Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Jam Packed

This 3-day weekend was packed full of activity for our family. In order to get our summer off to a start that would feel more like accepting our place in St. Louis and less like longing for our place in Columbia, we apparently determined to pack as many things as we could into that time.

It started Friday evening with a date for Erick and me, out with a new couple. Our "first date," if you will. A great way to start off the weekend. Saturday and Sunday were spent just the three of us. We went downtown a couple of times. Once to decorate Erick's office and once to make Sophia's dreams come true, as we took a ride in Cinderella's carriage. Sophia made a special connection with Cruiser the horse.


We swam a couple of times.


I have a feeling I'll be doing that a lot. I have mixed feelings about that. It's an easy way to get Sophia out and active, but it's a lot of time in a bathing suit....

Yesterday, we went to my friend Hillary's pool then ate out with her and her friend. Last night, we wrapped it up with our friends in the neighborhood, Cayla and Tarek and their sweet babies.

After one of our long days together as a family, when we had swam, napped and had a carriage ride, Sophia was in the back seat chattering about her favorite parts of the day. She said, "This was the best day of my life!" She says that frequently, but then again it might be true every time... Anyway, she sealed the deal with, "And the best part of the whole day was hanging out with you and you, my best family ever!"

It was a great way to kick off a summer that will be busy and full. I am going to have to start going to bed earlier if this is going to be our summer, though, because I am pooooped!!
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Last Day of School

Yep. It's today. Sophia's done with her complete first year of preschool. The first half at Little One's Day Out. The second half at Samuel Pre-K. Both fantastic experiences. Sophia absolutely loves school. Of course, I know she'll forget how much she loves it by the time it comes around again. But I can rest in the knowledge that this part of our transition has gone absolutely swimmingly. She made friends. The teachers loved getting to know her. She danced and shouted her joy after almost each day of school. Can't get much better than that.

On to the summer. I've got my work cut out for me to keep her entertained and active. Without a reason to get out, Sophia would be happy just lying around, watching TV, having me read or play with her here at home. She says she doesn't like the summer because it's too hot and the sun gets in her eyes. Fortunately, after this weekend, she's all about going to a pool. I think we will get a summer membership at the Clayton pool. The cost, which is not as much as I thought it would be, will still be enough to encourage us to get our selves out there on a regular basis.

It's going to be a weird summer, without a doubt. This is the time of year that I normally spend the majority of the week with my friends and neighbors. I am excited to get to explore all that St. Louis has to offer this summer, but I will miss the ease and understanding of hanging out with all my Columbia people. Really, really miss it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wish We Could Stretch It


This weekend, we met my parents at a campground in Branson. One night all three of us stayed in their camper, and one night Erick and I stayed in the hotel on the property. It was camping. Only better. The campground had an indoor pool, WiFi and cable. Dad's camper has a bathroom and all the cooking apparatus one could hope for. For Sophia, this was camping. For me, this was a 5-star resort. My childhood camping experiences are fodder for a different post.

When we arrived Friday night, it was pouring rain. We were hopeful for a clear afternoon on Saturday but holding out little hope for a nice morning. Our expectations were exceeded the moment we woke up to an overcast but pleasant morning. Coffee in the campsite was quickly followed up with Silver Dollar City.

There is no describing what Silver Dollar City meant to me as a child. Rides, shows, wandering aimlessly in my newly ironed-on Branson t-shirt - it was as much as my heart could hold. I have never really hoped that Sophia would feel the same...until yesterday.

Sophia's normal anxiety and hesitation gave way over and over again throughout the day. The first big hurdle came in the kiddie rides. Now, some kids love a thrill. There were plenty of two- and three-year-olds who were enjoying the rides, but Sophia has never been one of them. She'll usually oblige us by riding once, but then insists that the thrill has been lost after that. This time, however, we each got our turn to ride the frogs with Sophia.



And she even rode the frog by herself! That is a huge milestone for her, so we were pretty thrilled for her. And us...

The next stretch came in the form of a new ride - the River Blast. This is a boat ride, with water guns on the boat and on the shore facing the boats. We knew Sophia would like the idea of shooting others with water, but we were unsure of how she'd feel about getting shot, particularly in the face.


Our fears were misplaced... She and Erick could have stayed there all day waging war on the masses.


The rest of the day was a blast. Stopped for a show, played in the kid areas and ate lots of food. It was exactly as I never dared to hope. Sophia loved Silver Dollar City as much as I ever did. Fantastic.

Back at the campground, we cooled off in the pool. Again, she surprised us with her bravery and desire to try things she'd never tried before. She normally only swims with her floating dolphin ring, "Whaley." However, we had been in the 3-foot end about 20 minutes when Sophia set her aside and decided to go it alone. She inevitably went under a few times but popped back up with an "I did it!" instead of the freakout we expected. Now she can't wait to get back into a pool, so it's a promising summer!


