months

Eleven months. Sigh. My little (big?) baby is eleven months. I know I say this all the time, but he is just so happy. Nothing phases that kid, except hunger. Clare sitting on top of him doesn't bother him at all, but do not get in the way of him and his snack cup. This morning I was getting ready to go to a friend's house and I looked down to find that Christopher had dug his snack cup out of the diaper bag and was helping himself to some wheat puffs.

He has learned that he can take toys back from Clare when she takes them away. This weekend, she was trying to prevent him from crawling down the hall and he was actually dragging her along with him. It will not be long before he is sitting on her, I think.

Christopher said his first word at 10 months. "More." I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this. After all, eating is his favorite hobby. That, and trying to get the TV remotes off the couch or table. He desperately wants to play with them. When I take them away he acts like it is the worst thing that has ever happened to him in his life. Which, in his mind, it probably is. He also says "uh-oh" and "nana" (banana). He gives long speeches that are sprinkled with laughter. Whatever he is saying, he finds it very funny.

Christopher waves hello and goodbye, and waves when someone says the words hello or goodbye, even if they are not directed at him. He is into it.

He pulls himself into a standing position. He is still amazed by anything and everything. When he sees something he wants he throws his hands up into the air before slamming them to the ground and crawling as fast as he can toward the object. When he dances, he waves his little butt in the air.

He gives me kisses when I ask for one. Big, wet, slobbery, open-mouthed kisses. They are the best things in the world.

He has started showing some jealousy - if Ben takes Clare outside and he doesn't get to go, he cries. He tries to crawl after the big kids when we are playing with friends. It is hard to imagine him walking and running and playing with the other kids, but I know he will be doing all that before I know it. I just hope I can still convince him to give me a kiss.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bits and Pieces: August

Summer may be unofficially over tomorrow, but we certainly made the most of it. Our August was filled with many trips to the park and pool, get-togethers with friends, and our first ever camping trip as a family. Oh, and the Fair. We can't forget the Fair.

In early August we packed up the kids and headed to Jay Cooke State Park. I have to say, the trip went a lot better than I expected. Sure, the baby woke up screaming at 3 a.m. because he had peed through his sleeper. And yes, he attempted to eat fistful after fistful of pine needles. Overall, though it was a success. Clare had a blast. She was thrilled about everything, especially eating in s'mores and sleeping in her sleeping bag. We hiked and sat around the campfire. The weather was perfect and the bugs were nonexistent. What more could we ask for?

More pine needles, please!
My happy little guy.
Having fun?
Family nap time. I managed to fall asleep in one of the camp chairs while re-reading Harry Potter.
Looking at the St. Louis River from the swinging bridge.
The beautiful St. Louis River.
Of course, we went to the Fair. I am not a "Fair person" myself, but I don't mind going for a few hours as long as it is not too hot. So naturally we picked the hottest day of the summer to go. It wasn't bad in the morning, but by the time we left it was pretty warm. We looked at animals. Clare absolutely hates chickens, but she was okay with the goats and the rabbits. She even got to pet a rabbit. She closed her eyes and covered her ears when we walked past the chickens. We did the ride thing - Clare could have gone on rides all day. We ate cheese curds, malts, cookies, deep fried olives, mini donuts, and the adults drank beer. Somehow we didn't get stomach aches.

Driving. This ride was incredibly loud and annoying, but Clare loved it.
Merry-go-round selfie.
My sister tried to get a family shot. Clare and Christopher weren't having it.
This is how he spent most of the fair. 
My parents are visiting this weekend, and we went to Minnehaha Falls this afternoon. It is so close to my house, I don't know why I don't get over there more. It was fun, especially driving around in the Surrey. Clare wasn't sure she liked it. She kept yelling directions at my dad, who was driving. "Slow down Baba Ralph!!" She is her mother's daughter.
At the Falls.
Ready to ride.
Now, on to preschool. I think we are ready. I hope. In the meantime, we're headed to the beach on Tuesday. I am going to enjoy every last gasp of summer.