Charlotte’s Corner: More on Nature

Thoughts on Earth Week at School
by Charlotte

Editor’s note: I’ve put this into past tense as Earth Week was the week of 4/22. I’m not sure if Charlotte thinks this post is complete, but I wanted to get it up so we can get her to write more!

Earth Week was a few weeks ago and the whole school made a special effort to be good to the Earth. We had Black Out Day–No one used the computer or lights for the whole entire day. The directrice didn’t use the computer. Same fro the teachers. For me the rule is “Every Day is Earth Day,”* which means we should treat the Earth well every day!

You know, we live on the earth and if the earth was not there, humans would not be here either. Wouldn’t it be different?  At lunch I watched a film about the different places on Earth and who lives in those places? I saw a desert, the ocean, sea turtles, and sea stars! I also saw coral reefs! I have a question…why do playgrounds have woodchips? Did you know that you have to cut down a lot of trees to make woodchips?

When you color it and you don’t like your picture, don’t throw it out because that’s wasting trees. Instead, turn the paper over! What if you already used both sides? Then you put it in the recycling bin! That helps the earth a lot because the paper won’t go to a big heap in the earth and add up to the space in the earth that’s covered in trash and just sitting there polluting the earth. And that helps the animals especially birds because they need clean air to live!

*Charlotte picked this idea up from one of our favorite Fancy Nancy books, Every Day is Earth Day. Read more about it at Culture Bean. (Yes, that’s a blatant plug!)

Happy Birthday, Charlotte!

I must have blinked. Yesterday, Charlotte was a tiny little thing, scrawny, tube-fed and recovering from heart surgery.  Today, she’s almost up to my shoulder, weighs 55 lbs., giggles constantly, and has no problem eating her fill. Seven. Today she is seven.

May 9, 2006: Charlotte didn’t eat this cupcake. We helped her blow the candle out and then went out to dinner, to celebrate that all of us had survived the first year in a life. Look at those ankles.  (photo credit: Karley Beery)
May 9, 2012: We had to stop her from diving into this cupcake to get the picture!
“Happy birthday to me!”

We started learning about seven a few months ago. Seven is the age of “it’s not fair,” a growing deep interest and concern with the world around her, and complex emotions.  I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a roller coaster ride. One minute she’s a little girl, snugly and silly. Another minute, she’s nursing hurt feelings or fussing about doing her homework. Then, in a flash, she’s off practicing the piano, building homes for her Calico Critters, writing letters to the Garden Fairies, or scooting around the house. Just as easily she’s in her room reading or writing. It is endlessly delightful to watch her, though sometimes frustrating to follow her emotions.

Now to the annual birthday letter,

My darling Charlotte,

You started six ready to be the be the “sixiest,” and you have been. In the past year you’ve grown so much (and I’m not just talking about the fact that you are SO tall), that I don’t know where to begin. And, once again, you taught me so much.

Finishing kindergarten you were more than prepared for first grade–reading, making friends, open and curious. Camp was an hour away by bus; you came home sweaty, exhausted, and cheerful though at the end of the summer you did tell me that you’d had too many weeks of camp. Duly noted.

Mid-summer we packed up and moved, again. This time it was only six miles. It may as well have been across the country again–now we have a backyard, neighbors your age, and we’re only a 5 minute drive from school. You never complained, just set about coloring the moving boxes and making new friends. You proudly live in the “yellow house at the top of the hill,” and never (almost never) complain that we haven’t hung your curtains.

Your amazing first grade teachers–Isabelle M., Aileen, and Hannah–quickly recognized your strengths and have worked hard to make sure that you stay challenged. Leigh and Sophie deserve special kudos for your reading groups with Aurelia and Sarah. Mohamed inspires the artist in you, teaching you about perspective and volume. Ms. Hammond, Ms. Rosellini, and Karine have kept you busy in, respectively, music, library, and theater. To hear you describe Fantasia last week made my heart leap with joy. And the games you play in theater class have made you a better listener, most of the time.

They’ve had a bit of a struggle keeping you focused, but we’re working on that! The excitement you share with your recap of the end of each day continues to delight me. Sure, you tell me first the number of times you went to the playground, but then you describe in detail the art project, theater class, or science project you’re working on.  You love random spelling tests and I’m continually astonished by the addition you can do in your head. I’m not sure you realize how much you’re learning, but I am daily in awe of your knowledge of the world, language, and people.

