Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Letter to Lucia: 46 Months; Letter to Greta: 22 Months

Dear Little Ones,

Once again, a joint letter, my excuse this time my ten-day trip to Bread Loaf. This was a milestone for everyone: my first time away from you two (excepting my hospital stay), and Daddy’s first time looking after you on his own for an extended period. By all accounts, you all thrived, and Daddy’s now dropping hints that he may want to switch roles and stay home with you girls all the time. (This is hilarious, and impossible, for reasons you’re too young to understand.) Greta, you took my return in stride; Lucia, you seemed miffed for a day or so to go back to normal, but we’ve reached equilibrium once more.

For both of you, this month we’ve witnessed your great love for our community pool, as well as endless fun at home on our porch and yard with chalk, balls, hula hoops. Lucia, you’ve taken a renewed interest in your stuffed animals. At odd moments you’ll suddenly squeak, “Eee! Eee! Eee!” and it’ll be one of your animals crying for you. Of course Greta follows suit and also makes her animals cry for various reasons.

Greta, you’ve become quite the noisy little one. Why speak when you can shout? Each morning when I go in to retrieve you, I tell you we have to be quiet since Lucia and Daddy are still sleeping. “OKAY!!” you yell. You give a silent wave at Lucia’s closed door as we walk to the stairs, but when you catch sight of Daddy through our bedroom doorway you scream “DA!!!!” You yell your assent, you yell your observations, you yell your demands. You are loud, loud, loud. You’ve found your voice, to be sure, but you haven’t quite found your two-syllable words, sticking instead to either the first or last syllable. You’re putting those single syllables together now and then into two-word sentences, and I trust the enunciation will come.

Lucia, you continue to chatter more or less constantly throughout the day. You still love making up songs and dancing, and part of me fears you’ll pursue a path of interpretive dance when you’re older. Yesterday at the pool, you found a maraca, and you spent most of our time there crooning a nonsensical song and dancing dreamily in the water, shaking the maraca.

Greta, you spent yesterday’s pool time walking around the pool in a crouch, so you were submerged up to your shoulders. Your little baby thighs must have been burning.

Two cuties. That’s what we have. I missed you when I was gone, little ones.

Favorite books: we’re going through great stacks of books these days; not really any clear favorites. Olivia, Lowly Worm, princess anything, Max & Ruby.

Favorite toys/activities: Squinkies, beads, scooter, stuffed animals, painting, chalk, singing/dancing, painting nails, stickers, markers, eraser animals, tutus

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Guest Post: Days 9 - 11

August 22 – 24

My time alone with the girls has come to an end. As I write this, it is 2:30pm on Saturday, and in a few hours I’ll pack the girls into the car and we’ll head to the airport to pick up Mommy. Greta was up at 7am on the dot this morning, and Lucia was up soon after. I came down with Greta and gave her a bottle of milk and we sat on the couch together in the quiet. Lucia soon joined us and we went into the kitchen to have breakfast and start our day. Underneath it all, there was a slight rhythm, a faint sense of routine, as I thought ahead to morning snacks at the playground and wondered how cool it was out and if we would need long pants when we changed out of our PJs.

As I put the girls to sleep alone last night for the last time this week (Larry and Marge left Friday morning to drive back home, 2 laughing, well-fed girls in their wake), I felt a twinge of sadness that this period, however short, was over. We, of course, all of us, can’t wait for Margo to get home. Greta, in fact, seems to have gone on a hunger strike until she returns, and I was especially lonely last night as I turned off the ballgame and switched off the lights and headed upstairs in a quiet house. But this “full immersion” period with Lucia and Greta has brought unexpected joy.

There are of course moments that I would rather not relive: Greta throwing her Lamby into the bathtub full of water right before we went to bed, Lucia wrenching yet another toy out of Greta’s poor hands. But these moments were few and far between.

What I will remember more than anything are both the pride of full responsibility for two tiny, precious beings, and the quiet moments with each girl: Lucia whispering to me from the stairs as she is now at the end of naptime, Greta resting her head on my should at 3am as she falls back to sleep, Lucia’s hand on mine as I attempt to pin her hair back with a pink glittery barrette, her eyes searching my face.

And we did get into a rhythm all our own: the playground at Taylor Park was our playground. The swing-set at our neighbor’s house we visited from 6:45 to 7 most evenings. Picnic lunches were always out in the backyard in the shade.

We can’t wait for mommy to return. But these 10 days have been a gift I will never forget.



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Guest Post: Days 6-8

August 19 – 21

Marge and Larry have been here since Sunday, which has allowed me to go back to work the past three days, hence the hiatus in posts. That’s no reflection on the activity of the girls, of course, who have kept both grandparents on their toes. In fact, I’m worried that Lucia and Greta are wearing Gra and Pop-Pop out, as Larry and Marge have turned in earlier and earlier each night they have been here! Luckily, I’ll be working from home tomorrow, and then back on full-time solo parenting for Friday and much of Saturday until we head to the airport to pick up Mommy (Whew!!!!).

However, the girls have been thrilled with spending time with their grandparents. I’ve been taking the early train home every day, and I hear the girls laughing and screaming out on the porch from down the block. Additionally, Marge and Larry arrived with tons of food for dinner, so I’ve also been relieved of cooking duties as well. How amazing is that?!

Every morning so far Lucia has gamely offered to “go wake up Gra and Pop-Pop”. They of course have usually been up for a while, but Lucia loves tramping up the stairs to the third floor to see them. Greta and I can then head downstairs and have a bottle of milk on the couch for a bit.  

By the time I’m ready to leave, the girls are ensconced in play with their grandparents and hardly even notice that I’m leaving. Our sitter came on Tuesday, too, allowing Larry and Marge some free time, which, of course, they spent shopping for the girls and me at Home Depot and Whole Foods. Larry and I have a little project for a surprise for Margo that we are trying to pull off before she returns, hence the Home Depot run.

