Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas at the Clarks

caption: You two are like a couple of kids at Christmas. Literally.

A few observations while they are still fresh.

• Christmas is a beloved holiday for all age groups, but none takes it more seriously or joyously than the 5-8 year old set. This means the 2010 Clark Family Christmas is one for the books -- with family reunion in Skillman, N.J., still to come!

• Children ages 5 to 8 can't wait until Dec. 25th. It is best to let them open presents a little bit at a time, a discovery made by K. Warner Clark in the mid 1970s. Just as geothermal tremors help prevent massive earthquakes, so do the release of gifts prevent melt downs on Christmas day. It's 10:16 a.m. -- zero melt downs.

• Theodore was up at 6:50 a.m., opening his Beyblades presents. Did you get anything really cool, Theo? "Yeah, everything," he said. That made Daddy's day.

• Natalie was in the habit of wrapping little objects around the house. On Christmas morning, she made great sport of distributing them to their rightful owners. Daddy opened a miniature Empire State Building, that he bought in 1997, and also an Tagalog-English dictionary.

• Let us not forget the reason for the season! The children watched -- as a special Christmas Eve treat -- the Simpson's Christmas last night at 7 p.m. on Fox. I close with a quote from Bart: "Christmas is the time of year when people of all religions come together and worship Jesus Christ."

• Daddy and Mommy didn't even exchange gifts. What more could we want, really? "Best Christmas ever?" Daddy asked Mommy in the living room with wrapping paper strewn about. Her answer: "Best Christmas ever."

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Keeping score at home

On a Saturday morning in the newly designed and furnished back room -- we call it "The Office" -- Natalie her mother and father are watching tenth-ranked Kentucky play North Carolina on the new flat screen Sony. Daddy is in heaven. What can be better than this? His favorite girls are watching a great game come down to the wire, and the picture is so clear that you can look into the bleachers and see who has their wallets in their front pockets.

Daddy notices little 5-year-old Natalie is writing in her notebook. Across the top in big letters, she wrote: "Basketball." Beneath that, she is tracking the score of the game! "65-63, 2 points. 65-65, tied. 65-67, 2 points."

Her stat sheet continues along those lines until Kentucky misses a desperation shot at the buzzer. "73-75, 2 points," she concludes, with a picture of a big basketball at the bottom. (The left margin appeared to be an aborted column intended to track 1-point leads. )

Earlier in the week, a language arts specialist from Metuchen Public Schools reported that Natalie is reading at a sixth grade level. We were proud of our little girl. But her statistical analysis of the UNC UK game took that pride to a new level.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Natalie goes to school

Daddy loves walking little Natalie to school, because she is well-rested, well-fed and brimming with lessons learned. Here is what she told me on our last walk:

"The United States of America is a boiling pot!"

Or is it a melting pot?

"Oh, right. It's a melting pot."

At the entrance to the school, we pause, we hug and she runs in with the other little children of Metuchen, melting away together into a cute little class.

Recently, we left school while another little girl was holding hands with her mother. They engaged us in conversation, but Natalie wasn't interested in chit-chat pleasantries. She stared at the ground, like our shy little girl. I found out the little girl's name is Summer, and she's in Natalie's class. Apparently, Natalie had written Summer a note, which was well received.

I looked at Natalie's face for confirmation. Head down. No expression.

But as soon as little Summer and her guardian disappeared around the corner of the school, Natalie turned excited and blurted: "Daddy, can we have Summer over to our house?!" Then her little mind scanned ahead and entered detail-oriented-planning mode: "We'll ask Mommy how long she can stay."

Later, Natalie writes me a note. "Dear Daddy, You are very nice to me. So draw me a picture any time. Or if you like, I can draw you a picture."

There is a picture at the bottom of her note. Three figures labeled "You," "me" and "Summer."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Natalie's thirst for knowledge

caption: Natalie and friend in downtown Philadelphia.

When the Metuchen library called Mommy and explained that Theo and Natalie won prizes in the raffle drawing, the kids were thrilled. Theodore won a meal at Macaroni Grill, and Natalie won a choice of children's reference books.

She picked "First Encyclopedia" and she has been researching ever since.

By research, I mean she reads a passage and copies it into her notebook. For instance: "Rules of the Rain Forest: 1.) Leave the jungle exatly (sic) the way you found it! Don't take rocks" etc.

Later, Mommy found the following written note:

Natalie's Rules

1. Use words nicely

2. Be nice to mom and Dad

3. Play with friends

4. Do not step on sticks.

This last principle (no. 4) must have been considered questionable or controversial, because it was crossed out and erased partially.

Natalie's research includes astronomy and zoology.

When one of her little friends came to visit, Natalie shouted: "Would you like to see my research?!"

I didn't see how her friend responded, but her enthusiasm must have been very high, for who wouldn't jump at the chance to see little Natalie's research?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tennis time in Metuchen

Our little Theodore discovered tennis in the summer of 2010. The principles of fair play, friendly competition and graceful technique were ingrained in the young lad by a handful of Metuchen teenager tennis phenoms. The boys did a great job of showing up on time and making all the children feel comfortable.

Tennis lessons, which ran for two weeks from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., served as a very nice bonding experience for Theo and his dad. Every morning, the two would ride their bikes together through the shortcuts of old Metuchen and arrive at the park right on time. We'd hang out for a couple of minutes until a teenager would silently wave Theo inside the fence.

Dad would watch for a few minutes of basic instruction, then ride off to work, knowing that Miss Margie and her rolling day care would soon arrive to escort Theo home. It was a nice way to start the day.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Happy Birthday to Rosalie Joyce!

Caption: Mimi, center, motivates everyone -- even Mr. and Mrs. Z, at right.

