Claire turns 5!

A very proud Claire turned five today. She is excited to be one year older all of the sudden. Leading up to her birthday, she had asked me if she would get taller when she turned five, since her five year old friends tend to be taller. She was sort of interested when I told her she gets a little tiny bit taller every day.

Her birthday fell on a boring old Monday this year. She had actually spent the previous four days at home for Thanksgiving, patiently awaiting her birthday. I had been tempted to let her open one of her presents early over the long weekend, but I held off, assuming that would set a dangerous precedent. I can just hear, “Please Daddy! It’s almost my birthday” next year.

We decided to push her big birthday party to following weekend, and for tonight let Claire pick where to eat for dinner after we picked up her and Molly from school. She was initially overwhelmed by the decision. She thought briefly about going to Jason’s Deli because they have hot dogs and free ice cream. But she decided against it because the ice cream would spoil appetite for birthday cake after dinner. She settled on McDonald’s, mostly because of the playground.

We ordered hamburgers and went out to the playground seating. So we sat out there on the dark playground alone as a family at 6 pm on Monday night. It was a little odd, but Claire was happy, and Molly was really excited about the whole thing. Pretty soon, a girl Claire’s age and her little brother showed up, along with their mom and dad. Claire went to the girl and said her usual, “Do you want to play with me?” And of course within a minute there was a lot of running and screaming and laughing. Claire got excited enough to climb all the way up the tall, dark, plastic tower and slide down the pitch black covered slide several times. This was unusually brave for Claire, who would normally be hesitant to climb the tower even when well lit.

We eventually turned loose a very interested Molly, who immediately crawled over to the bottom of the slide and tried to crawl up it, never mind incoming kids twice her size. Molly was overjoyed to get a shot at the slide, and she kept frantically trying to climb up the slippery slope and let herself slide down. With our help, she got to slide down a few feet at a time. She was overjoyed, and was having a great time celebrating with Claire.

Once we got home, we put an exhausted Molly right to sleep and did presents and cake with Claire. We gave Claire a little purple stuffed kitty with an unusually long furry tail, and an Annie costume. She had been going through an Annie obsession lately, and had been asking to be an “Annie actor” a lot, specifically asking for an Annie dress, an Annie locket, and tap dance shoes (by which I think she meant black dressy shoes). We thought this would be the perfect gift, and she was anxious to try it on. Once she got it on, though, for whatever reason, she froze up and started to look very awkward and uncomfortable. We really felt bad for her. I don’t think I have ever seen her look that uncomfortable in all her life, and why will always remain a mystery. The wig was really bad and didn’t really look like Annie; maybe that had something to do with it. Anyways, it was not a loss in the end. She would go on to wear that outfit many times over the next few weeks, but she would never perform any Annie songs or dances in it. She just liked to put in on after school and curl up on the couch and watch TV in it. Whatever makes our five-year-old Claire happy!

Finally, the real Star Wars

Claire has been curious about Star Wars for some time now, especially with the boys in her class playing and discussing Star Wars every day. She has actually been somewhat confused by the whole thing. What is “R3D2”? Is Han Solo a good guy or a bad guy? Is Darth Vader a person or a robot?

At long last, some of the mystery was folded back tonight, her last day as a four-year-old, as chance would have it. Claire finally got to see (some of) Star Wars! The original Episode IV, aka Star Wars: A New Hope, happened to be on TV just before dinner. Normally we turn off the TV for dinner, but tonight we let it run and even rearranged the TV so that we could watch during dinner as a special treat. You just can’t pass up the original Star Wars falling right in your lap like that!

From past experiences, we thought Claire might be frightened by the movie, and Kit went to great lengths to explain that what she was seeing was not real. We talked a lot about how the director would say “cut!, and they would stop filming. Then everyone would change out of their costumes and go have coffee together, even the storm troopers and the good guys.

Claire was at times little scared by the movie. She continued to be frightened whenever Darth Vader appeared, even if he was just standing there. But mostly she was engrossed by the movie. Her eyes were glued to the TV all the way to the end. She said Princess Leia was beautiful, and we stressed that she was also brave. Claire liked when the good guys stole storm trooper uniforms so they could sneak around the Death Star unfettered. “They fooled the bad guys!”, she was quite fond of saying. When the movie was over, she asked us to record it so she could watch it again, but we told her it was a special or “sometimes” movie, and the next morning it was back to watching Arthur.

