Charlotte's Journey Home

Just a Regular Kid, Sort Of


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Rainbow Time. A story by Charlotte.

Just can’t get enough of these kitty ears!

The other night Philippe put Charlotte to sleep while I was out. I came home at 8:30 p.m. and we could still hear her whispering. She whispered until at least 9 p.m. When I went up to bed, I checked in to pull her covers up (she hates covers), and found that she had fallen asleep sitting up against her pillows, with her arms out to either side as if she were sort of flying.

Yesterday I asked her what she had been doing and why she hadn’t gone to sleep right away.

Here’s what she said, in her own words:

“It was rainbow time.”
“What’s rainbow time?”
“We, me and my friends [ed. note: “friends”= the menagerie of stuffed animals on her bed] fly up in the sky and get a rainbow and come back. I don’t fly, but they do. And I pretend my Bamma blanket [a blanket my mother knit for her] is a bag or my purse. The rainbow is in all wrapped up in another bag. I put it down when I sleep and then I put my arms out like this.”

“Last week,” she continued,” we were not really sleeping. We were not getting rainbows. We were getting hearts and putting them in a bag. And then we were at the movie theater*. When we’re at the movie theater we take the things out when we get there.”

I asked her what she did if only her friends fly into the sky. She responded, “I help them. I hold their hand and they fly like in I Can Fly. Piggie is so silly in I Can Fly, thinking he can fly….” She went off on a wild tangent here about this Mo Willems early reader book and I didn’t catch it all on paper.

As Charlotte told me this elaborate story, I wrote it down. Once she understood that I was writing it down, she embellished and embellished. The kid is a natural storyteller. I was riveted! Or, just maybe I was riveted because she’s mine. Who knows?

*Pronounced thee-ay-ter. I’m not sure where she gets that from, though Philippe says my mom. I know our friend Chuck pronounces it that way, but she hasn’t seen him in a long time.


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Hurray for Today

“My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…”

In November Charlotte came with me to vote. We both voted for Mr. Obama (is anyone reading this surprised about that?). Bubba voted for Mr. McCain because Charlotte thought everyone should get a vote from us.

Charlotte was excited that Mr. Obama won. And, one of her best “toddler tricks” is her recognition of his picture whenever she sees a poster, newspaper photograph, or, today, an inauguration pin on someone’s lapel.

But, since last night she’s reached new heights. We’ve been telling her that today is the day that Mr. Obama will become president. I tried to explain that Mr. Bush would be president when she left for school and Mr. Obama would be president by the time she got home.

Here are some of her comments since yesterday:

  • “Mr. Obama is my favorite president.”
  • “Mommy, look, there’s my president.” (Watching Mr. and Mrs. Obama leave Blair House this morning.)
  • “Mommy, if Mr. Obama is still president when I get home from school and I’m bigger, let’s go see him.”
  • “Ooh, Mommy, that house is pretty.” (Upon seeing the White House for the first time.)
  • “I know, Mommy.” (When I mentioned, again, what a special day it is.)
  • “Really? He’s from Chicago?” (How had I forgotten to tell her that? Her eyes went open so wide when I mentioned that he is from a neighborhood not to far from some friends of ours.)

I’m pretty sure that my explanation of the nature of our peaceful exchange of power went right over her little head. But, she did recognize the American flag and she wants to understand why people all over the world are excited today.

I am moved to tears, not just by today’s extraordinary events, but also by my daughter’s 3-year old eyes watching this day and seeing her realize how special it is. Mr. Obama will be her president–not just because (I hope) he will work to make her world better, but because he will be the first president of whom she is aware and who she will remember. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders as he stands on the shoulders of his predecessors to take office today. I think the most important expectations he may have to live up to are the expectations of the children.

Here in our house we wish President Obama patience, wisdom, strength, good judgement, good will, and good luck.


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How many times have you seen Mary Poppins?

How many times have you watched Mary Poppins? This week? Charlotte is currently obsessed with Mary Poppins. Last week she watched it on 4 times in 2 days—we had borrowed by brother’s Explorer in New Jersey and was nicely outfitted with a built-in DVD player. Charlotte watched the movie on the way in to New York City, on the way out, and then the next day on the way to and from Long Island.

Today she finally started singing songs from the movie: “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine do gown, the medicine do gown.” No, those are not typos. That’s how she sings it!

Funny thing is, as crazy as she is about her stuffed Nemo and Dory, she won’t watch an entire animated film. I can’t get her interested to save my life! But, Mary Poppins is the best.
So…I brought Sound of Music home from school today. It’s nearly 3 hours long, so I don’t think I’ll get her to watch the whole thing. But, I’m willing to try!


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How Do You Measure a Year? or Happy 2009 from Charlotte

Last January I wrote that Charlotte’s resolutions for 2008 were: “To get rid of the g-tube. To transition nicely to daycare and then, in the fall, to preschool. To get potty trained (Okay, that’s mine, not hers. She could care less!). To learn to count. To learn to pronounce her name properly. To turn three. To play in the ocean, again. And, as always, to continue to grow from strength to strength. ” She did all these things–gorgeously, gleefully, and gratefully.
Here she is this past fall.

