Frozen cast poster
The much loved characters of Frozen

The movie Frozen is a pretty big deal, at least with little girls. ¬†The movie was released in theaters¬†five months ago and seems to have only picked up steam¬†since. ¬†It probably helps that it’s now on iTunes and DVD. ¬†Anyways, this movie definitely ranks as a favorite — no, the favorite — movie for both Claire and Molly.

We have had endless discussions about “Who do you like better, Anna or Elsa?” or “What’s your favorite song in Frozen?” or “What character do you think I am in Frozen?” ¬†On the drive back from¬†Corpus Christi this weekend, Claire and Molly watched Frozen¬†in the car. ¬†When they weren’t watching Frozen, Molly was singing it. ¬†“The snow glows white on the mountain tonight‚Ķ” she always starts quietly. ¬†Molly seems to know most of the words. ¬†Claire started a series of family votes on who were¬†our favorite characters (Anna won overall), favorite songs, etc. ¬†At first, Molly thought Elsa was a “bad guy”, but Claire has slowly convinced her that Elsa is not bad, she has a good heart but she just has a problem to deal with. ¬†Molly doesn’t understand that, but she believes Claire.

We had a babysitter last weekend, and she told us that every single girl under the age of 13 who she sits has been singing Frozen songs, mostly Let It Go. ¬†She says it’s a “phenomenon”. ¬†I found myself at an after-school dinner for Molly’s school, sitting with Claire, Molly, and another dad from Molly’s class. ¬†He went on about Frozen, complete with trivia (the main character names came from the name ¬†“Hans Christian Andersen”, etc.)

There is also a backlash.  At a second grade roller skating party, the skating rink played the song Let It Go, and all the girls sang along.  But all the boys apparently took of their roller-skates, slid around on their socks, and screamed in protest.  There is also Let It Go Goes With Everything, which shows just how generic (but still lovely) that song is.

Claire seems to enjoy my personal take on Anna vs. Elsa, which is that Anna is a true optimist and person of action who is always trying to make things better, while Elsa just runs to the nearest mountain to sing a song about how sad and misunderstood¬†she is. ¬†Boo hiss, Elsa! ¬†ūüėČ ¬†Claire thinks it is funny that Elsa sings on three separate occasions the words “Conceal, don’t feel‚Ķ” ¬†Okay, we shouldn’t be too hard on the cursed,¬†orphaned¬†ice¬†queen. ¬†I’m just saying we get it, already, Elsa. ¬†It’s time to move on!

Anyways, Frozen is the only thing to really break through the My Little Pony stranglehold for Claire in the past several months, and that is really saying something.  I mean, occasionally Claire likes to watch Frozen, although MLP still forms the core of her entertainment universe.

Rainbow Claire

This is a picture of Claire in her handmade paper-and-tape Rainbow Dash costume. ¬†The lovingly-made costume is a tribute to Claire’s enduring fascination with My Little Pony. ¬†She is even talking about publishing to YouTube a video of her playing with the My Little Pony. ¬†There are video like that that have over 30,000 views.

One time I said something offhand¬†to Claire about, “When you move on to the next thing after My Little Pony‚Ķ” and Claire, shocked, said “What? ¬†I will never move on from My Little Pony!”

The only other rival for Claire’s attention is the movie Frozen. ¬†Claire and Molly both know all the songs, etc. and talk about who is better, Anna or Elsa (the consensus is Anna, although Claire has some sympathy for Elsa). ¬†Claire and I can perform the song “Reindeers Are Better Than People” with me on guitar and Claire on vocals. ¬†It actually sounds okay. ¬†Maybe we should put that on YouTube, huh?

Still, MLP is king no matter if some people Claire’s age think its “babyish”. ¬†Claire is a loyal and proud fan, and her paper costume shows it.

The Main Six

Claire showing off her own My Little Pony sketches
Claire showing off her own My Little Pony sketches.

Today I asked Claire this question: “Is Twilight Sparkle the only Alicorn of the Main Six?” ¬†The thing that surprised me was that really was curious if ¬†Twilight Sparkle was the only one of the main My Little Pony characters¬†to have both a horn and wings. ¬†Huh? ¬†Claire’s My Little Pony fascination had rubbed off on me. ¬†I don’t really sit and watch the show, but it is on a lot, and Claire loves to talk about it. ¬†She will rant about each character as long as you will listen. ¬†The very first thing Claire brings up when she has a friend over is MLP.