Pushing the limits

Molly is one “step” closer to walking, thanks to the help of a small wooden stool that her Grandaddy made for her sister a while back…

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To break the doldrums of the family being cooped up at home for four straight days over the long Thanksgiving weekend, as well as to stay clear of Black Friday traffic, we decided to make a daytrip out to the hill country today. We decided on Fredericksburg as our destination, with it’s location only a 90 minute drive away and its nice, walkable Main Street, lined with historic buildings and unique shops, providing a nice medium between indoors and outdoors on this cold day. After my parents headed back to Houston, we loaded up an inordinate amount of baby supplies, snacks, and other essentials for the 90-minute trip. The plan was to drive to Fredericksburg and enjoy the countryside while Claire watched movies (Annie, etc.) on her DVD player and Molly had her morning nap. We even had a pair of earphones, Claire’s first, ready for the DVD player to keep the noise down so Molly could nap reliably.

We rolled through the hill country, Kit and I having a rare long chat (ie, more than 5 minutes) while Molly slept and Claire watched her movie. But it would not last. Right around Johnson City, the earphones idea backfired badly. Claire broke her 45-minute silence by saying — no, shouting — “Mama! Can I have my water?” Kit and I quickly told Claire to quiet down, please! Claire looked confused and dismayed, like “What? I just asked for some water.” In retrospect, Claire probably did not even realize she was shouting over her earphones. Anyways, the disturbance caused Molly to wake up mid-way through her nap. Within five minutes, Molly was crying, then shrieking, and occasionally spitting and gasping. We could not settle her down. This lasted for final 45 minutes to Fredericksburg, the last 15 minutes being stuck in gridlock on the final mile into town. Yes, Black Friday seemed to hit even Fredericksburg, way out here in the country.

Once we finally parked and got out of the car, Molly almost immediately stopped crying, and Fredericksburg was great. We strolled onto Main Street in the slightly cool, sunny afternoon. We poked around a couple of craftsman and/or antique stores, where Claire exercised her “one finger rule” for touching any wares, and Molly’s little arms were always held out of reach of anything at all. We had a delicious German-inspired lunch in a crowded corner cafe. We looked at old antique gates for sale in an alleyway. Claire said the gates looked good even though they were old and rusty, although she still preferred shiny, golden gates. Claire also enjoyed the koi pond in front of the old hospital. Molly enjoyed the crowds and a chance to crawl and climb (under supervision) on a nice iron bench on the busy sidewalk. We picked up a Christmas decoration and headed back to the car, where we gave Claire another lecture about keeping quiet. Then we loaded up and headed home.

Claire was very quiet in the car on the way back. When she did talk at all, it was a quiet whisper. This lasted until right around Dripping Springs. At that point, Claire was so engrossed in her movie that she once again shouted something out by mistake, and once again Molly woke up, and once again Molly cried and shrieked as if mortally wounded until we got home to Austin. After we got home, Molly settled back down pretty quickly and played with her big sister. Kit, who was understandably rattled by all the crying, took about 15 minutes to herself upstairs and then came down in a better mood. I would have hoped that this fun excursion would not have required a 15 minute “cool down” period at the end. Still, it was a really great day overall, even though I would give back about 90 minutes in the car. I am sure Molly would agree.

Imagination Movers

Claire’s favorite TV show of late is Imagination Movers, a series from a popular kids’ music group.  She likes to watch this show every day over any other choice out there.

The Imagination Movers are actually grown men, and they sing kids’ songs.  In that sense, they are kind of like The Wiggles, but they are not nearly as annoying.  These are pretty much regular guys who have a problem-solving business in a warehouse, always wear blue and red jumpsuits, and are friends with a mouse, a proud boring guy named Knit Knots, and his assistant Nina.  Apparently one of the movers, Rich, looks kind of like me, or at least his hair does.

This seems like a good show for Claire.  These guys are all about teamwork and problem solving, the music is pretty good, and Knit Knots cracks me up with his love of all things boring (“Boring is beautiful.”) and his boring inventions such as snack chips that come in three boring flavors: plain, boring, and extra boring.  Okay, I guess I am a fan too.

