We spent all last week in New Hampshire, a nearly eleven-day getaway that was truly the calm before the storm that is the next three weeks. Although both Lucia and Greta returned to their characteristic New Hampshire ways and rose god-awfully early in the morning (Greta reliably by 5:00am; Lucia by 6:30am), there’s something peaceful about rising with the sun up there, with nothing but quiet outside the windows, and the occasional pheasant in the yard.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Thursday, May 17, 2012
One of the reasons I love Park Slope is that it’s full of families. You can’t walk two feet without kicking a (thousand-dollar) stroller. Kids and parents are everywhere, and I’m sure I’ll never find an equal to this baby-raising community. Friendly conversations, commiserating smiles—it’s all great. But along with this massive collection of families is chaos and overcrowding—and I’m not even talking about schools, which is too far off in our lives to be a Reason but is certainly among the most important things driving us away from New York. Anyway, again I’m talking about playgrounds. It’s just too much. There are just too many kids. It’s overwhelming for me, not to mention Lucia. A playground nearby, which was being renovated for the past few months, opened this weekend; we’ve braved it twice, but it is just insane. It looks like some sort of gigantic event is going on—a kiddie rock concert, or something—but it’s just a regular day.
I’ve gotten wimpy now that I have two kids; there are some things I just won’t do. For example, though I’m sure Lucia would love the library’s Toddler Time, I can’t bring myself to go early to get in line for a ticket—a ticket for story time! This is city life. And it is, sadly, a reason to go.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
I haven’t been keeping up with my Reasons posts, but believe me, every day I write them in my head. Whenever I trip over something, or can’t find a place to put something, or experience something in the neighborhood that annoys or frustrates me, I tell myself I need to write about it on my blog. That hasn’t happened. I’ll try to be better, starting today.
Park Slope is an expensive neighborhood. And yet it is still full of trash. Some of it is just par for the course with city living, like the bags piled by the curb on trash day. But sometimes those bags break, spilling trash all over the sidewalk. When you have a toddler who likes to spot things on the sidewalk and add whatever it is to whatever collection she’s building, this is just not going to work. I look forward to not having to walk past bags of garbage when we move to the suburbs.
On one particularly outrageous morning at the playground, the playground workers hadn’t yet arrived to empty the trash cans and do a general cleanup, and I kid you not, there was so much trash that it was flying around and hitting children in the head. It was a windy day, and in one corner of the playground—obviously, and of course, the corner Lucia wanted to play in, since it has the best selection of sticks and stones—garbage swirled about like a tornado. Plastic bags. Chip bags. Soda bottles. Napkins. It just seems ridiculous to pay thousands of dollars in rent only to have my child forced to duck from flying debris as she tries to collect leaves. I never noticed how dirty the city was—or, at least, I never really cared—until I had kids and had to interact with the city on a low sidewalk level.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Today was a gloomy, rainy day, and Lucia and I spent a fun hour this afternoon painting for the first time. She loved it: dipping her brush in the paints, rinsing it in a cup of water, drawing on various sheets of construction paper. At one point, I went into the bathroom, and she followed me as she always does; but as soon as she entered the bathroom, she exclaimed, “I have painting to do!” and ran back to the living room.
Andrew got home from work late, and Lucia and I were already in her nursery, reading stories. But I asked her if she wanted to show her paintings to Daddy, and she was just so excited—she ran at top speed into the living room, and I could hear her excitedly showing Andrew each of her masterpieces, jabbering incomprehensibly about using a paintbrush and rinsing it in water and putting paint on the paper. Pretty cute.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
This weekend, Mom and Dad came for a quick visit, and we were fortunate enough to be able to arrange to show them our new house. Andrew and I were so excited for the trip—we hadn’t visited the house for many weeks, and no one besides us had seen it yet. We were anxious to show it off, and eager to hear confirmation that we’d made the right choice.
When we arrived at the house on Saturday morning, our broker wasn’t yet there, but cars were in the driveway. People approached us: the owner’s daughter, son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. They were at the house to do some work and packing and hadn’t known we were coming. It felt like an illicit meeting, pre-closing: should our lawyers have been present? were we trespassing? There is something inherently odd about the process of turning a house over to a new family, particularly when the house in question has been lived in by one family for so many years. Even if selling is the right or only thing to do (as it seems to be in this case, with an aging, widowed patriarch in a nursing home and grown children with lives and homes elsewhere), there must be some degree of suspicion or resentment about the new people moving in, taking over once-familiar rooms, planning changes, pointing out quirks (that stove! that wallpaper!) that aren’t quirks at all to those saying goodbye.
This house, especially, just seems so full of memories—it’s part of why we love it so much. Awkward as the meeting may have been for the family, they couldn’t have been nicer to us, and it was actually pretty great to be able to spend this little bit of time with the people who know the house best. We found out that big screened panels to enclose the front porch are stored in the rafters of the garage. We learned that the patriarch regularly repaired custom wooden window blinds that are stored in the attic if we would like to use them. We found out that the son is the one who used the cellar bathroom as a darkroom (we’d spotted photo-developing miscellany on our last visit), and that he used to repair Mustangs in the garage. We learned that he and his wife, during a graduate-school stint, lived for a couple of years on the third floor. They showed us an impressive collection of rakes and shovels in the garage, some repaired by hand—including a pitchfork with a sturdy tree branch as a handle. They pointed out where a garden used to be, a pole that had held a basketball hoop, bushes that tend to take over if not kept in check. They said they filled four dumpsters when they cleaned out the house.
