Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Letter to Lucia: 38 Months

Dear Little One,

You are full of surprises these days. You show a remarkable maturity sometimes, and I find myself simply trusting you to do as I say when it comes to not running away from me in a parking lot, not touching my hot coffee, etc. It’s easy to forget that you are three, until you do something seemingly out of character—like draw on your bureau with crayons during Quiet Time. It was just a little scribble, and I could tell that you knew what you’d done was wrong, and frankly I didn’t even really care that much even though of course it was nonwashable crayon—it was my fault, after all, for giving you nonwashable crayons.

But it doesn’t matter, really. None of it does, for this letter, because for all your three-year-old foibles—the occasional screaming tantrums (very rare these days), the mind-boggling stubbornness, the now-and-then moods that have you grabbing anything and everything out of Greta’s hands—you are a precious, beloved little one. You’re too little to understand why Daddy and I are squeezing you and Greta so much these days, and that’s okay. Today at preschool you left me with a jaunty “Bye, Mama!”, while I was the one having a hard time walking out the door.

You love doing I Spy right now, and today we did your I Spy book for so long I felt myself nodding off and going into a kind of I Spy trance. “Green on a plate,” I heard myself say, and then came to. “A green Christmas tree on a plate,” I clarified, and you pointed it out, and on we went. And on and on and on.

You are, so far, doing splendidly at Quiet Time, though by the time Quiet Time is over, your room is a veritable ocean of tiny toys that I then must clean up during bath time. (Getting you to clean up after yourself during Quiet Time is, of course, an ultimate goal…but I don’t want to push it right now.)

You continue to love preschool. You continue to love your Dolly. You are still extremely attached to your Bibi—but lately you’ve been saying that it’s Dolly’s Bibi, and sometimes you put Dolly down for a nap in her crib and leave your Bibi with her for long stretches. There are, on the other hand, days when you lament Bibi before we’re even out of the driveway. “Bye bye, Bibi…I want my Bibi…Biiibiiii…”

Your relationship with Greta fluctuates on a minute/hourly/daily basis. Sometimes you play together, rolling and running and scream-laughing. Sometimes you co-exist peacefully with blocks. Sometimes everything Greta holds or touches or looks at becomes explosive and you wail angrily, “Nooo, Grets…..” (If I happen to be in another room, fixing a snack or, God forbid, trying to go to the bathroom, this is my Bat signal to hurry back—it’s usually followed by a furious howl from Greta.) You like trying to “teach” things to Greta, especially words. “Can you say Dada?” I’ll say sometimes when we’re having lunch or dinner. You then join in, looking around the room for inspiration: “Can you say…pumpkin? Can you say…nesting doll?”

You’ve been coming up with your own nicknames for Greta, riffing on what you hear Daddy and I call her. When you and I went in to get her after her nap this week, you burst into her room with a jovial, “Hi, Banana-Pie! Hi, Banana-Bunny!” You also call her Honey and Sweetie.

You are making rudimentary attempts--hilarious, really--at spelling. Sometimes you say, "I'm going to write my name," and you'll arrange the ABC magnets on the fridge into a long, twenty-letter "word." Small steps...

Every day is a wild ride. You are an amazing creature, little one.

Favorite books: Charlie and Lola books, Morris’s Disappearing Bag (Rosemary Wells), Where’s Prancer? (Syd Hoff), The Night Before Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, Little Quack, The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming, Duck & Goose It's Time for Christmas

Favorite activities: listening to Christmas music, making elaborate structures with blocks, arranging various things in a “setup” on your Bibi, sorting things, reading books, I Spy, arranging your Squinkies into a circle, glitter/glue crafts, watching Ruby & Max, watching Dora, going to the duck pond, sitting in the “big” part of the cart when grocery/Target shopping

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Beads & Super-Cool Trees

Greta is growing up so fast. One day she’s nursing and snuggling…The next she’s striding across the living room, straight to the Mardi Gras beads, and looping them around her neck. And wearing them all day. And resisting their being taken off. And, throughout the day, coming up to me, taking my hand, and leading me places. Few things are cuter. (This would be cuter if it weren’t accompanied by demanding screeches, but I’ll let it slide.)

This afternoon was sunny, and though it was cold, I took the girls to a nearby playground just to get some air. Lucia pushed her pink corduroy cat in her doll stroller. Cat hadn’t joined us for a walk for quite a while, and Lucia was excited to show her flowers, leaves, etc., pausing now and then to take Cat out of the stroller and let her “touch” some plants. Lucia was in a very good mood, and she chattered on and on and on in her precise, funny way: “I’m letting Cat touch the flowers! I’m letting her. Mama, I let her touch the flowers. I LET her. Is Greta sleeping? No! She’s awake! She’s AWAKE!” [spotting some crab-apple-type things on the ground, then realizing the tree above her was covered in them] “Ooooooo! Looooook! A berry tree! That’s cooool! Coooool! That is so coooool! Oooh. There’s the playground. I want to do the twisty slide.” [dramatically struggling to push the doll stroller on the grass] "This is haaaaaaard. It's hard to walk on the grass."

The girls rode home together in the double stroller, snacking. Cat is next to Lucia. Greta has Mardi Gras beads on underneath her coat.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Moment of Silence

Let’s pause here for a moment of silence, to formally acknowledge the sad reality that Lucia no longer naps. I have been in denial about this for a few months now. Granted, she’d always give me a thread of hope—maybe once a week, maybe every ten days, she’d actually go to sleep when I put her into her crib at naptime. When she wasn’t sleeping, she was singing (or yell/singing), or lassoing her Bibi at the doorknob to pull open the door. It was getting a little ridiculous. Finally, last week, she refused to get into her crib at all, declaring that she’d have her naptime on the floor instead. My veins filled with ice. I gave an inward, Munch-like scream. Calmly, I gathered a pillow for her, told her it was quiet time, and said she had to be quiet and stay in her room.

