01 February 2008

The Silver Platter

Avery has a knack for handing me the occasional riotous post on the ol' proverbial silver platter. The last time it was a letter she wrote to NASA at school. You remember . . . "Dear NASA, blah blah blah their air is stinky blah blah blah Your Friend Avery" It was hysterical, probably second only to the "Poop is Comical" post about Lily and her blowout at the gas station. Well yesterday afternoon she once again produced an absolute gem, totally unbeknownst to her.

The plan was for her to spend Friday night at her Grandma's house, something special she gets to do by herself to spend some time with Grandma and Grandpa and get a welcome respite from Lily, Mandi, and me. (That is in fact proper grammar . . you can look it up.) Anyway, I told her to pack a bag, just some jammies, undies, and a change of clothes. The plan was to head over there right when Lily woke up from her nap, so I pushed her to get packed as soon as she got home from school. At around 3:00 Lily woke up, and as I took her downstairs I called for Avery to get her bag and come down with us. Her response is where the story got interesting . . "I can't carry both of them, can you help me?!"

Both of them? You're going for eighteen hours and you've packed more than one bag? What do you think this is, summer camp? I mean, really. How early do our wives teach our daughters this ridiculous over-packing habit? I thought for sure 7 was too young to be an over-packer. But sure enough, I get to the bottom of the stairs and there she is with her roller-board in one hand and a completely stuffed tote bag in the other. To top it off, she had to put her toothbrush in the front pocket of the suitcase because there wasn't enough room inside for it! So I went up to help her bring them down and the tote easily weighed thirty pounds. Of course, that was the one she asked me to carry. She put her coat on we headed out, and when we got to the car I actually had to open the trunk to stow her stuff . . I felt like I was chauffering her to the airport for a week-long getaway! Later I found out that she had jammed about 14 different toys and pets and random electronic gadgets into the bags that she hoped Grandma would spend all night playing with her. (Ok, so that grammar might be a little shaky. Get over it.)

Anyway, if anyone's looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, er, Avery, for her birthday . . perhaps some more voluminous luggage is in order? I'm just saying . .

"Just Call Me . . ."

" . . . Princess!" Ah, kids. We love all the cute little idiosyncrasies. We adore watching them begin to do things that they've taught themselves, like throwing a ball or jumping in to the pool. It is, however, quite a different thing when your toddler picks up something so outlandish that you shake your head and ask yourself out loud, "Did that really just happen?"

One of Lily's favorite things to do recently is to play dress-up. She's got two Rubbermaid totes full of Disney Princess dresses, old dance costumes, crowns, shoes, and the like. Honestly, I think her most favorite activity is dumping the contents of the totes onto the floor in her room and throwing them over her head like confetti. A very close second is choosing the princess she wants to "be" today and getting dressed up. She invariably completes the outfit with all the proper accessories . . her magic crown, her tappin' shoes, and whatever jewelry and purses suit her whim at the moment. She gets a little help from me or Avery with the dress and then it's off to the magical land of make believe she goes.

I know this doesn't sound like it's going to be an out of the ordinary activity, which in truth is exactly where I want you to be going at this point in the story. I want you thinking, "Come on rookie, all little girls like to play dress-up." I know that. But how many of them, once dressed, absolutely refuse to break character? Lily knows all of the different outfits and which characters they correspond to. We've got Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Belle (from Beauty and the Beast, dads), and Barbie. She also has some Dora The Explorer digs she got for Christmas that occasionally get worked in to the rotation. So when she's done dressing up, when she's got her tappin' shoes on the right feet, and when her magic crown has decided to stay just right on her head, the transformation has been made. "Daddy," she'll ask, "can I have a snack?" "Sure," I respond, "what do you want Lily?" Her response? Not "grapes", not "a cookie". No, before this conversation can continue she interjects "Just call me princess!" And she's dead serious. You will absolutely not address her as anything other than what the outfit makes her. "No, Daddy, you hafa call me Snow White!" She's relentless about staying in character, and I'm amazed by how far into a true role play of whatever story she's acting out she'll go. More than a few times I've played along and she'll actually make it the entire way through an episode of Dora, remembering every obstacle and how it was overcome. It's really quite amusing, and it makes me think more and more about getting her involved with acting in some way. Oh wait, nevermind, you actually have to listen and follow directions to act . .

28 January 2008


As of yesterday, 27 days in to the new year, that's where I am with regard to my goal for the Big Year. A great birding trip (and, admittedly, some luck at Mandi's parents' house) yesterday yielded 5 new species for my list, bringing the total so far to a whopping 50. And while that doesn't sound like a lot, I feel like I'm well on my way to the goal of 150 I set for myself before the year began.

We went down to Charlotte with the goals of letting the girls spend some time with Grandma and Grandpa, scouring the retail scene for some Crocs for Mandi to wear to work, and potentially spending some time at Freedom Park looking for birds. Freedom Park turned into Mandi wanting to show me around Myers Park High School, her old stomping grounds as it were. We walked out behind the Auto Mechanics building and were immediately overtaken by a raucous symphony of singing birds. There were so many unique songs it was difficult for us to stop and focus on just one. We heard a few familiar ones, like the Carolina Chickadee and Northern Cardinal, but the overwhelming majority were strangers to my still-untrained ear. Our first new addition was the Hermit Thrush pictured above. He was playing around in the leaves and generally making himself as conspicuous as could be. He may have been trying to bring our attention to the litter left behind by the teenagers that do, well, whatever it is they do back in those woods.

Then, in the scraggly pine trees we spent a good bit of time identifying a Golden-crowned Kinglet. He was a jumpy little bugger who did not make an easy task of photographing him, but he hung out long enough for us to be absolutely sure of our ID. We saw at least 25 more species in that trip that are already on the list, and I considered our morning a huge success just for the two names we were adding. Then it was time to go pick up the girls, and we were heading inside as I noticed a large bird under a tree in the neighbor's back yard. I scurried back to the car to get my binoculars and when I got back I saw the most gorgeous Northern Flicker "flicking" around the leaves and foraging for ants. I watched him for a few minutes as he made his way across the yard and jumped the fence. As I turned to go inside I saw some movement in one of the tall pines in the same neighbor's yard. I followed the elusive little bugger around the branches for a while, struggling to get a full view in profile through the pine needles, when right before he flew off he stopped, as if to concede to me what he'd been teasing me with, and he showed himself in perfect light. He was a Pine Warbler, behaving precisely as my Field Guide promised he would and showing a beautiful yellow color from his head and nape all the way down his belly. Score!

As if that wasn't enough, as I walked to the car to put the binoculars away, I startled a Carolina Wren that was sneaking around in the other neighbor's back yard. He flew quickly under their covered grill, but he stayed in view long enough for me to make the easy ID. Five new additions in one day was a total thrill, especially considering I had woken up that morning not expecting to go birding at all!