Friday, March 29, 2013

Bad Decisions

As a parent, all you can do is your best. And sometimes your best is pretty pathetic. And sometimes your best seems like the best then proves to be subpar.

Like tonight, for example. Andrew and I needed a ton of groceries, both to restock our house after our two weeks away and to prepare for Easter dinner, so we decided to journey to Wegman's late this afternoon (Andrew was working from home). It's about thirty minutes away. The drive and shopping were fine--the store was chaotic, but it always is--but as soon as we'd left the store and were on the road, Lucia announced she had to go potty.

By this time, it was after 5:00pm. We decided we'd find a McDonald's and let the girls have their dinner there. And thus starts tonight's series of bad decisions. Since no McDonald's was nearby, we decided to stop at a KFC that was right near our turnoff onto the NJ Turnpike. As we pulled in, Andrew and I decided that we, too, would just eat our dinner there, and save the delicious salmon we'd bought for tomorrow. Lucia went potty. We ordered our food. Lucia went potty again, wailing that her tummy hurt; indeed, she is still having some post-Mexico stomach issues. Lucia went potty a third time. Our food came. It was all but inedible. Greta occupied herself by dipping a potato wedge into ranch dip, licking it, giving a whole-body shudder, dipping it in the BBQ dip, licking it, shuddering, and so on. She ate nothing until I gave her an applesauce pouch which, thankfully, came with the meal. Lucia ate two chicken nuggets. I ate too many nuggets. Andrew ate a chicken sandwich. The restaurant was dirty and unpleasant.

As soon as it was time to leave, Greta produced an amazingly dirty diaper. We had to haul grocery bags out of the car trunk in order to change her. Her diaper had leaked onto her pants. Everyone was tired and cranky and still hungry, except for me and Andrew, who felt pretty sick after that food. Somehow, we made it home. Somehow, we got the girls fed and to bed. I have never experienced a more complicated grocery trip. Only with kids could a simple errand take such a convoluted turn.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Letter to Lucia and Greta: 41 Months and 17 Months

Dear Girls,

Because of the craziness of our Mexico trip, I didn’t manage to write either of you your monthly letter, so I’m combining them this time. 


You are getting to be such a little kid these days—and it’s fun to plan activities for you, knowing you have the interest and attention span for them. You are just starting to show interest in your clothes; in Mexico, you often rejected the clothes I picked out for you and chose your own from your drawer. Sometimes you’d emerge after Quiet Time wearing three pairs of underwear and two pairs of pants. You have one or two favorite clothing items and show genuine sadness when I tell you they’re in the wash.

You have a few funny sayings right now. One is, “Daddy, I’m telling you a question.” Then you make some bossy demand, like, “Stop talking.” Another is, “All you need to do is…” and then you give some convoluted description of some activity. You also give a considered, scrunch-eyed “Well…” before answering any question.

Favorite toys/activities: Squinkies, tiny eraser foods, felt sandwich set, collecting things in bags/buckets, playground, hoarding things, dancing, pretending to be Cinderella (“[*gasp*] It’s midnight!” [runs off, leaves one of my shoes in the hallway])

Favorite books: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Bunny’s Easter Egg Surprise, Disney Princess books (which are truly and horrifyingly insipid, but addictive to a three-year-old)


You are exerting your will. And your will is strong. Fortunately you are also very cute, waving with both hands and saying “Bye! Bye!” to anyone and everyone, cuddling your animals, pointing and barking at all passing dogs (“Fuh! Fuh! Fuh!”). You are physically fearless and kept me running at the playground in Mexico, trying incessantly to scale ladders and steps and slides. You love to walk around outside, especially when you have time to explore at your leisure. Your eating was uncharacteristically atrocious in Mexico—you often refused meals—but seems back on track now that we’re home.

You adore Lucia, and whatever she’s doing is what you want to be doing too, even if you don’t fully understand the activity. Only when you’re sleepy do you let down your determined guard and allow your true babyness to come through once more.

Favorite toys/activities: Squinkies, putting go-fish cards in their box, digging with sticks, flipping through books, felt sandwich set, your rocking horse

Favorite books: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Bobbsey Twins Easter Egg Hunt, princess books, Elmo’s Book About Colors

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mexico City, Day 16: Journey Home

We got home from Mexico City yesterday, after a surprisingly smooth journey. We left our apartment around 10:00am, to much protesting from Lucia--after so much lamenting for home, on the day of departure she decided she wanted to stay in Mexico. Both girls were wonderful on the flight. Greta slept, played with stickers, and looked at the iPad over Lucia's shoulder; Lucia watched episodes of Sofia the First. She doesn't quite get the concept of earphones--whenever she would say something, she would shout it at top volume because she couldn't really hear herself; occasionally a loud little-girl voice would echo through the plane: "MORE PUFFS." "DADDY, I WANT TO WATCH ANOTHER SOFIA." "CAN I HAVE SOME WATER?" No one threw up. There was only minimal crying. Greta got fussy while we were waiting for our baggage, but by that point I was pretty fussy too. Both girls devoured their dinner, had a bath, and slept straight through the night.