And so au revoir, Lucia’s Naptime. Lucia was never a spectacular napper even in her younger days; the very best nap-periods we ever had were maybe an hour and a half tops. Still, it was quiet. I could still my mind. I needed—and need—it even more now with two kids. If I don’t have at least one child-free hour during the day, by dinnertime I feel like an egg that has been shaken so violently that it has become solid. I need that hour, for the mental health of me and everyone around me.

And so begins Lucia’s Quiet Time. The first day, she crept several times out of her room, down the hallway, and into my office, where she peered silently around the door until I noticed her and then stage-whispered, “Mama, can I have something else to play with?” When I decided she’d had long enough for one day, I opened my office door—and found her sitting in the hallway outside Greta’s door, her Bibi spread on the floor with an elaborate arrangement of toys on top of it (she calls this a “setup”). Still, she was quiet.

The next couple of days, with a few new Quiet Time toys to engage with, she actually did stay in her room, quiet as a mouse. To discourage her from seeking me out, I went downstairs instead of staying in my office. I heard things spilling out of boxes and baskets, but she did not make noise, and she did not try to come downstairs. After an hour, I retrieved her, praised her elaborately, and gave her a lollipop. (I’ll give her a chocolate sundae if it gets me my hour.)

So. So far, so good. Yesterday and today, she actually asked repeatedly if she could go have her quiet time—she really likes her Quiet Time toys. (Yesterday I gave her an empty egg carton and a bagful of small, soft craft pom-poms I bought at a church sale for pennies. She was thrilled.) Lucia is, at heart, a rule follower, and a lover of rituals. As long as I keep the Quiet Time toys fresh and exciting, which won't be hard since I have bags of stuff in the attic I bought this summer at church and yard sales, I think we’ll make this transition work. Fingers are crossed.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Return to Brooklyn

Last Sunday, we returned to Brooklyn for the first time since our move. Our destination was Park Slope, where we’d planned brunch at our friends’ new apartment. The moment we parked the car and stepped onto the sidewalk, we looked at each other—and the only way to describe our reaction was Oh, no, we really miss it here.

The feeling only intensified. It was wonderful to see our friends, whom we hadn’t seen since this summer; Lucia and her friend reunited like they’d seen each other yesterday, running off to play by themselves (with Greta toddling after). After brunch, we walked up 5th Avenue, passing familiar spots and new arrivals, Lucia and her friend running ahead, hand in hand. We walked past our old apartment—Lucia remembered which brownstone it was, and ran up the stoop steps. Greta fell asleep in the stroller. We stopped at a favorite playground; Andrew bought a dozen bagels to take home; and then it was time to go.

We were home in half an hour, a ridiculously easy drive to an entirely different planet. My feelings that day were, I have to say, hard to define. I miss Park Slope. I love Park Slope. I can see so many great things about life in Park Slope. But at the same time, I just can’t see us living there anymore. We’d spent the previous day buying a Christmas tree and stringing lights around the porch railing—and it was a lovely day, and our house looked beautiful, and you can see the Christmas tree through the window. It’s been a rough few weeks as home owners, but I’m (pretty) certain that this is where we need to be.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Dolly’s Daddy

Every day, Lucia’s doll—Dolly—becomes more and more of an actual presence in our household. Lucia is with her doll constantly. She calls it “my baby.” She refers to herself in the third-person as “Mommy,” as in, “Dolly is crying for Mommy.” Dolly takes naps; Dolly gets hungry; when Dolly is fussy, she is given a bottle or taken for a walk in her stroller. And now, Dolly has her very own daddy.

The concept of who, exactly, Dolly’s daddy is has clearly—and hilariously—confounded Lucia. For a couple of days, she tentatively placed Andrew in that role; when he got home from work, Lucia-as-Dolly would exclaim, “Daddy’s home!” But she clearly knew this wasn’t exactly right—after all, Andrew is her own daddy, and it didn’t quite make sense that he was Dolly’s daddy too. You could see the pieces just not lining up in her little mind.

Then, two days ago, Dolly suddenly had her very own daddy. A little while after Andrew left for work, Lucia announced that daddy was home—Dolly’s daddy. And, in fact, Dolly’s daddy had never left, and would never leave, for work, because he works from home every day and is always in our library (which Andrew uses as his office). “Dolly’s daddy stays!” she announced. “He’s home! He’s always here!” We agreed that Dolly was very lucky.

This has gone on and on. When Andrew left this morning, Lucia said to him reproachfully, “Dolly’s daddy stays home.” It’s both cute and sad, because Lucia so desperately loves it when Andrew is home. Dolly is lucky, indeed.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Being Good at Tomorrows

Today, Lucia remarked a few times that we'd do something tomorrow. "Maybe tomorrow," she said when we discussed going to a playground. "Maybe tomorrow," she said when we talked about the library. This afternoon, when we walked to the duck pond, she suddenly declared, "I'm good at tomorrows." I have no idea what she meant. There's a zen koan in there somewhere.

And the Police Will Say...

Over the past month or so, Lucia has occasionally resisted being buckled into her carseat. She asks to sit backwards, or in the middle by Greta, or in the front with me. Or she’ll sit down but say she’ll “be fine” without her seatbelt. In a rush one day, needing her to sit back and let me buckle her in, I said, “You know what will happen if you don’t wear your seatbelt? The police will stop our car and say, ‘Mama, you didn’t buckle in your little girl.’ And I’ll be in big trouble.”

I talk to Lucia constantly during the day, saying all manner of nonsense, but for some reason, this stuck. The next time we got in the car, she made a token resistance against her seatbelt, then prompted me: “And the police will say…” I made an ominous-sounding siren noise and then said in a deep, threatening voice, “Mama, you’re in big trouble.”