The TV show in question is¬†My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic¬†and is¬†just about the only show Claire has been watching for the last several months. ¬†The only other show she chooses to watch, besides the occasional movie, is Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse, which she can watch only once a week since it’s too, well, Barbie-ish (although it is funny and pokes fun at itself a lot). ¬†Some of Claire’s friends tease her a bit for liking a “babyish” show like My LIttle Pony, but Claire proudly stands by her ponies. ¬†I have to side with Claire on this one — the show is fairly complex and layered with morality tales, not just a bunch of generic pink ponies acting cute. ¬†The characters are unique and independent and learning lessons through trial and error. ¬†Claire hates — hates! — My Little Pony: A Very Minty Christmas since it is pretty babyish and shallow and has a whole different feel.

So is Twilight Sparkle the only Alicorn in the group?  Claire tells me that yes she is, at least at the end of season 3.  She is dying for Netflix to get season 4, though!

BTW, Claire’s friend say that Claire is the most like Apple Jack since she is honest, dependable, and helpful.

The official portrait of the Main Six ponies.
The official portrait of the Main Six ponies.

Favorite Books #5

It has been a while since the last favorite books entry on this blog, so here we go…

harry_potter_and_the_prisoner_of_azkabanFor bedtime stories, Claire has been reading the Harry Potter series almost every night for months now. ¬†We just finished up book #3,¬†Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. ¬†Claire loves the HP series and has a tendency to think it is real. ¬†Occasionally she even insists that it is real, a non-function book as she put it once. ¬†Each time we finish reading a book, we get to rent the movie afterwards. ¬†After watching one of the movies, Claire said, “Do you think that is what it really looked like?” ¬†She seems to understand that the movies are just movies but thinks they are based on real events. ¬†We have stressed to Claire that the stories are made up by J.K. Rowling, a nice, ¬†talented writer from England. ¬†One time I showed Claire an interview of J.K. Rowling on The Daily Show just to drive home the point that this is all made up by¬†this one lady, and there she is. ¬†Claire seems to understand rationally that the story is actually fiction, but it also just seems real to her. ¬†That must make the stories very vivid for her.

For the sake of mixing things up a bit, we are trying Nancy Drew mystery series now.  Claire is luke warm on Nancy Drew.  She says it is alright, but it is just not as exciting as Harry Potter.


We also listen to the Ramona Quimby audiobook collection every day after school, while driving to pick up Molly.  Listening to Ramona stories peacefully in the car with Claire after a hard day of work is a highlight of every day for me.  I really look forward to those 20-30 minutes.

As for Molly…

734645Molly has more variety than Claire at the moment. ¬†It is hard to pin down a favorite. ¬†She can pick three books to take to bed each night, and usually they are different. ¬†Lately, though, one of the three is almost always one of the big Harry Potter books. ¬†This is surprising since Molly cannot read and the books have no pictures except for the cover and the start of each chapter. ¬†But Molly seems to enjoy the pure physicality of the Harry Potter books and insists on saving her place with a bookmark every night. ¬†Molly also loves Claire’s school yearbook from last year (kindergarten). ¬†She loves to look at all the kids and teachers, some of whom she knows. ¬†The third book is the wildcard. ¬†A long-running favorite is Dr. Seuss’¬†Big Green Book of Beginner Books. ¬†She keeps a bookmark as she works her way through this book too. ¬†She likes any Dr. Seuss book, of course, but this big one is her favorite. ¬†Basically, she likes big hardback books. ¬†Molly also enjoys pop-up books such as a Peter Rabbit pop-up that we have. ¬†She also enjoys some cute little books such as the square¬†Little Miss and Mr. Men books by¬†Roger Hargreaves and the occasional book about potty training.

Sea World!

Claire Sea World Picture
Claire: "I am going to Sea World and see Shamu. It will be a lot of fun and dolphins ..."

