Saturday, July 28, 2012

Dear Chloë, year three

Dear Chloë,

A couple of days ago you told me, “I am Sarah, and I am three.” Sarah, as far as we can tell, was the waitress at the Ruby Tuesday we went to the day before. Neither your dad nor I remember this, but that's what you tell us. Sarah made appearances all day and occasionally thereafter, including tonight. I don't think she's going to be your first imaginary friend, but she's the first time you've claimed to be someone else. Normally, when we say “What are you?” all you ever say is “I am Cwoë.” You still don't have Ss or Ff, and I love your lisp. You say “tinger” instead of “finger” and “miley pate” instead of “smiley face,” and I sometimes wish I could preserve this aspect of you forever. (Though I suppose it wouldn't be very helpful in your college interviews.)

Freshly three-year-old you amazes me every day. You don't look at all like a baby anymore. I marvel daily at your long legs and arms, your face that comes into sharper focus each week. You speak so well, count so high, understand so much. You were aware of and interested in your birthday party this year: decorating, picking out the cake (“What kind of cake do you want?” I'd ask. “Moon cake!” You'd say. “Yes, but what flavor?” I'd reply), blowing up balloons, tabulating who would be there. You're constantly asking questions that make me pause and try to figure out how I know what I know—and if I know it. You pretend all day long, making the office your school where paint pictures and take naps, a cube of Legos a multi-flavored birthday cake (complete with pretend frosting), and yourself an astronaut or a dancer or a princess—which is the same as a dancer, just with more jewelry. We've tried to keep you from getting immersed in the insidious Disney Princess culture of girls your age, and so far we've succeeded pretty well, I think. People keep talking to you about princesses, and so you call yourself one, but you don't seem to know what to do after that. (Maybe because those princesses don't do anything themselves.) I think that's fine. I like the dancer, the teacher, the birthday girl. I can't wait to see what you play as you learn more.

You've been potty-trained for about a month—huzzah! It took a lot of time and effort to get here. But now that you are, you're so proud of yourself. Along with the potty-training has come, of course, pretty new underwear, and you've taken to putting it on yourself...and also your pants, and sometimes your shirt. You need someone to orient them correctly, but otherwise you, as you say with your arms outstretched and a glowing smile on your face, do it “all by myself!” More often you say “I can't do it,” so it makes me especially happy to see you so willing to try, so proud, so accomplished. A couple of days ago we talked about putting the top of the convertible potty seat on top of the toilet. Not only did you agree, but you proudly used it and then, to my surprise, suggested trying to use the toilet without the potty seat at all. It didn't work, as you're still not that big, but I was so surprised and impressed that you were willing to try it. You're not a terribly adventurous girl. Very cautious, and pretty clingy and whiny these days. I think that's the age, but you're definitely not as independent and fearless as, say, your cousin Addie. I'm okay with that. That's who you are, and it keeps you from doing things like dashing into the street and asking strangers to hug you, which is fine with me. But every once in a while you surprise me. I love when you do that.

You're so much your own person now. You have your definite likes and dislikes, and your own ways of doing things—of defying, of denying, of being tired, of being happy, of being unhappy. You still love green, though you're starting to get into pink a bit too. You refuse to do anything without your socks except bathe. I bought you some sandals, blue with green flowers, that I thought you'd love. And you like them, but only if you're wearing socks under them. On the other hand, you adore the sparkly, light-up sneakers your halmoni got for you. I'm so pleased that you're remembering your family and responding to them with affection. You're mature enough to play with your cousins and same-age peers now—really play, not just quietly follow along when they give you orders. You tell them what you want to play and what you don't, you contribute your own ideas. You haven't gotten to the point of compromising in order to play together, but you will.

You still love to read, which makes me very happy. We've gotten into longer books now, Olivia and Berenstain Bears and such, and I want to work on teaching you your lower-case letters, which we've neglected (in our defense, it's really easy to do so with the alphabets available for toddlers), because you're going to love being able to read for yourself. I mentioned that to you not long ago, and you hesitated, so I added, “But I'll still want to read to you,” and you relaxed. I want to read with you as long as you'll let me. And I'll keep making up bedtime stories and ridiculous songs for you as long as you want them.

You've gotten more physically active over the past year, doing a lot of jumping and dancing and running up and down in the hall--especially in the last month when you've been out of diapers or Pull-Ups. You're not as into naked time as you used to be, but you still indulge sometimes (though always with socks). “Do you see my butt?” naked you will ask if you're especially punch-drunk from tiredness. I'll say “I see your butt!” and you'll dash off, giggling, to run up and down the hall, and then repeat. You have a love-fear relationship with slides, and a simple dislike for swings, but you like going for walks, and pulling your sister in the wagon, and playing in the water table and the sprinkler and any pool you can find. You love to climb on me, or clamber over your daddy when he's trying to comb your hair. You love your daddy, and it makes me so happy to see it. Though the “Where is my daddy?” gets kind of old when I've told you “He's sleeping” or “He's at work” four times already.