Ah, the mind of a three-year-old. Now, whenever I tell her to do anything (put on her shoes, sit down in her chair to eat, wear a sweater), she says, “And the police will say…” For a while, I just went along with it, making the siren noise and threatening myself for not making sure my little girl did whatever it was I needed her to do. But it’s gotten totally out of hand now. Last night, Lucia was huddled in a tiny space beside her crib, a space she calls her “secret hideout,” and she insisted that she would sleep there. After explaining several times that she couldn’t sleep in her hideout, she announced, “And the police will say…” I sighed. I told her the police really didn’t care where she slept, but that she still had to sleep in her crib. She seemed not to hear this. “And the police will say…,” she prompted. And so this new routine goes on.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Adventures in Homeownership

Monday: new stove arrives.

Tuesday: new boiler. Glorious heat. Heating guy called our old boiler "medieval" and a "carbon-monoxide machine," for which parts aren't even made anymore since they don't meet any safety standards. Probably good we got a new one. But Lucia now cannot go to college.

Thursday: Andrew discovers pool of water under basement stairs. Plumber comes at 6pm; says we should turn off water for the night. No water, no heat. Also, some tubing thing from the (ancient) dryer, which Andrew had duct-taped, fell down again. We're ignoring it.

Friday: Plumber finds problem pipe behind wall in basement bathroom. Replaces pipe. No more leak, and we have heat and water. But now Greta cannot go to college.

This is why some people are happily lifetime renters. I finally get it.

Letter to Greta: 13 Months

Dearest Grets,

What a little joy you are. You’re walking now, full steam ahead—you started just a couple of days after your birthday, spent a few days taking a few tentative steps here and there, and then just settled into the world of walking without looking back. You have a bow-legged, determined stride, and you can’t quite keep up with yourself—you’re impatient to be done with the unsteadiness of a new walker. You’re ready to run. You try to run. You cannot yet run. You take so many spills every day it’s sometimes difficult to watch.

You’re not talking yet, but you’re making yourself heard. You gesture and screech for what you want; you express your displeasure clearly when Lucia takes something from you or keeps you from something you’re after. You’ve thrown bona fide tantrums when we take you out of the bathtub—you love bathtime. You’re coming into your own.

You love reading. You have favorite books and don’t hesitate to toddler over with one of them, press it into our hands, and plop into our laps. You like blocks—you can stack one or two, but mostly you like knocking them down and scattering them around. If Lucia is building something, your purpose in life is to knock it over. “NO, GRETS. NO, GRETS,” Lucia hollars, shielding her masterpieces. Then you scream in frustration.

You have a funny, wrinkled-nose giggle where you kind of huff through your teeth; you smile with your whole face; you squeal and scream when you’re especially excited. It is impossible to look at you without wanting to scoop you up. But you’re busy these days. You don’t always want to stop for a snuggle.

You gave up breastfeeding without missing a beat, and putting you down for naps and bedtime is (knock wood) ridiculously easy. Naptime: pacifier, song, bed. Bedtime: pacifier, a few books, song, bed. You’re sleeping through the night much more often than before. And when/if you do wake up during the night, usually you go right back to sleep if we give you your pacifier. But without nursing to fall back on, when you wake up at 5:30 (or 5…), you’re up for good. This is not ideal. But we’re getting there.

You continue to be an amazing eater. You eat almost everything, in large quantities. At your one-year checkup, you were 19 lbs 13 ozs, 25th percentile; and 30 inches long, 75th percentile. Long and lean.

You’ve had your bibi for a while now—but this month it’s solidified as your security blanket. You have it with you almost all the time, and you even wrap it around your neck and wear it on your head like Lucia does.

Favorite books: Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin, I Am a Bunny, Pat the Bunny, Brown Bear Brown Bear, Karen Katz flap books, Fall Colors, Clifford’s First Day of School, Barnyard Dance

Favorite toys/activities: blocks, dollhouse dolls, stacking cups, pushing the shopping cart, putting things in bags/buckets, handing things to people

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Before Thanksgiving: our ancient oven died in a dramatic burst of flames.

After Thanksgiving: our ancient furnace died in a quiet and brutal lack of heat.

We are now ovenless and heatless. We've been cooking things on the stovetop, and tonight we bought space heaters for the girls' rooms. And Andrew leaves tomorrow, early in the morning, for a week-long business trip.

Homeownership. Wheee....

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Letter to Lucia: 37 Months

Dear Little One,

You have been three for a month now, and all I can say is that to be with you these days is to be constantly surprised. You are not the same person you were three months ago, or even one month ago; you are changing so much, so quickly, that it’s almost hard to believe. Suddenly, you want to dress yourself, and choose your own pjs. You come up with elaborate games and activities. You are drawing recognizable shapes, and you can write an L.

But more than all this is how you’re changing socially. You’ve been coming out of your shell for a while now, but lately it’s been shockingly apparent. We had a few kids over this week for playgroup, and though you always look forward to playgroup, usually you turn shy when so many people come over. Not this time. You played the whole time with the other kids, shrieking and laughing as you all chased each other around the house, you and another little girl playing with your doll, standing with the other kids to have sandwiches at the coffee table. You had so much fun, and another mother even remarked on how you’d changed—she said you seemed to sparkle.

This is true. You still drive me crazy a lot of the time, since, at three, you are demanding and persistent and impatient. But you are also hilarious and smart and creative. You’ve always been all these things to us, but now others are getting to see them too.