Leading up to the final days of kindergarten, we revealed to Claire our plans for a fun trip to celebrate Claire finishing her first year of elemenrtary school (and Kit’s week off). ¬†We would go to Sea World in San Antonio. ¬†The timing for this trip could not be better, since Claire has shown great interest in dolphins and other sea life lately. ¬†“I am so going to feed the dolphins!”, she said, when we told her about the trip. ¬†We showed her a pamphlet of Sea World, and she kept looking at it and saying, “Awesome!” ¬†Claire was excited enough that she created a picture at school about the upcoming trip. ¬†Claire was also pretty excited about going to San Antonio in general, remembering a fun trip to the zoo there last year.

Not only was the timing perfect for Claire, but it was also perfect for Molly. ¬†There is a “Bay of Play” at Sea World which, we all agreed, Molly would be super excited about, because it was themed on Elmo, and very favorite character, and Sesame Street in general. ¬†But we did not tell her about Elmo and his Bay of Play until we were at Sea World and she could see it. ¬†If we told her earlier, Molly would likely expect to see it right then and there and end up confused or disappointed after repeating “I want Elmo!” a number of times.

Anyways, the trip was indeed “awesome”, as Claire would say many more times. ¬†At this point, I am going to drop into bullet points in an attempt to avoid an overly verbose and time-consuming travel log, or at least to help you skip over bits as appropriate.

  • The Hotel
    • Molly Embassy Suites SA Lobby
      Molly gaping at the hotel lobby

      Perhaps the biggest hit of the trip for Claire and Molly was the hotel, an Embassy Suites about a 20 minute drive from Sea World.

    • Molly spent as much time as possible in the lobby gaping upwards at the eight stories of hotel balconies magically hovering above her. ¬†The hotel even had a “swimming pool” right in the lobby. ¬†Actually, this “swimming pool” was a decorative fountain, but to Molly that is all semantics. ¬†She was thrilled to discover later that there was a real swimming pool in the hotel that we were willing to take her for a swim in.¬†¬†This was a nice chance for Molly to finally get into a swimming pool herself after watching Claire do swim lessons all spring. ¬†Molly loved it, but she did not want to splash around too much. ¬†She just liked to be held, grinning widely, in the water.
    • Claire also liked the fountain and swimming pool. She tossed a quarter in the fountain and also got to swim twice. ¬†Claire said it was the fanciest hotel ever, and it made it seem like we were rock stars.
    • Claire and Molly were also amazed by the free drinks in the lobby for happy hour. ¬†Claire asked, unbelievably, “Are the drinks really free?” ¬†Yes, that includes pink lemonade and popcorn! ¬†And we all enjoyed a hearty breakfast before heading out to Sea World the next morning, except for Molly, who had a little milk and dragged some cheerios through her ketchup.
    • Kit and I took pains to explain that we don’t always stay in a place as nice as Embassy Suites, but in this case it really made sense to have a separate living room due to the sleeping situation (with the girls turning in around 8 pm and Kit and I not wanting to sit around in the dark from then until our bed time).
  • Sea World
    • Molly feeding a dolphin
      Molly feeding a dolphin

      We started out at Dolphin Cove. ¬†We explained to Claire that we weren’t sure if we would be able to feed or touch the dolphins, and she said, “Then what are we supposed to do? ¬†Just stare at them?” ¬†This pessimism gave way to joy when we saw the pool, full of dozens of dolphins, swimming gracefully around, coming up to the sides, and playfully jumping out of the water. ¬†We ended up feeding the dolphins too. ¬†We bought about a dozen sardines (or something similar) to feed them. ¬†Claire ended up skipping the actual dolphin feeding, though, partly because the sardines were gross and slimy, and partly because, I assume, she did not want to get bitten by a dolphin. ¬†Molly did manage to feed a dolphin, though, dropping a sardine right into its eager, wide open mouth. ¬†Molly sat on the side of the pool waving and saying, cheerfully, “Hey buddies! ¬†I’m Molly! ¬†I’m a little lamb!”, identifying her class at school. ¬†The dolphins seemed to appreciate this introduction, or at least the sardines that came with it.

