Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Conversations with Clara. Episode Six.

Yesterday Clara and I were walking over to have a play date with her friends, Charlie and Marek.  I let her out of the stroller a few blocks early so she could run around a little.

ME: You know Clara, you look pretty cute.

CLARA: NO! Mama! I'm NOT pretty cute.

ME: Yeah, then what are you?

CLARA:  I'm Cr-a-a-zy!

I laugh.  Clara giggles merrily.

Two year olds.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Clara meets Christmas.

I think the best part of watching your child grow up may be introducing them to the holiday season.  I can remember the magic that the Christmas season inspired in me as a child.  The excitement and anticipation only occasionally tipping into over-excitement and making myself sick thinking about what Santa was going to bring me this year.

Clara is not quite two and a half and this year - she gets it.  Gerald and I get to introduce her to all the things we loved as children and we get to watch as she experiences it all for the first time.  We have seen so many of Clara's "first times" but this one takes the cake.

The season started with the Advent Calendar.  I loved advent calendars so much as I child that I would make them for myself.  I would draw a multi-windowed mansion and draw a picture behind each window.  One wasn't enough.  I had one at home, made one for everyone in my family, and had one in my locker at school.  The last time I made one was sometime in my late 20's.  Turns out - Gerald has an amazing advent calendar where each door in the Christmas tree opens to reveal a Christmas ornament, and later in the month, the figures from the Nativity. 

As you can imagine, Clara is bonkers about opening tiny doors and revealing presents.  Every day she asks for another "match."  I think the "reveal" reminds her of turning over cards in memory games.    She also isn't too fond of the whole one-advent door-a-day thing but we've managed to talk her down so far.  Last night, the first figure of the Nativity was revealed - a tiny king carrying gold.  Clara carried it around the apartment referring to it as "her Queen."  That's fine by me.

We have also talked to her a lot about the concept of Santa Claus and what's going on with that.  She already loves presents but the idea of a guy in a red suit and a beard bringing her surprise presents one day makes her hit the ceiling with excitement.  Now whenever the doorbell rings she yells: "Oh! Oh! Is it Santa!!!??"

A few days ago we took her to our Union's Holiday Party where Santa was scheduled to put in an appearance.  She talked about Santa the whole ride down on the Subway - to me, to strangers, to anyone who would listen.  At the party, Santa was in a special room.  We walked in and Clara paused, suddenly shy.  Santa asked if she wanted to sit on his lap and after a brief hesitation, she squared her shoulders and went for it.  She sat on his lap while Gerald and I took a hundred pictures.  When Santa asked her what she wanted for Christmas, her nerves betrayed her, and she whispered in a tiny voice into Santa's ear: "A princess...and play doh."

Santa said:  "Ho ho ho...I think I can help you out with one of those requests, little girl."...and he pulled a play doh set out of his bag and handed it to Clara. 

Clara's eye widened - it was true, Santa COULD magically provide you with you heart's desire. 

Clara shrieked: "Look Mama! Look, Dada! PLAY DOH!"


It's possible the best thing about being a parent, and I know Gerald agrees.

Gerald, posing with the new tree.
Chatting with Santa.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cookies in the Rain.

I have been trying to come up with ideas for indoor activities as I eye the impending winter season with shivers of dread.  Last year there was so much snow I sometimes went days not going outside.  And now I have an almost two and a half year old that is constantly looking to me for the NEXT GREAT IDEA.  Who knew being someone's playmate could be so tiring.

As a practice run, we were hit by a two day epic rainstorm that kept us huddled inside.  We made this dollar store craft.  Clara chose the jaunty angle of the buckle on the Cat Witch's hat...

And that was thirty minutes well spent...

So I decided to try cooking with Clara for the first time.  We got the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and settled down on the floor of the living room.

Stirring the dough.
Measuring the baking soda.
Measuring the salt.

 It went pretty well.  Clara stirred for a while and then realized how good the dough tasted and just wanted to eat it.  She measured out a teaspoon of baking soda and got a cup more on the floor.  Ditto with the salt. 

 She liked portioning out the cookies on the baking sheets but kept sneaking huge blobs into her mouth when she thought I wasn't looking. 

Note the lonely, unused potty under the chair.

Sneaking a blob of dough. 

I was multitasking at the time, doing laundry downstairs, so we popped the cookies in the oven and ran down to put everything in the dryer.  When we came back up Clara loved looking at the cookies in the oven and wanted to take them out immediately.  

We took them out, let them cool, and then had a tasting together.  By together, I mean theat Clara tasted the cookies and thought they were delicious.  When I tried to sample one she swatted my hand away and said: "No Mama.  These are mines."