Here's what little Natalie said in the car over the long weekend: "I miss Mimi."

It came out of nowhere, so we all laughed a little. But it's no laughing matter -- we all love Mimi, and we all can't wait to see her again. And today is the seventh day of the seventh month, so we celebrate Rosalie Joyce's birthday.

Happy Birthday Mimi! The Clarks of New Jersey salute you.

Soon, Mimi will travel with Theo, Michael, Madeline and the Goose to Denver. Oh Great Happiness! Wish we could all go to see Dan, Tedra, Aaron and Elena, the Clarks of Colorado.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Saturday at the beach

Summer days spent enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., have been a part of the Clarks of New Jersey lifestyle since as long as the author can remember -- at least back to 1975.
On July 3, the Clarks returned to the modern marvel of the shore -- the jewell of the Atlantic -- Jenkinson's Boardwalk.
The Nemo ride attracted Natalie. Here's what she said: "I'm not afraid of this ride any more." Check out her enjoyment in this video.
And here's to Aunt Helen. She recently sold her corner parking lot, but she continues to welcome us in her backyard, free of charge. Aunt Helen, the Clarks of New Jersey salute you! And if you ever need to park in Metuchen, we're here for you!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Second grade graduate

This morning at about 9 a.m., my little Theodore is slumped in the living room comfy chair, his legs hanging over one chair arm, his armpit hugging the other. In his hands, some type of Pokemon reference directory, which he is studying quietly.

He appears to be copying the posture and attitude of a teenager. Here he is on his first day of summer break between the second and third grade,

On the carpet, little Danielle and even littler Nathan, two of the star pupils of Miss Margie's Metuchen Day Care, are rolling around the floor. Now they're showing off their dance moves. Silly little lovable children. Theo must appear a giant to these babies!

But when I see him in his Campbell School pictures, he appears so young again, the smallest boy in the class, in need of protection and encouragement. See for yourself what I mean. Look at him here in Mrs. Valera's class on tie-dyed shirt day. How different from the picture of the boy spread out on the living room chair.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Theodore

Our little Theodore is turning eight years old this weekend.
Our little Theo will be eight.
It's the most natural thing in the world, isn't it? He was born about eight years ago, and now he'll turn eight. If you look at it that way, it makes sense.
Early this morning, Dad walked into his room. Theo was wearing tiny little short shorts and a pajama T-shirt and was talking calmly to his mother.
"What are you talking about?" Dad asked.
"Theo is turning eight this weekend," said Mom, and Theo looked up at his dad and just smiled. At that moment, I saw a change in him. He was a real boy now. Before, he was just a little boy.
Skinny kid. So well-behaved. At a friend's birthday party when he was six, an adult told all the children to sit down on the grass. Of course, all the kids ran off in all directions, grabbing for toys and for candy. Except Theo. He was sitting down on the grass, awaiting further instructions. Sometimes he is so sweet and trusting, it makes a parent worry. Sensitive. Shy. Artistic. Little explorer of the Club Penguin, and a Pokemon expert.
And now, and eight year old.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Natalie in New York

Caption: The Princess of Central Park

When little Natalie woke up on Monday, April 12, she told her mother: "Today is not a normal day for me."
No, little girl. Today is a very special day. You are going to New York City with Daddy.
And what a day it was. Mr. Sun smiled down on all the busy New Yorkers from the Battery to the Bronx. First stop: Toys R Us Times Square, where we rode a Ferris Wheel and bought a $6 fairy doll. Natalie looked bored on the ride, but her nervous system was humming with electricity during the purchase process. (We also bought Theo a $9 Iron Man toy, and he literally jumped up and down and shouted "goody-goody," upon receipt.)
Several of Daddy's office mates at 425 Park Avenue submitted the views that Natalie was "very cute," or "much changed." These motions were gallantly seconded by her father, who made sinister mental notes about those who were silent on the matter.
In Central Park, the zoo was a hit, except for the temperature in the Rain Forest exhibit. And at the Midtown Restaurant, here's what our waitress said to us: "What'll it be, Sweetie?"
A busy day indeed! Natalie fell fast asleep on the train coming home.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Natalie and the joys of writing

caption: Natalie immersed in literature.

It has been discussed already how our little Natalie has -- to borrow a phrase from Mencken -- entered the larval stages of a bookworm. Yesterday, mysteriously passing over the first book of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings Trilogy, she was reading his "The Two Towers" on the kitchen table, where daddy found it bookmarked when he returned home late from work.
More recently, Natalie has discovered the joys of writing. Here are some samples, which are completely original, and reflective of a precious heart:

Hi. My name is Natalie.
OK. I love you mom
I love everybody
OK I like writing and playing
With the babies I like
Anything in the world
The end and this is really the end.

(The above was typed into mommy's iPod.)

Natalie's Diary
I got it when we were going shopping. This is a special day for me.
I also registered for school.

My diary is purple.
I love my diary.
My favorite color is purple that's why I got a purple diary. I also got a fairy TInke Bell socks and Practice and Learn Workbook.

(Note: spaces have been inserted between the words in most cases.)

I like to write on my diary.
Diarys are fun.
The babies my mom and dad are fun too.
Even boks are fun!
I love Theo and Mommy.
This is funny this not a fairy tale. This is about witches. Is that funny?

Friday, February 05, 2010

The Clarks Ride Again

The Clarks of New Jersey haven't posted an entry in many days. We apologize. Here are some pictures that tell part of the story.
Clockwise from top left: Dad and Theodore in Milford, Pa. Thedore preparing for bed in his room. Natalie reading a "novel." Theo, Margie and Natalie horsing around before the final push to the summit of Mount Sleepy Head.