Sunday, October 15, 2017

Letter to Lucia: 8 Years Old

Dear Lucia,

You're eight! And so excited about it. You've been waiting for your birthday for weeks and weeks, bidding goodbye to seven before it had even run its full twelve-month course. Finally, today arrived, and we did the usual birthday hoopla. A balloon waited in your room this morning, with more balloons around the table downstairs. You had waffles for breakfast and opened three presents. This year was a little different because you wanted to have a birthday party, so we gathered with a crowd of little girls at Screamin' Parties for a bounce-house party. You had a blast, of course. Then we came home and you opened all your presents from your friends and from us. You and Greta unwound with a Barbie movie, and then we had dinner (takeout Chinese food--your choice) and cake, with a few Num Noms on top. You wanted to have a "relaxing bath" for your final birthday thing, and you did, with a bath fizz a friend got you. And...eight.

I remember turning eight very vividly, still living at Sycamore Street, and the one present I remember receiving is a radio/cassette player. I still have it. We moved to a new house when I was eight. It was a big year.

Eight is such a cusp year--still a kid, of course, but tilting into other pastures for sure. I'm glad you still love toys, and stuffed animals, and I hope we have a couple more years of them being important to you. But you were also incredibly excited about a charm bracelet set I got you, and a bunch of travel-size products from Bath and Body Works, so there's that bigger-girl element rising up too. It's all good.

You had a great day and said you loved your birthday day. That's a wrap. I can catch my breath for eleven days before doing it all over again for your sister, who was all in with the celebration and handled her jealousy very well until the Num Noms on your birthday cake tonight. That pushed her over the edge. You're lucky, I think, in having your birthday first!

Once all the birthday-present-opening wound down, you sat at the table reading one of your new books. You're totally yourself, confident and happy, and I think my wanting to make your birthday memorable is equally about wanting to set you up for a wonderful year. You're pretty great right now. I know you're happy about all the exciting things ahead.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Weekend in New Hampshire

The kids had Thursday and Friday off from school last week for Rosh Hashana, so we of course headed to NH. We arrived late Thursday night. Greta was deeply asleep when we brought her inside, but Lucia woke up and walked up to her room herself. We said goodnight, and then Andrew went to unload the car and I started unpacking things in the kitchen. Suddenly I heard Lucia, sobbing at the top of the stairs, screaming for me. I ran up--she'd gotten stung by something. We have a lot of wasps in the windows, and Andrew always does a check before we put the girls into their beds, but there was one he didn't see, and it stung Lucia on the shoulderblade as she lay in bed.

I held some ice on it while Andrew went back upstairs to do some wasp killing (turns out it was a bee, not a wasp). He turned the light on in the room as he swatted around, taking the curtains down and unmaking Lucia's bed, and Greta slept through the whole thing. He did find a couple of bees to kill. Lucia calmed down pretty quickly, considering, and eventually went back to bed. Terrible. This was her second sting in NH.

Friday was hot and sunny, and we spent the morning at the pond, on the dock. The girls tried to catch fish in nets, and they collected berries, cattails, and milkweed.

For lunch, we packed up some food and hiked to the back field, where we spread out a blanket and ate. Afterward, we explored the woods at the very far end of our property line--an area where we always find old jars, bits of broken plates, and rusty metal objects. We did some basic bigfoot hunting, some tree knocks and calls. L&G were fascinated, and did some tree knocks of their own. I invited them to do some calls as well. Lucia did a few owl-like hoots, waiting eagerly for a response. When it was Greta's turn, she thought for a minute, then yelled out, "PINATA!!!" then dissolved into hysterics. That child. Her mind works in very unique ways.

We drove into town later in the afternoon for some groceries, and went out for ice cream. For dinner Andrew grilled sausages and we had sausage, green pepper, and onion sandwiches (L&G had sausage and Trader Joe's mini ravioli). We made s'mores for dessert with the hot coals from the grill.

