Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Lucia's First Communion

On Sunday, May 6, Lucia made her First Communion. She'd been looking forward to this event for months, ever since starting her second year of CCD, the year when second-graders make both First Confession and First Communion. Over President's Day in Connellsville, Lucia, my mom, and I went to the little kids' clothing boutique in town and let Lucia choose a Communion dress. She was over the moon about the one she found--poofy, lacy, with buttons all the way down the back. She was also over the moon about her white patent-leather shoes, which had a small heel (not my first choice--but it's nearly impossible to find dressy girls' shoes without small heels these days); her sparkly headband; and her sheer pantyhose. She was just thrilled with the whole outfit and asked daily if she could put it on (she couldn't).

In March, she had a First Communion retreat, where she got to taste a host and the wine, and practice the right way to receive both. (We also watched a video where a beloved grandmother dropped dead while baking Easter bread, with some dubious symbolism about "bread" and "celebration" and "family," but that's neither here nor there.) She was assigned one of the Prayers of the Faithful to read during the Mass, which she practiced diligently, finally mastering the word "catechists." (Greta wound up memorizing the whole thing and is still reciting it.)

At last, Lucia's big day arrived. Mom and Dad had been in for the weekend, and Molly and Luca arrived in the morning. She finally got to put on her beautiful outfit, and she looked angelic. Mom and Dad gave her a small cross with diamonds, just like my grandparents gave me for my Communion. We took lots of pictures. We went to the church. The kids got to sit with their families, on the aisle, in pews marked with banners they'd made with their names on them. They processed in and sang "Gift of Finest Wheat," then processed in again for the Mass.

Is there anything sweeter and more innocent than a class of kids making their First Communion?

Through it all, Lucia was practically giddy with excitement about the moment she'd receive communion. Finally, it was time. Each child went up with two of her chosen adults (it was me and my mom, since Andrew isn't Catholic) (YET). She was so reverent and happy. She managed not to make a face when she took the wine. She was beaming.

She may never again be this excited about church, but I'm grateful we decided to do the whole CCD thing and have her make the sacrament. Anyone who's talked to me after I've had a couple of glasses of prosecco has heard my feelings about the importance of public rituals; there are so few of them, and they're so meaningful. They bring people together in a way that feels different from a regular gathering. Holidays are important too, full of traditions, but rituals--once in a lifetime, usually, performed in a community--are uniquely special. They're a chance to take part in--to become part of--something bigger than your own home and family.

Afterward, we had friends and neighbors over to our house to celebrate, with a cake (Lucia's choice: chocolate and vanilla layers with chocolate mousse in the middle) and a giant candy platter that was definitely a highlight of the day. It was a fun party. After everyone left, we gave Lucia our gift: an American Girl doll named Luciana, which she's been desperately wanting. (Greta got one too; it was a family celebration.) When she opened it, she jumped up and threw her arms around us in rapturous thanks.

It was a beautiful and wonderful First Communion.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Two Bits

Bit #1

Greta dramatically rejected dinner this past weekend. Andrew made reubens and declared the girls, too, would eat reubens, ignoring the obvious outcome, which would be that they'd hate the rye bread, coleslaw, and thousand island dressing, not to mention the pastrami. Lucia, surprisingly, nibbled at her sandwich with only moderate complaints. Greta, however, vehemently HATED the sandwich, and she loudly listed all the things she hated about it, including the "rice bread" and "ham sauce." "I HATE THIS RICE BREAD. I HATE THE HAM SAUCE." We've never referred to thousand island dressing as ham sauce but will likely do so from now on.

Bit #2

Is there anything worse than your kid getting off the bus and melting into a sobbing heap as soon as she sees you? Lucia got off the bus yesterday and dissolved into hysterical crying at the bus stop, struggling to explain that her two tiny beloved furry Hatchimal Colleggtibles, which she took to school in a baggie, had disappeared. She had them on the bus in the morning but at the end of the day they were gone from her backpack. She was inconsolable. So were Andrew and I, who of course knew we'd have to replace them, and these particular Hatchimals are "ultra rare" and would have to be purchased at great cost from eBay. We told her not to worry, that she could look for them at school the next day, secretly certain they were gone forever. Still, I emailed her teacher, letting her know that if she found a baggie of two tiny plastic animals, they were Lucia's.