The process start to finish including going to the grocery store took a little over an hour.  (Not including the hour of cleanup I had after the cookie bomb went off in the living room)  Next time I'll make sure Clara helps with the cleanup but this time - she really loved making cookies.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Conversations with Clara. Episode Five.

Clara is closing in on being two and a half years old, she's not quite there yet but when you ask her how old she is she answers: "Two and a half!", or occasionally "I'm three!"

She also has a few new sayings, go-to expressions if you will.

ME: Clara, would you like to put your shoes on?
CLARA: I don't care. 

ME: Clara, I have to strap you into the stroller so you don't fall out.
CLARA: Mama, leave me alone. Don't touch me!


ME: Clara, want to see what's in this piece of  junk mail we just got out of the mailbox?

and periodically throughout the day, apropos of nothing...

CLARA: It's nice to see you, Mama. 
CLARA: My hair is beautiful.

A few days ago my friend Travis came over with his 2 daughters - Charlie(2 and a half) and Sylvie (one month).  Later that day, long after they left, Clara and I were chatting about the playdate.

ME: Clara, did you have a nice time with Charlie?
CLARA: Yeah!
ME:  Do you remember the baby's name?
CLARA: Sylvie!
ME: Do you remember the dad's name?
CLARA: (looking at me askance) Gerald.
ME: (laughs out loud)  Well that's true.

a few minutes later, as I was changing Clara...

CLARA: (smiles at me) Gerald.  (beat.) I'm so funny, Mama.

I love conversing with two year olds.

Clara, about to suggest a tea party.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Potty Training...Woe is me.

I will preface this by saying that until last week happened, I had decided that I was the Kung Fu Kickass Potty Training Mom of All Time Ever in the History of the World.  That would be my new title and other moms would come to me with their potty training troubles and I would console them and offer them my expert advice.

Let's rewind to better times...a week and a half ago to be exact. Back in those halcyon days where Clara told me whenever she had to pee or poop.  Where she happily sat on toilets with toddler rings, pottys, other people's toilets, and (when outdoors) her travel potty.  I had fond (if slightly embarassing) memories of sitting with Clara on a park bench, chatting as she counted flower petals into my hand while simultaneously pooping into her travel potty.  Where Clara's piping cries of "I Pooped!" I DID IT!" were  followed by high-fives all around and our patented Pee-Pee Dance.  Where Clara miraculously and unexpectedly was sleeping through the night without wetting her overnight diaper.  Where Clara wore cute Doc McStuffins underpants.  These golden days lasted for exactly one month.

Suddenly, and without warning, the poop and pee started hitting the fan.  "Mama, I have to poop" was replaced by "Mama, I pooped on couch."  "Mama, I pooped on floor." or most ominously: "Mama, I pooped on Mama."  I scrambled for a few days - insisting that this was just  a setback as Clara peed everywhere - through her underpants and clothes - onto everything.  Let me tell you - there is no worse cleanup than getting a fully dressed toddler out of underpants that have been pooped in.  It goes everywhere  - all over them and sadly, all over you.

So I relented and started putting Clara in Pull-Ups all day long.  I couldn't take it anymore.  And then the announcements stopped.  Forget about telling me anything.  The Poop Conversation was over. I was catapulted back  to the Dark Ages where poops were only announced by the stink wafting out of the diaper.

It's been  a week and a half.  Clara will try the potty after putting up a struggle but most of the time I pull down her pants to find that her business is already complete. 

I am hoping that this is just a setback.  That the novelty of "doing it right" has worn off and Clara simply needs a little break.   Or maybe she needs to work poop and pee-pee into her comedy act.   Like yesterday, when a routine game of Ring Around the Rosie ended abruptly when Clara announced: "I don't want to fall down, I pooped in my pants!"

I am resigned to waiting as long as I have to reclaim the title of Kung Fu Kickass Potty Training Mom of All Time Ever in the History of the World, or maybe I am just waiting for the time when I can go one full day without discussing another person's bodily functions.

Seriously, Clara...throw you Mama a bone here.

Reading a Potty Training Book at the Library. Very funny, Clara.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Potty training. Not for the faint of heart.

So after postponing the inevitable I decided this past Monday that the next day would be day one of potty training Clara.  I had done a bunch of research about the "signs" that your toddler is ready to be potty trained and Clara's behaviors neatly checked all the boxes.  

I had asked my mother for advice but her response was: "I have no idea, I had my mother potty train all of you.  It had something to do with pretty underpants."

