Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday with the Clarks

I'd have to say that we were one productive family today! After waking up, going to the gym, building a tower or two out of legos, dressing up Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head, and playing in the tent for a little while, we ventured out onto the ridiculous mess that are the Stamford roads to get Lilly and my American (!) passports. We got our passport pictures taken last weekend so we just had to go down the road to the Stamford Library to file our applications. Jim and I love Lil's passport picture:

It's the cutest! With just one problem...apparently, you're not allowed to have anything in your hair for a passport photo. Something the very helpful and informative (insert sarcasm here) woman at CVS failed to tell us. So, these pictures were rendered useless and we had them re-taken at the library today. The second round of photos didn't go as well. Lilly didn't like the flash the camera was making and so, she kept squinting and pointing to her eye, saying, "ow, eye." We didn't get anything even close to a smile. We got a few shots squinting...a few scowling...and a few with her staring at the lady taking the picture like she had 3 heads. I don' t have a copy of the one we ended up with but it'll be cute to look back on one day.

We went out to get passports with a couple of trips in mind. Jim and I are hoping to go on a vacation in March sometime. We're not sure where yet, but we know we'll be leaving the country, and since I surrendered my Green Card, I need a US passport before I can travel. We got Lil hers thinking about next Christmas. We have been talking about going somewhere warm...possibly a beach in Honduras?! So since we were getting mine, we decided it was easier to do both at the same time.

Lil came home and had a nap, Jim hung out at home (and probably cleaned up a bit), and I went to an SAT class. When I got back, we all went to church and Lilly was amazing! Granted, we haven't been for a little while but she was so much better behaved today than in the past. She sat with Daisy's one for most of the time, had some goldfish, drew on her Ack-doodle (well, she tried to draw on it but unfortunately we brought an Ack-doodle that had no water in she kept saying, "oh no, broken ak-doodle" over and over again until we were able to distract her), and she read a few books. Every time the priest finished reading or talking, Lilly said, "The End," as she does when she's reading books with us. She wasn't too thrilled with being left out of Communion, and she tried to take some out of the eucharistic minister's hand but the lady just shook her head at Lilly and said, "no, not for you..." without even a hint of a smile on her face. As I've mentioned before, this isn't my favorite church. They've eliminated the part of mass that Lilly enjoys the most--"peesh" (peace) time. I'm assuming it's because of flu season and everyone in the parish is a bit on the older side. But Lilly held out her hand and said "peesh" anyway and didn't seem too phased. Overall, church was actually a relaxing experience today.

Now, we're about to head out to dinner for Mexican food and margaritas (my favorite!) with Steph & Austin. Our second Saturday night out in a row. Are we wild and crazy or what?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow, Snow and More Snow

In case I haven't mentioned it before, it's snowing in Connecticut. In fact, it won't stop snowing. Just look at the forecast from my phone if you don't believe me. I've had just about enough snow to last me a lifetime and I think Lilly would agree. The picture above is the view from our window this morning. We haven't been outside for days (unless you counting walking next door to hang out at Jamie and Parker's, or walking to the car to go somewhere exciting like Target or the grocery store). I'm ready for it to be June. Too bad it's only the end of January...

With the snow comes lots of time at home. The past few days have been Lilly and my own personal snow days. Poor Jim gets up in the morning and spends the better part of his morning shoveling out a car to get to work since UBS never closes for snow, opens late or lets people work from home. It's ludicrous, if you ask me and I'm sure Jim would agree. But Jim trudges off in the snow while Lilly and I spend the morning in our pajamas having lazy breakfasts and endless cups of tea, coffee and juice. We left the house yesterday morning for an hour or so and we've gone next door a few times to play but besides that, we've been home. For 3 days now. All my tutoring has been cancelled (yay!), Lilly's little music class was cancelled yesterday so we've really been home. And a huge part of me loves it. Lilly is learning how to entertain herself. I love hearing her read to her stuffed animals or dance with Daisy. Her current favorite song is Pop, Goes the Weasel. She comes up to me multiple times a day and says, "Pop weasel Mummy" and I think I could put the song on repeat and she'd be content.