And, lo and behold, her teacher texted me early this morning--she'd found them, on the secretary's desk in the main office. This is a pretty big school, so happening upon them this way is pretty crazy. So yay. Happy ending to this story. Also happy is the pride I feel for not immediately screaming at the bus stop yesterday I TOLD YOU NOT TO BRING THEM TO SCHOOL! I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU I TOLD YOU!!!!!!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Cancun 2

Tuesday 4/10

Tuesday morning Andrew went for a swim in the lap pool, and then I went to a poolside yoga class. The instructor was a weather-beaten, long-haired, crystal-wearing type who advised us, in what seemed like purposefully broken English, to do deliberate breathing at sunrise, on either side of noon, and at sunset, and as a result we’d be able to see new things, even new colors. I’m in.

We ordered room-service breakfast, which was arriving just as I got back to the room. The waiter set up our big dining table as though we were in a restaurant. Then we headed to the pool for a long morning of swimming, popsicles, and lunch. We had pool chairs right next to the pool, which was great.

L&G and I took a sun break at 10:30 to do some pottery painting, which was much more expensive than I’d anticipated but which we all loved. There were two big tables of unpainted pieces which had been prepared with black painted outlines, so it was like painting a 3D coloring book. Lucia chose a fish, Greta chose a pig, and I chose a salamander. We left them with the pottery person, who said he’d touch them up and glaze them and we could pick them up tomorrow. Then we went back to the pool. We were able to eat lunch right at our pool chairs because the wind had died down enough for the umbrellas to be set up.

We had a rough patch when we came back to the room for a sun break after lunch. L&G had simply worn themselves out, and they were both sunburned, and they were just tired and done with everything. Even Lucia, whose energy level is generally an even, unwavering, endlessly refilling HIGH, was sprawled on the couch, refusing to do anything. We eventually did get them to go back to the pool, and they both had a frozen drink while sitting in the pool, and we had a nice time. They agreed to wear hats even in the pool, to prevent further sunburn on their faces.

Dinner was a Taco Tuesday celebration at the Mexican restaurant, another stellar meal. There were mini quesadillas made to order, each tortilla made by hand in a small press before being cooked on a big flat cooking surface. There was tortilla soup, rice, beans, all kinds of tacos made to order, and a big bar of toppings. Then a variety of desserts. Delicious margaritas. Live traditional music. A great meal.

Even though it was quite late after dinner, we went back out to the pool for some night swimming, a novelty that thrilled the girls. They were so excited to be swimming in the dark, in the beautifully lit pool, looking up at the stars. We didn’t stay too long. We got back to the room just as the turn-down service was finishing up, so they got to open their souvenirs of the night.

So: a great day sandwiched around two grueling hours.

Wednesday 4/11

Everyone slept in today. (Except me, of course. I wake up at 6:30 no matter where I am, but at least here I could read on the balcony with the sound of the ocean in the background.) We went to the breakfast buffet this morning, and I let the girls have as many pastries as they wanted without insisting on a balancing portion of eggs. The pastries here are seriously delicious. I, too, had a breakfast of pastries.

L&G have developed a deep loathing of sunscreen, and sunscreening them up is an ordeal, and this morning there was the emergence of the Most Stubborn Child on Earth (Greta), who refused to get ready to go outside, and the only ones who could talk her out of her deep, dark, stubborn hole were Roary and Wee Wee, voiced by Lucia. Sigh. Anyone looking in on the way we interact with dolls and stuffed animals in this family would have some understandable concerns. Happily, Wee Wee helped Greta come to the decision that she WOULD get ready, which she did with a smile, and we had our best pool morning yet.

Andrew borrowed a football and a snorkel and mask from the sport desk, and I got my own taste of snorkeling today. The pool is so beautiful. I’d forgotten that otherworldly underwater feeling that you can get only with goggles/mask/snorkel. I floated all around, looking at the fancy tiling on the pool bottom, and people’s legs.

Somehow L&G decided they’d play Monkey in the Middle with Andrew, and it was this activity that set the day on a new level of fun. They were WILD about this game. It struck such a chord with them. They played all morning. The game changed from the usual rules to a much more nuanced game where Lucia and Greta were on a team trying their best to defeat Andrew. There was a lot of splashing and lunging and fighting for the ball. “I almost drowned!” Greta announced ecstatically during a trip to the bathroom. Andrew’s favorite moment was when Lucia suggested they stop actually playing the game: “Let’s just fight!!” she said.

