Claire Turns 6!

Two days after her big birthday bash, Claire officially turned six today!

Claire started the day at school by joining the morning announcements on the school-wide PA system.  She and a couple of other kids got to announce their name and class and the fact that it was their birthday to the whole school.  Claire was pretty excited to do this, and kept her composure for her brief announcement from a back room in the school’s main offices.

Claire announcing her birthday to the school
Claire also received a nice Monkey Mail message
from a classmate.

As per our tradition, Claire got to pick what and where to eat for dinner.  We offered to make her anything she wanted at home or go out somewhere.  After some vacillation, she picked Phil’s Ice House, probably for its fine playground, which is always populated by active kids looking for fun.  Claire tried to get something going with the other kids, but they were mostly older boys, so it was a little tough.  Still, she persisted and manage dot have some fun.  Molly tried many especially daring feats, including climbing up a chain ladder by herself and sliding down a really big, covered slide.  Claire and Molly played and managed to settle down for a little food too.

Claire at Phil’s

At home, Claire had a cupcake and opened her present form us, which was a kid-firendly real digital camera which Kit found on sale just that day (her original birthday present will become a Christmas present.)  Claire did not seem too excited about the camera, but we think she will come to love it, especially on our upcoming trip to Washington DC.

Opening her present.

A Hoppin’ Good Time

Claire celebrated her 6th birthday today with about 20 friends at Jumpoline Park.  According to their website, “Jumpoline Park is for everyone who is seeking excitement and entertainment while exercising.”  It was actually a lot more fun than they make it sound!  Who cares about exercise?  These kids just love to run and jump!  Basically, this place is one gigantic trampoline, or at least a bunch of big trampolines spliced together.  It is hard to describe, so some pictures will have to suffice.

It doesn’t look like much from the outside…
But there is lots of fun to be had on the inside.
Here’s Claire with Coco, Zoe, and Hannah.
Almost every picture from the party was a blur.
Cupcake time.
The monkey theme came from Claire’s kindergarten class mascot.

Oddly enough, Claire’s Uncle Tim, who lives in Washington DC, recommend Jumpoline Park to us.  He said some friends of his had visited Austin and discovered this crazy giant trampoline place.  So we went to check it out and quickly estimated that it would be perfect for Claire’s birthday party.

We invited all of Claire’s kindergarten class plus a few “old” friends from preschool and the like.  I think we’re getting pretty good at these big kid’s parties now, at least when we can rent out a facility like this.  I have heard “horror stories” about hosting a party at your own home, with 20 kids running around tearing the place apart.  But this party went really well and was not too tough to pull off, even right on the heals of Thanksgiving (as always!).

Grammy helped with the preparations and was on duty as the official Molly watcher at the party.  She spent most of the party protecting Molly from bigger kids in the little bounce-house obstacle course.  Without Grammy, I am pretty sure we would have lost track of Molly, as in “Where is she?  Oh no, I thought you had her…”

There is not much more to report, but I do like to make a note of some presents since it might be interesting later.  Claire is opening two presents a day, and so far she has made out with…

  • A fresh influx of pink, girly Legos from Noni
  • A super-cute Lalaloopsy doll from Grammy
  • A Hello Kitty water dispenser
  • An indoor “princess castle” play tent 
  • Decorate-your-own frame and bracelet sets
This was just the beginning.  Claire’s official birthday is coming up soon!

Monkey Mail

Claire’s kindergarten class now has an internal mail system up and running.  The kids can send each other notes in the classroom’s mailbox.  So far, Claire has received several letters from her classmates, and they all say, “You are a great friend.”

I was talking about Monkey Mail with some of Claire’s classmates’ parents, and they said their kids all get the same message, “You are a great friend.”  And they always have a picture of the two kids standing next to each other.  It is very sweet.  Here is a perfect example.

Computer Claire

In the past, Claire has had only passing interest in computers and video games.  She had tried some Wii games and mildly enjoyed Wii Music and Wii Fit, especially the Yoga exercises.  And she kind of likes playing some non-competitive kids games on the iPhone and iPad.  But seemed to find most games frustratingly difficult, and did not have much interest in the big desktop computer, our iMac, with its tricky mouse and keyboard.

But Claire has recently discovered the joys of playing web-based kids’ games on the big computer.  Her interest seems to have grown since kindergarten started.  She has computer class once a week and has gotten comfortable with the mouse and keyboard.  She says the hardest part is logging in.

