Monday, August 27, 2012

The Last First Day

Steve and went back to school last Monday.  Katherine went back last Thursday.  Today was FINALLY Rachel's first day of school!
Rae has been going to preschool for the past 2 1/2 years, so she knew what to expect.  This year she has a new teacher and she gets to go to school 4 mornings a week and she was thrilled about it.  She woke us up at 6:30 AM both Saturday and Sunday to ask if it was a school day yet, so she was obviously excited!  So this morning, wearing her new pink kitty dress (thanks Granny!), she marched off to preschool.  And probably tried to take over.
Happy first day of school to my BIG girl!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Embracing the Pink

Let me just say that I was never a girlie girl.  I loved by baby dolls, but I never understood the point of Barbie.  I didn't particularly want to play dress-up.  I hated the feel of fingernail polish.  I never experimented with eye shadow in 7th grade.  I couldn't stand high heels.  It never really bothered me that I stood on the neutral side of gender.  In fact, I could see real benefits to it.

When Katherine came home, I was appalled by the overwhelming prevalence of pink in little girls' clothing and toys and room decor.  I did not want my daughter to be enveloped in a world where women sat around looking pretty .  I tried my best to avoid the long reach of Disney and pink media influence.  I dressed Katherine in overalls and bought her legos and a dumptruck.  I vowed never to allow Barbie in my house.  I would NOT raise a princess.

Katherine followed my plan nicely.  As a toddler, she fell passionately in love with Thomas the Tank Engine and we spent much of her preschool years building elaborate cities for her trains and discussing railroad terminology.  She loved blocks and legos and hauled toys around in the dumptruck.  She was not at all impressed with either pink or princesses.  She was a girl even less girlie than I had been.  Every time I saw little girls swathed in pink and sequins I rolled by eyes and gave myself a pat on the back for raising a different kind of child.

Then Rachel arrived and turned our quiet, orderly, gender neutral house upside down.  And, like second children everywhere, she forced us to re-examine everything we thought we knew about parenting.  I soon discovered that nature trumps nurture big time when it comes to personality.  And the new little girl in my house was nothing at all like her sister.  For years I had taught, and believed, the preschool addage of "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit."  And what I got was a daughter who was totally in touch with her feminine side.

From the very beginning, Rachel was drawn to anything pink or sparkly.  She loved dress-up and jewelry and plastic high heeled shoes.  And soon, she was utterly obssessed with the color pink.  Pink toys.  Pink clothes.  Pink blankets.  Pink ice cream.  And then came Dora.  And princesses.  Despite not having seen most of the Disney movies, Rachel knows the names and stories of every princess.  She begs us to take her to "Princess World" (also known as Disney World).  She insists on carrying a purse.  She has asked me repeatedly to start wearing makeup so that she can watch me put it on.  She wears her  plastic "click clack shoes" whenever possible.  She knows the location of all the princess books at the public library.  She carries around her princess dolls and combs their hair.  She adores photos of brides and Miss America contestants.  She obssesses over tubes of lip balm.  She is delighted when strangers address her as "Princess".  She is the ultimate girlie girl.

At first, I was more than a little ambivelent about Rae's deep fascination with pink and princesses.  But it is clear that this is a very real part of who she is.  So we have slowly learned to embrace the pink.  And it's not all bad.  It turns out that three layers of princess dresses and mismatched click clack shoes look pretty cute on a 4 year old.  And painting fingernails is actually a lot of fun.  It's fun to buy Rachel pink clothes, because she gets so excited about them.  And you can build princess castles with blocks.  I get a little tired of reading Cinderella books, but Thomas the train got old, too.  We still don't have any Barbie dolls, but Rae keeps asking for them and my resistance is waning.  But I have come to realize that Rachel doesn't like Barbie and princesses because she's waiting passively for her prince to come and save her or because she thinks that the perfect woman has plastic yellow hair and enormous cleavage.  She just likes the glitz.  Really, all she wants is a tiara and some bling and maybe a magic wand.

Rachel has taught me many things.  One of those is things is how to appreciate a girlie girl.  I know the princess obssession will eventually fade away, but I doubt that the love of all things feminine will.  I just need to find Rae a good role model for that disastrous 7th grade eye shadow stage.  And start planning ahead for prom dresses and a large shoe collection.  But for now, I'll just enjoy her where she is now.  Because like it or not, I'm raising a princess.  And that's okay.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

3rd Grader

Katherine started 3rd grade today.
She loved it, but that is no big surprise.  She was a bit annoyed that they spent most of the day trying to get organized and did very little actual work.  She was hoping to jump right in to cursive and multiplication.

