Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The good life

Tim and I frequently marvel at the difference in travel between our own childhoods and our children's. Tim was ten years old before he ever flew on an airplane. I was only three, but that's still significantly older than both of our children. Clare was three months, and Danny a mere three weeks when they began earning frequent flier miles - emphasis on frequent. While we flew perhaps once a year, our kids now fly at least four times a year, and usually more. With grandparents on opposite sides of the country, air travel is naturally a part of our lifestyles, and we feel blessed that we are able to make the trips that we do. It helps that our families make the receiving end so worthwhile!

Case in point is the Park Country Club in Buffalo, where both Clare and Danny have been privileged to attend since their infancies. Danny made his debut at his Aunt Karen and Uncle Brian's wedding when he was three weeks old, but yesterday's visit was obviously the more memorable (for him). We had planned to go to the Park Club for dinner as the grand finale to a fun, full, family weekend celebrating Grandma's/Donna's 65th birthday. The outing didn't start out auspiciously, however, as Danny awoke from a long, deep nap in a horrific mood. Anything and everything had him in inconsolable hysterics. Until Daddy said the magic words: "golf club." The speed with which Danny raced to be the first to the car was impressive, and from there on out he was a delightful little chap. (It helped that both Grandpa and Daddy took him on walks around the terrace overlooking the 18th green.) Meanwhile, Clare decided that the Park Club is her favorite restaurant in Buffalo, because she got to have the salad bar and then the sundae bar for dinner. In fact, she declared herself to be "a Park Club girl," at which point Tim simply whispered to himself his ongoing mantra: Just work harder, Tim.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Amy, Jennifer and I have a dirty little secret. While we extol the virtues of our preschoolers learning a second language, there's a much more base rationale behind signing them up for Spanish for Kids every Tuesday: they stay later at school. As a result, we get to have long, sometimes leisurely (today notwithstanding, thanks to Danny) lunches together. It's a terrific tradition that we started last year, and today was the last one of the year. We each start out the day with a workout, thereby earning our lunch. Amy and I typically take to the trail while Jennifer goes to her fancy gym, and then we meet up to a) have Jennifer weigh in on whatever "pressing concerns" we discussed while walking, and b) get caught up on the stories she has been storing up for us - she's always got at least one! Danny and "my Parker," as he refers to him, meanwhile crack each other up, make eyes at all three of us, and generally enjoy the attentions of three mommies without sharing the limelight with the older siblings. In other words, it's a win-win for all. Oh yeah, and the older kids can sing some vowel song in Spanish...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Guardian Angel

While yesterday's event at Christ the King was billed as a "meet the teacher" day, it wound up featuring a different highlight. Last week I received a phone call from a lovely little girl named Claire Gordon. She informed me that she was going to be Clare's Guardian Angel at Christ the King, and that she was looking forward to meeting us at the event on Friday. I had no idea how old she was. I had a vague recollection of this Guardian Angel program involving fifth graders. She was so self-possessed on the phone, and genuinely friendly, that it seemed she must be older. Not so much. In fact, she's only in fourth grade! However, as far as Clare is concerned, she hung the moon.

The introduction went down like this. At the opening of the event, the principal called each child up to meet his/her teacher, and they filed off to a classroom with them while we stayed behind for all the blah-blah-blah type stuff we tuition-paying parents better get accustomed to hearing. Approximately half an hour later, the children returned, led by their Guardian Angels. Clare was beaming. She held up a picture of her name that big Claire had colored for her, and couldn't wait to introduce me to Claire - who was also beaming. While the principal had already given us the low-down, I let both girls explain that Claire (thank heavens they spell their names differently, no?) was going to be Clare's buddy, showing her the ropes around CTK so that it wouldn't be such a strange, new and overwhelming place to be. Isn't this the best idea ever? (As an aside, Clare's buddy Max has two Guardian Angels, both boys, who looked, as his mother so eloquently put it, "shell-shocked" after meeting Max. So his experience might be a tad...different, shall we say.) Big Claire led Clare over to get a snack, and then proceeded to enthusiastically introduce her to all her fourth-grade buddies who wandered by. She happily showed them the picture that my little Clare had colored for her. I don't know what impressed me more, her maturity or her genuineness. If this is the kind of person that CTK is helping to nurture, then our money is going to be very well spent indeed. Not surprisingly, Claire was the topic of Clare's conversation all day.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Max, a.k.a. Sir Loyal Heart

For three years now, Max Congrave has been a constant for Clare in what has often been a sea of change - and vice versa. They first met as two-year-old preschoolers in the same class, navigating the then-uncharted waters of Atlanta, potty training and Catholic school. They both experienced the additions of new siblings within a month of each other. They switched preschools together, and were once again in the same class. In fact, they've been in the same class for three years now. And for three years, they have declared each other to be their boyfriend/girlfriend, and are very serious in their intent to marry each other. So much so that Max discusses this daily with his mother and his nanny.