After some research I decided to go with the three-day pants free potty training model.  If you're not familiar with this system, it involves being trapped with a naked, stir crazy toddler for three days in your New York City apartment.  You will also be stir crazy (though hopefully not naked) and will quickly develop an eagle eye instinct for impending pee or poop disasters.

Tuesday.  Day One.

Clara woke up and I took off her diaper.  She was interested in the fact that another diaper was not put on.  "I naked." she exclaimed.  

Three day potty training suggests you wait for the pee to start streaming down their legs and then quickly deposit them on the potty.  I was not ready for this kind of constant mess so I started placing Clara on the potty in 30-minute intervals to see what would happen.  The first three sit downs yielded nothing.  Clara would sit for a few minutes, playing with a toy or an app on her tablet and then would get up and say: "I done" even though nothing had happened.

Sit down four yielded results.  Clara heard the pee whizzing into the potty and her face lit up.  "I did it!  I did it" she shrieked and stood up.  We looked at the pee in the potty and took our first, ceremonial visit to the toilet.  We poured the pee out, Clara got to take some toilet paper, wipe herself, then throw the paper in the toilet.  She flushed the toilet and Clara and I did a Pee Pee victory dance with a lot of added High Fives."

The day marched on doggedly.  Dry potty, dry potty, Pee Potty - Pee Pee Dance - repeat.  Clara found a new passion for climbing all over me with her naked self whenever I sat down, occasionally asking plaintively: "Outside?" or "Playground?"  All day long I kept my eye on her - watching for any accidents to happen.  They didn't.  Gerald worked late that night, so I put Clara to bed and celebrated my well-earned respite from thinking about pee by falling asleep early.

Wednesday. Day Two.

After a low point where naked Clara snuck behind the Barca lounger and peed while standing up, it was getting better.  Each time I asked Clara to sit on the potty, she did it and after a few hard-thinking minutes, she would pee.

A new iteration in the routine, Clara decided that after she went she would shout: "I did it - I POOPED!"  Never mind the fact that it was pee, everything was now 'poop' to naked Clara.

Gerald came home that afternoon to a zoned out wife and manic naked child.  But it felt successful. It felt like it might work.  I made the mistake of chatting with my husband in the kitchen while Clara darted into the living room.  A few minutes later I heard her say: "Poop!  There's POOP." I walk into the living room to find Clara standing on the leather Barca lounger pointing down at a pile of poop that is...also on the Barca lounger. 

Clara invented a game of supermarket shopping to alleviate the monotony.

Thursday. Day Three.

Everything has clicked into place for Clara. She no longer needs to be told to go on the potty, instead loudly exclaims: "I'M POOPING." as her signal for me to help her to the potty.  

All went well until the afternoon. Clara was standing on a step stool, playing in the bathroom sink with cups and washcloths.  I walked out of the bathroom for a moment - maybe to actually get something done - and came back to - Clara, standing on the step stool with a neat pile of poop also on the stepstool. "I POOPED!"

I go out that night with a friend.  Gerald is left alone with Clara.  She immediately pees on the floor twice.  Gerald is discouraged.

Later Clara impresses him with an unsolicited pee in the potty.

Friday. Day Four.

I feel comfortable enough to take Clara to the playground for a few hours.  We are both relieved to be outside and running around.  Clara dutifully asks for the potty and goes pee, then runs back to playing.  It's great.
Clara is reunited with her favorite patch of dirt.

No poop all day.  This isn't going to end well.

Saturday. Day Five.

I leave for work early in the morning after surviving a four a.m. wake up call from Clara who insisted on using the potty.  Gerald is on his own.  Excellent use of the potty - no pee accidents.

And then it happened.  Clara was playing happily in the living room.  She got up, presumably to get another toy from her room.  Instead, it was an elaborate subterfuge in order to enable pooping in private. Gerald suddenly heard the ominous: "I'M POOPING!"

Poop on the rug - all over the rug.  Almost two days worth of poop.  Clara was very excited and wanted to help clean it all up.

We are into Day Six now, and despite Clara preferring to poop while walking, reminding me of the famous film of Bigfoot walking into the woods (except with poop) she seems to be totally potty trained. (please.)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Conversations with Clara. Episode Four.

Clara is officially a two year old, and by that I mean she has decided that she is totally self sufficient and independent (thank you,very much), unless of course she has a boo-boo or needs help, which she asks for by saying: "Help you?  Help you?"

Here are some recent interactions:

Clara (doing anything she has asked help with and deciding suddenly and without warning that she no longer needs help)
"I DO it.  Don't touch me! Stop touching me."

