Saturday, August 30, 2008

Oh, brother


The other night, I observed the cats in a way that really shed some light on sibling behavior in general (and Tim thinks Duncan and Quincy are useless!). Both cats are inordinately fond of the stuffed monkey chair in the main room. Quincy curls up on it a bit more frequently than Duncan, and I think I saw why. On this particular night, Duncan was on the monkey, truly sacked out. Quincy had been curled up on top of the couch, and for a while he, too, was passed out. (Hey, their lives are hard, they needed the rest.) I remarked on their sleepy status to Tim as we sat on the couch watching a movie. A few moments later, Quincy woke up, stretched, and trotted over to the still-sleeping Duncan, where he started swatting at him. Duncan woke up with the feline version of, "Hey, what the...?" They tousled a bit, and this evidently made Duncan hungry. This clearly all worked to plan, because while he got himself a snack, Quincy waltzed over to the monkey and curled up for the night. I guess he's not quite as stupid as we had originally thought!

It does indicate that there's something about siblings that just can't stand contentedness. How often have Clare or Danny been playing nicely by themselves when the other has to shatter the peace? And when one of them is sitting on my lap? Without fail the other one wants the same spot. Quincy and Duncan do this, too. I can be sitting on the floor, scratching one's ears to their heart's content, and the other one naturally comes over and expects my full attention. So I guess I take small comfort in this competitiveness being innate behavior, as opposed to character flaws. Fortunately, all four of them spend a lot of time getting along, too!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Morning bliss


With the drought conditions around here still at level four, I know I'm not supposed to complain about rain. Instead I'll simply say that it was nice to wake up this morning to a sunny day - even if it was early. I resisted the temptation to drive straight home after dropping Clare off, and instead headed to Danny's and my new favorite trail along the Chattahoochee River. It was only about 7:45 a.m., but there were plenty of other runners there reveling in the rain-free morning. It was beautiful. Danny's favorite part of these excursions naturally comes at the end. Without fail, when he sees the parking lot in the distance he exclaims, "We did it, Mommy!" which is better than any official finish line. I then release him from the stroller, and we head over to a little deck that sits directly above the river. I stretch (sometimes Danny does, too, which is both cute and funny), and Danny finds little pebbles and sticks to throw in the water. This morning he encouraged me to throw stuff in, too, and was ecstatic when I did so. I have to say it was pretty fun, too! It was one of those reminders about life's simple pleasures that kids so frequently give us, if we bother to slow down long enough to listen.

P.S. I took this photo with my new iPhone, which is just the coolest thing ever! I will also take this opportunity to amend previously posted complaints about the drudgery of Clare's school life. I don't really have to get up until closer to 6:30, and more importantly I've discovered that if I take her skirts and shirts out of the dryer immediately, I don't have to iron them. Phew!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Expectations, great or otherwise


I've said it before and will surely say it again, probably before week's end. Clare and Danny are very, very different. Case in point: heading off to school. Whereas Clare counted down the days until school started, Danny has spent every morning proclaiming vociferously, "I'm not going to school!" Up until today, I was able to assure him that he was correct. This morning, however, it was time to go for our "Meet and Greet," where we met his teachers and fellow classmates, saw the classroom (above), etc. etc. Evidently Danny's experience with summer camp was just enough to not so much alleviate his anxiety about school but rather teach him to grow upset when the building comes into sight. So this was how he looked as we arrived, despite the reassuring presence of his good buddy Parker:


Fortunately, he soon found golf clubs, and all was right with the world:


Anecdotes aside, however, it's hard not to compare - unfavorably - Danny's reaction to school with Clare's. On the one hand I have Clare's teacher calling me just to tell me what a "wonderful child" she is and "a joy to have in class." And then there's Danny, who told me at least a dozen times this morning that he doesn't want to go to school. The rational part of me knows that Clare has three years of experience on Danny, and he's got plenty of time to catch up. But to what extent should I expect him to do so? I know I shouldn't expect telephone calls of praise out of the blue, but there's a part of me that probably will. So is this where it all begins, the comparisons between kids, the potential for Danny to feel like he's always living in his sister's academic shadow? Well, I guess most of that potential lies with Tim and I. In the meantime, maybe I'll just relax a bit and remember that my kids are five and two. Clare could still turn into a rebellious hellion, and Danny a Rhodes Scholar. It's just so hard not to look ahead!

Friday, August 22, 2008

With age comes responsibility


In eighth grade there was a phrase posted on the bulletin board at the front of our classroom: "With age comes responsibility." As the oldest kids in the school, we were high on our power and eager to rule the roost, so I think our teacher decided to remind us that our privileges didn't come without a price. We did have an example to set for those lowly grades below us, after all.

