Technically, this was Claire’s second Halloween, but it was sort of her first “real” one. Last year she was not really aware what was happening, but this year she is starting to grasp it.

Claire’s first clue was the Emory Halloween party for kids last Friday evening. This was her first chance to show off her giraffe costume, and she got to meet and greet with her friends Reese, who was dressed up as Buzz Lightyear, plus Baby Davis and Chrissie’s Baby Luke.

Next it was “Boo at the Zoo” on Saturday. The zoo was decorated up for Halloween and jam packed with kids in costumes. Most of the kids were running around happy, but there were a few grumpy princesses and pirates with skinned knees. Claire was awestruck from all the excitement. The highlight for Claire, and many other kids, was meeting Curious George in person. We managed to work our way in to Georgie, who was surrounded by a gaggle of excited kids. One kid gave a really long, heartfelt, almost tearful hug to George. Claire stood in front of him and just gave him a big smile, saying, “Bye Georgie!” as we eventually dragged her off.

Finally, on Halloween night, we did some real trick-or-treating. Here is another advantage of having a kid. No, not all the candy which we confiscated from Claire. Halloween gave us a reason, or excuse, to go knock on our neighbor’s doors and say hi. It would be weird to do that any other night of the year. And it would be weird to do that on Halloween without a kid by your side.

The first stop was Melissa, who is a big fan of Claire’s and had asked us to bring Claire by. We had the usual nice chat with Melissa and then moved on Lynn two houses down from us. She was happy and surprised to see Claire, as were our next door neighbors, Ella and Fay. The last stop was across the street to Dustin’s house, where we also met his girlfriend Caroline, and then we headed home to put the two foot tall giraffe to bed a little late, exhausted but happy.

Pomodoro Prank

Tonight we all went out to eat at Artuzi’s, which is a quick Italian place nearby. I ordered Claire her own kid-sized penne with pomodoro sauce, because she had enjoyed that in the past when Claire and I ate here with my parents. I could tell Kit was somewhat skeptical about this potentially messy choice, but she did not veto it.

Sitting in the booth next to Kit, Claire initially tried to eat her penne with a fork. But after having the pasta slip off her fork a few times, Claire resorted to using her hands, which quickly became coated in the deep red, oily tomato sauce. At this point, Kit become nervous of Claire ruining her nice sweater shirt, which she was still wearing from work, so she sent Claire to sit next to me across the table from her.

Claire’s messy hands did not bother me, especially since I was not wearing anything fancy, just a t-shirt. This disinterest ended suddenly when Claire reached over and grabbed my white t-shirt with her left hand, leaving five little red dots on my right sleeve, one for each finger. As I recoiled from this intrusion, Claire reached quickly to my front with her right hand, to complete the hugging motion (or pincer movement, depending on how you look at it), leaving five more little red dots on the front of my t-shirt.

At this point, I was a little amused and agitated at the same time. Kit was just laughing. I did manage to lean away from Claire just far enough to keep out of reach of any further tomato sauce attacks. Claire thought it was funny that I was just out of reach and started swinging for me with her little hands, giggling the whole time through her sauce-coated face. “I want to hug Daddy! Hug Daddy! Huuuug!” she said, with a goofy smile on her face. At this point, it was clear that Claire was just having fun and had managed to make a genuine joke out of the situation.

The only real victim of this whole story was, of course, my t-shirt. But don’t worry about the shirt. It made an amazing recovery thanks to some quick on-the-scene dabbing, as directed by Kit, and some liberal use of stain stick later at home.

I don’t like it!

For a while now, we have been reading to Claire a big picture book called The Inside Out Book of Texas, partly for fun and partly to prepare for next summer’s move to Dallas. The first page features a big drawing of the Dallas skyline. Normally when Claire sees it she happily says, “Dallas!” But yesterday she saw it and said, “I don’t like Dallas!”

At first, this seemed like a bad sign for the big move, but I felt better today when Claire repeatedly declared, “I don’t like Thomas!” Thomas, of course, is Claire’s very favorite train character. She even named her favorite bathtub toy, an orange plastic dolphin, after him.

Claire has since claimed to dislike our dog Muffin and butterflies — yes, butterflies. It’s almost a good thing to be on Claire’s “don’t like” list these days. I expect that tomorrow morning I will hear her say, “I don’t like pancakes!” even as she gobbles them down.

Nurturing Side

Claire still loves Reese’s trains and dinosaurs, but she is also discovering her girly nurturing side lately.

She has been trying to change her Raggedy Ann’s clothes and diaper. Unfortunatley, Ann’s clothes are sewn on, so it is impossible in actuality to change her diaper. But she seems happy enough pretending to change it, mumbling, “change diaper…” or “clean up…” as she fiddles with the doll.

Sometimes she tries to dress her little plastic dolphin bath toys up in her own cloths, saying things like “How cuuuute!” or “He’s snuggly!” Of course, these dolphins are about 3 inches tall, so even a toddler’s little shirt dwarfs them. Speaking of her dolphins, she has named them too. The orange one, the first one of the bunch that we got out her, is named Thomas, after Thomas the Train. The other two are named Henry and James, who are also train names. She is very consistent about the naming. Thomas is always the bright orange one, James is the dull orange one, and Henry is the green one. She has even started to wash her dolphins during her own bath. I give her a washcloth, and she gently scrubs the dolphins with it one at a time, saying, “Let’s clean him up.”

Claire also loves to feed dog treats to Muffin. They both get a real tickle out of it. Claire holds the treat out for Muffin and waits for her to grab it with her mouth. She still seems a little scared that Muffin will bite her hand, so she usually lets the treat go when Muffin opens her mouth, dropping it on the floor. But especially when she makes a successful delivery, she giggles and jumps around. Both she and Muffin could do this all day.

