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


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.

Monday, May 4, 2015

19 Months

I went on a kid-free trip last weekend with some friends. We rented a cabin on a lake in Hayward, Wisconsin. The weather was beautiful and we stayed in our pajamas drinking coffee until noon each morning. We also drank a lot of beer. We were in Wisconsin, after all. It was a wonderful and much needed break. Everything went really well here, too. Oh, except for this:

That's eight stitches. As Ben put it, he tried to "break the stair with his chin." Ben raced him to urgent care (with a crabby Clare in tow), only to arrive two minutes after they closed. He ended up in the Emergency Room at Children's in St. Paul. After taking care of a screaming Christopher and buying some french fries at McDonald's for a hungry Clare, he finally got the kids to bed at midnight. Christopher has had more scrapes, cuts, and bruises in his 19 months than Clare has had in her almost 4 years. He just plays rougher. He throws his little body around with abandon.

He is obsessed with cars. If we're in the front yard, he'll stop whatever he's doing to watch cars drive by. We were at the wolf exhibit at the Como Zoo a few weeks ago, which is situated near the parking lot, and Christopher was thrilled. He was completely uninterested in the wolves. There were SO MANY cars there. What more could a little boy want?

Christopher always wants to eats pickles. He keeps forgetting that he hates them. He does love coffee, however. Since I drink decaf, I let him indulge in a few sips.

Ben keeps threatening to cut his hair. It hasn't happened yet, but I think I am going to lose that battle soon. He will get pretty sweaty this summer, and his hair will be glued to his neck. It will be a sad day for me, though. I just love that hair.

He follows multi-step instructions, including throwing things in the garbage, something he just loves to do. He added the word "cookie" to his vocabulary today, and has started nodding his head "yes" when he wants to do something. Usually that is either eating or going outside, his two favorite activities. He is attached to his blanket. Luckily I have two that are basically the same.

He is a screen junkie. He knows how to operate the PBS Kids app on my phone. A few days ago he was reading the "Cat in the Hat" book. He kept trying to swipe it, while shouting, "Go! Go! Go!" (For those who don't know, the theme song to the "Cat in the Hat" cartoon features those words.)

Christopher is still my sweet boy, but he has attitude to spare. I was worried about leaving him last weekend, but he made it very easy. He was VERY happy to see me when I got back, though. I will never say no to one of his huge hugs.

As for Miss Clare,  I had to share this funny little gem from her. We were playing catch the other day, and she asked if I was ready for the ball. "Yes," I said. "Are you born to be ready?" She asked. Yes Clare, yes I am.

And now, a video of Clare and Christopher being silly gooses.

For awhile I thought this was going to have to lead off this post. He came around.


He is SO uncomfortable with Baba Ralph.

At the park.

Hard at work at Baba Steve's office.

Ready to walk to the Groveland Tap. Yes, Clare's baby is riding in her shirt.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

18 Months

He loves having his picture taken, but he does not love sitting still. Oh, Christopher. How'd you get to be so big?

Last week we were at the Children's Museum, and Christopher was getting hassled by another little girl. She was pushing him out of the way, and trying to take any toy he had. Her mom was right there, and she kept saying, "Leave the baby alone!" even though Christopher was bigger than that little girl. Anyway, I let it play out because I wanted to see how he would handle it. He looked surprised at first, and just ignored her the first few times she did it. We ran into her again a bit later, and she AGAIN pushed Christopher. He, very calmly, firmly grabbed both of her arms and moved her out of his way. It was hilarious. And that other mom sure has her hands full.

Christopher has added a few words to his vocabulary: go, ball and CLARE. That one is the best. He sees her and says, "Hi Clare!" Except he says "Care." It is adorable. He tries to repeat all of the words that I say. I love having little conversations with him. He is so proud when he can correctly identify an object, and since I am powerless in the face of his smile, I give him the positive feedback he is looking for.

Christopher is very interested in what other kids are doing, and tries to copy them. (Obviously, his role model is frequently Clare.) We had a playdate last week with a herd of boys, plus Clare, and they were running around the house like maniacs. Christopher was chasing after them, hands in the air, grunting and screaming with the best of them. Sometimes he went the opposite way, but he was having a ball.

He loves to feed people. If he is eating crackers, he shares his snack. And he is determined about it. He will stuff food in your face, and YOU WILL EAT IT. Even if your mouth is already full. It is sweet, though.

He is still a good eater and good sleeper, but he has terrible table manners. He throws food on the floor constantly. I immediately take his plate away, but the lesson hasn't sunk in. I can't remember when Clare outgrew this habit. Luckily we have wood floors, so clean up is easy.

He has been struggling a bit with separation anxiety. He just wants his mama. I love the hugs I get, but I don't love the crying. The other day I was headed out somewhere, and he stood by the backdoor sobbing as I walked to the garage. I could see him still standing there as I backed the car out of the garage. Ben told me he got over it 30 seconds later. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. I am glad he recovers quickly, but it can still be stressful.

We are visiting my parents for Easter. Clare is pumped for the Easter Bunny, and doesn't seem nearly as scared as she was of Santa. This doesn't seem logical to me, but okay. Maybe it's because we've been kind of vague about what the Easter Bunny actually does.

Happy Easter!