We've done puzzles, read books, baked cookies and banana bread, and talked to Gigi, Papa and Edward on Skype. We've danced to Glee, Playschool, music from her music class and then some songs that I actually choose(!) We've played in the snow and watched moomies (which I'll come back to in a second). We've made a million different Mr. & Mrs. Potato heads and built more duplo towers than I can begin to count. Jim and Lilly created a tent in the corner of the living room the other day and it couldn't be cuter. Lilly sits in her chair in the tent with Daisy's
one, a book, every stuffed animal and doll she can get her hands on and chats away. She likes it when Jim and I watch her in there but she doesn't like it when we come in. She didn't mind Parker playing in there with her this morning so it must be a size thing. Here are a few pictures from her tent and our cookie making this morning, where I had to take the batter away from Lilly because she was picking out all the m&m's and eating them.

Daisy's one is with her, of course.

Being inside all day can take it's toll by the early evening hours. By the end of the day yesterday, I was ready for some silence. I would even have settled for talking at normal volumes. Yesterday was filled with, "Mummy, yook" (Mummy, look), "scuse me Mummy" and "Mummy, shit down" (still my favorite!) Lilly's at a stage where she talks over me; she talks over everyone. And she gets louder and louder until you acknowledge her. It doesn't phase her that other people are talking. I think she sees these moments as a challenge--to see how loud she can talk without actually screaming. Yes...I spent the entire day yesterday being told what to do by a 21 month old. While I was excited (to say the least) to see Jim when he walked in the door, I wouldn't trade these snowed in days for the world. I love being at home and I hope that Lilly grows up knowing how to be happy at home, without constant entertainment. I know that she's going to be off at school before I know it and I won't be able to get these days back. I remind myself of this when Lilly is "helping" me unpack the dishwasher by taking all the silverware and tossing it into the drawer where it goes. She sees me putting it in the drawer but can't reach herself so she tosses it over the top. Helpful? Not really. But it's the thought that counts. And it's unbelievably cute.

One of my favorite parts of the last few days was our afternoon moomie the other day. Lilly went through some DVDs and picked out a few and handed them to me saying, "moomie, Mum." Well, one of the DVDs was the Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2008 movie that Edward made, so I thought, let's see what she thinks of this. Lilly was beyond excited. This was a moomie featuring people she knows! She spent the whole time pointing to everyone and saying, "Mum...Dad...Doe (Joe)...Eye-ward...Eye-ee...Gigi...Papa...Ca-lyn (Carolyn)...Ween...Derry (Jerry)...Mau (Mel)....Doin (Duane)." I don't think she could believe that a movie exists whose cast of characters includes her favorite people.

She clapped at the start when Mike Reilly told everyone to "give it up one more time, Iron spectators" and then she clapped at the end as everyone crossed the finish line. I think this might be her new favorite moomie, which means she's going to grow up thinking that Ironmans, and people on bikes or wearing wetsuits or decked out in spandex are normal. I guess that's a good thing. I wonder if Lilly will want to take part in one of these crazy events one day? I can tell you one thing. Watching that DVD took me right back to that race and made me want to do another one. Probably later rather than sooner but it will happen; I'm just not sure when.

We followed up CDA 2008 with Florida 2009, which she loved just as much. I laughed out loud multiple times while she was watching these DVDs but one time in particular was hysterical. It just needs a little background.

Ever since Lilly was really little, whenever we have taken her out of the bath and wrapped her in a towel, we've called her, "Rudy Nudy." I have no idea where this came from other than it was something that Mum used to say and Jim and I quickly adopted it. So Lil has always thought that this is hysterical. The other day, she came in while I was getting dressed and I heard this little voice saying, "noony, noony" which is Lilly's version of rudy nudy! And I burst out laughing. She says it whenever one of us gets out of the shower or is getting dressed. Well, when we were watching the Ironman Florida DVD, Lilly started saying, "noony, noony, Papa" when a picture came up of Dad coming out of the ocean after a swim. Lil and I both started laughing and I guess she was right. It's not every day you see someone walking around in a to Lilly, Dad was a "noony noony"!

