Thursday, April 30, 2009

Danny's "Party"

Depending on who you ask, I am either very sensible about birthday parties, or the proverbial party pooper. I determined early on that Danny would not have a party this year. Fortunately, he thinks he had one, thanks to my visit to school today. It was simple and merely involved cupcakes, but ultimately he got to celebrate with his friends (and his mommy), and isn't that what it's all about?

A few snapshots from the "party":

Danny, who loves to help in the kitchen, carefully placing his robot decorations on the cupcakes. Not sure where this robot interest came from, but we rolled with it. The experience of making the cupcakes clearly made an impression, because on the way to school he told Lulu all about it, concluding, "It was so fun!":

The Cubs (Danny's class) begin their day by blowing off some steam on the playground. These bicycles are among the favorite activities - and a real workout when pushing it fully loaded with six tykes:

Danny was delighted to help me pass out robot napkins to his classmates, asking each one, "Who needs a robot?"

I don't know if he was more pleased about the class singing to him, or the prospects of diving into a cupcake:

Of course tomorrow, on his actual birthday, we'll celebrate as a family - complete with presents and my attempt at a horsey cake. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chapters, Vol. II

My words will have to form the picture here, because it was not a camera moment. But I really hope I remember it. It began with the kids fed, bathed, and freshly PJ'd by 6:05 p.m., so they had permission to go off and play. Clare characteristically high-tailed it to her room. Danny uncharacteristically went downstairs and was playing beautifully by himself. I took the opportunity to finish folding laundry, and then decided that if I went downstairs to check the computer, I would distract Danny. So instead I plunked myself on my bed and started to read. A few minutes later, Clare came out to ask me a question, saw that I was reading, and eagerly joined me with her own book. Moments later, Danny wandered upstairs, pirate sword in hand, and I assumed our peaceful reading time was finished.

Instead, he asked, "Where's mine?" I half-heartedly pointed to another paperback on my nightstand, which he grabbed and then nestled with between me and Clare. The three of us remained thus for far longer than you would guess, despite the fact that Danny's book had no pictures whatsoever. He made amiable conversation with me about my book, his book, and also with Clare, but at other times he was happy to sit and turn pages after thoughtful gazes. I couldn't help but sneak several sidelong glances at him, with his cute, pudgy feet, one leg crossed over the other knee, and also at Clare, thoroughly engrossed in her book and not at all annoyed by his chatter.

What better way to head off to book club?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Clare View

I'm trying to contain my delight, but I must admit I'm suddenly sympathetic to those people who foist their own interests on their children. Here's what happened. This morning Clare woke up in reporter mode. I think it has something to do with the Judy Moody book she's reading, wherein a friend of Judy's admires Nellie Bly. (I only know this because Clare tells me about the books, which she reads entirely on her own.) Clare, acting as reporter, kept notebook and pencil in hand and began writing one-sentence reports. For example: "Our family is all wearing sunglasses." So I suggested she follow the 5 Ws (Who, What, When, Where, and Why). This seemed a bit daunting to her, and she commented that it was going to take up a lot of paper. (This particular notepad was small, and her writing is still a bit over-sized unless she's really concentrating.) After pointing out that newspaper reports often flow to multiple pages, I made an offhand remark about how on a computer there's no space limit and flippantly suggested she start a blog. And so we have: A Clare View. I am a bit skeptical as to how often this will get updated, as she wants to type it herself but gets frustrated that she can't type as quickly as I do. But if nothing else, it's a bit of insight into her interests at this stage of the game - and helped me post on my own blog!

Fountain of Youth

Today Danny and I returned to the Market Village fountain. It's been turned off for the past 18 months or so due to the record drought. But thanks to the bountiful rains we've had, and some random North Carolina company that has apparently decided to donate water, the fountain is back. As soon as we saw it, Danny had to visit it, so once Little Gym ended we headed over with Sophie and her dad. It brought back a lot of memories, because we used to spend a lot of time at this particular fountain after Clare's Little Gym classes when she was Danny's age (which doesn't seem like three years ago).

It's also a very warm weekend, so the temptation to dip toes in the water simply couldn't be refused. Not that these faces get refused much anyway...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

La Primavera

I have sung the virtues of fall, and I stand by my favorite season, but today was one of those days that was almost enough to change my mind. With a temperature hovering around 70 by afternoon, it was a sunny day that begged a visit to the park. These kinds of days are too fleeting for me: warm enough to run around without outerwear and be active, but not too warm as to make it uncomfortable. With a playdate scheduled, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to check out the new Taylor-Brawner Park. As I lazed on the grass, I watched Danny, Clare and Hayla explore the playground and park grounds along with myriad other children. De-lightful.

