Saturday, December 17, 2016

Christmas Rolls Around Again.

Today my  almost 16 month old apparently said: "It's Christmas time" while at home with her Dad and Clara.  She adds this to her recent repertoire of words that include: Blue, Yellow, Duck, Moo, and Hello.  With Clara in full on Santa-Christmas-Fever mode, I am hardly surprised that Freya is jumping on the Christmas-enthusiasm train.

Flashback to a couple of weeks ago, when Freya and Clara met Santa.  Their mutual enthusiasm for Santa  vanished when presented with the Real Deal - smiles were replaced instantly with steely-eyed glares that seemed to say: "We'd like to see you try something, Santa-man.  We can take you."  I don't know if the sisters discussed their plan of attack beforehand but they clearly were borrowing from last year's intimidation strategy - Don't let Santa see you smile.  

Clara isn't too big on posed photography.  Take this case in point - picture day at school came and went.  This is the photo I took of her before we went to said picture day.  

Clara - candid, happy - cute.
Just try to tell Clara to smile or do something specific in a photo.  Good luck.  Here are the photos I got back from picture day.  First - the portrait.  Same abstract background from my childhood.  I would like to know who matted down Clara's hair before hand - maybe Clara?  Who knows.  And that smile - what a lovely smile - somewhere between - "You told me to smile - I'm smiling." and "I'm just pretending to like you."

And for the grand finale, Clara's class photo.  Top row, center - just where her parents were always placed as the tallest kids in the class.  It's nice to see some things never change. I present to you, Clara, not looking at the photographer with her eyes closed. My one consolation is at least she's not the only one.  4 year-olds, man.

So with that, kick back, relax, and enjoy this holiday season. I know my kids are.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Halloween and November

The Fall has been a bumpy ride - beautiful weather, autumn trees, starting school, Halloween, taking ballet (Clara), talking up a storm (Freya), and an election with far reaching effects for everyone I know...but through it all there are these two little girls, bouncing along and taking it all in.

Halloween in our house is always a big deal.  It was preceded by many days of Clara dithering over costume choice.  She was pretty set on being a princess (with the occasional "ghost" or "ghost witch" thrown in) but which princess would she be and who would we all play as her supporting cast?  And make no mistake, Gerald and I were background players and Freya was  promoted to sidekick.

After much discussion Clara finally decided she would be Snow White.  Freya would be the faithful Dopey, Mom would get to be the Poison Apple, and Dad would be the Magic Mirror.  Halloween finally arrived, and it was an action packed day.  I attended a Halloween Party in Clara's Pre-K class.  There is nothing more fun than a bunch of 4 year olds clamoring to tell you about their costumes.  (It was heavy on the superheroes and princesses)

Snow White.

Snow White and the Poison Apple.

Magic Mirror and Dopey.

Then it was home for the Halloween party I put together for the kids in our building.  There were spooky decorations and a Monster Corn Hole game that I made.  You had to "feed the monster" to get a prize.  

Feed the monster.
Freya tries her hand at the Monster game.

The only shot of all four of us.
After the party,  it was time to trick or treat - Freya's second time but her first where she could knock on doors. As each door opened, Freya happily walked into each person's apartment, much to their chagrin.  Who needs a bowl of candy when you can go check out all those things on the coffee table?

Freya on her way out from checking out an apartment.

Freya made it through one building before Gerald whisked her off to bed.  I kept going with Clara and her friend Sara.  It was really fun and Clara is already talking about next year's costumes.

Shortly after we were hit with Election Day.  Clara was excited to be voting, as she always is, but she was also excited about "voting for  a girl" and talked a lot about Hillary Clinton.  We went to vote as a family and Clara went with each of us to fill out our ballots. Clara insisted on helping me to bubble in my vote.  It all felt so hopeful and exciting.

Going in to vote.

Post-voting lunch.

When the news came down the next day I tried to explain what happened to Clara without over burdening her with my disappointment.  She worked it over in her mind and said: "Well, can't both of them share the job?  It's good to share."