Despite my reservations about 3rd grade, I really love the stage Katherine is in right now.  She is just fun to be with.  I read a book by Anne Lamott this summer and loved the line "There is nothing more helpful or capable than an 8 year old girl."  That sums up Kate quite well!  She loves to help (as long as it does not include picking up her own room) and is truly good help.  As for the capable part, my own 8 year old self is in awe (and a little bit jealous) of Katherine.  She sews.  She cooks.  She plays tennis.  She sings beautifully.  She acts.  She plays the violin.  She's an excellent student.  Everyone likes her.  She's good at so many things, but she has great compassion for others and is always looking out for the underdog.  And I think this is the quality that I love best about her.  Right now, I enjoy doing just about anything with Katherine.  I might even survive being the mother of a third grader if  helpful and capable are part of the deal.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

3rd Grade Eve

Katherine starts 3rd grade tomorrow.  She is beyond excited.  I, on the other hand, am not sure what to feel.  Proud? Sad? Scared? Nostalgic? All of the above?  "Third grade" sounds...old.  It seems like, oh, a few months ago that Katherine looked like this.
And now, without warning, she looks like this!
In some ways, sending Kate to 3rd grade has been harder than sending her to kindergarten.
I think part of my difficulty is that I remember being in 3rd grade.  And how hard that year was.  That was the year I learned that other children can be unbearably cruel.  That was the year I realized that not every teacher adored me.  That was the year I discovered the news and the outside world and all the scary things it contained.  That was the year I stopped believing in Santa Claus.  And I'm not ready for my baby to learn those things.

I want to build a coccoon around Katherine.  I want to protect her from all the hard lessons of the world.  And of 3rd grade.  But I know I can't.  And I want her to grow into an adult who can stand strong when the world comes crashing down. So, tomorrow morning I will let her march off to Mrs. B's room, with her highlighters and notebook paper and pens.  And I'll even put on a big smile.  But that doesn't mean that I won't mourn the loss of her innocence.  And of mine.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Last Day of Summer

Now for some pictures from the Children's Garden.  The girls were much more willing to smile for the camera there because, well, it's just more fun!

Today was the very last day of summer.  Those 100 days that lay ahead of us in May like pearls on a string have all been used.  It's been a good summer, a fun summer.  But now it is gone.  Katherine chose how to spend this final day.  A trip to the library.  A family bike ride.  A picnic supper at the park.  Sunday tea with Mom.  What a good way to end!  Tomorrow we go back to the school world...  So long, summer.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Last Days of Summer

We walked a parade this morning, marching for our friend Ed, who is running for re-election.  It was a looong parade, but the weather was beautiful and it was a lot of fun.

Afterward, we headed for the botanical gardens for our annual summer photo shoot.  Granny and I have taken Katherine, and later Rachel, to these gardens to take pictures for years.  This summer has been so terribly hot, that we have not attempted to visit.  Now we are out of summer.  But today wasn't too bad, so we went.
Unfortunately, neither of the girls was much into posing. 
Or even standing in place for more than 2 seconds.
So most of my photos are just a blur of someone who was standing there a second ago or they look like this...
But I got a few sweet pictures.
The girls love the butterfly house.  The first time Rae visited, there were newly hatched butterflies that would sit on you finger.  Ever since then, she has tried and tried to lure butterflies to her hand, but they never cooperate!  Finally Kate found a poor battered butterfly that could no longer escape the loving...
Rachel was delighted!
My favorite part of the botanical garderns is the water garden.  The water lilies were spectacular today!
Rachel, of course, needed a closer look.
I got this really good shot of the girls with Granny and Poppy.
And then gave in to the girls' whining and begging and let them go to the Children's Garden.  But that will have to wait for a later post.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


It was fairly cool this afternoon (only in the 90's!) so Rachel went out to play in the sandbox.  After ten minutes or so she came in hollering "Mom!  Come see my sandcastles!"  So I went out to take a look.
It seems that the yard sprinkler had turned our boring, dry sand into perfect sandcastle consistency.  And Rachel knew just what to do.
She dug and packed, perfectly content.
And while she worked, she told me her sandcastle plans.
Then she found a stick and incorporated it in her decorations.
She was one proud little sandcastle architect...
...with delightfully sandy toes.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Old Fashioned Archer

The girls spent the morning with Granny.  Kate started talking about bows and arrows and how she wished she had them.  Granny told her that when she was little, she and her siblings and cousins used to make their own.  Katherine loved this idea, so Granny helped her cut and peel a green stick, tie twine on it, and search for straight twigs for arrows.
Katherine was pleased with the results.
Delighted, in fact!
Rachel was impressed, too.
And Kate's homemade bow and arrow is the envy of the neighborhood.
Even if she hasn't mastered shooting an arrow through the basketball hoop.  And Kate?
She's one happy archer.

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters


Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way