At home, she started playing web games related to books and TV shows.  She started out with Fancy Nancy and moved on to Ni-Hao, Kai-Lan on Nick Jr.  Since Kai-Lan, Claire started exploring other games on Nick Jr, including Dora the Explorer and Fresh Beat Band.

Kit and I were concerned about a couple of things with this new enthusiasm for the computer.  One was that all her “clicking around” (as we say) and generally messing the computer could delete/damage/send/export our stuff.  She could delete a file, send an unexpected email, post gibberish on Kit’s Facebook feed, and so on.  So we set Claire up with her own account where can’t touch/delete/damage/send/export our stuff.  She likes having her own account and always logs into it to do her games.

We were also concerned about “exploring” the internet in general.  But the computer is right here in the loving room where we can see what she is up to, and the account has some nice parental controls built in.  Claire really just sticks to, etc. so this has not been a problem so far.

We were also concerned about how much time she would spend on the computer.  But on weekdays, she only has about 30 minutes of free-form time to herself before bed, and she often uses that for computer time.  She just doesn’t have more time available than that.  On weekends, she has more time on the computer, and much of that is borrowed from time she would otherwise spend watching TV.  Personally, I prefer seeing Claire do mentally active, creative computer games over sitting, just watching TV anyways.  Let’s exercise those brain cells!  This is within limits, of course.  If Claire is like me, she may one day want to stay up all night doing “computer”, which is not always a good thing (yawn).

The Librarian and Mrs. Katrune

We went over to Pease Park this morning, as we often do on the weekends.  At the park, Claire met another girl of similar age on the playground, and after a certain amount of persistence, Claire got the other girl to play with her.  Whenever we go to the park, there is almost always one other about girl Claire’s age, and they always hit it off, at least after some initial sizing up.  Claire’s technique used to be to simply ask the girl, “Do you want to play with me?”  Now she has refined her approach.  She followed the other girl around the playground, suggesting different play ideas until she finally hooked the other girl into playing.  This one was a tough customer, a being a little shy and wrapped up in her new barbie bike, but eventually Claire snagged her.

As a sample of how this kind of thing goes, here is how it went today…

Claire had brought along some of her books to the park, and the winning idea this time around was to pretend that they had secretly stolen some books from the library.  I, being the nearest adult, was obviously cast as the librarian.  I gave myself the name Mr. Potter.  I explained that they were free to check the books out of the library and didn’t have to sneak them out.  But that was a silly suggestion.  What fun would that be?  That is such crusty adult thinking!  There would be no drama if they simply checked out some books.  That is no kind of game at all.  No, they snuck the books out.

To add to the drama, they had also snuck some books away from a teacher.  I suggested Molly, who was wondering around babbling, could be the teacher.  I asked Claire what the teacher’s name was.  Claire instantly came up with Mrs. Katrune.  So there was poor Mrs. Katrune (Molly) wandering around the playground looking for her missing books.  Claire and her friend got to hide the books and run away when Mrs. Katrune approached, and all other manner of fun.  In truth they were very careful with the books, although they made some dramatic references to the books getting damaged.  I occasionally put up a protest that I needed my books back, or they better at least check them out properly!

Eventually, this game ran its course, and the girls ran around and did swings, etc.  Eventually even that ran its course, and they tried to figure out ways to make each other giggle.  At one point, the other girl briefly pulled her pants down, causing a roar from herself and Claire.  Claire thought this was cool and started to do the same.  I had to step in and stop the madness.  This was technically a new, previously unstated rule: keep your pants on in the park!  The other girl’s dad, who had been absorbed by his own toddler as well, came over at that point and reinforced the keep-you-pants-on rule.  The girls continued to push the limits in less risquรฉ ways, such as running to the edge of the park close to the road.  Molly was also getting especially reckless as this point, and it was clearly time to leave.

So there is it, the ups and downs of a day at the park with the girls.  It was a fun, delightful, perplexing day at the park which really needed to end about 20 minutes ago.

Favorite Books #2

A relatively new installment in this blog is to make a quick note, every few months, of the girls’ favorite books.  Here is installation number 2.  There, it’s official.  This is a regular thing now. ๐Ÿ™‚

Claire has recently started to read her own books to us, but we still like to read to her every night too.  Claire’s favorite series right now is Fancy Nancy.  She gets a new Fancy Nancy book from the school library about once a week.  The recent sampling includes Fancy Nancy and the Late, Late, LATE Night, Fancy Nancy: Halloween…or Bust!, Fancy Nancy: The 100th Day of School, and Fancy Nancy and the Boy from Paris.  Occasionally we buy a Fancy Nancy book, and sometimes they have stickers, and she’ll put one or two stickers on the pages of the book (never anywhere else) each night until nearly every open space in the book is covered by a sticker.