I like this lesson, and I'm trying to remember it as I parent. I'm not equating Kindergarten with eighth grade, but Clare takes so much pride in having responsibilities that this week seemed as good as any to establish an official system. (Plus, I found the very cute above chart at Target.) Some of her current tasks include "take care of the pets," "get dressed" (by which we mean quickly and without being asked), "set the table," and my personal favorite, "no whining." Hilariously, when Clare read that one she immediately burst into tears, so she didn't get a flower that day. But since then she's gotten the point, and she loves putting up the magnet markers each time she finishes a job. I suppose one of these days I'll have to advance to giving her an allowance - with more jobs, mind you - but for now it's refreshing to see her take ownership of herself and things around the house and find enough reward in that.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A-ha!

It's probably a stretch to say I had an epiphany this morning, so we'll go with an "a-ha moment." After I dropped off Clare and Max at school today, I decided Danny and I would go for a run around Chastain Park. It's a beautiful park that I used to walk with Meredith (Max's mom) every Tuesday and Thursday after we would drop Clare and Max off at preschool three years ago. Which means I walked it during my entire pregnancy with Danny, and a couple of weeks after he was born. Well, somehow I had forgotten that the park's walking/running path circles around a golf course. You see where I'm going with this, right? Clearly Danny's in utero exposure to golf on such a regular basis is the original source of his passion. So when he's making millions on the pro tour, he better remember his old mom who got him started on this road to riches.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Who he is


Ever since we returned from our lengthy travels this month, Danny has taken to greeting people with, "My name is Danny!" He does this to people he's known all his life, as well as random strangers. I originally laughed it off as an indication that perhaps we were gone a bit too long this summer. But when he did it to the ladies in the church nursery this morning, confidently marching into the playroom and leaving us behind, I got to thinking that perhaps it's a different kind of sign. We've expended all kinds of energy thinking about Clare and her transition into Kindergarten, which is no small deal. But of course Danny continues to grow, too, and I think he's discovering his sense of self, more and more each day. This might explain the very angry tone he uses with Clare when she tries to get him to pretend to be someone he's not in the mood to be: "No! I'm being Danny right now!!" Now, if we can just get him to focus on being pleasant Danny 24/7, we'd be in great shape...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

First Day


Way back when Clare was two and starting preschool, I found a very cute book called First Day, which puts in poem format a little girl's first day at school. It's one of Tim's favorite books, and it does a nice job of expressing the nervousness and apprehensions a child has on the first day of a new school. It's clear, though, that the main character was not based on Clare. Although I had to wake her up this morning, once she realized it was the first day of school she bounded out of bed and said, "I need to get my uniform on!" (Let's just hope she moves with similar speed every other day.) She was chipper and chatty the whole way to school, and when we were walking from the parking deck to the courtyard, she spotted one of her classmates that she met over the summer and confidently called out, "Hi, Caitlin!" Similarly, once we were in the auditorium she went over to greet another girl that she knew from Sunday School. And when it was time for the Kindergarten kids to head off to class, and her name was called, she strode forward with nary a backward glance. So, it went pretty well! Of course, when I picked her up, she was pretty quick to say in a disappointed voice that they didn't read or have nap time today. Those noon dismissals - not the advantage to Clare that they are to other kids, apparently.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So. Not. Cool.


Clare starts kindergarten tomorrow, for the .01% of you who haven't had to listen to me mention this for the past month. As the day draws closer, I'm starting to freak out. Not for sentimental reasons - I have one foot on her little behind, more than ready to push her out the door to school. However, the logistics of this experience are starting to sink in, and I'm not too sure I like it. Five days a week I will need to get up at 6 a.m. and get myself and two children moving. Five days a week I will be driving a fair distance. Five days a week I will have to pack my uber-finicky child a lunch. But the final straw? Ironing. The uniform that Clare will wear five days a week requires ironing. And for that .01% of you who don't know, I detest ironing.

How many more days until Christmas vacation?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Home


For those of us who moved away from our hometowns for college, jobs, etc., it's sometimes a lengthy process before we stop referring to where we grew up as "home." It's taken an even longer amount of time for me to answer the "where are you from?" question with anything other than "San Diego." After all, I live in Atlanta, and I really like it here, but with just three years under my belt I don't feel like it's made a big enough imprint on me to say that's where I'm from. (I'm sure I give it way too much thought.) If there's enough conversation, I'm able to say that my husband and I moved here from Chicago (another formative place for us), and that I grew up in San Diego and he in Buffalo. I feel like this is really the complete picture, not just for us but also for Clare and Danny. We are all fortunate enough to see San Diego and Buffalo quite frequently, and in many ways they are both like other homes to us. As the saying goes, home is where the heart is.