This fall they will both move to Kindergarten at Christ the King. However, as we discovered this morning at the "Meet the Teacher" event, they will not be in the same class. This is of some concern to Max, who responded to this news in the following way: "I don't want a new boy to take her. If he does, I'll kick him." Having said this, Max marched off to his class. When the two were later reunited, I overheard Max ask Clare, "Did any boys tell you that you were beautiful and try to take you?" Clare assured him that they did not, but Max did feel obligated to ask this again. Apparently Clare started to think that maybe she should be concerned, too, because she then asked, "Did any girls want to marry you and tell you that you're handsome?" She's safe for now, and Max later whispered, "You are the love of my life" - but then explained that this is what Shrek says to Fiona. Still, he's quite the gallant young man, isn't he?

Here's a picture of Clare and Max back when they were three (and Danny was a froggy baby):

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The apron ties that bind

Green gingham has never been so cute! This afternoon I was cordially invited to a Mother's Day lunch hosted by Clare and her classmates. It could not have been more adorable, and most of us has tears in our eyes within the first five minutes. The kids were just so delighted to have us there, and so proud of themselves, and so grown up.

One of their teachers had sewn each one of them a green gingham apron (the girls wore the style that ties around the waist, and the boys had the type that hooks around the neck). Each child greeted his or her mother and escorted her to a seat at one of the two tables, which were set with flowers, candlelight (brave teachers), and a menu. We were then showered with gifts of the art project variety, followed by a charming performance of "The Vowel Song." The kids then helped us through the buffet line, where I noticed that most kids were serving their mothers but mine was dawdling off in the corner scanning the books. She was front and center when it was time for dessert, however!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Life at a gallop

It's hard not to be a bit reflective on Mother's Day, especially when it follows a weekend away from the kids. I was lucky enough to go with two of my best friends on a yoga retreat in the North Georgia mountains. We spent two nights and two days at Fallen Timber Lodge, which is more spectacular than these pictures depict, while the dads held their respective forts at home. The weekend included three yoga sessions, delicious meals provided by our instructor's chef husband, and plenty of free time that was void of "Mommy! Mommy!" or any other annoying moments. It was bliss, primarily because it was an opportunity to really slow down. We hiked along the Toccoa River by following a railroad track, we sat on a porch swing, we lazed in the hot tub, and we drank plenty of vino. Suffice it to say, it was a life one could get used to.

Come this morning, however, it was time to return to reality. One of the first things we noticed was that after only two days, our kids looked bigger! This was reinforced by the email I received detailing the graduation ceremony for Clare's Pre-K class this coming Thursday. Graduation?! I'm not ready for this. I should be - Clare writes me notes, reads books out loud to us, makes math sheets for herself, and has generally matured so much over the past several months that she is clearly not a preschooler anymore. But if she's getting older, the implications aren't too terrific for me. (Although, that's one step closer to retirement, which means maybe more time spent in the retreat lifestyle, right?)

It was lovely to be greeted so joyfully by the kids when they saw me, and I really do think they appreciated having me back in the house. Of course, it didn't take long for their demands to flow forth from their tongues, but the cuddles and smiles tempered those just enough. We decided a family outing was in order on what turned out to be a spectacular afternoon, so we headed over to nearby some polo fields where several horses like to graze. Something about the equine world provides endless amounts of entertainment, and not just for the kids. It was extraordinarily peaceful - well, until Danny fell into hysterics when we had to leave. Such passion just helps us appreciate the peaceful moments all the more.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Extreme speech

I've started to notice a pattern with Danny, and it involves the word "love." "Mommy, I love bubbles!" "I love balls!" "More 'Bamboleo'! I love 'Bamboleo'!" At two, Danny is at the point where there is virtually no word or phrase he can't say, and his sentences are getting increasingly complex. (Although, he was trying to say, "Nice to meet you" today and instead said, "Mice to eat you," so he's not quite ready for Toastmasters.) I realize that so much of his verbal ability is based on what he hears us say or what we expose him to. For example, I'm sorry to report that one of his favorite words is "stupid," thanks to the various holiday-themed Charlie Brown shows we've viewed. Boy, does he love that word. Wait a minute - I just used "love." Hmmmm. How often do I use that word on a daily basis? And what does that teach him about love?

