Monday, January 28, 2013

Letter to Greta: 15 Months

Dear Littlest One,

You are funnier and cuter every single day. You have taken your place as an autonomous, opinionated member of the family, as likely to snuggle up with a bottle of milk as you are to hurl yourself from one end of the couch to the other, screaming and laughing. You've discovered that your cache of animals is there to be carried around and cuddled, and you've even started feeding your animals bites of play food and letting them drink from doll bottles. You have the things you like to do, and you know what books you'd like to hear, and when you want something, you go for it--you can't always tell us what you want yet in words, but you make your wants known by, say, banging on the refrigerator (milk).

You have the funniest, cutest smile, with a little row of teeth on top and bottom and a few shocking molars peeking out in back. You like to give kisses, coming at us suddenly with an open mouth; you like to hand Lucia her Bibi. You and your sister have found some new ways to interact and entertain each other. A favorite game is each of you holding one end of Lucia's Bibi and walking/running around the house, squealing. Or Lucia will give you one end of a Bibi and pull you, screech-laughing. You like rolling around on the floor, screech-laughing. We are a loud household these days.

You are still the best eater in the house, easily eating as much as Daddy or me and usually eating about double Lucia's serving. Your favorite meals are macaroni and cheese, and baked ziti. You adore bananas and ask for a "na na." You're growing fast: you're swiftly leaving 18-month clothes behind and have started wearing a few 2T pieces. For once, the seasons match--but only because Lucia didn't wear 2T until she  turned two, in the fall. You're almost an entire year ahead, size-wise.

Cuteness aside--you can be a handful. You don't much like getting into your winter coat, or the cold weather, or getting into the car. You've become difficult to shop with--you can be plied with a snack for only so long before you just start fussing and squirming in the cart. When you have a bottle of milk you're not that interested in drinking, you turn it upside down and spill the milk everywhere then smear it around with your hands--and, of course, scream in protest if we then take the bottle away.

You're getting up reasonably these days, around 6:30 on good days. When I get up with you, I immediately get you a bottle of milk and we sit together on the couch in the still-dark house, you peaceful in my lap, resting your head on my shoulder. Even though it's so hard to get out of my warm bed and go downstairs to start the day, this is always quite lovely.

You're learning new words all the time; today you waved goodbye to Daddy while saying "Ba, ba, ba!" You also say pa-pa (pacifier), Bibi, mama, na-na, no, up, and others. You use a fork deftly. You like to help pick up toys and put them where they go. You love to draw with markers.

Favorite toys/activities: play food, Mardi Gras beads, Sit N Spin (you can do it yourself now!), shopping cart, toy stroller

Favorite books: Beautiful Babies, Karen Katz flap books, 10 Trick or Treaters, Noisy Farm, Ten Little Ladybugs, 123 Ducks

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Last Thursday, around 3:30pm, I loaded the girls into the car and off we went to a playdate. We were listening to music and Lucia was snacking on Goldfish and then CRUNCH. I’d crashed into another car, smashing up my hood and the other car’s front passenger-side door. Shocked, I sat there for a moment. The car had come out of nowhere. I’d seen it in time to try to brake, but there wasn’t enough time even to screech. Just…CRUNCH. Lucia gave a brief whimper from the loud sound; the girls were otherwise unaffected, as was I. Thank goodness for our Volvo. Seriously, we barely felt it.

The other car continued across my path and pulled to a stop. I pulled in behind and called the police. The driver of the other car was an elderly woman, with a passenger who was maybe her son. They weren’t hurt either. (They were also in a Volvo.)

It happened at a tricky intersection: the road I was on has no stop sign; the road she was on has a stop sign with a flashing light and big yellow signs warning CROSS TRAFFIC DOES NOT STOP. I had no idea whether she just didn't see me, or ran the stop sign, or thought I had a stop sign too, or radically misjudged her ability to get across in time. Or if I was, somehow, at fault. I was pretty sure I wasn’t, but couldn’t sleep for several nights, just replaying it all in my mind.