It was the kind of weekend that feels like the beginning of vacation. Unfortunately, it wasn't the beginning of vacation. Sophia's last two days of school are on Monday and Wednesday. Then the summer stretches out in front of us. I'm pretty excited about our summer together. For tonight, though, we'll just recover from a weekend full of fun!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Time Slips Away

Hard to imagine that a week has gone by since my last post. The last week we've been riding the wave of a pleasant breeze with Sophia. Fun days, free of intense battles. I so appreciate all the support and affirmation that I've been shown since I posted last week. I so appreciate it and I know that, for many, it comes from a place of complete understanding! For now I'll thankfully admit my stories are tame and our time has flown by. Nothing to credit other than Sophia's potential realization I had reached wit's end... Knocking on wood and moving on.

Anyway, it's been a good week. On Sunday we tried another new church. We liked many things about it. The people at each church we've visited have been fantastic. This was no exception. One little girl in particular was a natural fit for our girl. As I went to pick Sophia up from her classroom, I heard a little girl tell her mom, "Sophie is my best friend!" I asked Sophia about it, and she said, "Yep, that's Daisy!" On our way out, Sophia spotted her new friend and we introduced ourselves. The other mom introduced her daughter as Natalie, and I said, "Oh that's funny! Sophia thought her name was Daisy!" The mother laughed really hard and said she couldn't believe that Natalie was introducing herself this way. Apparently for months she's been trying to get her friends and family to call her Daisy, but she didn't know she was telling new people that it was her name. A girl with that kind of imagination and determination can't help but be great friends (or probably enemies at times) with Sophia.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Living in the Eye

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If you follow the blog or know us at all, I hardly need to tell you that Sophia is a lot. She's not too much, but she is more than most. That is the definition of a "spirited child." I know. Many people will think that "spirited" is just a friendly way of saying "difficult." But the truth is, it's just more accurate. Difficult, as a description, just doesn't cut it. There is so much more to her than challenge. Spirited also falls short of the mark, but I think that's the point. Kids with this type of personality or temperament defy labels and description.

Let me just tell you what makes Sophia a "spirited" child. Focus. A one-track mind. Most kids can be distracted - by something they love to do or by humor. Not so with Sophia. If she gets focused on something, nothing (and I've tried it all) can distract her. Let's say a circus came through in the middle of a throwdown. Even then, if she became interested momentarily, she would come right back to her point with as much fervor as before.

Another characteristic of a spirited child is sensitivity. This is both good and bad. She is more aware of what other people are feeling at any given moment, but she is also more aware of her own feelings and has no qualms about expressing them as largely as she feels them. When she is sensitive and sweet to others, there is no rival for the heart-breaking tenderness she expresses. On the other hand, when she is wailing because of the injustice of not being given a choice on what to eat for dinner, the sensitivity is less charming.

There are several more attributes and countless examples of Sophia's personality. Most days, I start my day with a prayer from the bottom of my heart for patience and enough peace in my soul to sustain us both. Most days my prayers are answered. Other days... Well, I get some alone time when Erick gets home. Please don't misunderstand. Sophia is not too much for me and for Erick. She is just right. And I consider being her parent a gift. Really.

This post has been on my mind for some time. I have debated about whether or not to write about this part of our life. It is hard to open up the tenderest part of our family for public examination, but I know we're not alone in this. I'm hopeful that our experiences will have others laughing, crying, nodding their heads or just reading. It took me a while to decide for sure that I'm all right with this being forever in print (assuming the internet isn't destroyed in 2012). But I decided that when Sophia is an adult, I am okay with her realizing that I understand that there is a lot going on inside of her. And that I have always tried my hardest to help her navigate the many highs and lows of being an emotional being. It's not like that's going to change with time. She will always be Sophia - who is more than most in every way. I am so glad to be her mother.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

I hope all of the moms I know had a wonderful day today. I've had a lovely Mother's Day with the girl who makes me a mom and the guy who keeps it doable.

I had a feeling I was going to have a fantastic Mother's Day since it all started with a Muffins for Mom event at Sophia's preschool on Friday morning. She has been talking about it for weeks, keeping it secret what they were working on. When she told me about it, she said, "It will be the best day ever!" And, if I'm honest, it came pretty close.

There is just no substitute for being told you're the best mom ever, especially when parenting a 4 1/2 year old who makes the job interesting. When we walked into her preschool, each mom found a picture of their child in a frame made by that child, along with a list of things that each kid knows and/or loves about his or her mom. Here are Sophia and her friend Tommy with their work.