They had mango popsicles, virgin pina coladas, and virgin mango daiquiris. We had lunch on our pool chairs again. I occasionally skulked around the pool with my snorkel. I picked up our pottery, which the pottery guy had embellished beautifully. Perfect souvenirs. We ended up not doing a post-lunch sun break and stayed out until about four. (The girls wore their hats without a break. This really saved their faces today.)

We had a little down time in the room, and eventually got ready for dinner. Tonight it was an Argentinian dinner on the pool deck, which meant Andrew and I could sit and relax while L&G ran around on the sand. Good food again. We’re stuffed.

We’d promised night swimming once more, again an exciting thrill. When it was time to go back to the room, Lucia couldn’t find her flip flops. We looked everywhere. A worker looked around with a flashlight. They were just gone. And then we got back to the room and found them there. She’d been so focused on getting back to the pool she’d forgotten to wear shoes, and none of us had noticed.

The small boxes were waiting on the beds. Thrilling.

Aside from a few schizophrenic Greta-is-exhausted moments, it was a perfect day.

Spring Break in Cancun

Saturday 4/7

We left NJ for Cancun early early Saturday morning. The airport was not fun (Greta lost the headband her American Girl doll was wearing; tears etc; I tried to go back out beyond security and was refused) and neither was the plane (Lucia threw up, as per usual, on the bumpy landing). But then we were there, and it was WARM, and that alone was amazing. Our driver greeted us outside the airport with chilled towels and waters before ushering us to the resort in a luxury vehicle of some kind.

Note: This is not our usual type of vacation. Our usual type of vacation involves excavating mouse carcasses from hundred-year-old umbrella stands and the kids getting stung by wasps in their beds.

Anyway, also amazing is our suite at the resort in Riviera Maya, which is basically two suites connected by a foyer, tons more space than we actually need, with three Murphy beds in our suite and one in the other, as well as couches and the actual beds. It’s about 1800 square feet. The kitchen is more deluxe than ours at home, with a Sub-Zero refrigerator. There’s a hot tub on our balcony. So that’s pretty fun.

When we arrived on Saturday we had time to swim in the pool before dinner, and the pool is incredible. Then we ate at one of the restaurants at the resort. When we got back to our room, housekeeping had been by to provide turn-down service, and had left two small boxes for the girls, each holding a Mexican handicraft: tiny wooden animals with bobbing heads. Of course this was a huge hit.

Sunday 4/8

Sunday, L&G were up at six (we’re an hour behind, so they felt like it was seven, but STILL). We hung out at the room for a while; L&G played in the hot tub balcony. We had to drag them out to go get some breakfast. Then we hit the pool and beach for the morning. Each day we have our own reserved chairs. A beach waiter provides cool towels, chilled waters, and a chilled bottle of Evian face mist. I’d brought snorkels and masks for L&G and we taught them how to snorkel, which they’ve been doing more or less nonstop. There’s been a lot of wind and big waves, so we haven’t done any swimming in the ocean yet. There's also an off-putting amount of seaweed on the sand, which we'd read about, but it was still startling.

A beach waiter came around with fresh fruit popsicles late in the morning. I had a pina colada; Greta had a virgin strawberry daiquiri. Lucia did not stop swimming for one second. We had lunch outside at the beach cafe. Delicious food all around.

L&G didn’t want a sun break, but we coerced them up to the room for a little while, where we played Gonuts for Donuts and they swam in the hot tub again. Then we went back to the pool for a little while before having a BBQ dinner poolside.

Outrage: housekeeping had not been by for turndown service by the time we got back to the room, and by then it was beyond late for bedtime. L&G had been eagerly anticipating their little boxes all day. We promised they could open them in the morning, and indeed housekeeping came a little while later.

Monday 4/9

Another early morning for L&G, at six. I don’t understand. The rooms are pitch black. They come into our room at six on the dot. This morning, the first thing they asked for was the little boxes.

They were very hungry this morning so we went to breakfast early instead of hanging out in the room. It’s a breakfast buffet here, which of course L&G love, overdosing on pastries (Lucia) and fruit (Greta). There’s also a big pot of Mexican hot chocolate, which Greta loves.

Then back to the pool and beach. Mostly pool, more snorkeling, lots of diving around and playing. Andrew and I have been swimming most of the time too. It was windy again, but we also went to the beach, where L&G were very engaged with scooping up seaweed from the water and throwing it back again. Both, at some points, were talking to their clumps of seaweed. We’re not sure what they were saying. They’ve also been collecting cool rocks.

