Monday, August 27, 2012

Letter to Greta: 10 Months

Dear Littlest One,

Ten months! Close to a year! And aren’t you getting to be feisty in your soon-to-be-toddler age. No longer content to go along for the ride in our crazy household, you are increasingly making your own demands and protests, letting us know with screeches when you want—or don’t want—to do or have something. You are crawling fast, usually heading for a set of stairs, which you can now climb up (but not down). You climb onto the brown leather ottoman and sit there. You are standing for several seconds at a time without holding onto anything. And you are determinedly practicing your walking by pushing the lion push-toy around the yard. You are active and strong, and I have no doubt you’ll do your best to be walking as soon as possible.

You are becoming an increasing source of trouble for your big sister. You want whatever she has, and don’t hesitate to grab it; you want to do what she’s doing, even if it means trying to crawl onto her lap as she spins in the Sit n’ Spin. If she’s playing with something, you will crawl over and onto it. You have one focus during our days together: Lucia, clearly the most fun and interesting little person around. Lucia is running around the yard, “tap-dancing and saying ‘astronaut’” while waving a flag? You must also have a flag to wave. Lucia is filling small bags with an assortment of play food? You must have a play-food item in each hand to chew and hold. Lucia is drawing with markers? You must also hold markers (or, if I’m one second too late, you like to chew on the open marker tip then smile at me with a grotesque blue or black mouth). Lucia is snuggling her Lambie? You must also snuggle your Lambie, right against your neck like she does. Lucia is snuggling her Bibi while watching Olivia? You sidle up to her, pull up to a stand, and quietly, secretly hold the very end of her Bibi to your own cheek.

You are still putting everything into your mouth. Stones, seeds, leaves, crumbs, stray Cheerios, stray Goldfish, tiny counting toys, marker caps—anything. It is horrifying to suddenly see you chewing away on something, and it enrages you when I must pry open your mouth to get the object out. If I look away for even a second, you find something to put in your mouth.

On a brighter note of eating, you are a champion eater—you love food and eat great quantities of it, more than I thought any baby could. A typical dinner: two veggie food cubes with three tablespoons of multigrain cereal mixed with breastmilk or water; a large piece of banana mashed with an equally large piece of tofu; a slice of bread; lots of cheese; some cubes of watermelon. Today for lunch you had lots of bread and cheese, then some steamed baby carrots, then some watermelon cubes, and then an entire jar of Earth’s Best Turkey & Vegetable Dinner. Breakfast is always an enormous amount of plain yogurt with two fruit food cubes. Yet you are not chubby: just healthy and sturdy, hovering right in the middle of everything percentile-wise (though still on the tall side).

You are still getting up twice a night to nurse—an improvement over months past, to be sure, but not ideal. We know we have to night-wean you, but we are so tired already that we just can’t face the inevitable nights of lost sleep that night-weaning will entail. It’s just so easy to go in and nurse you back to sleep and then go back to sleep myself. It has to be done, one of these days. Just…not…tonight.

You are too cute to even begin to describe; but your cuteness is a smokescreen for the fact that for all of the above reasons you’ve become a true handful. This month is the first month where I’ve really felt like I’m ready for your current stage to pass—it is a cute time, a time of big changes and exciting milestones, but with the putting-things-in-the-mouth and precarious stair-attempting, it is also exhausting. But I’ll keep you around for your heart-melting gap-toothed smile.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Steal! And a Tragic Loss.

There was another church rummage sale last weekend—smaller than the epic sale I recounted a few weeks ago, but no less exciting. Andrew, the girls, and I went last Saturday—Andrew rolled his eyes and suggested several times he stay home with Lucia, or with Greta, but ultimately agreed to come. We stopped first in the furniture area, where Andrew immediately chose and purchased an end table.

While he lugged it to the car, I headed to the toy area. And there, on the floor, was a gigantic zippered mattress-pad bag chock full of vintage Little People accessories—cars, chairs, tables, a chariot, desks, barber chairs, playground equipment; hundreds of pieces. I had Greta in the Ergo and was trying to keep one hand on Lucia in the crowded room; but I managed to lug that bag to the woman taking the money. “Well,” she said, smiling apologetically, “I’m going to have to charge you $4, since there’s a lot of stuff in there.” “That sounds fine,” I said.

It did sound fine. My heart was racing with the steal. But my heart was also broken—shattered—because walking out the door, visible for only a second as I paid, was a woman who, in her lucky, hateful arms, had a large bag full of actual vintage Little People.

If I’d been there one minute sooner—if I hadn’t stopped to look at a basket, or to examine some puzzles—I would have gotten that bag. The near-miss has seeped into my soul.

