our girls

Why Do I Get Out of Bed Each Morning?

Well, the simple, obvious answer is my girls. Those two heavenly adorable nutmeg-scented girls who make my whole life worthwhile. Of course they're why I get out of bed and why I live each day with joy. But the actual down-to-the-minute reason I get out of bed is slightly (only slightly) different. I get out of bed each morning because I have a personal trainer/life coach/in-house motivational speaker. I have someone whose job it is (apparently) is to get me going on my day with a spring in my step. She's very dedicated and very good at her job. Arguably she's a little over enthusiastic. I would prefer she start her routine at 7:00 instead of 6:20, but her methods are so endearing, it's hard to be annoyed.

6:20 Buffy wakes up and turns over to me and says, "Mommie! Hello Mommie!" Like she had no idea I would be there, but isn't it fantastic that we're here in the SAME BED together? Awesome!

6:21 I work hard to pretend I'm asleep, and Buffy lies down to try to rest some more.

6:30 Buffy decides she's let me sleep in long enough and grabs my face with both her hands and gives me a huge noisy kiss on the mouth. I try very hard to pretend I'm still asleep.

6:40 Buffy has been very generous in letting me be so lazy, but now she really must get me up. She kisses me again, and if that doesn't work, she digs under the covers, lifts my shirt and blows a loud, wet raspberry on my belly.

6:41 More kisses and raspberries

6:42 Buffy is very insistent now. The best part of the day is passing right before her eyes. I am wasting it! She calls to me (from two inches away), "Mo-ommie! C'mon, Mommie! Up, Mommie! C'mon! C'mon, Mommie!" Like I'm a recalcitrant golden retriever puppy who just needs the right combination of baby-voiced praise and coaxing to fetch that ball.

6:45 I give in and open my eyes. Buffy cheers, "YAY! Yay, Mommie! Mommie up. Bag off? Mommie up, bag off?" She is referring to her GroBag which keeps her warm and secure in the night without having to rely on us for covers. This is good for many reasons. It's good that she doesn't get tangled in our adult covers, but more importantly Andrew and I don't share covers very well with each other, so a third person in our bed stands little chance of duvet access.

6:46 I unzip her GroBag. Buffy cheers my efforts, "Yay! Bag off! Yay, Mommie! Up? Up, Mommie? Stairs?" If I don't get up off the bed and walk towards the stairs with her she will come back and patiently take my hand. She will walk me over to the stairgate gently and enthusiastically encouraging me all the way, "C'mon, Mommie! Stairs! Stairs, Mommie! C'mon. C'mon."

6:47 I get up and open the stairgate. Buffy rewards me, "YAY! Stairs! Yay, Mommie!"

I challenge anyone to stay grumpy after a wake-up call like that. It doesn't abate until she gets tired for a nap a few hours later. I get her breakfast to applause. She cheers when I get her in the high-chair. She claps when Katie comes downstairs. She gets excited about getting in her buggy, and shouts with glee when Andrew puts her shoes on. Seriously, who needs coffee with a baby like that?

Katie's a Star

Honestly, it's just more Katie brags. Sick of it yet? Me neither!

This morning Katie told me Ms. S. said several nice things about her yesterday. Ms. S. announced to the entire class that Katie walks three miles every single day. I can't get the rest of the story from Katie (you know, just how long the class applauded) but she seemed pleased with the attention. I am absolutely thrilled. She DOES walk a lot and very rarely complains. I wish other parents would see her walking as a sign of what their kids could do, but usually I just get looks of amazement. Sure, I'm proud of Katie, but I don't think she's really doing anything that any healthy, active kid couldn't do.

Then Katie said that Miss M would give her a star on Friday. I asked if it was for all her walking. I thought that was great, but maybe a bit over the top. Katie said no, it was for improving so much on her writing. She finally sussed finger spaces (using one's finger to physically help space words in a sentence) and uses them habitually. We think that's sensational. We are very, very proud of our little superstar. Go Katie!