The police took my license, insurance, registration. I called Andrew, who, thankfully, was working from home that day; he started out on foot to meet us. (We were really close to home.) After what seemed like a very long time, the cop came back and said what I knew he was going to: “We have a problem.”

Indeed, we did. Not only was our poor car smashed up, but—through a series of events involving a) procrastination; b) the ridiculously complicated process involved in getting our title from CA; and c) the holidays, we had not managed to register our car in NJ. And our NY registration expired in December.

Andrew showed up just when the cop announced that our car was being immediately impounded and I was to get out and remove anything I needed from the vehicle so it could be towed to the impound lot. At this point I began to cry, because our car was being taken away! by the police! and I have two little kids! and what about the carseats?! and my husband is going away to Mexico for a week! and I just smashed up our car! Ugh. Andrew took out the kids, and the carseats, and there we were—on a street corner, without a second car, and no way to carry everything home. Fortunately, we had an umbrella stroller and the Ergo in the car, so I walked the girls home, and Andrew called a cab for him and the carseats.

A mess. A total mess. Andrew spent the next morning going to the DMV to get our registration, going to the police station, going to the impound-lot towing company, getting a rental car. Things seem to be sorted out now, and our car is at the repair place. I went to the police station today to get the police report, and, ta-da, it said clearly that I was not at fault. A witness confirmed that the other driver had run the stop sign. Our car is still damaged ($4,200 of damage!! Thank goodness for insurance!!), but in some small way this makes me feel better. Or does it make me feel worse? I’m a slow, careful driver, yet all the slowness and carefulness didn’t matter here at all. Just…CRUNCH.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Letter to Lucia: 39 Months

Dear Little One,

Three is fun. We’ve reached an even-keeled period, and suddenly you’re the easy one—your little sister, with her inability to go grocery shopping without screaming, has become the weak link in day-to-day placidity (or what passes for placidity with two kids, anyway). You sleep to a decent 7:30, you play, you sit for long stretches to read books, you play with Greta. We have moments when you dig in your heels—slipping out of your winter coat just when it’s time to leave the house is among the more maddening sticking points—but for the most part we have fun.

You have come to love, and look forward to, your Quiet Time. Your favorite thing to do is strew about your room hundreds of tiny beads I bought at a garage sale and gave to you on a whim; you sort them, set aside your favorites, gather them in different vessels. They are all over the place, all the time, and every night I curse quietly as I crawl around picking them up (you help, but there are a ton of beads), but you love them so much.

You still like school, and you like to play school at home—you call me your teacher’s name and insist I address you and Greta as “Class.” “Class, it’s time for cleanup. Class, let’s get on our shoes and go play outside.” You tell me plaintively that you’re always “a little bit scared” when I leave you at school, but whenever I peek in the window at pickup time, you’re always smiling and perky, doing whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing.

This week you’ll start a new activity: ballet. Or, rather, “ballet,” since any ballet class full of three-year-olds is surely just one notch up from total chaos. It’s a drop-off class, and I really hope you like it. You’re incredibly excited about it. We went to the dance school yesterday to buy you a leotard (a word you simply cannot say, though you keep trying) and ballet shoes, and you kept saying loudly, “I want to dance RIGHT NOW.” You have so much energy, and our afternoons are often just dead zones when it’s too cold to play outside, so a 4pm dance class seems like the perfect thing for a few weeks this winter.

You love wearing leg warmers. You never wear socks in the house. You still love your Dolly. You don’t much like to eat your meals, though you love toast, oatmeal, bagels with cream cheese, raisins, dried mangos, Goldfish, bananas, and Reese’s peanut butter cups (you get one tiny one after dinner each night). You claim to love lollipops, but you always abandon them after a few licks.

