Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Bevy of Blessings

When it comes to major events like Thanksgiving, I have a hard time knowing where to begin a post. It can be a bit overwhelming, particularly when it coincides with a trip out of town to visit family. As usual, we had a lovely tim in Buffalo, and it reminds me yet again how much we have to be thankful for.

Like an excruciatingly stubborn, but entertainingly determined little boy (who insisted on pulling this suitcase through the entirety of Atlanta's very large airport):

And fireside reading (which, with Clare, turn more into chats, but that's okay, too):

There were the firsts of an outing to see the Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular...

...provided by a loving and generous Grandma:

And Danny's first chicken wing (because when in Buffalo...):

So many entertaining moments:

There were snowballs thrown at Mommy, stories with Grandma, Bingo with Grandpa, fun with Finn the dog (and Aunt Karen and Uncle Brian, too), and of course lots and lots of food. We are thankful for each moment of the visit, and thankful for our wonderful family.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Buenos Dias

I've been thinking about the differences between my generation and my kids' a lot lately. It started when I volunteered in Clare's computer class a few weeks ago. I couldn't help but marvel at the fact that she was sitting in computer lab at the age of five, getting on the Internet and learning electronic ways - something I barely scratched the surface of in college. And then there's the language thing. Both Clare and now Danny have been studying Spanish since they were two. Don't get me wrong, they're not fluent or anything, but the mere fact that they've been exposed to it at such an early age is vastly different from my own experience of starting in high school (aside from a few scattered lessons in junior high). What I find most interesting is that this is totally the norm for preschool-age kids. All of my friends could be writing the same things about their own children's education. It remains to be seen if this actually has any bearing on their future linguistic skills, but you have to figure it can't hurt.

These Spanish lessons have made a big impression on Danny, as that is what he most often reports about when telling us about his school day. "We sang 'Buenos Dias'!" Or, in a disappointed voice, "We didn't sing 'Buenos Dias.'" So here, for your viewing and listening pleasure, is Danny singing his favorite song:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Danny in Wonderland

Danny may have blotted his eventual application to Christ the King today. It was my turn to assist during art class, and I was assured by the room mom that it was perfectly fine to bring Danny with me. She did suggest that I have snacks and something for him to play with. Well, the snacks only lasted during the time we had to wait for the class to arrive (of all days for them to run late). Having seen each place set up with newspaper and pencils, Danny was itching to get his hands on some. He had to wait until the class arrived so that we could see if there was an absent student whose spot he could nab (hence the early consumption of the snacks). Lucky for him, there was a vacant seat. And I was pleased to see that it was between two well-mannered young ladies - anything to help keep him in line so that I could actually turn my back on him for a moment to assist the teacher. However, it was not so lucky for the sweet, quiet, angel-faced girl to his right, to whom Danny began chanting, loudly, "You're naked! You're naked!" No, I have no idea why. I do know that she didn't look terribly pleased with this development, nor do I blame her. Fortunately, the paint bottles started to get pass along, thus distracting everyone, His Rudeness included.

The art project proceeded without too much more disruption, although of course Danny insisted on making one as well. He also proved very deft at talking loudly whenever the teacher would ask the students to be quiet. Awesome. She is a mother herself, so I think she was fairly sympathetic, although her girls are in 8th grade and college respectively, so I imagine she has lost a bit of perspective. Although that might have just been my mortification projecting itself. Anyway, eventually the eternity that was this 30-minute art class ended, and the students lined up to go back to their class. There was a bit of chitter-chatter going on during this lining up, and when the teacher asked who was talking, several of them pointed to Danny. Which wasn't inaccurate. Danny then proceeded to worm his way into the back of the line, much to the amusement of some of the boys. He was fairly devastated when, after marching a few steps with the class, I pulled him aside so that we could leave.