Wiser words were never spoken.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Conversations with Clara. Episode 12.

Clara's Self Portrait.

Last night Freya was asleep in her crib.  I did Clara's normal bedtime routine - some conversation and some songs.  I kissed and hugged her goodnight and a minute later over the monitor I heard: Mom...Mom?

I walk back into the kids' bedroom.

Clara: Mom. I have to ask you something.  Are the police ever going to come get me and put me in jail?

Me: Uhm. No, Clara.

Clara: What if I do something bad?

Me: Clara, little kids don't go to jail.  It's a grown up thing.

Clara: O.K. Mom,  good night.

I leave.  A couple minutes later, over the monitor: Mom...Mom? I walk back in.

Me: What is it Clara?

Clara: Are you and Dad ever going to go to jail?

Me:  No, Clara - I promise you we will never go to jail.

Clara: And you were just kidding before about calling the police?

(Clara at this point is referring to earlier in the evening when she had strawberry ice cream all over her face and I was jokingly saying: "Clara - go wipe off your face before I call the Strawberry Hobo Beard Police on you.")

Me: Clara, do you seriously think there is a Strawberry Hobo Beard police that might come get you?

Clara: (smiling) Noo.

Me: Clara - you don't need to worry.  None of us are going to jail.  

Clara: Except tigers.  Tigers go to jail because they scare people.

Me: Good night Clara.

Enjoying one of the last hot days before Fall closes in.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sliding out of Summer and Galloping into Fall

It's been a crazy, fun, exhausting, and very hot summer. Clara loved summer camp and when she wasn't there we were cooling off in playground sprinklers with friends.  We are loving the cooler Fall weather.

Freya is officially a one year-old.    She has a confident walk that is quickly turning into a lurching sort of run that terrifies me on a regular basis.  She has a method to her madness though - this rollicking gait looks unsteady but she rarely falls down.  

Freya has a few words in her repertoire now:

Mama:  though she stubbornly refuses use it unless she's calling for me in the middle of the night.
Dada or Dadee: Much to Gerald's delight, she says this often and with gusto.
What's That?: Questions and point with a high pitched baby zeal.
Dog. Nice dog.: Surprised us too.
No no.: Freya has an interest in wires and plugs, which Clara never did. She repeats our: "No no" while she decides whether or not to let go of the cable box.
Go: This is recent.  She's trying it out.

And if you're willing to suspend all disbelief, her aunt and uncle insist she said: "Let me see that" while playing with her cousin Fred.  Let me see that, Freya.

In Clara news - Clara started Pre-K!  Big Girl School!!!   
Before we launched into the school year we took a little break at the New York State Fair.  Clara was the official "Purple Pig" Cheerleader for the pig races, and she and I took ride on a camel of all things.  When Gerald and I saw that Clara actually wanted to go through with this camel ride, I said to Gerald hopefully: "Want to ride with her?" "No thanks." was his quick response. (Thanks a lot, Gerald) One word of advice - when riding double on a one-humped camel, don't be the one who has to sit on the hump.  Clara got the good seat.

The purple cheerleader - very intent on the races.
Clyde the camel takes us for a spin.
And then it was back to the city, and back to school. Clara was a little non-plussed with the dress code - "Why is it SOOOO plain!?," so we spice up her outfits with crazy socks and hair accessories. The few days leading up to the first day Clara expressed some anxiety - new friends, a new place...but when the big day arrived she jumped right in. Every day she says she loves it and wants to go back tomorrow.  It's been a little like pulling teeth getting Clara to talk about what she's doing in school but this past Friday on the way home I asked her what she had learned in school.  She says: "I learned about science and technology.  Computer technology, medical technology, and tool technology."  Well...then. officially in school!!!
This cool cat...

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Freya Walks!!!

Two days after she turned 11 months, Freya decided it was time to start walking.  I was sitting on Clara's bed, placing an Amazon order on the ipad for some baby-related item I can no longer recall.  Freya was playing with some toys, when out of the corner of my eye I saw her simply start walking over to me.  6 or so wobbly steps while carrying a toy in each hand, (an empty play-doh can and a toy phone) and she arrived at her destination, my knee, with a giant, 4-toothed grin on her face.  Needless to state, it took me a moment to formulate an appropriate response.  I was gob-smacked and Freya was delighted with herself.

