We Are Grateful For…

Another photo from our October staycation. We got too busy to blog daily as we had guests in from France. We took them to the John Hancock Tower for the best views of Chicago. More on that soon!

We are grateful for books that inspire excursions, imagination, and everlasting fascination. Thanks, Andrea! And, thanks David Roberts for drawing one of my favorite Chicago skyline images. Iggy Peck, Architect rules!
(We are also grateful for independent bookstores. The link goes to Women & Children First, a perennial favorite bookstore in Andersonville. If you need to order books for holiday gifts, please shop here!)

StayCation: France

Ah, staycation….First we had a visitor from California, then we hit the highlights of Chicago with Daddy [Chicago Botanic Garden, Museum of Science and Industry]. After that, Charlotte had to go to Kids’ Kastle (our wonderful local home daycare) so I could work on a conference paper. Daycare is a treat for Charlotte because she loves the teachers, she gets to play all day in a small group, and she is usually the oldest one there these days. But, it wasn’t really worth blogging since I wasn’t there.

After daycare, we began the international part of our staycation with visitors from France. When we visited Paris in May, we spent time with my friend Fabrice and his 11-year old daughter. We proposed that she could visit any time. She reminded him. And reminded him. And reminded him. So, we planned a trip. Then her grandmother (who I’ve known for years and who Philippe met about 7 years ago) heard about it and said she wanted in on the trip, too. Charlotte came with me to meet Odile (left) and Eva at the airport.

We took them to some of Chicago’s most special places, like…the Museum of Science and Industry. Yep, Charlotte went there on Monday and on Thursday and she enjoyed (almost) every minute.

Later in the visit, we took them also to the Observatory at the top of the John Hancock Tower. It may not be the tallest building in Chicago, but the view is extraordinary. The four big people listened to the excellent guided tour. Narrated by Chicago’s own David Schwimmer, complete with a plug for the theatre company he founded here (Victory Garden), the tour gives excellent information about the buildings contextualized in a wonderful history of Chicago and how the neighborhoods surrounding the tower have evolved. A big plus: You can almost see the new Children’s Hospital building from the 95th floor. Charlotte loved finally seeing the view that graces the middle of Iggy Peck, Architect (see Thanksgiving week post for a photo).

Then, Charlotte got bored and cranky and nearly made me lose my mind with her impatience. What saved the day? My SLR digital camera! Charlotte took dozens of pictures of, in her words, “the whole world.” She declared that when she grows up she wants to be a photographer. Karley would have been proud!

Some of the pictures were pretty good, too. In fact, she took one of the best pictures of me that I’ve seen in a long time. Maybe I’ll post it one day. Here’s a skyline picture by Charlotte:

Here’s a picture of Charlotte, Philippe and Eva “cleaning the windows” of the John Hancock Tower. Cheesy, I know. But cute!
After the Hancock Tower, at about 12:10 p.m. on a Saturday, we managed to get into The Cheesecake Factory with a 5 minute wait. When does that happen?! Needless to say, our French guests were thrilled by the decor and opulence, and a bit cowed by the portion sizes. Charlotte was thrilled to be with Odile and Eva. We learned the extent and limits of my menu French as I tried to translate and differentiate between sausage, pepperoni, and other pizza toppings! I can’t leave this entry without commending the best waitress, Cheryl. I cannot remember right now why she was so extraordinary, but it was clear that she enjoys her job and we thoroughly enjoyed her.

Just another vacation day in Chicago!

Three? Is she really three?

Photo by Susan who was paparazzi to the toddlers last week!

I’ve been trying to write a poem to Charlotte. It’s a cute rhymey thing that would have made my Aunt Frannie proud. Well, not so much proud as inspired to finish it for me because she was good at this sort of poem.

So, I took a break and looked at my two previous birthday posts. In 2006, I ended my post like this:

You see, I started this blog as the tale of Charlotte’s journey to being a
regular kid. Well, guess what? She is a regular kid. She’s just a regular kid
with a tube in her belly. But that tube helps her be regular, helps her grow,
helps her be on the growth chart (finally), and helps her get the nutrition she
needs to develop normally. She’s pulling up, starting to cruise, babbling silly
sounds. She likes to drink water from an open cup and eat salty, crunchy food
(no doubt that she’s my kid!).She has this impish little grin that tells you
she’s up to no good.

And so, I will begin there as well. At three, Charlotte is a regular kid with a tube in her belly. But the thing is, we haven’t used the tube since December and we’re really, really hopeful that the tube will be gone by her fourth birthday. She’s currently in the 90th or 95th percentile for height/weight (about 33 lbs. and at least 40 inches). She still likes crunchy foods, but she has a true love of chocolate. She runs–all the time–and can finnally jump, too. She’s still impish, but now she tests her limits. All the time.

Most of all, she makes me smile so much my cheeks hurt. And she makes my heart swell when she crawls into my lap and rest her head on my shoulder. For a kid who was born with a broken heart, she’s sure been able to teach me a lot about what a heart is really for.

So here’s the silly, unfinished poem:

So many things you’ve learned to do,
in the year since you turned two.
Talk in sentences, run and jump,
Eat without your feeding pump.