Katie Brag (yet again)

Yesterday Katie and I went down to watch the London Marathon. (Or the Flora London Marathon as they prefer us to call it. Ah, commericialisation, we wish we hardly knew ye.) I go every year and drag some combination of family members along with me. I fondly remember cheering my mom on during her runs and her awesome marathon to celebrate her 40th birthday. The atmosphere is always great, and I want my girls to have some memories like that.

This year was the first year Katie really got into it. She's always had fun watching the crazy costumes, but this year she had a new game. She played the Official Supporters Game of shouting out personal encouragement to the runners. It's a hard game to play for a little girl. It involves reading the runner's name off their shirt as they run by and then shouting loudly and quickly enough for them to hear. It requires excellent reading skills and lots of confidence. Katie played for two hours, making my heart grow with pride with every yell. "Good job, Rachel!" "Way to go, Bernard!" "Go, Debbie!" She rattled off names I didn't know she'd ever heard. I was just so proud of her!

I knew she was a good reader, but her confidence in yelling loudly enough at total strangers to be heard has me floored. When did my shy little non-smiler grow so confident? A German nanny told me today, "She is so open, your bigger daughter." She really is. She's opened up like the gorgeous peony blossoms in the backyard. We've had the peony for years without a single bloom, and this year we've had two. It's like that with Katie. Give her some time, because it is so wonderfully worth the investment.

Buffy at 20.5 months

I don't have proper medical statistics for Buffy to share. Here's what I can tell you:

Weight: She's heavy and chubby, but she's lost several rolls of fat on her thighs thanks in large part to her constant activity.

Height: I don't know, but people don't believe she's not yet two.

Vocabulary: Further feeds their disbelief. She's got hundreds of words and uses them in a constant, usually delightful, often loud patter.

Motor skills: Holds a pen perfectly. Loves to scribble spirals. Can turn a somersault. Working very hard on jumping and running, but can't get both feet off the ground.

Features: Her hair is starting to curl and get long enough for a ponytail. Two pigtails at the top of her head work best in keeping hair out of face, but this process is entirely too tedious for action-mad Buffy.

Social: Buffy picks out her favourite person in a family and calls all members by that name. For my coffee crowd, she calls everyone "Mary". Jean's girls, and Jean herself, are all "Ella". Katie's school friends are all "Armande", as are Armande's parents. Her favourite person out of the family is another little sister named Ella. Buffy looks for her in the oddest places - an empty park, , crowded supermarkets, our bed in the middle of the night... Buffy's all-time favourite person is without a doubt, Katie. Katie is the sun, moon and all the stars for Buffy. Nothing is worth eating if Katie isn't eating it. Nothing is worth doing if Katie isn't doing it. For her part Katie mostly seems to enjoy this. As long as Buffy isn't snatching the exact thing in Katie's hands, they get along beautifully.

Personality: My nicknames for Buffy include monkey, monster, sunshine, terror, and pure delight. She is a goofball who loves to make us laugh. Even when she's tired and irritable, she'll pull a face to make us laugh. Her latest thing is to nod her head grandly while keeping her eyes closed and mouth pursed. Hilarious! If we don't laugh quickly enough, she'll crack up first. She is an absolute star and such an asset to the family. I think we'd all be way too serious without Buffy forcing us to loosen up. Thank goodness for our little monster!

Easter Holidays, part 1

We are halfway through Katie's first week of Easter holiday. We've already done so much, I'd better write some of it down before we forget.

Saturday - Katie went to a birthday party. Buffy wore a new-to-her dress and pigtails for the first time! Katie wore a new-to-her Dorothy dress given to us by some bigger girls. Katie doesn't want to take it off!

Sunday - We played and played and played in the playground at Greenwich Park. Andrew was going to take Katie to an organ concert in the afternoon, but she was too exhausted after all that play.