Saturday was another hot, hot, hot day. In the morning, we hiked to the top of Mount Ascutney. Not our most peaceful hike--Lucia was in super-competitive mode, insisting on being first and faster than everyone else, which was a) dangerous because she was running on the trail and b) upsetting to Greta, who of course wound up being left behind. Sigh.

The day improved, though. We had lunch at home and then went swimming at William and Nelly's pool--crazy that we were able to swim this late in September, when, the last time we were in NH, it was in the thirties at night.

Sunday we headed to another of our favorite places--Riverview Farm. We picked raspberries and apples, and then went through the corn maze. We've been visiting this corn maze annually for probably the past 4-5 years, but we've never been there this early in the season, with the cornstalks still green. It was fun as always. And Andrew got a shout-out from the bona fide, white-bearded farmer who drives the horse cart and used to farm hay in our fields--"Hey! We've got to get together sometime," he called when he spotted Andrew in the orchard--which makes Andrew feel like he himself also has real farmer potential.

We got some maple ice cream at the farm, and then headed home, where we cleaned up and packed up and headed on our way later in the afternoon. After an early dinner at our favorite pizza place, we were on our way back to NJ, sadder than usual to leave NH behind. Greta keeps suggesting we go back. Best case, we'll visit twice more before closing the house; but it might just be once more. We'll see.

A perfect weekend as usual. Oh: I should mention what the highlight for L&G was. On our way there, last Thursday, we stopped at a rest area for a bathroom break. Outside the bathrooms were a bunch of gumball machines filled with various things. One machine had little donut keychains--actually really cute. Of course the girls asked for one, and I said yes, which BLEW THEIR MINDS. Apparently I never let them get anything, ever, from anywhere, and they were just beyond thrilled. They played with and talked about those donut keychains for the rest of the trip.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Second Day of School

Much less drama today. We haven't settled into a rhythm yet, but we put the kids on the bus, Andrew went to the train, and I went home--which is basically how our routine will be going forward. Greta was excited about going back to kindergarten. Both girls brought mermaids in Altoids tins to play with on the bus.

They came home happy and talkative. When Greta got off the bus, the first thing she said, in a loud voice, was, "I DREW A PICTURE OF DADDY WITH LONG HAIR AND WEARING A DRESS!!!" Indeed, she did.

They were tired tonight. One more day then they can recuperate a bit.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

First Day of School

There's a very specific feeling to the first day of school. Both girls clearly felt it last night; Greta was up a few times during the night, restless, upset. But they were both pretty excited this morning, and they put on their chosen first-day outfits and ate the first-day muffins I baked last night and gamely took first-day pictures on the porch, since it was raining. We went to the bus stop, and Greta followed Lucia onto the bus with nary a backward glance. Andrew cried, as he did when Lucia went to kindergarten.

Then we hustled to school, where things were EVEN MORE INSANE than I'd expected. Some kids and parents were outside, since the rain had stopped; some were inside; and my kids? Nowhere to be found. I left Andrew outside to wait, and I went inside, where the kindergartners were supposed to be lining up in the gym. No Greta. I waited and waited. The room kept filling up with kids, not mine. I tried to look for Lucia; no Lucia. I finally found a volunteer, who happened to be a dad I knew, and I immediately began crying (sobbing) that I couldn't find my kids. It was very dramatic, and unnecessary, and I was ushered to a teacher in charge, who told me that parents crying was exactly what WASN'T needed today, and she had me go into the school office until I calmed down. Yes, I was That Mom, making everything worse. I did pull myself together, and when I walked out of the office, there was Greta, walking into the school, Lucia in front of her. I gave Lucia a fast hug--trusting she knew what to do, which she did--and took Greta and her little kindergarten friend (on the same bus) by the wrists to lead them to their area. Sigh.

Greta was fine.

We lined up finally, and then went to Greta's classroom. Greta had a worried look, and she was quiet, but she drew a picture when asked, and didn't cry when it was time for me to leave.

