Sunday, August 23, 2015

August Ennui

I've always wanted to use the word ennui in a piece of writing. Hey look, I've done it twice now!

It happens every year. I know others feel it too: that anxious feeling that starts to take hold in August. The days start getting noticeably shorter. Back to school preparation is in full swing. This year, the feeling set in for me when I saw mums for sale outside of the grocery store. Fall is just around the corner.

Now, I love fall, and am usually relieved for the change in season. I much prefer jeans to shorts. (I don't wear shorts.) Also, though, I feel sad. No more picnics or days at the pool. No more lazy mornings. I have very mixed emotions about Clare going to school five days a week. And, to quote from a popular show on HBO, winter is coming.

I often wonder if I would get this feeling if I lived in a warmer climate. Sure, there'd still be the change in routine that comes with school starting again, but maybe I wouldn't have the same sense of bleakness, of knowing the nice days are numbered.

Still, though, I am going to do my best to enjoy the rest of summer, and fall and winter for that matter.

On a summer-y note, we finished swimming lessons last week, and we made progress! Last year, Clare refused to go into the big pool at all, but this year she did it! Sure, it was just during the last two days of lessons. And one of the days it was 60 degrees and raining, so she realized she'd be much warmer in the pool than out of it, but still! Progress! Christopher passed into the next level, but unfortunately he will not be old enough to participate in that class next year. Which means I will be in the pool with him again. He had fun though, which I guess is the important thing.


At the beginning of summer, I was super strict about screen time and playing outside. If the weather was nice, the kids were not allowed to choose an indoor event. Now, I am tired of being an enforcer. I am tired of sunscreen. Even though I know the nice days won't last much longer, I let them go to the aquarium if they want to. Soon Clare won't be doing much of that kind of thing anyway. As Clare pointed out this morning, we are outside when we walk to and from the car. Can't argue with that kid's logic. Or her fashion sense.


Now, off to enjoy the last few weeks of summer.



Friday, August 14, 2015

Changes: School Edition

Clare is going to a new school this fall. I've been struggling with the decision, although when I lay out the reasons to send her to the new school it is a pretty easy call.  She is going to a public Montessori school. She'll be going five mornings a week. She'll have the same teacher and classmates for Kindergarten next year. She can take the bus. Oh, and it's free.

Change is always hard, though, and I will miss her preschool. She had a great experience, and part of me would like to keep her there. The school also houses a K-8 school. It's private, though, and we just don't have an extra $5,000 a year (or $10,000 for Christopher, too) to send her there. And then she'd probably want to go to the private high school where all of her friends would go. And I don't even want to think about that school's tuition.

Clare herself seems to be taking the change in stride. I was nervous to tell her, because she loved her school, but when I mentioned the change she said, "Okay Mommy." That was it. When I gave her some more details, like the fact that she could take the bus and that her friends Nora and Henry both go to that school, she was starting to get pretty excited. I told her I'd drive her on the first day, but she refused. She will take the bus. So instead of driving her, I'll be following the bus in my car.

Having her attend this school also allows us to avoid the troubled middle school in our neighborhood - she'll go to a different middle school and then end up at our neighborhood high school. Not to plan too far ahead.

I think the Montessori method will be a good fit for Clare, too. Lots of independent work at your own pace. The teacher is there as more of a guide, not as someone who stands in the front of the room talking. The lessons are all geared towards individual students' interests, too. I just hope it is a good teaching style for Christopher, too. If not, too bad for him, I guess. We should find out her teacher this week. I am sure I won't sleep the night before the first day of school (which is not until September 10! So late!) but I think Clare will be fine.



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

22 Months

He is no longer interested in cooperating with these pictures.
Nope.

Okay, expert moms out there. How do you stop the throwing of everything? Christopher is not discerning. Whatever is in his hand is tossed, frequently in the direction of his sister, his mother, or his cousin. I have been taking the object away, holding his hands tightly and telling him NO. This has not stopped the behavior.

Christopher has always been funny, but he seems to be working more on his comedy routine. He has figured out the face that always, always makes me laugh. I can't describe it properly, but he scrunches up his whole face with this ridiculous toothy grin.

Every time someone comes to our door, Christopher thinks it is Baba Ralph. He has an unshakeable belief (or hope?) that Baba and Meema are going to come through that door. Of course, they rarely actually do. For a long time I thought Christopher was saying "Mommy" but it turns out he is saying "ma-mee," Meema in reverse. (He does say Mama for me, though.)

