Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Lists

It's no secret that I have pretty much abandoned this blog completely.  After years of trying to find a new way to post more conveniently, after much guilt, I am finally at peace with it.  At the same time, there's something nice about the forum, ad the place for record-keeping.

And what better record to shine light on our lives than a list of wants?

And so, for Christmas 2013, you have requested the following.

- Our Generation collection horse (the big one--you have the small one)
- Walking Talking Pinkie Pie
- Sofia the First doll
- Zinkies cake set
- Black Turtleneck and socks
- China cats
- Princesses with crowns
- My Little Pony Castle
- FurReal walking cat
- gloves

- Zinkies coral reef
- Black socks (because you like to wear all black and your white socks are cramping your style)
- China animals
- Schleich farm animals
- Gloves
- Ice skates
- Swim lessons
- A flower pot for planting seeds
- Bike helmet
- Scotch tape
(you go through a LOT of tape.)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A letter from your mother well past the occasion of your 5th birthday

Dear Eleri,
This letter is long overdue.

The idea with these letters, of course, is to offer a snapshot of who you are as you pass the annual milestone, as you complete another journey around the sun.  But as you get bigger, become more you, there is so much I have to say that it is challenging to write two birthday letters in one week, especially when that week involves two (or more) birthday parties.  Last year, Clio's was late.  I suppose that makes it your turn.

The once nice thing about the lateness of this letter is that I have thought about it nearly daily, which means that I have had my eyes and ears open to YOU daily.  The less convenient thing is that you are not the same kid today as you were on July 9 of this year.  You are taller and slimmer and have shed the last of the "babyness" that children carry up to kindergarten.  You are a kindergartner!  You went to day camp for the first time, you know how to play Hot Cross Buns on the piano (or keyboard, as you are bound to correct), you started dance class, you got (much needed!) glasses.

But here is how I was going to start this letter back in July, if I had written it down.

Dear Eleri,
You are a hard nut to crack.
On our vacation in South Dakota, our friend Justin said "when Eleri looks at me, it is like she is thinking 27 questions, some of them in languages that have not yet been invented."  He said this and I thought: exactly.

You do ask a lot of questions, my love.  You want to know everything.

At your 5 year check up, they tested your eyes.  They sent us to the eye Dr.--do not pass go, do not collect $100--and we discovered that you are extremely far sighted.  You are a +8!  some glasses-wearing friends tell me that this means you have been living in an impressionistic painting.  After we got your prescription we went immediately to pick out your glasses, and you were very definite about the process, but you wanted to try them ALL on.  Then Daddy and I went to a wedding and you went to Grandma and Grandpa's and you came back too late to make it to the store to pick up the new glasses and it kept getting delayed and I was so worried.  How is she navigating the world when she can't see?  I thought.  Of course, you had been doing just fine all along, but all of a sudden, knowing that the world was different through your eyes, I worried.

When we finally did go to Owl Optical to pick up your glasses, you were VERY excited.  Julie put them on you and you turned around and ran to the door.  It was so unexpected!  I don't know what that was about really--were you trying to see outside?  To look at the sky?  Did you think you were done?  That it was time to go home?--but then you came back to me, and you put your hands on my cheeks and looked straight in to me in that way that you can, and you said, "Mama!  Mama, your face isn't blurry."  And I nearly burst in to tears right there.  You rarely call me Mama.  And just to think...

This is part of your being-5 story, and I think how marvelous it must be, in a way, to see the world clearly for the first time when you already know so much about it.  I wish I could understand that change, and when we first got your glasses I looked through them, thinking that what I saw through your glasses was the same as what you saw without them; but of course this is not true.  I wish I could know the world you see.  Maybe when you are older you'll be able to tell me.

But this is not all of your being-5 story.  You were shy.  You used to take a long time to warm up, and I wonder if that has actually changed now, or if I just think it has.  And if it HAS changed, I wonder if it is because you are 5 now, older, or if it is because you can see clearly around you the faces of people who want to know you, to be your friend.

At the back to school Ice Cream Social, you wrote on your "goal fish":  Make a new friend.  And then you set this wish free in the river of the library bulletin board.  I hope you will make new friends.  You are introverted.  Ms. Christine stopped doing show and tell in your classroom, but in the spring she would make special exceptions for you.  If you wanted to put yourself out there in front of the class, her answer was yes.  Even when you wanted to "show" a toy--against the show and tell rules.  You are still close with Adele, but we don't hear about her as much anymore.  I think she is a lot of work for you.  Your teachers say they are glad of the friendship for her sake, and their sake, that you help them a lot.  But that they hope you will make other friends,  for your sake.