You and Greta continue to have your conflicts. Sometimes you love your little sister and enjoy taking care of her and playing with her; other times, it’s clear that you wish Greta would just sit still in a little-used corner of the house and keep out of your way. You’re not quite sure what to make of Greta’s newfound walking skills, since a toddling-around Greta is definitely a more in-your-face/in-your-stuff Greta who is growing more confident and feisty by the day. Deep down, I know you love her. Even on tough days, if Greta is upset, you generally run up with a toy or her bibi, sometimes saying kindly, “Here you go, Grets,” other times just throwing it at her—but making the offering nonetheless.

Winter is going to be hard. You need to run, to play, to be outside, and staying inside all day everyday is going to be trying for us all. We’ll have new rhythms to discover in the months ahead.

Favorite books: Pancakes, Pancakes by Eric Carle; Olivia and the Fairy Princesses; Silly Tilly’s Thanksgiving; Berenstain Bears and the Giant Pumpkin; Little Mommy

Favorite toys/activities: Watching Dora the Explorer; “playing” Candyland; arranging small toys and play food in elaborate “picnics”; making towers and castles with blocks; singing songs; taking care of your doll; feeding your doll in the high chair; going to preschool

In this picture, post-dinner, you're eating your "extra-special snack"--a new nightly ritual Andrew got you hooked on. Now, when you eat a good dinner, you request "a special snack--no, an extra-special snack!", and we give you a little bowl filled with an assortment of snacks. Tonight was Wheat Thins, pretzels, yogurt raisins, a fun-size Kit Kat (your current Halloween favorite), and one piece of candy corn.

Here you are with your snack, engrossed in an Olivia episode.

Return to Manhattan

Last night, I made my very first return to Manhattan since moving to New Jersey. My return was done in style—Andrew and I went to the National Book Awards! Andrew’s company always has a table, and usually his team’s big partners are invited, but because of Sandy this year, there were empty seats, so Andrew got to bring me. I wore a lovely gray cocktail dress that’s been hanging in my closet for about five years with the tags still on, and I bought spectacular new sparkly shoes, got my nails and hair done, and generally tried my best to not look like the harried, banana-covered person I usually am.

The event was at Cipriani, very fancy, with literary luminaries sitting nearby—one of the fiction judges even sat at our table. At the after-party, I walked right past Lorrie Moore and managed to tell her I still remembered something she said at a reading about ten years ago—that you should never marry someone who thinks writing is cute. “Actually,” she said, “I think I said you should always marry someone who thinks writing is cute.” Does this mean I need to reevaluate my choice of a husband, who has never been anything but supportive and respectful of my work??

I didn’t have much time to ponder this; eleven-thirty came around fast, and we had to get home to relieve our babysitter.

And that’s the other remarkable thing about last night. Besides the fact that Andrew and I had a fancy night out—besides the fact that I maneuvered successfully in four-inch heels—besides the fact that I set foot once again in Manhattan (albeit in a part of town that has no nostalgic associations for me whatsoever)—is the fact that we had to leave before bedtime, and the world did not end. Greta had a difficult day—she got vaccinations in the morning and had only one short nap, so I put her to bed at 5:45pm. That left Lucia. Andrew and I were wracked with worry, giving our sitter dire warnings of the apocalypse she should expect. All day, I talked to Lucia about what would happen that night—that the sitter would read her stories and put her to bed. She never gave much of a reaction other than to say she wanted to come with us to our dinner. We left her as she began watching her favorite video, dread in our hearts.

But when I texted the sitter an hour later to see how it all went, she said she put Lucia to bed with no problems whatsoever. Lucia listened to stories, instructed the sitter on how wide to leave the door open, and then went to sleep.


Perhaps this means we might actually be able to start leaving the house a little bit more. An illuminating night all around.


After one year and two weeks of breastfeeding, Greta is weaned. Last Friday, I just decided it was time. Greta is drinking cow’s milk, she’s eating a ton, and she was nursing out of habit, not any real need. So I just—stopped. I didn’t really intend to do it cold turkey, and if she’d protested, I would have kept going and phased it out gradually. But this wasn’t the case. At her morning naptime, I gave her her pacifier and blankie, snuggled her close, sang her a song, and put her in her crib. She went to sleep without a peep. Same thing for her afternoon nap, and then at bedtime. I did nurse her late that night, but the next day, that was it. She’s more or less stopped waking up during the night now (though she’s been getting up quite early, like 5:30 or 6), and she goes right to sleep at naptime and bedtime. It’s like she doesn’t even remember breastfeeding was something she used to do.


I was ready to stop, but Greta is my baby, and weaning her means I have to (sort of) acknowledge that she’s not a baby-baby anymore. She’s walking, playing, trying to talk. She’s her own little person. She needs songs and stories and cuddling before bed, but she no longer needs to nurse. She is weaned.

My breastfeeding days are over. This seems like a big thing, a chapter of Having Babies that has come to a close. Not an ending to celebrate, really; just—an ending.

Friday, November 09, 2012


We are still without internet or TV, but on Tuesday night we managed to watch the returns through a convoluted setup of cell phone—wifi hotspot—iPad—streaming CNN. The image and sound didn’t always align, and for long spells the screen would be black, jumping back to life with surprising announcements like CNN PROJECTION: OBAMA WILL WIN ELECTION. Hooray!