So it's the end of our journey. Back to winter. It's sunny today, but cold; it was raining when we got home last night. Now we just need to readjust to the time...and on we go toward spring.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Our Neighborhood

Here are just a few more pictures from our trip--mostly of Lincoln Park and the sculpture garden. Our neighborhood really was lovely.

In our building's parking garage:

Our grocery store:

Across from our apartment building:

Mexico City, Day 15: Chapultepec

Greta woke up at 2:30am last night. We moved her crib to our room since she was crying, gave her some water, and she promptly went back to sleep until 8:30am. Not bad, comparatively.

For our last day in Mexico City, we set out in the morning for Bosque de Chapultepec, to absorb the vibrant Sunday life in the park and visit the Castillo de Chapultepec. The park was absolutely packed today--vendors lined every pathway, shouting endorsements of their wares. Chips of all kinds, toys, hats, shoes, glassware, belts, candy, soda/water, beef jerky crusted in chile powder, balloons, inflatable toys, cotton candy, stuffed animals, elaborate face painting, temporary tattoos, wigs, cinturons de securidad (security belts, i.e. leashes for kids)--it was an overwhelming assortment. Families were all out together, and though young kids and babies were everywhere, I was struck once again by how few strollers and baby carriers we saw. People carry even the smallest babies in their arms, a blanket slung over them.

It was a hike to get up to the castle, and, once we got there, we had to leave our stroller in a stroller-parking area. This was challenging for a few reasons: it was crowded; Greta was ready for a nap; there were lots of things that couldn't be touched; and nowhere had there been any thought of baby safety. Railings overlooking dramatic vistas had wide gaps that a baby could easily fit through--I barely saw any of the castle or view because I had to keep my hands on Greta the whole time (of course she had no interest in being carried). Lucia found a couple of things to interest her, particularly a Cinderella-esque coach and a black-and-white tiled terrace that looked like the perfect princess ballroom.

Greta fell asleep in the stroller not long after we left the castle, and though we'd half-thought we'd attempt the Modern Art Museum, we decided instead to just stroll back through the park and people-watch. We bought the girls some small plastic mermaids and wire monkeys that we saw lots of kids wearing on their heads. I bought some green chips. We all got a little sunburned.

When we got back to the apartment, we all went for a swim (mermaids included). The water was pleasant; the sun was warm; and the New Jersey winter seemed very far away. After that, it was time for naptime and Quiet Time.

We spent our final evening saying goodbye to the playground and Lincoln Park; and even though the girls were wiped out, we took them to dinner once more at Bellopuerto. It wasn't as relaxing this time--we really had to hustle, since both girls were restless and fraying--but the food was delicious, and it was a perfect last dinner to celebrate our two-week experiment.

And now--time to pack up and get ready for our flight tomorrow, the final tough stretch. Andrew and I both feel a little melancholy. It is nice here. Very nice. And, sleep difficulties aside, we consider our first big family trip a success. What a lucky and lovely break from winter--and a perfect way to start skipping town with the girls. Traveling with such little ones wasn't easy. But it's nice to think that it only gets easier from here. Different ages bring different challenges, of course; but anything's got to be easier than traveling with a sixteen-month-old.

Pictures from the day are below. Not sure why they're not in order, but I have to pack so they'll just have to stay a little chronologically scrambled.

Hello! I'm ready to swim! I'm also a handful!

Ready to swim, with new mermaids:

Dinner at Bellopuerto:

Goodbye to the park:


After dinner:

Dancing to street musicians:

Lucia refusing to be photographed by our doorman:

The Castle:

At Bosque de Chapultepec:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mexico City, Day 14: Roma & Condesa

What a night. Greta woke up around 10:30pm and screamed hysterically until almost 2am. We'd never experienced anything like it. Shrill, hysterical screams. We had no idea what was wrong. She seemed gassy, so maybe that was it; but it seemed more like she was just in a rage, which she's been succumbing to more often lately. We had to take her into our room, lest she wake up Lucia. Our only thought, finally, was that she was hungry--so at 1:30am, she sat in bed with us with all the lights on, eating a banana and some animal crackers. She was happy as a clam. Each time she took an animal cracker from the bag, she made it walk a little in the air before she ate it. She'd turn to us and give us big grins, sometimes giggling like this was the greatest joke. After eating a handful of crackers, I put her in her crib and she fell asleep and slept until 9am. This was a night for the record books.