He makes many animal noises to everyone's delight, including moo, baa, quack, woof, and a very strange, low hissing sound that he inexplicably makes when he sees a penguin. He also roars like a dinosaur when he has his dinosaur towel on. He gets upset if someone takes the hood off his head. You can tell he really enjoys being a dinosaur.

His new words this month include wheel, read, book, no, and row, as in "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" his all-time favorite nursery rhyme. He really, really likes nursery rhymes.

He loves playing with Clare and Josie. He is concerned about their whereabouts at all times. He hands Clare her things, concerned that she is missing them. He is very polite, saying thank you when someone gives him something. But he still throws food on the floor.

Christopher is not a water baby. Clare loves the water, as long as she can touch, but Christopher is very hesitant about going in. He likes playing in the water table and splashing in the bathtub, but when it comes to a large body of water he is not interested. We start swimming lessons next week. I'll be in the pool with him, but I have a feeling it will be a struggle.

He's been sick the past few days, with one of those pesky summer colds, so he has been extra cuddly. I don't love wiping noses all day long, but I'll take the hugs.

Only two more months until birthday number two! I hope they go as slowly as possible.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mid-Summer

We spent the week before the 4th of July at my parents' house. Uncle Robby and Aunt Andri were visiting from England, and we spent a lot of time eating, drinking and talking. We all piled in the minivan to visit my grandma, who lives north of Milwaukee. I had a happy hour with old friends from work. We also participated in the normal small town 4th of July activities: parade, pool, beer tent, fireworks, cookouts. Ben came in first in the 10K race on the morning of the 4th. It was such a nice week.

***

I think I mentioned that Clare had her first sleepover a few weeks ago. The best part, though, was when she came home. Christopher ran to the door, screaming Clare's name. He then proceeded to practically knock her over while giving her an enormous hug. Ever since then, he has been giving her a hug every morning.

***

Just because I like to keep track: at Clare's 4-year well-child appointment on June 8 she was 40 inches tall (67th percentile) and 35 pounds (53rd percentile.)

***

We went on a camping trip with friends Father's Day weekend. It was fun, except Christopher was a little under the weather, so he was SUPER crabby. It rained Saturday morning, and we all sat around the campfire in our ponchos and raincoats. Christopher walked over, hood over his head, and looked at each one of us in disgust and stalked off.  And Clare ate a cashew and had an allergic reaction. It was pretty scary, actually. She has an appointment with an allergist soon, and until then she is officially Clare No Nuts. Other than that, Clare had fun playing with her friends and I had fun drinking beer and eating delicious chili mac. (We all put homemade chili on top of the kids' leftover mac and cheese. It sounds disgusting, but it was divine.) We are planning to make it an annual tradition, and hope that next year there will be fewer ticks.
This picture sums up the trip.


***

We've been spending a lot of time picnicking at the park with friends. That is one of my favorite things to do in the summer. Christopher usually ends up stepping in or eating someone else's food, but there is just something so nice about eating outside. (And not having to clean up my house afterward.)

***

My mom came back with me following the 4th, and stayed for a week. It was nice for me because I had help with the kids, especially Josie. The most adventurous thing we did was walk across the Stone Arch Bridge, but low key was fine with me. My dad joined us at the end of the week. Christopher has gotten very used to having Baba around. He has asked for him every morning since then.

***

We went to the annual family gathering at Ben's uncle's cabin, north of Hinckley. We just stayed for the day, because we were reluctant to camp in case Crabby Christopher made a reappearance. It was such a nice day. Clare played in the lake for hours. Christopher worked up the nerve to wade in after watching Clare for an hour or two. We went out on the boat, and I floated in the lake, one of my favorite summer activities. There was beer and grilled hamburgers. A perfect summer day.

***

Of course, I've taken a picture or three.

Fresh, squeaky cheese curds at the Dane County Farmer's Market.

In the Capitol building in Madison.

Smoothie time with Aunt Katie and Josie.

Exploring in the woods at my parents' house.

Reading with Uncle Robby.

They were just slightly excited to see Daddy after a few days away. I wasn't there, but apparently lots of shrieking was involved. 

Carousel selfie at Ella's Deli in Madison.

Hanging out at the Evansville 4th of July.

At the parade.

Clare did much better this year. She was only cowering in my lap for half the parade. Christopher loved it all.

