Friday, January 31, 2014

Snowbound II: A Family Divided

Three years ago, when we had our first (for us, at least) Snowpocalypse, it happened overnight on a weekend, leaving our family unit safe and intact in our home. Somewhat of a vicious ice storm, it held us captive for nearly a week. But we were together, our kitchen was well-stocked, and life was good.

Three days ago, a fast-and-furious snow-turned-ice storm descended on us in the middle of a school- and work-day, ultimately stranding thousands in their cars, offices, or any form or shelter and making 2011 look like a winter carnival. After a terrifying couple of hours where I didn't know how to get to Clare and Danny or where it was best to keep/send them (all the while Tim was walking home after parking his car three miles away), we accepted the kindness of dear friends and sent them to a house that is walking distance from their school. Sure, the mom had the literal flu plus two teen drivers still trying to make their way home from their own school, but without hesitation she took in my children and as far as I know, they never realized the scariness of the ordeal.
Sledding with neighbors and school friends.
She got more than she bargained for, as the roads remained impassible for 48 more hours.  Based on the photos, stories, and phone calls, Clare and Danny had a blast and came home semi-reluctantly. This being the home of Clare's best friend, I didn't worry about how she'd fare. Danny was the wild card - but waxes poetic about his time and, more importantly, about the 16-year-old brother who took him under his wing. Video games! Snowball fights! SportsCenter!
Danny and his new favorite person in the world.
Ever the sensitive soul, I think overall Danny's emotions were mixed. As we snuggled at bedtime last night for the first time in three days, he asked what I did while they were gone, "aside from miss us?" He went on to say, "I didn't really miss you guys at all - I was having too much fun." But a moment later he said, "Every time I talked to you on the phone, my eyes got watery."
After more than 24 hours straight together, they still sit as closely together as possible.
Like the city at large, we all made the best of our circumstances. Tim and I enjoyed some grown-up dinners after putting Laura to bed, and wine and TV at our leisure. That said, I certainly slept better once the kids were home. I never for a moment doubted that they were not only well-cared for but truly loved - an act of kindness we can never fully repay. But at the end of the day, our chicks belong in their own nest...and perhaps it is time to find one a little closer to school.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Game's Afoot

At age three, Laura has achieved an important milestone in my book: the ability to play games. Games that involve actual direction, rules, and purpose. Not arbitrary "games" wherein she is the only decision maker. Right after her birthday, I dusted off a couple of jumbo puzzles and the princess memory game from Clare's toddlerhood. Major hits, all of them. Of course, I now find myself playing a lot of rounds of memory, but it's a worthwhile trade-off.

Yesterday she figured out how to put the dresses on her beloved princess dolls - the only thing she requested for Christmas. To see her sitting peacefully, playing with them by herself, is one of the best things I have seen in a long time. Definitely one of those light-at-the-end-of-the-dependent-toddler-tunnel moments.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bragging Season

Despite the fact that much of Danny's free time of late is devoted to studying and re-enacting ancient warfare and weaponry, he was recently chosen by his First Grade classmates as Peacemaker for the annual MLK Peacemaker mass. He was pleased as punch, and his teacher informed me that she couldn't think of a better choice. Neither can I.

This happened a week after Clare once again made it to the CKS Geography Bee finals. She was the youngest finalist, and only non-Middle Schooler, but managed to tie for fourth place! Oh, and she just landed on the Principal's Honors list again.

Our cup overfloweth.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

No Going Back

So eager to start gymnastics class.
Occasionally, Laura will ask me, "When I'm a baby again, can I ____?" I always feel a little guilty when I inform her that she will not be going back down that road. It also strikes me as funny, mostly because neither Clare nor Danny ever asked this. But in many ways it's a logical question, considering she also spends a lot of time asking about when she's a big girl, or a grown-up. What's the difference - change is change, right?

