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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.


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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.

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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.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

20 Months


Christopher is very helpful. He is into putting things away. I am sure it won't last.

He has started using more problem-solving skills rather than just getting upset when something doesn't immediately go his way. It is fun to watch him think things through.

He is fearless at the park. There is a tall metal slide at our favorite neighborhood park. It is fairly fast. Clare wasn't comfortable going down it until she was three. Yes, you guessed it. Christopher flies right down that slide. He goes down on his belly, but with no hesitation whatsoever.

He has started shaking his head no. He sometimes shakes his head no when he means yes, but most of the time he does it correctly. He has gotten better at using signs to communicate on a regular basis. He has been signing for awhile, but they seem to come more naturally now. Hungry, thirsty, all done, more, please. His vocabulary is slowly expanding. His list of words includes eat, cheese, cracker, cookie (as in the dessert and the monster), boot, Clare, Mama, hi, bye, hello, milk, uh-oh, Josie, banana, apple, ball, go, car, baby, window (I am the only one who understands this), and thank you. I think he is trying to say Katie. (His aunt.)

I am sure I mentioned this last time, but outside his is favorite place to be. Yesterday I asked the kids if they wanted to play in the backyard. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a blur run by - it was Christopher bolting for the door.

His other favorite things: books, cars, playing with Clare, watching videos on my phone, and running with his hands in the air.

He is still a good eater. His favorite food is fruit. Any fruit. Anytime. He would actually probably be happy if I just served him fruit with a side of cheese for every meal.

He is still very affectionate and gives the best hugs. I think I mention his hugs every month, but I want to savor them because I know a time will come when he doesn't want to hug me 10 times a day.

He looks so grown-up now, especially in his polo shirts that he has been wearing now that it is warmer. I am excited for a fun summer.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Haircuts and Cookouts

I finally gave in. Christopher got a haircut. He didn't love it.



I felt the same way when I saw all of his lovely curls fall to the floor. Honestly, though, I think he will feel much cooler this summer without that long hair sticking to the back of his neck. And I can always let his hair grow out until the curls come back.

Aside from the hair-related trauma, it was a lovely long weekend, despite the rain. Even though I am a stay-at-home mom, I look forward to long weekends. Having Ben here one extra day is so nice, and it means a break from caring for my niece. (I adore my niece, but I'd be lying if I said having three kids here isn't challenging at times.)

We had cookouts all three nights, two with family and one with friends. I had several gin and tonics. And a bloody Mary. We took the kids on a bike ride to the lock and dam on the Mississippi River. I went to Target by myself.

We tried to go the Aquarium at MOA on Sunday. What was I thinking? The place was packed. Clare and I did go down the log chute ride, though. Have you ever been on that? She begged and begged. I had her watch it to make sure she really wanted to do it. She did. Well, I'd never been on the ride before, and had no idea it is filled with huge, creepy, animatronic characters. So of course she was scared out of her mind. I don't think she minded the actual ride, but those statues did her in. Poor girl. After we got off the ride, she told me she'd wait until she was 10 to try it again. Then she collapsed into the stroller.

This week is Clare's last week of preschool. I am both happy about and dreading this schedule change. It will be nice not to have to rush off in the morning, but it also means no break. Clare is doing two camps this summer, though, so she'll have a little time with her preschool friends then.

I am looking forward to lots of park time, though. Even if it means holding Christopher down to put sunscreen on him, especially now that the back of his neck is bare.




Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Number Nine

Just a quick post to note that today is Ben and my 9th wedding anniversary. We are celebrating by doing...nothing. I might use the day as an excuse to have a glass of wine tonight, though.

One of the challenges we've faced lately is the division of labor on the weekends. I tend to dump the kids on Ben on Saturdays and Sundays, because I badly need a break. I get frustrated when Ben has other plans, which to be fair usually involve yard work or other house projects. I know these things have to be done, too, and it is impossible for me to mow the lawn or do much other yard work during the day, especially now that I have Josie.  This situation has sparked more than one argument.

Usually, though, we manage to get everything done (or decide to ignore it), and have some family time. Ben really is a great partner when it comes to the daily grind. He does the dishes. He puts Clare to bed. He gives the kids their baths.  He gets up with the kids on Sundays so I can sleep in. And, he NEVER complains when I tell him I have plans with friends or my sister. (Not that I have plans all that often. I am boring.) And, most importantly, he is a great dad. The kids shriek with joy when he comes home.

He doesn't read this blog, but I'll say it anyway. Thanks for everything, Ben.