Mommy can I pick out your necklace today?

Mama, can you wear that shirt – the colorful one with flowers?

Mommy, don’t wear those shoes – wear these high ones. They’re fancy.

My sense of fashion is, shall we say, unrefined. I am more hippie than haute couture, more shabby than chic. I am infinitely more comfortable in Birkenstocks, jeans and a t-shirt (or PJ’s) than pretty much anything else.

As you may imagine, this makes being a person who works in an office setting a bit of a challenge. I actually have to be presentable every. single. day. And jeans are not a part of the accepted uniform at an institution of higher learning – at least not for staff. If I were a tweed-jacket-wearing-pipe-smoking-PhD-professor I might be able to pair those items with jeans and get away with it. Alas, I am not. So, I have to get dressed.

My six-year-old daughter, on the other hand, is a fashionista. She can create the most amazing outfits out of different pieces that in my mind shouldn’t even be in the same closet. She has always been this way, and it used to terrify me. I am learning to embrace it.

The first time she tried to dress me for work I giggled a little, rolled my eyes and let her do it. Imagine my shock when later that day I received not one, not two, but THREE compliments on my appearance. I quickly let everyone know my daughter was responsible, just in case they were just patronizing me. Turns out they weren’t.

Now when my daughter asks me to wear something specific I fight my inner hippie and I do it, knowing that the way she sees my closet is obviously very different from the way I see it, and I kind of prefer her point of view. Today I was stumped about what shoes to wear and asked for her help.

These shoes don’t work with this do they Emma?

Nope. Wear those high ones. They’ll work.

And I did. And they do.

When I first had Emma I added the tag “A whole new world” on this blog because I was so amazed by how much things changed when that little baby entered my life. When I added the tag I thought I might use it for a year, maybe two, and then I would settle into this parenting gig and the tag would just become “My world” instead of a whole new one.

Yeah, so I was wrong. Being a parent is like going spelunking. You go from room to room, cave to cave, hole to hole, and just when you think there can’t be anymore of the cave to see, you crawl through a little crevice in the rock and a new and glorious cavern opens up to you. (FWIW – I have only been caving once and hated it – parenting is a lot more fun.)

William and Emma have become (always were really) such delightful wonderful creatures. Full disclosure – Will is still going through a tough time sometimes related to being just-barely-four. He gets very emotional and very angry about nothing and everything all at the same time and sometimes all we can do is hold him and let him cry. I am convinced we are at the tail-end of this phase though – and the moments in between the tough ones are just wonderful. He is full of humor and love and delights in every little thing he learns from day to day.

Emma has become such a big girl. She is genuinely helpful to me around the house, really enjoys being a good older sister and helping her brother – especially when he is having a hard time, and she is generally a lot of fun to be with. She doesn’t like being asked to speak in French, but every once in a while she will come out with a phrase or a song and Mike and I sneak a look to each other across the table, in complete astonishment at what she is learning when we aren’t around. One day at the park her brother was being picked on by another boy and as they were leaving Emma turned to the boy and admonished him in French to stop messing with her brother. I wish I had been there to see his face.

Both kids genuinely love each other, despite those moments when they don’t. Both seem happiest when the whole family, including Jo, our au pair, are all hanging out together.

Parenting can be such an endurance test – especially with little ones – it can sometimes feel like you are just putting one foot in front of the other and getting through the day with as few tears as possible. Recently I have felt like our family unit has moved into a new phase along with the kids. We are enjoying each other more than ever and are relating as much more of a group, making decisions together about where to go and what to do, as opposed to Mom and Dad telling the little ones what the plans are. Things feel fresh and new in a way they haven’t for a while – I am so excited about the adventures we will have together in the coming years!

It feels like Spring in our house in so many ways.

Wiliam - First day of school 2012

There is no way to really catch up sufficiently since my last post. No way to really update all that has happened since then so that when I look back years from now I say “Oooh right – I remember that summer!”

So I suppose I will skip summer completely (it was fine, a five day power outage, time spent at the beach and on the eastern shore and many hours logged at the pool) and move right along to fall, since I can mostly remember what has happened this fall so far.

Emma began kindergarten and William returned to pre-school.

Emma has fared pretty well at kindergarten. She is in a French immersion program, which means she learns the regular curriculum, only in French. All French, all the time. When we got into the program (via lottery, pure luck) I was concerned that Emma’s sweet little head would explode when she went to school the first day and didn’t understand a single. word. they. were. saying. Friends with kids in the program reassured me – “At that age everything is like a puzzle to figure out, so this is just one more puzzle.” And I felt more at ease.

Emma - First day of Kindergarten 2012

Emma came home the first day and… her head exploded. If nothing else, at least I can say that I know my kid. She was exhausted and looked like she was in total shock. Eventually the shock wore off and she begged to be put into an english speaking program, but we persisted, sending her back the next day. When she came home that second night, in between crying spells, she proudly announced to me that I am a “fille” and she is a “fille” but William is not. It took me a moment, but then I said (much too enthusiastically I am sure) “YES!! YES YES YES YES! WE ARE FILLES!”

There have been many more tears since then, as much about the transition to kindergarten I think as the language spoken there. But the tears have gradually lessened and they are being replaced by French songs and phrases she is starting to learn. And as she learns she gains confidence and enjoyment and so on and so on.