And boy, is she changing. Of course, she can still be a temperamentally wicked little gal, making up songs like "Nobody's going to be my best friend!" and "Clare/Danny are so yucky." But she has also shown moments of compassion when one of them is injured, and calling out, "Goodbye, I'll miss you!" as they returned to school from Christmas break.
A happy gal after class.
There is no denying that she is becoming a big girl, too. This week she began a class at The Little Gym, where both her brother and sister went before her. She was SO excited for this class. It appears to have lived up to her expectations, as she informed everyone she saw, from our carpool to the kids' piano teacher, that she "does gymnastics," and has asked several times when she will go back. (On a personal note, I loved it, too, because I got to leave and go for a run!)
The experience did seem to wear her out, though, giving me a fleeting glimpse of my baby girl once again.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The House That Larry Built

Last summer, on our annual visit to Topeka, I admired the dollhouse at my aunt's house that her grandfather had made for her. I instantly took pictures and emailed them to Donna, wondering if Larry would be willing to create something similar for Laura. It was a simple, straightforward design that used a few pieces of wood, some nails and paint.

The next thing I knew, I was getting a flurry of emails inquiring about desired scale, dimensions, and colors. Weeks later I received photos of Larry at hobby shops and dollhouse aficionado headquarters, where he secured items such as siding, shutters, window and door casings; and later hard at work in his garage - he dove into this project with serious gusto!
The result is a piece that I know Laura's granddaughters, like my aunt's, will be playing with for years to come. In the meantime, though, all three of our kids are putting it to good use!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Our Third Three-Year-Old

At the end of the day, Laura pronounced these balloons as her favorite thing about the day.
Laura is definitely different from the other two. Then again, I doubt many parents find their children are just like each other - and it's not like we don't often discuss how different Danny is from Clare. Our memories are probably a bit short, too (stand-offs with Clare? Really?). But sometimes, Laura makes us feel as though we are back to the first day of parenting, and we often wonder what makes her tick.

She is willful, persistent, physical. She can also be charming, sweet, and loving. She whines a lot, and cries a lot, but she also sings and laughs a lot. (Occasionally at 3 a.m.) She has fully embraced the princess infatuation, but eagerly plays swords and battles with Danny. Her favorite game with Tim right now is the "Ariel game," where he plays King Triton to her Ariel, forbidding her to go see the humans. Which means she runs off with great delight to see the humans. Did I mention she can be defiant?

Lately she loves to paint, and continues to love to help me cook. I like to think she is starting to take more pleasure in creating than destroying. I also like to think that I am beginning to get a handle on what makes her tick. At least, I scored a victory with her birthday balloons.

I never had any intention of holding a party for her, nor do I think she wanted one. She simply wanted a celebration, and mentioned balloons more than once. So while picking up the groceries for her birthday dinner, I made sure I picked up three princess balloons, which I secreted away until the morning of her "birthday" (full disclosure: we celebrated it three days late, because that's when the family's schedule worked best to make it her day - and also because she's young enough that we could get away with it). I hung up a birthday banner, set the balloons atop the fireplace, and then woke her up. Which, by the way, was adorable: she smiled and asked at least twice, "Is it my birthday?" and gave me an enormous smile when I assured her that it was. When she emerged from her room and looked over the railing down at the balloon, she was delighted. She proceeded to play with them for a solid 30 minutes, singing "I love balloons" to the tune of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (thank you, Little Einsteins) over and over again and in between pronouncing, "I love my birthday!" We snuggled on the couch with the balloons while reading stories, and eventually she and I left the house to pick up some Dunkin Donuts for breakfast, to which she brought the Cinderella balloon, prompting many birthday well wishes from the DD workers.

All three kids enjoying the dollhouse Larry made - detailed post about it coming soon.

A princess movie while playing with your balloons. What more can a girl ask for?
After breakfast she opened her presents, delighting in them all and passing a leisurely morning playing with them, watching TV, and having the kind of day a three-year-old loves. After her nap we watched a princess movie and ate popcorn, and then after her steak dinner it was time for her purple Ariel cake. The cake she requested for weeks, and was very excited to see. When asked what part of the cake she would like, she immediately responded, "The eyes!" which put the rest of us in gales of laughter. Not long after, though, Tim and I were shaking our heads and again wondering where she comes from, because she did not take a single bite of her cake. She ate her ice cream and promptly excused herself.
The eyes ARE sort of...mesmerizing...

Maybe we don't quite have her figured out after all...but we'll enjoy the continued attempt!