Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Clair's (sorta) first day of school!

Today was Clair's first day in the 2s class!
It's so nice only having to convince one child to look at the camera!

I call it her sorta first day, because it was only an hour and a half long, and we were there with her the whole time. *Tomorrow* is the real first day, when she has to stay from 8 to 11:30 -- alone. And then Thursday, she has to stay the FULL day -- until 2:30 p.m., which means she even has to nap there. Yikes.

Poor baby girl. Next week, when the boys start school, her world will be rocked even more, because she will not only have to stay for the full day, but she will also be picked up by a new caregiver, because this is Michelle's last week with us. I'm too sad to talk about that right now - really, it's too much.

So let's focus on Clair's (sorta) first day!

First of all, for one small child, we sure had to bring a lot of stuff.

The class did a gradual entry today, so only nine of the 16 kids in the class were there this morning. Guess how many of the nine Clair played with? If you guessed "not a one," you are correct!

She stuck close to us, not even venturing off to explore all the exciting toys unless one of us was near.

Making breakfast for Daddy.
Mommy's big going-to-school girl!
 She enjoyed decorating her name-tag and putting stickers all over it.

She didn't cry at all, thank goodness, though there was some whininess. But for the most part, I would say she was generally unimpressed with the whole thing.

Unimpressed is better than freaked the funk out, so I'll take it.

Because tomorrow, my friends, is another day altogether.
Pray for us.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cary and B.O.B. are becoming friends

Some of you mentioned the B.O.B. books for Cary when I mentioned a while back that he was showing some very preliminary early reading signs.

I was doubtful that he was ready, so I didn't get them. But lately, Cary has been poking his bottom lip out, lamenting that "I don't know how to reeeeeeaaad," and "I can't reeeeead!" so I figured it couldn't hurt to at least try the books and see how he does.

We got the first set of books last week, and he is doing so great with them, I can't even tell you!

I don't know why the sound on this video is soooo incredibly low, but if you turn your computer speakers ALL the way up, as far as they'll go, you can hear him sounding out words phonetically, like a big boy! So proud of him! Most of all, he is really proud of himself!

Dean is also doing very well with the books, though he is not as adept just yet as his older, book-loving brother in this area. But what has surprised me about my builder/doer/helper boy Dean is that --  once he saw Cary "reading" --  he immediately took a serious interest in the books, and has been asking me every day to read them to him and help him sound out words. And unlike Cary, who is easily frustrated when he doesn't quickly master something, Dean is undeterred by mistakes and just wants to keep trying and trying and trying. I SO admire that trait in him. (Not sure who he gets that from, but don't look my way...)

It's nice to see them both excited about these books. Generally, Dean has his "thing" and Cary has his, and they both sorta don't care what the other one is into. But with this, both boys are equally psyched about at least trying to figure out what those darn words on those little pages are actually saying!

Looking forward to them learning even more about reading this school year! Maybe by this time next year, they'll be reading bedtime stories to us.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Well-played, Princess Pink, you stealth ninja, you.

I was driving with the kids yesterday to meet a friend and her kids for ice cream when we passed a shopping center.

Clair yells to me from the backseat: "Mommy! (she said "Mommy" like 13 times because she has that hilarious toddler stutter). Mommy! Can-can-can-can-can-can-can-can we go in the pink store?"

I had no idea what she was talking about until I turned quickly and saw the T-Mobile store, which looked something like this.

"Oh no, baby. That's not a store for kids. It's a phone store. It's for adults to buy phones," I said.

Clair responded: "But-but-but-but-but-but-but it's PINK!"

She was not saying adult stores that sell phones shouldn't be pink. She was saying she NEEDED to go in that store because it was pink, regardless of what was actually being sold in it. Pink = need!

At the ice cream shop, Clair didn't want any of the ice creams available because none of them were pink. So she settled for vanilla ice cream with a heap of pink sprinkles. She ate the sprinkles and stirred the ice cream into a pale pink soup. Then she drank it.

Three days ago, when Lester was taking the kids to the park, I packed snacks and water bottles for them. Clair's sippy cup was among the missing (as usual), so I gave her what is supposed to be her "school cup." It used to be Dean's, but it now has her name on it. It's stainless steel with blue and yellow accents (you know the one.)

She recoiled when she saw it and screamed, "Nooooooo! I want my gur-rul cup! (She says "girl" like "squirrel.") I don't want that cup! That's DEAN'S! I want my GUR-RUL CUP!"

I had no idea what she was talking about, until we realized she wanted one that we took to the beach with us, with pink and turquoise polka dots on it.

She flat out refused the stainless steel one and cried until we poured the water into the cheap plastic polka-dotted one.

Oh, she also calls her navy blue Mary Jane shoes her "princess shoes" and asks if every girl she sees on coloring books or TV commercials is a princess. One day I put on my clothes for work and felt especially winning, so I smiled down at my child and said to her, "How does Mommy look?"

