Friday, May 29, 2009

It Only Took Three Years

Unlike some families we know, my kids don't take to the water immediately. It was only last summer, when Clare was five, that she really got into the spirit of things and found her confidence in the pool. I remember when we moved here, and she was two, all of her peers were bobbing around in the pool in floaties. Clare would have none of it. The same was true the following year. When she was four she finally decided to wear the vest - of course, at this point most of her contemporaries were learning to swim by themselves. But as we have discovered so very often, eventually they catch up, and she is making up for lost time.

Danny, similarly, was not a big fan of the water at first. The above photo illustrates the look he gave us after his first foray into the pool (he was four months). The following summer he was just over one, and still not walking. Was he content to float around in the pool or crawl on the steps? NO. Instead he would crawl like a maniac all over the HOT pool deck. He wore holes into the knees of all of his swimsuits, and literally scalded his knees - but he didn't care! Evidently anything was preferable to actually being in the water. Last year he was walking, but still vastly preferred the baby pool or the pool steps, despite all the gleeful jumping and splashing by his friends.

Yesterday, however, we made a game-changing play. I bought him a flotation vest just like his "best friend" Parker's, and explained to him that he would be able to swim by himself in it. I figured it would take a few visits to the pool in this vest before he really tested its powers. Oh no. Within minutes he was bobbing around the middle of the pool, treading water like crazy, and could not have been more pleased with himself! He was the last kid in the pool, reveling in his independence and newfound strength. I love witnessing moments like this.

To all of my friends who have recently added to their families: hang on. Before you know it, your kids will all be old enough to fully embrace the joy of the pool, and summer will be the wonder-filled time that you remember from your own childhood. We're the proof!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The (Next To) Last Day

Since tomorrow is Field Day, and a half day at that, today was Clare's last full day of Kindergarten. It was filled with parties and special programs, so not a lot of learning per se went on. But there was a lot of celebrating, including one thing about which Clare is very proud - as are we. All year, Clare and her 23 classmates have used the "Behavior Bears" program to enforce the rules. Everyone begins the day on blue. For your first offense, you move your bear to yellow; second offense moves to green; third (or occasionally just really bad) offense moves to red, and at this point something (?) dire happens. I am pleased to say that Clare, along with three other classmates, did not have to move her bear from blue a single time. Her teachers were so impressed with this that they gave them a "blue bear party" today, wherein they received an invitation to eat an exclusive lunch in their classroom with the two teachers. At this lunch they were feted with cake and teddy bears. Does it get any better?

I was happy to draw the slot of Parent Reader on this day, which is essentially the last part of their day before dismissal. Clare chose four books for me to bring, and I just knew that she wasn't going to let me actually read them. I at least got to read the first one, while the class ate their snack. She then displaced me from my chair and ordered me to sit on her square on the mat. Which I did very obediently...and promptly raised my hand to ask if I could eat her snack. Snickers ensued from the kids around me, and the boy to my left advised me to eat one of the gummies. So I did. A few pages in to How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? she read about dinosaurs having a busy carpool. At which point I raised my hand again to remind her that we have a busy carpool, and then asked if other kids in the class carpool. (It's an eco-friendly school - 3/4 of the class carpools.) More moments passed, and one of the kids to my left leaned over and asked me to raise my hand again. I thought up another question and asked it, which then led to a lot of other kids announcing things, prompting Clare's teacher to warn, "Blurt alert!" I decided I better keep my mouth shut from there on out. Then again, it was the last day of school.

Complete with yearbooks! While we read stories, the kids took turns signing everyone's yearbook, which I think is just too cute. And those yearbooks made for a very quiet ride on the way home. But a very different quiet from that first day of school. Sigh. It just went by so quickly.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Forget the Forecast

I expressed probably more than my share of frustration with the forecast for this holiday weekend. This is the ATL, after all - where was the pool weather? What were we going to do with ourselves?!

Fortunately, our intrepid - and more importantly pool-possessing - neighbors were undaunted by the rainy forecast and did not cancel their pool party. Sure, a torrential downpour came through at the exact moment that the party was scheduled to begin. Lucky for us, Danny was still in the midst of a deep sleep, so by the time we were ready to stroll over, the skies had cleared enough for the kids to put on their suits and splash. We adults had zero desire to get into the still chilly water, but we didn't have to. It was win-win!

Barbecue, beer, baseball, jumping rope and sprinklers: what better way to usher in summer? Many thanks to the Lawleys for their generous hospitality, helping to make it a memorable Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, May 22, 2009

O Happy Night!