While I am enjoying our snow days, I would love to be able to go outside again soon without coats and hats and scarves and mittens and boots...and without freezing to death.

A girl can dream, right?

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Cold, Manners and Moomies

Yes that's right. We are below zero here in Connecticut. This is what I saw on my phone when I went to check the weather before leaving for the gym this morning. -5 and feels like -16. It's inhumane. But don't worry. There's a high of 13 today. It's in my genes to complain about the cold--it's another wonderful trait that I've acquired from Dad--so really, I can't help it. I think Jim might be aware of the fact that I'm not a fan of the cold and that I'd prefer to live somewhere where it's sunny and warm all Austin. It's usually on a day like today when it's so cold that my groceries were freezing while they were sitting in the car, that Edward will send me a picture of the weather in Austin. And it tends to be nothing shy of 70 degrees and sunny, even in January. I am just not cut out for winter.

But, enough about the weather. As Dad says, I'm taking the cold with a, "smile on my face and a song in my heart." Whenever we go outside, Lilly says, "I cold, Mummy" and lets me know that she wants to put on her hat and mittens. She would also like mittens for Daisy. It's hard enough putting mittens on a toddler without having to worry about putting them on a doll so that's where I drew the line. Daisy can have a hat but she'll just have to warm up in the car. Lilly didn't seem too broken up over the lack of mittens for Daisy so I'm glad we came to an understanding.

This is Lilly sprinting away from me as I'm trying to take a picture of her in a little scarf. She looked so cute and wanted to wear a scarf like I was wearing. This was not this morning--she would have frozen to death.

Manners are difficult to teach a toddler. Lilly has the, "yes peese" down so we've been working on saying thank you. For awhile, she was getting it and when I'd give her something, I'd say, "what do you say?" and she came back with "tank too". But now when I ask her what she should say, she's replies as every Singaporean does, by saying, "Wel-caaaam". While Mum and Dad were living over in Singapore, we even took to saying "Wel-caaaam" instead of "you're welcome." But Lilly never experienced that. She just came up with it on her own. It's so cute; she's trying to be polite without knowing exactly what word to use. This was one of our conversations the other day:

Me: Lilly, would you like some cheese?
Lilly:, welcaam.

So you can imagine some of the laughs we have. At least we know what she's trying to say.

Lilly has also developed a love of "moomies" (or movies), courtesy of Sundays with Dad. She runs over to the couch and says, "moomie, dad, moomie." She'll only sit and watch a movie for about 20 minutes but it's cute to see Lilly and Jim snuggled up on the couch...Lilly with her milk and Jim with a beer...laughing at Finding Nemo or The Emperor's New Groove. The other day when I was heading out to tutor, a playoff game was starting and Jim was trying to get Lilly to sit on the couch with him and watch it. The last words I heard as I walked out the door were, "It's just like a moomie, Lil, except with touchdowns." I don't think he was able to convince her.

If the weather doesn't warm up soon, we will be watching lots of "moomies."

Here's a picture from this morning. Lil got this fleece today and won't take it off. She's currently asleep wearing it--not that I blame her. Anyway, she's wearing her new fleece and reading the Economist. Just another Monday morning.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

One, Two and Daisy's One

Lilly has a blanket that she loves--I'm sure you've seen it in pictures. It usually appears stuffed in her mouth when she's asleep or when she has pulled it out of her crib because she's tired or has hurt herself. I made it for her when she was really little and we discovered that she loved playing with the labels on her swaddling blanket. Even when we were finished swaddling her, she'd take that blanket to bed and suck on the labels. So I made her a blanket with ribbon all around the edges, and she loved it. She used to only want it when she went to bed, and then it started being something we would take in the car and it would occupy her for ages. She loves all the different textures of ribbon and when I'd look in the rearview mirror, I'd see her turing the blanket around and around, looking at it from all angles, and playing with the different ribbons. As soon as I realized how important this blanket was to Lilly, I knew I had to make a backup one, in case something happened to this one. I made the backup blanket, which I actually liked much better. Her first one was getting grungy. No matter how many times I washed it, it seemed to have this smell. The new one was cleaner, newer and I used all the ribbons that I knew she loved from the first blanket. I was sure she was going to love it too.