She took in my slacks and flat shoes and said disapprovingly, "You-you-you-you-you not a princess."

I PROMISE you, we have never called anything in our house a "girl" anything or a "boy" anything.

Even with my love of little girls in little girly things, we have not pushed pink on her in any way. Her room is green. Her bookbag is Sesame Street's brand of primary colors. I like to think she wears clothes in lots of different colors, pink included, but not exclusively. And the poor girl barely has toys of her own, because we thought it was stupid to buy them when her brothers had a zillion toys she could play with. But the ones she does have are not any more pink than they are green or blue or multi-colored.

And we have NO princess anything in our house, other than the daily 10,000 playings of "Let it Go" on my iPod. Not that I am opposed to princesses - or pink. But we just haven't gotten there yet. Or so I thought.

I say all this to say: Well-played Princess Industrial Complex. Somehow you have pinkafied my daughter and I don't even know how. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rain rain, don't go away!

Yesterday, it rained like rain was going out of style.

From 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., it poured - hard and relentlessly. I got soaked going back and forth from my car to meetings, and other, less fortunate, people had their cars swept away in flash flooding. It was crazy. In total, some six inches of rain fell on Baltimore yesterday.

My children were aching to get out in it. We recently bought them rain boots and raincoats, because the boys' new school stressed to us that there are very few days that they don't take the kids outside to play; a little rain, they said, was not a reason to stay inside. (A philosophy we love, by the way.)

So when the skies opened up yesterday, C, D and C just knew this was their chance to splash in puddles with abandon!

When I got home at 5:30, they immediately started pulling on their boots and jackets. They banged through the screen door and stood on the porch steps, looking at...


Not a drop of rain anywhere. Seriously, it was like someone just turned off a heavenly faucet one minute after I came in the house.

Poor little vinyl-coated cuties!

In other WTF news, the school sent us some correspondence which lists Cary and Dean this way:

Davis, Cary - '28
Davis, Dean - '28

CLASS OF 2028?!?! Whaaaaaaaat?!

That just completely blew my mind. I need a moment.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Clair and her hair

Remember how when I was pregnant with Clair, my curls just went completely away? That's how I knew I was having a girl, even before the ultrasound confirmed it. I knew she was stealing my curls to populate her own little head.

Apparently our heads of hair are still connected, because as my hair is getting thinner (Seriously, folks. I have like 22 strands of hair left on my head), Clair's hair is getting thicker and thicker.



Pray for me as her beautifully thick head of hair just gets longer, curlier and coiler.

And pray for our bank accounts, slowly being depleted to pay for all of the hair products.

Thank you. God bless you. Good night.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Third beach week -- a resounding success!!!

Last week we went to Bethany Beach again for a week, and I finally, finally feel like we did the beach right.

You might remember when we first started going to beach, we were total novices and not really all that fond of the beach, but we wanted our kids to have that experience growing up, so we bit the bullet and did it.

I'm so glad we did, because now we really know why people love it so!

The first time we went, we stayed in a hotel - BAD idea.

The second time we went, we stayed in a 1-bedroom condo. Still not great.

This time, we rented a 3-bedroom house and it was perfection!

We even invited my sister and her husband and their two boys, who came for two days and one night, and my Mom and Dad, who brought my other sister's three youngest and stayed for two nights and three days!

More space plus more family = best beach week ever.

Here's the story in one hundred million photos.

There was lots and lots of cousins, water guns, watering cans and fun:

Kwahli and Dean
Kwahli is getting Russy pretty good in this shot!
The gang, including my Mom and Dad, who loved the water and the sand as much as the kids.
The gang again. Except for Matty and Clair, this is all the kids. It's the only shot I got of (just about) everyone.
Matty and Clair didn't get in the water at all. Too scary.
    But this is the first year my boys got in it -- even if it was only at the very edge!. Check Dean out!

That's Cary crouched in the water! Can you believe it?

Why is Matty doing push-ups on the beach? No one knows.

He's going to go ask one of the big kids to get him some water...
So he can pour it on people.
Reggie and Lester
Tahira and Reggie (and my Dad) are the only ones who ventured out into the water. The rest of us are wusses.
Making toe-prints
 We built really rudimentary sandcastles:

We need to work on our technique
We walked along the beach in the early morning:
My Dad took this picture on a morning that he and my Mom took the kids out so we could sleep in. Yes!

We posed on the beach (a lot, and often only after being bribed by me):

Don't they look thrilled to be taking this photo?
This is as close as Clair would get to the water

My handsome Deanie
My scary sea monster Cary
This is the "if you hug and smile I will give you candy" pose.
Why Cary? Why?
We sat for an on-the-beach picture...
And got surprised by a wave!
 My Dad broke the beach rules (and fell asleep happy):

He thought this was so hilarious.