I got to thinking about this the other day when I said to him in the car, "I love you, Danny!" and he replied, "I love you, too." Of course I thought it was adorable and sweet, but at the same time it occurred to me that it was probably an automatic, almost Pavlovian response for him. He knew I'd think it was cute; he probably wasn't thinking about how much he loves his mommy. At what point do we impart the true meaning of words like "love"? "Milk," "tummy," etc. are so much easier! Even "no!" is concrete, although it's not learned overnight. I suppose it's just one more example of how parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Thank heavens for wine. I love wine.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I considered titling this post "Thankless tasks," which is how I feel about the vast majority of the meals I serve these days. As many of you know, we have been in an ongoing struggle with Clare over trying new food. As a baby, she was a terrific eater, and then sometime around the age of two it all took a nosedive. She will no longer eat any meat, aside from the chicken nugget or hot dog variety - and even those things are hard-fought victories over the past year. She will not eat any pasta except for one very specific kind of macaroni and cheese. This list could go on and on. In retrospect, we've learned that we did several things wrong, not necessarily bringing her issues about but certainly not nipping them in the bud. Of course, it's not too late, and we're doing our best to bring about change.

With Danny, I feel as though I have a clean slate. I will not repeat the mistake of acting as a short-order chef with him. I continue to place things on his plate, ever optimistic that one day he will be hungry enough to taste it. I will say that Danny's food preferences are proof that God has a sense of humor, because he and Clare are polar opposites. Clare's saving grace is that she is a terrific consumer of fruits and vegetables. Danny, on the other hand, eats only freeze-dried bananas and strawberries, plus raisins. But he loves his meat and cheese!

By this point, if you're still reading this, you are probably asking yourself, "why is she writing about this now?" For one thing, I've been thinking about this off-and-on since Clare's recent doctor's appointment, because her BMI was just slightly higher than the doctor prefers (her weight percentage is a tad higher than her height percentage). This was not really a shock, as we had just returned from our spring break vacation where we let Clare eat pretty much whatever she wanted. A week at Grammy's is not the time to lay down the food laws! Once we were home, however, it was time to get back to basics. I've also been chatting about this over the past couple of days with my good friend Terri, who is experiencing similar challenges with her daughter. Sometimes this food situation can really make you feel like a failure as a parent, so it's always refreshing to find someone else - someone you respect, furthermore - who is in the trenches with you. Anyway, today I decided I was going to make turkey meatballs and spaghetti for dinner, and opted to make the meatballs early in the day. Since they were ready in time, I gave one to Danny for lunch. And he ate it! And liked it! Now, I don't know if what he really liked was his mastery of his fork while eating it - he pronounced "I did it!" every time he successfully stabbed a piece of meatball with his fork. What I do know is that he ate two whole meatballs, very happily. To top it all off, he ate two dried apricots today, too. Of course, when Clare came home from school and discovered we were having meatballs for dinner, there were instant tears. Evidently I will continue to win some and lose others - but I'm in it for the war, not every battle.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Saturday on track

Yesterday was a big day, and I'm not just talking about the fact that Danny willingly wore shoes other than his Crocs. We had tickets for "A Day Out with Thomas" at the Chattanooga railway. The Thomas the Train phenomenon is just beginning to surface in our house, but we figured we couldn't lose with the prospect of a train ride. So, we yanked Tim out of bed at the ungodly hour of 7:15 on a Saturday morning, threw him in the shower, and loaded into the Vanimal for the first stop, the bagel store. I think this alone would have satisfied Danny, who chanted "bagels" for most of the ride there. Stomachs satiated, we moved on to the main event. This started with a two-hour drive to Chattanooga, Tennessee through heavy rain. Not exactly an auspicious start for an outdoor affair, but we were undeterred. Fortunately, while the skies didn't quite clear, the rain did stop once we pulled into the Thomas event parking lot. It was here that we embarked on what we're pretty sure was the highlight of the day for both kids: the golf cart taxi to the entrance. It was all the exhilaration of the rental car bus, with the added bonus of the open air.

