If there is a single song which defines this time period, it is the Ponyo song, hands down.  Claire loves the movie Ponyo, as do Kit and I.  But Claire and Molly really love the theme song, Ponyo On the Cliff By the Sea, sung by by Frankie Jonas And Noah Cyrus.

This all came about when I made a movie-themed CD for the girls to listen to in the car.  The CD had the Ponyo song and a few others including a couple from some Barbie movies.  Claire was pretty happy about this, especially the Ponyo song.  And after a few listens, Molly was nuts for the song.  I think its cheerful melody and squeaky voices play well to the budding toddler set.  Literally every time we get in the car now, Molly says, “Pono please!” (the “y” sound is still a little tricky for her).  When the song ends, or even when it takes a momentary lull, Molly says, “More Pono!”, putting her fingers together to sign “more” for emphasis.  Sometimes she even gets quite perturbed when the song is not immediately restarted.  we must have heard these words hundreds of times by now…

Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo fishy in the sea.
Tiny little fishy, who could you really be?

Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo magic sets you free.
Oh, she’s the little girl with the round tummy.

Molly has even learned to sing small pieces of the song, usually just a syllable or two at a time, but she gets the right sounds and the right timing.  This is officially the first song I have heard Molly sing, at least on her own.

After a couple weeks of this, even Claire was getting sick of the song, and I was tiring of it too.  But not Molly, she is all about the Ponyo song.

It’s Kindergarten!

Today, Claire entered the brave new world of kindergarten!

The morning went pretty smoothly.  Claire has been waking up around 6:45 for a few weeks now, so that put her on kindergarten time right off the bat.  Claire was in a good mood and ready to roll.  We were out of the house in plenty of time and at the classroom at 7:35, 10 minutes early.  Grammy and Granddaddy were in town, which was good for Molly, who has been waking up between 7:30 and 8:00 most days.  She got to sleep in and have a nice slow breakfast with her grandparents while Claire, Kit, and I were wading through the mass of kids and cars up at Claire’s new elementary school.

One of the nice things about the new early 7:40 drop-off time is that Kit can drop Claire off at school pretty regularly and still get to work on time.  Kit is excited to see more of Claire regularly in the mornings. I am excited too since I will not have to rush around town quite as much on those mornings.

Anyways, the classroom was already awfully crowded with excited kids and parents when we showed up.  Claire was familiar with her classroom and her new teacher from an open house the previous Friday, which she enjoyed but had been a little scared to be left there alone.  Kit and I explored the classroom with Claire and helped her find her desk.  Before we knew it, the final bell was ringing and the teacher was subtly shooing the parents out of the room.  Claire seemed nervous and a little clingy but held herself together as we left.  Kit did not have quite as much luck holding herself together and teared up a bit a we walked down the hall away from the classroom.  I did not expect to feel sad myself — just excited — but I did feel a little lump in the throat as we walked away like we had 1000 times before in daycare.  But this was different than daycare.  Elementary school was so much bigger, and bustling with the rush of nearly 900 students arriving at exactly the same time.  After the tardy bell rang, and all the kids were in their classes, the halls got quite very suddenly, filled only with somber parents hurrying off to work.  There was also a fair number of “exercise moms”, breezy moms donned in jogging gear who stayed to chat with each other for a while.  I think I heard two of them making plans to meet for coffee.  We did not have exercise moms at daycare since it was populated entirely by working parents.

Grammy came along to pick up Claire in the afternoon.  Kit would, much to her regret, not be able to pick Claire up in the afternoons except when she was on vacation.  Anyways, Claire is the only kid from her class in extend-a-care.  Even though it goes on until 5:30, we picked her up around 3:15, largely out of impatience to see her and to hear about her day.  When we saw her in the cafeteria, Claire looked red and nervous and unhappy.  Claire would later explain that she liked kindergarten and had a fun day in class.   She liked her teacher, who was really nice and not mean at all.  But she was confused about going to extend-a-care, and she was scared that we would not be able to find her.  She was really scared that she might just be left there.  That must have been a terrifying feeling for a kid.  I was a little surprised this was an issue since we had picked her up every day without fail from daycare, I had explained extend-a-care to Claire ahead of time, but I guess it was still weird getting separated form her classmates and taken off to the cafeteria.  Of course, I assured Claire that me or Mom would always come get her every day, and we would find her no natter where she was.  And she could always ask a teacher if she was confused or lost for any reason.  This seemed to help, but it was a tough ending for a big day.

