Monday, August 31, 2009

Chivalry: It's Not Dead, But I Think It's Been Maimed

About a month ago, the first of the Halloween catalogs arrived in our mailbox. To my surprise, Danny eagerly grabbed them and has spent what amounts to hours poring over them. On any given day he is enthralled with a different costume, so I figured I'd give him time before forcing him to commit to one for the big event.

Costumes in catalogs pale in comparison with those in real life, however. So imagine his euphoria when we came across a selection of them in Costco this morning. I say "selection," but there was only one that caught his eye, thanks to the attached sword. After eliciting a promise from him that he wouldn't change his mind and does, in fact, want to be a knight in shining armor for Halloween, I decided to spring for the costume. Not so much because I really expect he'll keep his word (Halloween is a whole two months away, after all), but more because our playroom is filled with the dress-up clothes Clare spent years using. Danny is fortunately over his interest in wearing tutus, leaving him with not much else. Far be it from me to leave this rich source of imaginative play untapped!

So as soon as we got home, Danny eagerly donned his new knight ensemble. After my photo op, I asked him what this knight should do. Slay dragons? No. Rescue the damsel in distress? No. Explore uncharted forests? No. Well, what's left? "Watch Charlie & Lola!"

I dub thee, Sir Couch Potato.

Update: In defense of my parenting, after an episode of Charlie & Lola I turned off the TV, whereupon Danny did proceed to play jousting. So, my vision of the costume is coming true to an extent. It also helps that he has pronounced multiple times, "This is the coolest costume ever!"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It's All About Clare

One of Clare's first assignments in first grade was to complete a poster titled, "It's All About Me Tee." (We did something similar for Danny back in January.) The project is designed as a way for the classmates, and the teachers, to get to know each student. I love it because it's an excellent barometer for Clare's personality and tastes at this particular age. Here are the categories and her answers:

These are my favorite subjects:
P.E. (At this point she simply ran out of room, or else she probably would have listed everything. I do think the order is significant.)

Here are places I like to go:
Museums (the Museum of Play was foremost in her mind for this one)
The lake house
Water parks

These are things I like to do:
At home: read
At school: crafts
In the community: gymnastics

This is my favorite:
Food: pizza
Song: "Meryton Townhall" (It's from "Pride & Prejudice." Really.)
Movie: Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Movie
Book: Kit Story Collection

I would be remiss if I did not mention that in Clare's mind, these are simply some of her favorites. She is very reluctant to specific one favorite of anything - but she sure loves to ask us about ours!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Danny in Real Life

Clare has dominated the blog of late. It isn't so much that Danny doesn't do interesting things. He's three: almost everything he does is inherently interesting (and quite often irritating). It is, in fact, his very age that has captivated me of late.

For example, Danny and I played a round of Candy Land yesterday. This is remarkable only because it's only the second time we've ever played together (and actually followed the rules). As I pondered that, it quickly devolved into another mental note of "second child syndrome," because of course Clare and I played countless rounds when she was three. Which is how old she was when Danny was born. (When there's a new baby in the house, board games are a primary source of entertainment for a restless toddler.)

I find it somewhat incredible that we've hit the point where Danny is the same age that Clare was when he was born, because at that time it seemed virtually impossible that we would ever reach this age. Sometimes I marvel at how far he's come; other times I lament what a baby Clare really was while I was expecting her to be such a big girl.

Comparing the two of them at three is pretty consistent with how they are now, which is so different. Clare loved to recite Angelina books she had memorized, or dance what she believed were beautiful renditions of princess or Angelina-inspired ballets. Danny loves to dance, too, but in more of a funky chicken, make-you-laugh style that has me convinced he'll be gunning for the Class Clown title. Clare was/is eager to please and earn approval but, to put it mildly, "hugging impaired," while Danny is independently minded but quick to seek physical affection with a tight squeeze and sloppy kiss.

He's also fleet of tongue when it comes to telling me he loves me, or my favorite: "you're my sweet girl," which is likely the product of my frequently telling him that he's my sweet boy. And is he ever. He's quick-tempered and obstinate (I did mention that he's three); complains, when being reprimanded, "you're not being very nice to me"; and is fond of telling me, "you're driving me nuts!" Believe me, the feeling is quite often mutual! But when I go into his room in the mornings, even when I have to wake him up, he immediately reaches his arms around me and gives me the best, sweetest hug and a delighted smile, sometimes even thanking me for coming to get him. It's no wonder that he gets away with...a lot. I like to think I'm also wise enough to know this time around that three, like all other ages, flies by, and so far the ups outweigh the downs.