Clare and Meema Jo made a flag cake. It was very festive. And delicious.

Studying the Mississippi River.

Summer fun with dinosaur sprinkler.

Flying high on the bungy jump at Highland Fest.

Clare running the 1K kids race at Highland Fest. There were about 40 kids in the race, and Clare came in somewhere in the middle. She did great job. She ran the whole way. She's already asking when the next race is. 


Monday, July 6, 2015

21 Months





When Christopher wakes up from his nap, he calls for me. I go into his room, where I usually find him snuggling with his favorite blanket. He is only partially awake. He wraps his arms around my neck, and rests his head on my shoulder. We go downstairs and sit on the couch. Christopher presses his cheek against mine, cuddled up against me. We sit that way for, oh, 20 minutes. If not longer. Every day. I just love our post-nap time together.

Christopher has started saying "yeah" and "uh-uh." He has added a few other words to his list as well: diaper, water, flower, cow, moo, Baba (what we call the kids' grandpas), and baby.

He is so sweet with his cousin, who he has started calling Jo-Jo. He touches her very gently, and always rushes to greet her when she arrives. In fact, in the morning he typically asks me two questions when he first wakes up. "Clare?" "Jo-Jo?"

He does an impersonation of Cookie Monster. It is the best thing ever. He says "Cookie-o" and then "nom nom nom" while fluttering his fingers across his lips. Clare always loved Elmo, but Christopher is solidly a Cookie Monster man.

He knows when he has gone to the bathroom. It is helpful that he can tell us, but he can be inconsistent about it.

We were at my parents' house for the 4th of July. He had an absolute blast, but for some reason was terrified of the bathtub there. Luckily, he seems fine now that we are back at home. Also, my mom hired a photographer to take some family pictures, and of course Christopher decided he was not going to cooperate. He will cry the whole time, thank you very much. It is especially frustrating since he is normally so happy. All well. I guess you showed us, Christopher. You are your own person. I am just glad you are normally so cheerful and sweet.



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Summer Resolutions

It's been summer break for a week and a half, and I am already missing preschool. Even though Clare only had school two days a week, the change in schedule has thrown us all for a loop. And the main thing that has me wanting to scream and tear out my hair? Sunscreen. I complain all winter long about how annoying it is to get everyone out of the house. Well, it's just as hard in the summer, at least if you are planning to spend any amount of time outdoors.

I've decided that the path I am currently on, however, cannot last. I cannot spend every day this summer screaming at or being annoyed by my children. I've decided to make some summer resolutions. Or, really, one resolution.

1. Relax. I don't have to be anywhere so important that it is worth yelling at the kids to get them out the door. Being a few minutes late will not hurt anyone, especially since most of the time I am just meeting friends at the park.

2. RELAX. Bring humor to the situation. That works so much better than yelling.

3. R-E-L-A-X. Summer is supposed to be fun. When I am getting frustrated with all the whining, demanding, and other general annoyances, I am going to take a deep breath and assess the situation before I say one word.

Okay, I feel a little better now.

On a completely different note, we had Clare's 4th birthday parties last weekend. Yes, parties. We had cake and sandwiches with her friends at our house in the morning, and a cookout with our families that night. I remember in college we used to go out both nights of the weekend until the wee hours, and still be fine for class on Monday. Yeah, I am still recovering from a 4-year-old's birthday weekend on Wednesday. (Hmmm...maybe that's why I am not dealing so well with the kids this week. I am just plain tired.) Along with the parties, Clare got to have her first sleepover. She stayed at my sister's house on Friday night, in the same room with my parents. She loved sleeping in her new sleeping bag and didn't seem to care that mom and dad weren't there.

Anyway, Clare had a great time with her friends. Her guests included Benjamin, Simon, James, Fern, Alice and Heidi and assorted parents. Her cousin Josie was there, too. My parents were in town for the weekend, which was fun. There is still leftover cake. She got a lot of loot. She was excited about all of it, of course. The biggest present, though, was the sandbox Ben built for her. (The gift is from Ben's parents, but he did the construction.) It looks great. I was so excited to give it to her, that I didn't even mind staying up until midnight the night before filling it with sand.

Christopher is not getting a party this year. (Okay, maybe just a small one. Stop me before I get too out of control.)

The kiddos at Clare's party. 
Excited about Abby Cadabby from Uncle Robby and Aunt Andri

Post-party snuggles on the couch.

