Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Last Day (Delayed)

I am a little late with these, but here they are. First day and last day of pre-K.



She definitely looks older, doesn't she? She did a lot of complaining about going to school the last few months of the year, but when she got home she always seemed happy and had a lot to tell me about her day. I am hoping she will be excited for kindergarten in the fall. She will have the same teacher and half the same kids in her class, so I am also hoping the transition is a smooth one.

She had her 5-year well-check today. She is in the 66th percentile for height (43 inches) and the 59th percentile for weight.

Clare had her birthday party with her friends on Saturday. She even invited her two best friends from school. The kids had a blast in the sprinkler, and Clare was pretty excited about her hot pink glittery birthday cake.
Note my lovely handiwork after the bakery misspelled Clare.




Oh, and she lost another tooth on Friday night. It was a big week for Clare.


On Sunday we had some time at home to recover from birthday/lost teeth/last day of school week. Perfect for some Daddy-Daughter Lego time.


When I mentioned she could take a break if she didn't feel like finishing the whole Imperial Troop Transport right then, she and Ben both looked at me like I was crazy. Apparently you do not take breaks while doing a Lego construction. I am glad they have this in common.

And now on to summer break! The first day was hard. Today was much better. It is time for me to break out last summer's rule, which was to relax. RELAX.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Five










This feels like a milestone birthday.  Five! I suppose it is in a way - she'll be starting kindergarten in the fall. Actually, she is more like 5 going on 15. The way she speaks, the attitude, everything seems like a tamer version of what the teenage years will be like.

Despite her spunky personality, Clare is really very sweet. She dotes on her cousin and stands up for her brother. She tells me she loves me daily (she tells me she hates me daily, too, but I know she doesn't mean it). She cares about her friends. She has two best friends at school, Chloe and Keira, but I think she still prefers playing with the pack of boys she's run with since we moved here. She should have a lot of time with them this summer.

Clare lost a tooth yesterday! We were walking back from an early birthday dinner at Snuffy's when it came out. I am sure the sucker she was eating helped it along. She was quite excited. It has been a big few days for her. She has two other loose teeth, so I think the Tooth Fairy will be back again soon.

Clare loves to be outside, whether she is swimming, hiking, gardening or biking. She is learning to ride her bike without training wheels, and can already do four laps around the parking lot next door before losing confidence. She is planning to run a few races this summer, and will also be trying ballet for the first time. She'll continue with soccer and gymnastics as well. She still doesn't like going under the water at the pool, but she is no longer scared of the big pool. Small steps, but she's getting there.

She is still an extremely picky eater. She does not like her food to touch on her plate, and is unwilling to try pretty much everything I make. She does love berries, pizza (as long as it's pepperoni and black olive, or plain cheese), spaghetti (with no sauce, of course), macaroni and cheese (but just Annie's, NOT homemade) cucumbers, carrots, and most desserts, but especially strawberry ice cream and any kind of cake. Making lunches next year should be a challenge. There is no way she'll eat hot lunch.

She loves wearing dresses and playing dress up. She is begging me to take her to the salon to get a manicure. She is not afraid to get dirty, though.

She has started reading on her own, some, and we have been reading chapter books together. I plan to read "Little House on the Big Woods" with her this summer, and I can't wait.

Clare is into puzzles and books, but she also likes play doh and painting. And TV, of course. Her current favorite shows are "Phineas and Ferb" and "American Ninja Warrior" and her favorite movies are "Mulan" and "Brave."  She is hoping to see "Star Wars" soon and wants to be Darth Vader for Halloween.

She also likes watching cooking shows with me, and it has lead to one of her favorite games. We play cooking show while I am making dinner. It even has a name: "Clare and Emily's Home Cooking." At first, she was very concerned about camera placement, but she eventually decided they were just everywhere, so it didn't matter where we stood in the kitchen. It is pretty hilarious, actually. I need to film it one day, because she is a surprisingly good cooking show host.

She and Christopher are each other's best friends and worst enemies. One minute they are playing sweetly together, and the next one of them is screaming or crying. I am sure it will be this way always. (But without the screaming and crying when they are adults. Although you never know.)

The celebration of Clare's 5th birthday has gotten a bit out of control, with two family parties, a dinner out at Snuffy's last night, and a party with her friends this coming Saturday. Next year I plan to scale it way back. (There were some unusual circumstances prompting one of the extra parties: my brother and sister-in-law were visiting from England. We had to celebrate with them!)