And so I am, of course, now on a mission to get some vintage Little People on eBay. They can easily be found there, for a price, but it is a price I will pay. Will Lucia and Greta care one whit about this enormous cache of Little People misc., whenever I decide to give it to them? Who knows. But I love these Little People—have always loved them; there’s something about them that’s so perfect, so simple, so timeless, that this may become a collection of my very own.

Right now, my bag of Little People misc. is in the attic, and I have to admit that I have a very, very strong urge to go up there now, into the lovely, spooky, wood-walled room, and set up all the accessories, maybe give the swing set a little push, arrange some little armchairs around a table.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Easy Days Are Over

Little Greta. From the get-go she has been an easy baby—hardly ever fussy except when tired, a great nurser from the very start, happy to nap in the Ergo, content to go along with whatever Lucia and I had planned for the day, a five-hour-stretch sleeper for weeks when she came home from the hospital.

But the easy days with Greta are over. At nine and a half months, she has come into her own, and she is beginning to let us know it. Mere weeks ago, she’d simply sit quietly and not utter a peep if Lucia came up and snatched a toy from her hand. She’d look at her in confusion, sometimes, but usually she’d just move on to something else. No longer. Now, if Lucia grabs a toy from her or prevents her from playing with something (which happens, oh, a hundred times an hour), she emits an outraged screech—she becomes red-faced, enraged, squawking her protest. It’s hilarious to see Lucia’s reaction to this. The first few times it happened, Lucia just stared at her and then took her toy again a couple of times, watching for Greta’s reaction. There is no middle ground with Greta right now. Happily playing can go to outraged screaming in a millisecond.

I feel for Greta—she is definitely being challenged by her big sister these days—but she brings it on herself many times by being dead set on playing with the exact, specific toy that Lucia is involved with. She crawls right up, gets in Lucia’s face, tries to get her little hands right into the mix. This morning Greta and I were happily engaged with a book in the living room when the tell-tale noise of the play-food bin being dumped out caught her attention. In a second, she was off, barreling toward Lucia and the pile of play food that Lucia was meticulously sorting into various bags.

Today all Greta wanted to do was hold a marker (with cap on) in each hand. Lucia had about twenty other markers, but she NEEDED the yellow marker that Greta had. “I love that one!” she pleaded, then grabbed it from Greta. When I reprimanded her, she said, “We’re sharing!” Which in this case clearly meant that Greta had “shared” it with her. Clearly, we have some work to do. Greta reacted to all this by screaming maniacally, waving her arms in the air in rage.

Greta is also putting everything, everything, everything in her mouth. Leaves, seeds, grass, stones, chalk, markers without caps (her mouth was black yesterday—she looked monstrous), crumbs from the floor (pre-stellar-housekeeping). Truly, this is a baffling evolutionary mistake. How have humans survived when a baby’s instinct is to put everything in its mouth? Mmmm, look at this bright-red mushroom! Look at this windpipe-sized stone!

Sigh. Baby Grets. So cute, so snuggly, so willful. Interesting times are ahead.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Letter to Lucia: 34 Months

Dear Little One,

You are precariously close to three, and oh, have you been giving us a run for our money already. But the good things first: There are hours—days—when you are just so cute. You sing funny songs (in the Whole Foods checkout line today, peppy and tuneless: “I love grocery shopping!...I love the grocery store!...I love buying things!”). You say things in funny ways (o-gin shoom = the orange spoon; nooles = noodles; chockit = chocolate). You wail about the heat and demand air conditioning as soon as you get in the car, truly making you your mother’s daughter.

You have some new bedtime rituals, all of which are ways to delay the inevitable moment when I actually leave the room and you must go to sleep. “Can you arrange my animals?” you ask, and I arrange the twenty-some animals you sleep with each night. You know in which part of the crib each one lives, and if I or Daddy put one in the wrong place, you think it’s outrageous: “That doesn’t go there!” Your crib is extremely crowded, but I may as well just forget about taking any animals out. I tried to sneakily remove one this week, and as soon as you got into your crib you looked around and immediately asked for it. After the animals are arranged, you ask for a drink of water. Then you lie down so I can cover you with your blanket. Then you flip onto your back and say “Oh! My blanket!” I cover you again. Then you ask for a hug. Then I must cover you again. Then your leg comes free. Etc. Somehow, eventually, I manage to leave the room, while you make kissy sounds at me from your crib.