Molly has also been enjoying a series, in her case Elmer.  Elmer is a colorful, patchwork elephant.  He loves to explore his world and point out the colors, sizes, numbers, etc. of the animals around him.  Elmer always ends up going to sleep at the end of the story.  Molly also loves Corduroy, which is one of those sweet classic kids’ stories that is always fun to read.  When the stuffed animal Corduroy pops the button off a mattress and falls off the bed, Molly loves to say, “Oh no!  Bear fell down!”  Perhaps not coincidentally, Claire also used to love both Elmer and Corduroy as a toddler.  This pair cannot be resisted by the toddler set!

Where Does the Time Go?

How is it that kids take up so much time?  Where does the time go exactly?

Especially since Claire started kindergarten, this has become more clear to me.  An average weekday breaks down to about 6 hours of kid “stuff”, mostly to do with getting them to the right place at the right time, feeding them, and getting them to sleep.  Here is how it breaks down on a regular school day:

  • 6:30 – 7:25 am: Getting the kids up, dressed, fed, packed, and out the door for school
  • 7:25 – 8:15 am: Getting both kids dropped off at school, and then back home for work
  • (day job)
  • 4:00 – 5:00 pm: Picking up Claire from extend-a-care and taking her back home for a while.  Often, I get a little more work done while Claire chills downstairs.  Or I unpack and go through Claire’s daily folder with assignments, notices, etc.  Or finish up laundry, dishes, mail, etc.
  • 5:00 – 6:00 pm: This is roughly the window of Claire and I picking up Molly and getting everyone settled back at home.  This can take a while because the traffic on Mo-Pac is often ridiculous.  I have considered biking over to pick her up, which would certainly take even longer, but at least it would be fun and good for the heart and would turn a really bad slog into a fun activity.  Still, I can’t afford the extra time to do this.  When would we have dinner?  Would I leave work even earlier?
  • 6:00 – 7:00 pm: Dinner prep, consumption, and cleanup if possible
  • 7:00 – 7:30 pm: Molly bath, story, and to sleep.  Claire’s evening free time or for school assignments or playing with one of us.
  • 7:30 – 8:15 pm: Claire shower, teeth, story, and to sleep.
So the average day has roughly 6:30 to 8:15 and 4:00 to 8:15 more or less focused on the kids or kid-realted tasks, which comes in at about 6 hours every day.  That really is a second job, not quite a full-time job, but close.  One you toss in nighttime “administrative” activities such as tracking, scheduling, and planning school assignments, kid-related home projects, outside classes, parties, etc. plus the laundry, cleaning (hah!), etc. it probably does come in at at least 40 hours.
There is no doubt that all this time is worth every second to have two great girls.  My only regret is that most of this time is not what you might call “fun” or “quality” time.  It is mostly just “managing” the kids, sort of like herding cattle, in a sense.  Of course, Claire, Molly, and I talk and joke around in the car.  And sometimes we steal some extra time to play on the playground after school, which is really excellent.  And on the weekends we thankfully do have time carved out for outings around town, play dates, slow dinners, and other fun.  But we have to work hard to protect that time.
At 30-40 hours a week, these kids really are officially a second job: an unpaid, sometimes thankless, sometimes frustrating job, but more than that… easily the most thrilling, interesting, and rewarding job ever.

Claire’s Turn to Read

It’s time one again to see what Claire and Molly are reading these days…

And when I saw “what Claire is reading”, I really mean it.  She is reading to us some every night.  She is bringing home a different I-can-read type of book from school every week and reads to us each night before we read a book to her.  These learning books cover topics such as “Play Dough”, and are repetitive, featuring a similar sentence on each page, as in:

    I can make a pancake with my play dough.
    I can make a hamburger with my play dough.

These are not page-turners, but still, it is very exciting to see Claire read.  She mostly has these books memorized, but she does have a new-found reading confidence and does also like to attempt unknown books, slowly sounding out the words and figuring them out on her own more often than not.  She seems to enjoy the challenge but wears out pretty quickly, after only a few words.  Reading is tough work when it’s a new skill!

Claire likes to occasionally being up additional reading and phonics topics such as “the silent E” and “people who’s names also start with C”.