Most of the kids were satisfied with the admiration of their own mothers. Sophia, on the other hand, felt that each and every mother deserved a chance to admire her particular picture frame. Before I really realized what was happening, Sophia started approaching each mom and bringing her over to look at and admire her picture frame. There are about fifteen kids in Sophia's class, so she realized there was a more efficient way to get the job done. She picked up her frame, tucked it behind her back and walked up to another mom. Mind you, she has never met most of these moms. She would ask, "Do you want to see the picture frame I made?" Before a response was often offered, she'd hold it out and wait for the coming accolades. No exaggeration when I say that every single mom in that room saw Sophia's picture. It was a pretty entertaining scene. Sophia's teacher said that she was the first kid to do that. Somehow, I think she'll probably be the last. Here she is showing one mom her frame.

It's a gift and a memory I'll cherish.

My day today has been everything I could hope for. Sunshine and heat. Plenty of time outside and enough activity to remember the day! We started the day with a trip to Laumeier Sculpture Park. We haven't been there since Sophia was born, but it's a place that I really enjoy. This weekend is their Art Fair, so we got to enjoy the music, booths and food as well as the normal sculptures. I had forgotten how much fun I have at that particular park. It's such a great combination of nature and art.

We got pretty hot there, so it seemed like a good idea to head to City Garden to cool down at the splash park. We met Sophia's friend Tommy's family there and had a really great time - until he fell and hit his head. He'll be fine, but neither Sophia or Tommy recovered.

Since getting home, our afternoon at home has been relaxing and refreshing. I am just so grateful to be Sophia's mother and to share parenthood with Erick. It's never simple, but it's always interesting. And more often than not, it's a genuinely good time.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sticking with it

My spring schedule has made it difficult to make regular visits to the nursing home. I'm hopeful that things will become predictable enough in the near future, and we'll all stay healthy enough for me to return to regular visits. This resolve is especially firm after today's visit with a lady at the home.

Allow me to give a little review on my history with this venture. I planned to volunteer and expected to spend time with people only marginally aware of my presence in order to help allay a few moments of loneliness felt by one or two people. Once I first visited, my expectations changed based on the specific person I was arranged to visit. She was fascinating and energetic and educated. Turns out she was not interested in me. So, I moved on to other people who would be less offended by my presence, and with this, it turns out my first expectations were more accurate. Don't get me wrong. The person I typically visit with now is just as interesting and educated, but her condition is more of what I expected - she is mostly aware of my presence but her loneliness and boredom is bigger than an hour a week. Still, I'm glad that for an hour a week she feels like more than a resident in a nursing home.

Today's visit was more positive than one we had a couple of weeks ago. We spent it looking at her calendar, which was made for her by her children. She repeated several times, an astonishment that she is still alive in 2011, although she can't remember with confidence what year she was born. She's an avid reader who currently has no desire to read. Of that, she said, "I should be unhappy, but I'm not. Guess I'm just content with nothingness."

All that to say, my resolve is refreshed. I actually enjoy the time spent in her presence. I think it's mutual, so that helps. Each time I leave, I have been surprised that I don't feel depressed. I feel a sense of overwhelming gratitude for the spring breeze and the ability to drive.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Grant's Farm

In all our many visits to St. Louis, before and since Sophia, we have never once visited Grant's Farm. To be honest, it just didn't sound that tempting.

Yesterday was such a nice day that I wanted to try something new that we've done before. Grant's Farm was the first on the list, so we went.

I was absolutely stunned by just how much I loved that place! A big reason I fell in love with Grant's Farm is, of course, the horses.

It was so much fun just to be near them and smell horses again. I'll have to try to not go back every week just to soak it in.

Another reason I was pleased with Grant's Farm was the surprise of being in the city yet being surrounded by wooded hills and wildlife. Somehow we had no idea what this place was about, so when we had to wait for a tram to take us into the park, we wondered why we couldn't just choose to take the walk, even if it was long. Turns out, there is more than just distance to be concerned with. The hills between the parking lot and the park are inhabited by many varieties of deer, elk, American bison, longhorn and other varieties of cattle and a few other exotic animals that we got a good glimpse of on the drive. So I was all right with being on a motorized vehicle through those areas. I would have been happy to just ride that tram around all day and see those animals in their reserve. It was fascinating.

Once we got inside the park, it was slightly less surprising. Exotic birds, elephants, goats and such abound. But they're in a tighter space, so it doesn't take long to see what's there.

The longest time was spent in front of the pasture of this little guy. A miniature pony just stood near the fence of his pasture in order to enjoy the touch of hundreds of kids. Sophia fell in love. Of course, I loved that she loved it, even though as a kid, I used to scoff at miniature horses. I can finally see their use...

The courtyard was a great area, too. Food and beverages (at more reasonable rates than the ballpark or zoo), a fountain and plenty of people-watching made that a lot of fun too.

All that to say, Grant's Farm is a winner in my book. I can't wait to go back. We didn't stop at the historic Ulysses S. Grant residence this time, but I'm looking forward to having a chance to do that this summer.