Monday, May 27, 2013

Letter to Greta: 19 Months

Dear Baby Grets,

You’re marching on to two years old at an alarming pace, gaining opinions and preferences with every step. And feistiness. You may be the baby, but you are determined to have a say in this family, and you know how to get our attention. A forkful of food that isn’t the exact bite you wanted is met with a “NO!”—and a fork flying through the air. You throw tantrums when something is taken from you, or when we refuse to give you something or let you do something—screaming, tears, boneless or kicking on the floor.

Fortunately, you are ridiculously cute right now. You are trying so desperately to talk; you are trying to jump. You love to dance, and when your favorite song comes on (“Jimmy Crack Corn”), you stamp your feet and give a face-splitting smile. You like to “sing” and spin and clap. You love when Lucia holds your hands so you can dance together.

You are back to eating well (sautéed red peppers are a new favorite) and—knock wood—sleeping well. You tend to wake up early, around 6 or 6:30, but I’ve been able to get you back to sleep, and we’re finding ourselves heading downstairs at a much more respectable 7 these days. Of course, this morning you were up at 5:45; when I tried to rock you in the rocking chair, you clambered out of my lap and strode purposefully (in your sleep sack) to the door of your nursery, where you stopped, turned around, waved at me, and said, “Bye!” Downstairs we went.

You like to give kisses to your animals and Bibi with a loud “Mwah!” You often reach out for hugs.

You’re down to one nap now, two or so hours in the afternoon. Sometimes less, sometimes more.

It’s bedtime, but you are currently screaming your head off because you didn’t want to relinquish your toothbrush. We’ll see how long this goes on.

Favorite toys/activities: tea parties, riding (being pushed on) the tricycle, puzzles, playing doctor, dancing, chalk, sandbox, bubbles, drawing at the easel, rice table

Favorite books: Take Care, Good Knight; A Cold Winter’s Good Night; Charlie Harper’s ABC; Brown Bear Brown Bear; Bark, George; Goodnight Moon


We had to leave.

We've been going to New Hampshire together for nine years now, but yesterday, for the first time, we decided to cut our trip short and go home a day early. It was still raining. It was still cold, and getting colder. We'd been freezing the night before, and it was supposed to go down to the thirties. We still had no heat, and the ancient, fire-any-second space heater Andrew found in a closet barely warmed the kitchen, where we huddled throughout the day. We just couldn't face another freezing night, of the girls in layers of clothes and pjs and still waking up with ice-cube hands.

So we're home now; we arrived late last night. I feel like we've betrayed the house somehow by leaving early. But being in New Hampshire means fire pits and grilling and eating outside and playing in the grass. Being inside, freezing, every day for almost four days...We'd reached our limit. Even us, who love this place more than anywhere else.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Rain and More Rain

It rained all day today, without a break, and it was in the low-40s. We were housebound and freezing. But we made the most of the day, proving once again that the restorative peace of this place is powerful enough to take effect even when the day involves a trip to Wal-Mart. We knew the only way to survive the day was to get out of the house, so after a pancake breakfast this morning we headed into West Lebanon for some Wal-Mart shopping. It was pouring, and Greta fell asleep in the car, so Lucia and I took a side trip into the Dollar Tree while Greta got a few more minutes of rest. (We emerged with two smiley flower wands.)

We bought some rainy-day provisions at Wal-Mart—Play Doh, markers, and paper—and then headed to the local mall, the Powerhouse, where the girls chased each other and ooh’d and aah’d over the mall’s décor of umbrellas hanging from the ceiling. The girls have gotten to a stage where they’re just able to have so much fun together—and it’s not misbehaving exactly, since they’re just being kids and having a great time, but since it does involve a lot of running and squealing and screaming, it tends to get a little out of hand in public places. Pretty soon, we knew it was time to head home.

After lunch and nap/quiet time, we read books and then got out the Play Doh. There was some running and squealing; there were some gleeful jail-breaks toward the stairs. Soon it was time for dinner, and we piled into the car to go to the local pizza place, where the girls were overcome by the large space and sprinted from arcade games to gumball machines to bathrooms over and over again. They did manage to eat some pizza, too. They loved “playing” the race-car game in the arcade most of all.