Where, you might ask, was Clare? On the other side of the room, honing that crucial big sister skill of ignoring the little brother. Turns out she's really good at it - she didn't acknowledge him once.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

La Biblioteca

(I've always thought this was a word superior to "library.") What is it about that clear, plastic wrapping on library books that makes them so irresistible? I love the sound they make when you open the spine and start flipping through the pages. I don't know how protective they really are, but since they've been around for years without alteration, apparently they're functional as well as fabulous (although, as Tim repeatedly rants each time he retrieves some, the packaging on graham crackers hasn't changed over the years and yet desperately lacks on the functioning front).

Books are definitely a weakness of mine. I am not one to shower my children with toys (their overflowing playroom notwithstanding), but when it comes to books I find it easy to justify adding to our collection. These days, though, when tightening the belt is in order, I have rediscovered the joys of borrowing from the library. Clare and Danny love it, too. Not only is the outing itself fun, but the idea that you can borrow a sky-high pile of books is also quite alluring. As much as we love our trips to Barnes & Noble, they're lucky if they walk out with a stack of one. So today, to combat the cold and the temptation to veg in front of the TV all morning, Danny and I ventured out to the somewhat new local library here in Mableton. It was marvelous! The children's department is very large, and the books seem virtually untouched. Danny immediately gravitated toward horse book after horse book (or at least books featuring illustrations of horses), and was happy to sit on the floor and thumb through the pages. Later he crawled into my lap while I read him a few books, and I honestly can't think of anything better than cuddles and stories. We easily passed the time until lunch, and with my brand-spanking-new library card walked out with a tower of books for the two of them. Which I think we'll delve into during these post-nap hours...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Primarily because I haven't posted in a week...

...but today was one of those days where both kids were just a joy to be around. So when Clare suggested we head to the playground before dinner, I was happy to oblige. We were the only ones there, other than a random black lab who roamed around, much to Danny's delight. For a neighborhood of approximately 1,000 homes, it always amazes me how little the playground is used. We get our money's worth, and have been doing so for about three years now, as these similar photos of Clare (at age two-and-a-half) and Danny (now also two-and-a-half) will attest. This of course reminds me that Clare was potty-trained in the above picture, and Danny is not...but no, no, it was a GOOD day and I will focus only on the positive!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fort Seymour

What to do when you have a whole lot of timber and two imaginative kids? Build them a fort, of course!

Tim and I rolled up our sleeves yesterday and capitalized on my dad's idea to use the chunks of wood from our felled trees to make the kids a fort. Tim's original intention was to stack the pieces 2-3 levels high, but he quickly realized how unstable they would be, and didn't want somebody getting crushed (and the likes of Eric B. suing us). Still, the one-story fort - and the process of creating it - met with the kids' ecstatic approval. Danny particularly enjoyed hauling wood as he "helped" Tim.

Clare immediately set about creating a password for it, which shortly transformed into a password/song.

Then the playing began. Enemies, beware!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Can we go to the zoo?

From the annals of the masters of the obvious: Kids have selective hearing. Over the past few months, Danny has misheard me on multiple occasions and hopefully thinks that we're headed to the zoo. Other times he has just flat-out asked, but at typically inappropriate moments, such as bedtime. Yesterday, though, things finally worked out in his favor. It was a stunningly beautiful fall day, and we had a free post-nap afternoon. So when I greeted him after his nap by asking if he'd like to go to the zoo, he eschewed his typical groggy/cranky state and was more than ready to go. As we put on our shoes, made final pit stops, and gathered coats, he kept saying, "C'mon dudes, let's go!"

It was a bit of a hurried trip, because our 3:45 arrival only gave us about 45 minutes before the zookeepers would begin putting the animals in for the night. But we saw plenty, including the most up-close encounter with lions we've ever had at any zoo. The mom and her cubs were separated from us by mere feet (and a glass wall), and they frolicked and in general put on a great show.