Her first day with one and two, back in August 2010.

I couldn't have been more wrong. I mean, she liked the idea of another blanket, but only in addition to her first blanket. I washed the second one over and over again so it would seem worn...I let her carry it around everywhere so she knew it was hers, but Lilly was adamant that this was not her blanket. She was so adamant that she came up with names for her blankets. Her favorite blanket became "one" and this impostor became "two." If you tried to switch them on her, Lilly could tell the difference in a heartbeat. She'd say, "no, two," and was happy again only when one was in her hands. This has been the cause of many smiles between Jim and me. Firstly, because what toddler names their blankets one and two? No blanky, fluffy, taggie, nothing cute and babyish. Lilly has blankets that are referred to by their rank. They sound like military blankets. Secondly, we love that she is so particular about her one. We are seeing more and more signs that Lilly has opinions, some of which are pretty strong, believe it or not. Jim and I are her parents. And we may have an opinion or two of our own. Now, you might be thinking...Jim doesn't have strong opinions. I know, I know, it's hard to believe, but Jim does have a few opinions...especially concerning things like weddings, baby registries, arranging furniture, houses...actually, come to think of it, he has opinions concerning most things. So it's not really a shock to me that Lilly is opinionated.

Anyway, back to one and two. Well, about a month ago, Jim was going to put Lilly to bed and we couldn't find one. We looked everywhere and when I thought back over the course of the day, I realized that we may have dropped one when we were out. I panicked and Jim looked at me like I had 7 heads. My thought was, I have to get one back or Lilly is never going to sleep again. Jim's was more, It's a blanket. She'll get over it and be fine. So, while I went out on a wild goose chase retracing our steps taken earlier that day, Jim put Lil to bed with two. In this case (and only in this case), I think Jim may have been right. Lilly went to sleep, just like she always does, with her blanket stuffed in her mouth. Don't get me wrong; she knew that this was two. She sat there while Jim was reading to her saying, "oh no, one...oh no, one..." over and over again. But after her little memorial service for one, she decided that two was better than nothing and two became an acceptable blanket! Now, we can give her either one but I never give them both to her at the same time. She calls them both one and I think, has come to believe that there is just one blanket again.

Just in case you weren't confused before, I'm going to throw another blanket into the picture. Daisy's one. Mum and Dad gave Lilly a doll for Christmas, who despite Dad's best efforts to name Gloria, ended up being called Daisy (or as Lilly says, Didi). Mum had the idea to make Daisy a miniature one so that Lilly and her doll could have matching blankets. I made a little one and brought it down to Florida with us. Lilly loved both the doll and the little blanket. You can see Daisy's one over at the side...I don't have a great picture of it but it's pretty cute. She loved them so much that when we returned home, Jim and I noticed when we went in to check on Lil before we went to bed, she had Daisy's one stuffed in her mouth! It's perfect actually. It's like a little travel one and much easier to take in the car with us. It's been about a week now, so I have to say it's official. Daisy's one has been repossessed and Lilly's one has been replaced. She asks for it by name too, saying, "Didi's one?" when she's looking for it. I think it might be time to make a backup for Daisy's one. So there you have it. The story of one, two and Daisy's one. Here are a few pictures of Lil and one.

On the plane, flying to Austin. May 2010.

Hanging out on the couch. June 2010.

On a trip up to Boston. June 2010.

Going down to DC. August 2010.

Two takes over after we lost one! December 2010.

On the plane to Florida. Christmas 2010.

Florida, Christmas 2010.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Stephens and Clarks take on Panama City...again.

I have been writing this over the past few days as it was impossible to recount our trip to Florida in one sitting, so here it goes...

With all the snow that pounded Connecticut last night and today, I have a break from tutoring and I have used this opportunity to enjoy dinner with Jim, watch a movie on the couch, and now, I still have time to catch up on my blog.