The rest of the day felt odd and provisionary, as I just wondered and wondered how they were doing at school. I had lunch with some friends. I puttered around at home. Then Andrew and I went to the bus stop to pick them up, and they came off the bus happy and excited, talking over each other about all the fun they'd had that day. Greta made a new friend (but couldn't remember her name). Lucia got a sparkly keychain from the prize box. They loved their egg-salad sandwiches (their choice for first-day lunch, strangely).

Back home, I gave them each an Able Baker cookie shaped/frosted like a pencil, and a pack of Splashlings, with a purple-haired mermaid they'd been wanting. They couldn't have been happier. They played with Splashlings the rest of the afternoon, until bedtime.

Greta faded during dinner--I made macaroni and cheese, one of her favorites, but she barely ate anything. We read some books afterward. She was tired, though. What a big day.

Before dinner, Greta's pre-K teacher called--for Greta. She wanted to talk to her and see how her first day went. I heard Greta saying she'd made a new friend, and colored a picture with lots of different colors. What an amazing teacher. We were so lucky both girls got to have her. She also sent Greta a postcard last week, wishing her luck on her first day and assuring her she'd do great.

And onward! Now we can begin settling into a routine. I feel wiped out by all the build-up to today, and my dramatic meltdown. I don't often cause a public scene...but when I do, it's one to remember.

Greta drew a family picture at school. Notice that she gave herself a cat.

At the bus stop

Worried Greta face, right before I left her classroom. Not upset...but not too thrilled.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Last Day of Summer: Tues., 9/5

So, we're here. The last day of summer vacation. It seems like we've been here forever--today, especially, it just felt like the kids had been home for years instead of months. We had a good day of not doing too much. L&G played outside a little, played with Beanie Boos and Splashlings a little, read with me a little. I made them mermaid homes from Altoid tins. We started a new book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. They wanted to go to a playground, so we did, and I was reminded of how much I hate going to playgrounds. After dinner (tacos), we went out for ice cream.

Lucia is excited for school to start, though she says she'll miss me. Greta, today, has begun saying she's scared, but I get the feeling she's saying it because I keep asking her if she is. I myself am mired in an unholy mix of anxiety and melancholy, feelings that I'm channeling by continuing to organize every last cranny of my house and getting a jump on the girls' birthday shopping.

We started the day with Greta snuggling with us in bed. Then she brought up a stuffed animal we'd seen last week at H&M, which of course I'd said she couldn't buy and assumed she'd just forget about. Being Greta, she hadn't forgotten about it, and instead had become fixated on how it was going to be Wee's daughter-bunny, and how sad Wee was that we didn't have it, and how she was sure someone was going to buy it and it'd be gone forever. She worked herself up into such a state that she was sobbing on the couch. Not sobbing because she was begging--sobbing because she was genuinely mourning the loss of this animal, because she already saw it as part of her beloved stuffed-animal family of Pot Belly, Wee, and Ginger. Of course I also have a soft spot for stuffed animals, and started figuring out how I could get to the mall today to find it, but I couldn't go anywhere because Andrew had taken our smashed-up car to the insurance adjuster. THANK GOODNESS for the internet because I found it at H&M online and ordered two. Done and done. I told Greta it'll be here for her birthday, but I'm sure I'll find a reason to give it to her earlier because, you know, Wee was so sad.

I suppose you could say I also channeled some of my back-to-school anxiety by engaging in that little exchange above.

Tomorrow will be a big day. The weather's supposed to be terrible, which means the already chaotic first day will be even more chaotic, with kids lining up all over the school. I'd counted on Lucia escorting Greta to where she needed to be, but now they'll be separated when they get off the bus. My five-year-old, who wants to be a deer's mommy and live in the woods, is going to be swept into a sea of people the likes of which you can imagine only if you've been to our annual elementary school Art & Music Show.

It's been a lovely summer. I'm sorry to see it end.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Summer: Sat., 9/2 - Mon., 9/4

Sat., 9/2

It was one of those perfect NH days. The weather was beautiful and fall-like--we had the heat on in the house, and we needed jeans and sweaters outside. We played outside for the morning, tramping through the wet grass and hanging out by the pond. It was too cold for swimming or using our boats, sadly. Lucia gamely went out in a boat for a minute, but her hands got too cold as she tried to paddle around. We saw lots of frogs, fish, and salamanders.

