Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It Begins

At Target yesterday, I was buying Lucia some socks when she announced loudly, “I WANT A PRETTY DRESS. A PRINCESS DRESS.”

I bought her a ruffly $5 skirt, which she is wearing today over her pants. “I’m a princess! I’m a ballerina!” she said this morning.

I felt the first stirrings of a long-dreaded princess phase today. But it’s hard to sustain that dread when that ruffly skirt, and Lucia’s happy prancing, are so cute…

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Family Beach Weekend

This weekend, thanks to the kind offer of a friend of Molly and Ian’s, we spent three days in Bethany Beach, DE, at a lovely house just steps from the beach. Somehow, all six of us—Molly and Ian, Andrew and I, Mom and Dad—managed to be free for this weekend, and we were all looking forward to it immensely.

Andrew and I planned to leave early Friday morning. In the wee hours, however, Greta threw up after nursing. Around six-thirty, she threw up again. For some reason I decided she must then be hungry, so I gave her a piece of toast, which she promptly threw up. We hadn’t showered or packed the car, and I was already covered in vomit. We knew Greta was the latest victim in the crazy bug that had already gotten Lucia, Andrew, and Robert.

Greta was falling asleep on my shoulder by nine, so we decided to set out anyway. Then our third-floor bathroom sink, which usually leaks, began to gush water, and Andrew tried to wrench a bolt, but made it worse, and it was rapidly filling a trash can, and blah blah blah Andrew managed to stop the water. It was quite a morning. Somehow we managed to get out the door. Ah, homeownership.

About halfway there, Greta woke up and began screaming bloody murder. Certain she was starving, I gave her a Mum-Mum, which she promptly threw up. We made an hour-long stop at a rest area to get her cleaned up. I called the pediatrician, who advised Gatorade until we could get Pedialyte. Greta guzzled down two ounces, and kept it down; ten minutes later, two more ounces, and then more. We set out once again.

We made it there. Greta was drinking fluids and no longer vomiting, but she was very, very tired. Andrew put her down for a nap while I collapsed on the bed and finally succumbed to my own turn with the virus. Fortunately, mine was minor, just exhaustion and chills, and I was better by morning.

Fortunately, after a really rough Friday, we had a great weekend: we walked on the beach, Lucia tried to fill up the ocean with sand, Greta put beach pebbles in a bucket over and over, we ate nice food, Andrew brought steamed crabs home (Lucia tried some and declared "I love crab!"), we played with Luca (from a distance—we felt toxic), we went out for ice cream. I took two naps on the beach while Greta napped at the house and Mom and Dad played with Lucia in the sand and water. Bliss. It was a lovely way to spend a September weekend.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday Bits

Last weekend was our block party, which was a lot of fun. It’s pretty elaborate—everyone donates money, brings food, etc. Some people play music. And the organizers always rent a bounce house for all the kids. When we arrived, of course the bounce house was the first thing Lucia noticed. It was full of shouting, bouncing kids. I was certain we’d go nowhere near the bounce house this year—most of the kids on our street are school-age—but Lucia immediately declared that she wanted to go into the bounce house. I took off her shoes, and then she crawled up the ramp and squeezed into the bounce house, where she jumped a few times with a huge grin before scrambling back out. She did this a few times, testing the waters, and that was that: she was in for good, and we nearly couldn’t get her home. She bounced; she held hands with another little girl and bounced; she did somersaults. She screamed and squealed. It was mania in there, but she loved it.

Greta continues to be an insanely good eater. Lately, we’ve been finishing off a hearty lunch or dinner with an entire banana. She easily eats double what Lucia eats during the day. And yet she’s not chubby: she’s tall and lean. She just…loves…food.

Lucia and Greta have been playing “duets” on the piano. Whenever Lucia sits down to play, Greta hurries over, pulls up, and starts playing too. Fortunately, Lucia loves this, and often calls out for Greta to join her. Then she immediately asks me to take a picture of them playing. Sometimes she will then get off the bench and take a bow. Little ham.

Andrew’s dad was here for a long weekend, which was great, especially because Andrew got deathly ill Saturday night and was incapacitated all day Sunday. Then Robert got sick. Lucia had been sick earlier last week, and Greta has been battling a cold and—of course!—not sleeping. Despite not sleeping for three nights while a) Greta woke up every hour or so because she couldn’t breathe, or b) Andrew ran to the bathroom, I am the only one still fully standing. Knock wood…

A friend from Brooklyn and her two boys came for a visit this morning. We had lots of fun. Lucia and the older boy ran circles through the house, while Greta tried to take toys from the baby (he’s three weeks older) and then screamed bloody murder when I gave them back.