In addition to fresh air, 'tis also the season of stunningly beautiful azaleas, of which we even have some in our own yard. Sadly, only the ones on the side of the house put on a colorful show, and they pale in comparison to so many of the bushes blooming around the city, but we'll take what we can get.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Island Easter

Not unlike last year, our Easter got off to an early start. We were all up and at 'em to get to mass, though of course the first thing the kids were interested is was the status of their Easter baskets. Danny exuberantly shouted, "The Easter Bunny came!" to anyone who would listen, but I am happy to report that, despite the consumption of quite a few jelly beans, he did behave himself at church.

After mass, we came home and continued our annual tradition of Easter waffles. One of the many benefits of driving trips versus flying is that you can pack things like your waffle iron.

Bellies full, the condo started to feel a bit cramped, so it seemed the perfect time for an alfresco egg hunt. This turned into one of the highlights of the day, and not just for the kids. Our condo was on the second floor of a three-story complex. We hid the eggs in the grassy common area, which all of the condos overlooked. As the kids joyfully ran around finding eggs, we soon noticed our upstairs neighbors on their deck, watching and telling their families members who were indoors, "You have to come see this! These cute little kids are having an egg hunt!" It was one of those moments that reminded me how special children really do make holidays. Sure, I had plenty of moments thinking how much more blissful a condo by the beach would be if I could simply lounge around all day. But how boring, too, right?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Beach Bunnies

We had been in St. Simon's no more than an hour before Clare was chomping at the bit to hit the beach. So while Donna and I went to the grocery store for provisions, Tim and Larry took the kids to check out the beach, which was fortunately about a two minute walk from the condo. This was a big grocery trip, and we took our time. But we still made it back to the condo well before Tim and Clare. And when she did finally wander back, Clare was fairly well walking on air, and Tim was swept right along with her buoyancy. Clare adores the beach, and her enthusiasm for it is infectious. Tim really didn't have enough words for how fun it was to just be with her on the beach, dancing in the water, listening to her thoughts soar and watching her smiles beam. Best of all, she told me repeatedly and contentedly, "We had so much fun!"

The following morning I went for a beautiful run along the beach, where I noticed an almost unholy amount of jellyfish. Apparently they wash up on the shore during the high tide mornings, and retreat in the afternoons. Clare wasn't thrilled with this news, and Danny even less so, considering he is simply not the beach comber that his sister seems to be. We did return to the beach that afternoon, after a nice trip to the blessedly heated pool. Tim reports that Clare gamely pranced around declaring, "This is just as much fun as yesterday!" even though she was clearly very wary of the lurking jellies. Said sea menaces became an obsessive topic of conversation for both kids. But they didn't completely rain on our beach-going parade, so over the next few days we took several walks along the beach, and even dipped our toes in a few more times. That said, the pool quickly overtook the beach as the preferred locale.

While Clare perfected her mermaid routine, Danny stuck to his boyish ways. By which I mean that no matter where we were, he really just wanted to play sports. We played baseball on the beach, we played it at the pool. We played various forms of golf/hockey/bowling inside the condo, not to mention his cleverly inventive game of cup-and-sunscreen-cap baseball: a plastic cup was the bat, another was the pitcher's mitt, and the sunscreen cap was the ball. Surprisingly fun!

Tim was the dedicated sand castle architect, which the kids occasionally deigned to assist in building. The masterpiece is really all his, however.

While Danny preferred to play ball, Clare and I brought our own sports enthusiasm to the beach: cartwheels. We worked on our tricks repeatedly on the sand, which was a lot of fun even if it wasn't a visual treat. We haven't quite mastered the synchronicity yet, but we're happy to practice all summer. Here's hoping the jellyfish stay away from our future beach trips. Regardless, I think it's obvious we've figured out how to make the most of it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Book Ends

I have a lot of blogging material, but even more work and tasks to manage now that we have returned from our Easter trip to St. Simon's. So I decided to do a quick post to tide me over until I have more time.