After lunch, we went to Riverview Farm with the intention of picking apples--and were so excited to see that they still had an abundant crop of blueberries. L&G were thrilled; we hadn't managed to pick blueberries all summer. We got our buckets and rode in a horse-drawn cart to the blueberry area. The driver of the horsecart turned out to be a farmer who grew hay on our land for many years--he's Andrew's farmer-idol, so Andrew was particularly happy when the farmer shook his hand and introduced us to his wife.

L&G love picking all kinds of fruit, but they especially love picking blueberries, and by letting them each pick almost a full bucket we ended up with 19 pounds of blueberries. No matter. We always freeze them, and then I can use them for muffins and other baking throughout the year.

After that, we also picked a big bag of apples. Then the kids ate an apple, Andrew had some cider, and we headed home.

L&G played outside the rest of the day, and for dinner we had steak (L&G had pasta). What a great day. We relished every moment of it, knowing the next day would be rainy from start to finish.

Sun., 9/3

It rained from morning till night. No stop. Andrew and the kids took a rainy hike in the morning, thrilling because they found a red salamander and some weird dried mushrooms that emitted some kind of 'smoke' when they stepped on them. We read books on the couch, and then I channeled Ma Ingalls and did some mending while Andrew and the girls played Chutes and Ladders. What was I mending, you ask? Pot Belly, to start with. The gash on his face had gotten more and more gruesome, and his stuffing was everywhere. I also mended holes in a couple of sweaters, and holes in the girls' fleece mermaid tales. I fixed a button loop on a dress for Greta.

After lunch, we went shopping at Walmart for some final school supplies. L&G were excited to buy new PJs as well as stretchy hairbands like Molly had at the beach. That was about it. We had leftovers for dinner. William and Nelly came over for a visit after the kids went to bed.

Mon., 9/4

The final day of our last summer trip. We went outside for a while in the morning, much to Lucia's dismay; she just wanted to keep playing with her Splashlings on the stairs, which she did. Greta and I found two dead frogs and a dead snake on the road, as well as a cute tree frog by the pond, and lots of other regular frogs swimming around in the water. Greta picked a few final wildflowers. We packed up the car. After a late lunch at Pizza Chef, we headed home.

On the way, Greta exclaimed, "I just saw a meadow I want to be in!" My little meadow girl. We also saw some deer by the highway, and Greta declared she wants to live in the woods and take care of deer. Everything seems so cute and heartbreaking today because she goes to kindergarten the day after tomorrow. *sob*

It was our last summer visit to NH, but we'll be back a few more times before we close the house. No one wanted to leave. It's a place of happiness and peace.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Summer: Fri., 9/1

Today started off dramatically, when we were rear-ended on the Saw Mill Parkway, where we then sat for an hour after calling 911 while the cops filled out an accident report. The car that hit us was totally at fault, and the driver was unlicensed, and they were possibly not even documented citizens, and the whole thing was upsetting not just because our year-old Volvo had the bumper smashed up but because after some friendly chit-chat with the cops we eventually just continued driving on to NH while the others had to have their car towed and face who knows what further punishments. It was all very very unfortunate. Facing our privilege and all that. No one was physically hurt, at least.

We did finally make it to NH, and it's true fall up here--it was in the low sixties when we arrived. We ate dinner outside, but we were all pretty chilly. The heat is on in the house. Summer disappeared overnight.

A funny Greta-ism to turn conteract the unhappy car-accident news: Now, before bed each night, we have an elaborate goodnight-saying ritual with Pot Belly, Wee (her lamb), and Ginger (her gingerbread man). Each of them hugs and kisses me in turn, and each announces that they love me "From the moon to the dirt." It's so utterly unpoetic but so adorable. And I, of course, have to declare my love for the animals and then for Greta, from the moon to the dirt.