Or this: 

After a protracted bartering session where we were discussing a long walk to visit friends.  She wanted to walk the whole way herself, I countered with walking part of the way and being in the stroller part of the way.  Clara ran to the front door - turned and looked at me - arms wrapped defiantly around her chest and said:

"I don't like it, Mama. I'm NOT kidding!"

Or this:

She only gets a binky at nap time or at night.  It used to be any old binky would do.  Now Clara has her favorites, and if I try to slip in a new one she says:

"Not that binky, old binky."

And she is no longer content to let me choose a binky but instead asks permission to look through the binky bowl.  

"Mama, let me pick one. I pick one."

Or the other day - she held out her hand to me, clearly expecting me to do something.  So I took her hand.  Clara nodded her head and said:

"Nice to meet you."

She is so sure of herself and most of the time Gerald and I manage to keep the smiles off our faces and take our independent little girl's suggestions...very seriously.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Clara in Class

Clara has been taking a Toddler Enrichment class at our local YWHA.  She absolutely loves it.  Today when we were there waiting to go up in the elevator, she started spinning in circles and yelling: "I'm so excited."  The class itself has tons of variety for the kids while trying to teach them to play together and do things like walk in a line when traveling together, or even stand on a red dot when it's your turn to have a solo dance.  Clara absorbs it all like a sponge and bravely tries thing without her dear old mom.

Practicing counting.

Dancing in a circle.

 Dancing on the Red Dot - Clara took this task very seriously.

Solo Dance.

Climbing through a tube.

Mat Class

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Turning 2...telling jokes and making friends.

Clara recently turned two and seems more and more like a little kid and less like a baby.

Clara mugging for the camera.
She goes to sleep pretty easily.  We put her in her crib and sing her a few songs (we take requests), and then we leave.  Just in the past week she has started getting in the last word.   As Gerald or I ease out the door of her room, Clara chirpily cries out: "Bye!" or "Ok, Bye!" Same goes when we put her down for a nap.  

Gerald texted me today's naptime exchange:

Gerald: Clara, are you ready for a nap?
Clara: (happily) Yeah!
Clara lies down.
Clara: Dolly?
Gerald gets Dolly and hands it to her.
Clara: (happily) Bye, Dad!

She also continues to work on her comedy.  Clara is perfecting the art of the "Knock Knock" joke but seems to be missing some essential beats.

Cooling off.
Clara: Knock. Knock.
Me: Who's There?
Clara: Dabo.
Me: Dabo who?
Clara (ponders for while) Moooooooo.
Me: Oh my, is there a cow at the door?
Clara (happily) Yeah! (laughs merrily at her own wit)

a few seconds later, the joke is repeated...with small, comedic changes.

Clara: Knock. Knock.
Me: Who's There?
Clara: Dabo.
Me: Dabo who?
Clara (ponders for while) Oooooo. Oooooo. Ooooooo.
Me: Oh my, is there a monkey at the door?
Clara (happily) Yeah! (laughs merrily at her own wit)

I also love the fact that as she gets older she seems to realize that she has friends her own age that she likes and can play with.  Though they still often play in the style of people playing separately that happen to be in the same room together, there are increasingly spans of time where they interact and seem to appreciate each other.

Clara, Charlie and Marek.
Like the other day when the twins were over to play.  Denise and I were sitting on the couch and the 3 kids disappeared into Clara's room to play.  After they had gone silent for a little too long, we heard the door to Clara's room slam shut.  I got up to see what was up and heard laughter through the door. I walked in to find Marek smiling with a mischievous gleam in his eyes (clearly he was the door closer).  Clara was standing up in the seat of her stroller trying to figure out how to get down, and Charlie was watching it all, as many toy cars as he could carry clutched to his chest. They got to share and enjoy an experience with each other, not their parents.  The seeds of independence are growing.

Clara and Billie.
Now they also seem to be caring about each other. Last week Billie ambled over to Clara, who was playing in a pile of dirt, and they both held out their arms to be hugged.   It was so sweet watching two little girls embrace, until they overbalanced and landed in a mini toddler pile-up in the dirt. Then it was funny. Or a few days ago when Billie and Clara were watching a rainstorm out the window, their faces pressed up against the glass, and Billie reached out her arm and put it around Clara's shoulders. That easy, almost unconscious expression of affection is just so wonderful.  And then one of them pushes the other for taking away a toy and you see that they really are going to be great friends.

All four little ones met up in the park to play yesterday.  After running around willy-nilly for awhile Clara, Charlie, Marek and Billie spontaneously met up and sat together.  Now, to be clear, they were all vying for some of Clara's snack but they sat there together for fifteen minutes enjoying each other and essentially ignoring the moms.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Clara Withdrawal.