You draw real things now: snakes and suns and flowers and circles with blobs in them that look like eggs or eyes or maps of islands. They're rudimentary, and you still enjoy simple color scribbling, but it's a definite sign of advancement. I love your pictures, and how proud and possessive you are of them. “Maia didn't color that,” you told me when Maia held up a picture of yours that she'd scribbled a line or two on and I'd praised it (because Maia is also quite proud of her scribbles). “I colored that.”

I continue to be proud of how good a big sister you are. I'm not saying you're perfect; you certainly have your jealousy and your moments of pique, where you push Maia away or yell at her because she's innocently taken something that you wanted. And your own streak of bossiness comes out when you repeat the things we've told her-- “No Maia! No buttons!” or “Don't touch!” But you're so unendingly patient with the way she steals your drink—whatever it is; all she wants is whatever you have—and sometimes refuses to tell you good-night or give you a kiss when she's giving them to your daddy and me. You'll readily keep her company or try to entertain her if I ask you to. You share your food with her without anyone asking you to. You try to get her to play with you in the tunnel or with your Duplos or in the sandbox. When she won't kiss you, sometimes you kiss her, on her hand or her leg or her belly. When I chant “So sweet—such a treat—baby feet” you tickle her toes and say “Baby peet! Toh tweet!” and you seem to mean it. When I tell you I'm taking you somewhere, your first question is always “Can Maia come?” You're such a sweet girl. My favorite sound is the two of you laughing together, especially when, as it often is, it's because Maia thought something you did was funny and you kept doing it so she'd keep laughing.

You are my beloved big girl, growing up in so many ways, unfolding like a flower bursting into bloom. You're going through a whiny and defiant stage, which is sometimes annoying and sometimes hilarious (“Never—pretend—to bite me—ever—again!”), but I know it's what you need to be doing, and I'm doing my best to be patient with it. It's the clinginess that gets me most, actually. But a small part of me revels in it, because in my own way I want to cling to you, too. It's my job as the parent not to, but sometimes I can't help catching hold of you and hugging you tight, loving everything you are and everything I see you becoming but wishing I could keep it all from happening because right now is so perfect and right. But that's selfish and short-sighted, and so I keep watching your beautiful self become ever more complex, more funny and smart and thoughtful. And I try to hold you just tight enough to keep us both feeling safe but giving you the room you need to grow.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012


And the verdict is: Daytona (now dubbed Second Vacation by Chloë) Was Good. We stayed in a huge house that Eric's cousin had rented (borrowed? I'm not clear on this), across the road from the intracoastal waterway, with cousins and aunts and uncles and grandmas and so on. The beach proper wasn't far, and Chloë won't go near the surf, but Maia loved it. They both loved the sand and the pool. Chloë was proud of being able to float around by herself in a floatie and kick around the pool a little. Maia loved being jumped in and out of the water and standing on one of the steps, up to her chest, considering taking the next step down but never quite doing it . When we got out of the pool once, we walked around to dry a little and Maia headed back toward the edge. Eric and I both said "No, baby!" but she just sat down at the pool's rim to dabble her feet in the pool and kick, wistfully, at the water.

Chloë had a reasonably good time, it looked like, playing with her older cousins (they did get pretty bossy and probably didn't realize when she didn't actually want to play their games, since she didn't say so unless I asked her) and did a lot of coloring and playing with blocks and taking walks and swimming and running around. Maia was clingy, as we expected in a house full of so many strangers, but she had some fun too, especially with the puppy an aunt brought along. Eric and I swam and took the girls to the pool and gave series of two-girl baths (the older cousins wanted in on the big fancy tub) and played games in the evening.

One night we walked on the beach together. We passed a man fishing in the dark, shining a flashlight on his pole. As we passed he called, "Hey, do you have a flashlight?" I said I was afraid not, puzzled why he needed a second light, and he walked toward us and held out his flashlight, saying, "Here, have this one. Where are you from?" We said Toledo, and he said, "Welcome to Florida."

So we came home richer by a flashlight (also some books, because there was a used bookstore in town and, well, you can't spend all your time swimming). Chloë came home richer by a set of beach toys and a pretty good tan, and Maia poorer by a set of goggles (not that she used them anyway). It was a good vacation. The girls were great travelers; Chloë got antsy, and Maia upset when she wanted milk and wasn't getting it, but there was no major whining or complaining, and mostly they played or watched movies or ate or slept.

