Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas 2013, Part I: To Florida We Go

Last Saturday, we set out for a new adventure: our first road trip with Lucia and Greta. Andrew and I took many a road trip in our pre-children days, tooling around Spain and California, taking the long way, going off the map, pulling into small, newly discovered towns and worrying about a hotel only at the last minute; or finding great luxury rooms in San Francisco through Priceline or Hotwire, not caring where we stayed. We took a few short road trips with Lucia when she was a few months old, to San Francisco and wine country; and of course we've driven to Connellsville and up to New Hampshire. But sixteen hours from New Jersey to Jacksonville was taking our family road trips to a new level. We planned the trip from necessity--four holiday-season plane tickets and mountains of presents made flying unrealistic--and really didn't know what to expect.

Andrew took command of the itinerary and planned our route down I-95, and in a rented SUV (our small station wagon wouldn't cut it for this trip), off we went. First leg: Maplewood to Silver Spring, where we had lunch with Molly and Luca. The girls had a blast playing with Luca, and Lucia christened him with a nickname: Silly Lukey. We ran into trouble after that: traffic became horrendous. We lost two hours. We were supposed to have a nice dinner in Rocky Mount, NC, but instead wound up at McDonald's. More traffic after that; but eventually we made it to our hotel in Rocky Mount, well past bedtime. Lucia was overcome at the prospect of staying at a hotel--"It's beautiful!!" she shouted as we approached it from the parking lot. Both girls were giddy at finally being out of the car. Much running between our adjoining rooms and jumping on the beds ensued. Miraculously, they did fall asleep.

The next day, we got donuts for breakfast and hit the road. We had lunch at a fabulous BBQ restaurant in Lumberton, NC, called Fuller's--Andrew had read about it on some foodie websites. It didn't disappoint. We paid at the door, were shown to a table, then hit the huge buffet. Lucia discovered a passionate, one-day love for fried shrimp. Greta ate her weight in macaroni and cheese. Andrew and I piled our dishes with vinegar-and-pepper pork. We had a great time.

Then--onward. We had a pretty rough stretch after this. Traffic on I-95 was at a standstill, so Andrew found a detour through backwoods South Carolina. He found it beautiful and charming; I was terrified. We were surrounded by swampy forest and mobile homes. We lost so much time, and had noplace to stop for dinner, and after Andrew announced we had five more hours to go--after he'd said the same thing two hours before that--we all hit a low. We pulled into a gas station. We decided the girls could just have crackers for dinner. They mutinied. We ran out of shows on the iPad. It was a dark final stretch.

But we made it to Jacksonville. We'd had Andrew's parents order us a pizza, which we devoured once the girls were in bed.

It was not the easiest drive. However, that said, Lucia and Greta were amazing travelers, surpassing all our expectations. They played with the toys we'd packed, loved the travel treat bags I'd put together for them (crayons, notebook, tiny toys), watched shows on the iPad when it got dark, slept (Greta), sang, and seemed totally game for anything, even a BBQ restaurant and sharing a hotel room. Of all of us, I probably frayed the most at that final stop, when Andrew ran into the gas station to buy crackers and bananas the girls then refused to eat and it seemed we'd never reach our destination. But we made it in one piece and, with some changes to our route, had no reason to dread the return trip.

Letter to Greta: 26 Months

Dear Baby Grets,

Oh, but you love being two. You've embraced it. You revel in it. The power of no! The power of your own will! It's intoxicating. You have learned that you can assert yourself and your whims in this family with just as much force as anyone else, and there's no going back.

Your worst fits are triggered by having to put on your clothes, socks, shoes, and coat. You also don't like to be told no, or to give up something you want to hold onto, or to stop doing something you want to do. You have learned exactly how to enrage Lucia--grabbing her stuff and running away with it and refusing to give it back. When you're particularly angry, you don't just yell "No"--you scream it at an ear-splitting pitch and volume. If there were ever any considerations of a third child (there have not been), your two-ness would have squashed it expediently. After you are done with all this, we will be free of age two forever!

