Harper

It's Only Been A Month Of Kindergarten...

...And I was surprised when Harper told me someone told her that her Lightning McQueen shoes are boys shoes and why is she wearing them.

Harper said she got embarrassed! NOOOOOOOOO!

So I told her that there is no such thing as boys shoes or girls shoes - boys can wear Frozen shoes and girls can wear Lightning McQueen shoes, it doesn’t matter. And I told her she could always wear anything she wants and I love when she wears whatever she wants.

GAH!!

I talked to her twice about it, making sure she heard me, though I'm not sure she totally understands. But one day she didn't want to wear her Lightning McQueen shoes, specifically, even though she needed sneakers for after school. That made me sad. But we will continue to encourage the "whatever you like" style of clothes and shoe shopping. 

I consulted a dear friend, a wise and wonderful woman who has a nine year old daughter. I wrote her an email with the above and she wrote back almost instantly:

Don't you wish you could say, "Honey, there are fucking assholes in this world that want to steal your peace.  It is okay to tell them to fuck off."

This is why I consult with her. She also had some other good advice about watching videos of kids who dress in all different ways as well as wearing "boys" clothes myself from time to time. So my Christmas list will have some "Boys" items on it...

Raising a girl in this day and age. I'm going to need a lot of deep breaths and to always speak my truth to my beautiful strong girl.


In Which Harper Starts Kindergarten


But first there was Kinder Prep Camp. Brilliant idea to have one week of day camp on the school campus where your kid will start kindergarten. We discussed it a lot before it all happened and Harper seemed excited. And she did great. On the Thursday of that week we arrived at school and found out there was a field trip. On a bus. Going to SYLMAR! (That's an hour a way for those of you non Angelenos.) The communications had not been clear. I suppose it was better for me as I didn't have time to be nervous about her first school bus field trip! At home that night I asked her about the field trip. "Harper, did you ride on a bus?" "Yes! ON THE FREEWAY!" That was the most exciting part for her.

Kinder Camp, making friends (thats her in the back, under the whale tail):

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Then actual Kindergarten started and we had a good first day send off.

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She even finished her first homework assignment. She made her letters "pretty". 

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I've had a lot to learn too. New morning routines, new lunch boxes to fill, though Harper doesn't seem to be eating much these first few days. I'm sure it's all about adjusting to the new world. It's a challenge to fit stuff into tiny sections, but I'm working on it. Harper doesn't like peanut butter so there's 50% of lunches I thought would be a no-brainer. Oh well. 

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It's a whole new world for us all. And we are taking it one step at a time. 

 


Reading Little House To Harper

On our road trip to Santa Cruz a few weeks ago, I prepared with audio books. Last year we drove to Sequoia and listened to music (Hamilton was big then) as well as short stories from a kid's story podcast. We also had that awesome Star Wars recording from the 70's: The Story of Star Wars. Harper loves that, but it's only an hour long. As she is older and as it was going to be a longer trip, I thought why not Little House? 

I downloaded Little House In The Big Woods and Little House On the Prairie. We listened to the first one all the way up and Harper seemed to like it. I asked her what her favorite parts were and she said, "When they were telling the stories" which means when Pa is telling stories about his own childhood and adventures. We started listening to LHOTP on the way home, but only got a few chapters in as we chose music and other stuff on that drive. So, I started reading the rest of the book to Harper at bedtime, two chapters a night.  Little-house-on-the-prairie-book-cover

Last night we got to the end and I was a MESS. 

First I have to remind you that I am a HUGE fan of these books. Been reading them as long as I can remember. In fact, these two books (LH in the Big Woods and LH on the Prairie) are the first books I remember owning and going to the bookstore with my mom to get the next book was SO EXCITING. (Only rivaled by a more recent me opening my front door to receive the latest Harry Potter via Amazon on release day.) I read the LH books to this day, just for fun. I have bought many other books about these books. I love these books. I know useless details, not unlike this woman here, who is my LH twin.

BUT.

