Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Love in the Middle

"I get to hang out with Mommy, I get to hang out with Mommy," Danny chanted to Clare at breakfast yesterday. She was looking forward to a sleepover at Abby's, and evidently this was Danny's response. She and I just shrugged at each other, but I recognized both the sincerity and need reflected in Danny's words.

Just the other night, Tim and I discussed how easily the dreaded middle child syndrome (MCS) can rear its head. I cannot fathom how you can parent three children without its occasional presence. It's basic math: the kids outnumber the adults, so we have to group them in manageable ways. Sometimes that means Danny is a big kid, sometimes he's stuck with Laura. Not very often is he his own group, despite being the only boy. Wow, have we set ourselves up for a challenge or what?

I try to carefully discern between what is Danny's sensitive, emotional nature and what is the possible result of MCS. On the one hand, he is growing up quickly, often offering to help and clearly eager for more responsibility. On the other, he is quick to tears, needs lots of reassurance, and frequently chastises himself for perceived failures. And then there's the pesky baby sister.

I could come up with dozens of examples, but I'll go with the one that happened seconds ago, literally as I was typing this. Laura got into his room, and his bag of valentines, seizing upon a rice krispy treat and making messy history of it. If I only had a dollar for every time I've told him, "Sorry, buddy..." The fact that she says his name often, loves to bring him weapons to spar with him, and is cute as a button only goes so far with him. Though the photo above is somewhat telling about their relationship.

Aside from encouraging him to shut his door, and perhaps keeping better tabs on Laura while I'm on the computer, all I can really hope is that Danny rises above it. I am planning a date to his favorite museum this weekend, too, just the two of us. And while I know that this will not leap to mind the next time she destroys a Lego creation, in the long run I believe he'll feel our love to the very center of his being.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bye-Bye, Braces!

This morning, Clare bid farewell to her braces (or at least phase 1 - it remains to be seen if she'll need more later on). It was about 10 months ago when she got them, and I must say the time flew. She handled them with poise and maintains that they weren't that bad. That said, she was delighted to race into the drugstore below the orthodontist's office to purchase a pack of gum!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Princess Laundry Head II

Tim and I got a good chuckle over our vacation in Sarasota when Laura emerged looking like this:

It brought back to mind this phase of Clare's, which lasted for nearly a year:

I still say they're pretty different, though.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Anatomy of a Summer Swim Meet

Last night was Clare's first meet of the neighborhood swim team season. It felt good to be veterans this time around, as opposed to the shell-shocked rookies of last year. I packed a picnic, secured a sitter for Danny and Laura, and left looking forward to the evening. (It helped that I was riding with Crystal - who was a rookie this time - so it was already a built-in social occasion.)

Despite being absolutely exhausted from a sleepover and four trips to the pool in a 24-hour period, Clare was pumped. She was also happy to play mentor to Kylie, whose nervousness at the unknown brought back to mind Clare's first time around. What a difference a year (not to mention nine months of indoor swim team) makes. Because Clare absolutely loves these meets, I thought it would be fun to document the experience for posterity.

The day begins with swim practice in the morning, as usual (Clare is wearing the white swim cap):

After a relatively low-key day, we left in the later afternoon for the away meet and, after fighting for a parking spot, went in and began to get settled. It's always chaotic trying to determine a good spot for our chairs, but eventually we chose one and the girls went off to get marked up (to the non-initiated, this is when they write their events/heats/lanes on their arms so that they know where to be and when; they also write their names on the backs of their shoulders so parents and coaches can easily identify them). This tends to linger for a few days:

Then they wait around until it's the team's turn to warm up:

After warm-ups, the team meets for a quick pep talk and cheer:

Ready for the races to begin!

Swim meets are the epitome of hurry up and wait. With 90-100 events, 5 of which Clare swam, there is a lot of waiting around. Clare did get to swim her first event, the 50 freestyle, very early on in the meet. Here she is, poised to go:

She looked good and strong, and lightning years beyond what she looked like last year.

Meanwhile, here is Tim, fulfilling our familial obligation to volunteer by acting as a first-half timer:

Clare's next event was the butterfly leg in the 200 medley relay - for the 11-12 year-old girls! Two laps of butterfly is brutal, but she definitely gave it her all. After that she had two easier events, the 25 breaststroke and 25 backstroke, pictured here:

We've enjoyed cooler-than-average weather, which has been marvelous but did make for a chillier evening once the sun went down. Clare bundled up in some towels as she watched the races pretty intently. She brought her iPod, and playing cards, and never even thought about using either. I think part of that is she was just tired, but partially it's her love of the entire atmosphere that keeps her focused.

Her last event was the 200 freestyle relay, again swimming with 11-12 year-old girls - and she swam the anchor. She looked awesome. By then it was dark and it's hard to get decent swimming pictures anyway, so you'll have to take my word for it.

The mornings following swim meets, the coaches host "Fun Fridays," wherein the swimmers get to swim for fun, eat donuts, and go down the water slide. They also receive their ribbons, of which Clare earned: first place in the 25 back; first place in the 25 breast; 2nd place for the 50 free and the 200 free relay; and 3rd place for the IM relay. Not too shabby!

We're excited to see what next week brings!

Monday, June 4, 2012


Laura has found an interesting way to comfort herself during sleeveless weather.

Maybe I'm not the only one who will spend the summer longing for fall...
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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Various Vacation Vignettes

Quick as a wink, we're already on our way home again. It was such a treat to spend a week together, just the five of us. Here's a round-up of the fun we had beyond the zoo and Jungle Gardens.

Our M.O. upon arrival is for Tim to take the big kids to the pool while Laura and I get groceries. I saw this while I was checking out, and knew it would be a big hit. Orca wars, scored jumping onto its back, and relaxed rides were well worth the $11.99, even if we did have to leave it behind (you're welcome, Donna and Larry):

While aforementioned outings were big hits, the highlight for Clare and Danny may have been their trip with Tim to Adventure Island, the water park in Tampa that we all love. In their absence, Laura and I spent a relaxed day doing some shopping and then found a fun playground close to the condo:

Clare and I escaped for a big girls-only lunch at Turtles, where we sat outside and watched the rain while we sipped mango margaritas:

Despite a gloomy forecast, we didn't get any rain until our last day. Not long after Laura and I returned from our morning run it began, and it was fairly relentless, keeping us somewhat captive in the condo. We decided to try for a more stimulating dinner and chose a hibachi steakhouse. The kids really enjoyed watching the chef, who was very amusing, and really loved taking a turn themselves:

Laura was fairly mesmerized, too (in between walking around like a restless menace - we were fortunate that it was a quiet night in the restaurant).

Lo and behold, as we finished dinner the clouds parted and it was a gorgeous evening. So we headed to Siesta Beach. Tim and Clare had spent a nice afternoon there earlier in the week (Danny declined to join them), but for the rest of us it was our first visit. Spectacular conditions, and an ideal end to a great trip.

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