This Christmas, we decided to return to Panama City, Florida, where all the boys did the Ironman last November. We enjoyed everything about our first trip there. In fact, we enjoyed it all so much that we did it all again. We stayed in the same condos--this time, we got a 4 (and a half) bedroom condo so we could all be in one place and it couldn't have been more perfect. Our bedroom had a ridiculously huge walk in closet that quickly became Lilly's room, so everyone really did have their own space.

We arrived late on Christmas Day. Mum, Dad, Joseph, Ellie and Edward were there already and so we were greeted with a dinner of bread, cheese, salami, prosciutto and wine. Lilly was exhausted after our day of flying; that, and by the time we got to the condo and had dinner, she went to bed at 10:00 instead of her usual 6:00 bedtime. Lil was great during the flights. She slept on the first one and seemed to be impressed with all the people around her that she took this opportunity to entertain. We were banking on another nap for the second flight but as soon as we sat down on the second plane and Lilly realized we were doing this all over again, she looked at us and stated, "All done, plane." Take what you want from that statement, but know that it was a sleepless hour and 10 minute flight.

Before Lilly went to bed on the first night, she learned everyone's names and the next morning, was very confident calling everyone by them. She calls Mum and Dad, Gigi and Papa, both of which she came up with! We knew that she'd come up with something good and Mum and Dad love their grandparent names. Then, there was Joef (Joseph), Eye-ee (Ellie) and Eyeward (Edward). Ellie's friend, Natalie, joined us for the last few days so she also picked up "Natwie,'' who she actually called "Quinn" (Carinne, Edward's girlfriend that Lilly had been talking to on Skype). A lot of new names that she repeated (and yelled) over and over and over and over again during the course of our time there.

As always, it was so much fun to be together as a family. Morning and evenings are long and lazy, and my favorite times of our days. Everyone's mornings began with a certain little person going from room to room checking to see who was awake and saying everyone's name. This usually happened around 7:30 (sometimes 8:30)--earlier than many would like. But so began our mornings full of lemon water (for Mum), tea (made by Dad for anyone who wanted it), orange juice (for Lilly) and endless cups of coffee. We enjoyed reading (Lilly learned how to say, "Kindle") and everyone managed to get some time to relax. The evenings usually went something like this: Lilly goes to bed...everyone sits down and has dinner...everyone drinks a ridiculous amount of beer or wine while either sitting and chatting or playing Apples to Apples, late into the night. I cannot recount the endless laughs we had when playing Apples to Apples, but I can say that the following picture summed it all up.

Joseph picked the card, "smooth," and then we all had to put down a card from our hand that we thought most exemplified the word smooth for Joseph. The goal is to put down the card that you think Joseph will choose as the most "smooth" (or, to put down the card that will get the most laughs). So, the first cards Joseph picks up are, "my love life," "dating," and "iceburgs" (i.e. the Titanic). The game only got uglier from there.

We brought down a few toys for Lil and I don't know who had more fun with them--Lilly or Joseph, Ellie and Edward. Lilly began to say, "Abby, Elmo and Joef" in the same sentence. Joseph could be found at any time of the day asking Lilly to get Abby or Elmo, or asking if he could hold one of them, or hiding them from her, or asking Lilly to get her "Ak-doodle" (her Aqua Doodle, that was her favorite toy both on the plane and in Florida).

Lilly called Edward whenever she wanted someone to come and look at something (like the turtle rugs in the boys' bedroom) or to chase her (which Edward always did). I think she knows that Edward is a youngest child, and the most playful of us.

Lilly and Ellie are the same person--just 24 years apart in age. They both know exactly how to annoy each other and were successful in doing so at various points of the trip. I'd look over at the dining room table to see why Lilly was saying, "no, eye-ee, nooooooo" only to find Ellie resting her foot on Lilly's chair. This was the first of many things that Ellie found out she could do to get a reaction from Lilly. Apparently, Lilly didn't like it when Ellie's kindle was lying on top of mine either; this caused another series of, "eye-ee...nooooo". But, just as easily as they can annoy each other, they were also pretty good buddies. Lilly quickly learned how to say, "huggy, eye-ee" and knew that this meant Ellie would pick her up and carry her around. Oh, and while we were there, Ellie gave Lilly the cutest haircut, so now she has a little bob!

