Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Letter to Lucia: 45 Months; Letter to Greta: 21 Months

Dear Girls,

This month, I have been negligent in writing your letters, so I’ll write this one to both of you. It has been a busy month, with trips to NH and Connellsville, and you continue to be good travelers—sleeping in the car, adjusting to new surroundings, immersing yourselves in whatever is new and exciting wherever we are. You continue to play together in a charming, often hilarious way. Lucia, you love to throw the hula hoop around the front yard, yelling “Go get it!” to Greta, as though she’s a pet. Greta, you are always happy to oblige, running and screaming as you retrieve the hoop and bringing it back to your sister.

Lucia, now that Greta is entering her terrible twos, you’ve been demonstrating your status as the “big girl” of the house, sometimes impressively—like when you spontaneously clean up the play area in the middle of the day, just so that the room “looks nice”—and other times boastfully, like when I scold Greta for doing something and you loudly point out that you yourself are doing it: “I’m sitting nicely in my chair”; “I’m not screaming.” You wear exclusively sundresses, and usually a large assortment of hair ornaments. You like to paint your nails several times a day. This week I commented that soon you would learn to read, and you said, “Well…I’m going to paint my nails first.” Your almost-four-year-old priorities are clear.

Greta, you are on the cusp of two, and it shows. You do a hilarious “defiant” look: crossed arms, lowered chin, eyes lifted just enough to make sure we’re watching you. Rarely does a day pass without a tantrum of some kind, over enraging things (taking something away from you; keeping you from killing yourself in a variety of ways) and nothing at all. You are full of high-level emotion of all kinds: scream-laughing, hysterical running, throwing yourself on the ground to sob. Each morning when I go in to get you, I tell you we have to be quiet since Lucia is still sleeping. “QUI,” you yell. Sometimes you also yell “Hi!!” to Lucia’s closed door as we walk to the stairs. You are saying so many words, and just beginning two-word phrases and sentences. Yesterday as we sat outside for lunch, you shouted “BEE! BEE!”—you word for any insect—and then “FLY! FLY!” When I agreed, “Yes, the bee flew away,” you said, “BEE WAY! BEE WAY!” You still prefer first syllables, but things are clicking. 

Your wakeup time these days is usually 6:30-7. Lucia, you usually follow at around 7-7:15. So, not inhumane.

Greta, the cutest thing you’re doing these days is saying “Cull. Cull.” and coming towards us with open arms for a cuddle. (You also do this at the dinner table for some reason, reaching over from your high chair.) You are also in a snuggling-book phase, pulling a book close for a cuddle whenever a character is sad or troubled.

Lucia, your cutest thing is the songs you sing, lengthy, atonal arias with hilarious lyrics that also contain a sinister, bossy undertone: We are sisters! We love dresses…The moon…the stars…it’s midnight! YOU MUST DO WHAT I SAY…YOU MUST DO WHAT I SAY…We love to cuddle…We are sisters! Dresses barrettes bracelets necklaces…We love to dance…YOU MUST DO WHAT I SAY…YOU MUST DO WHAT I SAY… This is usually sung at top volume as you and Greta dance around the front yard in the final minutes before bathtime. (Greta accompanies you by screaming LA LA LA LA LA LA LA and running in circles.)

We have a new babysitter this summer, a wonderful preschool teacher who arrives two mornings a week armed with fun things to do: books, things to color, stickers, glitter glue, even speakers and music so you can listen to new things on the porch. Of course, both of you have reacted dramatically to being left with a sitter. Last week, you, Greta, sobbed on the floor when we left, your face buried in your Bibi; and you, Lucia, stayed up in your room the entire time. Conversely, today you both greeted her excitedly and summarily dismissed me and Daddy with cheerful waves (Lucia) or absolute obliviousness (Greta). Every day is different.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Week Away

We escaped a brutally hot week in Maplewood last week by heading to Connellsville—we didn’t plan the trip because of the weather, but we wound up choosing very luckily. Even better, Molly and Luca could join us for a couple of days. Lucia and Greta had a splendid time from beginning to end. What’s not to love about Gra and Pop-Pop’s house? A pool, marbles for the pool and other pool toys, sidewalks for scooter-riding and stroller-pushing, wonderful books, a veritable toy store in the attic, monstrous My Little Pony structures (which I purchased last year at a Cville yard sale and hadn’t taken back with me), a visit to Grandma and Aunt Florence, ice cream at Dairy Queen, undivided attention, new ballerina dolls from Uncle Don and Aunt Joanie. We even squeezed in a visit to the Clarks in Pittsburgh and went out to lunch, all nine of us, each kid accompanied by a Beanie Boo.