You are almost fully potty trained. It happened quickly, as I thought it might. You still wear a diaper at night and naptime, and I still put you in a pull-up when we leave the house since you’ve never attempted a public toilet. But when we were in Rochester two weeks ago, you easily adapted to the bathroom at the hotel and at Great-Grandma’s house (“Old Grandma,” you called her). We have a little ways to go, but the end of diapers is in sight. Sometimes you even forget to ask for chocolate raisins (your reward).

You’ve been coming out of your shell for a while now, and that is continuing. At the swimming pool, which is a veritable free-for-all when it comes to toys (if it’s on the edge of the pool even for a second, it’ll be grabbed by another child), you’ve gotten much more assertive about taking your toys back from other children. You still ask me to accompany you at times and do the requesting, but other times you just go right up and take care of it yourself. I watched you walk all the way across the pool last week and yell at a boy through the sprinkler-rainfall thing, “I want my bucket baaaack!” And if a child at the pool approaches you and wants to play—you’re in, all smiles and giggles. Gone (for the most part) is the Lucia who’d run at the merest eye contact. You seem thrilled at the chance to interact with someone your age.

But oh, do we have our days. Something sets you off, and suddenly you’re not the little Lucia we know; in her place is a wild thing who hits and kicks Greta, hits and kicks us, screams bloody murder endlessly, throws her toys. There is no predicting when the transformation will happen, and we’ve found no consistently effective way to make it stop. It is exhausting, and frustrating, and some days it goes on and on and on. Leaving the house usually calms things down for a while; but often, the very second we come back in the door, it starts again.

We have our theories. One is that you’re still adapting to our new house and all the attendant changes. Another is that Greta is crawling and curious and determined to get into all your stuff. Whatever you’re playing with, Greta tries to grab (and chew). Another is just that you’re bored: making trouble is a way to shake things up. I’m trying to get some things lined up for fall—a music class; a playgroup; other things to come—so we don’t do quite so much playing at home. It’s the long hours of just the three of us that seem to lead to trouble. You’re fine, incidentally, with our thrice-weekly morning babysitter—you have a wonderful time with her and are nothing but sweet. We need some new things to do, some new faces around. Both of us, really.

Favorite toys/activities: painting, sandbox, anything in quantity, foam animal and letter stickers, Lambies (Pink Lambie, White Lambie, Other White Lambie), Sit n’ Spin, chalk, puzzles, the sprinkler, the Maplewood pool, playgrounds, visiting the Babar stuffed animal at the library

Favorite books: Toot & Puddle books, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Brontorina, Frances books, Patterson Puppies books

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Clean. So Clean.

After years of living only marginally above total squalor, we finally hired a housekeeper. She and an assistant came over today and cleaned our house for FIVE HOURS. It is--breathtaking. You could eat off the inside of our trash can lid. If Greta wanted to crawl around the bathroom and then eat bananas, I'd let her. There is not a speck of dust on three floors of our house. There are no dead bugs in the windowsills. You could perform surgery inside our microwave.

Why, oh why, didn't we jump on the housecleaner-bandwagon long, long, long ago?

I make no pretense of doing any housecleaning whatsoever--I've resorted to buying microwavable meals at Trader Joe's because it's gotten to the point where I often don't have time to make lunch. And if I don't have time to eat, I definitely don't have time to clean. (And let's not kid ourselves: I hate cleaning.) Andrew, in our past, child-free life, would do his best to keep us livable; he once claimed to find cleaning relaxing. But now, with two kids and Andrew's demanding job, there is no possible way we could ever make our house this clean unless I spent every spare second cleaning. And that, my friends, is something I will simply not do.

I'm going to go lie in bed now and just breathe in the clean, clean room.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Days Like These

Lucia is doing extremely well with potty training. She has #1 down, and had no accidents after the second day of training (though we haven’t attempted going out without a diaper yet). “I have to go pee-pee,” she announces authoritatively. We hurry to the bathroom, she sits on the potty seat, sing-songs “I’m goooiiing…,” and then says “That’s it” when the trickle stops. Then she gets a few chocolate raisins. She knows the system, and how to work it: This weekend, as Andrew was giving her a bath, she announced, “I want chocolate before bed.” “Do you have to go potty?” Andrew asked. “Umm…yes,” she hedged, and eeked out a few drops.

She’s having a harder time with #2. She’ll do it—but it takes a long time. Today it took all day. She has to go—desperately has to—but when we run to the bathroom, she’ll sit for only a second before saying “I don’t have to go.” Yesterday, it took all morning before finally she went. Today, she didn’t go until after dinner. She was so excited when it finally happened that she ran screaming with joy out of the bathroom to announce the news to Andrew, who was home by then.