I voted at a church near our house Tuesday afternoon. I went at lunchtime, and there was no line, and I gave my name and checked the little electronic boxes and walked home on a beautiful fall day, crunching leaves, moved not so much by the election itself but by the fact that I had gone through the ritual without even a thought of being harassed or hurt, that the most dangerous thing about my voting that day was the possibility that one of the girls would wake up from their naps while I was gone and Andrew was on a conference call. We’re lucky, and what a relief that this election proved that reason, respect, and inclusiveness prevailed once more. Lucia and Greta are too little to understand any of this (I tried to explain the election to Lucia, but she digested only enough to occasionally say “Obama!” throughout the day), but I’m happy that their very first presidential election is one they can one day be proud of.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Snow and Fun at School

We got a snowstorm last night, a good three or so inches of snow. Lucia was beyond excited yesterday when the first flakes started falling. She was excited about the snow—but she was also certain that this meant Santa was coming imminently. Ever since Halloween ended, and I explained that Thanksgiving and Christmas were coming up, she’s been exclaiming “Santa is coming!! I want Santa Claus!” at random moments. I’m not sure where she’s picked up this fascination/excitement over Santa. I’ve mentioned Santa to her a few times, but I haven’t made a big deal out of it (it’s only November 8!), so she either remembers last year’s Christmas (unlikely) or is just picking up on the pervasive cultural explosion of Christmas now that the Halloween stuff is gone from windows and stores.

Anyway, when she woke up to see the world covered in snow this morning, she squealed and shouted that she wanted to go outside to make snowballs. First, though, she had preschool. I took someone’s helping-mommy shift today because I knew our regular teacher wasn’t going to be there and that Lucia’s class was going to join another class—I worried that this would be upsetting for Lucia, who loves school but who also expects the day to unfold in a certain way. But I needn’t have worried. After a few confused questions about where her teacher was, Lucia traipsed off to play, mesmerized by new toy options and jumping up to volunteer to help the new teacher. At some point I’m going to have to retire my idea of Lucia as a shy, quiet kid. During a song about colors today, when the teacher pointed out some purple on Lucia’s dress, which featured a picture of a deer, Lucia shouted, “I saw a deer in our backyard!!” (which we did, last week). She jumped at the chance to ring the bell for clean-up time. She called after a little boy who wasn’t getting in line after gym time: “Come on, Jack!” She ran across the room to watch when the teacher popped popcorn at snacktime. She just loves being at preschool, and is a model student—she loves playing with the toys in the classroom, but she’s not one of the kids who won’t settle and focus when it’s time for organized activities. That’s the point of preschool for her, I think. She likes circle time, lining up, singing the songs. She just might be the perfect blend of Andrew and me—just outgoing enough to have fun and talk to people, just nerdy and introverted enough to get straight-A’s and be perfectly behaved.

And Greta? Tonight Greta toddled barefoot around the house wearing a pink velour track suit and a few strands of Mardi Gras beads, sometimes hurrying up to me with a book to read, other times rummaging determinedly through a bin of toys. I just imagine Greta running at top speed into preschool, ready for anything. Whether she displays any quiet, Margo-ish traits remains to be seen.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Trick-or-Treating by Flashlight

At two this afternoon, we finally lost power. It seemed like a fated thing, long overdue, after hearing the laments of still-power-less neighbors from the other half of the block for the past seven days. I was rocking Greta when suddenly there was silence—her white-noise machine just died. I heard a beep of something shutting down. From the kitchen, silence.

And so, tonight, we went trick-or-treating in pitch blackness. All we could see of the (few) trick-or-treaters who ventured to our block were flashlight beams; the only signal candy-offering houses could give was a candle or lantern in the window. It was truly eerie, the street absolutely dark; Lucia kept pointing out the stars in the sky. We left a bowl of candy on our porch while we were out, and our house was truly Halloween-y: yesterday we carved our two biggest pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, and their glowing, jagged-tooth faces looked spectacular against the fully dark night.

Lucia was very brave in these extraordinary trick-or-treating conditions. She donned her ghost costume excitedly, chose her plastic pumpkin as her candy bag, and off we went. (Greta also wore a ghost costume, but she stayed snug in the stroller.) I am very pleased with how my very first homemade Halloween costumes for the girls turned out—white-fleece ghost robes with a felt-letter BOO! sewn onto the front. Lucia glided with me to each house and gave a loud, enthusiastic “Trick or treat!!” to whatever neighbor opened the door. She was thrilled to get candy. “I have so many treats!!” she said each time. “My pumpkin is full!!” We went to about six houses before she declared herself tired and ready to go home. The whole way home, she kept saying, “Treats! I LOVE trick-or-treating! Hooray! Hooray!” (Unfortunately, the influence of a much-loved Halloween episode of Dora also came through, as she said several times, “We did it! We did it! Lo hicimos!”)

Lo and behold, our power went on shortly after we walked in the door. (Ours turned out to be a planned outage as repairs were going on; our unlucky neighbors’ houses are still dark and cold.) I had to bribe the girls back into their costumes for a few pictures. All in all, a very interesting suburban trick-or-treating experience. Lo hicimos!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Five Years: A Recounting

***Today, November 10, we got our internet back--it went out the day of the storm. I wrote some blog posts over the past two weeks and will post them now. Blogger allows me to retroactively date them.***

Today is my and Andrew’s five-year wedding anniversary. To mark the day, here is our marriage so far, in numbers:

5 years of marriage

1 real wedding

3 exchanges of vows (legal; symbolic; official Catholic)

2 kids

2 cars (now 1)

6 apartments in 6 cities (Citrus Heights, CA; Sacramento, CA; Roseville, CA; New York, NY [temporary housing]; Brooklyn, NY; Maplewood, NJ)

3 states (CA, NY, NJ)

2 interstate moves (CA to NY, NY to NJ)

countless weekend trips (pre-kids)

3 trips to the ER (Andrew: kidney stones, sliced finger; Lucia: tick)

1 major surgery (Margo: C-section)

1 historic election (2008)

2 hurricanes (Irene, Sandy)

Immeasurable happiness. Happy anniversary, dearest!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The Storm for Us

Somehow, we got through the storm unscathed. We never lost power, and all of the beautiful trees in our yard stayed standing. We are lucky. Next door, and down the rest of the block, power is still out. (Two neighbors have strung extension cords to our outdoor outlets.) A gigantic tree a little ways down our street was uprooted and is still blocking the road; it took down an entire power-line pole, and the line was still live yesterday. Just up the street from us, as well as over one block, enormous trees were uprooted and fell over onto houses. A neighbor told us that a couple of blocks away, a tree split a house's second and third stories in half. So, we are lucky. Friends came over yesterday to charge phones and warm up (she's eight months pregnant; they have two other kids; still no power). We, on the other hand, went to Home Depot to buy paint--Andrew's office is closed for the rest of the week so we decided to undertake a home-improvement project, painting the "rec room" in the basement. Like I said--lucky.