Target/Coffee shop date with the birthday girl, on her actual birthday.

The joy of summer. RELAX.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Four




On Clare's last day of preschool, the teachers put together a presentation for the parents. They said a little something about each kid. It was sweet. They had obviously interviewed the kids beforehand. I want to put Clare's responses here, mostly so I remember, but also because it is a good summary of some of her favorites right now.

"Clare loves to play hide and seek. She enjoys playing with the doll house at school. Her heart is happy when Christopher hugs her. She loves to eat strawberries. Clare wants to be a teacher when she grows up. We will miss her stories that she shares in class."

When we heard that last line, Ben and I looked at each other. What stories is she sharing in class? Not that there is anything particularly bad that she could say about us. Except that Mommy likes martinis.

There's no denying this has been a tough year. People talk about the terrible twos, but I think they're wrong. It is most definitely the terrible, no-good threes. Despite all of that, though, I am so proud of my little girl. She is smart, funny, kind, creative and fun. I sometimes forget that she is only just turning four. She talks like a much older kid. Maybe that was part of the struggle this year. I expected her to behave a certain way, and she just wasn't ready to do that.  There was a moment a few weeks ago when she was upset about something, and her tear-streaked face made her look like she did when she was a baby. It reminded me that she is still just a little kid. I should also say that she is a really well-behaved kid for everyone except me. She did not have a single behavioral problem at school. The only criticism her teacher had was that she sometimes "spaces out" during rug time. I didn't say this to the teacher, but my guess is she loses focus because she is bored.

Her mind is just going constantly. Have you seen that Louis CK stand-up where he talks about kids asking why? If not, go watch it. It is hysterical. (Warning: inappropriate language, not safe for work.) That has been me this year. Clare wants to know everything about everything. And she knows so much. She remembers almost everything you tell her. Except that it's time to turn off the TV and go take a nap.

One of my favorite things right now is watching Clare play with Christopher. She is so sweet to him, and they play together pretty well, actually.  I just love watching them interact. She has been very generous to Christopher, letting him carry around her Big Bird doll. He has become very attached to it. She calls Christopher "Buddy" nearly 100 percent of the time. (Christopher's middle name, Lewis, comes from Ben's grandpa. Ben's grandpa was also known as Buddy to his family.)

Clare has very specific ideas for how things are supposed to be. This includes playing tea party, or anything else, for that matter. She can be very bossy. I can already see what will happen a year or two from now: Clare will painstakingly set up some activity, and Christopher and Josie will take great delight in destroying it or otherwise thwarting Clare's plans. All well, she'll need to learn how to cope with this sometime.

She is still anxious and has many fears, but she is learning to manage them. I also understand her temperament much better now, so I feel like I can help her better prepare for new or potentially scary situations. (Except when I take her on a log chute ride with terrifying statues.)

She still loves being outside: the slide, the swings, playing catch, helping water plants, riding her bike, riding her scooter. Anything. She runs with a pack of boys, and keeps up with them just fine. She is a pretty fast runner, actually. She is able to ride her bike to our neighborhood park, which is about six blocks away.

Her other favorite things are art and books. She colors, paints, plays with stickers, and makes creations with play doh. She has about a hundred books in her room and has many of them memorized. She has too many favorites to pick just one, but she loves "Madeline" and "Miss Rumphius."

Her favorite TV shows right now are "Sid the Science Kid" and "Jake and the Neverland Pirates." She is still a super picky eater. For example: she loves cheese, pasta and tomatoes, but will not eat lasagna. She doesn't like pizza. No food can touch or be combined. We are slowly working through this. Her favorite foods are frozen mango, sweet potato fries (homemade, so they are actually baked, not fried), and refried beans. She also loves cereal. Her best friend at school was Ella, who I heard about daily. Outside of school, her best friends are Simon, James, Benjamin, and Brendon. (Brendon told his mom he and Clare are probably going to get married.)

And now she is four. I have a four-year-old. As we all know and say constantly: where did the time go?

Happy birthday, sweet Clare. I hope this year is full of fun.

She requested this pose.
I see both of these particular facial expressions a lot. Clare was upset because Buddy sat on top of his moose rather than next to his moose.

She decided to join in. (And those are bruises, not dirt, on her legs.) 
With one of her favorite people, cousin Josie.

Goofballs at the Aquarium.

Sharing a popsicle at our favorite park.

On her last day of preschool.