Then we came home and watched “Sofia the First” on the iPad, and then I did some writing and reading and Andrew continued working on his chair project. Somehow we survived the cold, rainy day.

A side note: Lucia has taken to saying a new phrase: “The only problem is…” She says this in response to absolutely anything we say, beginning with a contemplative “Well…” as she considers our words. A few days ago, back home, when I suggested she eat more of her hot dog, which she’d specifically requested for dinner, she said, “Well…The only problem is, I don’t like hot dogs.” Yesterday, when we said she had to put on her sweater since it was so cold, she said, “Well…The only problem is, I don’t want to wear it.” A problem indeed.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Weekend at the Farmhouse

Friday was a rainy day in New Hampshire, but in between the showers we still managed to play outside for most of the morning and part of the afternoon. Lucia and Andrew played baseball (and Lucia actually hit the ball with the bat a few times). Greta threw stones into puddles and splashed maniacally. Lucia threw stones into the pond. Later, when it got too chilly and damp to be outside, Lucia found a bunch of ancient kitchen tools in a drawer and used them to play doctor, testing our reflexes with a honey-stir thing, looking in our ears with an old metal whisk, giving us shots with a wine-bottle-stopper, and “scooping us” (whatever that means) with a tiny metal scoop. Her favorite TV show these days is “Doc McStuffins,” about a little girl who mends her stuffed animals’ injuries, and this has really sparked her pretend-doctor imagination.

We ate dinner by candlelight—“It’s like a birthday!” Lucia said—and then enjoyed a quiet (and chilly) evening once the girls were in bed. I wrote and read; Andrew embarked on a new hobby: reupholstering an old chair he found in the barn. He’s in the very beginning stages of removing over a hundred nails and fasteners from the existing (mouse-destroyed) upholstery. (Or perhaps he’s simply been in the back room bagging up mouse skeletons from the chair’s interior—I told him not to tell me what he found once he began his disassembly.)

We're here for the long Memorial Day weekend. As usual, we feel separated from real life, ensconced in a place where we hear only raindrops, where Lucia laughs hysterically at her rainboots’ tendency to fall off while she’s swinging, where both girls find high hilarity in Greta’s squealing, lightning-fast attempts to climb up the stairs, and where we’re as likely to be sitting in a chair (allegedly) from the Mayflower as we are to be watching “Sofia the First” on the iPad.

Oh, and we have no heat—the oil tank is empty—and tomorrow is supposed to be in the 40s. In other words, it’s just another weekend at the farmhouse.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Welcoming the Ghosts

I love card catalogs. I never gave them much thought until about twelve years ago, during grad school, when I read Nicholson Baker's 1994 essay "Discards," a doom-filled ode to the superiority of actual card catalogues over digital databases. This struck a nerve with me, probably tilted me to the techno-skeptic side of the world that I still inhabit, and, perhaps most importantly, sparked a true affection for card catalogues that remains to this day. A year or so later, I bought a small, lovely card catalogue at the Chelsea Flea Market (sadly empty of cards). I used it as a TV stand for several years, and it is now in the library of our house. I have a small collection of old card-catalogue cards, too, though not even enough to fill one drawer.

But now--I have added to my card-catalogue holdings. Last month, the Carnegie Library in my hometown decided to sell their card catalogues--three of them--through a blind-bidding process. Andrew and I visited the library during a trip home and looked at them, and of course we agreed: we had to have them. I have wanted those card catalogues for years, never thinking I'd actually have the chance to acquire them. We sent in our bid, and won. The card catalogues are ours.

I can't overstate how excited I am to have these. Sadly, there are no cards--they were thrown away long ago; I try not to dwell on this. The important thing is that they are beautiful, heavy, well-worn things, surely haunted by library ghosts, and they are now in pieces in my parents' garage, awaiting their transport to New Jersey, where they will hold pride of place in our home.

Reactions to our purchase have been mixed. Confusion is most common; "What are you going to do with those?" is the usual question. I have yet to find anyone as awestruck by the card catalogues as we are (except my parents, who alerted me to the sale and arranged their pickup from the library). Fortunately I have a husband who sees their wonderfulness--who, even without me around, probably would have bid on them himself, and who is happier to have these than, say, a dining-room buffet.