We all had a laughing spell in the pool as Greta did her "eclair dance," a new phenomenon that involves silly dancing while she chants the word "eclair" in a hilarious voice. It'd hard to describe, but she does say "eclair" in a way that makes me laugh hysterically, and it's only gotten more and more absurd. She was in rare form.

Popsicles again, and lunch at the beach cafe again. More pina coladas and virgin daiquiris. More sunburn, too, sadly. Greta had majorly pink cheeks by the end of yesterday, but they were less pink this morning, but a long morning in the sun didn’t help at all. We took a sun break after lunch (Gonuts for Donuts, American Girl stickerbooks), then had another pool/beach stint later in the afternoon. Both girls got even more sunburnt despite our copious sunscreening. We’ll take more breaks tomorrow.

Lucia was mesmerized by older kids doing backflips off the side of the pool and set about trying to do them herself. She's getting there.

Highlight of the day for Greta: we were in one of the bathrooms near the pool and she spotted a tiny (like nickel-size) baby lizard in her stall. We went back to check for it later, but it was gone.

Tonight we had dinner at another restaurant at the resort, our best meal by far. It’s a Mexican restaurant (the other one is "international"), and the food was delicious. L&G ate their buttered spaghetti from the kids menu but then proceeded to sample and steal lots of our food: Mexican cheese from our cheese platter, my tequila shrimp, my rice, our churros. (This is an all-inclusive place. We’re not holding back on our ordering.) Absolutely delicious all around, with a view of the pool and ocean. Kit and Julie (the AG dolls) were good dining companions, sampling bits of the girls’ food.

L&G had an inscrutable private joke going at dinner: At one point, after glancing at each other, Lucia asked me if there was such a thing as vegetable soup. I said yes, and L&G looked at each other open-mouthed, like this was the most surprising thing they'd ever heard, and then began laughing hysterically.

I also broke a glass in the weirdest way possible. I mis-aimed my margarita glass as I was setting it down, and it hit the rim of my water glass. An oval of glass popped out from the center of the glass, and water poured out. The rim of the glass was intact, as was the rest of the glass, and not all the water spilled. Very very strange.

Housekeeping had been by for turndown, and L&G were thrilled to add a third animal to their collection. This is a highlight for them. (I mean, really: a souvenir left on their bed at the end of the day??) They’re not the only ones with souvenirs: a handbag and necklace were left in the room for me. And a bottle of tequila and fridge full of beer for Andrew. This is a pretty great place.

We are stuffed to the gills and totally exhausted. I’ll be adding pictures at some point but maybe not till I get home, since I’m doing this post on Andrew’s computer and who the heck can work this thing? Not me, I can tell you that.

Cancun 3

Thursday 4/12

Another excellent day. The kids and Andrew slept in and I read on the balcony. We went to the breakfast buffet for the last time (sob). The pastries are so delicious I've been condoning a "pastry breakfast" for the girls, and for myself. Then off to the pool, another gorgeous sunny day with a light breeze but no crazy wind. We had perfect poolside chairs. We drank pina coladas, played Bingo, ate lunch, played in the pool, jumped in the ocean, searched for treasures washing up when the tide started changing. We stayed out all day, until 5pm.

We had dinner at the Mexican restaurant again, our favorite of the resort's restaurants, and it did not disappoint. Andrew and I had margaritas, lobster, a cheese platter, ceviche, and pinto bean soup. Delicious, all of it. We ate so much.

L&G were nearly comatose with exhaustion, but they insisted they still wanted to go swimming at night one last time, so we did. They love this nighttime dip.

Turndown service had been completed while we were swimming, so the girls got to open their final "little boxes" when we got back to the room.

Then Andrew and I had to pack up to prepare for our departure in the morning. Sob.

Friday 4/13

Departure day. We had time for a quick breakfast before we were taken to the airport. Since we'd used miles for the plane tickets, they weren't ideal, and we had a layover in DC. The first flight was horrifically bumpy on the descent. Lucia didn't throw up, which is a miracle, but she was almost comically green, and Andrew kept the air sickness bag in front of her even as we began walking off the plane. Ugh. Awful. Then we had to maneuver through the huge lines at immigration, then get our bags, then recheck our bags, then walk a hundred miles to our next gate, then get on another plane. Not good. Especially when we boarded the plane on time...only to then sit on the runway for over an hour. Definitely not good. Fortunately Lucia was absorbed in watching The Wizard of Oz on the iPad, and Greta was absorbed in Tom and Jerry cartoons on the seatback TV, so they didn't make a peep.