Lucia has gotten the idea that milk for Greta comes from my tummy. Sometimes she’ll “nurse” Dolly while I’m nursing Greta by lifting up her shirt and pressing Dolly’s face to her stomach.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Letter to Lucia: 35 Months

Dear Little One,

You’re growing up. Over the past month or so we’ve weathered quite a few storms, featuring wall-shaking meltdowns and a terrible dose of sibling rivalry. For weeks, your usual affection for Greta disappeared and was replaced by pushing, hitting, kicking, toy-swiping—all manner of awfulness. It was heartbreaking to see you act that way, so out of character; and heartbreaking to see its effect on Greta, too. Knock on wood, it seems the worst has passed. For the past couple of weeks, you’ve been back to your usual self—fun, giggly, funny, full of chatter and songs, and, most importantly, fond of Greta once more. The meltdowns have been so rare I can count them on one hand.

What flipped the switch? I don’t know for sure. I read a book called Siblings Without Rivalry that gave me some ideas for how to lessen some of the frustrations you understandably feel with this tiny baby who’s crawling through your stuff and then putting all your toys in her mouth. I’ve tried to give you some verbal tools to use instead of acting out against Greta physically, and they seem to have really clicked. Granted, I often hear you saying sternly, “MOVE BACK PLEASE, GRETA,” when she’s just trying to see what you’re up to, but this is much better than pushing her. I’ve tried to give you the power to “protect” the things that are most precious to you, and to have your space when you need it, as long as you pursue these goals gently and verbally.

With less drama between the two of you, some of the old camaraderie has returned: you love making her laugh, and you’ll do lots of giggling together while I keep a close eye from a (short) distance. You’ve started willingly sharing things with her, or making sure she has a toy if we’re going into the kitchen or into the car. You are also quite protective of her, making sure she doesn’t chew on shoes (you officiously carry them all into the hall closet) and shouting if she gets near the stairs. You like to say “Not in your mouth, Greta,” when Greta picks up a leaf or small toy. It’s not flawless: this morning you pushed her for a reason I can’t even remember; but an hour later, while you were sitting with me while I nursed Greta before naptime, you suddenly came up to Greta and said you were sorry for pushing her. Then you kissed her and gave her her Lambie. So the lessons are, I think, sinking in.

I’m glad we’re getting past this (for now), because big changes are upon us—most importantly, preschool. You’ve gone only twice so far, and just once without me there the whole time, and you seem to really like it. You’re unsure about some things, and quiet, but once we get in the car to go home, you love talking about all the things you did “at school.” You’ve done two art projects so far and were bursting with pride over both of them. On Thursday, the art project you did involved a glue stick, and you’ve been gluing up a storm ever since. This is exactly what I hoped for. You are a smart, curious little girl, and we play so much together at home, but your dad and I felt strongly that you really needed something more: new, fun activities, a little different from what we usually do at home; some kids to do them with; a teacher in tune with a three-year-old’s world, with great ideas for how to engage you; and a tiny taste of independence. It’s early, but I believe you’ll thrive in preschool. So far, so good.

We did talk to your teacher during Parents Night this week, making sure she understood that though you are quiet, you will warm up, and though you probably won’t talk much at first, you are of course brilliant. (We really weren’t that annoying. We talked mostly about our concerns over this big step of separation.) She said you really did well the day I left, though you did ask several times for Bibi, which kind of broke my heart. But I peeked through the window at you when I came to pick you up that day, and there you were, right with the other kids, holding hands and doing Ring Around the Rosie; and then you sat with everyone and looked at books until it was time for the parents to go in. My brave little one.