All this would be no problem if I had only one child. But this have to go / don’t have to go ritual happens again and again and again. Today it must have happened more than ten times. Fifteen, maybe, over the course of the day. Fifteen times of happily playing outside, then herding Lucia and Greta into the house, putting a screaming Greta on the floor of the kitchen, helping Lucia onto the potty, picking Greta back up, situating us in the bathroom doorway with a book or my iPhone with a video (yes, I’ve resorted to this)—and then one second later (“No I DON’T have to go”) undoing it all, going back outside, playing for five minutes, and doing it all over again. It’s even more complex if Greta’s in her highchair eating. I don’t feel comfortable leaving her alone since she’s eating finger foods now, so I have to haul her out of her highchair, covered in food, only to then resituate her, etc etc etc.

I’ve tried everything to get Lucia to sit and just go (like the aforementioned videos on my phone), but she just won’t give it the time she needs. And I can't very well force her to sit there--I'm trying to make this process as stress-free (for her) as possible. So if she wants to sit for only a second, I don't feel like I can do anything about it. Besides, she can get down by herself--it's not like I can duct-tape her to the seat.

The bathroom is also very old and tiny and dirty, so I have to squeeze onto the floor near the toilet to read books. I try to keep Greta from crawling in, so what Greta ends up doing is pulling herself up on a bookshelf we’re using for food storage in the hallway outside the bathroom and trying to pull canned goods down on herself. Or just screaming. She’s currently cutting two teeth.

I feel like I’m losing my mind. I was already insanely busy without the potty training thrown in, and now things are kind of out of hand. Though my children are adorable (most of the time) and precious…I find myself looking enviously at families at the park or the pool whose kids are school-age. Life is busy for everyone, of course. But I trust crouching on the floor of bathrooms, asking about the potty a gazillion times a day, pulling down a child’s underwear while balancing a screaming baby on one hip, ending every day covered in sticky banana-ness from holding that same baby for so much of the day—well, I trust that all of this has an ending point. Really, it has to. It just has to.  

Thursday, August 02, 2012

You Want Some Oatmeal, Lambie?

Lucia’s stuffed animals have become more animated than usual lately. We’ve grown accustomed to Lucia talking for her animals—“Cat’s tired.” “Piggy wants some water.” “Lambie wants to go, too”—and we’re used to conversing with her about the animals’ various wants, thoughts, and feelings. But about two weeks ago, Lucia thrust her beloved new Lambie into my face and announced, “I want oatmeal.” Lucia had just eaten oatmeal. “You want more oatmeal, sweetie?” I said. “No,” Lucia said, wiggling Lambie. “I want oatmeal.” I realized that it was Lambie, not Lucia, who was talking to me.

Andrew and I now find ourselves regularly engaged in conversation with Lucia’s animals. “I want some, too,” Lambie will say. And we’ll have to offer the outstretched Lambie a bite or a sip of whatever he wants. “I want to lie down,” Lambie will say. When I’m addressed by one of these animals, Lucia holds him/her right up to me, and I’m forced to peer down at them, Lucia’s little face right there behind, a tiny ventriloquist.

There is something truly absurd about this new realm of pretend, mostly because it happens so suddenly; one minute Lucia will be talking, and the next, we realize, we’re being addressed by something else. It’s particularly absurd in the early morning, pre-coffee, when we have to negotiate this tiny other being’s complicated wants. “I want raisins.” (I hold out raisins to Lucia.) “No, I want raisins.” Wiggling Lambie.

An aside: Lucia is beyond excited that Greta now gets to sleep with her own Lambie. Making sure Greta’s Lambie is in the crib is a crucial task for her. She is big enough now so that she can reach into Greta’s crib and get Lambie at naptime and bedtime, and she sometimes brings it over to the nursing Greta and forces it into her sleepy hands with an officious, “Here you go, Greta.” When both sisters have their Lambies, all is right.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


Sharing has become an issue in our house. Lucia usually loves Greta, but that love has been challenged lately now that Greta is mobile and getting into all her stuff. Lucia has little to no patience for Greta playing with “her” things; this has become a regular source of struggle, with more or less constant reminders to share, or trade, or take turns, or bring Greta something else to play with if she can’t play with that.

But sometimes Lucia flamboyantly embraces the spirit of sharing. “Look. Mama, look,” I’ll hear her say if I’ve gone into another room for a moment. “Look, Mama. I’m SHARING.” I’ll return to find her and Greta sitting next to each other in the play area, Greta’s lap overflowing with toys, and Lucia pressing still more toys at her with an indulgent smile. “Look, Mama.” More toys. “I’m sharing!”

And of course what Greta wants most is whatever toy hasn’t been joyously bestowed on her. And so the day goes on.