Then, finally, we were home, our wonderful spring break behind us. I feel certain we'll return to Cancun, for a longer stay next time so we can do an excursion or two to snorkel and see some Mayan ruins. What a great trip.

Finally able to add some pictures!

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Hello Again, and SLUGS

Good Christ, I haven't written on this blog since NOVEMBER? That's terrible. To remedy this negligence, I've added BLOG to my newly redesigned bullet journal, in the "habit tracker" section, and if I don't color in those little squares every day, well, I'll feel shame and failure etc. For now, I suppose all I can do is begin again, with where we are today.


Fortunately for any of you who are still aware that this blog exists, I have a story. A story about slugs. A story about spending Easter in Pennsylvania, and hiding plastic eggs around the yard at 6:00am after a rainy night, and the kids running outside for the egg hunt around 7:00am, a mere hour later. They gathered up the eggs in their bags and brought them inside. Immediately, one of the kids saw a small black slug on the outside of an egg. We didn't think much of it, since the eggs had been sitting in wet grass. But then--another. And another. And then Molly saw the silhouettes of slugs INSIDE THE EGGS. Slugs had found the tiny hole at the ends of the eggs and slimed in. Some eggs had two slugs inside. All the kids were screaming, and refusing to open the eggs, and Andrew was trying to keep up with the onslaught as he squashed the slugs with paper towels.

That was the first stage of the slugs. Then we found some on the carpet from the eggs being dumped out of the bags. Later, when I went to put some stuff into the bags, I saw the bags each had several slugs inside. IT JUST WOULDN'T END.

This is clearly a story that instantly became Family Lore, a story that will be told and retold for a lifetime, the story about the Easter when slugs got into the eggs. All three kids will have neuroses about outdoor egg hunts and wet grass for the rest of their lives. I might, too.

Ear Piercing, Round II

Greta got her ears pierced for the second time in January, and though they'd been healing beautifully, her left piercing--out of nowhere--became hideously infected, and a giant ball of awfulness formed on the back of her earlobe. Our visit to the pediatrician turned into an urgent same-day visit to an ENT, who had to drain it with a needle while Greta screamed. Now that piercing has closed. She has one earring, like a pirate, and will have to get the left ear repierced AGAIN once it's fully healed.

This is a cautionary tale, you hear me? A cautionary tale. Maybe not about ear piercing, exactly, but about making sure you react to a child's every casual mention of discomfort with an immediate trip to the doctor and a demand for antibiotics, because if I'd done that, when Greta first observed a bit of discomfort with her ear, maybe it never would have escalated like it did. Lesson learned.


Just for the record, here's what the girls are into these days: American Girl dolls (Kit and Julie were Christmas gifts), Hatchimals Colleggitbles (no idea how to actually spell that, it's a play on words that doesn't quite parse phonetically), slow-rise squishies, super balls, coloring with Mr. Sketch scented markers, stuffed animals, my old Cabbage Patch dolls. We're reading Harry Potter 1 together. Lucia's read the first three herself and is working on book four. They both love playing the piano. Lucia's working on Allegretto I. Greta's on London Bridge.


Mostly the girls seem to hate everything I cook, but then again today they shared an entire head of steamed broccoli, so whatever. I can't keep track anymore. They did love all the Easter foods. Lucia ate six St. Joseph cakes. Greta ate five scrippelles.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

One Last NH Weekend

Last weekend, we went to NH for the final time before closing the house for the winter. We've never gone up this late in the year before--our November trip is usually a week earlier--but the kids had Thursday and Friday off school, the perfect time for a long weekend. We drove up Wednesday night. It was unabashedly cold--in the twenties--and we arrived at night to a shivering-cold house. The heat cranked on, though, and we warmed up quickly.


Thursday, frost covered the ground when we woke up, but the girls and I took a cold walk into the fields late in the morning, while Andrew did some work calls. A whole stand of trees had fallen during a massive windstorm a few weeks ago--it was shocking to see, at least ten tall, skinny trees yanked up by the roots, piled and twisted on the ground. The girls were entranced, eager to explore, and game to consider that some of the more tangled branches may have been "woven" by mysterious creatures, such as Bigfoot. Lucia did some knocks and calls; alas, we heard no response. However, we did find some branches with what truly appeared to be hieroglyphic-like carvings. We also walked around the pond, in the shady areas where frost lingered throughout the day.