Freya has been confounding our expectations since she was born.  Clara very happily sat in one spot until she was 10 and a half months old, and then started crawling.  Freya has been crawling since she was seven months old.  I guess we shouldn't be surprised that's she's up and walking around. (Clara waited until the sensible age of one year and one week old to try out this whole "walking" thing.)

Clara is absolutely delighted with this turn of events and is constantly trying to get Freya to walk over to her.  Freya is quite confident walking around, hands held up in the air like she's surrendering to the police wherever she goes.  It's all ridiculous and amazing, and it totally doesn't help that Freya is tall enough to run her fingers along high surfaces - like the dining table and our console table - raking down baby no-no's onto her head every time one of us looks away for an instant.

Freya walking around town. 
Freya is also starting to talk - she says "Mama", Dada" or more often "Dadeee", and spends most of her day pointing at things and saying "What's Dat?" The way Freya follows Clara around we're positive the next word in her repertoire is going to be "Clara" or maybe "Sister." Clara likes to call her sister "Freya Beya Boo." We'll see what Freya can come up with.  

The other day Clara came home from camp and was taking a break on her bed with some Pirate's Booty cheese puffs.  Freya crawled into their room to play on the floor.  I heard Clara talking to Freya and then saying 'Here, Freya." Clara called out to me: "Mom, I'm sharing some puffs with Freya!" A few minutes later I could hear them playing together as I walked around tidying up.  Clara's conversation punctuated by Freya's shrieks of laughter was music to my ears.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Growing Up, Moving Up, Standing Up.

Clara has had an action packed June. For months Clara has been talking about being a Flower Girl in her Aunt Margaret's wedding, and finally the day arrived.  Clara an I had many discussions about what an important job she had at her aunt's wedding.  We discussed dresses and shoes and when Clara decided she wanted to wear a red dress I told her: Margaret's the boss of this wedding so what she says goes. Clara got to choose between two pink dresses and she (predictably) chose the one with more sparkles.  Knowing what a flower girl does in the abstract is a lot different then the reality.  At the wedding rehearsal Clara was frozen by the enormity of her task.  She refused to walk by herself and it was quickly decided that Gerald would walk with her during the ceremony.

Gerald giving worried Clara a hug at the wedding rehearsal..
The next day Clara seemed thrilled by everything.  We visited the bride and the bridesmaids while they were getting ready.  I did not have high hopes that Clara would consent to having her hair and makeup done but after she watched the other women getting prettied up she decided that they all looked like Disney princesses and she wanted to look like one too.  Bridesmaid Jess looked like Aurora to her and her Aunt Margaret was Cinderella. Clara wanted in on that action. While we all looked on Clara got her hair done and then her makeup.  The makeup artist showed Clara a palette of lipsticks and asked her to choose one.  Clara authoritatively chose the most crimson shade of red she could find.   No pastel pink for this little girl.  All prettied up, Clara was ready to go.

Clara and the crimson lipstick.
Showing us her make up.
The bridal party looks on.
At the wedding, Clara went off with her Dad to get ready for "the show," as she called it.  Freya and I waited with the wedding guests for it all to start.  You would never know that less then 24 hours earlier Clara had been scared and shy.  She was the most professional and beautiful flower girl her totally unbiased mother had ever seen.

Doing her "flower girl" thing like a pro.
Just a few weeks later, Clara had her Moving Up ceremony at school.  Back in the day, we only had graduations when we left I can vividly recall my 8th grade graduation, my high school graduation, and my college graduation.  These days, you start graduating at 3 years old and you call it "Moving Up."  I am not ashamed to admit I teared up a little as Clara's class took the stage to sing two songs.  Clara took center stage and sang her heart out. No trace of butterflies for this little girl.  She was totally into it.
Waving to her parents as she takes the stage, 
Clapping choreography.
Hugging choreography.
After the songs each child was called onto the stage  one by one to walk over a small mountain and "move up" to next year.  Needless to state, Clara nailed it.