It is so fun to have a conversation with Clare. Her observations on life are smart, logical, and funny. She remembers everything, and has a thousand questions about every new topic she encounters. Four was a good year, and I can't wait to see what the year ahead brings.

Happy birthday, Clare. We love you so, so much.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bits and Pieces: May

My last post was about our anniversary, but I wrote it before Ben presented me with his gift. He had my wedding bouquet recreated, ordered a small version of our wedding cake, and picked up Taco Bell on his way home. That morning, he left croissants and coffee for me. I did nothing, so I felt like a jerk. (In my defense, we are celebrating our anniversary with a trip to Chicago in July.) It was so sweet and romantic. The flowers were beautiful. When I opened the package, I said, "Hey, this looks just like my wedding bouquet." Ben: "Yes, yes it does."



Mother's Day also happened this month! I got my haircut that day, which was lovely. We had brunch with Ben's family and a cook-out with my sister and Josie. My gift was a beautiful pot of flowers, which are currently thriving on our deck. It was a nice day.


Clare's birthday is coming up, so I am planning to write a more lengthy blog post about her then. Christopher's big news this month is that he does NOT have a peanut allergy. As someone with severe food allergies, this makes me extremely happy. Clare is allergic to sesame seeds and cashews, and so far Christopher is fine with sesame seeds. We haven't tried cashews yet, but I am hopeful he will be allergy free.

A few days ago Christopher and I were at Walgreens. It was raining when we left, so I raced to the car. I was fumbling with my keys, trying in vain to unlock the door. I couldn't figure out why it wasn't working. Christopher: "Not our car." He was right. It was not our car. I swear, at least once a week one of my children has to tell me something that should be completely obvious to me. (I know you know this: there are hundreds of black Honda Odyssey minivans in my neighborhood alone. I am not exaggerating. Still though. I should be able to recognize my own car.)

Christopher's latest favorite book is "Little Blue Truck." He knows it by heart, and I'll hear him randomly reciting it throughout the day. It's pretty cute. We've been struggling with nap time and bed time, still. I keep hoping it will get better, but so far no luck.

I've had a few days off from watching Josie, so I took the opportunity to do some things with the kids in the afternoon. (If Christopher is going to fight naps anyway, we might as well be out and about!) We went to Como Zoo last Thursday, and had our first picnic of the season. Clare went on the carousel, and we saw the animals and ate ice cream. It was nice, even when Christopher dropped his entire ice cream cone on the ground. (Yes, I should have known better than to give a 2-year-old his own cone.) Clare very generously shared with him. On Friday we went to the Children's Museum. Clare was a great big sister while we were there. If other kids took something from Christopher she stood up for him. "My brother was using that," she informed one little boy. We were in the ant hill, by far my least favorite part of the museum. Some kids were being obnoxious and screaming in my kids' faces. Clare very calmly told them to stop many times. They didn't. I told them to stop. They didn't. Their dad told them to stop. They didn't. Poor Clare, she just could not understand why these kids wouldn't listen to all the people telling them to stop. She was in tears. It was a good learning experience, though.

I had a girls' weekend away this month, too! It was so, so nice. We went to Lake City. It was a beautiful weekend with good food, great drinks and even better friends. I feel so lucky that I've found such a close group of friends in my neighborhood. It is weird to think that 3 years ago I didn't know any of them.

Our delicious dinner spread. 
One last note: today is my parents' 41st wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

I had to post this picture. She is such a fashionista, isn't she?

Eating ice cream at Como Zoo.

At the Children's Museum. 

Best picture I could get of me with both kids on Mother's Day.

Friday, May 13, 2016

10 Years


10 years. Two kids. Two cats. Five cars. One condo. One (rented) townhouse. One house. Five jobs. Saint Paul, Evansville, back to Saint Paul. Hawaii, England, Florida, England again, Florida again and again. Golden Eagle Lodge. The Boundary Waters. Duluth. Countless trips to the farmers market, dinners out, movies, road trips, camping trips, hikes, bike rides, pancake breakfasts, beers, baseball games, visits with family, cook-outs, fights, laughs, tears, hugs and spontaneous dance parties.

Thanks for keeping me sane, being my co-parent, and doing the dishes. Here's to another 10 great years.