It was the moment Clare has been waiting for since Grandpa put the bunk beds together in February. So, okay, the rest of us have been eagerly awaiting it, too. Danny finally held up his end of the bargain and succeeded on the potty. He slept in his bunk beds the last two nights by himself, and now that it's not a school night he and Clare are having a slumber party.

Both kids have been excitedly chatting about this sleepover all day. It was the first thing Clare asked me this morning when I got her up for school, and Danny even told the checkout clerk at Publix about it. And yet, this was the conversation in the car on the way home from the library this afternoon:

Danny: Clayer? Clayer? I want to ask you something!

Clare (attempting to have an eyes-closed rest): (long pause) What do you want to ask me?

Danny: Will you talk to me at bedtime?

Clare: No!

Danny: Awwwww, Clayer! Puhleez?

Clare: (disgruntled sigh)

Me: Clare, what's the point of a slumber party if you don't chat for a bit?

Clare: But everything he says is too random!

Toward the end of the ride, she grudgingly agreed to talk to him for a bit. Once bedtime actually rolled around, she was fully back on the Danny bandwagon, and we listened to them giggle, howl, and chat for about 30 minutes. It's so much fun to listen to your kids having fun.

Ever since Danny did the deed two days ago, he's been telling me that he's "bigger, stronger and taller." That's definitely true of him in his sister's estimation, anyway.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Living the Good Life

I have it really good, and there's nothing like a stroll among the no-longer-living to really drive the point home. Particularly when said stroll takes place on a spectacularly beautiful day, in a breathtaking cemetery with a dear friend and a sweetly cooperative little boy.

One of my favorite things about Jennifer is that she gets me to experience new and inevitably worthwhile things, from visits to the lake to the polo fields to Oakland Cemetery. I've always been intrigued by historic cemeteries, and Jennifer needed to take pictures for her photography class. Danny, being three and not in charge of his own fate, had to tag along by default, but I don't think he minded. As you'll see below, Miss Jennifer is one of his favorites. Plus, he got to wear his pajamas.

After we explored for a while (finding the grave of Bobby Jones but forgetting to look for Margaret Mitchell), it was time for lunch. And being the people of leisure that we so fortunately are, why not make that a rooftop terrace lunch, complete with margaritas?

I jest, but I really do appreciate this good life that I have. And I'm doing everything in my power to make sure I earn it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Flights of Fancy

When I began writing this post, I figured it would be a quick recap of Clare's "show day," the final gymnastics class of the session. But when I recalled her teacher's comments about Clare's time at The Little Gym, which began when she was 2-1/2 (followed by a two year hiatus), I realized that this place was really the starting point for our strong friendships in Atlanta. This was, after all, where I met Amy, and by extension Jennifer. Wow. Clearly, it has all been money well spent.

This time around, Clare thinks so, too. I think the seeds of interest in gymnastics were first planted by her much-adored cousins, Katy and Nicki. Since she once declared that she will never play any sports, I was delighted when she expressed interest in taking gymnastics and quickly signed her up in January. Let me tell you, they give these girls a workout. For a full hour they run, tumble, leap and stretch their muscles. Each week Clare emerged from class breathless but buoyant and even once exclaimed, "I love gymnastics as much as school - and you know how much I love school!"

So we were eager to show our support for her show day. Tim even left work early to attend class. We both know that none of this comes naturally to her, but she practiced her routines with as much determination as any of them. And she was beaming with pride at the end, which is once again worth the price of admission.

As a postscript, I have to record something Clare said tonight, because it encapsulates what really does come naturally to her: words. We were in the kitchen, getting ready for dinner. She looked out the window as a gust of wind blew through the trees and remarked, "It's like the trees are leaning back with laughter." Priceless.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Red-hot Photo Op

Danny is surrounded by peers in our neighborhood. Between the ages of 2 and 4 there are at least a dozen kids. One of these moms wisely discerned that this would be a great audience for a visit to the fire station. Better yet, it wound up happening on a rainy Sunday afternoon, eliminating the post-nap panic of "what now?!" So while Clare and I ran errands, Tim and Danny headed over to visit with some of Smyrna's finest (not to mention East Gate's).

I didn't get too many details about this trip from Danny, but one specific he did mention was that he hi-fived the fireman. Tim elaborated on this event, explaining that when the fireman donned his full regalia, several of the children were terrified. Not Danny! He bravely went up and gave him a hi-five, and fortunately one of our neighbors captured this on her camera. (Kyle is the other brave three-year-old in attendance. Since his dad and Danny's are golfing buddies, I wouldn't be surprised if Kyle and Danny hit the links together someday sooner rather than later.)

Now, fireman are cool and all - and Danny did name them as his friends when I asked him who was there - but they are far outshone by the firetruck itself. Climbing on the truck and driving it was definitely the highlight.