I actually came back a couple of days early, to save vacation days, and while they were gone I cleaned most of the house (I ended up forgetting to dust one wall, and I didn't sweep the basement) and marveled at the way things would, when I put them away, still be put away two hours later. I baked and did laundry without interruption, and went shopping without needing to stop for potty breaks or snacks or naps or whininess or bedtime. And I still had time to relax and goof off. It was marvelous. I even slept ten hours in a row on Saturday and lounged in bed for half an hour when I woke, just because I could.

But when I went to the bookstore I picked up "Biscuit's First Beach Day" because I thought it would be a nice reminder of their time at the beach and Maia is in love with dogs. When I went clothes shopping I picked up a bigger (4T) bathing suit for Chloë because her two beloved ones from last year are really too small. I changed Chloë's sheets and turned down her bed, so we could lay her right in it when they got home late Saturday, and put Maia's stuffed animals in the corners of the crib so she'd have room to lie down. Eric called a little after one on Sunday morning to say they were close, and I sat up in the living room until I heard them pull in and could go out and lift Chloë out of her seat and into the house, and then take Maia for a big hug. It was good to get them back.

In the meantime, Chloë said to me this morning, "Soon it will be summer." I said, "Silly, it's summer now." She said, "No, I mean real summer. When my pool that is not too big is out." I guess Eric needs to mow so we can set up the kiddie pool in the backyard.

Friday, July 6, 2012

On the road

We're off to vacation at Daytona Beach today. We're driving...for twenty hours each way...which has me shaking in my sneakers. But the girls were very good on the way to South Haven for our Easter break (or "Bacation" as Chloë still refers to it), and we're hoping to do a big chunk of the driving while they're sleeping...and we're going in Memaw's van which is equipped with DVD player, so I'm in hopes it won't be too bad.

Chloë eagerly helped pack last night. She picked two bed toys (Elmo and Frog) and a small blanket (the warmest one she has, which I vetoed; then she picked the most garish one she has, but it's light so I let it pass). She selected one set of pajamas, one pair of underwear, six shirts, three shorts, and two bathing suits. (I edited appropriately.) She would have packed all the socks, except they were still being washed. She's got a thing about her socks. She used to glory in naked time before pajamas, but ever since she got into underwear she's been refusing naked time, and she never wants her feet uncovered. I insisted yesterday that we wait until her feet de-wrinkled from her bath before putting socks on her and she was visibly agitated, asking me every few minutes if her feet were dry enough yet. Bath time continues to be an issue with her...the past few baths she's been reluctant because, we think, she has a scratch on her leg that she says hurts when it's in the water. Possibly the real trouble is that we put a Band-Aid on it for the first couple of days and then insisted on taking it off for her baths, which of course hurt a bit. As the scratch has healed she's been less recalcitrant, though she's still not as enthusiastic about baths as she used to.

Back to socks: I mentioned that she wouldn't be wearing socks a lot at the beach, and she said, "But I can wear socks with my sandals." I just know she's going to ask to go swimming in her socks. We have water shoes for her and I'm hoping they'll be good enough substitutes. She's started to put on her own underwear and pants sometimes, with orientation assistance, and the last day or two has attempted to put on her own socks as well, probably to be independent of her parents' faulty understanding of how vital it is to cover one's feet at every moment.

Maia, of course, doesn't understand we're going on a trip, but if she did I bet she'd be the more excited of the two...though Chloë is excited, especially when we tell her it'll be like Bacation and she'll get to not only play with Addie and Rae-Rae a lot but see her distant cousin Marlee as well. Maia is much more mercurial than Chloë, I'm noticing. When she's upset she has real fits, throwing things and squalling, with sobs so intense that she stops breathing for several seconds as her face gets redder and her eyes squinch shut, mouth open in wordless fury. When she's happy she's so happy. The other day I held her while she played with the light switch. I said "on" in a squeaky voice when she turned it on, and "off" in a low boom when she turned it off, and before long she was giggling like a mad thing, so hard she woke Eric up (and Eric doesn't wake easily). She adores sliding and swinging and being tossed around in our arms, and squeals with happiness...and sometimes she likes to make us laugh, too. "Maia is being funny," Chloë said this morning when Maia poked her finger into my nose on purpose after I told her "don't put your finger in your nose," and she was right, and I was so delighted by the both of them. Though I did use my stern voice to tell Maia to knock it off with the nose-picking.

So this post isn't really about the trip, of course, but doing the planning for a family trip makes me think about my family and how nice it really is to be going somewhere together, even if I think it's a little soon for this long a trip (travel-wise, I mean). It's a very grown-up but very real pleasure to be able to shepherd our family into  the kind of vacation I went on when I was a child. I hope I can give my kids the kind of experiences I had...or at least ones that are as good. There were no DVD players on our trip to Disneyland when I was eight, but there was music and snacks and cousins and my parents providing distraction and conversation and the opportunity for a great time, and I had it, and I hope Chloë and Maia do too.