After lunch, Lucia was so eager to do more exploring with Andrew that I took Greta to the grocery store so she could squeeze in more adventuring before Andrew's next phone meeting. They were out there the entire time we were gone.

When it's this raw and cold outside, and it starts getting dark at 3:45pm, we hunker down and enjoy the insider life of the house. L&G had brought Hatchimals, stuffed animals, and coloring books. We played Guess Who. We read books. It was lovely.

We "cooked" instant ramen for dinner, determined to relax as much as possible during our stay--to not even cook.


Andrew spent much of Saturday morning chopping wood outside. The girls and I stayed inside, making tiny donuts out of polymer clay. We embarked on a game of Monopoly--Lucia's new favorite--with an old board Andrew played on as a kid. The game went on and on and on. Greta, uninterested, busied herself with other things.

We took a long, cold winter walk in the woods. That's when we really start feeling the ghosts.

Later, Andrew made a fire in the fireplace, which we've never done before, always too frightened of what might be in the chimney. But he determined it was clear, and the fire was the perfect thing for the cold evening.

It was so cozy in front of the fire--reading, playing, continuing Monopoly--that none of us wanted to leave, even though we also wanted to go out to dinner. We finally dragged ourselves away from the fire and went to the Harpoon Brewery, and were glad we did.


More walks in the woods and fields. We collected a million pinecones (which we then forgot to pack in the car). L&G made a secret hideout in some vine-y growth in the woods. The pond had frozen overnight--the first time I'd ever seen it frozen--and we spent some time throwing rocks onto the surface, watching them skitter and slide.

More low-key inside time. Greta played pizzeria by folding a chair mat into fourths and offering it around. They played doctor with antique kitchen tools, ministering to their stuffed animals. We all colored.

We did leave the house again, for some shopping in a nearby town. We like wandering through the Walmart, feeling local, buying provisions. We let the girls buy some Hatchimals and pumpkin-pie-flavored Chapstick. Then we went out to dinner at the Weathervane, where we ate our weight in fried clam strips and fried shrimp, and the girls strewed Hatchimals shells all over the table. (The waitress, familiar with Hatchimals, kindly brought us a paper bag.)

Being out in the unnatural early darkness makes the girls incredibly slap happy--they're convinced it's the middle of the night at 5pm. Oh, the hysteria on the drive home.

We made another fire once the kids were in bed. I began mourning our imminent departure.


A long, final walk through the woods. We explored an old stone wall, and the remains of an old stone silo. Then we began the work of closing up the house, making it as inhospitable to mice as possible, though they'll do what they do regardless of our precautions. (There was the year they ate all the candles. They always eat the kleenex. One year they ate glass Christmas ornaments and Andrew found two of them dead in the hall.)

And then we said goodbye. Sadly, sadly. It's a place outside of time and real life; we need our time there, that feeling of being deeply rested and peaceful. Yes, a wasp flew into my hair; yes, clumps of dead ladybugs gather daily in the corners of the ceiling; yes, there were, oddly, flies buzzing around our bedroom every night. And yet. Our happiness there is real.

We planned for dinner at our favorite pizza place on our way out of town--only to be greeted by locked doors and a sign indicating it was closed on Sundays. This must be a seasonal change, one we'd never been around late enough to encounter. So we got back in the car and headed for the highway, all of us hungry, all of us wishing for just a little more time in a warm lighted place in New Hampshire.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Birthdays in the City

We really went all out on the birthdays this year, and the celebration continued over the weekend. Saturday morning, Andrew, Lucia, Greta, Mom, Dad, and I all drove into the city to continue celebrating the girls' birthdays. Saturday was one of those perfect New York days when all the stars are aligned and everything just goes beautifully. Perfect weather, everyone had fun, the things we did were super fun. All a big success.

First stop on Saturday: the Lego store, of course, where Lucia and Greta both selected new Friends sets. Next we went to lunch at Wagamama, where we all had ramen--we all loved the restaurant and our food. The girls ran around across the street at the playground at Madison Square Park for a while after that, with their lambs and bunnies. Then we strolled down to Union Square, making a couple of stops on the way at Dylan's Candy Store, and an AMAZING store called Flying Tiger, where we were all overwhelmed with cute Danish bargains. L&G ate some candy at the playground at Union Square and played on the giant dome/slide thing there. All very fun. 