Favorite activities: playing instruments while singing (ABCs, Twinkle, Sesame Street theme); creating “collections” in various bags, usually consisting of an assortment of play food, a Lipsmacker, an egg shaker, a strand of beads, maybe a Little People person or two); caring for your Dolly and engaging her in various activities (Dolly is pushing the stroller! Dolly is drawing with markers! Dolly needs milk!--and you lift up your shirt); building with blocks; Sit n Spin; drawing on your easel

Favorite books: Olivia and the Missing Toy, Olivia Forms a Band, Are You My Mother?, a variety of Sandra Boynton board books I got at a yard sale, including Birthday Monsters

(A sample collection from NH. I tried to get you to call these things your "objets," French-style, but fortunately, you didn't go along with that.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lucia’s First Day of “School”

Today was Lucia’s first day at nursery school. Or preschool, or co-op preschool, or whatever it is they call it these days. This was a huge decision, one Andrew and I have been debating for a few months now. We thought the decision had been made for us—by June, when we moved out here, the places we researched were all full. But I made a few queries, put us on a couple of waiting lists, and then finally found an open slot at a very small co-op nursery school that I’d heard about from both new friends and neighbors. After a tour and a nice talk with the director, we made the leap. “Leap” might be a bit too dramatic a description; it’s just two days a week, two and a half hours a day. Still, it’s her first experience with a group of kids without me around, so it is a big deal for sure.

I stayed the whole time today, not because I didn’t think Lucia could handle it but because we hadn’t officially enrolled; I’d agreed with the director that we could attend the first day to be sure the fit was right (I gave my deposit right after class). I’m glad I was there the whole time, though, so I could see exactly what the kids will be doing each class and make sure Lucia found ways to feel comfortable. She loved playing with the dolls during the free-play time; was a model student during circle time (sitting on a small rug, listening to a story—she could have done it all day); loved playing in the gym and chasing the hula hoops the teacher and I threw around; was a little unsure sitting at the little table during snack time, only nibbling at the goldfish (which she ordinarily devours by the bowlful); and loved decorating a construction-paper Clifford with stickers during art time. When Andrew came home tonight, she bolted into the house to get her Clifford to show him. Pretty cute.

All in all, a successful first day. I expect tears and separation angst on Thursday, but I feel confident she will ease in after a few classes and do just fine. There are only seven kids in the class, and they seem low-key and not overwhelming. Plus, it’s a co-op, so I’ll be the “helping parent” once or twice a month. There’s a lot of parent involvement, which is what I wanted. Of course there’s no guarantee that this will go well, but the pleased look on Lucia’s face when we left school today—when she asked to wear her backpack—makes me think this is going to be a great little thing for us this year.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lucia’s First Haircut

Last week, I decided it was time: Lucia’s hair had crossed the line from wispy and charmingly uneven to rat’s nest. The back was actually matted beyond the help of any comb. So I took her to a kids’ salon for her first haircut. I expected screaming and hysteria—such has been her near-three-year-oldness for the past few weeks—but she did splendidly. She wouldn’t sit down in the firetruck-seat, and she wouldn’t let the cape get near her, but she was calm and unafraid during the haircut and loved the little barrettes the stylist put in her hair at the end. She loved the lollipop she got afterwards even more. A big success.


After (coloring at the hair salon)...

Sunday, September 09, 2012


Funny stuff comes out of Lucia’s mouth these days. Here are a few favorites:

“Mama, are we stuck?”: She asks this nearly every time we’re in the car, and it means, “Are we lost?” Clearly she’s picked up on the pitfalls of driving around a new town with someone with no sense of direction. I am, obviously, often lost.

“Can I have some-a one-a your water?”: This means, “Can I have some of your water?” She hasn’t quite picked up on the differentiation between “some of” and “one of” (as in: one of your chips, one of your grapes, etc.). So she just says both.

“I want the poopie chocolate!”: This is a family favorite. In an effort to encourage Lucia to do #2 on the potty, I bought her some M&Ms—different from her standard chocolate-raisin reward. She gets M&Ms only for #2. She clearly understands the different types…just not quite the right way to ask for them.

“Mama, that’s not your seat!”: Again with the driving. We drive a lot these days—a not-unexpected thing now that we’re in the suburbs—but what’s new to Lucia is seeing me drive so much. Andrew is always the driver when we’re all together, so when Lucia sees me get into the driver’s seat, she makes sure to point out that something is amiss.

New Hampshire Escapes

More summer recapping...

We made four trips to NH this summer. I believe I wrote about the first trip, when we faced mice and ticks and etc in abundance. On our next trip, we were joined by friends from Brooklyn, who gamely braved the “rustic” conditions and enjoyed our laidback, do-nothing, grill-every-meal way of life out here. We returned once more in July to join Andrew’s family briefly; and then spent the rest of the weekend with Katherine and Patrick.