Now we’re back home, with lots of rain but at least no 100-plus temperatures. Greta is having more toddler moments than usual, perhaps due to teething, perhaps due to imminent two-year-old-ness. Lucia is readjusting to having to actually do things for herself since there is only one adult—me—to keep things running during the day (“Maamaaa…I can’t get the toilet paper….The toilet paper’s not woooorkingggg…”). I had to—gasp—cook my own dinner last night. (Well, Andrew put frozen fish nuggets in the toaster oven. Tonight I’ll cook.) Back to reality.



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Church Sale Time

I’ve been inconsistent in recording my garage-sale finds this summer. Rest assured, I go to garage sales every weekend that we’re here; and rest assured, I always buy something. My greatest joy, however, is the church rummage sale. I’ll do anything to ensure I make it to a rummage sale, and already this summer my determination has caused marital unrest. A case in point: three weeks ago. Sure, we had eight people coming from Brooklyn for lunch; sure, we had to get everything ready; sure, the girls were whiny that morning, trading meltdowns. But a synagogue nearby was having a rummage sale, and I went, leaving Andrew and the girls behind, just an hour before our friends arrived. Andrew wanted to kill me. Moral to the story: Andrew got over his anger, and I got a pile of great kids’ books for 10 cents each, several hundred envelopes (white and lavender) for $1.50, plus a large, eclectic mix of butter-yellow Fiestaware for $10.

My true love is the annual “turnover sale” at a church just down the road. You might remember my rapture last year, when I went five separate times and filled the car about six times. Sadly, this year we were out of town for the first three dates. But Tuesday night, I left Andrew to fend for himself with the girls’ bedtime, and I headed over. And today, I left the girls with a sitter and went once more. We’ll fit in a final trip on Saturday.

Though last year is unbeatable in sheer volume, I’ve gotten some great things this year so far. A partial list:

7 small glass apothecary bottles, $5 for all
a discontinued LeapFrog fridge word game, $3 ($90 on Amazon)
a bag of marbles, .50
20 picture frames, $15
2 packs of vintage ribbon Christmas tree ornaments for craft purposes, .50
12 eensy-weensy yellow chicks for Easter Bunny purposes, .10
a bag of glass stones, $1
a large bag of foam shapes, .50
fleece-lined leggings, $1
a bag of buttons, $1
2 minimally used sets of watercolors, .50
a bag of pom-poms for crafting, .25
3 children’s books, .75
5 puzzles for my aunt, $2.50
Busytown board game, $2
2 princess puzzles, $1
a set of Step2 cupcakes with display stand and tray, $2

And more that I’ve forgotten and which has now been absorbed into our home, surely to be cherished forever.

Such a sale is not for everyone. And the people in front of and behind me in line are surely on the more eccentric end of the personality scale…Then again, I probably am too. No matter. There is true fun to be had in a rummage-sale hunt. 

Monday, July 08, 2013

More Pictures of Our NH Week

We did so many fun things this week: gather dewberries, gather appealing red berries that may or may not be edible (the fun is in the gathering), gather wildflowers in order to practice ikebana (Japanese flower arranging, or simply arranging wildflowers in small plastic milk jugs), swimming at our cousins' pool with frog innertubes. The girls went to their first parade on the Fourth of July, and loved gathering all the candy thrown at them. A few pictures:

Sunday, July 07, 2013

A Bat, a Headlamp, a Butterfly Net (July 7)

Our final two nights in New Hampshire were made exciting by the appearance of a bat in the house. Friday night, I was reading on the couch around 8:30pm when I heard Andrew yell and scuffle in the kitchen. He came running out, panicked: a bat had flown out of the pantry, straight at his head. Behind him, I saw the bat swoop out of the kitchen, into the dining room. Quickly, we closed off that room; there’s a door leading to the outside from that room, and I went outside and opened it up. One of the doors to the room was in the barn, so I held a blanket over that doorway while Andrew ran outside to get it. Behind the blanket was a clear fwap fwap fwap. Once the door was in place, we waited, listening. Andrew looked in from the outside; the bat was swooping back and forth across the room. After a while, we didn’t hear it anymore. After a very long while, Andrew decided to go in and look around. The bat was gone. Or so we thought.