Perhaps there's someone out there who will understand when I say I feel such relief that the card catalogues are ours. They will be safe here, and well loved. We welcome the ghosts they will bring.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Lucia and Greta seem to have been conspiring to make dinner-cooking more difficult than usual. As I've said many times, Greta is a fantastic eater--but as she approaches two years old, she's getting just a little more picky. Lucia, always a challenge, generally does eat pretty well, but she's definitely more opinionated (i.e., picky) about what she will and will not eat. The girls have been more or less aligned in their likes and dislikes--until lately. Now, Greta's favorite meal is macaroni and cheese--and Lucia won't touch it. Lucia loves French toast--and Greta, inexplicably, won't let it past her lips. Lucia likes scrambled eggs with cheese; Greta screams at the sight of them. Greta will eat as much salmon as we put in front of her; Lucia will eat it, but each bite is cushioned by five minutes of stalling. Lucia loves sweet potatoes. Greta does not. And on and on. Most of these are basic, basic things--dinnertime staples, the things that I've always been able to turn to in a pinch. Now, nothing is guaranteed.

It's frustrating, but I'll focus on the nice moments, when I feel like I'm doing something right instead of just cooking pound after pound of pasta. Last night, Lucia requested more broccoli with her broccoli-and-macaroni. Today, she asked for more olive oil with her toasted bread. The helping parent at preschool last week told me Lucia got very excited about the carrots at snacktime. Both girls go crazy for brie; Greta loves it so much she'll say the word "brie." (She will also say "chip." This is Andrew's fault.) They both adore pesto. They both drink milk. They are not yet eating sushi or seaweed snacks...but I trust there's time.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Letter to Lucia: 43 Months

Dear Little One,

After a couple of weeks of crazy tantrums and surliness, you’re back to your usual sunny, funny self. You’ve had some struggles this month, though, to be sure, including terrible seasonal allergies that had your eyes swollen down to your cheekbones and the whites of your eyes swollen, gelatinous horrors. (When you turned those eyes to me and I saw the swelling for the first time, it was all I could do not to scream.)

You love to dance and wear pretty dresses, barrettes, and jewelry. You and Greta have been having a lot of fun lately, especially when Greta willingly goes along with whatever game you’ve come up with. One of your favorites is riding your scooter across the room, dramatically falling off, and then holding out a hand so Greta can “help you up.” You also like doing the Sit N’ Spin while Greta runs around you in circles, screaming. Fun times.

You’re happy that the weather’s getting nicer and love playing outside, and though the really nice days have been rare, those we’ve had give a little inkling of what’s to come: complete, utter filth and multiple, much-needed outfit changes for both you and Greta. During one particularly warm day when the water table and dirt-digging were the favored activities, each of you went through three outfits in as many hours. I’m a little worried about how the coming cicadas will impact our outdoor time—I get as stir-crazy as you do when we have to stay inside.

You’ve cried a couple of times lately at preschool drop-off, though you recover quickly and greet me smiling and happy. You still go very hot and cold when it comes to sociability—generally eager to say hi to our neighbors; generally happy to not play too much with other kids. You are outrageously talkative and hilarious at home, and it does pain me a little that many people can’t see this side of you, but then I remember how your Aunt Molly and I were thrilled at our choice of talkative, outgoing spouses because it meant we’d never have to talk again…and I realize you’re probably doomed.

Favorite toys/activities: Sit N’ Spin, making setups, play food, rice table, water table, sandbox, slide, digging in the dirt, wearing dresses, being barefoot, watching Doc McStuffins, playind doctor, doing a wild dance to “Jimmy Crack Corn”

Favorite books: Disney Princess stories, I Lost My Bear, Angelina Ballerina, Berenstain Bears, Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Garage Sale Treasures

Had some good luck at garage sales this morning. My haul:

an armload of pouffy dress-up clothes
rain boots for Lucia
a large ziplock bag of misc (tiny dolls, cat figurines, etc)
---$15 for all of the above
a stack of antique metal molds of some kind, which look like metal muffin cups, which I'd actually been looking for in stores for the girls to use for sand-box cupcake-making ($1 for 6)