We also lucked out in that they keep the kids' area operating until 5 p.m., so even though we missed out on the kangaroos, we did get to ride the carousel and run around the playground. So despite the hype, I think the trip to the zoo lived up to Danny's expectations. He already asked to return this morning...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tim can do it. We don't help.

At my wedding, as part of my dad's toast, I recall him joking about the dismaying day when I announced that the steep tuition money he was spending on my Notre Dame education was going to go towards an English major. To paraphrase quite a bit, he offered Tim his condolences. Sure, Tim was a fellow English major, but his double major in economics helped land him a more lucrative job in the financial world than the one I scraped together in magazines. Well, that and the greater amount of drive and ambition Tim possesses when it comes to careers.

Never having made a great deal of money in my various positions, it was an easy decision for me to stay at home with the kids, particularly since I wanted to do so. There are days when I know that Tim is relieved that he gets to walk out the door while I change the diaper, referee the arguments, and prepare countless, unappreciated meals. But regardless of how appealing it is to leave the house for a few hours - and of course there are many times when he'd prefer to stay and hang out - the burden of being the sole breadwinner is firmly planted on Tim's shoulders.

I try to appreciate this as best I can, knowing when to ask him about his day, and when to let him leave it at the office door. Kids being kids, though, Clare and Danny live in their self-centered worlds where the food always shows up in the kitchen and the clothes always fit. While "Hi, Daddy-at-work!" is a phrase the kids and I routinely call out whenever we drive past his office in Home Depot's headquarters, I know they don't give much thought to that "work" part. It's a large, imposing, and elusive building where Daddy has a lot of meetings. And lunch.

Well, today we cracked open this mysterious world just a bit by joining Daddy for lunch in the Home Depot cafeteria. Clare has been clamoring to do this - specifically to eat pizza - for quite a while, so we took her unexpected holiday from school as the opportunity to do so. As Tim said, after three-and-a-half years, the cafeteria has grown a bit tired for him, so he often prefers to venture out. But to Clare and Danny, it was exciting. In fact, Danny walked through and exclaimed, "Wow! This is amazing!"

And if he thought the cafeteria was amazing, you can only imagine his thoughts on the museum, which we visited next. (Yeah, the place has its own museum. It's pretty big, this headquarters.) Clare remembered the Mickey Mouse at the entrance to the museum from the last time we visited, which was approximately two-and-a-half years ago (Danny was soooo tiny, and we did not eat in the cafeteria). Danny was wowed by the tools, and construction guys, and the baseball bat! And football helmet! (No, I have no idea what those things were doing in there. You think I read the plaques?)

I'm not going to say that the kids walked away from their visit with any greater appreciation for Tim's hard work. (Although Danny did ask him how his meetings were, so he clearly has a general concept of what Tim does all day.) I do think it helps them to have a visual of where he spends his days, and over time hopefully this will blossom into understanding. In the meantime, we sign off with not our usual mantra of "Just work harder, Tim" but rather, "Thanks, Daddy."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ah, Autumn

The Indigo Girls have a fabulous song called "Southland in the Springtime." And I'll grant you that the spring here in the South really is lovely, unlike anything I experienced growing up in Southern California. But for my money, autumn is the truly stunning season around here. Sure, New England gets all the glory for its fall color, nor do take anything away from them. But Atlanta is no slouch in the foliage department, either. For one thing, the sheer number of trees around here is astounding, particularly for those of you who have no idea what the geography here is like (perhaps I'm projecting my own cluelessness from before moving here). Over the past week, the color has just exploded, and it's impossible to adequately capture in pictures. So I just stuck to pictures taken within my own neighborhood, to give you a mere glimpse of our current surroundings. For me, it's breathtaking.

I find it appropriate to post this on election day, too, because when I think of "America, the Beautiful," I think of the golden glow of fall, and Thanksgiving, and the Pilgrims, and where it all started. In the midst of a lot of bleak news, I'm thankful for this spectacular show nature puts on - and the freedom to write random posts about it.