Saturday, April 30, 2016

Bits and Pieces: April

A few weekends ago, Christopher and I were walking home from the playground next door. I let him walk on the wall between the sidewalk and the school parking lot, forgetting how high it gets toward the end. By the time I realized it, I couldn't reach him to get him down. He was doing fine, though, until he got distracted by who knows what. I saw his foot coming over the edge. I broke his fall, but he still ended up on the ground. He was screaming, I was shaking. He didn't hit his head. He was totally unhurt, actually, just scared. That made two of us. This is one of my continual struggles as a parent. Where is the line between letting them explore and keeping them safe? I feel like I say "be careful" way too much. But then I let Christopher walk on a wall and he falls off. Oof. Parenting, huh?

I feel like this month flew by after our England trip. Seriously, I know I write stuff like this all the time, but how is it nearly May? How??

Christopher has been calling everything by its color instead of its name - my red, more white, your green (hat, sour cream, jacket). It's pretty funny. More importantly, though, he can say his name now! No more fa-fer. He is still being a stinker about his naps. I am hoping if I just stick with the routine of putting him down he'll start doing it without a fight eventually. (Right? Right.) I am also thinking about the P word. That's potty training. So far he is not interested at all, but that could change. (Right? Right.) I am just going to put the little potty in the bathroom without comment for now.

Clare has started reading! She is very good at sounding out small words. It is fun watching her work it all out. Clare has been enjoying telling people about her trip to England. She only has about six weeks left of school. I am both excited and scared for summer vacation. We already have several things planned, though, and she is doing gymnastics and soccer and swimming. She also wants to take ballet, so I am looking for a class for her. We will hopefully be spending a lot of time at the park playing and picnicking with friends.

We've started having family movie night on Friday nights. So far, we've watched "Frozen" and "Mary Poppins." The kids loved "Mary Poppins." I was happy, because I loved that movie when I was a kid. I am not sure if we'll manage a movie every Friday. In fact, we skipped it last night because of other plans, but it is a fun tradition nonetheless.

"Would you stop taking my picture!"

Seconds after I took this he ripped a page out that book. Not embarrassing at all!

Sleeping in my bed is so last year.

Bus stop buds.

Taking a break from the bounce house at a classmate's birthday party.

Movie night.

Eating a snack (carrots!) in the backyard.

Time for tea.

Remember how it felt like summer a few weeks ago? What happened to that?

Making crowns at the Art Institute's Flower Show.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

England!

I think I set the spring break bar a little too high. Clare, my mom and I traveled to England to visit Rob and Andri over Clare's spring break. It was pretty much the best. Clare didn't want to come home. (She did have a moment in the airport on the way home when she said "Daddy!" in a very sad voice. I think she suddenly realized she missed him.) My friend Alex suggested that next year I'd have to take Clare to the moon. He might be right.

Clare was in heaven, being the only kid with four adults. She could always talk someone into playing Peppa Pig with her. When Andri's parents and sister arrived at the end of the week, it was even better for Clare. Andri's mom Barbara was up for anything, including many rounds of "scaring" Andri's sister Anna. I enjoyed not having to change diapers all week, although I did miss Christopher. (And Ben, too.)

As for Christopher, he didn't seem to care at all that we were gone. I agonized over leaving him for weeks before the trip. Glad I wasted all of that energy on worrying about nothing! (What's new, though, right?) He had a blast with his dad and his Grandma Mary Theresa. Ben sent me daily reports, which I might have to post here because they were pretty funny. Christopher also did a little soul searching while he was away from Clare's influence, and realized that he is in fact NOT scared of dogs, and that he is also willing to at least try any piece of food on his plate. I will say, though, that Clare and Christopher's reunion at the airport was one of the cuter things I've seen. Although she claimed all week that she didn't miss her brother, she ran straight to him and they hugged and jumped up and down for a good five minutes.

When I was a kid, I used to keep a trip journal on all of our family vacations. (No, I have no idea where these journals are today.) I thought it would be fun to recap our trip with an online trip journal of sorts, with a summary of what we did each day.

(Also, a side note: this trip was one of my 40 x 40 goals!)

Saturday/Sunday

We flew from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, had a short layover, and then went on to Norwich. Clare did really well on the flights both there and back. (Other than screaming with joy on takeoff.) When we arrived in Norwich, Rob and Andri took us to a traditional Sunday roast at a local pub. It was so good. Beef brisket, delicious potatoes, red cabbage, and of course real English ale.


There was also some mask decorating.


 Monday

On Monday we explored Norwich. It was rainy, but we took it in stride. We were experiencing England - complete with the typical rainy weather. Norwich is super old, to be technical about it. (There have been people living in the area since the 5th century.) We took an AWESOME tour in the afternoon, guided by a Norwich resident who was very knowledgeable about the town. His driving, however, was quite scary. We thought we were going in the river at one point. He was funny and informative, though, and we all loved it.