That said, after a whirlwind six weeks of being on the road, it was nice to wake up in our own house this morning. The Annual Summer Grandparents Tour has come to an end. It was truly lovely, although next year I'll spread it out a bit more. Because at the end of the day, our kids answer the "where are you from?" question with "Atlanta" - and so they like to see it every once in a while!

P.S. My Grandpa Bob has been asking to see a picture of our house for a long time, so this seemed like a good time to post one.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Danny's first touchdown dance

I'm not claiming this to be ESPN-worthy footage, but ever since the ballet video I've felt obligated to defend Danny's manhood with some of his nearly-constant athletic activity. Primarily because his uncle Brian accused me of scarring him for life...

video

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Falls


Ever since I saw a picture of my mother-in-law with Baby Timmy at Niagara Falls during the winter, I've been wondering when we'd venture to this magnificent sight with our own kids. Tim hasn't been in any hurry, given his fear of heights (so ironic for a man so tall). He couldn't avoid it any longer, though, when my own parents came to Buffalo for the first time and naturally wanted to see the falls. The poor guy literally had nightmares leading up to our excursion that apparently involved vivid images of Danny in his bright green Crocs.

I'm happy to report that our trip was incident-free (although Danny did wear the Crocs). I can probably sum it up best by Clare's report: "This place isn't even boring!" I hadn't been since Tim took me the very first time I came to Buffalo (for inspection by the family, naturally), so it was a treat to go with both my parents, my in-laws, and my own nuclear fam. I'm still eager to see it in all its frozen, wintry glory, but today's spectacular day will be hard to rival. There was a complete, perfect rainbow over the falls the entire time we were there. It's the kind of sign that really summarizes the wonderful time our two families have had together the past few days...but the recycling bin is bearing the brunt of our festive evenings!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Loaves and fishes


Today at church I heard that indelible tale from the bible about Jesus and the loaves and fishes. As is so often the case when I go to mass, it brought things together in my mind. First, though, I should start with the confession that Clare has been driving me up a wall lately. She's a routine-oriented kid who hasn't been given a whole lot of it lately. Couple this with feeling competitive for attention with her little brother, and the results have been irritating, to say the least. While I treasure moments of play with her, I know it's important that she learn to amuse herself, something she used to be quite good at but of late seems to have slipped her mind. In California, as long as she had her cousins or friends around, she was good to go - and therefore, so was I (but when they weren't around - oy!). I was concerned how this would translate in Buffalo, where she has wonderful grandparents but no cousins and few playmates. What she does have, though, is Danny. And like the fish and bread that miraculously multiplied to feed the hoards, Clare's and Danny's love for each other and active imaginations have sprouted wings, and the results have been a joy to observe - from behind my newspaper or coffee mug! Whether they are re-enacting The Lion King (their current favorite movie, and how nice is it that they agree?) or turning Grandpa's office into their Arctic home as polar bears, they're doing it together.
Here's hoping I haven't just jinxed it...

Friday, August 1, 2008

It really is a great lake


Both in California and now here in Buffalo, Clare has taken to asking us each evening, "What fun thing are we doing tomorrow?" Of course, I find it appalling that she has become so spoiled and bold to make such an inquiry, but it's not surprising, given that we have been on the go since we landed. Yesterday it was a trip to Bay Beach in Canada, right on the shores of Lake Erie. Very close friends of my in-laws have a beautiful home at this beach, and they generously invite us up each summer. It is the ideal beach setting for small kids, because the lake remains about a foot deep for several hundred feet out. So, Clare can feel like a cool kid by going far out, and I know that she's still only up to her calves. There are also no true waves to speak of, but the ripples from nearby sailboats, not to mention the wind, make enough movement to keep it interesting. The whole experience is very laid-back, providing you can get across the border in the first place...

Danny was a tad tentative about the water at first, but once he discovered that he could stand and not get knocked down by waves, he grew increasingly adventurous, especially because he wanted to hang with Clare and the kids she ultimately befriended. This age is so interesting, because one moment Clare's playing by herself, and the next she and total strangers have formed an intimate ring. She never did find out much about these kids, but since she didn't care, neither did I.

Better than the Chateau Marmont
The day before our beach trip we went to the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, about 90 minutes away. I think it takes a lot to live up to a name like the National Museum of Play, but this one delivered. To sum it up best, we spent five hours there and still didn't cover everything. Aside from a brief respite at lunch, we were on the go, visiting the grocery store where the kids can try their hand at everything from shopping to running the register (with real receipts) to stocking shelves; multiple areas of dress-up and art stations; sand boxes; helicopters and ships for climbing; a carousel and train ride, etc. etc.! Thanks to their two traveling exhibits (also awesome), the museum even offered celeb sightings: Clare and Danny got to "meet" both Clifford and Mama (Berenstain) Bear, and couldn't have been more thrilled about either one.