Claire’s teacher, Ms. B, sent out a nice note to all the parents that evening, starting…

Congratulations on surviving your first day of Kindergarten:):)  We had such an amazing and busy day!  Time flew by and as many of the monkeys said, ‘I’m hungry’, ‘I’m tired’, and the best ‘I never knew Kindergarten lasted so long!’.  As I’m sure you are noticing your child is probably exhausted.  Please be sure they are getting plenty of sleep because we will continue to be super busy the rest of this week…

She ended her note with a well crafted hint to not storm the classroom too early like we did today.

See you tomorrow at 7:40 (my door will be shut until then to prepare for the day).

Besides the extend-a-care hiccup, it was a good start to “real” school.

Talking Up a Storm

Molly continues to talk up storm.  Now she knows way more words than can be listed.  She will often point at things and name them: a picture of a butterfly (“bu-fly”), her diaper (which she sometimes calls a “BM”), or a stuffed bear, crocodile, etc.  Sometimes she points at something in a way to sort of ask what it is called.  Usually this involves repeatedly tapping the object.  She’ll tap a hair brush until someone says, “brush”, and then she will repeat “brush”. One time Molly was tapping a sort of stamp thing for one of the girls’ art projects, and being distracted and not entirely sure what to call it, I said, “That’s a, uh… thing”.  Molly repeated very carefully, “thing”.  She’ll have to sort that one out over time, I guess.

Molly has finally figured out what to call her sister.  She is “Care Bear”.  Molly is probably trying to say, “Claire Bear”, which we sometimes call Claire.  When Claire was feeling grumpy the other day, she said she does not like being called Claire Bear because a bear is “boyish”.  She would rather be called “Claire Bear with flowers and bows in her hair”.  Molly has not adopted this idea yet.  I was trying to get Molly to call her sister just plain ol’ “Claire” but that hasn’t taken either.  There is always a “Bear” stuck on the end, much to her sister’s chagrin.

Molly is also combining words with great acuity.  She will describe what belongs to who, as in “Molly’s bottle” versus “Care Bear’s bottle” and “Mommy’s shoe” versus “Daddy’s shoe”.  In panic or frustration, “Molly’s bottle” sometimes still turns into “mine!”.  We sometimes have a real, practical conversation, for instance when Molly did not want to carry her stuffed bear in from the car but she wanted me to bring it in, which came out as the pretty clear “Daddy do it”.

Kindergarten Reservations

On Monday, Claire will start kindergarten, thus kicking off what we hope to be a solid 13-year career in Austin public education.  Including Molly’s future career, this is the start of 16 years of getting people to school on a strict schedule at 7:45 am.  No more wandering into day care between 8:00 and 9:00, depending on how things are going that morning.  And then there are all the many, many days off, which will no doubt turn into many, many babysitters, grandparent visits, and summer/winter/spring-break camps.  Okay, enough about my own reservations about this whole process… Let’s move on to Claire’s!

Actually, Claire is pretty excited about kindergarten but has two main reservations.  The first is missing her friends at day care.  Claire is well aware that she will not see most of her daycare friends again, and it makes her a little sad.  I know this because she told me, “I know I won’t see my day care friends any more, and that makes me sad”.  (I am very insightful.)  One daycare friend is luckily coming to Claire’s elementary school, but in a different classroom.  The rest of the old friends gradually faded away over the last weeks of summer camp back at day care.  Claire was just about the last of the core friends left by the end of the summer.  It was really a sad process to watch even from a relative distance.