She is still mostly exhausted at the end of each day, so we are holding off on playdates or any after school activities for now, but overall she is much happier. She loves letters and numbers and can count to 15 in French and is close to learning the alphabet in French. She comes home and wants to write on EVERYTHING – pads of paper, receipts, wrapping paper, tables, placemats, books, herself – anything is fare game for her writing. She can write her name, William, Mommy and Daddy now without asking for guidance and is slowly adding words to the list. We aren’t supposed to be teaching her to read in English since they are working on teaching her to read in French at school, and we aren’t, but I also don’t think we are supposed to be discouraging her desire to write and learn letters, so we let her go.

William returned to pre-school without any incident or problem at all, except that he doesn’t attend five days a week. Just like last year, he asks every day (including weekends) if he is going to school today. When the answer is “No”, he wails “But I want to go to schooooool!” Sorry buddy – next year!
William - First day of school 2012

He has been having a hard time with temper tantrums lately, and when I say “he” I guess I mean “we”. He does them just fine – quite well really in comparison to other children’s pathetic attempts at true temper tantrums. He has it down to a science really – scream, pick up the nearest thing, fling it across the room, charge your sister and hit her on the head with both hands and watch the chaos around you. Good times. When he is not trying to deal with his anger, he is truly one of the sweetest, snuggliest children I know. Which makes the tantrums all the more difficult to bear. We are still experimenting with the best ways to deal with his anger, and the best ways to help him deal with his anger.

I will let you know how it all works out.

The weather was amazing this past weekend, so we decided to take the training wheels off Emma’s bike and add the new Gyrowheel we bought (on sale, figuring we could at least get two kids worth of use out of it.)

The first two tries she needed us to hold on to her and run with her for a few seconds before we could let go. By the third ride she only needed us to hold her up as she got started.

It was an afternoon filled with emotion for me. (Ok, ok, when is anything NOT filled with emotion for me…I know…) It was so amazing to watch Emma learn this skill which is really kind of basic but seems like such an important rite of passage. Where has the time gone? When did my baby get so big? How can she not need me to run with her anymore? I feel like I am asking myself that question so much with Emma these days.

I distinctly remember learning to ride a bike. My dad taught me while my mom was at the store buying a pacifier for my baby sister. I know this because I wrote a story about it in first grade and that is what I wrote. So it must be true right? Anyway, I remember really enjoying having the focus be on me for an hour or two, and I remember the exhilaration I felt when I finally got the hang of it. It also sticks out in my mind as one of my first solid memories of my childhood.

Now that my daughter is doing things that I remember doing as a child, things that feel like they just happened yesterday, I feel like my life has started to come full circle old. This has caused an odd rift in my own space-time continuum and I find myself uttering those horrific words: “I remember when I was your age.” AAAAAAGHHHHH.

Anyway, before this blog post comes full circle I will quit while I am ahead and just say – ride on Emma! Hopefully you won’t mind if I run with you for just a few years more…

There are some things I am good at. I can’t really think of one off the top of my head right at this moment, but I am confident there are areas of life where I do ok and maybe even excel.

One area I do NOT excel in – fashion and design. I think most people who know me would use the word “dramatic” to describe my emotional state but never my sense of style.

I know what I like when I see it, which is probably why I love Pinterest so much. No creativity required, just one click and my board looks like I could be hosting a make-over show on HGTV. But if I try to actually put together a room around a cohesive design style: luh-ame. If I try to create a remotely interesting work wardrobe, heck outfit even, drab and dreary.

Which is why when my daughter asked me yesterday morning if she could help me get dressed – so I could “look pretty” – I figured why not? I have known for quite some time that Emma far surpasses me in the GirlyGirl category, so why not let her loose in my closet and see what she comes up with?

At first she chose a long gauzy summer skirt – tie-dyed with sparkles sewn in. Think BollyWood by Old Navy. When I explained I thought it would probably be a little chilly for the expected 35+ degrees of the day she explained impatiently “Well mommy, you could wear TIGHTS.” DUH. I steered her away from that and she fixed on another summer outfit, silk capris covered with large pink and orange flowers (what in the h*#@ was I thinking? Clearly a drastic cry for help.) Again I explained the summer/winter issue and that I would be too cold to do any work if I wore that particular outfit, but hey, fthanks for playing.

With reluctance and some nudging from me she settled on a dark wool skirt and a nice blouse from Coldwater Creek with a tank top underneath it. More conservative than she wanted to go for sure, but she seemed mostly pleased.

Then she asked to choose my jewelry. I allowed it and she chose a nice pair of turquoise earrings (thanks Joc!) and a matching necklace that she made for me with the help of our last au pair Claire. I put the jewelry on and marveled at how nicely it went with the outfit I had on. No really, it did. This girl can accessorize.

Throughout the day I got no less than five comments on how nice I looked, with specific and multiple mentions of the jewelry. It is not lost on me that although I mostly chose the clothes and artfully convinced her that she had, the choice of jewelry was all Emma.

Today I am in another Emma inspired outfit, complete with necklace and earrings. While yesterday’s theme was “pretty”, today Emma told me she wanted me to look “fancy”. The second person who laid eyes on me in the office said to me “Ooh you look so fancy!” True story.

Maybe next week I should go with the flowered capris.

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