You are so capable.  So capable, but not always willing.  You have little jobs now, and though you are an excellent folder of napkins, you often resist putting them out at mealtime.  You are motivated by the big pay off.  I can't get you to sit and read Step Into Reading books, but this morning in the car you were sounding out Secrets of Droon.  You like fine, detail work.  Finger knitting, "real" knitting," embroidery, bead work.  In South Dakota, we saw scientists carefully removing silt from fossils.  This very close, slow, fastidious work, and I thought, that's something you might do.  You have tremendous patience (until you don't) and focus (it can still be very difficult to get your attention when you are engrossed), but you also can get very frustrated.  You still deal with that frustration physically sometimes, and I'm no longer the only one who bears the brunt of it.  You hit your sister, too.  Lately, you stomp your foot a lot, hard.  Daddy has been suggesting karate, and i think you might be ready.

You want to take the harp, too.  Last winter I asked if you wanted music lessons (I am always asking this.)  "Yes, please," you said. "I think I'll play the harp."  The harp!  Naturally I thought it was passing fancy, but last week you asked again.  Clio's piano teacher is looking for a teacher for you, but in the meantime you play a lot of air piano in the back seat, and Clio has proved to be quite a good teacher.

What else can I tell you?

You are still quite funny.  You have always had good comic timing, and it seems to be something you won't outgrow.  You still love sweets, and now you have learned that it's funny if you just say "SUGAR!!!" when someone asks what kind of dessert you want.  You love leopard print all of a sudden, and chose matching corduroys, shirt, and dress, and looked for shoes, too; you wear it all with a leopard coat and hat and it is quite a sight.  You continue to be stubborn and resistant.  There were many tears this summer when daddy taught you to ride a bike.  But here's the thing: you learned to ride a bike!  You are still willing to snuggle with me (though not always), still JUST small enough to curl in my lap with my chin on your head.  Tonight, I picked you up upside down in your towel after your bath, and cradled you up, and after you stopped laughing, you said, "I'm a baby!"

You are not a baby anymore kiddo, but you will always be MY baby, and boy, do I love you.

Eleri noodle, we love you oodles and oodles and oodles.


Friday, July 5, 2013

A Letter From Your Mother on the Occasion of Your Seventh Birthday

Dear Clio,

You have reached the Age of Reason.  Uncle Jim (or, as you used to call him, "Him," as in, "Him do it") has been telling me about this since you were born.  Seven is the magical age when children can finally follow logic.  Where they become, literally, reasonable.  In many ways, I have seen this coming for a long while now.  If something is not palatable to you, we can generally just explain it and you will come around.  You love being "in on it," especially when we plan an offensive to get your sister to do something--your sister who is the Child Who Can Not Be Made To Do Anything She Does Not Wish To Do.  Recently your dad decided to stagger bedtime, putting Eleri to bed first.  He called this "The Experiment," and every night you would whisper to us, or sometimes wonder aloud, if we were going to "do the experiment."  You love to be the big kid.  We often find you in the basement playing School.  You, of course, are the teacher, with Eleri and any number of stuffed animals as your pupils.  Yesterday at the 4th of July celebration my cousin Jenny referred to you as a "mother."  You do like to take care of your sister and of other, smaller children.  But then you remind us that you are small, too.  Today at your party you pointed out that you were "the youngest 7 year old there."

Sometimes, of course, you remain unreasonable.  The times when you are beyond reason, I don't always know what to do.  At Eleri's end-of-year celebration in her classroom, you wanted a snack.  It was crowded and I was carrying a big bag and the snack table was right there and at home you can make your own breakfast without even waking us up, you insist on learning to make pancakes and egg salad sandwiches, but you just stood there in that classroom looking at the table and insisting you could not do it.  There was a 2 year old helping himself to pretzels--it was that simple--but you would not budge.  You are capable--while this is obvious, I also can't overstate it, because you are so capable--and yet, for some reason you couldn't do it.

You like to be prepared.  I have learned this, sometimes, the hard way.  Lately you are very happy to try new things, but you need to know what's coming.  the more we can tell you about where we're going or what we're doing, the more comfortable you are.  Just this week alone you went rollerskating and tried your hand at archery.  You're finally biking on your own, and you would like to have free reign of the neighborhood.  One night we went opposite ways around the block, though (I was on foot, you and Eleri on bikes), and when I wasn't where you thought I would be, you got awfully worried.  See?  You were not prepared for that.

You were not prepared for moving up to Level 3 in swimming.  You passed up to it last summer, but we did not enroll you until this spring, and you barely swam in between.  While you had once been excited by Level 3, time passing meant you forgot.  You forgot the expectation but also the excitement, I think.  And I didn't think about what might have happened in the meantime...So you were surprised when we showed up and you had to get in the big pool.  That it was cold.  That learning strokes was harder work.  And you know what?  You just never recovered.  When I got your report card at the end of the session you got all "O"s.  I had to ask what it meant--I was used to check marks (mastered) and slashes (progress).  You know what it meant?  That you didn't even try it.  The weird thing is, there were lots of skills on that list that I know you can do--that I had seen you do.  You love to swim.  But you weren't prepared and you decided to sit it out for 45 minutes each session, for six whole weeks.  Something similar happened with your science fair project.  We forgot to remind you that you were going home with your partner one day after school to work on it and I found you in the office, sobbing, inconsolable.  and that was it: no science fair.