    • We briefly checked out the sharks, which of course, were really cool, although we had to run to catch the Shamu show.
    • The Shamu show was really cool, and wet. ¬†Claire wanted to sit in the “splash zone”. ¬†Kit stayed with Molly out of splash range. ¬†Molly is brave about dolphins but somewhat skittish about getting splashed. ¬†The whales started doing jumps and flips and hopping out of the water to say hi. ¬†It was pretty amazing. ¬†And from our angle, you could see the whales way down under water after a big jump. ¬†Claire worked her way up to the very front row of the splash zone, although I convinced her to pull back to about the fourth row with the warning, “We could get really soaked up here.” ¬†Through most of the show, we did not get wet at all. ¬†Then the show’s announcer said, “These whales sure can make a big splash!”, and right when he said “splash”, the whales went to town on our section. ¬†This was no accidental spill-over from the show. ¬†This was three whales, heads down in the water, fins above, intentionally and repeatedly throwing as much water our way as possible. ¬†Everyone in our section screamed, myself included. ¬†Claire got pretty soaked. ¬†Somehow I escaped the worst of it, apparently fleeing pretty quickly once I noticed the giant wall of water coming my way. ¬†Claire and I were laughing like crazy. ¬†Pretty soon the whales had moved on to other sections, and Claire was yelling loudly down towards the trainers, “Make them do it again!”
    • At the sea lions
      At the sea lions

      We also enjoyed a dramatic performance entitled Cannery Row Caper, performed mostly by sea lions. ¬†Claire got to ask questions to one of the human actors after the show. ¬†Then we grabbed some sardines and fed and admired the playful sea lions for some time. ¬†I would personally have named them “sea dogs” since their faces look like a dog, but that is just me, I guess. ¬†Seriously, though, they don’t look anything like lions.

    • At last came the Bay of Play, where Molly got to meet Sesame Street’s Zoe in person. ¬†Zoe was no Elmo, but she was still pretty cool. ¬†I guess Elmo was on lunch break.
    • Claire had her own fun at Bay of Play, where she rode her very first roller coaster, a small kiddy coaster, but still a coaster. ¬†We thought Claire would be terrified to ride on it, but she was eager to try it. ¬†She ended up really enjoying the quick ride and said it was “not scary, not even a little bit.”

      Claire Roller Coaster
      The roller coaster
    • A very tired and bedraggled dinner out¬†at¬†TGI Friday’s and a quick swim at the hotel finished us for the day. ¬†The girls fell right asleep after their bath, unlike the night before. ¬†Kit and I were not far behind.
  • The Riverwalk
    • Molly running the Riverwalk
      Molly running the Riverwalk

      Saturday morning gave me, Molly, and Claire a chance for another quick swim while Kit kindly packed up in the room. ¬†We managed to save about 45 minutes to visit the Riverwalk on the way back to Austin. ¬†We strolled about a half mile on the less crowded part near Municipal Auditorium. ¬†This was Molly’s first visit to the Riverwalk, and Claire’s second (the first time, she was about Molly’s age). ¬†We took lots of pictures, sat on lots of cool benches and stone overhangs, admired ducks and turtles, waved at passing boats, ran, walked, and finally made it back to the car. ¬†I told Claire that the Riverwalk was one of my very favorite places, and Claire said that it was her favorite place.

    • Somehow we managed to stay on schedule for a lunch at the “real” EZ’s on New Braunfels Ave and get Molly home to Austin in time for her nap.

Well, this blog entry ended out pretty verbose after all.  And this was only a 2-night trip!

History Buff

The other day, Claire said she wanted to have a party at our house.  She wanted to have either a Valentines party or a history party.  That’s right, a history party!  The idea would be for people to come and dress up as mummies, cowboys, etc. and, you know, do historical activities.  I loved the idea and started to dream up historical snacks and drinks.  But I had to explain to Claire that we probably could not manage a party.  There are already so many birthday parties, and we can barely scrape through a weekend as it is just getting our basic chores and survival done, and hosting a party was going to be a tall order.  Still, I love the idea…

Anyways, it is nice to see that Claire’s interest in history has continued well past her trip to Washington DC, where she first discovered those glorious mummies and all things Egyptian at the Smithsonian.  Her Egyptian fascination continues.  She has lots of questions.  Is Egypt a real place?  What did the mummies do before they died?  Did the Egyptians ever come to Austin?  Who came before the Egyptians?  Do people live in Egypt now?  “No fair!  I want to live there!” she says and mock cries when I tell her yes, Egypt is real, and yes, people do live there.  It is almost like Egypt is Disneyland for her.  It is a place of golden masks, great pyramids, mysterious gods and goddesses, and fashionable wigs and sandals.