Pretty good, I have to say. Lucia is fixated on her current favorite dress-up things right now, but Greta seized on an adorable pink getup involving a pink velvet leotard, a puffy tulle tutu attached, and puffy tulle cap-sleeves. I put it on over her clothes, and in this getup we spent the morning outside. Word spread among our neighbors that Greta was outside in a tutu, and we drew a small crowd as she toddled up and down the street, doing her best to follow Lucia, who was zipping around on her scooter.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Lucia's Getups

Now that Lucia picks out her own clothes, her outfits are growing increasingly bizarre and mismatched. This afternoon, though, I actually laughed out loud: she was riding calmly toward me on her scooter, barefoot, wearing a seasonally inappropriate backless sundress, a purple skirt underneath that, a princess crown, some Mardi Gras beads, with an umbrella hooked over her wrist. Too funny.

Greta’s Words

Though to the untrained ear most of Greta’s words sound like some version of “Aack!!”, you’ll have to believe me when I say she’s adding more words all the time. Here are a few new additions, and some I forgot last time I did a round-up.

(I meticulously recorded each new word Lucia said, along with her age when she said it, in her baby book; Greta will have to be content with a somewhat more haphazard blog record.)

car (yelled at top volume at any sighting of a car or truck)
oh NO!
pa (potty)
ball (one of her first words that I forgot to record)
fla (flower)
bee (for any bug)
sit, seat

*When Lucia is in an open, friendly mood, she will announce to anyone and everyone who crosses our path that she is three. “I’m three!” she says, holding up three fingers. Greta has seen her do this countless times, and she clearly believes that this is what you do when you see a new person. She’ll hurry over, hold up a hand with some random fingers splayed out, and yell, “Free!” Lucia always promptly corrects her, saying, “She’s one.”

Finally, a random aside: Greta currently thinks the funniest thing in the world is to take an avocado off the windowsill and pretend to eat it. She puts her open mouth on it and then squeals with laughter.

Monday, May 06, 2013

A Summer of Ladybugs and Wheelbarrows

Ah, bliss. We spent the weekend in New Hampshire, our first trip of the summer. The house had been opened up and cleaned in the week before our arrival, so when we got here Thursday afternoon, there were no dead mice to contend with. The drive had been longer than expected, so we hustled the girls to bed and then settled in for the evening once Andrew’s dad arrived as well. (With two big carseats in our Volvo, we can’t squeeze three adults into one car anymore.) It was a little tough to get the girls inside: Lucia, of course, remembers it here, and she ran straight down the hill toward the pond as soon as she got out of the car; Greta seemed to remember it too and made a beeline for the barn, where she pounded on the door, eager to get to the toys inside.

Andrew and his dad got the grill out right away, and we ate burgers and salad in the dining room for our first New Hampshire meal.

Friday and Saturday, we spent outside—gorgeous, sunny days, not a cloud in the sky. Lucia and Greta played with their New Hampshire toys, including the beloved red car, the tractor, and the see-saw. We got out all the plastic balls. Andrew and his dad cleared some weeds from the front of the house, and the girls got to ride in the wheelbarrow when we trekked into a farther-off field to gather some branches for firewood. The girls were mesmerized by a fallen pine tree. We took nature walks and collected nature things to make dried-flower bouquets. Andrew discovered an eighteenth-century stone wall behind one of the barns.

At night, after the girls were asleep, we made a fire in the fire pit and watched the stars light up. There is nothing more peaceful.

There were some not-peaceful parts to the weekend as well. Andrew had to address a ladybug infestation in the living room, which is cute when there are just a few ladybugs crawling on the windowpanes and less cute when there’s about fifty of them on the ceiling. Lucia and Greta were both fascinated by them; Lucia would pick them up and carry handfuls of them outside, while I suppressed an Ick. Also not-peaceful was Greta, who has become four kids’ worth of trouble. If you have to pause and ask, “Where’s Greta?”, she will be doing one of the following: climbing at dizzying speed to the top of the steps, where she will stand, waiting for you, with a triumphant smile; scaling the most rickety chair in the room; taking the lid off the trash can; beelining into the barn to touch the cans of gasoline; or grasping countertops to see what she can pull down on top of herself. She requires constant attention, constant monitoring, which is hard enough at home let alone in the NH house, which is basically one big toddler death trap. It is exhausting.

Nonetheless, the peace of NH is so great that it reached us despite all the insane running around. We can’t wait to go back in a few weeks.