We road in this thing:


Before our tour, we stopped in one of Norwich's 33 churches, because Clare of all people wanted to go in. She is quite interested in churches. We did some shopping, and then had lunch at Biddy's Tea Room. It was a very cozy place, and we all had tea and sausage rolls and cake and other good things.

Tea time.

It was a good start to the week.

Norwich market.
Tuesday

On Tuesday we drove to Cambridge. It is a beautiful town. We walked around and looked at what we could of the various colleges, had lunch in a pub that is famous for being the place where Watson and Crick announced they had discovered the structure of DNA, and went punting on the river. It was sunny that day, so it was perfect weather for wandering around outside. (The highlight of Clare's day: getting to ride on the top of a double decker bus.)

Apologies to King's College Chapel for cutting off the spires.
Time for a steak and ale pie.
This building is across the street from the Eagle, and is the oldest standing building in Cambridge - the tower was built in 1033.

Punting.
A better view of King's College Chapel.
Wednesday

On Wednesday, we visited Blickling Hall, a grand estate in the countryside. It reminded me a bit of Downton Abbey, because it was still decorated as it was in the 1930s. The gardens were beautiful, and Clare really enjoyed exploring them. She was less thrilled with the house itself, but I promised her cake in exchange for her patience, and she did pretty well after that. I found it fascinating, and if I hadn't had an almost 5-year-old in tow I would have spent more time looking around. On the way back from Blickling Hall, my mom and I were dropped off at Norwich Cathedral, where we were promptly caught in a hailstorm. We made it unscathed into the cathedral, though, and I am glad I did because it was impressive. Norwich Cathedral was completed in 1145. Sometimes I find it hard to wrap my mind around how old so many of these buildings are. On Wednesday night, Andri generously babysat Clare so my mom, Rob and I could go out for drinks and dinner. It was really nice. We ate some delicious tapas, drank wine, and had a lot of fun talking.

Our new house. Oh wait.
The view is okay.
Milky tea and a Victoria sponge cake.

Norwich Cathedral.
Thursday

We started the day with a traditional English breakfast, which was one of the things I requested we do on the trip. Then we explored Norwich Castle. Clare was looking forward to seeing the castle all week, and even though I warned her it would be nothing like the castle on "Sofia the First" I think she was still a little disappointed. She ended up having a great time though, because the castle was super kid-friendly. And packed with kids, incidentally. (And she was able to purchase a plastic crown in the gift shop, so that made her day.)

Yeah, that crown was broken 24 hours later.

Queen Clare.

#awesome
That afternoon we went to afternoon tea at the Assembly Rooms in Norwich. Andri's mom and sister joined us, my brother and Andri's dad ditched us and went to a pub. I don't know why. The tea was lovely - small sandwiches, raisin scones, clotted cream, and many desserts. And tea, of course. (Side note: taking Clare to a fancy tea party is another of my 40 x 40 goals!) The room we were in was beautiful, as well. If I knew anything about decorating I might be able to describe it here. I don't, though, so let's stick to the food.

My favorites were the cucumber and cream cheese sandwich and raisin scone with clotted cream and jam.

Crown still intact here.

Clare and Andri.

You can see a bit of the room behind Clare and Meema Jo.


Friday

On Friday we drove to Wells-Next-The-Sea, which I kept insisting on calling Wells-Next-To-The-Sea. My brain just automatically put the "to" in there.  It was a gorgeous day. We were on the North Sea, although due to the interesting geography of the coastline, we couldn't actually see much of the sea, because the tide was out. It was nice being in the sun on the beach, though. Clare and I both got sunburned. We had lunch outside, and a duck took a piece of bread right out of Clare's hand. That was traumatic, to say the least. There was quite a bit of screaming. Once we escaped the duck, we spent some time at a playground and wandering around the shops. Then it was time for ice cream and the drive back to Norwich. We spent our last night there going out for a delicious dinner. (And a delicious gin fizz.)

The many last-named clan.

A treat from Barbara.

On the beach with my best girl.
Saturday morning it was back to Minnesota and reality. I miss my brother and sister-in-law more now that we got to spend a week with them. I wish they weren't two plane rides away. We will see them again in June, though, so I am happy about that. It was just so nice to be able to spend that time with them, and with my mom and Clare, too. It was a special week. I really hope we can go back again soon.

Meanwhile, these two are sure happy to have each other again.