We don't have TV or internet service, and we haven't gotten a newspaper all week, so we feel oddly cut off from the storm and everything else, our world barely larger than our neighborhood. This is very frustrating since the election is Tuesday, but also somewhat liberating; I'm at a cafe right now while Lucia's in preschool, catching up on news online, and reading the latest from Nate Silver made my blood pressure spike. (For just a moment I felt like I was back in 2008, hours slipping away as I refreshed and refreshed and refreshed various news sites, starving for any scrap of new information. In 2008, I did not have kids.)

Anyway. We have nothing to complain about. We are happy and warm and well-fed. Our house was a true fortress during the storm, too--we barely heard the wind, and there weren't even any rattling windows. It's a house that's built to last.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Birthdays, in a Nutshell

Lucia and Greta both had lovely birthdays this year. The biggest storm in all of recorded history is apparently hitting New Jersey sometime soon, so I thought I’d post a quick recap before we’re plunged into the Dark Ages and have to boil water on our grill and subsist on granola bars and bananas.

Andrew’s mom was here in the morning on Lucia’s birthday, so we did a little party at lunchtime. Lucia had requested a purple cake, which I made for her. Granted, it was a store-bought cake, with store-bought icing and a “flavor packet” of raspberry something or other (the only purple option), but Andrew had been in Germany up until late the night before—so I consider it an accomplishment that I managed even a boxed cake. Lucia, of course, did not care, as long as it was cake. She blew out her candles and opened her gifts. The helium balloons were her hands-down favorite part of her birthday. (When they lost helium the next day, she kept saying she wanted her balloons to be “up in the sky.”)

I also made cookies for Lucia’s preschool class. A veritable baker, I was.

My parents were here for Greta’s big day, and we had a post-nap celebration—lots of gifts, and a delicious carrot cake made by Andrew (and Lucia) that afternoon. Greta was very excited to get her very own chair, as well as her very own princess crown. And she had a little slice of cake, her very first taste of dessert. Of course she loved it.

Then the girls donned their princess crowns and went outside to play in our gigantic leaf pile.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Letter to Greta: 1 Year

Dear Little Banana,

You are one! It is hard to believe that a year ago today we met you for the first time—you strong, healthy baby whose heart-rate tracings were always the best of the best when we spent that month together in the hospital, before you were born. It’s hard to remember a time when you weren’t with us.

You are a determined, happy little sweetie. You laugh loud and often and have begun demonstrating your happiness with an ear-splitting scream. You exhibit your gap-toothed smile liberally, charming friends and others. You seem to have very little fear of strangers, though if you suddenly look up and find yourself surrounded by strangers with me nowhere in sight, you burst into tears. (This has happened approximately twice, during our playgroup, when I’ve simply stepped out of your line of vision for a moment.) You seem, for the most part, fearless—trying to climb slides and steps that are far too large for you, crawling at top speed toward whatever catches your eye.

All you want is to keep up with your sister. You’re getting old enough now that you can play, in some ways, or at least chew on the toys Lucia is playing with. You love walking around with your toy stroller, though you can’t go very fast yet. The other day you were following Lucia, who was pushing her own stroller, when suddenly you began crying mournfully. I couldn’t figure out why you were upset—but then Lucia stopped, turned around, and said, “I will wait for you, Greta.” You immediately stopped crying, determinedly pushed your stroller along toward Lucia, and the stroller-train continued.

You still eat vast quantities of food. This morning—the morning of your birthday—you ate a large bowl of Fage yogurt mixed with two tablespoons of applesauce; half an apple; and two pancakes. For lunch you had an entire tofu and cream cheese sandwich. You ate an entire slice of your birthday carrot cake. Dinner was cheese cubes, four sliced grapes, half a piece of toast, and a good serving of rotisserie chicken.

It’s no wonder, then, that you seem to be skipping the 12-month size of clothes entirely. You outgrew your 9-month summer things, but the 12-month pants make your legs look like little sausages, and they all stop short of your ankles. You are sneaky, littlest one. You know that if you grow into a size in a different season than Lucia wore it in, you’ll get your own brand-new wardrobe. All of our 18-month clothes are summer clothes, so you now get some new winter clothes of your own. You are growing like a cute little weed.

You are still nursing, but you’re definitely losing interest, and I have a feeling that weaning you won’t be too hard at all. You’re still waking up once a night, but sleeping to a decent 7:00am. You love taking baths. You are nearly impossible to dress and diaper-change, twisting and fussing and writhing—you are an easygoing baby in all areas but this.

You have a Bibi now—a white-with-teddy-bears sleepsack, just like your sister’s. You sleep with it, and carry it around, and snuggle it when you lift it to your face. If you see it on the ground, you crawl right over to it. When I put you into your crib, you cover your face with it, resulting in a little tug of war as I try to put it into a safer spot before I leave the room.

You’re coming into your own, sweet one. You took three tiny tiny steps this week, to get a puzzle piece of a donkey that Daddy was holding out, and true walking can’t be far off. I can’t wait till you start talking and we can see what’s going on in that quick little mind. In the meantime, we can just enjoy holding you, our snuggly baby bundle. We can’t imagine our family without you.