When you read them out loud, to your five year old -- It gets different. I knew there would be issues with the way the Indians are portrayed and the way they are talked about in LHOTP but DAMN. So after a few pages of "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" chit chat, I stopped to tell Harper about how people were wrong about a lot of things a long time ago. And that this book was written a long time ago and how they talk about Native Americans is wrong. And that people know better today. (Well, I didn't tell her the whole truth about racism still existing, as she'll learn that soon enough.) I brought it up again in later chapters about the "Indian War Cry" and she nodded as I reminded her about how wrong they were about the whole notion of who the Osage were. 

As the book ends, the family has to leave as they had accidentally strayed into "Indian Territory" by 3 miles and soldiers would come and move them out. Pa just packs the wagon and they are off. They had built a house and a stable and bought and planted seeds for a corn field, potatoes and other veggies. And they just left it all. Then they say goodbye to their neighbors, one of them being Mr. Edwards, and they roll on west. 

Me being the emotional sort and also enjoying the roller coaster of emotions that is menopause, I was crying as I read the end. Harper seemed unfazed by my crying - clearly she's used to me. It's not the first time I've cried while reading her bedtime stories. There is one written by a jewish woman telling the story about a quilt made and handed down through her family. And the one about the guy who walked the tightrope between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The book ends with "the towers are gone now..." 

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Anyway, I'm a cryer.

Last night as I put the book away and tucked Harper in, I thought ahead to the next books, excited to read them aloud. Farmer Boy is next and I like that one for a change of pace. Then Plum Creek. All good. Then I thought about Silver Lake and almost started crying right then. Silver Lake starts with (spoiler alert) Mary going blind and Jack the trusted dog DYING! I remember SOBBING when I very first read it as a kid. Man, that was brutal. It still makes me cry.

This is all a dream come true, tears or no tears. And I'm not going to force it. I hope hope hope that we keep reading these, that Harper reads them on her own as well and that she'll say "YES!" when I ask if she wants to go to Pepin Wisconsin or DeSmet South Dakota. For now, I'll keep the kleenex handy.

 


Preschool Graduation

I 100% admit I used to be a person who said, "OMG preschools have GRADUATIONS?? How ridiculous." Because it kind of is. 

On the other hand, marking an occasion is important. Call it whatever you want to call it - graduation or whatever. The more funerals you go to, especially the startling, out of nowhere ones, the more you realize how important it is to stop and reflect on life changes. Funerals, weddings, graduations - or more simply - transitions from one part of life to another. Stop the world from it's wild spinning for a second, reflect, breathe, applaud, enjoy, cry, celebrate. Celebrate where you started and how far you've come. It makes a difference.

So, cut me to crying at Harper's preschool graduation last Friday. The "graduation" consisted of the kids singing all kinds of wonderful "I've done it!" songs and taking lots of pictures, then dancing. Each child got a one line description and Harper's was "always the peacemaker." My heart melted with joy. What a wonderful thing to have said about your five-year-old!**

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Mark those moments. Celebrate them all. 

 

 

 

**My preschool or kindergarten year end report included the line "Julia has to learn she can't always be the boss." I have almost learned that. Still working on it. 


Sibling Rivalry With The Cat

Yesterday, Harper was watching cartoons and I sat down with her. Five minutes later, Willoughby (the cat) came and sat in my lap.

Harper looked over and said: "Hey, I was going to sit in your lap!"

I said, "Okay, you can. I can move Willoughby."

She said, "Well do it!"

I laughed and nudged Willoughby off, then my big girl came and sat in my lap for another five minutes until it was time to brush teeth. 


Mystery Spot!

Harper got to go to the Mystery Spot! It's a fabulous place in Santa Cruz, California, truly one of those wacky Americana places that are on every "Must See!" list for family roadtrips. Right up there with Largest Ball of Twine and The Corn Palace

We went to Santa Cruz to visit family and friends last weekend and had a lovely time. (More on that in a later post.)

Yesterday, Harper brought home this drawing from preschool and I said, "Tell me about this drawing." And she said, "It's the Mystery Spot!" 