In 2008:
  • She had her g-tube removed. She wanted me to be sure to note that Nurse Mary took the MICkey button out.
  • She learned to use the potty.
  • She spent 6 months in the most amazing home day care center ever.
  • She started and adores pre-school at the Lycée Français.
  • She reached the amazing height of at least 41.5 inches (3 inches since last January). I don’t know her exact height which means we’ve been to the doctor a lot less this year. An accomplishment in itself. I do know that she seems to have outgrown her brand new bicycle.
  • She weights about 35 pounds. Up about 4 pounds since last January.
  • She is figuring out that written numbers correspond to quantities. She routinely asks questions like, “What is one and one?”
  • She can finally say her name. She does still insist on being called ‘harlotte when she’s about to be naughty.
  • Vomiting? What’s vomiting?
  • She still sings in French. Gorgeously. And now she speaks in French, too.
  • She still loves Bubba, plays the piano and sings, still making up her own melodies and words as she goes.
  • She is teaching herself to read. This morning she asked me, “Why does it say cup on your pajamas?”
  • She loves books (but you knew that).
  • As for the food front, stay tuned for another blog entry shortly.
  • She “graduated” (with honors) from physical therapy and speech therapy
  • She discovered the joy of making art projects.
  • She can finally climb the ladders in the playground

Like last year, Charlotte and we would like to honor the extended Team Charlotte who helped us reach this day with grace and some bit of sanity:

  • Dr. Carl Backker, cardiac-thoracic surgeon. We haven’t needed to visit him this year, but he’s always going to be on the top of the list
  • Laura Robson, Sara Karp and Cheryl Mercado–respectively Charlotte’s speech, physical and occupational therapists
  • Dr. Luciana Young, cardiologist extraordinaire
  • The Feeding Team at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
  • All of our wonderful friends who never think of Charlotte as anything other than a regular kid
  • Lakeview Pediatrics, all the doctors and staff, who answer our questions and assure us that Charlotte is as extraordinary as we think she is
  • Janet Holzman , of Kids’ Kastle and her assistant Ramie, the very next best thing to caring for Charlotte myself
  • Lycée Français, Charlotte’s teachers and friends
  • Our families, especially our nieces who treat Charlotte like one of the girls, even if she is 10 years younger than they are
  • Tammy, pediatric optician, who makes sure that Charlotte has the perfect glasses, in terms of fit, function, and fashion
  • Dr. Charlie, Charlotte’s dentist

If I’ve left anyone out, please know that we are ever-grateful for all of your kind thoughts, your emails, your comments on the blog. We never take for granted the blessings we find in the love and support of our family and friends. And we are always moved when strangers find the site and post their well-wishes.

In summing up 2007, I wrote: “Charlotte brings a smile to my face on even the most trying days. And most of the time, she is not the reason the day was difficult.” For 2008, I have simply to echo that. Charlotte wakes up smiling and giggling most days. Her glee is infectious. Like all 3-and-a-half year olds she can try our patience. She seriously knows how to be naughty.


But, most of the time she radiates happiness and spreads it where she goes. (If you omit mealtime from the equation.) She is cooperative, inquisitive, and as responsible as you can expect a 3-year-old to be.

Charlotte’s resolutions for 2009, you ask? To learn to eat happily and politely so that meals can stop being the most stressful times of our day. To learn to dress herself. (Yes, both of those are actually mom & dad’s wishes for her.) To learn to peddle her bicycle so that Mommy will put the bell back on . To go back to Virginia Beach and play in the sand. To visit Nenenne in Belgium. To go back to New York City. To turn four. And, as always, to continue to grow from strength to strength.

May you all have a blessed and gleeful 2009!


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New Year’s Eve Chicago Kid Style


Our New Year’s Eve celebration began at 10:00 a.m. (yes, you read that correctly) on the 31st. We met Charlotte’s buddy Taylor and her parents at the Navy Pier Winter Wonderfest. For lack of a better description, Winter Wonderfest is an indoor amusement park with a winter and holiday theme that is staged in the big festival hall at Navy Pier. It is nothing short of spectacular!

Right at the entrance, Charlotte was hooked. She fell in love with the decorations, especially the inflatable bear.

Then she hit the slides (inflatable and traditional). Rode her first Ferris wheel and LOVED it. Found the perfect horse on a carousel. And we all took a train ride. (That’s Susan and Taylor with us, not to be mistaken for Aunt Sue and cousin Taylor!) We joked that the girls’ pictures will always be their moms and them because their Dads were taking the all the photos!


And, we also decorated (and ate) sugar cookies at the Ginger Bread House.

This is Charlotte’s homage to Heath Ledger.

Later, Charlotte had some McDonald’s french fries and a few bites of burger. It was a super-exciting fun morning. Charlotte was wiped out and took a 4-hour nap!

I think Charlotte would like it to be New Year’s Eve every day!