For posterity's sake, here's Clare at three, with three-day-old Danny. Where did either of those two babies go??

Friday, August 14, 2009

First-Rate First Grader

As predicted, Clare was overjoyed to return to school and delighted with her first day. Her teacher, Mrs. Roux (pronounced Roo), has dubbed the class "Mrs. Roux's Crew," and it's hard to imagine a more enthusiastic member. As it was a half day, they didn't get to everything, but Mrs. Roux did get through several of the rules and regulations - right up Clare's alley. And then there is the homework journal. Clare positively waxes poetic about it! It's sweet, and wonderful - but really hard not to laugh, too. I mean, seriously? The homework journal?

I am pleased to report that Clare is still perfectly content to don her uniform, and also took pains to dress her Felicity doll in her own uniform. (She will be quick to point out that Felicity's uniform matches Clare's winter uniform, not the summer uniform seen here.) I am furthermore delighted to report that Clare learned to tie her shoes in no time flat and takes great pride in doing so.

So, we're officially back to the grind. Though a half-day Thursday and full-day Friday are a nice way to ease into it. The pink tee that Clare is sporting today is part of "casual Friday." (Provided it is a CKS shirt, they can wear whichever shirt they choose.) She's not home yet, but knowing Clare she's already counting the hours until Monday.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vacation, All We Ever Wanted

Those Go-Gos really had a knack for lyrics, didn't they? At least, it seems so on this final day of summer vacation. I suppose it's not the last day for Danny, but since Clare's school schedule considerably affects the rest of us, it might as well be.

This was the first year that I really understood why people eagerly await summer vacation. When the kids aren't in school full-time, the day-to-day grind doesn't really change with the weather. But after nine months of 6:15 wake-up calls, rushed mornings, and lots of quality time in the car, we all eagerly embraced the comparative luxury of getting out of bed when we wanted, not getting dressed until we were good and ready, and staying home.

Of course, we really didn't stay home, spending 45 out of 71 days out of town. I am frequently grateful to Tim that I can stay home with the kids and work just a few hours a week on a freelance basis. But when it comes to summer, I am extremely thankful. Picking up and hopping in the car or on planes to visit our loved ones all over the country is something I so enjoy, and I try not to take it for granted.

Not that I do it simply for my own pampered satisfaction. The kids derive so much joy from visiting their grandparents, cousins, and friends, and I think there's an important lesson to be learned from travel. This summer, in particular, I learned a lot about the two of them, and how to best parent them. It probably has more to do with their ages than anything, but they played together, and played independently, so much more than I expected. The more I stayed in the background and observed from afar, the more self-sufficient they became. A valuable lesson, for sure.

So it's been a fabulous summer, but I think we're ready to return to the school routine (even if the weather is hotter than the hinges of hell). Clare has clearly loved her summer vacation, reading voraciously (there is just no other word), employing her imagination, and developing her independence. Best of all, though, is her excitement about beginning first grade tomorrow. As much as kindergarten felt like "real" school to us, it seems that all traces of babyhood are gone this time around. I always loved returning to school myself, and I find Clare's enthusiasm infectious. (You should see her religiously practice her shoe-tying skills.) I learned so much over the summer, I can only imagine what's in store for us as the school year begins.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Wonderful Story

This was the theme Clare chose for the luncheon she hosted (with a little help from Grandma and me) for Kathy Verso. Kathy is one of the main players of our Buffalo theatrics, and has been in Donna's life since they were in college together. She quickly won me over with her wit and stories when I first joined the Seymours, but when Clare came along I was truly smitten. As a preschool teacher she has a genuine appreciation of children that I only wish I could duplicate. She and Clare delight in comparing stories about school, although Kathy has an increasingly difficult time getting a word in edgewise...

Clare took this luncheon very seriously, drawing the above sign (all of those rectangles represent books), writing a lovely menu, and of course dressing to the nines. She also eagerly swept, cleaned off the table, and baked. In keeping with the theme, she asked each of us to bring "a wonderful story" with us, which we placed at our seats at the table:

After a pre-lunch performance of the songs from The Little Red Hen, with some golfing and dancing by Danny, we moved inside to eat and discuss our selected readings. Kathy brought two stories that neither Clare nor Danny had heard before. As her talent for reading to kids is supreme, it was so fun to watch their faces (especially Danny's) as she went through the books. By way of contributing to the discussion, Danny took a brief moment to find what he deems a hilarious picture in his horse book: a cartoon depicting a horse kicking a knight off of his back. Ah, boys. Clare then had to read to us from Kit, at which point Danny bolted to play with the Playmobil knights. He did promptly return when I brought out the brownie cookies.