You’ve finally put your head under water and are swimming on your own. I think this will be the year you learn to ride a two-wheeler and tie your shoes.

So, we’re gearing up to turn your world upside down, again, moving back to Chicago. You’re much more aware this time of what this move means and how it will change your daily life. Your seven-year old sensitivity shines as you tell me that you’re happy and sad at the same time to go to Chicago. I’m sad too that we’ll tear you from this wonderful school and the friends who have grown to love and support you.  And, I am glad that this transition will be eased by the familiarity of our destination. You now know that you have friends who are waiting for you excitedly at the other end of the journey.

If there has been a “regular” year in your life–six has been it. No hospital trips (we’ve never seen the inside of Boston Children’s!), and aside from moving to Arlington, no unusual events. You wear your scar proudly, but remember less and less of your feeding tube.  You tell me often that you have a special heart. You do, my dear, and I’m not just talking about the repaired CHD. You are open, kind, empathetic, and loving. You meet each new person with an eagerness to make a new friend; each new challenge with the confidence of success. These traits will serve you well.

My stupendously six girl is now stylishly seven. I’m confident that you will remain strong, sassy, sparkly, and, hopefully, silly. And I know that you will teach me much as we weather another move together. I hope your sensitivity and kindness will continue to keep your heart open to the possibilities that change will bring us. Keep dancing like no one is watching, and keep loving with abandon. May you continue to write letters to fairies, dream of flying on paper wings, change your mind daily about what you’ll be when you grow up, and tell me your secrets each night at bedtime.

Daddy and I love you so very much.

May you grow from strength to strength.

A Round Up of Recent Adventures: Newport, Rhode Island

Today, Charlotte is 6 years and 365 days old. Because it’s a leap year she has to wait one more day for her birthday. She can barely contain herself! I can hardly believe that seven years have passed since she changed our world forever. More on that tomorrow…

We’ve had a lot of excellent adventures lately, starting in April when we hosted Marlène, a French student teacher who was doing an internship (stage) at Charlotte’s school. Hosting Marlène forced us all to speak more French (though she wanted to be practicing her English!) and to eat our family meals in more leisurely manner.  We learned a lot about Charlotte’s school from a teacher’s perspective, too. In all it was a wonderful experience which we hope to repeat.

At the end of the internship, we took Marlène and two other interns (Solenne and Fatou) to Newport, Rhode Island for the weekend.

After strolling on the pier and having an excellent lunch, we toured The Breakers. Philippe, Marlène, Solenne, Fatou, and I enjoyed the self-guided audio tour. Charlotte busied herself sketching each room.  She was fascinated, but wanted to see it her way, not understand the history or fabrication of the building. Her drawings are evocative if not representative, especially the bubbly way she captured the crystal and gold chandeliers in the dining room.  I was pretty sure she didn’t hear the few details I mentioned to her or that she read, until she commented last week about the Vanderbilts and the leather-covered walls in their library!

Charlotte in front of The Breakers, Newport RI

The next day was a golden summery day so we went for a wonderful breakfast at The Hungry Monkey in Newport and then walked part of the Cliff Walk, with mansions (historic and otherwise) on one side and the sea on the other.

Solenne, Fatou, and Marlène on the Cliffwalk, Newport RI

At the end of the walk, Philippe hoists Charlotte like a sack of potatoes. I try not to notice her head pointing at the concrete.

 Thanks to Marlène we also made it to The Top of The Hub, the restaurant and lounge at the top of the Prudential Tower in downtown Boston. I’m ashamed to say that after more than a year in Boston, I’d not ever heard of this wonder. We met Solenne and her host family for a farewell cocktail and dinner.

The three little girls were fascinated with the view…there was a game on that night! Once again, I got a kick out of seeing Charlotte reject (Kobe beef) hot dogs (on a brioche) in favor of New England clam chowder and spicy calamari.

Charlotte and I have a list of things we want to do in Boston before we move next month. Going to Salem and the Peabody Essex Museum was on the list. We knocked that off the second weekend of Spring break. You can read about that trip in my previous post, Charlotte and Poetry in Motion.

Charlotte (and little bear) at The Top of the Hub