Claire’s interest in history continued when we got Claire a copy of the movie Night at the Museum and its sequel, which is set at the same Smithsonian museum that we went to in DC.  In the movies, all the museum’s characters come to life at night, including Teddy Roosevelt, a Roman general Octavius, Napoleon, Attila the Hun, an Easter Island statue, a playful dinosaur, and yes, a (fictional?) Egyptian king named Ahkmenrah.  Claire got really interested in the characters and was fascinated that they were (mostly) real people, not just storybook characters.  We have spent a lot of time telling Claire that such and so story or character is not real, only a story (Star Wars, Ponyo, Barbie), so it was pretty wild for her to think that all these interesting and sometimes scary people really did exist.  She had more questions.  Was Napoleon a bad guy?  Was Custer from Europe?  How did Amelia Earhart die? Was Octavius a real Roman general?  Were there Ro-women too, or only Ro-men (i.e., Roman)?  (Really, that was a question.)

But I don’t want to push this history thing too hard for fear of spoiling it for Claire.  Well hold off a few years before tackling the Oxford History of the United States.  She should be at least 9 or 10 years old, right?

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. ūüôā

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!

Claire’s Interview #1

Today in kindergarten, Claire did a school assignment called “My Favorite Things”.  Claire was given a small book and had to fill in her answer to various questions about her favorite things, plus add an illustration.  I’m not really up for scanning each page into the blog, but here is a sample page and the full text:

    My favorite food is: smoothe (smoothies)
    My favorite place to go is: the pool
    My favorite thing to do for fun is: jump
    My favorite color is: piek (pink)

It may be interesting to do some sort of regular “interview” in this blog, so look out for this type of thing again in the future.  They will all be available under the label “interview”.

Favorite Books #1

There have been a few random posts in the past about the girls’ favorite books at the time, such as Chrysanthemum and Knuffle Bunny.  Now I am going to make an effort to post their favorites regularly, about every 6 months.  It should be interesting to see how their favorites change over time.  So here we go…

Molly’s favorite book at the moment is Going to the Potty by Fred Rogers.

Molly loves to sit and “read” this book in her leisure time.  She is transfixed by the pictures of toddlers sitting on toilets, being praised and helped by their ostensible parents.  Molly is not quite yet starting toilet training, but they are talking about toilets, BM’s, etc. at school now, so it is a good subject.

Kit and I love this book too.  The book is 25 years old, and its pictures are badly outdated in a funny way.  The writing is quite entertaining, too, such as, “Some children wet or mess their pants now and then before they really get used to going to the potty.  Learning to stay clean and dry is one way to please you mom and dad and you!”

Molly is also especially enjoying Cuddle! and Corduroy, two very sweet and entertaining books.

Claire’s favorite book right now is our least favorite, Barbie: Princess Charm School, based on a movie of the same name.

Kit and I were somewhat skeptical about the whole Barbie thing initially a few months ago when Claire first discovered it, but we were pleasantly surprised with the relative quality of movies like Twelve Dancing Princesses.  But Princess Charm School, which Claire picked from the Scholastic catalog from school, and which we assumed was alright, is pure drivel.  In the book, Barbie is a hardworking waitress who is picked by lottery to attend the prestigious Princess Charm School, where “girls were trained to become princesses and Lady Royals”.  Most of the story involves the backstabbing treachery of a snobby, jealous teacher.  Eventually, Barbie joins her slightly-skanky friends and overcomes her obstacles by simply inheriting the throne of Queen of Gardania.  Hurray for monarchy!  Wait, what the… ?  The book pays lip service to hard work and honesty, but in the end it is pretty clear that really the best thing is to be the queen’s pretty daughter.  When we read it, Kit and I do our best to draw some helpful conclusions and perspectives from this book.

Claire just loves this book, though, I guess for the drama and the visuals.  For example, she told me that this page is maybe the prettiest thing she has ever seen.

This page definitely scores big on its overall pinkness and fairy-related content, big points for Claire right now.

Other current favorites include The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School, which Claire checked out from her school library, and Ruby the Copycat, both of which are about a girl’s struggle in school and ultimate redemption.  These fine books may be helping to soothe Claire’s kindergarten jitters.