Getting his own fire hat wasn't too shabby, either. In fact, it was so thrilling that it inspired some truly smokin' moves.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Little Red Hen: The Musical

Tonight we were treated to the CKS Kindergarten play, "The Little Red Hen." When Clare started singing select songs a few weeks ago, I was intrigued. As the weeks progressed and I heard more songs, all of which she sang enthusiastically, I was pretty sure it would be cute. But when the curtain rose and we saw all 68 of them, it was precious. They all sang with gusto, and of course those chicken heads were irresistible!

In addition to being one of the chicks in the chorus, Clare was also one of eight narrators. A couple of samples of her role are below.

She did a great job, but so did all of them! We were pleasantly surprised by the poise and confidence of the entire group. They've come a long way this year, which has gone by with lightning speed. I'll miss Kindergarten, which is such a special time, but I was relieved to learn that the First Graders put on a Nativity play, so the fun isn't over!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Space Between

In right of passage #43 (plus or minus), Clare lost her first tooth today. It wasn't a glorious, "look at me" moment, either. I happened to get a look in her mouth while we were gathering jump ropes for a pre-dinner session. When I stopped her, she was fairly reluctant to let me get a closer look...and then proceeded to deny that she had lost a tooth for about five minutes. "It's just a space!" "Um, yes - a space that was not there before today." Finally she conceded, but immediately grew teary when she confessed that she has no idea where the tooth is. Somehow she lost it at school and didn't even realize it until her friend pointed out the space in her mouth.

"Of course the tooth fairy will still visit!" I have repeatedly assured her. Whilst silently cursing my drawn-out search for a tooth pillow that hangs on the door (I fear waking her up by trying to put it under her pillow). So I suppose it works out pretty well that I can just shove a five-spot under the door. That's the alarmingly high going rate these days - I remember when a quarter was a big deal! Then again, to this mom that's a million dollar smile.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Greed Really Is Good

...or at least it can be. For example this weekend. Instead of just one day, I got a whole Mother's Weekend, plus or minus a couple of hours. The occasion of Cat being in town helped me to be very selfish with my time, and fortunately Tim didn't make me feel an ounce of guilt about it. Which is probably the best present he could possibly give me. (Though the homemade brownies were a close second. More on that in a moment.)

After a weekend filled with such girly fun as shopping, pedicures, movies, and Mexican food, Cat flew back to Dallas. After a quick catnap on the couch - which started out as reading on the couch with Clare, but despite knowing that it disappointed her, I decided a Mother's Day nap was in order - we packed up the fam and headed over to the Balzuweits for a get-together with other neighborhood friends. There were five families involved, each with two children now, making for a total of 20 people. The guys took charge from the initial planning stages, so that the shopping, preparation and cooking were all in their hands. Awesome. Tim wisely signed up for dessert and truly outdid himself, baking his mom's famous creme de menthe brownies and butterscotch brownies, and purchasing two delicious types of ice cream. Everything was quite tasty, particularly enhanced by the fact that we ladies ate dinner outside on the patio while the men stayed inside with the kids - and brought us refills for our wine. I'm already counting the days until I can experience that luxury again.

Of course, Father's Day is a lot closer...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Three-Year Evaluation

We recently received our end-of-year assessment of Danny from his preschool, who pronounced him gloriously average (okay, with a few above average checkmarks in the verbal department...but just a few). Anyway, now that Danny is three, it seems an appropriate opportunity to assess what, exactly, makes him tick. I figure I should do it now, before he ticks me off (har har). (No, seriously, I really am dreading this year, as I do not have fond memories of this age from Clare, and most of my fellow mom friends have similar complaints about the age. Can I get an amen, Mary Beth?) So the following are the things that most interest him these days.

Baseball. And golf. And football, soccer, hockey...maybe I should just say sports. But baseball is numero uno right now. His dad can now pitch him the ball overhand, and he still whacks it across the yard. If only he weren't such a slow runner...

Horses. To the extent that he can distinguish an Appaloosa from a Palomino from a dapple-gray. Ever since he saw the Kentucky Derby on the big screen at ESPNZone, he now likes to make his toy horses race. It's not that fun for me, though, because he always wins.

Reading stories. Danny is an energetic little boy, but at just about any moment he is happy to drop everything and listen to a book. I also frequently find him reading them by himself. He particularly enjoys the Skippyjon Jones books, and books about dinosaurs.

Talking. Both of my children are chatty. They like to tell us what they're thinking, what they observe in the world, and more than occasionally something silly. But always imaginative.

Holding his ground. Let's just say those bunk beds remain to be slept in.