Favorite activities: pushing the toy stroller up and down the driveway, playing in the playhouse, putting things into bags/boxes/buckets, carrying around the wooden dollhouse dolls, pulling newspapers out of the newspaper pile, emptying the recycling bags like a raccoon, throwing (sort of) balls, snuggling various stuffed animals, run-cruising along the couch and scream-laughing as I “chase” you

Favorite books: Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See, Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin, 123 Ducks, Goodnight Gorilla, Pat the Bunny, Barnyard Dance, Snuggle Puppy, Bunny’s Noisy Book, Moo Baa La La La, Goodnight Moon

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Squirrels and Pumpkins

Our lovely little village is not exactly wilderness, but these days it seems sometimes like we’re truly living “in the country.” We haven’t seen them for a while, but a family of wild turkeys was visiting our yard each morning this summer. Lucia would spot them from the window and shout “Turkeys! The turkeys are here!” We’d watch them trot through our backyard and then hop into someone else’s.

We have a lot of chipmunks, which, since I don’t have a garden, I think are quite adorable. Last week we watched one snacking on all the crumbs I’d swept off the porch. He was nibbling very close to us, in the unlandscaped dirt right in front of our house.

We have raccoons. Our trash cans have to be locked in our garage lest we wake in the morning to a garbage-strewn yard. I haven’t actually seen a raccoon, but I’ve seen the aftermath.

We have weird jumping crickets in the basement, a stink bug here and there, and very very big spiders.

And we have squirrels. Lots and lots of squirrels. Armies of squirrels. They run through our yard, down our walkway, up into our trees. They jump onto our porch to eat leftover bits of lunch—I learned quickly to take our lunch dishes inside immediately. Before I learned that lesson, a squirrel gnawed the top off one of Lucia’s sippy cups, which had been filled with milk. Ick. At the duck pond, squirrels will jump onto the stroller if any snacks or bread are lying unsecured. This is a bit too much squirrel for my taste.

Lucia thinks the squirrels are cute, and always waves and calls out a greeting when she spots one—“Hi, squirrel! Mama, he’s visiting us!” Indeed. But now that we have a veritable pumpkin patch on our porch steps, the squirrels have become unwelcome—even unsettling—intruders, even for squirrel-loving Lucia. We went outside one morning this week to find a few bites had been taken out of a pumpkin. Each day, more bites. This morning, an entire side of a pumpkin had been bashed in and gnawed through—it looked gruesome, like a smashed skull. Very Halloween-y. And then, later in the day, another pumpkin ravaged. Pumpkin pulp and seeds have been all over our steps all week.

Andrew has chased squirrels off our steps and into the yard; they don’t care. I run outside when I see them, yell at them, stamp my feet—they just sit on the steps and look at me. They are fat, and big, and I really don’t want to get too close. “My pumpkins!” Lucia wailed today when she saw the damage. “I don’t want the squirrels to eat my pumpkins!” It is pretty nightmarish.

On the advice of a friend, Andrew poured white vinegar over the pumpkins tonight. We’ll see if we can save the rest.

We did not have these problems in Brooklyn. (Of course, we didn’t have ginormous pumpkins, either.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Fear of the Dark and Other New Things

Some changes are afoot with our girls, one newly three years old, the other on the cusp of one.

Just this week, Lucia has become afraid of the dark. For a while now, when I turn off the light at bedtime, she’s been saying, “I can’t see. It’s dark.” I always reassure her that it’s okay, that it’s time to go to sleep and she doesn’t need to see. Lately, though, she’s wanted me to keep her door open while I sing her a song so that light from the hallway comes in, and then she started asking to keep the door open, period. And then two days ago she had a bedtime meltdown, refusing to get into her crib; Andrew managed to calm her down and told me afterward that she seemed truly distressed. So I went out the next day and bought her an adorable mushroom night light, which she loves. She is so happy that she can see all her animals. When we turned it on the first night, she exclaimed, “It’s wonderful!” (Now I just have to remember to pack it up along with the animals, and the white-noise machine, and her blanket, and etc etc when we go on trips.)

Greta, for her part, has learned the art and mystery of throwing food off her high-chair tray. Greta has always been such an eager, voracious eater that I don’t think it ever occurred her to put food somewhere other than her mouth; but when we’ve eaten lunch on the porch the past couple of days, I’ve watched as she daintily picks up a tiny square of sandwich and simply drops it over the side. Then she’ll eat a few pieces; then she’ll drop a few pieces. She likes to lean way, way over to the side, gazing down at the food she’s dropped. Gravity! Lucia always scurries over, picks up the pieces, and throws them off the porch “for the birds,” so Greta surely thinks this is a little game.

Ever since Greta renounced baby food and started eating regular stuff, I’ve been able to count on the fact that she'll eat pretty much everything. And she still will, as long as what she’s eating involves bread, cheese, and fruit. Suddenly gone is her willingness to devour an adult-sized portion of macaroni: she’ll lift a spiral to her mouth only to have it meet her outstretched, horrified tongue. Then she’ll throw it to the ground. Last night she looked at her spirals-with-butter-and-cheese with such revulsion that you’d think she just wasn’t hungry. Then Andrew made her a grilled cheese sandwich. She ate the entire thing, as well as some baby carrots. It seems my good eater is entering—sigh—a picky phase. Et tu, Grets?

Speaking of Greta, she’s onto the pacifier. Until the past couple of weeks, she liked it at naptime and bedtime, and otherwise couldn’t care less. Now…she wants it. She usually puts it in upside down when she does it herself, but she doesn’t seem to care. If she spots one, she moves right over to it. I’d rather it not become a habit, but frankly, it’s making my life a little easier, because when she has the paw-paw in her mouth, she doesn’t try to eat stones and clumps of grass. Today, after pulling one too many globs of dirt from her mouth when we were playing outside (she is sneaky, and fast), I went inside and got her the pacifier myself.