Moving up.
In the Fall Clara starts at a new school in Pre-Kindergarten.  The events of June have had a lasting impact on Clara.  It's incredible to watch this little person take on every new challenge life throws her way.  

In other news, Freya is ten months old and almost walking, much to her parents dismay (I mean delight!)  She has 2 little teeth and her favorite activities are cruising all over the apartment, crawling as fast as lightning and saying:  "DaDAdadadadaDa."  She would also like to do whatever Clara is doing at any given moment and Clara usually obliges.

At the playground.
Taking a breather after chasing this 18 month old all over the library.
Watching the wedding rehearsal.
Thinking about walking over to the coffee table.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

On Her Feet.

As if it isn't enough that Freya has been crawling since she was 7 months old, she has the sheer audacity to start pulling up at nine months, and if THAT wasn't enough, a few days later she's cruising along the furniture. It's wonderful and heart-stopping at the same time.  You would think having Clara would have prepared me for this but nooooooo. Clara waited until she was a sensible 10 and a half months to start crawling, pulling up, and cruising.  Just who does little miss Freya think she is?  

Oh right...she's a little sister.  And her mission in life is to get over to Clara and see what she's doing. This is all Clara's fault for being so interesting,and funny. Clara's main goal in life seems to be making Freya cackle with laughter...and trying to teach her things with varying degrees of success. Though a few days ago Clara actually did teach Freya to clap while I was in the kitchen putting away dishes.  From the living room I hear Clara telling Freya how to clap and then shortly after Clara's excited yells of: "She's doing it! She's clapping!"  I rushed in, and indeed - Freya was clapping, eyes glued to Clara looking for her approval.
Freya, just standing around.
The two girls share a room now and maneuvering through the minefield called "bedtime" with an almost 4 year old and a 9 month old can be perilous.  But it can also be wonderful.  A few nights ago after an attempt to get Freya to sleep first went pear-shaped, I asked Clara if we could read books in her bed with Freya, and Clara happily agreed.  The two girls lay down side by side next to each other on the pillows.  I started to read a book to them and one silly look from Clara and Freya dissolved into laughter - which made Clara laugh - which made Freya laugh, and so on and so on.  It was a laugh riot at bedtime and I got a flash of what great friends these two are going to be. 
I guess Gerald and I have to accept the fact that Freya is in a big hurry to grow up...or at least in a big hurry to chase her sister all over the place.  We're looking forward to the next milestone, the first word, which at this rate might happen sometime next week.  Clara is insistent that Freya's first word will be: "Clara." I wouldn't be at all surprised.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Superhero Book. By Clara

Clara's preschool class has recently been working on making their own books.  The kids are crazy about it and I have been "gifted" with a number of scribbled books by Clara.  This week, Clara brought home a new book, this time with a twist.  Clara got to describe what was happening and her teacher dutifully took notation. I present to you:  Clara's first "book."  

The Superhero Book
by Clara

p. 1: This is our race.
p.2 Then we went to the pool.
p.3: Then we went to outer space.
p.4:Then I just writed everything.
p.5: Then we went to the ocean again.
p;6: Then we went to the pool again.
p.7: We just went home again.
p.8: Then we did everything.

The End.

Now wise reader, you might be thinking to yourself: I've been duped!  This isn't a book about superheroes at all!  But just take a moment to read between the lines...

This is our race.
This is a race that is happening SO fast that all we can see are blurry, purple scribbles.  I don't know about you, but that clearly puts this in superhero territory.

Then we went to the pool. Then we went to outer space.
When was the last time you went to the pool AND then went to outer space in the same day?  Also, last time I checked us mere humans have to use a spaceship to get to outer space - all this superhero needs is a purple scribble-oval.  BAM!  Superhero!