I wish I didn't get worried about this, but I do.  Like at your dance recital.  Not your first--you had one in Boulder when you were three--but I think it was the first that you thought about, that you anticipated, rather than just did.  When the costumes arrived earlier in the year, you wouldn't try it on like the other girls.  I finally talked you into trying it on in the bathroom, but I was afraid when the time came to wear it--to perform in it--you would balk.  I told people when the recital was, I bought tickets, but I also told them you may or may not perform.  This is what's weird about being a parent: is that me protecting you?  Or is that me not trusting in you?  I do want you to be safe, happy, comfortable.  But of course I also want you to push yourself, learn, and take some little risks.  (When you finally read these you will likely be a teenager and I may get that tossed back at me.  But what I mean is:  as people, we need to continually expand your horizons.  But I would hope--no, I expect--that you will be reasonably safe about it.)  I don't think I really believed you would not participate in the recital, but it's true that I just wasn't sure.  And I don't know if I would have made you.  I didn't volunteer to be backstage and this is partly why: while I don't think I am smothering by nature, you do tend to try new things more easily if I am not there.  I think it might just be easier to swallow your fear when you don't see an out.  And I understand that I am an out.

But you know what?  We walked in to dress rehearsal and you took it all in and you asked a lot of questions and then you went up there and you were wonderful.  The night of the recital, you approached the make-up wearing, something you had been adamantly against, as some kind of anthropological experiment.  I took you backstage and you dashed off with your friends.  And from the audience, I was so nervous when your class came on and then so very proud of you.  Because you participated, yes.  But really it was more than that.  It was because you led.  There were a number of parts where someone had to start off a sequence, or literally lead the other dancers across the stage, and your teacher gave you many of these parts.  Because she knew you were a leader.  A teacher. A "mother."  She knew you could do it.

Of course, I did to.  I do too.  But sometimes, as your mom, I get really scared that one of us--you or me, kid--will hold you back because we are afraid to push you forward.

Let's not let that happen, okay?

Now, this would be a good place to end this letter from a structural perspective.  But I'm not going to, because too many wonderful things have been left out, and since I have not been logging here, there's a lot I want you to be able to look back and know.  Like this:

It's nothing new that you love to read, but recently you've taken it to another level.  You have been watching My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic, and all the ponies get a "cutiemark" when they figure out their talent.  (For the record, this is very silly because of course we have multiple talents.)  But I bring this up because you say your "talent" is reading.  Your cutiemark would be a book.  I would accept this, because you are also an author.  You make books like trees make air.  I can't seem to ring myself to get rid of anything in complete book form, so expect to inherit a tremendous collection of your own work someday.  One of your "summer goals" that you wrote before the end of the school year was to read 7 books a week.  And I mean real books, like the Little House on the Prairie Series, or E.B. White's Stuart Little.  (though you also make premature judgments on books, like Charlotte's Web which you insist you will not like.)  You are also in a book club with some friends from school.  It's pretty darn cute.

You want to be funny.  I can't say you're a natural comedian, but you love to learn and make jokes.  Sometimes we don't get them, but that's okay.  It's fun to watch you build this skill.

You are a fast runner.  You are incredibly graceful when you run, like a gazelle.

You are strong-willed.  You will work so hard at something--like rollerskating--in a way that seems more determined than joyful.  But when you are done, you declare it AWESOME.

You are so creative, and a great maker of things.  Today you tied a cup to the balloons from your birthday to make a hot air balloon for your new "zinkies."  You used tape to tether it to the counter, and experimented with how much weight would hold the contraptions at floating height.

You go through a LOT of tape.

You leave the scissors on the floors all the time.  It makes me crazy.

You are also constantly scavenging cardboard boxes from Nonny to make things.  You created some kind of flying machine the other day with a complicated fuel system made up of fake gems, tiny buttons, and platic beads.  You hauled the whole thing back to Nonny's to do a "demonstration."  When we came home, you said "mom, let's video the demonstration, then we can get rid of this thing!"

Yet the whole taking-your-picture-thing is still mixed, at best.

We planned your birthday party together.  It's fun to see your tastes and ideas develop, and you do get more specific all the time.  You wanted a fruit platter for your party today, but not just any fruit platter: blueberries, strawberries (picked by you, Daddy, and Eleri), red grapes, cherries, and granny smith apples.  No bananas, which is funny because lately you insist bananas are your favorite food and tell me you would like to eat 10 a day.