This was one of my most favorite moments of a really terrific trip. While Danny took one of his mammoth naps, Clare did engage in quiet time, but then emerged to find me reading on the couch. I'm really enjoying this book, and was loathe to close it. Everyone else was watching The Masters, though, so I figured I was on deck to be playmate.

Instead, Clare ran to get her book, snuggled next to me, and proceeded to read - actually read, not chat with me every other minute - for over an hour. Needless to say, she won the Favorite Kid of the Day award. I knew learning to read would open exciting worlds for her, but I underestimated how beneficial it would be to me, too!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Good Mornings

I'm a routine person. Ritual, if you will. Call it my Catholic upbringing, or my Virgo nature, or possibly a bit of a Type A personality. Either way, I like it, and I need it. And ever since having children, I swear by it. Kids definitely need routine, and I'm happy that we figured that out early in the process with Clare, and then enveloped Danny into it as quickly as we could.

Of course, as just about anyone reading this blog can attest, Clare and Danny are completely different people. While Clare was a model baby, sleeping twelve hours solid beginning at about four months, and occasionally even longer than that, Danny has always been an early riser. He slept through the night reasonably early, but would max out at 10-11 hours. Not wanting him to awaken Clare, I used to retrieve him from his crib and bring him to my bed for that morning nursing, and later cup of milk. I began to keep a stack of board books on my nightstand, and soon we had settled into a routine of starting the day by reading books together. Those early morning hours were generally pretty quiet, with Tim either snoozing or at least pretending to snooze next to us. They were the one time of day I could guarantee to devote exclusively to Danny, and we both reveled in it, even if it was a bit bleary-eyed on my end.

Perhaps coincidentally, Danny's language really flourished at a young age. Of course, he didn't walk until he was 16-1/2 months, and was the late bloomer in gym class when it came to jumping. But as the weeks went by and we continued to read, more and more familiar words popped into Danny's vocabulary. I remember that both he and Clare had their first word at 11 months, and I also remember that it was ball - for both. This is an interesting coincidence that is hilarious as far as Clare is concerned, and not at all surprising for Danny.

I suppose you're wondering why I'm wandering down this particular stretch of memory lane. I just wanted to document it before the inevitable force of Mommy Brain takes its toll. Although, it's not exactly a memory yet, because Danny and I still follow this ritual. We've moved downstairs to the couch, and thanks to a mildly hectic early-morning schedule to get Clare to school, we are confined to weekends or days off. Like this week. Danny asks me every morning if we can read stories, and I'm so happy to be able to indulge him during spring break. I'm also holding on, because before I know it he'll be reading on his own, perhaps choosing to get himself out of bed each morning.

Well, if he ever earns his way out of the crib, that is...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Return to Eden

The kids and I kicked off our spring break with a short weekend in Eden. This just happens to be the name of the street on which the Pryors' lake house is situated, and it couldn't be more apropos. The last time we visited was during the summer, when swimming was the name of the game. This time around, the water wasn't warm enough for that, but the weather was just right for a whole lot of firsts. Including Danny's first experience with a fishing reel (Grandfather Arensdorf would be so proud!):

The kids' first time around a campfire, complete with s'mores:

And, above all else, dominating the stories initially blurted out to Tim when we returned home, was their first full-fledged boating outing. When we last visited the lake house, the boat was not in the water, but this time Dave slaved over it and got it sea-worthy for us, and we enjoyed every moment. I was mildly concerned that both of them would be too wary of the ride once the speed picked up, but it turns out they loved it. Danny preferred to be close to either Jennifer or myself during the speedy times, but still sang songs and exclaimed happily throughout the ride. And Clare's reaction is best likened to the images of mermaids at the prow of old-fashioned ships. She spent most of the time at the farthest point of the front of the boat, and she had an ear-to-ear grin the entire time.

Danny did doze off for a bit towards the end of our earlier outing. Not a bad way to snooze, really.

We took the boat all around the lake, and we also headed over to one of their favorite beach areas. While the water was still a bit chilly, it wasn't enough to completely deter Clare. Danny wasn't quite as enthusiastic about the water, but did get quite interested in "shay-uls" (shells to the rest of us).

I spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about how lucky I am to have good friends with such an incredible getaway, and one that they so graciously share. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of reasons to be grateful for my friendship with the Pryors. Jennifer has a heart of gold (but enough devil in her to make her fun), and her kids dig my kids, just to name a few. So really, it has nothing to do with their stellar vacation house. I swear! At the end of the day, it really is who you know. And I know some good ones.