Monday, April 30, 2012

Cousin Luca

Last weekend, we drove down to Maryland to meet Luca, our new nephew. Lucia was very excited to meet Cousin Luca, especially since the trip also included time with Aunt Molly, Uncle Ian, Gra, and Pop-Pop.

This was the first big trip we’d taken with both kids, and it wasn’t easy. Lucia was great in the car, but Greta spent much of the time screaming. In the middle of a long screaming session, Andrew made a left turn in a bus lane when we got to Silver Spring and got pulled over instantly; I leaned over to the window and told the cop that please, we really couldn’t stop, we had to feed the baby. It wasn’t even a lie; Greta was desperate. He told Andrew to be more careful and let us go.

In the hotel, however, things were better. We’d gotten two adjoining rooms and put the two pack-and-plays in one of them—and Greta slept better than she has for weeks, waking up just once at 3:30 to nurse. It was bliss.

Cousin Luca was, of course, the star. He felt as light as a feather compared to grown-up Greta. After lots of prodding and arranging, we managed to get a picture of the cousins together. Super-cute, all. This is a funny picture because I really don’t think they look anything like one another. Each is her (or his) own little person.

The drive back was horrendous—lots of rain, lots of Greta meltdowns—but the weekend was a success .

Friday, April 27, 2012

Letter to Greta: 6 Months

Dear Littlest One,

Have you really been with us for six months? It seems like we just brought you home from the hospital, a squalling (or, in your case, snorting) newborn. Because you are the second child, I see you as a baby—a much younger baby than you actually are. You surprise me constantly with the things you do. There is no time for me to guide you through each milestone; you just get there on your own, casually. You’re going to crawl across the room one of these days, before I know it.

This month has, unfortunately, brought about a disastrous turn in your sleeping. From the very beginning, you were a good night sleeper—but in the past six weeks or so, you’ve started waking up more (two or three times a night), and, worse, staying awake. You’re in a mini-crib right next to our bed, so if you’re awake, I’m awake. You kick your legs into the air and slam them down; you toss from side to side so that the zipper on your sleep sack bangs against the crib; you shriek and screech; you chew loudly on your hands. We are exhausted. This week, your naps have also devolved. You’ve been taking two real naps (1-2 hours around 9:00am; 2+ hours at 1:00pm) and sometimes a quick third nap around 5:00pm. But this week that afternoon nap has suffered. I blame teething. You are restless, cranky, drooly.

It’s very hard on me when you don’t take that afternoon nap. That’s my only time alone during the day—Lucia either naps or plays in her crib, you’re supposed to sleep, and I get to do whatever it is I need to do. It’s been a very long week. My days without that nap are endless. Not that I don’t love holding you, because I do. But when you get up at six and your daddy doesn’t get home till six or later, that’s a twelve-hour day of baby-tending and baby-holding, executed simultaneously with a twelve-hour day of toddler-entertaining and toddler-managing. My back and neck are so sore as to be nearly immobile.

Aside from these sleep troubles, you truly are a delightful little cutie. You are usually nothing but smiles—big, whole-face smiles. You smile and laugh at Lucia. Yesterday, at a friend’s house, when Lucia and another little girl were screaming and laughing hysterically as they jumped on a bed, you, too, began to laugh and scream—an activity you could join! You like to hang out on your tummy, watching what’s going on. You like chewing on your toes. You like chewing on Sophie the Giraffe and various other teethers. You like screeching at the top of your lungs, ear-splittingly. You like to grab hair and faces. You can roll from tummy to back and back to tummy. You are starting to sit (propped on your hands) for a minute or two. You scoot backwards when you’re on your belly, and you’re trying to get your knees up under you. You like to stand up with us supporting you. You like your activity saucer (especially the things you can reach and chew).

Six months begins our feeding adventure. You are still nursing a lot—I don’t keep track of how many times per day, but it seems like a lot; you like to fall asleep nursing at naptime and bedtime, sometimes. But you are fully ready for solid food. Rice cereal is first. It will get better from there. The pictures accompanying this post are you as a breastmilk-only baby—all that chubbiness, those fat thighs; that was all me, little one. Not one bit of anything else has ever crossed your lips. Let the feeding begin!