Our afternoon complete, we drove to the Conrad, our hotel for the night. L&G love staying here, and Mom and Dad loved it too. We had rooms next to each other. As we relaxed, someone knocked on the door and delivered a plate of macarons, a delicious red velvet pastry, and six movie ticket vouchers to me, Lucia, and Greta to mark our birthdays--gotta love that kind of personal attention. We felt very pampered and decadent. 

Then we headed out to dinner at Benihana. You may frown at this as being too New Jersey--traveling into Manhattan only to go to a chain restaurant--but I wanted something different for the girls' birthday dinner, not just a regular (albeit delicious) meal at a regular place. It turned out to be really fun. The girls loved watching the chef's tricks and they loved the food. Greta ate her weight in shrimp. They were sung to in English and Japanese when their ice cream arrived. A big success (though by the end Greta was practically falling asleep at the table).

The car ride back to the hotel was insane, with the girls overtired and ridiculously punchy with their second wind, and it took them forever to fall asleep. They had a great day, though. 

In the morning, we had the delicious buffet at the hotel, always spectacular, and then headed up to the Met. It was a rainy, rainy, rainy day. L&G were tired. We saw some paintings and mummies and then decided to head back home, where the kids spent the rest of the day putting together their Legos. We ordered falafel for dinner and--gasp!--celebrated my birthday with presents as well. Bet you forgot it was my birthday too--Mom and Dad almost did! They made up for it by delivering a new cement gnome for my collection.

And that, my friends, is the conclusion of Birthdays 2017. It was big, and bold, and endless. And all pretty great.


I think Mom would agree that the high point of their visit to New Jersey was running errands with me on Thursday night. Usually I'm on my own for pre-birthday errand-running, but when I invited her to join me, she agreed. First: Dollar Tree for birthday balloons. Two of the balloons were deflated by the time we got to the car, so we went back in, and I swapped them for fully inflated balloons tied to a display. Next: Shop Rite for cake supplies. Then on to Target for last-minute Num Noms, because when you're in this deep with birthday overload, there's no going back. Next: Whole Foods for pumpkins, because in all the craziness this month Andrew and I still hadn't managed to get any. I got three giant pumpkins which subsequently would not fit on the floor of the backseat, and the balloons were in the trunk, and in the midst of trying to get everything sorted out one of the balloons flew out of the car and floated away. At that point it was just too much. Too, too much. We could only laugh, though I did have my forehead on the car window as I did. Sigh. 

Letter to Greta: 6 Years Old

Dear Grets,

Happy happy birthday Little Miss! You've been awaiting this birthday intensely, fast on the heels of Lucia's birthday two weeks ago. You were excited mainly about the arrival of your beloved bunny, the one you've been yearning for since August. For the past couple of weeks you've been talking to your bunny each night, and she (I) has told you she's been journeying tirelessly to get to you. Finally, on your birthday morning, there she was at your place at the kitchen table, the first present you unwrapped and pretty much the only one you've played with since. Lucia got a bunny, too. (And we surprised you with a lamb from the same line of toys--just as cute, and now just as beloved.)

Gra and Pop-Pop came for your birthday this year, which was super exciting. They came on Thursday, and Gra got to sit in on your piano lesson. They were there on your birthday morning--balloons, pancakes, and two presents before school. I went in to see you for lunch, then went to your classroom in the afternoon with cupcakes and goodie bags for your class. All very fun and exciting. You were wearing a paper birthday crown all day.

You got to open all your presents when you got home, and there were a lot. "There are so many presents!!" you exclaimed. It was an abundance of fun things: Num Noms, Splashlings, Calico Critters, the bunny and lamb and some clothes for them, books, Bath & Body Works things. The biggest hits were the bunny and lamb, and the Hatchimals from Gra and Pop-Pop.

Dinner was macaroni and cheese (your request), and then a chocolate cake. With Num Noms on top, of course!

It was a great day. You loved your presents and told me "I loved my birthday!" before you went to bed. You were a very happy birthday girl!

And you're such a sweet six-year-old. It does make me sad that now I'll have no more five-year-olds...but six will be great too.

(There were more Num Noms than this. This is just a post-singing picture.)