Favorite toys/activities: playing with your tiny eraser-foods, play food, Dolly, your doll stroller, filling your shopping cart, fingerpainting, kicking/throwing balls, Sit n Spin, large building bricks, the ball popper

Favorite books: Kevin Henkes mouse books (Penny and Her Marble especially), Little Bea and the Snowy Day, Ladybug Girl and Bingo, Miss Rumphius

Face of an Angel

You. Yes, you. Think I'm cute? Today I mysteriously got past the baby gate and made it to the landing before my older sister screamed "GRETA'S CLIMBING THE STAIRS!!!" (It will be a mystery forever whether or not Lucia opened the gate for me.) Today I also learned how to get onto the couch by myself, and my favorite thing to do is jump and run from end to end, getting precariously close to the edge and bringing to an end the relieved exhalation Mama has been feeling when she can turn on Dora and go into the kitchen to cook dinner. I dare you to look away for one second. I dare you.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

More Paint

Thursday, needing a good activity to kill some time before lunch, I decided the girls should finger-paint together. They’d done a tiny bit of fingerpainting once before and loved it, and this time I went all out—preparing a seat for Greta at the table, spreading out a huge sheet of paper, pouring paints into Tupperware lids. The girls loved it. Greta just liked grabbing handfuls of paint and squeezing the paint in her fingers. Lucia did some actual fingerpainting, but she, too, was more interested in getting as much paint on her hands as possible.

It quickly became about as messy as I’d expected it to be, but then I realized I had no exit strategy—a paint-covered table, paint-covered chairs, paint-covered girls, their paint-covered clothes, and just me, trying to figure out how on earth to get us back to zero and get lunch made before, oh, six o’clock.

I ended up wiping them down as best I could with a cloth and then taking them upstairs for a bath. There is still paint on the chairs. It was way more mess than it seems like forty minutes should have produced, but they had fun.

Lucia wanted to fingerpaint again yesterday, of course, and this time I distracted Greta with some Cheerios in her high chair while Lucia coated trays, bowls, and her forearms with paint. Both girls were happy. All Lucia said for about forty-five minutes of total fingerpaint immersion was, “More paint. Mama, I need more paint.”

When Greta got antsy, I settled her at the table with some markers and paper. While I was at the sink with Lucia, rinsing off her arms and hands, with my back turned for all of three minutes, Greta sucked all the ink out of a purple marker, leaving the tip entirely white. “My favorite maaaarker,” Lucia wailed. “Purple is my faaaavooorrriiiitee maaaaarker.” Never a dull moment.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Stabbed in the Heart

Today on the way to preschool, Lucia, as she always does, asked if I was going to be the “helping mommy” today. I told her no, but that I’d be the helping mommy next week. “Are you the leaving mommy today?” she replied. Oof. The leaving mommy. Even though I leave this child for a total of five hours per week—at preschool, which she loves and looks forward to—I still felt a good dose of mommy guilt. (“I’m so glad you’re here!” Lucia exclaimed when I returned to pick her up. “Brr! It’s a good thing we’re wearing coats!” After preschool, everything is usually an excited exclamation.)

I also felt guilty because I left Greta with a new sitter for the first time today, and I was sure she’d be scared and upset. But it went fine—the sitter is wonderful, and when I came home she’d gotten out all the drums and was engaging Greta in a lively song, Greta smiling on her pink chair. The sitter said Greta didn't cry at all and took a one-hour nap.

This afternoon the girls had on their fairy wings and crowns for a while as they played—a quiet, cute time.

Friday, January 04, 2013

And to All a Good Night

Over the past month or so, I’ve read The Night Before Christmas to Lucia and Greta probably a hundred times. Both of them took to the story, and it was a relief to me to have this framework—the descriptions, the illustrations—to help me explain the whole idea of Santa. I’d been talking about Santa for a while, and Lucia watched a Dora episode about Santa a bunch of times, so she definitely understood the concept. But I felt like every time I brought it up, I had to add a new, perplexing detail—he flies in a sleigh pulled by reindeer; he visits when you’re sleeping; he lands on the roof; he comes down the chimney. It is bizarre to piece it apart this way, each element more incredible than the last. But somehow it all added up coherently for Lucia, who, throughout December, eagerly talked about what she wanted Santa to bring her (a wand and a pillow).