So this week Gerald and I went on our long awaited, belated honeymoon.  Belated, you say?   Well yes...belated for a few reasons.  One - we  dated, got serious, got pregnant and had a baby daughter all before getting married this past year when Clara was almost a year and a half.  And then there was the whole thing about us not wanting to leave our little girl, our little girl who looks less like a baby and more like a little kid every day.  Gerald has broached the idea of a vacation a few times over the nearly two years since Clara's birth. 

His first idea - Let's Take a Vacation With Clara.  Every time I thought about it all I could see was Clara in hotel rooms that weren't baby proofed without all her "things" that make her happy - like toys, and cribs, and routines. Never mind the fact that friends of mine had taken their baby son to Puerto Rico and had managed not to let him toddle off into the jungle to live with the animals. The whole idea seemed less like a vacation and more like an invitation to visit the Emergency Room. 

Gerald's second idea - Let's Take A Vacation Without Clara. Also problematic because whenever I thought about Clara being "old enough" to handle an extended separation from her parents the "safe" age for this to happen seemed to be somewhere around ten, or twelve or thirteen. Never mind the fact that my other friends had just taken a week-long, baby-free vacation to Mexico and their daughter was fine during and after their return. I just couldn't conceptualize the reality where I wouldn't see Clara for days.  The world where I didn't have a baby and just ran around doing things like going on vacations seemed impossibly far away.

Good thing Gerald said: We're doing this.  And the planning began. We decided on a three night stay in Atlantic City and lo and behold Gerald's parents offered to take care of Clara for the entire time at their house.  I worried about Clara in a new place - would she be up all night?  Would she fall down the stairs?  Would she pull down fragile things from reachable places and smash them?  And most worrying, would she cry and cry and cry?

So what happened?  I explained to Clara that she was going on an adventure with her grandparents and then we got on the bus to Atlantic City and Clara got in her car seat for her drive to upstate New York.  And then Clara proceeded to not realize even one of my fears for her.  Instead she slept the first night from 6:30 pm to 8:30 in the morning, allowing her grandparents to luxuriously sleep in. (A privilege she does not extend to her own parents I might add)  She then spent the next few days discovering her passion for lo mein noodles, eating organic cereal and bananas, practicing climbing up and down stairs without cracking her skull, hanging out at other people's houses, playing in the yard, and playing with a basketful of schnauzer puppies.  Hard life.

Clara meets a schnauzer.

Clara having cereal.

Clara trying Lo Mein for the first time.
Thanks to Clara being bold and brave on her adventure, and thanks to her loving grandparents for tackling the daunting task of entertaining a 22 month old for four days, Gerald and I got to go on an adventure of our own.  We slept in every day until 8:30 which felt like waking up at one o'clock in the afternoon. We wandered aimlessly, lounged, ate good food, talked to each other and made each other laugh.  And so what if thirty percent of our conversation was about our amazing daughter?  

Midday nap.

               A slightly disturbing exhibit at the aquarium.                  Gerald and Skunk.
Jeannine and Red Fox.

Channeling our inner "Mad Men" with gin martinis.

We had a great time away, and a great time coming home to see her.  When we walked into our apartment, Clara broke away from coloring with crayons to give us each a hug, then went back to drawing as if to say: "See, mom and dad, you had nothing to worry about."  That night when we sat down to dinner Clara ate her spaghetti and salad and then politely asked for some lo mein.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Conversations with Clara. Episode Three.

Spring is here and not a moment too soon.  After a winter spent trapped in the house bdue to frigid temperatures and endless mounds of dirty snow that strollers could not traverse, Clara and I were extremely stir crazy.  

So now we get to spend hours in Fort Tryon Park exploring and of course, talking.

Clara is fascinated by the family of groundhogs that live in the park.  And they are very cute.  Whenever we go into the park she starts walking around on various lawns calling out: "Hog...hog, where are you?" When she spots one she shrieks in delight which has the added effect of making the wild animal she should not approach scamper into the bracken.

The other day we were walking to the playground. With no groundhogs in sight, Clara focused on the plentiful dogs being walked by their owners.

CLARA: (points out a dog) Dog. (pause) Woof Woof. (pause...chuckles heartily to herself, then turns to look at me.) It's funny.

Clearly, Clara was trying out her comedy chops.  Possibly because her joke didn't get the proper response from me, she tried it out again, verbatim, when the next dog came her way.  This time I laughed with her. 

It's funny.