We celebrated Avery Jane’s fifth birthday earlier this fall. As with any good birthday celebration, we managed to extend it across multiple days with triplicate celebrations. First, we had the actual birthday, which seemed to require some sort of acknowledgement since her party was the following day. So, we closed the book on year #5 with a trip to one of AJS’ favorite spots – the zoo. She was fascinated with feeding the stingrays, especially our plump (can stingrays be plump?) stingray friend, Teddy. We also dropped by to give the giraffes a bite. The next day, we rolled out the red carpet for all of our favorite four and five-year-olds and served tea for twenty in the backyard. And as you might imagine, this theme was not arrived upon lightly. After discussion that spanned a year, we settled upon a tea party, but only after I firmly rejected a “Dolphin Tale” party – Avery’s then-favorite movie that revolves around a dolphin-amputee. I was convinced that other parents would question our decision to serve cake shaped like a dolphin sans tail. And so we tea-partied. Faux tea was consumed, delicacies inhaled, and tea hats constructed. Lastly, we wrapped up our celebratory tour with a visit to her school.
Five years of AJS has been so sweet. It pains me that I cannot still feel what is was like to have a baby AJS or a toddler AJS. I see the pictures, I have the memories, but I cannot take myself back to that time in any real sense. In many ways, she is a pint-sized adult but retains a child-like sweetness. Without AJS around, I would never be as educated on many topics, including princesses and pumpkin types, and I am certain I would get away with a lot more, like forgetting to use my manners and saying “ya.” But who would tell me I am pretty each and every day, even when I am wearing yoga pants? And who would tell me that she loves me more than anyone and pray for me (almost) every night? Our Avery Jane has brought us buckets and buckets of blessings, and she’s just getting started.
When I tell people I have two girls, I get lots of comments along the lines of “girls are so sweet,” “you must have such fun with all the girly stuff,” etc. And, it’s true. I love having two girls. I dress them up, we have tea parties, pinkness abounds. But, I must confess, that at the end of the day, girls are gross, too. Some more than others (cough, cough, Claire). For the benefit of my genteel readers, I try to avoid stories about poop. But tonight, I break that rule. Don’t worry – it’s not graphic. Except the part about boogers.
To be honest, this blog post is really more of an open letter to Claire. Just in case she’s thinking about making some changes around here, I have two suggestions.
First, Claire and I have fallen into an annoying pattern in the car. We’re driving along, somewhat serenely listening to Mary Poppins, when Claire starts chanting “mamma” until I look at her. I look at her, she holds out her finger and says “booger.” At first, I was not sure what was happening, but, from painful experience, I have learned that she is actually holding a booger on her finger, and she would like me to take it. After all, aren’t mothers full service? If I ignore her, she continues to chant my name, with the occasional “booger” peppered in. If I take the booger (hypothetically, of course), it quickly snowballs as another booger quickly pops up to take that one’s place. We call this “the Booger Dilemma.” You think you have problems.
Second, Claire is starting to potty train, which has introduced a slew of new vocabulary. Apparently, two-year-olds are not aware that bathroom vocab has limited acceptable uses. My least favorite use of her new vocab is as follows. About 99% of the time when I use the bathroom, Claire is with me. It used to be fine (as fine as it can be to use the bathroom with someone’s hand on your knee), but now Claire stands in the bathroom and loudly exclaims “poopin’” the entire time. Yes, including in restaurant bathrooms, mall bathrooms, etc. One time, I tried to quietly reason with her, but that only makes her turn up the volume. Now, at least at home, I shut her out of the bathroom, so she stands directly outside the door shrieking “poopin’.” It’s a good thing I find Claire super cute.
So, in summation, girls come with a lot of poop and boogers just like everyone else. See, that wasn’t so bad?
And . . . I’m back after a bit of a summer hiatus. Who knew summer “break” could be so hectic? I’m going to post about some summer goings-on over the next few days. But for today, just a few random this-es and thats.