Monday, April 16, 2012

No Break to the Madness

Saturday we spent the morning at Prospect Park; we got lunch at the farmer’s market, set out a blanket on the Great Lawn, and just enjoyed being outside. Lucia and Andrew kicked a ball around; Lucia collected various things; Greta chewed on various things.

Saturday night, we bravely ventured out for dinner—not too far, of course, just to a nearby pizza place. It went pretty well, though as the meal progressed and the restaurant got busier, Lucia got a bit overexcited. Happily, this restaurant has a big window where kids can watch the pizzas being made, and the chefs hand over small balls of dough for the kids to play with. Of course, Lucia loved this.

We’d taken the double stroller, and Lucia refused to get on for the walk home, solidifying our resignation that we’re going to have to buy a “real” double stroller at some point (i.e., a stroller into which we can firmly strap an uncooperative child). By the time we got everyone home and bathed and in bed, we were exhausted. We both had a panic-inducing reality check when I pointed out that this day—variations on it, but more or less the same—is every day of our lives for at least the next two years. There. Is. No. Break. To. The. Madness.

Sunday, after relaxing at home for a while, we decided to drive out to Brighton Beach. It was a gorgeous day; but by the water it was windy and chilly, so we only sat on the sand for a little while. We again braved a restaurant and had a Russian lunch at a restaurant on the boardwalk. We sat outside despite the wind, and both Lucia and Greta were completely mellow for the whole meal. Andrew ordered a beer and actually was able to enjoy it. Of course, as soon as he said, “I could sit here all day!” both girls remembered who they were and began fussing (Greta) and whipping napkins into the air (Lucia) and we quickly got the bill.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Letter to Lucia: 30 Months

Dear Little One,

Two and a half! Halfway through two! This is a big one. You’re getting so grown up. You have a mind of your own, which is usually fun (the things you say!) and occasionally enraging (the tantrums you throw!). We have high highs and low lows. There are days we spend playing and giggling, and there are days that leave me weary. Twice in the past month I’ve had to turn the TV on in the morning or afternoon to calm either you or I out of a rage. You can be insistent and intense, and usually I can handle it. But your little sister hasn’t been sleeping very well, and sometimes I just can’t get past the exhaustion.

Fortunately, most of the time, we have fun. I say “we,” because we do plenty of playing together—tea parties, reading books, Play-Doh, play food. But this month you have really been playing a lot on your own. I’m always near you, in the same room, ready to comment or participate; but you are very often completely absorbed in your own little world. This world involves many different things, including small Play-Doh balls, and stones, seeds, and sticks you’ve collected from outside. You transfer these things among different vessels, carry them to different parts of the room, hide them under pillows, push them in your stroller or shopping cart—I’m not sure what’s going on in your head, but it is all-consuming for you. You also play with your doll and stuffed animals, as real for you as ever.

You love to sing and dance. You like to pull out your Little People farm and press the button that plays “Farmer in the Dell”; “Watch me dance!” you shout, and then you dance around the room. You sing to yourself all the time, songs I didn’t realize you knew. Sometimes, when you’re supposed to be napping, I hear you singing quietly in your crib. When I sing to Greta during her naptime, you now sing along. And you always stand by her crib and sing “Twinkle Twinkle” to her before we leave the room. This seems to be one of your favorite parts of the day. This isn’t to say you don’t get distracted. Yesterday, in the middle of a loud rendition, you suddenly raised your hand to your shoulder and pointed your elbow out. “Twinkle twinkle little star…Mama, look at my elbow!” you said. I cracked up. You kept singing, stopping once or twice more to demand that I look at your elbow.

This was a big month because we said goodbye to paw-paw. I am shocked that the transition was so easy. There have been consequences—slightly more tantrums, and longer ones; and a bit more misbehavior. But that misbehavior is often just a too-much version of general impishness, which has also increased—you seem more kidlike without paw-paw, more demanding and inventive, as though you’re coming into your own. You are more interested in playing with other kids, even now asking excitedly if we’ll see certain little friends when we go to the park or the playground. You are still napping, and still sleeping at night. You are, also, still carrying paw-paw around with you. It has become a security object, inseparable from Bibi, which is kind of a pain because it often gets lost. (I need to work out a way to attach it to a stuffed animal or something like that.) Paw-paw, for you, is real in some ways; a few weeks ago, you told me that during your nap you’d snuggled paw-paw—“Like this,” you said, nuzzling it against your cheek. Then you kissed it. This is both cute and heartbreaking. But you truly seem unaffected by the transition. I am amazed, and relieved.