All this said, you are also completely adorable. Your smile could melt stone. You are a cuddler, and love to be held and snuggled. You like to give everyone a kiss and a hug. Any object that we ask you to put away or give up receives a kiss and a cuddle first, even things like cups or spoons. You like to curl up on the floor of the living room with a pillow and blanket and just cuddle up with your Bibi and Lambie. You love dancing, and do a hilarious dance that I call your "crazy gypsy dance"--no music required. You have tons of energy and are in constant motion most days. By naptime, you are exhausted, and two hours' rest is your norm.

You are talking constantly but are still mostly unintelligible, and next week is your speech evaluation, which will determine whether you'll need some speech therapy. I have no expertise at all in this field, so I'm not sure what to think; all I know is that you know tons of words, your colors, your numbers up to ten, and seem to truly believe you're conversing normally. I don't fear for your comprehension or ability to pair words with ideas and objects. You just need to articulate.

Favorite toys/activities: coloring, stickers, "resting", taking ornaments off the Christmas tree, Magiclip princesses, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins

Favorite books: Good Knight books, My First Little House books, Christmas Trolls, The Night Before Christmas, Frosty the Snowman

Letter to Lucia: 50 and 51 Months

Dear Lulu,

***Note: For the first time in four years, I'm going to combine two months of letters into one. I wrote your 50 Month letter last month, and forgot to post it; and now here we are, past time for Month 51, and I've missed this one too. It's New Year's Eve, and for the sake of finishing off the year all caught up with blogging, I'm going to just post a two-month post. Forgive me...***

As I've said before, being four years old seems to suit you. You can do more and more things on your own all the time--from getting dressed entirely to putting on your boots and coat to retrieving your scooter from the basement and carrying it upstairs. The house is your domain: you traverse it from top to bottom, from attic to basement, embracing the various activities you do in each room. Your bedroom: stacks of tiny cubes, elaborate games with your many princesses. The basement: riding your scooter, crawling through the tunnel-and-hut setup, coloring, doing art projects, dancing, building with blocks, playing dress-up. The living room: playing doctor, playing with Squinkies, playing with princesses, reading books. You are never at a loss for things to do. You are never without a song to make up.

You are becoming more little-girl-like all the time, attracted to anything sparkly and glittery and pretty. You still pick out your outfit every day. (You rarely match, and choosing each individual sock takes much consideration.) You love socks: some of the socks you have can be pulled up to your knees, and you call these "super socks." You feel the need to wear only one super sock at a time. Sometimes you and Greta will each wear one super sock. Most days you wind up wearing a leotard or a dress-up dress, super socks and all.

You are into rhyming words, and beginning to be good at coming up with rhymes on your own. You can almost write your name, though the A still gives you trouble. You can almost count to 20, though you get confused sometimes in the teens.

At night, Daddy and I put you to bed (Daddy gives you a bath, reads you books, and sings you a song, though sometimes I do the reading and singing, depending on whom you ask for), and then you skulk about for half an hour or more--never calling downstairs to us; just...wandering and playing. Sometimes, like a mouse or crow, you'll take a small object from our bedroom or my office and bring it into your room, where you put it beside your glowing mushroom nightlight. We always eventually find you in your bed, asleep, a cover pulled up to your chin. You just need that extra winding-down time, on your own.

I've mentioned princesses a few times, and I'll mention them again: you love them. You currently have six Magiclip Princesses and three Barbie-like princesses. All are cherished and played with. One usually accompanies you when we go to school or out shopping. You want to love, but don't really love, the princess movies, though you adore watching Sofia the First and the Tinkerbell movie (more your speed, for now).

You have silliness, personality, and funny expressions to spare. Most days are fun, little one. Still some rough spots here and there, but mostly we get through our days pretty smoothly.

Favorite toys/activities: Gingerbread Girl (tiny McDonald's toy), princesses of all kinds, stickers, glitter glue, coloring, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, Tinkerbell, mermaids, tiny cubes, dancing, Playhut tunnel structure

Favorite books: Gingerbread Baby, Christmas Trolls, Frosty the Snowman, My First Little House books, That's Not Santa, Three Little Pigs, The Golden Egg

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Holiday Update

It's been busy busy busy around here the past few weeks, but we've been having lots of fun with the holidays. We went to Connellsville for Thanksgiving, driving during the day both there and back, and Lucia and Greta were superb travelers--playing together, playing with toys (especially their Magiclip princesses and small Gingerbread Girls). We had a great week--Andrew and I got to have some shopping getaways; and we had a night out at Lynn's Bar with Molly. Lucia and Greta loved playing with Luca. Neither girl ate more than a bite of Thanksgiving dinner.

