Ah, Winter Break

Ah, Winter Break

This being Claire’s first Christmas in elementary school,  she is enjoying her first extended break in a long time.  Molly’s pre-school is only closed for a couple of days for the holidays, but Claire has about two weeks off.  Here are some of the ways that Claire has kept herself busy while off of school…

She spent the first couple of days in Corpus Christi with he Grammy and Grandaddy.  Claire was very excited to take the trip down there without the me and Kit (Grammy and Grandaddy picked her up in Austin and drove her down there).  Not having been there for the visit, I can’t say much about it, but Claire appears to have had a very good time baking, playing, reading, and entertaining guests.  I think Claire did not want to come back home, and when Grammy returned home after Christmas, she said she really felt like something was missing (Claire).  It was odd having Molly to ourselves without Claire at home.  It was quiet around the house, and it reminded us of the old days when Claire was a toddler before we had Molly.

Heading out to Corpus

Claire spent the next week here at home with a sitter.  Claire and Cassie got along well, although Cassie seemed quiet and only spoke about three words the whole week (yes, I am exaggerating, but not by much).  Claire and Cassie spent the mornings working on art projects, including making necklaces and bracelets from some bead sets she had received for her birthday back in November.  The two were as quiet as a mouse downstairs while I worked in my office upstairs.  They never so much as turned on the TV.

Every afternoon at 1:00, Claire had a one-on-one swimming lesson.  Claire had just started to really swim at the very end of the summer this year, and then all the pubic pools shut down for the summer (while it was still over 100 degrees outside).  This week was a chance to keep Claire a little bit practiced on swimming without waiting until next summer.  Claire ended the week swimming way better than she ever has before, swimming 15 feet out and 15 back by herself.  Claire also practiced “falling” (jumping) into the pool and getting herself safely to shore as well as diving under water to pick up rings from the bottom of the pool.  It was amazing what five half-hour lessons with Hannah Jo did for Claire’s swimming skills (and confidence).  As a side note, once or twice, I took Claire out for lunch at Taco Cabana before swimming, and she learned to love flautas after I convinced her to just try one.

Swim lessons

After swimming, Cassie normally took Claire to Pease Park for a couple of hours.  I would drop them off, and they would walk back home.  Claire apparently made different friends with each trip to the park and invented some pretty crazy games. The weather was absolutely perfect every day this week, right around 70 degrees and sunny.  There was no sun screen, bug spray, or heart exhaustion to worry about when venturing to the park.  You could just stay out there all day and never break a sweat or get a chill.  After getting back from the park, Claire was pretty wiped out and would sit in her bedroom with Cassie and read books for an hour or so before Cassie took off.

It almost sounds like a perfect day to me… swimming, the park, Mexican food, hanging out.  I would personally trade the arts and crafts for some computer games (Battlefield 3, anyone?), but I would even make necklaces if that were a required part of the package.  We wanted to get Claire some rest for her holiday break, but we might be wearing her out with all this fun!

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2011

This Christmas was a great dose of family, food, relaxing, and yes, presents.

This may have been the first Christmas that Molly was somewhat aware of.  She seemed to understand that the Christmas tree signified something, that the lights could be turned on and off with a little foot switch, and that the ornaments could be rearranged by her.  Molly’s style is to cluster many ornaments onto a single branch.  She understood that the presents were a surprise for different people and that they needed to stay wrapped and under the tree (after some gentle guidance from us) until some undisclosed date.  Molly also got to sign and help wrap her first present, which happened to be some wooden play food (pickle jar, salt shaker, etc.) for Claire.  Molly also received some presents, including a singing and dancing Elmo, a tiny indoor basketball hoop, a tiny tricycle, a pile of Elmo books (from Santa) and a little lamb stuffed animal (also from Santa) to match her class mascot.  Molly liked all the gifts, but mostly she loved having her grandparents around to lavish her with attention.

Molly proudly holding her gift to Claire.
Note her signature in the “from” area.

But it was not all good tidings for Molly.  She came down with an ear infection on Christmas eve.  She had been sort of grumpy and “off” for a while, and then she started to mess with her right ear and eventually said that the ear hurt.  Kit and I got her into an urgent care clinic one hour before they closed on Christmas eve.  Writing this a few days later, I can tell you that the prescribed antibiotic caused upset stomach, diarrhea, and possibly a rash.  The diarrhea continued with the next antibiotic prescribed later by her regular doctor, and the resulting diaper rash is only adding to Molly’s discomfort.  But Molly is hanging in there.

Molly took a late night (7 pm!) visit to the doctor in her pajamas.
She loved the adventure of being out in her PJs after bedtime.

Claire and Molly admiring Santa’s offerings,
with Grandpa Phil looking on.

For Claire, Santa produced a mini-trampoline and a purple monkey stuffed animal to match her own class mascot.  The trampoline seemed a little random, but Claire practiced on it for the next few days and ended up doing some super-high jumps with her dad’s help, nearly touching her head to the ceiling (really).  Leading up to Christmas, Claire had asked several times whether we thought Santa would bring her anything good, or only coal.  I think Claire was worried she had “been bad” lately, with her various mood and temper issues that have flared up since this summer.  We assured her that Santa would bring her something, and I am glad the big guy came through.  Claire also had a number of incisive questions about how Santa actually operates.  Does he ever deliver the presents to the wrong house?  Does he ever give a boy’s present (such as a “Batman toy”) to a girl?  How does he keep track of who is naughty and nice?  I suggested to Claire that it is almost like he is magical, but she said no, it’s not magic.  He is probably just really smart and well organized.  (At this stage in my life, I consider the two to be almost indistinguishable).