Yes, Lilly fits in a Blue Moon box.

One day, when Jim and I went out for a run, we came back to find that Joseph and Ellie and had taken Lil with them to the airport to pick up Natalie. Another time, she accompanied them across the street to the mini market to pick up some groceries. She did everything with everyone and had a blast. Lilly had 10 days full of playing with all these people who love her so much. I am always surprised by how much patience Mum and Dad (yes, my Dad) have with Lilly. Mum always knew when Lilly was getting tired or overwhelmed and needed a quiet little walk or hug while watching the sea gulls. Dad would come to Lilly every time she yelled, "Papa, yook" (Papa, look). This little 20-month old brings out a side of my family that is so much fun to watch.

These are just a few things that would not have happened on a family vacation 21 months ago but that took place this Christmas in Florida:
  • Everyone traced hands and feet on the ak-doodle (their own, Lilly's, Abby and Elmo's...).
  • They all sat at the window looking out at the cars and people, or the ocean and the sea gulls and said things like, "wow, look at that huge truck driving by," or "oh boy, is that a boat?"
  • Early wake-ups were accompanied by mid-day naps for everyone; not just the toddler.
  • A little voice yelling, "shit down, body" (meaning, sit down, everybody), would gather everyone for a meal, but not without laughter every time. Hearing those words out of a such a tiny mouth never gets old.
  • Dad convinced Lilly that she could control the lights in the dining room by clapping her hands, so everyone at some point, found themselves standing at the light switch, turning the lights on and off with the clapping of Lilly's hands. She was pretty proud of her ability.
But, just like we always do on vacations, everyone was able to do their own thing. For some people, Mum, that meant long (and when I say long, I mean 3 hour long) walks on the beach. For others, it meant a mid-day run around Panama City. And often, it meant sitting on the couch, reading and having coffee. This is one of my favorite photos. One morning, I walked out to see this:

Dad, in his effort to read the New York Times, willingly sat with Elmo, Abby and "one" (Lilly's blanket) on his lap and was seriously reading!

This year, we all picked one person to give a gift to, and the gift was supposed to be meaningful (as opposed to last year, where we all told the person that picked us what they should buy for us). It worked out really nicely and was much more fun. We also continued doing what we started last year and gave the person that we picked a book that we thought they might like. We all love reading so it's great to get a good book or two from someone who really knows you. We exchanged gifts on our first morning in Panama City, complete with Mimosas of course.

    Mum drew this for Dad--it's a "tree of life" and is truly amazing.

    The third children had each other (go figure) and tried to do their own secret exchange.

    On the first really sunny day, we had brunch on the balcony, where we sat for hours and talked and laughed and went through a decent amount of champagne. We were listening to our Christmas playlist, which has become a yearly tradition that has fallen on Joseph's shoulders to compile. Everyone sends him 10 songs (well, let me clarify. If you're Dad, you send him 19 songs), that he or she wants to put on the list. Even Lilly put songs on this year, so when she heard "Hot Potato" come up on the playlist, you can see her dancing below. We listened to the playlist a lot over the course of our time there and I think it was our best one yet. The pressure was really on Jim, since he was on probation after the songs he put on last year (which were basically David Bowie's greatest hits...) So he stepped it up a notch and squashed any doubt that existed as to whether he was still allowed to contribute.

    It was a fantastic trip and as always, it was sad when all the boys (except for Dad) left on New Year's Day--leaving Dad alone with 5 (or as Dad says, 4.5) girls. It's always hard to say goodbye to everyone, especially when we don't know when we're getting together again. Right now, we're trying to plan something for June, when Ellie next returns from Guatemala. Until then, we can all be found chatting on Skype.

    And finally, here are some pictures from the beach on both warm and cold days.

    Lilly's little footprints, with my giant footprint.

    One of my favorite pictures, ever.

    The boys, threatening to throw Mum in!

    As Lilly says, "All done, Florida."