Late that night, around 5:00am, I woke up. The sun was just beginning to rise, and I decided to go into the girls’ rooms and pull their curtains closed so they wouldn’t wake up too early; we’d left them open since the night was so hot. I closed Greta’s curtains. Then I went into Lucia’s room and pulled her curtain closed. As I did so, I thought I heard a flutter, like a moth. But it sounded like such a large, meaty moth that I peeked behind the curtain. There, pressed against her window, silhouetted against the dim morning light, was the bat.

I threw her curtain closed, ran to our room, and hissed at Andrew: “THE BAT. THE BAT. THE BAT IS IN LUCIA’S ROOM.” Andrew did not immediately wake up, or understand. “WE HAVE TO GET LUCIA. THE BAT. THE BAT.” I ran back into Lucia’s room, scooped her up, and resettled her on our bed. (She stayed asleep.) Andrew was standing up, blinking in confusion, as I whisper-screamed at him: “THE BAT IS IN LUCIA’S ROOM!!!! CLOSE HER DOOR!!! CLOSE OUR DOOR!!!” It was too late. Behind him, I saw the bat swoop out of Lucia’s room and fly down the hallway. For an hour, Andrew searched the house. But the bat, again, was gone. We resettled Lucia in her bed and tried to sleep.

The next morning, Saturday, Andrew was nearly paralyzed with unease. He wouldn’t help get the girls ready to go to the farmer’s market; he wouldn’t call our cousin for advice; he wouldn’t do anything. I perused a Yellow Pages from the early nineties, found several entries for Pest Control, and called one that specialized in Nuisance Wildlife; no one picked up. One by one, the girls had meltdowns, and I shouted at Andrew that he, paralyzed husband, was the true nuisance wildlife after all. It was not a good morning.

But we rallied. We went to the farmer’s market. We came home and Andrew spent over an hour searching for the bat. He went room by room, peering under beds and between books and behind picture frames. There was no sign of the bat, no sound, no sighting. Surely, we decided, the bat was gone. There was absolutely nowhere it could have been hiding. We had a nice day of playing in the kiddie pool and then swimming at our cousin’s house. Still, we waited for dusk with some degree of apprehension, fearing that the bat was still at large.

We put the girls to bed (after a thorough search of the upstairs). We made a fire pit and roasted s’mores. We had a glass of wine. We went to bed. Andrew carried his headlamp, a small broom, and one of the girl’s butterfly nets up with him, just in case we had another middle-of-the-night Event. He realized he’d left his glasses downstairs. He clicked on the hall light as he made his way back down to the now-darkened downstairs…and saw the bat swoop by between the banister rails. By now Andrew had become bound and determined that he would prevail over the bat, so he suited up—hooded sweatshirt, headlamp, butterfly net, broom—and crept downstairs. He ignored my pleas to not hurt the bat, to be sure to be careful of its wings. There was scuffling, and slammed doors; and Andrew called me down: he’d trapped the bat in the living room. The door to the outside in that room was open, and he was now going to go into the room and either shoo the bat out or catch it in his net.

When Andrew went in, the bat was hanging in a corner of the room, surely scared and weak by now. After a minute or so, he called me in. He’d caught the bat in the butterfly net. He was in near-panic: “It’s in the net. It’s in the net. I don’t know what to do. It’s in the net. It’s in the net.” We draped a blanket over the net and Andrew ran with it outside, down to the road. He threw the net and ran back to the house. After a few minutes, he went back to the net. The bat was gone—this time, for good.

Every July, with the fields crowded with wildflowers and the tadpoles peeking from the pond, nearly frogs, we seem to encounter wildlife in extreme forms. Last year, there were mice everywhere, and Andrew caught one in his hands. This year we have more bugs than usual—earwigs, moths, ants, wasps, spiders; the ladybug infestation in late May—and, of course, the bat. “A bat?” Lucia said when we casually told her what was happening. “Like at Halloween?” Not Halloween, not yet, but certainly summer here brings its own kind of haunting.