You change your mind a lot.  I mean, a lot.  And you insist that you have not.  For example, tonight I was trying to hurry you along at bed time and put toothpaste on your toothrush.  But you insisted that you HATE electric toothbrushes, despite being on round 2 or 3 of electric toothbrushes that you absolutely had to have. The fact that you change your mind a lot doesn't bother me--I mean, you are figuring out what you like.  ut the fact that you pretend that you always hated electric toothbrushes?  Pretty infuriating.

I just lost the thread of this going upstairs to intervene in sleep shenanigans.  It's late and it has been a big week and Eleri should have been passed out cold but instead she is keeping you up.  When I came up to get you settled again, you insisted on one thing: you want your own room.

This is one place where you are NOT changing your mind.  So we'll see how that plays out.

So.  It seems that, structurally, I had the big finish in the middle of this little essay to you.  And I suppose I could go back and edit it to put this list at the top and the end at the end.  But I like that these letters to you are unedited.  That they come out the way they come out.  I learn a little something with each one.

Maybe you and I are not in some grand finish place, anyway.  I love our companionable relationship these days.  I'll take it, sweetie pie.

So happy birthday to you.  I love you beyond reason.  And I'm glad that turning seven, entering the age of reason, makes that concept that much more meaningful.

Happy birthday Clio.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What We're Making: Potions


Perhaps I should not share their secrets.  No eye of newt here, but some green food coloring, cornstarch, bleeding hearts, and plastic beads make for one nasty concoction.

watch out!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

What We're Making: The Daily News

We don't get a paper-paper around here these days, so I'm not sure what Clio's inspiration was.

She created a daily newspaper using her silly sentences board, then had me make copies.

She tied them up and put them in a "newsbag" and delivered them to me, Dave, and my parents when we met them for lunch.  She insisted they each get their own.

One way or another, this kid is shaping up to be a writer.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What We're Making: Pirate Ship

These girls see no end to the possibilities in a cardboard box, and can often be heard begging for them at my parents' house.

I love that this is a ship with a proper mast and a sail made from upholstery batting (scavengers!), and that the ropes are made from gingham ribbon, but I ESPECIALLY love Clio's take on a skull and cross bones flag.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The valentine that wasn't

If you know us well, it should be no surprise that instead of a Christmas card we do a Valentine's card.  Yes, we like that valentines are sweet, and different, and that a card in February stands out from the December pack.

But let's be honest: we also just kinda can't get it together to do one more thing at the end of the year.  I do an entire BOOK, after all.

This year, we didn't even get it together to do a card in February.  While I am a little sad that we did not reach out to friends and family with a little token, and while I am sad that we will have a hole in the chronicles of annual family cards, it is also the kind of thing that once the time is past, you kind of just let go.

Dave and the girls did have this cute idea for a card.  the execution lacked a little and the timing?  Well, I believe they took these pictures on February 14th.

Too little, too late.

But cute, no?  (In case it is not totally clear, they are making a heart with their negative space.  Obvs.)

Some of our past cards are posted on the blog, like 2011 and, well.  Just 2011!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What we're making

So, some time back, I had this idea of what to do with this here blog.  Obviously, I haven't been posting.  It's partly a time thing, and an energy thing, and an I-post-almost-daily-on-another-blog thing.  But it is also a question of what this blog is for, something I have struggled with since moving closer to family.  For the past two years, it has functioned much less as a report on our whereabouts and doings, because, well, the people most interested in those things probably already knew where we were and what we did.  I think there is also an aspect of age/life stage to it.  Dave's mom kept notes as he grew: many the first month, lots the first year, and slowly diminishing until he was about six, and then the baby book is done.  Perhaps this has to do with reaching school age?  They are with us less/ need us differently?  Or perhaps there is less that we feel comfortable taking public as they grow?

At the same time, the piles of paper in this house are majorly out of control.  And these kids make some majorly awesome projects.  Many of them totally independent of any grown up.  And so the idea was born to photograph them and record them here, with the dual purpose of getting them out of the house and creating a permanent record.

I rounded up a bunch of recent work and took pictures.  Clio even modeled some of the projects.  (I know.)  And got busy.  And almost every day I think to myself, I should put that popsicle stick house/ wax sculpture/ nailed sign/ watercolor-paper 3D tent on the blog.

Yesterday Clio made a drawing out of a face using pencil shavings for the eyes.  This kind of ingenious re-use is just so her, and so I finally finally snapped a picture, and am posting it here.

The battery on my phone is so low the camera couldn't use flash.  But this is good: let me manage expectations.  These are not going to be perfectly lit glamour shots that belong on pinterest.  Just a record of what we're making, the great ideas these girls have, more than the execution (though that has its spectacular moments, too).  So now you know the deal.  Some of the stuff I share here might be worth trying at home, but most of it you might just marvel at and move on.

Good?  Good.