Actually, Claire’s nurturing side has take a slightly odd turn as well. She has a Thomas the Train board book with a raised plastic face on the front. If you press it’s nose, the book plays a little song. Claire has recently adopted this book as her little baby to take care of. She likes to dress it — the book — in clothes, pretend to feed it with a bottle, and will sometimes put it to sleep. This is sort of bizarre to watch, but I guess it makes sense since the book sort of resembles a doll, with its little plastic face. In fact, it is the closest thing that Claire has to a doll besides her stuffed animals. I thought dolls only made sense for four or five year old girls, but I guess not. Perhaps it is time to gt Claire a doll.

Reality Check

You may have noticed that in most of these posts Claire comes off seeming fun, sweet, and good natured. That is not an accident; she is all of these things. But I feel like I should add a reality check here to avoid the inaccurate impression that Claire is only fun, sweet, and good natured, and every day is a breeze. That would actually be a little creepy. Claire is more complicated than that.

Besides being fun and sweet, Claire is also sometimes a fussy toddler. Or if not fussy exactly, she is often working on “asserting her independence” as her mom says, by resisting and disagreeing about arbitrary and trivial things. Here are a few examples…

Dressing Claire in the morning had become a mortal struggle for while. Taking off her pajamas caused a messy, crying fit. Putting the new clothes on was worse, as she did everything in her power to keep that shirt from going over her head. She can actually put on a fairly impressive display of strength if she is determined. It turns out that manhandling your crying kid for 20 minutes is not a good way to start a busy work day when you are trying to get out the door as quickly as possible. Fortunately, we may have turned a corner on this issue, as Claire is once again fairly cooperative getting dressed in the morning.

Sometimes if we give Claire a milk to drink with dinner, she will sort of slap the cup and whine, “Water!” If we exchange her milk for a water, she whines, “Milk!” Occasionally we’ll just give her both to see what happens, and she ends up trying to actually hold the milk, the water, and 3 or 4 empty cups plus their lids if we give those to her. It’s actually kind of funny.

Mostly Kit and I just get worn out by all of our demands, going around like tired zombies, or frustrated because we just can’t do everything or we can’t do any one thing well. I am writing this post after midnight, knowing I will be worn out tomorrow, but lacking any other time to do this. Of course, I enjoy writing the blog, but it’s frustrating because it basically has to come right out of my sleep time.

Ok, I guess that gives you an idea. I think I am starting to whine now, and it is a sign that I need to go to sleep myself.

Claire Breaks a Heart

Claire may have broken her first heart today. It happened on the sidewalk in front of the Carter’s baby clothing store in Sandy Springs. That is where Claire left a 15 month old boy crying on the sidewalk, not because she hit him or bit him, or because he had skinned his knee. He was crying because Claire was leaving, and he wanted her to come back.

My mom and dad (Noni and Granda Phil!) were in town for the weekend to get a Claire fix to hold them until Thanksgiving. We all took a rare trip OTP (Outside the Perimeter) to the Carter’s store near Perimeter Mall to find Claire some new pajamas. Her venerable old ones had served us well but were finally starting to get too small.

Fresh off a fun lunch at La Madeleine, we headed to Carter’s. Kit sorted through the PJ’s while I kept an eye on the kid. Claire was pretty happy to be out and about, and was in a playful, chatty mood. She sorted through the floor-level clothes racks repeatedly saying “How cuuuute!” and then pointing at the tags and saying, “It’s twenty months!” (even though the tag actually said 24 months. I mean, get with it, kid!) As I checked out, Kit tended to Claire, who was happily playing with some small stuffed toys in the back.

As we all left the store and were on the wide sidewalk walking towards the car, a little toddler boy was heading towards the store with his parents and gramma. Claire ran forward and jumped right in front of the boy, patted herself on the chest, and declared, “This is Claire! Nice shoes!”

This little display just about floored all of us, including the little boy’s parents. The boy was shocked and speechless. Claire then proceeded to pull out all her tricks as everyone watched on. She sang parts of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and The Wheels on the Bus as she danced and spun around. She ran around and tried to do some hopping, although that was less successful. She gave a heartfelt but largely unintelligible monologue. As her finale, she patiently recited the entire alphabet, almost flawlessly. The boy’s mom said, “Oh my god! Is she saying the alphabet?” The little boy watched Claire this whole time, engrossed, with his mouth half open.

Finally I had to pick Claire up since it seemed like she was just starting to show off at this point. We talked for a bit with the boy’s parents. The boy was 15 months old and was named Conner. They were in “the city” for the day to do some shopping. Little Conner did not have any brothers or sisters and stayed at home with his mom every day, so he had not been exposed to many other little kids. Maybe he would have been fascinated with Claire even if she had not put on such a show. But I felt a little bad for him because it seemed like his mom was thinking, “Why can’t Conner do that?” Either that or, “Them city kids is smart.” Just kidding. Anyways, we tried to explain that Claire was barely even talking at 15 months.

Eventually, we had to part ways. As we walked off, Claire looked back, waved, and said “Bye Conner!” Then she said quietly just to me and Kit, “That was fun.” At this point we heard Conner crying. Looking back, he was trying to run towards Claire, and his parents were trying to grab him. I think he wanted to see Claire’s second act.

Now that I have finally written this up, a couple of weeks later, we still talk about Conner occasionally. Sometimes Claire lists him along with her other friends, like Grace and Reese and the kids from school. She even named her new wiggling pig head toy after him. So I guess Conner made an impact on Claire too.