Claire’s other reservation is that “In kindergarten, you have to listen really well.  If you don’t listen, you get in trouble.  I’m afraid sometimes I won’t listen”, she said tentatively.  I’m not sure where this fear comes from, I guess a “warning” about big, mean kindergarten from a teacher or a fellow student back at day care.

Here is another one… Claire is excited that she will learn to read in kindergarten.  I told her one night as we were reading before bedtime that she will learn to read some books all by herself in kindergarten.  She won’t have to always depend on Kit and me to read everything to her.  She liked the idea, but she emphasized that she did not want to read to herself for bedtime.  She still wanted her Mom and Dad to read to her every night.  Kit and I assured her we would not stop reading to her once she learned to read to herself.

Judging from today’s open house, Claire is also somewhat afraid of being left at kindergarten and not being picked up.  This morning, all kids and parents were invited to come see their classroom and meet their new teacher.  Claire liked the open house but kept a close eye on me and Kit to make sure we weren’t leaving her there.  Today Claire would get to come home and play with Grammy, who was in town for a few days, but Monday it would be a different story.  Claire understood she would stay at school without us next week, but she was not ready to be left there alone just yet!

Last Day of Daycare

Claire finished her daycare career today.  On Monday, she moves on to kindergarten at elementary school!

It has been sort of a sad end to daycare, as her friends have gradually slipped away one after another week by week over the course of the summer.  We will keep up with some of the old friends as much as possible, but Claire knows things will not be the same again, and it understandably makes her a little uneasy.

Anyways, Claire’s final day in daycare was a half-day that revolved around the completion of her swimming class.  She had to swim across the width of the deep 9-foot deep pool, as opposed to the shallow 4-foot pool they normally use.  Thanks largely to this swimming course, Claire is able to swim a little bit now, but she chose to cross the deep pool with the aid of a foam “noodle”.  Using the noodle, she swam so quickly and confidently I would not have guessed it was even her from a couple of months ago.  She got to the other side and received her gold medal for completion of the course.  She was really proud and beaming with a huge smile.

We then headed back to the school to sign Claire out for the last time and pick up Molly, who was finishing lunch.  Molly is moving up the the Little Lambs class down the hall from her old classroom, with the same friends as before.  So she is a little bit in her sister’s shadow today, but even moving down the hall is a big change too.

Claire’s last sign out

Due to their changing lunch situations (Claire buying lunch at school for $2.15 — yes! — and Molly outgrowing her tiny old lunch box), we are also retiring the trusty old Wizard of Oz lunch boxes that have clanged their way through the halls of daycare the last year or so.  Here is a picture in memorial.

The well-worn lunch boxes of the last year

Claire’s Diner

If Claire had a restaurant, she would serve three specialities:

  • Deli Stackers
  • Cereal Cups
  • Tomato Delight
The Deli Stacker is her favorite entree this summer, and onc of Claire’s own inventions.  It is a generous pile of deli-sliced ham and/or turkey, sitting on top of a slice of cheese (preferably Colby Jack).  There is no bread, nor any toppings.  It is pure and simple.  This is what Claire wants most nights for dinner if she can have it her way.

The Cereal Cup is another innovation of Claire’s.  It is like a bowl of cereal, but in a convenient cup.  Fill a small plastic cup with frosted shredded wheat cereal, add milk, and enjoy with a spoon.  Repeat and rinse.  Why settle for a boring bowl of cereal when you can use a slightly more difficult cup?  Seriously, she will not have cereal in a bowl anymore.
The Tomato Delight is a pared down version of something from Rachael Ray, I think.  It is a magical dish that gets Claire to eat an almost unlimited quantity of fresh tomatoes.  Slice a roma tomato into nice bite-sized chunks, then drizzle on some olive oil (“EVOO”), and finally top with lemon juice and sea salt.  Claire had three tomatoes like this just tonight.  I actually had to warn her, “Claire, this is the last tomato for tonight,” as if I were talking about Oreos.  I didn’t want her to overdose on tomatoes.  She does not like many vegetables, but she makes up for it with the Tomato Delight.