This was after hours of being beaten up by strong waves. My Dad loves the beach!
At the beach house, we ate (a lot), stayed up way too late, blew bubbles and made sidewalk chart art:

Aminah made a beautiful landscape scene (and used up most of the chalk)

Dean's dinosaur! He's such a good artist!
Clair and Matty bonded:

A little...
We saw things we never see at home, like bunnies just hopping around.

This is the Momma bunny, but we saw her babies too. Just hopping around the town! Bethany is such a sweet little place.

We ate a lot of steamed crabs after the kids went to sleep (and had some delicious spirits)

This is the second night of demolishing a crap ton of crabs. The first night we bought a 1/2 a bushel for Reggie's birthday -- and crushed those too.

Dean asked to pick his own crab, so we experienced that milestone! (He did pretty good!)

Train 'em up early!

And we walked around a ton in the little beachtown and ate (A THOUSAND POUNDS OF) frozen custard. We went to Funland TWICE, and I started and finished a book!

All in all, it was an amazingly fun, relaxing and family-filled vacation.

We can't wait to do it again next year!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Agreement isn't necessary. Understanding is.

I don't know why, but I always feel like I need/want to explain myself about why it's important to us to send our kids to private school.

Maybe it's because we're friends with such liberal, pro-public-school people, so we don't want to be seen as "those people" -- the pretentious private school people who think they're better and whose kids are preppy assholes. Also, we're going to be flat broke for the next 20 years, so we know people think we're crazy and wonder why the hell we would do that to ourselves. :-)

It also might have something to do with the fact that, even within our own families, there's still a tension between "bettering oneself or one's own family" and so-called "acting" or "wanting to be" white. (And yes, this is a real thing, despite people who want to believe it's not.)

Navigating both dynamics -- friends who don't understand your choices and family members who fear you're judging and abandoning them -- is trying, to say the least.

I always seem to become very inarticulate when I try to make our reasons known.
But this article, even though it's old, really gets to the large and small of it. 

Here's the link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114327591

Most of you know my family background, and Lester's. So perhaps you can see how it is that we see ourselves in some of the imagery here.
No reason to read or listen to this right now, of course, but if we're close (you know who you are), I do want you to give it your attention, if you have the time and the inclination.

We know that private school is not "the answer." We know there are pitfalls and peer pressures wherever they go. In fact, there's a whole slew of new worries we're taking on by sending our children to a school where they'll be surrounded by privilege, potentially isolated, and exposed to vices we likely can't even imagine. And who knows how we'll feel once they actually get there. We could be singing an entirely different tune in a year or five.

But for us, right now, moving out of our neighborhood and sending the kids to private school seems like the best choice for our family.

I know we don't have to explain ourselves to anyone. And maybe you still won't agree with us, even after reading/listening to this. That's really OK. We don't have to agree.

But it would mean a lot for the people I like and love to at least understand.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bubbles + cousins + Baltimore Harbor = winning

This weekend, my sister Tahira and her husband had to go to a wedding, so we watched Russy and Matty.

We'd already planned to take our kids to the Science Center for Bubble Days, because Clair's absolute favorite thing (besides screeching at people and being irascible) is bubbles. So we just took all the kids with us. All five of 'em.

We ended up spending the entire day at the Science Center and the Inner Harbor (for lunch, ice cream, pirate-boat-watching and dancing). They got thoroughly soaked, playing in bubble solution for hours, and then we dragged the kids to Artscape for a little bit, where the boys made some spin art and mostly ran through a huge mist-er getting even more soaked, and Clair fell asleep in her stroller.

We were all BEAT at the end of the day, but it was  super fun and the kids loved hanging with their cousins (as usual).

See for yourselves:

What could be more fun than playing in a huge pool of sudsy bubbles?

"It's on my feet! It's on my hands! I need a towel!"
Hey Cary, check out your cool bubble pirate hat! Never mind that. Boohoohoo. Matty got suds on my glasses! (Sheesh. I can't with this kid.)
Russy tried to show Dean how to do this, but Dean knows EVERYTHING (in case you didn't know) so there was lots of tugging and minimal bubbling.
Mommy, Russy's bubble was THIS big!
As you can tell, they had so much fun with bubbles outside, they barely wanted to go inside the building!
Eating their ice cream on a sculpture at the Inner Harbor. And check out the dancing that ensued (below):

Poor Matty was so tired, he missed the ice cream. We bought him a cone, though, just in case he woke up while we were all eating ours. But he slept like a hibernating bear. So Lester ate Matty's. And his.
By the time we got to Artscape, we were all super tired and wished we could get pushed around in a stroller while we slept, like Matty and Clair did.

But at least the next morning, the kids slept until after 8:30 a.m. - and took nice looooong afternoon naps.

Bubbles + cousins = WINNING.