We also did our Christmas celebration, since Andrew and I will be in Florida for Christmas this year. The highlight, as always, was our homemade gifts. Molly made dot-painted boxes filled with recipe cards of the best recipes she made this year; for Lucia and Greta, she made boxes of elf donuts from Cheerios; Mom and Dad created a photo book with detailed, photographed instructions on making scrippelles; and I made tiny bird-nest ornaments from acorn caps I collected in our yard, plus folded book sculptures.

We came back home to a tough week. Andrew left the day after our return for a business trip to Mexico, so the girls and I went from constant fun (them) and help (me) to...regular life, without Andrew. It was one of the toughest parenting weeks I've had. Mostly it was Greta rearing her two-year-old monster head; but Lucia held her own as well in the make-Mama's-life-impossible department. When Andrew said it was possible for him to come home a day early, I said YES. BOOK THE FLIGHT NOW. Some sanity, at least, remained intact.

Things got brighter after that. We got our Christmas tree and decorated the house. Andrew put up lights outside (only to then have two sections of a brand-new strand stop working). I made red-ribboned swags out of spare pine boughs. We got out all the Christmas books (and I alarmed the girls when I read them Polar Express, new for us this year, and promptly began crying when I got to the last page). Lucia and Greta have been swept away by the holiday episodes of Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins. 

And now--one final week until we leave for Florida.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Letter to Greta: 25 Months

Dear Little Grets,

This later is late, and I have only you to blame, little one. This is just a fact of life right now: you are taxing. You take all our energy and then some. Most nights the last thing I can think about is writing a blog post. You have fully embraced Being Two, and we've entered a stage where everything--each piece of daily life--is a challenge. The hardest things are changing your diaper, putting on your clothes, putting on your socks, putting on your shoes, putting on your coat, getting you into your car seat. Unfortunately, these are all the things we have to do pretty much on a daily basis--usually more than once a day. This might be the winter that we just never leave the house.

You're also getting frustrated with talking. You know so many words, and are putting two and three together--but you are more or less unintelligible. The three of us--Daddy, me, and Lucia--understand almost everything, but occasionally you stump us, and this makes you very angry. We're finally taking you in for a speech evaluation in January. You had a hearing evaluation a few weeks ago, which you passed with flying colors. So we'll see what happens. I'm worried, but not overly so, since you are still very little.

You have become a little dancing machine. When I put music on, your whole face lights up, and you immediately start dancing enthusiastically--you put your whole body into it, lifting your feet, swaying, bouncing, spinning. It is adorable. You like wearing dress-up clothes and having dance parties with Lucia.

You are sleeping through the night most nights, sometimes waking up for your pacifier but sometimes not. You get up around 6:45am, which has been great. You're napping for 1.5-2 hours each afternoon. You are still a phenomenal eater, though now and then you boycott a meal entirely. We let it slide. At your two-year checkup you were off the charts for height and in the 50th percentile for weight, so you are clearly getting exactly what you need.

You are open and loving, always saying hello and goodbye to people, asking anyone who comes into the house for a hug and kiss before they go.

Don't get me wrong, little banana: you're too adorable for words and make us laugh every day. But if I had to use one word to summarize you right now, it would be a shrill, screamed "NO!!!"

Favorite books: Brown Bear Brown Bear, Christmas Trolls, Gingerbread Baby, Too Many Kittens, Ho Hum

Favorite toys/activities: coloring in your Sophia the First coloring book, Magiclip princesses, gingerbread girl stuffed animal, plush jack-o-lantern, stickers, painting, Sofia the First, mermaids

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


The kids in Lucia's preschool class were asked recently what they were thankful for; the teacher wrote each of their answers on a sheet of paper, which each kid then decorated. Lucia's read, "I am thankful for giving my sister hugs and for my daddy. Especially when he comes home from a trip."