Having made our way to the entrance, we found what is essentially a carnival set up at a train station. There were plenty of activities to keep you occupied while waiting for your appointed train ride. One of these was mini golf, which of course Danny zeroed in on immediately. We decided to wait until after the train ride, though, which didn't go over very well at first. However, exploring real train cars proved to be a worthwhile distraction.

The train ride itself was, as many warned us, the least interesting part of the whole experience, although fortunately I don't think the kids would agree. It's a mere 25-minute ride that very slowly meanders down a straight path, stops, and then returns back along the same track. The speed, or lack thereof, was the most disappointing part, so I don't think we'll fall prey to the "Polar (not so) Express" I overheard the conductor talking about.

After disembarking the train, Tim took Danny over to the mini golf area. Danny had no interest in putting, so Tim found a more removed area of the grass where he could openly swing away to his heart's content. Meanwhile, Clare and I met up with Max and his family for a quick tour of the jumpy house, video/story area, and petting zoo.

Had the weather been sunny and dry, I think we would have been more inclined to laze our way around each spot. This was not so, which prompted our decision to move on and hit the aquarium in downtown Chattanooga. It's got a different set-up from the one in Atlanta, with different emphases, so it was a worthwhile venture. Danny was particularly enamored of the HUGE sharks - and Clare and Max were just enamored of each other. Lord help us if this romance continues into the teen years.

It was a very full day, especially for Danny who did not get a nap, so it was a quiet ride home. I'm happy to say that we didn't have to resort to the van's DVD player on either ride. Clare was busy in the way back reading her chapter books, and Danny just enjoyed our conversation and tunes - and snacks. We know that this will not always be the case, but we'll luxuriate in it while we can.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Day 2 of 2

It's not all cake and ice cream when it comes to turning two. Today was Danny's two year check-up. There are no flies on Clare, either, because when she found out about his upcoming visit, and confirmed that he would receive shots, she conspiratorially said to me, "He probably won't like those shots, so we should go get ice cream afterwards." She also wisely opted to spend the morning playing with her friend (and apparently fiance) Max instead of tagging along, so it was just me and Danny. His doctor quickly won him over by letting him have not one, not two, but THREE "sticks," a.k.a. tongue depressors. She also pronounced him fit as a fiddle.

To backtrack a bit, last night Danny was the proud recipient of some cool toys, including a toy Rocket that's just like the one the Little Einsteins use, some Thomas the Train cars, and a conductor's ensemble which I'm hoping he'll wear tomorrow. He also joyfully received his cake, and promptly stuck his finger in the middle of one of the candle flames. I saw that one coming, but fortunately there was zero injury or trauma. As predicted, and despite my holding it up at a near 90-degree angle and prompting, "Look what's on your cake!" Danny made no acknowledgment whatsoever of the Rocket on the frosting. I've decided I still love him.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Happy birthday, Danny! (part one)

When it comes to birthdays, nutrition definitely flies right out the window. Thus, Danny and Clare toasted to his second birthday with donut holes for breakfast. I was happy to have made the decision to buy these, since the very first thing he said to me this morning, after I said, "Happy birthday, Danny!" was, "I want cake!" Donuts are not a bad second choice, especially first thing in the morning.

It worked out well that Danny's birthday fell on a Thursday, because that's when we have music class, which he loves. Since we attend with four other neighbors, he's got a lot of friends in class with him, and we usually all go out to lunch after class. By the way, he got a very nice birthday serenade at the end of class, during which he sat on Miss Doris' lap looking enormously pleased with himself, but without my own camera I was at a loss. So sad! Anyway, after scarfing down a good amount of "yummy" macaroni and cheese from Fresh 2 Order, the kids each enjoyed a lollipop - and provided us with some cute photo ops. I had to be sure to get a picture of his new "Mom's Major Cutie" t-shirt, courtesy of Crystal and Kylie.

When we got home, Danny had his first phone conversation - with Grampy. Actually, it wasn't really a conversation, because Danny pretty much just smiled and listened while my dad talked. He later told me two different times, with a HUGE grin on his face, "I said hi to Grampy!" After such excitement it was more than time for a nap, during which I made his cake. My attempt to recreate Rocket from Little Einsteins on the cake was only average (red icing is surprisingly hard to make), but I kind of wonder if Danny will even pause long enough to realize there's anything on it at all.

We're waiting for Tim to do dinner, cake and presents tonight, so more later!