The rooms are, for the most part, empty now. The clutter of these particular lives has been almost entirely erased.
Though the family were gracious and welcoming, we made as quick an exit as possible, aware that their minds were on the work to be done. Being there felt intrusive, somehow, as they tied up the loose ends to their home (and it is still theirs, very much theirs); if it were me, I’d have wanted badly to be left alone. And though the family were right there in front of us, sharing their memories, I also felt distinctly haunted, as though they weren’t there at all and we were instead conjuring a departed family’s history from forgotten yard tools, scuff marks on a wall, a footprint of a garden in the yard; wondering what they were like, how they’d lived, even as we filled the house with our own footsteps, dreams, plans.
Monday, May 07, 2012
We had visitors last week—Andrew’s sister and dad were here last weekend; his dad stayed on for the week; and then this past weekend we drove up to New Hampshire to open the house and enjoy our first blissful weekend away from it all. We were there only from Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, and a good bit of the first day was spent opening the house (i.e., Andrew and his dad cleaning out unmentionable awfulness while I sequestered the girls outside), but we still managed to take in some of the peace and rest we love so much.
We were outside nearly the entire time we were there—Lucia remembered lots of things from last summer, and though it was too cold to get out her swimming pool, she still got to swing, collect stones and dandelions, play with her ball hut, and ride around in her car and tractor. She could not have been any happier running around in the grass. Greta chose to celebrate our stay by beginning to sit up on her own for very long stretches (usually until she reaches too far forward for a toy and topples over). She happily played on a blanket in the grass. She did not choose to sleep very much at night, and, after another night of dreadful nonsleep last night, I am so tired I can barely function—I’ve been knocking things over all day as I walk around the apartment, as though I’m drunk.
A few pictures from the weekend, and then I’m off to bed, though I don’t know why I bother. I’m sure I’ll be up nursing Greta just at the moment when I’m drifting off into yearned-for sleep. She is nursing so much, and getting up so often, that I don’t know what to do. I started her on solids a week and a half ago, giving her rice cereal at dinnertime, and today I added in a lunch of carrots. She’s popping the snaps of her 6-month sleepers, so I can only assume this is some kind of insane growth spurt that will soon pass. And while I’m writing this disjointed, somewhat insane post, I’ll add that at her doctor’s appointment last week she weighed in at 15 pounds 11 ounces (50th percentile) and measured 27.5 inches (95th!!! percentile). She’s a good little grower, this one.
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Lucia has made it her job to sing “Twinkle Twinkle” to Greta every time she goes to sleep, two times a day for naptime and then again at bedtime. This means she spends a lot of time hanging out with me while I nurse Greta in our dark bedroom. I always sing to Greta while she nurses: a few renditions of “By and By,” then on to “Great Big Stars,” finishing up with “Rainbow Connection” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” before I begin rocking her to sleep to “Sleep, sleep, sleep sleepyhead…Sleep, sleep, snuggle in your bed…”
Once Greta stops fidgeting and starts getting drowsy, I put her down in her crib. This is Lucia’s cue to grip the top of the crib, hoist herself up so she’s standing on the mattress and looking down at Greta, and sing “Twinkle Twinkle.” When she’s finished, we both say “Shh…shh…” and leave the room.
Except leaving the room is not always easy. Because Lucia must hang out while Greta nurses, she’s taken to bringing a selection of snacks and toys with her into the bedroom, with which she entertains herself on the floor. Sometimes she carries in just a couple of things, like Bibi and paw-paw (yes, she’s still carrying it around) and her doll. Other times she brings in a bucket full of things—a few tiny Play-Doh balls, a handful of seeds, a few strands of beads, a tiny Little People pig. And sometimes I hear her moving about in the living room, gathering, and then I hear the wheels of her toy stroller careening toward the bedroom, and she’ll wheel in a frankly astounding collection of amusements. Sometimes the things she brings in make me pause in my singing to laugh out loud, like when she wheeled in a few of Greta’s teethers, some sticks, a finger puppet, a water bottle, a pantry’s worth of play food, the caps from our contact lens cases, and an empty lunchbox. She never fails to scatter these things all around her, and then she stretches out on Bibi and listens quietly to the songs.
When I transition to the final song, she jumps up and quickly picks up all of her things, returning them, for the most part, to her bucket or stroller. After our “Shh…shh,” she and I together scoop up what we can and slip from the room. It is a funny little sideshow to naptime and bedtime. Tonight at Greta’s bedtime, Lucia brought in no toys, but she was wearing only a diaper and spent the nursing time parading about with a “Bibi dress” and then shivering dramatically and whispering that she was cold. And little Greta just nurses away, her little eyes always somehow closing even when the “Twinkle Twinkle” is off-key.