Isn't that too cute? Andrew was on a business trip last week, gone for five days to California, so the week without Daddy must have been either in progress or fresh in her mind. I'm thankful when Andrew gets back from a trip, too. It was a long week, but we managed, really fraying only at the very end of Friday, when we'd expected Andrew to get home earlier than he actually did and we were all just tired and ready for things to be back to normal.

The hardest part of being alone for this long stretches of time was just taking care of myself--showering, getting dressed, getting my contacts in. The days themselves--this time, at least--went along pretty smoothly, helped in part by the girls' renewed interest in the basement rec room, our haven now that the weather is once again cold. They ride their scooters down there, and play in the ball hut and tunnel, and color at the art table, and strew glass stones everywhere. They play an endless game of pretending to fall off their scooters and helping each other up. (Lucia does dangerous-looking crash landings from her scooter; Greta just stops riding and sits down on the floor with a dramatic "Oh no!")

Last week--really a full five days--was my longest stretch of solo parenting yet, with no grandparent help. And though I dread Andrew's trips, really dread them, each one does seem to get a tiny bit easier, now that there's preschool, sisterly playing, and less squabbling (usually). I don't think I'll ever like being here alone, but at least as the girls get older it might get a little less exhausting.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Letter to Lucia: 49 Months

Dear Rapunzel,

You are deep into Disney Princess World these days. You've loved the princesses for a long time now, but ever since your birthday, your love has grown--thanks, of course, to the deluge of princesses you received as gifts. Your very favorite princess right now is Rapunzel, and your Barbie-like Rapunzel doll is your constant companion. You sometimes refer to yourself as Rapunzel as well. Ariel, your prior favorite, has been supplanted for now. You love the Disney Princess books Daddy purchased for the iPad--the books are read to you, with accompanying music, and you turn to these immediately when you get to use the iPad after Quiet Time.

You are pretty delightful these days, with funny dances and observations, and you chatter nonstop. Just nonstop. You talk to me, to Greta, to Daddy, to your toys, to yourself. You are incredibly bossy; nothing frustrates you more than when Greta refuses to do what you want her to. You are generally tolerant of Greta's ever-intensifying terrible two-ness, even when she grabs your things and sprints away, shrieking and scream-laughing. You also find Greta hilarious--no one makes you laugh harder, particularly when she does one of her insane dances to the Fridge Farm music.

You love preschool. You have little friends now whom you like to see and play with. You like hanging out with the neighbor kids when we're outside--glamorous and fascinating since they're a few years older. You love picking out your clothes and "looking pretty."

You do not really like to eat. At all. Although you're still on the chart, growing consistently, you are a tiny little peanut, down to the 10th percentile for weight and a mere 25th percentile for height. You reluctantly eat most of your food at mealtimes, but every bite is a struggle, and you rarely finish your meal completely or ask for more. You usually eat just enough so that you can have your dessert--these days, a piece of Halloween candy.

You like going to Target and riding in the "fun cart"--a super-sized suburban shopping cart with a two-seater carriage thing attached to the back so you and Greta can sit side by side. You love looking at the seasonal decorations--Halloween decorations were thrilling, and the glitz and tinsel of the Christmas aisles is almost too much to handle. You are four: anything shiny and sparkly thrills you.

Four seems to suit you, little one.

Favorite toys/activities: Magiclip princesses, Barbie-like Rapunzel, plush jack-o-lantern, coloring, Sophia the First, Sesame Street, riding your scooter in the basement rec room, wearing dress-up dresses, dancing, singing

Favorite books: My First Little House books, The Witches' Supermarket, Elmo's Big Book of Firsts, Thanksgiving Treat, The Golden Egg

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Always Something New

With the girls newly four and newly two, we’ve been seeing a lot of sudden changes. Lucia, all of a sudden, has learned to undress and dress herself entirely, whereas for the past few months she’s been able to do only socks, underwear, and pants. She’d been having problems with getting shirts on and off—and then two weeks ago, it just clicked.

Greta can now officially jump, with both feet off the ground. She’s also learned what it means to “pout,” which she does a great deal, stomping off and crossing her arms and lowering her chin, looking up only enough to make sure we’re watching her. Now, if I say, “Greta, are you pouting?” she’ll cross her arms in a mock-pout, then grin and giggle.