Scoping Out School

Kindergarten is still almost a year off for Claire, but we thought it would be fun to drop by her upcoming school and play on the playground to help warm her up to the idea. The school is rather big for elementary and has over 160 kindergarteners enrolled, so we want to ease Claire into it gradually.

Anyways, we all had a great time in the nice weather on the playground. While Claire was introducing herself to some of the other kids hanging out, Molly also had a great time. She got to ride around in a pink, plastic, rather bumpy, little car. The faster and bumpier we went, the more giggles from Molly. She also got to dig around in some dirt and rub it on her face. What a day!

Readin’ and Talkin’

The kid and the baby, aka Claire and Molly, each demonstrated some significant progress today in their respective fields of reading and talking.

This morning, Claire had written out the random letters O-L-A-J-A on a piece of paper and decided to try to sound out the word. She had been learning letter sounds at school for the past several months and was feeling pretty comfortable with the letters now. She slowly and deliberately read it out: “Oooh la jah.” It was amazing to see her really read something. And this was definitely not a case where she just recognized a word from memory, like her own name. (Granted, she might have been referring to the small Spanish village of Santa Olaja de la Accion, but I am going to stick with the random letters theory.) I decided to go with the momentum and write out my name: P-A-T. She slowly read it out: “Paaat. That’s your name!” Definitely not a fluke.

Molly was impressed with Claire’s reading but did not want to be overshadowed, so she showed off a bit of her own hard earned new skill while getting ready for bed that night. Kit and I were chatting while putting Molly into her pajamas when Kit used the phrase “thank you” in the middle of a sentence. A few seconds later, Molly clearly said, or tried to say, “thank you” three times in a row. It sounded kind of like “tank wa, tank wa, tank wa”. We cheered and gave her a big hug. Molly beamed, and then started saying “Daddy” over and over. That is a pretty easy go-to word for her, along with her favorite “uh oh”. Molly tried to say “Mommy” but is still having trouble with that darn “mmm” sound, but she definitely tried. Molly also has trouble with the “nnn” sound as well and has not yet learned to say “no”, but I am sure that will be a future favorite.

Breathe, Molly, breathe!

Molly had a bad scare this Saturday at the doctor’s office. It really started a few days earlier…
On Tuesday, just before noon, I got a call from school that Molly had a 103.5 F fever and was inconsolable. They thought she might also have an ear infection. I set up a doctor’s appointment for 1:30 and went to pick her up. When I got to school, the assistant director was walking Molly around outside to calm her down.
Molly spent the next two days at home with a temporary nanny. Her fever went down pretty quickly, but here energy, mood, and appetite were also way down. She went to school on Friday and had a decent day, but her daily note mentioned she had developed a small rash. On Friday night, Molly woke up around midnight crying, which is not terribly unusual. The unusual part was that she did not stop crying until after 4:30 am. Kit and I took hour-long shifts holding, but not really helping, poor Molly. Claire cleared out of the shared bedroom around 2:30 and slept the rest of the night in the guest bedroom. She was the only one who got anything remotely resembling her normal sleep that night.
On Saturday, while I took Claire to her ballet recital, Kit took Molly to the doctor again. Molly was exhausted and cranky from her lost sleep and fighting whatever was ailing her. During the recital, I got this text from Kit:

Molly just gave me a heart attack. She passed out when she got her shot. Seems ok now.

Yes, Molly actually passed out while receiving an antibiotic injection. Kit says that Molly had opened her mouth to let out a big bellowing wail, as she often does. But instead of actually letting out the big shriek, she stayed tensed up with her mouth open. After about 20 seconds of this, her eyes rolled back and she went limp. There was some panic, but the nurse and the doctor helped get Molly back to normal pretty quickly.

I am happy to report that Molly was in better health even by Saturday afternoon. The rash may have been a reaction to another antibiotic she had been on. Grammy and Grandaddy happened to be passing through town on Saturday and added some extra support as well. Molly slept well on Saturday night and was pretty much her normal self on Sunday. We even had lunch outside on the patio, where Molly put down some smoked turkey, beans, and papaya with a smile. Whew!