Cooking. The Danimal is game to help me out in the kitchen no matter what I'm making, but especially when a lick of the spoon or beaters is involved. He's fairly patient and careful, too, when it comes to pouring and stirring. So if the athlete thing doesn't pan out, perhaps he'll have a show on the Food Network. He might need to overcome his aversion to fruits and vegetables first, though. Right now he is fond of telling me that certain things, for example oranges, make him sick. Kind of like my dad claims to be allergic to bananas...

Friends. He has definitely progressed from the parallel play thing to truly interacting with his friends, and has been doing this for quite some time. Maybe it's having an older sibling to play with. Anyway, he's wild about Parker, and also digs Zach, Lulu, Kylie, and just about any older child who is willing to hang out. So long as he has these friends to spend time with (and I their respective parents), we should survive this year intact.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dancing Queen (Only 6, Not 17)

A couple of months ago, Clare declared that she didn't want to take ballet anymore. She's been taking it for three years now, and is among the older of the girls in her class. Not to mention that it sounds like she is one of the only ones who pays attention and listens to the teacher regularly. So, I think she gets bored, and therefore we weren't shocked when she made this announcement. We were, however, already out $65 for the recital costume, so we cheerfully informed her that as soon as the recital was over, she was finished with her commitment. Which, Clare being Clare, she just as cheerfully accepted.

Today was the big day, and she was fairly excited about it (though not nearly as chatty about it as she is about her upcoming gymnastics show - gymnastics has definitely trumped ballet). The program began at 2, but we had to be there at 1, and we were informed that the program would last about 90 minutes. Naturally, hers was among the last to perform. We thus booked a sitter to stay with Danny, packed a book for Mommy, a coloring book for Clare, and allotted time at the nearby sports bar (prior to the performance) for Tim, and headed out.

It was cute, she looked adorable...and all three of us are glad that it's over. It did give us an excellent excuse to head to Dairy Queen afterward. I mean, where else should a dancing queen go?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Three With Glee: A Birthday in Two Parts; Part 2

Every time we asked Danny what he wanted for his birthday, he promptly answered, "Cake!" Nevertheless, once a pile of presents was actually in front of him, he euphorically shouted, "Yippee!" For me, the best part of the present opening was that he was so enthusiastic about each one of his gifts, which included a t-ball set, soccer net and ball, (more) plastic horses, light sabers, instrument set, and a new Skippyjon Jones book (his current favorite character). Having been around this block before, Tim and I reserved a couple of gifts for tomorrow, too.

After half a piece of pizza, Danny was eager for cake. I don't pretend that this horse is among my finer creations, but I do think it at least resembles the equine species. However, when asked what was on his cake, Danny first identified his name, despite it being written in cursive. Then he simply kept repeating, "Chocolate!" or, once, "Candles?" Ah, well.

I love that Clare's hand is sneaking onto the cake in this picture. She was a very gracious big sister today, but certain temptations cannot be avoided, can they?

Three With Glee: A Birthday in Two Parts; Part 1

Danny turned three today, and he did it in joyful style. We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, though I don't think anyone could have been happier than he was (almost) all day.

Knowing that his birthday fell on a Friday, I rallied our bestest buds for one of our Fun Fridays. Jennifer suggested the Chattahoochee Nature Center, which was not only gorgeous but also fun because Danny hasn't quite figured out how to say it - but keeps trying. "Chattamoochie?" "Where's the Chahoochie Center?" "Is this the Chattatoochie Nature Place?"

So after a very good-natured (at least on Danny's part) run along the river, and breakfast at Einstein's Bagels, plus a brief baking moment in the kitchen (we needed to get his cake started), we met up with the Pryors and the Plummers. Who showered Danny with his first gifts of the day, much to his delight. In fact, the set of a Danny-sized baseball bat, ball and mitt might as well have been glued to his hands, because he did not relinquish them until approximately 6:30 p.m. - after he and Daddy played baseball in the front yard while waiting for the pizza delivery man.

But I digress. We defied the rainy forecast and set out for the CNC. The slightly overcast skies and mild temps in the low 70s were ideal as we explored the trails (or, in the kids' case, ran pell-mell along them). We saw birds, a beaver (and beaver poop, as Danny will quickly and oh-so-ironically add), the river...and I felt so blessed to be spending a celebration of Danny's birthday with such dear friends who have been a big part of his three years of life. I'm quite happy to take advantage of these young years when we can still dictate who our kids hang out with, and tag along for the ride.

Given that we had to head to CKS to pick up the big kids, we didn't get to go home for a nap, so the outing ended in an unsurprising but sweet manner that allows me to cling a bit longer to that coveted word: baby.