The sisterly silliness in our house knows no bounds these days. There was a long and frustrating spell of stealing and grabbing, but we’re back to happy playing now. Lucia often falls into hysterics at Greta’s wild dancing, which erupts at any hint of music at all, whether it’s music from a CD or a tinny "Old MacDonald" from a toy. Both of them spend much of each day suddenly breaking into “crying,” and then running to retrieve whatever animal or princess toy is “crying for their mommy.” Today they were focused on large plush jack-o-lanterns we bought at Target half-off after Halloween and haven’t yet put into the attic. They wrapped their frequently-crying pumpkins in blankets, rocked and shushed them, put them to sleep on chairs in the darkened kitchen, fed them pieces of wooden pizza. 

Greta likes to take a variety of things into her crib now at naptime and bedtime. These include: a comb, her water bottle, various bath toys, and a princess bag full of Magiclip princesses. Lucia has also returned to her habit of waiting till Greta is asleep then sneaking into her room and tossing things in her crib. This week, when I checked on Greta, I was horrified to find her snuggled up against a plastic Hello Kitty bag and covered in Styrofoam peanuts from a rather large “artwork” (peanuts-and-pom-poms-on-cardboard) that Lucia apparently decided needed to be in Greta’s crib as well. It’s unclear whether it was Lucia or Greta who methodically picked off all the peanuts and then tore them into small pieces. Greta slept while I gathered handfuls of peanuts from her sheet and pulled them from her hair. I think I’ll be checking in on the girls a bit more frequently now.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


We had a very full Halloween this year, lots of fun without all the no-electricity drama of Hurricane Sandy. The day began with Lucia's Halloween party at preschool. Andrew was able to stay home from work today, so while Lucia did Halloween crafts and performance preparations with her class, Andrew, Greta, and I went to Greta's music class. (Greta seemed to like having Andrew there, and mildly enjoyed class.) Then we all returned to preschool, where I put Greta into her costume. We gathered with the other parents for the children's Halloween performance--a costume parade and then a selection of Halloween songs. Lucia was in Halloween heaven. She loved spotting us in the audience and waved and grinned during the parade around the gym. She sang all the songs and did all the movements. Each kid's costume was called out for recognition, and Lucia stood up and waved enthusiastically when Butterfly was announced. Afterwards, there were lots of snacks, and then time to ride bikes and run around the gym.

Greta was enamored with the entire production. She gazed at Lucia at the front of the room as though she were a celebrity, and kept waving to her; she was thrilled to be wearing a costume too and refused to take it off, even though she was clearly overheated. She rode a tricycle (with my help) and a scooter around the gym. She lined up for the slide with the bigger kids and clearly announced "TURN" when she decided it was her turn. Too cute. She almost fell asleep on the floor of her bedroom while I prepared her crib for her nap, and slept for two and a half hours.

It was a big morning, but most of Halloween was still to come. Around 3:30, friends came over, and together we walked down into town, which was a riotous melee of trick-or-treating in the shops. It was pretty insane. It's a miracle we didn't lose a kid. We hadn't even brought bags--we'd had no idea what to expect--and had to pile the kids' candy under the stroller. When we'd had enough, we walked home and had a drink on the porch while the kids played.

After our friends left, we set out to trick-or-treat on our block. The girls had remarkable stamina, and were fully immersed in knocking on doors, yelling "Trick or Treat!", and saying "Happy Halloween!" (Or, if you're Greta, "Treat!" and "Ween!") Finally, Greta reached her limit and mutinied; I took her home while Andrew and Lucia went to a couple more houses. Somehow, we got them to eat dinner, and now they're finally in bed and asleep. We are all pretty Halloween-ed out, but it was a great day.

The girls' butterfly costumes were, I will say, pretty cute: homemade fleece tunics, wings from Target, and antennae created from dollar-store Halloween headbands. And I gave them each a pink glowstick necklace when we went out for trick-or-treating.