Oh: you might be wondering where the bat came from, and where it was hiding all day. We’re pretty sure Andrew himself brought the bat into the house when he brought in a cardboard box full of ancient mason jars that he’d found in the attic of the barn. Or it might have come down an unused chimney in the pantry. And we think the bat was hiding—creepily—right in the kitchen, in or near the garbage can. All day, both of us remarked on how bad the trash smelled, even though we’d taken the trash to the dump Saturday morning, on our way to the farmer’s market. After Andrew caught the bat—the terrible smell was gone.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Rain & Well-Being (July 3)

Lucia has taken a greater interest than usual in Greta’s well-being. Lucia always sleeps with a night light, and I always bring one along for Greta, too, even though I don’t put it on for her: I just click it on whenever I check on her. This week, though, when I’ve gone upstairs to check on the girls and go to bed, there’s Greta’s night light: turned on, and placed right next to her crib. The same during naptime. Apparently Lucia waits for Greta to go to sleep, tiptoes into her room, turns on the night light, and puts it beside her—with Andrew and I none the wiser. Sometimes she also takes all the extra pacifiers from the bureau and tosses them into the crib.

Lucia is also very worried that Greta is going to fall off the floating dock into the pond. This is a legitimate fear, one that Andrew and I have both lost some sleep over this week. Even though one of us always has a hand on her, we’ve both had very clear visions—either in dreams or just before going to sleep—of Greta not only falling into the water but somehow getting stuck underneath the floating dock. This wouldn’t happen. We know this. Even if Greta did fall into the pond, one of us would be able to grab her within one second. Less. Even I would jump into the disgusting pond if Greta fell in; I would jump in and grab her and ignore my feet sinking into the scum on the bottom as I hoisted her out. But still. “LOOK AT GRETA!” Lucia yells on the dock every few minutes if Greta takes even half a step. “GRETA’S GOING TO FALL IN! GET HER! GET HER! YOU HAVE TO GET HER!” I think we’re all ready for Greta to get just a teeny bit more cognizant of danger.

Though Memorial Day definitely was the worst time we’ve ever had here, with the rain and the cold and the no heat, this week has come in a close second, with daily torrential downpours. Yesterday we headed out on an errand and got stuck in some flash-flooding on our way to Joann Fabrics; we had to pull over for a long time. It was insane. And last night, we lost power at around 8:30pm. Fortunately, the girls’ night lights keep a charge, and fortunately, we’d already cooked our dinner. Andrew and I played Scrabble by candlelight. The power came back on in the middle of the night, and all our food was fine. Then it poured again this morning.

We’ve managed to have mostly nice mornings, however, which has made our time here fun despite all the rain.

Monday, July 01, 2013

It Will Be So Different (July 1)

There’s something about being in New Hampshire that allows me to see the future. At home, caught up in the day to day of life with the girls—days that are blends of mind-numbing tedium; blood-pressure-raising frustration; and incredible happiness and wonder—it’s almost impossible for me to see past the point where we are right now. “It goes fast,” people say. “Soon it’ll be Lucia going to softball camp/driving off to a ballgame/heading into the city to shop with friends.” Really? My dancing, singing, hair-accessory-loving three-and-three-quarter-year-old will one day not need me to arrange macaroni on her fork? My “NO”-screaming, arm-crossing, new-word-attempting one-and-three-quarter-year-old will one day know how to walk down the steps by herself? This time of small children seems, most days, like a permanent state.

But here: here I see it differently. Today it rained off and on, but there was no thunder or lightening, and the girls played for a solid hour in near-silence this morning down at the pond, on the rickety floating dock. Lucia fished algae out of the pond and collected it in her hand. Greta pulled up water-plant leaves and stuck them to her legs. They were completely immersed in the new things they were feeling and seeing. And I could see them a few years down the road, playing together at the pond, and I could imagine all the fun things they’ll discover there, and the activities they’ll dream up all on their own. I could see them—truly see them. And I could see me, and Andrew, sipping drinks in chairs up at the house or chatting together on the dock instead of lunging after Greta, who was bound and determined to just step off the floating dock, into the water; or lunging after Lucia as she leaned way, way, way over the edge of the floating dock to reach just one more piece of algae, oblivious to the way the dock was listing and sinking.

Lucia loved pulling on the rope to guide the floating dock closer to the other dock, and I could see her loving a canoe ride, or a kayak, or even some kind of boat ride down the river. Greta kept making snuggle motions at the mention of frogs, but she was too little, really, to spot them for herself; she’ll love it when she can pick out frogs and other animals on her own instead of simply calling “Frooogggg… Frooogggg…” and hoping they’d magically appear.

It will be so different.