We were treated (I use the term loosely) to a post-lunch play by the two of them that needed some serious editing. Clare definitely gave more thought to her wardrobe and opportunities to prance around in her dress than she did in the actual script, but I suppose she is only six. Nevertheless, we had to pull the plug at some point, blaming Danny's need to nap. All in all, it was a lovely and literary afternoon, and Clare is already plotting what next year's theme will be. A new tradition is born - watch out, Kathy!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Strong Play

Now that my blog is more than a year old, I'm running into the problem of potentially repeating myself. Of course I frequently encounter the challenge of finding new and interesting ways to present repeat information in my freelancing job, but I didn't quite realize that would be an issue with the blog...

Yesterday we visited the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, which we also did last summer (and Clare the summer before that). And we'll visit it again (and I'll likely blog about it again), because it's amazing. As Clare said, "It's the best museum ever." So okay, she hasn't been to the Louvre or the Uffizi, but for a kid I think it really might be the champ. It's a bit of a drive for us, about 75 minutes, and with Danny that meant enduring quite a lot of "are we there yets?" (both ways). Once we arrived, however, we easily passed nearly six hours, so it's more than worth it.

Danny didn't remember last year's visit, but the horse statue outside of the building coupled with the carousel immediately inside the entrance alleviated any doubts he may have had. Though he really shouldn't have had any, because Clare was so effusive about the place on the drive there. From the moment we booked our trip to Buffalo she was anticipating this particular outing. I feared that she might prove to be too old for it this time around, but instead she seemed to love it even more. It helped that she discovered a stash of American Girl books in the attic of the Victorian house. In fact, books are stocked liberally throughout the museum, which is one of the biggest appeals to me (surprise, surprise). "Reading Adventureland" was understandably a big hit with them, bringing to vivid life a number of familiar fairy tales.

I thought we spent a lot of time in this area, but then we traveled down the proverbial sunny dirt road to Berenstain Bear Country, where we wound up staying for more than an hour. It shouldn't have surprised me, because both Clare and Danny are crazy about the books and the show. When Mama Bear came out it was the cherry on top!

Other highlights included everything from a "real" grocery store to a helicopter to race car video games to dump trucks. It's tough and frankly boring to give a full litany of all that we did. We certainly exhausted Danny, who was beside himself for much of the car ride home. However, as soon as they arrived back at Grandma's house, the two of them quickly set to work making their own merry-go-round out of paper, cardboard, tape, stuffed animals and Legos. This brought full circle the quote painted above the entrance to the museum: "Play is our brain's favorite way of learning." (Diane Ackerman, Contemporary American author)

Beach, Baseball and Boats

Ask the locals around Buffalo, and they'll tell you what a miserable summer they've been having this year. Ask Clare and Danny and me, and we'll wonder what all the fuss is about, because aside from that one rainy day I mentioned, we've had glorious weather! As a result, we've been able to hit Bay Beach in Canada, Danny has attended his first real baseball game, and the two made an expedition to the Naval and Military Park with Grandpa.

I'm sure there are plenty of you out there who raise your eyes skeptically when I mention the words "beach" and "Buffalo" in the same breath. Which is fine, because the somewhat hidden nature of Bay Beach is part of the charm. Located on the shores of Lake Erie, the beach extends as far as the eye can see. But better yet, the water remains extremely shallow for a hundred yards or more, providing the kids with plenty of protected independence. Happily Clare and Danny were more than content to play any number of games together in the water, leaving me free to chat with Donna, Jean Ward (our gracious host) and other local ladies. The Wards have a stunning "cottage" (Tudor-style building to the right) that is about a two-minute walk from the beach, and it's been hosting Seymour offspring since Larry was a babe in arms. Pretty cool that the tradition carries on with Clare and Danny.

Danny has been in sports heaven since we arrived, too. Grandpa took him to a Bisons game, and they both had a ball. Danny even met Buster Bison! Meanwhile on Sunday morning the two of them went to watch some local kids play hockey, and then that evening Danny made his golfing debut at the Park Country Club. Not a bad life for a three-year-old!

Intrepid individual that he is, Grandpa opted to take both kids on an adventure on Saturday morning. The Navy & Military Park has all kinds of military "boats" to be seen, and they had a grand time. I figured Danny would enjoy it, but with Clare you just never know. However, since she came home and began to dress her Felicity doll in a dress that she thought would be appropriate for her role as a captain, I could tell she enjoyed herself, too. Maybe even as much as Grandpa.