And now I will go collapse.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Goodbye for the Winter, New Hampshire

We spent this weekend in New Hampshire, our final trip until the house opens next May. It was, to be honest, not a wholly successful trip. We were supposed to go Thursday afternoon but couldn't leave until Friday because of a last-minute work obligation for Andrew, which meant I had to unpack and then repack most of the hundred or so bags a weekend trip requires. The drive on Friday was long, and then, when we got there around 4pm, we discovered that the heat wasn't working. The temperature was in the low thirties. The house was freezing. We drove into town for dinner at the pizza place (thrilling the girls, who love the arcade room) and bought two space heaters. When we got back to the house, bedtime now, Andrew and his dad plugged in the heaters--and promptly blew a fuse that they then couldn't find. I had to get the insanely wound-up kids into their ten layers of pjs in the darkness, lit only by their mushroom nightlights. They were beside themselves, jumping on the beds, running around, etc. Andrew and his dad finally fixed the fuse, but since only one heater could be plugged in, Andrew's dad slept at a cousin's house, we put the girls in one room, and we ourselves huddled under ten blankets, including a fifty-year-old electric one we were too scared to keep on during the night. Of course, in the morning it was freezing, so we spent a few hours at Andrew's cousin's house while a repair person finally was found and came over to fix the heater.

We did manage to have a lovely time at a pumpkin patch on Saturday afternoon, and we took a nice nature walk.

Then, Sunday, the girls had a blast playing in the leaves in the woods; and then it was time to pack up, close up the house, and drive home. It took over six hours because of traffic and multiple stops.

So. It was not a restful respite from the real world, this time, but we did manage some nice moments for our last trip of the season. And now it's time to bid goodbye to the lethargic wasps, the ladybugs huddled en masse in the corners of the ceiling...and the amazing views and beautiful starry sky.

Letter to Greta: 2 Years

Dear Grets,

Happy, happy second birthday, little banana! You are two. You seemed more or less unaware of today's momentous milestone, though you enjoyed opening your gifts. We were in New Hampshire for your birthday, with Bobby.

You've been preparing to be two for a while now, with your strong will and fondness for crossing your arms defiantly, staring at us out of the corner of your eye to make sure we see you pouting. Even at your most stubborn, you are still adorable; you don't hesitate to assert yourself and express your intentions and opinions. You like to nod and shake your head when we ask you questions. You still shout "YEAH" as an affirmative response, too.

You are trying desperately to talk and are gaining more words and putting them together; you still stick to one syllable, however. "More chee plee!" is easy to understand; "Whee no? Whee no?"--"I don't know where Lambie is!"--is code to everyone but us. You've recently started adding "too" to your comments. If Lucia asks for water, you run over shouting, "Wrr too!"--"I want water, too!" You call Lucia "Sha." You call us "Ma" and "Da" or "Di."

You love dancing. You do wild, rhythm-less dances that involve your entire body; you stomp dramatically in circles, spin until you're dizzy, head-bang with flying hair to make Lucia laugh hysterically. You like to sing (tunelessly). You do not, however, love your music class. I'm still not sure why. I thought you'd be enraptured, but you are either irritable or clingy throughout. We've had one or two classes where you seemed to get into it, and I've signed you up for next semester too, but this might not be a good match for us. We shall see.

You can do a perfect somersault. You can count to five. You know the names of all the Disney princesses. You know the names of many of the Sesame Street characters, though you hate Grover and Murray. You mostly like Elmo and Ernie and Burt.

You and Lucia have been playing up a storm lately, off on your own, often in the bathroom with the door closed, laughing hysterically together and calling out to me now and then to bring you some particular toy. When one of you falls down, the other runs over to give a hug and a kiss. You desperately want to go to school with Lucia, rushing to get your shoes when Lucia and I leave in the morning; you're old enough now to understand when you're being left behind. Soon enough, little baby. Soon enough.

Favorite toys/activities: carrying around your princess bag full of Magiclip princesses, Magiclip princesses, Cinderella and Rapunzel Barbie-type dolls, scooter, stickers, coloring, dancing, balloons, swinging, sliding, pretending to put things in your eye ("Eye?" you say slyly, holding something like a piece of apple up to your eye).

Favorite books: The Teeny Tiny Ghost, If I Were an Owl, Little Owl, The Very Quiet Cricket, Horns to Toes and In Between, Dear Zoo

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Life with Lucia

It struck me this week as I was driving to Target with the girls that life with Lucia is what it must be like for Andrew to live with me at my most exasperated/dramatic. On the way to Target, we encountered some minor road work, and we were directed on a brief detour to circumvent the closed section of road. Lucia and Greta were calm and happy in the back seat. "Road work," I observed mildly. "Here we go on a detour."