And we returned from our latest trip yesterday, feeling rested and happy despite getting in very late and not getting much sleep the first night. It was wonderful to be there just as the seasons are turning; the Black-Eyed Susans and daisies from our last trip were gone this time, replaced by acres of goldenrod and lots of mint gone to purple-flowered seed. We couldn’t go down to see the frogs in the pond because bees had built a nest on the dock; but Lucia loved pushing her doll in the swing in the apple tree, and Greta was thrilled to be included in whatever was going on. We found a cozy-looking animal nest in the barn; Andrew took down a gigantic wasps' nest; I found two dead mice. We bought fruits and veggies from two farm stands along the roadside. The girls explored a pumpkin labyrinth. Lucia was very sad when it was time to leave and even today keeps saying she wants to be in NH. We do, too.

A Summer Recap

I haven’t been blogging as much this summer as I should have. And so, now that summer’s over, a brief recounting of some of the highlights:

A Trip to Fairport

At long last, Andrew, the girls, and I traveled to Fairport, NY, in August to visit my grandmother and aunt. The visit was long overdue, and though the drives up and back were not easy, we survived (barely, on the return trip), and were glad we went. We stayed in a suite at the Hampton Inn, and the girls did fine. Both enjoyed the free breakfast in lobby each morning—Lucia always chose a waffle, and Greta was introduced to the wondrous world of Cheerios. We played in my grandmother’s yard and on the porch and even went to a family reunion, which was unfortunately cut short by a rainstorm. I thought it would be strange to return to a place where I spent so much of my childhood with my own children in tow, but things have changed so much—the state of my aging grandmother’s house, my grandmother herself—that it seemed fitting that I’d returned changed too.

There was a TGI Friday’s across the parking lot of the hotel, so Andrew and I even got a date night (well, a date hour) for appetizers and a glass of wine while my parents stayed with the sleeping babies.

The Zoo

We’re slowly exploring all the things to do out here in New Jersey, and we’ve gone a couple of times to the local zoo. Lucia’s favorite part is the aviary, where you can buy a little birdseed-dipped popsicle stick and carry it into an aviary full of parakeets who, when you extend the stick, will hop onto it from their perch and nibble the birdseed while you ogle them (or, in Lucia’s case, try to kiss them). It is really cute.

Settling In

We’re meeting people, slowly but surely. I’ve started a playgroup for toddlers and their baby siblings and have been meeting potential new friends through that. We’ve had a couple of playdates with new friends. We’ve met people at the playground and the pool. We’re getting to know our neighbors. Nearly everyone I’ve met, with very, very few exceptions, has moved to Maplewood from Brooklyn or, less commonly, Manhattan. It’s not exactly home yet, but it’s getting there: when we got back from NH last night, Lucia even announced happily that we were back in our “regular home”—meaning this one.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Spoons, the Horror

Greta is growing up by leaps and bounds these days. The biggest change of the past week is that she will no longer eat anything from a spoon but yogurt. I’d been feeding her multigrain cereal with pureed veggies for part of her dinner, which she’s always loved—and then, one day last week, she saw the spoon  approaching and dramatically turned her head away, her nose in the air, craning her neck and pressing her lips together. Same thing with the mashed tofu and banana that she used to love—a tossed head with eyes squeezed shut: Please, madame, get that filth away from me.

She will now eat only regular food, with her fingers. Rice, broccoli, pasta, beans, cheese, bread, carrots, fruit, mac and cheese, sweet potato cubes. We’ve left baby food behind. We are, however, still nursing four or five times in twenty-four hours. And I’m supposed to wean her in two months?

Greta can also now wave goodbye. She waves with her whole arm, like a marionette, and she’ll wave as long as you continue to coo “Bye bye! Bye bye, Greta! Bye bye!” Lucia thinks this is both hilarious and slightly alarming, which is pretty much her standard reaction to Greta these days. Wow, my little sister is really funny and we can giggle together AND SHE’S GRABBING MY STUFF AND CRAWLING OVER TO ME AND TRYING TO STAND UP STOP HER STOP HER STOP HER. Sometimes she’ll give Greta a withering look if she’s nosed in on something Lucia’s doing and then just look at me and say, “Move her.” Like Greta is an oddly shaped piece of furniture that just keeps getting in the way.