On Christmas Eve, we went to the annual Orlando Christmas Eve party, the climax of which is “Santa’s” appearance to dole out joke gifts to the adults and small but genuine gifts to the kids. This isn’t done half way—this year it was a friend of the hosts’ who donned the full Santa suit and jingled sleigh bells as he came through the door. I was certain Lucia would be scared, and she was definitely put off—for about ten seconds. Then she shouted “Santa!” and asked me where his reindeer were. Then she gazed on in what can only be described as wonder. When it was her turn to sit on Santa’s lap, she did it, even telling him the things she wanted. She was beyond thrilled.

Christmas was lovely but overwhelming for the little ones—it took us all day to make our way through the kids’ gifts; they would have been happy with any one of the things we got them. But it was clear to Lucia that Santa had visited, and this is how she describes her new things: the pillow Santa brought; the toys Santa brought.

Santa is real. We’ve made him real for her. And next year he’ll be real for Greta, too. A fabrication, from beginning to end—but what a beautiful, magical fiction.

Letter to Greta: 14 Months

Dear Grets,

This letter is slightly late, but in a way that’s good, since it gives me the chance to remark on the vast changes you’ve undergone in just the past couple of weeks. I feel like I blinked and you morphed from a cuddly, docile baby to a toddler with a mind of your own—you are as cute as ever but are now at the receiving end of my “No!” just as often as Lucia.

Your big thing right now is stairs—all you want to do is go up. You’re pretty deft at this, but since you have absolutely no idea how to climb down (you think you can simply step off the top like we do), this is ridiculously dangerous. Just before we left for Christmas, I spent an insane afternoon chasing you as you ran for the steps again and again, screaming when I peeled you off and sometimes grabbing the railing and refusing to let go. I blocked the steps with the piano bench, but you climbed under it. Needless to say, I’m counting the seconds until our new baby gate arrives. In the meantime, we’ve managed to block your access with an outdoor bench and a box of firewood.

You’re finally saying words beyond Mama. Bibi was first, and, just last week, you added zoom (which you say, adorably, when pushing toy cars around), puppy (thanks to the presence of Franny and Zooey over Christmas), up, and no. Though your repertoire is still small, you seem to vocalize constantly, usually by yelling MEEEEEEEEEEEEE and EEEEEEEEEEEE while reaching dramatically for what you want.

And you are just having more fun these days, flashing your whole-face jack-o-lantern smile for long stretches and scream-laughing with Lucia. Over Christmas, you were thrilled at your ability to ride the rocking horse at Gra and Pop-Pop’s house—you could rock on it yourself, which you did, squealing and smiling the whole time. And our days have gotten noisier now that you and Lucia have found some common ground in your love of jumping, running, and screaming at the top of your lungs. This seems to happen primarily late in the afternoon. Though it is truly ear-splitting, and everyone gets much too wound up, it’s pretty cute to stand by and watch you two play and giggle together.

The summary of this month is that although you are just too ridiculously cute, you’ve become a true handful. We all went to Target together yesterday; usually, when I’m shopping with you and Lucia together, you’re so quiet I forget you’re even there. Not so, yesterday. You sat in the cart and took off your shoes; pulled your legs up and turned around in your seat; tried to stand; tried to grab things. Keeping you from hurling yourself to the ground distracted me from my excavations of the 70%-off Christmas shelves. For once, you were the instigator, prompting Lucia, too, to take off her shoes even though she’d been happy enough letting me pile things on top of her in the cart. Shopping with you both, a staple of my wintertime survival, may prove to be impossible now.

You love waving and will wave for any reason. You are solid on your feet, nearly running now. You like to sit on a chair at the little art table. You eat bananas whole, refusing any bites I cut for you, holding the banana out to me when you’re ready for me to peel a little more. You’re still putting things in your mouth, but this has gotten a bit better. You love reading and are clear about which book you’d like to hear. You still want to be doing whatever Lucia’s doing. You squeal with delight when Daddy comes home after work.

Favorite toys/activities: Little People nativity set, play food, stacking cups, putting things in bags/buckets, bouncing a ball, carrying around the child-size broom, pushing around small cars/trucks/buses while saying “zoom”

Favorite books: Twas the Night Before Christmas, Duck and Goose It’s Time for Christmas, Ho-Hum, Fifteen Animals, Snuggle Puppy, Ten Little Ladybugs