First up, sadly, the AJS has returned to school. Between me and Ave, one of us is more affected by back-to-school than the other. Fine, it’s me. I’m the super-huge baby, and AJS is the one who calmly sauntered into school with nary a thought to her poor mother’s feelings. In the words of the tiny scholar herself, “Mom, I have to go back to school to learn. You get to see me all the time.” As we were waiting to enter on the first day, there were some first-day tears shed by some other students, which utterly perplexed the AJS. With face scrunched as scrunchy as a face can be, Ave says to me “should I tell them how fun school is?” In defense of the other kids, it was their first go-around, whereas Ave is now a seasoned pre-school vet. On her way down the hall, I heard her saying “don’t worry – school is lots of fun.” Oh how I wish she could feel the exact same way when she is fourteen. Four-year-olds, I tell you, they are bundles of innocence and sincerity. In other AJS news, that kid has gotten leggy, and I don’t like it. Daily, I scrutinize her face for that trace of baby-face that was there one-year ago, and I get nothing. Fortunately for me, another girl who lives in my house still projects squishy, sticky, squealy baby all-the way. Which brings me to . . .
The CCS. That girl. You may not be surprised to hear that the summer has not seen a lot of slowing down for Claire. She is still equal parts sass and energy. Unlike her sister at the same age, CCS is not overly verbal. More of a grunter - it’s almost primal. However, never fear, she knows how to say everything she needs to say. She can adequately identify where’s she’s injured herself when she needs comfort (“bump-a head” and “ow-y on my fingy”). She can precisely enunciate all her favorite snacks and, in which dish/cup she would like them served up. But my favorite/not favorite is that, for one who speaks little, Claire can both adequately air her grievances and also deny guilt. Both necessities to survive in this world. As way of example, in the past few days alone, I have heard “didn’t do it” when proclaiming innocence and “Ave boss me” which I believe speaks for itself. I sometimes get the sneaking suspicion that I’m getting played by my two-year-old. I would ask her about it, but she’s not talking.
So that’s the word on the five-year-old and two-year-old scene. Next up, summer recaps.
Today, this little nugget turned two. Two years and twenty-four hours ago, Jerrod and I checked in at a hotel while my parents stayed at our house with Avery, and slept fitfully before our 5:00 a.m. wakeup call. It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep when staring down a day of childbirth. All night, I kept asking myself, “who will this little girl be?” Over the past two years, this little girl has unfolded her personality to us, and I never anticipated that our daughter would be such a quirky, unique girl with such a strong sense of self. She is equal parts sweet (“Lub you, mama.” Translation: “Love you, mama) and sassy (“Do it, do it, do it, me, do it.” Translation: Mother, would you mind if I do this myself?”). This baby (she’s my child, and I’ll call her a “baby” if I want to) is exactly the person who was meant to be in our family, and I would not change one, fuzzy, out-of-control hair on her head.
I love birthdays because it the perfect excuse to check out for a day and make your sole focus celebrating someone you love. So that’s what we did. Since we had Claire’s official party with our families a few weeks back, today was a bonus day, and I did whatever Claire wanted all day long. Needless to say, a lot of Elmo was viewed. Yesterday, I told Claire “tomorrow is your birthday, and we’ll eat cake.” So frequently throughout the day, Claire would look at me earnestly and say “Birfday. Cu-cake.” Do not make Claire empty promises of cake because she will take it to the bank. We kicked off the day with homemade cinnamon rolls, proceeded to the store toy for a gift selected by the Birfday Girl herself, lunched at the spot of Claire’s choosing (“Pei Pei” = Pei Wei), and concluded with dinner and the long-awaited cupcake. Claire selected a cupcake from the case at the store and stood with her arms outstretched until it was dutifully delivered. Sometimes the best-planned celebrations don’t deliver. But today, our impromptu celebration filled with Elmo and sugar and endless pressing of buttons at the toy store was exactly what the Birfday Girl ordered.
Happy birthday, Claire. I hope that all your birthdays can find you as content and as authentically you as on your second birthday.