"A DETOUR?" Lucia wailed.

"It's fine. We're just going up this road."


"Yes we do. We just have to turn here."


"Lucia, it's fine now. We're back on the right street."


It's too, too funny to hear my own words coming out of my child's mouth.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Letter to Lucia: 4 Years

Dear Lulu,

Happy, happy birthday! You were so excited about turning four today. You eagerly anticipated your birthday this year and exclaimed throughout the day, "I'm four!" Daddy worked from home today, and we had a nice day just hanging out here. You opened presents this morning and loved the things we got you, especially a set of Disney Princess Magiclip dolls--four little princesses with dresses that you can change. You also got three mermaids (Ariel and her sisters) for the bathtub, glow-in-the-dark stars for your ceiling, a Hello Kitty holding a cupcake, two nightgowns, and a doll bed with a cupcake comforter that matches yours (I made it last night). Aunt Katherine's gift of the Little Mermaid DVD was here for you and Greta as well, and we watched it tonight, after a day of playing with princesses. After dinner we turned out the lights and lit four candles on a (store-bought) cake, sang Happy Birthday, then all had some cake before bedtime. A fun day all around. You and Greta will have your birthday party on Saturday, so lots more birthday fun is in store.

Beginning a new year is very exciting, especially one that seems as important as four. You're already so funny and silly, interested in so many things--it will be fun to see all the new things that engage you this year. You're getting very independent, and seem to enjoy it, though you have moments when you refuse to do something you can do very easily--like put on your socks--and whine and beg until we do it for you.

You've gotten extremely competitive with Greta in the past few weeks. Even though you're older, and even though Greta looks to you for guidance on how to do pretty much everything, you, too, have your eye always on your sister--and whatever she touches seems, to you, to turn to gold. If Greta touches a leaf in the yard, then you must have that very leaf. It is tiring, and often our days move in fits and starts as I mediate battle after battle. I hope this lessens soon. On the bright side, when this grabbiness doesn't rear its head, you and Greta have so much fun together, making each other laugh hysterically and getting lost in your own little world. That makes up for the tougher moments.

Much fun is ahead this week, little one. I can't wait to see how four progresses. It already seems to suit you very well!

Favorite toys/activities: stickers, coloring books, chalk, batons, jewelry, dancing, wands, crowns, painting nails, funny walks, singing, Halloween decorations, going to the playground, dressing up in princess dresses, your "Twinklebell" shirt (a t-shirt with a ballerina), riding a tricycle at preschool

Favorite books: Ladybug Girl and Bingo, Georgie and the Robbers, Too Many Pumpkins, Winnie the Pooh's Halloween, The Little Mermaid, The Old Black Witch

Monday, September 30, 2013

Apples & Pumpkins & a Princess

This Saturday we went apple picking at an orchard about half an hour from our house. It was a beautiful fall day, and the girls were thrilled to see bins of gourds, a pumpkin patch, shelves of Indian corn, and other seasonal treasures. There were lots of farm animals to greet and watch as well. It was a lovely morning.

On Sunday, we went to a birthday party where Ariel made an appearance. She put princess dresses on all the kids (pirate costumes for the boys) and painted their faces. Lucia hung back at first--but then she overcame her reluctance, even sitting next to Ariel and surreptitiously touching her sparkly mermaid outfit. They loved it, though Greta lost interest after a while and wandered into the playroom in her Snow White getup.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Letter to Greta: 23 Months

Dear Greta Banana,

Two is just around the corner, and you're changing in ways that continue to surprise me. All along you've been brave and bold, outgoing and cheerful, always eager to greet strangers and run into the mix. Over the past couple of weeks, however, you've exhibited a new caution, even shyness. You and I are doing a Music Together class once a week while Lucia's in preschool, and when I signed you up I felt confident that you'd love it--you sing and dance constantly; any snippet of music compels you to bend and bounce. And yet last week, and this week, you cuddled in my lap during class, even hanging around my neck and burying your face in my shoulder. You seem unnerved by the whole thing--yet as soon as class is over, your usual self returns, and you wave and say "Bye!" to the teacher and other kids. I suspect this is partly your age--this new hesitation--and partly the fact that you've never done anything without Lucia. You are used to having her around to watch, and you take your cues from her; if she were with us in class I think you'd be much more comfortable.