OMG. It totally is.

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One Of Our Favorite Spots - Villa Reale di Marlia

We got lost one day, looking for our 2nd rental. (Ever the producer, I thought it best to scout the new location before actually moving there. So glad we did!) It was out in the country where all roads seem to be named Via delle Villa and therefore tough to nail down with google maps. We pulled into what looked to be a tiny parking lot/ticket office for a huge villa. I popped in to ask for directions (being the most fearless of our group with my .05% Italian language skills.) The two women there were almost able to help me but more importantly, I learned we were at the Villa Reale di Marlia. I promised we would come back for a tour and I'm so glad we did. 

Upon our return, I went back into the tiny ticket office and the two same women were there. One turned to the other and said excitedly, in Italian, "This is the woman who was lost!" I laughed and bought tickets. At first it was disappointing to learn that all the buildings were closed. They are being restored and will be closed for probably years. (They only started restoring in 2015.) We went in anyway to view the gardens and man oh man did my disappointment disappear quickly. The tour map smartly takes you away from the buildings down to the lake first. Then you get this stunning view back up to the main house. 

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Then you walk back up to the main buildings via all the amazing side gardens.

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The wisteria was stunning and smelled soooo good.

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There is a pool and pool house tucked away on the side. I can't wait to go back and see this fully restored. 

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There is a Grotto, of course. All the best villas had them...

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Inside the Grotto it was about 10 degrees cooler and looked like it used to spray water from all the fountains into the center. I suspect on hot summer days this would be the place to relax and cool off as you walked from the lake back to the house. ("house")

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There were many other gardens and pathways - the Spanish Garden, the Green Theater, etc. But my favorite is the Lemon Garden. Kurt estimated it is a bit smaller than a football field. Half is lemon trees in pots (so you can move them indoors during winter!) and the other half is a big pond with a fountain. 

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A view from behind the fountain looking back at the Lemons:

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Turns out, my favorite painter, John Singer Sargent, came here to paint. And he painted a few watercolors from this very Lemon Garden. 

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When you arrived in a carriage to the main house, this is what you saw when you exited the carriage - a huge fountain with multiple levels of water coming down. This photo does not do it justice except to show how large it is! 

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Here's a close up of the center. Also surprising, you could walk along that upper level next to the statues and giant urns. There were lovely little secret pathways through the trees and bushes back there. Excellent fun for this old romantic. 

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The huge water fountain (they call it the Water Theater) is behind this main building. We stopped halfway to empty rocks from our shoes. 

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The whole time we were there, walking the grounds, we saw one other family. Total. In the whole giant place. 

When we left, I thanked the women again and they said they were having an event on Easter Monday - a Botanical Treasure Hunt for the kids! Um, yes, sign us up. So we came back! This time with a picnic and blankets (because you are always welcome to come in and picnic any time you want) and Harper really enjoyed the treasure hunt and of course the gift at the end. (Amazingly she wore the exact same outfit!)

Here she finds Boxwood and Lemons.

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She hugged and kissed many of the trees and plants we found.

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SWAG

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I love this place and I can't wait to go back often to see how things have come along. I want to picnic there all the time.

The true joy of spending a long time in one place is visiting wonderful things you find more than once. I highly recommend it.  

Please visit the link of the villa - their photos are stunning and give you some better views. Villa Reale di Marlia 


Back To The Usual Tourist Stuff

There's this famous tower nearby in a town called Pisa. You may have heard of it. It leans. We went to see it on Monday. Some of us climbed up. Some of did not and were cranky.

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Then the crankiness as children younger than 8 cannot ascend the tower...

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So we went into the cathedral to look for skulls and to light candles and make good wishes for the world. 

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For the tower climbers, the view was spectacular.

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Harper did get to run on the grass, she liked that part.

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After the tower we drove to the ocean, Il Mediteraneo. 

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later we grabbed a bite and I liked this handsome fellow hanging on the balcony next door.

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A good day out!