You seem more attached to Greta these days. “Where’s my sister?” is often the first thing you say when you wake up. Sometimes I’ll ask if you want to come with me when I go into another room for a moment, and you’ll say, “No. I stay right here with my sister.” You like to give her toys to play with. When she fusses or does a raptor screech, you bring over a paw-paw and put it into her mouth. You are always aware of where she is and what she’s doing. Of course, there are still jealous times, and times in the late afternoon when you do things you know full well you shouldn’t—like run at full speed very close to where she’s lying on the floor, or walking up too close to her (“No feet on Greta” is something I have to say a bit too often), or throwing things near her, or poking her cheek with your finger, all the while watching me for my reaction. But generally you coexist affectionately.

Favorite things to do: watching Olivia, reading books, Play-Doh, tea parties, collecting/arranging/sorting stones/sticks/seeds, swinging, arranging/sorting your Mardi Gras beads, wearing sunglasses, serving play-food desserts

Favorite books: Clever Jack Takes the Cake, Madeline, Llama Llama Mad at Mama, Elmo’s Big Book of Firsts, Henry in Love, Fancy Nancy

Sunday, April 08, 2012

I Want to Find More Eggs!

It was a fun Easter this year. The holidays keep getting more entertaining as Lucia becomes more aware of them, and I know they’ll only get more fun once Greta gets into them, too. This year’s Easter celebration started on Friday, when some friends and I organized an egg hunt for our two-year-olds at the park. Lucia had a great time. While a couple of the other kids preferred to just run around the park, Lucia set out with a singular focus: to collect eggs in her new bunny bucket. She loved finding them; she was less interested in opening them. And, of course, an interesting stick was the best thing of all.

Saturday, we went out to Coney Island with friends to play in the sand. Lucia was so excited to be at the beach, and she immediately pulled off her socks and shoes and ran to the water—only to find that it was painfully cold. Once we warmed up her toes and got her shoes back on, she had fun playing in the sand and collecting shells in her bucket.

Saturday night, I put together the girls’ Easter baskets (well, buckets), and then Andrew and I hid eggs for Lucia around the living room. I was quite pleased with the things I’d collected for Easter-egg and Easter-basket treasures this year: some adorable Squinkies; a set of mini teacups and saucers, with matching teapot; a selection of play-food desserts and cookies (still milking that shipment from eBay!); Hello Kitty in bunny costume (and a lamb costume for Greta); and a few treats from my parents, including new books, sunglasses, a rattle and rubber rabbit/duck for Greta, and tiny bottles of bubble stuff. And, of course, a tiny bit of candy: few small Reese’s peanut-butter eggs.

An aside: Andrew took exception to my Easter cheer, claiming that Easter gifts were ludicrous, unnecessary, and overly indulgent (my words, but you get the gist). I took exception to his exception. I always got small gifts for Easter—nothing big or expensive; just cute, small, special things. I still have a set of tiny, wonderful Easter beanbags in the shapes of bunnies, lambs, and chicks that must be at least twenty years old. Surely I’m not the only one who likes to give a few gifts at Easter? I can’t be: when I went out to buy the girls’ Easter-themed Hello Kittys, I had to go to two toy stores to find them, since they were all sold out at the first. And to be fully honest, though I knew Lucia would love her Hello Kitty (and that Greta will too, someday), the gift was for me, too; buying Hello Kittys (and other items) for two small girls is a part of mothering I love. Is that so wrong?

Lucia was thrilled with her basket, but the true highlight for her was the living-room egg hunt. “I want to find more eggs!” she kept saying. She seemed very sad when all the eggs had been found, until we suggested she could now play with what was in the eggs. We spent the rest of the morning having tea parties, watching Lucia fill her tiny teacups with chocolate eggs and Squinkies, listening to Greta's raptor screeches, and arranging play-food desserts on plates.