Claire and Grammy admiring
the Olivia 2-in-1 playhouse from Noni.
Claire and Noni doing a little Christmas drawing.
Claire received many fine gifts from her family as well, including a jewelry box from her mom, a foam rocket from me, a deluxe art set from Grammy, an Olivia 2-in-1 playhouse from Noni, and many others. (I like to write some of the presents down since I think it could be interesting later.)
Noni set us up with a great Christmas dinner featuring honey-baked ham and many sides, while Grammy and I pitched in some too.  It was a real team effort.  We have a pretty good system.  Grammy mostly handled Thanksgiving’s dinner and now Noni took on Christmas.  I usually pitch in a side and enjoy helping out with the unique spectacle of a real, slow, home-cooked feast.
There are many more details to include, but I don’t want this to get too long (or keep me up later), so I better wrap up.  (It is all a blur now anyways, writing this only a few days later.)  It was a fun Christmas, and as corny as it sounds, the girls really did seem to enjoy having all the grandparents around even more than their presents.  The weekend went by really quickly, and pretty soon it was Sunday night and time for another greuling work week.  Kit actually didn’t have any extra time off this Christmas, working until Friday evening, with Christmas being on Sunday, and then Kit being on call starting on Monday morning for a 7:30 am surgery (scheduled by the Grinch, I guess).
Jixipix 2011

Jixipix 2011

I love the jixipix software.  It lets you turn a regular photograph into art.  To me, it makes things look sort of magical and is a reminder that maybe life is more beautiful and serene that it seems when you are sprinting through it.

Anyways, one of our presents to the kids’ grandparents (aka, our parents) this year was a calendar featuring jixipix of the girls for each month.  Here are a few samples.  Many more pictures, including lots left out of the final calendars, are located on shutterfly.

Art Samples #2

Art Samples #2

Continuing with the new art samples series, here are the latest highlights from Claire and Molly.  This covers the last batch to come home from school before the holiday break.

As usual, Claire’s drawings are full of cryptic words that are a really nice, courageous shot at sounding out the words phonetically.

“You are a flower” 
I can’t tell what this one is trying to say, but I like it.
No idea what “GOTAN” is, but I love this picture.
It looks like it’s out of a botanist’s field journal.  
This one is infused with a bit of Christmas cheer.

Molly is making her mark with finger paint and stickers.

Earwack

Earwack

Tonight during her bedtime story, Claire noticed a little whitish speck on one of the pillows.  She said, “Ew!  I don’t want to touch that earwack!”.  Now, Claire does not just make up words too much any more, so we were wondering what the heck she was talking about.  We finally realized out that “earwack” is singular for “ear wax”.  It was a single speck of ear wax, she was saying, while more than one would constitute “ear wacks”.  That it a pretty good linguistic innovation, in my book.  I guess even at 6 years old, language is still a little confusing.

No bath, no bath!

No bath, no bath!

If you were wondering what was the exact point in time when Molly started to dislike taking baths, it was this Monday.  Or maybe over the weekend.  Either way, it was definitely this week.

Molly used to enjoy her baths, taking her time to soak and play with toys, and even wash herself some with a wash cloth.  She only got upset with shampoo time and the resulting water and baby soap on the face.  But mostly it was a good time.

But now, all of the sudden, this has changed.  Molly has started to cry and scream, “No bath!  No bath!”, at the mere mention of her bath.  This has happened consistently for the last few nights.  She continues to cry through the bath itself, calming down only when out of the bath and in her dry towel.

We have no idea why Molly started to detest baths, but in case this never turns back around (like in the case of Claire, who now begrudgingly takes a shower before bed), I thought it would be interesting to pinpoint exactly when the shift occurred.  At this point, it is pretty safe to say that Claire and Moly love to sit around together and not take baths.  That is a favorite activity.

Holiday Traditions Poster

Holiday Traditions Poster

One issue with kindergarten so far has been trying to squeeze in the time to focus on Claire’s home projects (aka homework assignments). ¬†Usually these assignments are fun and creative, such as Disguise-a-Turkey, where Claire was given a picture of a turkey and had to turn it into something else so that it did not get eaten for Thanksgiving. ¬†That one did not go so well, though. ¬†We spent several days trying to get Claire focused on the assignment, but she just wasn’t “feeling” it, maybe because her time to work on these projects is also her grumpiest, most unfocused time of the day: late afternoon after school before we pick of Molly, or the 30 minutes before bed (which is otherwise “free time”). ¬†This was tricky to complete because the instructions were very specific about the kid doing the project, with only minimal help from parents. ¬†But without any real interest from Claire, we ended up with a somewhat random splattering of sparkle paint, which Claire declared a fairy, finally completed the night before it was due just before bedtime.

Claire McG’s Family Holiday Traditions
With that in mind, we finally had a solid success. ¬†Kit was able to work very well with Claire on her Holiday Family Traditions Poster. ¬†Kit and Claire got off on the right foot many days in advance, and Kit managed the slippery slope of supporting Claire without getting in her way or taking over the project. ¬†In the end, Claire felt enthusiastic and energized about the poster. ¬†It is nice to have a solid piece of work under our belt, and Kit and Claire made a good team while I mostly stayed out of the way (don’t mess with a good thing!).
The kids each presented their own posters to the class over the course of several days.  Claire got to learn about different family tradition besides the standard Christmas celebration, such as Hanukkah and the Muslin holiday Eid, which I had never heard of.  Sadly, I do not think anyone covered Festivus.
The Disguise-a-Turkey project,
for matter of comparison.