On the playground, too, you're doing more climbing but are also uneasy once you reach wherever it is you're going, often reaching down to be lifted back to the ground instead of heading to the slide or the steps to come down yourself. All of it is surprising and shows a growing sensitivity, and watchfulness, that I hadn't expected.

Besides music class, you and I have an hour or so afterwards to wander around and have some one-on-one time. I've been letting you wander at your own pace, which you don't normally get to do, and I'd forgotten how slow-going it is to walk anywhere with a near-two-year-old. You stop to collect leaves and flowers. You climb up and down stoops. You look at your reflection in shop windows. I've been encouraging our babysitter to take you outside for walks during the mornings she's with you, because I do feel like you've gotten cheated out of this part of your toddlerhood--the time, and independence, to just walk and look and explore. It's hard to do that when there's the competing interests and goals of your sister to manage too.

You are finally sleeping through the night, and sleeping in to a very leisurely 7am. Your eating has come down a notch, from amazing to just regular good eating. You're refusing more meals, however, usually breakfast and sometimes lunch, which I attribute to both two-year molars and a general inability to focus on eating when there are so many other things to do.

You are still only saying one syllable of most words, though your vocabulary is large--and you're putting two words together in new ways. "Ma fee," you'll say, pointing to my coffee. "More chee," you'll say. More cheese. I'm not sure how concerned to be about your inability or unwillingness to catch all the syllables; we'll talk to your pediatrician about it next month.

You are wearing 3T and size 8 shoes. Growing like a little weed.

Favorite toys/activities: Squinkies, your doll, My Little Ponies, stickers, markers, coloring books, throwing things away in the trash can, chalk, collecting "pretty" weeds in a bucket, climbing the stone walls in our yard, stealing Lucia's scooter to ride

Favorite books: The Jolly Barnyard, Goodnight Gorilla, Elmo's colors, At the Pond One Day, Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs, Barnyard Dance, Runaway Bunny

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Letter to Lucia: 47 Months

Dear Lulu,

Almost-four is a funny time. Every day you seem to get more grown up, chattering away and getting wrapped up in whatever game you’ve imagined. You’re picking up funny phrases now, from me and Daddy and from TV shows. “Mama, here’s the deal,” you’re fond of saying, or, “But the point is…” Today you enjoyed yelling “What the heck?!” at the top of your lungs for no discernible reason. You also frequently sigh in exasperation when we’re trying to get you to do something and say condescendingly, “DADdy, I’m just doing my job.

You are a total girly-girl. You love dresses, and dressing up, and wands and tiaras. You pick out your clothes on your own each day. Your all-time favorite activity right now is painting your nails, and Greta’s nails, with Disney Princess nail polishes. It washes off with soap and water, so often you’ll paint your nails five times a day.

You started your second year of preschool this month, and so far you’re thriving. The class is large, but by all accounts you are doing fine, and the teacher told me you have two little friends you hang around with. There hasn’t been even one tear at drop-off time, and when I arrive to pick you up, you are always excited to show me the art project you did that day. This class is called the three-year-old class, though you’ll spend most of the year as a four-year-old; you’re older than your classmates by four or more months. This is how it will always be, you with the mid-October birthday, and I think it will be okay.

The final vestige of babyhood with you is the pull-up you still wear at night. This irks you, and you seem determined to reach the goal of dry pull-ups and, subsequently, underwear at night. You’ve surprised us by beginning to get up to go to the bathroom during the night—never once have you called us, and we did nothing to encourage or promote it. Sometimes you even change your pull-up if it’s wet. All very quietly by yourself, in the darkened upstairs.

Favorite toys/activities: You are fun right now because there are so many things you love doing and playing with. Stickers, coloring books, markers, Ariel, princess anything, wands, tiaras, dress-up clothes, jewelry, talking about your haircut, your doll, tea parties, Memory, exploring the “forest” (the tree-filled area beside our driveway), balloons, stringing beads

Favorite books: Ladybug Girl, Beautiful Yetta, Play It Again Rosie, Room on the Broom, The Little Mermaid (Disney Little Golden Book), Chloe