Finally, teeth. I’ve found a more-or-less reliable way to get Lucia not to fuss when we do teeth-brushing at night: we choose an animal that she must “teach” to brush teeth, and the way she teaches is to show the animal how she lets me (or Andrew) brush her teeth without fussing. This is fine, but by the end of the day I’m tired, yet I find myself engaged in exchanges like this one, which I had tonight with Lucia and a new, tiny stuffed pig Andrew brought her from Germany. This is me speaking, except when it’s the pig: “Oink, oink. Okay, backs of the top. Great job, Lucia! Oink, oink! Other side, backs. Great work! What’s next? Oink, bottoms. Oink oink. Now my [the pig] favorite part: allll around the tops! [pig twirls around] Aallllll around the bottoms! [pig twirls around]. Oink oink oink!!!” Is it parenting, or is it lunacy?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Letter to Lucia: 3 Years

Dear Little Big Girl,

“Big girl” is what you call yourself these days, when you use the potty and pull up your own pants or do something else independently. Indeed, you’ve taken a lot of big-girl steps in the past few months. You’re almost totally potty trained now, except for nighttime; when we go out, I don’t even worry about accidents anymore, as you seem unfazed by public restrooms (and have proven to have the blad der of a camel). I always ask you if you need to go before we leave the house, and you invariably say no, then follow up with a worried “Will there be a potty there?”

You love preschool, and you haven’t even cried at drop-off the past two times. You are always excited to report what you did at school—particularly that you rode a scooter and in one of those Little Tikes cars during gym time—and practically burst with pride when you show me your art project from the day. At home, you talk a lot about school, and when we play with your (amazing, fantastic, vintage collection of) Little People, the children always do exactly what you do in school. “Now it’s time for snack,” you say. “Now it’s time for gym.” The Little People eat a lot of Cheddar Bunnies and Goldfish.

Now, on the cusp of three, you are dabbling in the world of princesses, thanks to an episode of Olivia that you love—and, I admit, thanks also to my purchases of a tiara (lined with pink fur) and a tutu at a yard sale. You adore your “crown,” and even wear it sometimes in the car when we go places. You have worn it to the grocery store and the playground, and brought it to preschool for show-and-tell. It doesn’t go any further than this—no princess play-acting—and I’m heartened that this might be the beginning of your (inevitable) love of dress-up, in which, until now, you’ve shown zero interest. Let the dress-up-clothes collecting begin!

Though it was not a birthday gift, you got a playhouse this week, which I got for free from someone moving out of state. You love it. Love it. Greta loves it too, and you like to stand together at the table inside, having a snack. You like opening and closing the windows, and stuffing the mailbox slot with grass.

Your very favorite thing in the world at age three—besides your Bibi—is your doll, once called Dolly but now more often called your Baby. She goes most places with us, and you talk to her and play with her like she is truly alive. She is a curious stand-in for Greta, and you care for her exactly as I do Greta; you rock her, nurse her, feed her in a high chair, change her diaper, exclaim that her diaper is “really stinky!”, teach her to walk, observe that she’s “getting big,” etc. Your birthday gifts this year are very much doll-focused. I made Dolly a sleep sack (her own Bibi, which you’ve repeatedly asked for) and a sleeper; found a bunch of new clothes for her at a yard sale; and bought a doll pack-and-play this summer at that amazing church rummage sale. You are getting a doll Ergo and a doll high chair that had been in our attic in Connellsville.

Dolls and princesses—who is this child of mine? I take heart in that you spent most of this afternoon digging in the dirt and stacking found-stones in the overgrown, leaf-strewn, chipmunk-housing “island” in the middle of our circular driveway.

Unfortunately, you’ve ended your second year of life with an explosion of defiance and meltdowns this week—completely uncharacteristic these days. We’ve had weeks and weeks of pleasantness (not every second is wonderful, but most days are fun and good); but your dad went to Germany this week for work and was gone for seven full days, and though your Nina (Andrew’s mom, for unfamiliar readers) was here to help me, your world seemed tilted on its edge, and so you tilted too. Regular things—getting dressed; brushing teeth; being quiet while Greta nursed before her nap—blew up dramatically. (A saving grace: The outbursts were directed at me, not Greta. So that’s something.) Will you want details of these days, how they left me frayed? Will I want them? Or are these the sorts of days a mother is meant to forget, so that one day I’ll look back—as all moms seem to, moms who are out of the young-kid trenches—and miss this time? Because I have to admit that in the back of my mind the past few days, as you neared your birthday, was the thought that each day closer to three is a day closer to a time when you’re NOT three.

But let’s focus on better times, which, fortunately, are what we usually have. Your use of “Actually” and “Otherwise.” Your love of running in (tiny) circles, naked, in the (dungeon-like) shower stall before your bath, singing “Twinkle Twinkle” or just loudly singing a made-up tune. Your funny, intentional mispronunciation of things you’re not exactly sure of—like your teacher, Mrs. Malloy, whom you call “Mrs. Noy” with a little smile to gauge my reaction.

And so you are three. Happy birthday, big girl. May it be a year of crowns and dolls and dress-up. And patience. Lots of that.

Favorite activities/toys: play food, felt bags from Target, Dolly, vintage Little People (especially the blonde mama and a little brown-haired girl), playhouse, playgrounds, sit-and-spin, going to New Hampshire, tiny cubes, princess crown, instruments, listening to music in the car, the song “Ram Sam Sam” from Music Together

Favorite books: Olivia books, Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes, Dorrie and the Blue Witch, Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes, Chicken Soup with Rice (Sendak), Toot and Puddle—You Are My Sunshine