So many games you like to play,
You keep me giggling throughout the day.
Flap like a butterfly, hop like a bunny
Every day you’re a little more funny.

What a year since you’ve turned two
Daycare, music class, so much to do.
One thing missing, and it’s just great
A year with no surgery. Celebrate!

I simply cannot wait to see
what you’ll learn now that you’re three.

It’s not the eloquent birthday letter I wrote last year, but certainly it is age appropriate, especially for a kid who still can’t get enough of Iggy Peck, Architect or Bouncing Galloping Dancing ABCs. Not that I will ever be able to rhyme like my heroes Andrea Beaty or Charlotte Doyle.

And you know what? She ate her birthday cake!

Reflux Chronicle: Trialing No G-tube

Charlotte: Remember when Charlotte ate tomato soup and had a tomato beard?

Mommy: Yes, I do. I even took a picture.
Charlotte: Can I see it?

Charlotte: Ooooooooooo…..Charlotte had a beard just like Daddy.
(This conversation is repeated about four times a day)

People always ask me how Charlotte is eating. Simple answer: Very, very well. For Charlotte, that is.

For more detail I could tell you about the volumes she’s eating, how she chews so slowly it makes us crazy, or I could list the g’zillion foods she’ll eat these days. But I’d rather just share some recent food stories that will become family legend:

Philippe and I took Charlotte to S’bucks last week. At first she didn’t want anything. When she saw my hot chocolate, she asked for her own. Of course, we got her one. About 3 minutes after I handed it to her, she asked me to take it and give her a glass of water. Much to my surprise, the hot chocolate cup was empty!! In case you’re wondering, that was 8 ounces and approximately 200 calories in 3 minutes. Seriously.

Goldfish crackers: Charlotte asks for them as a snack before breakfast! Yesterday, she had some in the car, accompanied by a cup of water. She then told us that there were fishies swimming in her tummy. Usually, she said, fishies swim in water, but now they’re swimming in Charlotte’s tummy!

My friend Esther recently told me a very sweet story about her daughter Sarah sharing a chocolate-covered strawberry that she had made in pre-school. As Charlotte and I re-told the story, Charlotte decided to make chocolate-covered strawberries. How? She dumped her strawberries into her chocolate pudding and then scooped it all up together, creating a complex texture that she handled beautifully. In this way she ate about 1/8th of a cup of fresh fruit (grapes, berries, mangoes).

Yogurt-covered fruit: The next morning Charlotte did the same thing with her yogurt, this time finishing nearly a quarter of a cup of fruit by plopping it in her yogurt, bite-by-bite.

And, the pièce de résistance of all this dunking? Last night she had chocolate-covered peas!
Many thanks to Sarah and Esther for all that inspiration!

Tonight while reading Iggy Peck, Architect (no, I will never skip an opportunity to plug the book!), Charlotte pretended to eat the pancakes on the page where Iggy builds “the St. Louis arch out of pancakes and coconut pie.” True story.


Charlotte’s red glasses. She’s had them for a week and she reminds us to put them on her. My favorite glasses moment? Last Thursday night (her first night with glasses), we sat down for storytime before bed and she said, “Now I see Iggy!” Yes, she said “I.” And, yes, she was talking about her boyfriend Iggy Peck. But the part that floored me? The fact that she immediately noted the difference in her vision.

Stay tuned for the purple glasses!

Many thanks to Brandi for the gorgeous photo.

Charlotte Reads: Iggy Peck, Architect

(Click on the title of this entry to hear Charlotte reading Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty with illustrations by David Roberts.)

Of course Charlotte reads Iggy Peck, Architect. She’s been reading Iggy obsessively since he first took her attention away from Elmo in October. If you know Charlotte, you know that distracting her from an Elmo book is pretty big.

Mom loves Iggy. I’ve given at least 4 gift copies. I am one of the reasons that our local Barnes & Noble can’t keep it in the store; I hand it to every person I see when I’m shopping!

Charlotte must love Iggy, too. She can repeat the entire book from memory, with no prompting, and often does so randomly (like in the grocery store). She has carried it in the stroller and had me read it to her while we walk (as Mo Willem’s Pigeon would say, “True story.”). It’s a good thing that I, too, know the book by heart or we might have walked into a brick wall.

Why do we love Iggy? Well, to start with, he is bright, creative, and fun without being mischievous. Andrea Beaty’s rhymes sing and inspire; her word choices encourage language play and vocabulary building; and her story begs the reader to pick up an encyclopedia and look up some nifty buildings. David Robert’s illustrations are urban and hip. He gives just enough detail (check out the “things that one should not mention” on the page where Iggy becomes a hero) or none at all. When Iggy is crushed by his second grade teacher’s edict against building, the double-page spread shows nothing but a dejected Iggy at his desk, his pencil on the floor. A whole lot of white space = Sheer Brilliance.

We first met Iggy in mid-October and it was love at first read, so we were not surprised to read that Time Magazine had named Iggy Peck, Architect one of its Top 10 Children’s Books for 2007. Charlotte and I are proud to say, “Yeah, we knew that.”