Monday - Another birthday party! This one was special because it included a trip on the London Eye. So awesome! I went shopping at Liberty and bought some delicious new fabrics whilst Andrew kept faucet-nosed Buffy at home and close to the hankies.

Tuesday - We certainly know how to party at the holidays. We started the day with a family outing to the dentist, and then a quick turnaround to go to a funeral. The lovely lady who lived across the street died last week and it was her funeral. We didn't know her well except that she always said hello and smiled beautifully. She also has a granddaughter Buffy's age, so I particularly felt the connection. In the afternoon Katie and I went up to Blackheath for a very lovely playdate.

Wednesday - Today. This was a very special outing to Tate Modern to say goodbye to the Carsten Holler slides. Katie asked to go and insisted she was ready to go down a slide. Last time she got as far as putting her feet in the little mat before leaping back into Andrew's arms and swearing never to go near a museum again. I was sure she would either chicken out again or be in floods of tears by the bottom. Boy was I wrong. She was grinning from ear to ear and begging to go again! We did go again, and then Andrew and I enjoyed the beauty and bliss of the Level 5 slide for the last time. The slides will be taken down in a fortnight. If you can get here before then, do go. Seriously, do.

After the slides we decided to head out and part ways. Andrew would take Katie for some special one-on-one time and I would take Buffy home. Before we made it to the door, however, we were caught by a little table advertising "family games". We asked if there was anything for Katie's age, and they gave us a cloth book with velcro soft toys. The idea was to walk around that floor and find the toys in the paintings, then add it to the velcro picture of the museum. Cool! We didn't have to leave that badly! So, we headed off in search of a bowler hat, a bow tie, a lobster, a necklace, a cello (which Katie still insists was a guitar), a comb, and a few other items. We were nearly done with all of our items (including Salvador Dali's Lobster-Phone) when we passed the Rothko room. Andrew introduced me to Mark Rothko's art on my first trip to London, and he's remained a firm favourite ever since. We knew the girls were losing their patience with museums, so we were quick. The lights were dimmed in the room and the art was already so beautifully atmospheric, I was sorely tempted to stay longer. Katie was still in her finding-pictures-in-the-pictures mode and shouted out, "Those are fish fingers!"

It's hard to argue with her (on anything, but particularly when she's kind of right), so we nodded politely. I doubt, however, fish fingers have or ever will be served in The Seagram Room at the Four Seasons. Rothko painted them on commission, but ultimately couldn't bear to hand them over, giving them instead to the Tate. Katie might well be seeing fish fingers in the paintings, and I'll hold off on the true story until she's much, much older.

Tomorrow, we're off to Legoland. I'd best get packing and sleeping, then.

Reading

Katie has loved and cherished books from a startlingly early age. We have photo evidence of her carefully turning the pages of a cloth book when she was around six months old. Her books survived unscathed until she was beyond the age of abusing them. Katie has treated her books so lovingly, they were ill prepared to deal with the force that is Buffy. Until Buffy the only book to bear any teeth marks was the one we loaned to a friend. I tut-tutted about the condition when it came back, knowing my child would never do that.

Ah, why do we have children but to prove ourselves utter and complete morons?

It would be premature to say Buffy no longer chews books, but something has changed. She now sees that there is more to books than teething fodder. There are "shoriesh" to be enjoyed. At first she would only listen to stories if Daddy read aloud. Something about his voice and having the whole of his attention made books utterly fascinating. Stories definitely lost their magic whenever I tried to read them. Now she will listen a bit more when I read, but she has discovered the magic that is Katie reading. Buffy is too impatient to read the same book as Katie, but she loves sitting in bed with Katie and reading in parallel.

The other night Katie was reading Dilly the Dinosaur and Buffy was reading something else. I listened attentively as Katie would read two lines then Buffy would interrupt with, "In the morning." Buffy's book was not terribly interesting as it read, "In the morning. In the morning. In the morning. IN the morning. In THE morNING." You get the idea. I'm not sure where she got the phrase, but we are delighted that Buffy is taking a less oral interest in books!

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