But because she did sleep so long, and since Lucia, too, slept until 8:15am, we decided to go ahead with our plans for the day: a taxi ride to the Roma neighborhood for a walk along Alvaro Olbregon, ending up in Condesa, a lovely neighborhood where we'd have lunch. Unlike last time, the taxi ride went smoothly: I gave Lucia a lollipop as soon as we got in, and she was quiet the whole way there, just asking now and then for some "cool air" from the AC. Greta fell asleep pretty quickly once we started walking, and we had a nice time just looking around and exploring a new part of the city.

Condesa was beautiful, full of parks and restaurants--it seemed almost Park Slope-y. We ran into a slight problem when we tried to find a place for lunch. Even though it was 12:30, lots of places weren't opening for lunch until 1:00pm. We finally found a French restaurant with a breakfast menu that looked good--no, perfect: they had pancakes. The girls devoured their pancakes and lots of fruit (papayas, watermelon, cantaloupe--we're throwing caution to the wind at the end of our trip). I had delicious enchiladas with salsa verde. Andrew, unfortunately, faced all-but-raw eggs. Always, one of us has some sort of raw-egg experience when we travel. He valiantly asked for some toast and persevered.

We had our taxi pick us up after lunch and returned home for some naptime/Quiet Time. The day was absolutely gorgeous, so we hustled everyone back outside after that, into Lincoln Park. Lucia had fun painting a picture, and then we went to the playground. We are really going to miss this park--and this weather.

This turned out to be a great day, but all of this activity definitely exhausts the girls. At the playground, Lucia even lay down on the slide for a second. It would be nice if such exhaustion translated into quick bedtimes and through-the-night sleeping; alas, this has not been the case.

Unbelievably, tomorrow's our last day here...

Walking in Roma:

Lunch in Condesa:

Andrew walked through a market near our apartment:

Painting in Lincoln Park:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Mexico City, Day 13: Flower Hunt

Greta slept! She didn't fall asleep until 9pm, but she slept through till 7am. Bliss.

Despite her good sleep, she still took a nearly two-hour nap this morning, and since Andrew was working from home, Lucia and I played outside by the pool. It's a lovely terrace--chaises, the pool, and a play structure. Lucia climbed around for a while, but the best thing for her was finding things on the terrace to collect: bougainvillia blossoms, round seeds from the trees in planters. She was absorbed in foraging.

After lunch, we went to the park, where the girls once again immersed themselves in filling their bunny buckets--this time with purple blossoms from a jacaranda tree. Greta is just thrilled to have the chance to wander around. Lucia wore herself out: she napped today for an hour, of her own volition. "I will take a nap today," she announced, and she lay down in her bed and promptly fell asleep.

Later this afternoon, we went on a flower hunt to find more blossoms. Greta was beside herself, walking around on the neighborhood streets--though watching her is enough work for two people, since she has no sense of what's sidewalk and what's road. Lucia was perfectly happy finding blossoms of all kinds. Then we went home and swam in the pool. Lucia dumped her entire bucket of blossoms into the water, and the girls were absorbed in catching the floating flowers, making piles on the side, etc. Truly, these girls' attention spans are amazing.

A nice day in the neighborhood all around. We'd decided to keep it simple today, since tomorrow we're venturing out once more to do some touristy things.

Lucia made one troubling comment yesterday that I feel the need to post about. We were at Bellopuerto, in the bathroom, and when she was washing her hands, Lucia pressed her palm against the faucet, causing a little water to spray onto the floor. I told her to be careful so we wouldn't make a mess. "That's okay," she said with a shrug. "The cleaners will get it." Yikes. Yikes yikes yikes. I had no idea what to say. She has seen a lot of cleaners lately--there's daily housekeeping service at this corporate apartment building, and every morning about five housekeepers show up in a flurry of cleaning. They sweep, clean the table, do the dishes, make the beds, clean the bathrooms. They're in and out in fifteen minutes, on to the next apartment. We're usually out when they come, but we've been here a few times, and clearly this has made an impression. And, of course, Lucia knows we have a housecleaner at home, too. But this is exactly the kind of comment that makes me feel like I need to start our three-year-old on a regimen of chores. I am so terrified of having our girls take privileges for granted--and unsure how to keep them down-to-earth while still doing things that we're lucky enough to be able to do. (Should we have stayed in a roach-infested shack to balance out the privilege of our two-week stay?) I have no doubt this kind of balance will just get more and more difficult as the girls get older. I'm not going to start making my tiny child clean water from the floor of a public bathroom...but I take it as my responsibility as a mother to ensure that she doesn't think an army of housekeepers is the norm. Yikes yikes yikes.