This weekend, we celebrated the baptism of CCS. Yes, before you start doing the math in your head, she is almost two, which does in fact make her the oldest baby baptized ever. Ah, such is life. And, also yes, AJS was baptized promptly within the first six months of her life. At this rate, if we have a third kid, he/she will be baptized sometime between learning to walk and college. Since we had the rare good fortune to have both sets of grandparents in town, we decided to celebrate Claire’s birthday a little early.
We started with a family dinner, cake and presents on Saturday. It was only Claire’s faux birthday, but it was her grandmother’s actual birthday, which was very lucky for us because we got to eat delicious adult birthday cake instead of Elmo cupcakes (no offense Elmo). I would have requested Count/Bount cupcakes, but I thought this might be pushing my luck with grocery store bakery. Claire enjoyed the party, but what she really enjoyed was having the four people who worship and spoil her the most all under one roof for an evening. She bounced back and forth from adoring grandparent to adoring grandparent. Her grandparents teamed forces to present her with a giant set of large, cardboard blocks, which are fun for the CCS and the AJS alike. Thus enters a classic big sister/little sister paradigm. Big sister builds the tower, little sister kicks/hits/crashes into the tower, big sister screams, little sister giggles. Rebuild. Repeat. All weekend.
I was very skeptical about how the baptism would play out. There is a reason people baptize their babies when they are squishy and compliant. Over the last six months, I have witnessed multiple baptisms, during which the babies of squishy age giggled, cooed, and acted appropriately from start to finish in their pristine white gowns. Baptizing a two-year-old is fraught with risk, like, I don’t know, said two-year-old might push the good pastor’s hand away and say “no, no” in gruff tones. Just off the top of my head. Despite the many disaster scenarios I had envisioned, Claire did reasonably well. I held her, and she kept her head buried in my shoulder during the baptism itself. But up to that point, she looked around somewhat pleasantly. Avery held up her end of the bargain as well, and only asked me three times during the ceremony if she could go sit with her grandparents. Once Claire saw her throng of grandparents in the front row, she did get anxious to jump ship. I ended up releasing her to her grandparents during the final prayer. Again, not a problem when they are the squishy age.
All in all, it was perfect. What was lacking in squishy-ness was made up for by copious amounts of family time. There is no greater feeling in this world than having the people we love most present for the big moments in our kids’ lives. It makes us complete. Thank you Grandma, Pa, Grandad and Jola for making our weekend special. The ordinary is extraordinary with you around.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this tiny girl lately, probably because we are dangerously close to her second birthday and I am in disbelief. In my head, CCS is a baby, and then I am around real babies – the kind that drink bottles and grab your finger – and I realize that she’s barely a baby and almost a full-fledged person. So here’s the story with who Claire Chandler is lately.
CCS is the girl who loves to try on shoes of all sizes (mine, Avery’s, Jerrod’s) but refuses to leave her shoes on in the car. She’s the girl who cannot keep it together in the presence of cupcakes. The girl who gives faux hugs when she’s too busy for the real thing (crosses arms across chest and says “mmmmmm”) and also the girl who showers the dogs with kisses on their backs and sometimes their tails. Sometimes she’s the girl who gets so upset when she doesn’t get her way that she face plants into her kitty and blanket in utter and total, despondent frustration. Claire is the only baby/human I know who is extremely smell absorbent. I can pretty much identify what restaurant she’s been to by a mere sniffing. Her fragrance of choice is maple syrup. The CCS can fall head first down a step and shake it off, but holds her arm out in extreme offense and bemoans “aaaaaarrrrrmmmmm” when the AJS touches her. Although, she’s also the girl who repeatedly shrieked”Abe, Abe” during Avery’s end of school program. She still likes Elmo but prefers The Bount. Claire is contemplative and chaotic all at once. She does something she thinks is funny and then says “joke, joke, joke” until I laugh. She is not appeased by fake laughter. And my number one favorite thing that Claire does lately – she leans over and scrunches up her tiny body as tightly as she can and jumps exactly one inch into the air whilst proclaiming “jump.” Most recently, this has evolved into a double jump (“jump-jump”).
She makes life just a tad crazy – her personality matches her hair. And, of course, I have to carry a dingy, white (ish) Kitty everywhere I go.