We went to the playground, where Lucia pushed Easter Hello Kitty on the swings and taught her how to go down the slide.

Both girls napped. We met Baby Luca via Skype. Andrew cooked a ham and potatoes au gratin; I made corn bread. I took Lucia out for an ice-cream cone while dinner cooked. We blew bubbles outside on the stoop.

We all ate dinner together, Greta in the Ergo with me at the table, doing her best to stay awake but occasionally nodding off into my chest.

It was truly a lovely Easter.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Big Day for All

Today was a big day in our household. First, it was a big day for Lucia: the first time we’ve left her with a babysitter for a long period of time. We had to go out to NJ today for our home inspection, definitely not something a toddler could sit peaceably through, so I found a sitter for her. I was extremely nervous about this event. I had the sitter come for two hours yesterday, so Lucia could get familiar with her. I typed out tons of instructions. Early in the week I ordered a DVD of Olivia episodes to make sure Lucia could watch her show as usual without the sitter having to figure out our ridiculously complicated on-demand cable thing. I showed the sitter where everything was both yesterday and today. I emphasized, many times, the importance of keeping track of Bibi and paw-paw, so much so that before I left today she looked around a bit nervously to make sure she knew where they were. We were leaving Lucia for six hours. (We took Greta with us.)

To my surprise, Lucia was fine. She didn’t cry when we left, and didn’t cry when we were gone. She didn’t sleep at naptime, but she did talk and play in her crib peacefully. She ate her lunch. When we got home she was happy to see us, but she seemed more or less unaffected. This was a huge relief. It was a very strange feeling to drive away this morning without her. I felt like I was leaving my child utterly alone in this enormous city, just little Lucia, playing with her sticks and Play-Doh balls while the city hovered over her. Andrew, of course, thought I was being ridiculous. And it was all fine in the end.

It was a big day for us, too, going through the home inspection. I can happily report that the house passed the inspection handily. It’s been standing for over a century, and will continue to stand. There are a couple of things we have to ask the seller to address, but they’re not alarming things by any means.

We were so happy for this chance to return to the house now that we know it’s ours. It’s even more wonderful than we remembered. There is just so much space, and so much potential. It will take years to do everything we want to do, but it’s wonderful even if we don’t get around to all those things. This house has soul. I can’t imagine living in any other house. We’re wondering now if we should try to move up our closing, just so we can move in faster. So what if there’s only one outlet in the kitchen? So what if there’s barely space to lay a toothbrush by the sink in the bathroom? So what if every bathroom fixture is a dark Band-Aid pink? It’s ours. It feels like us; it looks like us. Soon we’ll be drinking wine on the front porch, the kids asleep upstairs. (Upstairs!)

Today was also a big day for Molly and Ian, who welcomed Baby Luca into the world this morning. Lucia and Greta’s first cousin!

A day to celebrate on all fronts.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Spare a Crumb, Ma’am?

Greta’s interest in food has intensified lately to a degree that is almost ridiculous. This morning, Lucia and I were sitting at the table, eating breakfast, and Greta was sitting near us in her activity saucer. She was watching us so intently that she was barely even blinking. Just staring…staring…staring at us as we lifted food to our mouths. Later today, I sat near her as I ate a yogurt, and she looked at me with such a doleful expression on her face that I actually felt guilty for eating it in front of her. And later, as I had yet another snack—this time a meal-snack of two large pieces of quiche—while sitting next to her on the couch, with her propped up on a pillow, she made a lunge for the quiche, so forcefully that she toppled over into my lap. If I hadn’t been right there, she would have fallen off the couch.

When I eat in front of Greta these days, I feel like I’m stuffing my face with cake and ice cream and fried chicken and fresh bread while a Dickensian beggar-child looks in through the window. The worst part is that when she does get to eat solid food for the first time, in just two short weeks, she’ll get a delicious, satisfying taste of…rice cereal. It seems unfair. Lucia will be eating a waffle, Andrew and I will be eating pulled-pork sandwiches, and Greta will be eating gruel. It’s hard to be a baby…