Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Clare and Liz at the Holy Half

As Clare gets older, we have an increasing number of ways to celebrate her birthday. This year, I managed to incorporate a personal goal - running the Holy Half Marathon at Notre Dame - into her celebration. When I asked if she'd like to accompany me for the weekend, just us, she jumped at the opportunity. Since she hadn't been to campus since she was about 18 months old, I was really looking forward to seeing ND from her fresh perspective. The weekend did not disappoint! In fact, I think she was more enamored of the school than I imagined. Given that it was bitterly cold for late March (highs in the high 20s and low 30s), it's clear that the place has a magical touch!

We flew into Chicago and drove through the city, just to give her a quick look at our former hometown. I was eager to get to campus and pick up my race packet, etc., though I did wonder if perhaps I was allotting too much time for exploring the grounds. I need not have worried.
After checking out the dome, library, etc., we managed to get inside Walsh and passed the hallowed threshold of 329. Doesn't appear to have changed! (Yes, we visited Stanford Hall as well, but did not attempt to get inside. Brainwashing is best served early.)
Clare was eager to check out college classrooms, so I took her through O'Shag and then Debartolo (above). I think we better get more serious about our college savings plan...

After dinner at South Dining Hall (of course) and a visit to the grotto, we headed back to the hotel and crashed. We both really enjoyed the Inn at Saint Mary's - Clare in particular thought it was fabulous, and especially enjoyed the tea and coffee station in the lobby. I love how appreciative she is of some of the simpler pleasures in life!
The next morning dawned cold, as in about 12 degrees when we headed back to campus. I dropped Clare off at LaFortune, armed with her headphones, phone, book and cash for Starbucks. I wasn't sure how long she would stay entertained there, but not much I could do about it. Once again, I need not have worried: She loved the student center, such that we returned a few more times over the weekend! Meanwhile, I thoroughly enjoyed the race, and it didn't feel like it had been 18+ years since I had last run around those lakes.
After a much-needed shower, we returned to campus for more touring and a second meal at SDH, where Clare discovered the wonders of Yocream. If she hadn't already been smitten with college life, this would have sealed the deal.
From here we headed to explore the sports areas of campus, and it surprised me how interested Clare was in all of these. We saw the very impressive new ice arena, then made our way to the basketball/volleyball/swimming complex. To our surprise and delight, we made our way onto the hallowed basketball court, all the more exciting since the men's team was playing their Elite Eight game that very night (though in Cleveland, not at home).
We then stumbled upon the pool and what turned out to be a women's water polo tournament, which afforded us some entertainment (and me a chance to sit for a while!). For Clare, it was ultimately a tie between this structure and LaFortune for favorite part of ND.
Eventually, it was time for 5 p.m. mass at the Basilica, which was lovely. Another visit to the grotto, and then it was finally time to make our picks at the bookstore. It was a daunting task, but we came away with solid selections for the whole family. We also came away very hungry. We wound up at Legends, the restaurant/night club that has overtaken what was known to the Class of 1996 as Senior Bar. For our purposes, it was perfect, as we got a delicious meal and even caught the beginning of the basketball game surrounded by fellow fans. Eventually, though, my bed was calling my name, so we made our way back to the hotel - but stayed awake for every minute of that riveting, ultimately heartbreaking game.

The next morning we had enough time to get bagels and coffee and enjoy them  - where else? - at LaFortune! Then it was time to say good-bye to ND and head back to Chicago, where we drove by our old condo and I found it very difficult to imagine living there anymore!

I don't think Clare has a hard time imaging being a college student, which I know will happen before we know it. May every campus visit we make be half as pleasant as this one!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Clare's Even Dozen

Clare's 12th birthday turned out to be an extensive celebration, with much of the focus on the upcoming ND weekend, but her day itself turned out to be, in her own words, "my best birthday ever!" It fell on a Wednesday, so the usual school routine was in play. But we spiced it up: I brought her lunch and ate with her at school. Her friends decorated her locker. She hung out at Abby's house before swim. Tim picked her up and took her out to dinner to a restaurant they had both wanted to try. And then she enjoyed gifts and cake at home!
A sweet day for our very sweet girl.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Climb Every Mountain...Starting Close to Home

We have now lived in Atlanta nearly 10 years - our anniversary is around May 4. Seems like an epic number, and I would say we have experienced a lot of what the area has to offer. Let me also clarify that we have visited Stone Mountain Park a few times - but we have never climbed the mountain itself.
Presented with a beautiful spring Tuesday (read: no preschool), Stephanie suggested we pack lunches and head to the playground at Stone Mountain. I harbored a secret hope that we might persuade the little girls to climb the mountain, but I wasn't counting on anything. Stephanie was a step ahead of me, however, and drove us directly to the trail head, where we talked up how impressed we were going to be when the girls hiked to the very top (and yes, also bribed with candy).
The trail itself is only one mile, but it is a steep, always ascending and very rocky mile. The girls were beyond impressive, especially since for 90% of the time, they were very concerned to stay ahead of us. The final stretch was a bit daunting, and there was some hand holding, but they persevered!
I have always liked the idea of our family developing a hiking hobby once Laura was a little older. I think we might be there!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top O' the Mornin' and a Tip O' the Hats

Thanks to Grampy's solid relationship with the internet, the kids sported some extra festive headgear this St. Patty's Day! Danny has been particularly enamored of his hat and beard combo, and has worn it on several occasions.

At first, Laura resisted wearing the hat Grampy originally sent her, but did deign to put on the extras that arrived in the mail (above). However, for the big day itself, for a fleeting moment, I captured her in her sparkly, Irish glory...along with this purple dress that I am fairly certain she will wear until it falls apart.
Happy St. Patrick's Day 2015!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Getting Along

There's a series of books on child development, one for each year, that I recall my pediatrician recommending for the early years. The one for four-year-olds is subtitled "Wild and Wonderful," and I'm happy to report that we are seeing more of the "wonderful" side of our four-year-old. At the least, we are seeing a more reasonable side of her!
Before Danny left for school, they played "Santa."
One of my favorite developments of late is the relationship between Danny and Laura. Make no mistake: She still pushes his buttons. A lot. However, she has also learned how to make him laugh, and I find them collaborating on silly games with increasing frequency.
She continues to really enjoy her friend Meghan, planning play dates with gusto - and managing to enjoy them with fewer and fewer meltdowns. This gives me some much-needed breathing room, as she still is glued to my hip more often than not. It's pleasant, as she offers to "help me with my work" or "go with ya!" - but sometimes I really don't need any help!

That said, it's not terrible to have someone who enjoys your company so whole-heartedly...especially when the feeling is increasingly mutual.