Then I just writed everything. Then we went to the ocean again.
Have you ever tried to write EVERYTHING?  If I did that it would take me the rest of my life and I STILL wouldn't be done.  This little superhero had time to write everything and go to the ocean AGAIN which infers that she had  time for ocean swimming TWICE, while writing everything. 

I also find it interesting that writing everything and ocean adventures look suspiciously like purple M's. Clearly only superheroes can see the nuance.

Then we went to the pool again. We just went home again.
Superheroes can sure pack a lot into their day.  I am glad to know that this little superhero equally enjoys the ocean and the pool multiple times over the course of the day. After all that racing,  swimming, writing, and outer space adventuring it's time to go home.

Then we did everything.

No rest for the weary superhero.  Arriving home after a long day, the superhero is able to get EVERYTHING done. Even those purple scribbles look exhausted.

The End. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Conversations with Clara. Episode 11.

Today Clara, Freya and I got on the Bx7 New York City bus in order to get to her school on time. We sat next to each other.

Clara: Can I pull the yellow string?

Me: Yes, when it's our stop you can be the boss of pulling the yellow string.

Clara: I'm the boss?

Me: Of the yellow string.

Clara: No, I'm the boss of you. I'm the boss of Freya. I'm the boss of the WORLD! Because I'm getting boobs. And when you have boobs you're the BOSS! SEE?!
(Clara pulls down her dress and shows off her nipple)

Clara: MOM! Why are you laughing? Look at my boob!

Thankfully  all the women around me on the bus were also laughing. Thanks for keeping me on my toes, Clara.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Flat Clara...Flat Mommy.

First a disclaimer.  I had and still have no idea what Flat Stanley was or is.  A quick internet search informs me it's a child's book about a kid named Stanley Lambchop who is squashed as flat as a pancake when a bulletin board falls on him. He remains flat and goes on to be mailed in envelopes in order to visit his friends (for the insanely cheap price of a postage stamp) as well as being able to slide under doors.

I first heard about Flat Stanley when Clara's nursery school class voted to learn more about the post office when asked about which neighborhood building they would like to learn more about.  Losers included: The Library, The Police Station, and School.  Clara quickly became obsessed with mail.  She would draw pictures and clamor for envelopes and stamps,  and when she couldn't wait to get it in the mailbox, she would put it directly into our apartment mailbox for me to find upon my return, or sometimes just put it on the dining room table.

Her first attempt...addressed to Mom.
The contents of her letter.
A more sophisticated attempt.
 Clearly, sophisticated mail requires a hand drawn stamp in EACH corner.
Post Office/Flat Stanley fever escalated and the kids made their own "Flat" versions of themselves.  The teachers asked us to provide addresses of friends who lived far away for our children to send their "Flat" people to.  Our friends would then send photos of the "Flat" people visiting landmarks back to the classroom for the kids to discuss and learn about.

I tapped two of my friends for the challenge.  My friend Kim lives on Bainbridge Island in Washington State.  I asked Kim's daughter Lucy to show Flat Clara a good time and she did.  Apparently Flat Clara really likes castles, dragons and unicorns.  (Interestingly, Real Clara does as well.) Bainbridge Island is fantastically magical!
Flat Clara meets a unicorn and wears a necklace.
Flat Clara meets a dragon at the castle.
I then tapped my friend Ailsa who lives in London to also participate in the Flat Stanley project.  She enthusiastically agreed, and until I received the photos from the adventure, I assumed that Clara had made another Flat Clara to go overseas.  Generously, Clara decided that Flat Mommy deserved a trip to London.  Apparently you need a hat whilst in London (it does rain there a lot, bird) but not any pants - clearly just a shirt will suffice. And you mustn't appear too impressed by the wonders of London - hence Flat Mommy's skeptical expression.   That being said, I am absurdly touched that Clara sent a Flat Mommy out into the world. 

Flat Mommy and a famous Double Decker Bus in Piccadilly Circus.
Flat Mommy riding in  a famous London black cab.
Flat Mommy having tea.

Thanks to Kim, Lucy and Ailsa for hosting Flat Clara and Flat Mommy.