Today there was a slightly different air in the morning with Lucia and Greta. Both girls were up at 6am. I was able to somehow convince both to sleep/stay in bed until 6:20 or so, but still, it was earlier than usual. Sharing was a bit of an issue this morning, and when I was walking home this afternoon, I could hear that it was still an issue. Once I got home, both girls snuggled up to me on the couch on the porch. Both were tired, and Greta looked like she was about to fall asleep. They stuck it out until 7pm with minimal fuss, but were ready for bed.

I've spoken to Margo for about a total of 15 minutes since she left for her conference, evidence both of the intense and constant nature of her program, but also due to the limited cell service in Ripton, VT. 

One exciting bit of news is that Greta has now started using Lucia’s scooter! She’s getting pretty good, and a short video of her toddling around on it on the porch is below.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Guest Post: Day 5

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Day 5 without Margo was the toughest yet, although reinforcements arrived late this afternoon in the form of Margo’s parents, who kindly drove in from Pennsylvania for the week. They were most welcome, and Lucia and Greta were so excited to see them.

Before they arrived, however, there was most of a day to get through, and it started early. Greta was up for 20 minutes or so at 4:30am, and then up for good at 6:30am, with Lucia up shortly there after. The day had a different tenor, and Lucia was very animated from the get go this morning: at one point she was doing laps in the living room, knocking whatever and whoever was out of her way, and it wasn’t even 8am yet.

It didn’t help that the day was cloudy and threatening rain. I finally persuaded Lucia to agree to go outside and ride her scooter, and we ended up spending over an hour out on the street in front of the house. However, Lucia whined and complained for most of the time, unwilling to ride her scooter or walk, insisting on standing on the back of Greta’s tricycle. Greta thought this was fun at first, but quickly tired of Lucia pushing her hands off the handlebars, and who could blame her. Lucia would also periodically hop off unannounced to pick up acorns.

Eventually we made it back to the house, and lo and behold it was almost 11am. We all missed mommy a lot at that moment. Lunch and nap time went somewhat smoothly, and I spent the time cleaning up the house for the Orlando’s arrival and dealing with a nasty trash situation in the garage (raccoons).

When both girls were up, I got them into the double stroller and we walked down the hill to town, bought a bottle of wine and some chips and salsa to bring to a cocktail hour at our neighbor’s house this afternoon, and then hoofed it back up the hill to home. Thankfully, the Orlando’s arrived shortly after we returned, and all was high hilarity with Gra and Pop-pop.

Around 4:45 we all headed over to our neighbor’s house for a little summer cocktail party. Gra and Pop-pop were great with the girls while I mingled and met our new neighbors and talked about Margo. We didn’t stay long, and the girls played out on the porch with their grandparents while I made dinner. How nice!

(An aside: Speaking of dinner, in the summers the girls usually have their dinner outside on the porch, which is really nice, and where Greta sits in a small booster seat that we’ve strapped on to a regular chair. However, when she is inside now, she flatly refuses to sit in her normal highchair at the kitchen table. After not using it once over the past 5 days, today I moved it out of the kitchen and into our rarely used breakfast room. It makes the whole room look so much bigger!)

Margo’s often said in the past that the 5th day that I’m away on a business trip is always the hardest, and I can see what she means. Both girls were tired and on edge all day until the Orlandos arrived. Things for some reason always felt just about to spin out of control, and holding that at bay has its own specific kind of stress and fatigue. Tomorrow I’ll be back in the office, leaving the girls with their grandparents during the day. Our babysitter will come on Tuesday and Thursday mornings this week, too, so many hands will be at the ready over the next few days.

I’m heading back to work with of course a new appreciation for what Margo does with the girls every day, especially all of the exciting, creative, engaging activities that she comes up with and somehow finds the energy to pull off, but also for the adaptability of Lucia and Greta.

Margo had never spent a night away from Greta, and had only spent one night away from Lucia in almost 4 years, but both girls have been wonderful – limited whining, very few tantrums and meltdowns, usually good behavior, listening, etc. It may be too early to tell since this is only Day 5 of 10, but so far I’ve been amazed at how still-good-natured and happy both Greta and Lucia have been every day. Knock on wood.


Some post-nap iPad use:

Guest Post: Day 4

Saturday August 17, 2013

Last night didn’t go as smoothly as the previous nights. Bath time and bed time went smoothly, but around 1am Greta started crying. Usually, giving her a pacifier and a quick pat on the back sends her back to sleep, but not this time. After continued crying I picked her up and rocked her and she put her head on my shoulder and soon feel asleep, but as soon as I put her back in her crib, she would start screaming again. After a couple repetitions of this, I sat down in the rocking chair with her and offered her some water, which she quickly pushed away. After about 20 minutes of rocking, I again tried to put her back in her crib, but she wouldn’t have any of it and started screaming again. This time, I left the room and let her cry for about 3 minutes, then went back in, picked her up, and sat back in the rocker. This time she drank some water, and after 5 minutes or so let me put her back in her crib and she finally fell back asleep. Whew.  

I woke up to hear Lucia walking down the stairs at about 6:20am. I called out to her and she ran into my room. I told her it was too early to get up, and she said ok and went back to her room, but then I heard her singing rather loudly, so I got up with her and we went downstairs. A touch early in my opinion.

We went downstairs and Lucia ran to the kitchen table excited to find her daily gift from Mama.  Today it was a Cinderella squinky along with a small square board book. Soon, Greta was up, too, and a small squabble ensued as Lucia immediately wanted to trade squinkies with Greta, who had gotten an Ariel squinky. Greta protested, and then finally agreed, but as soon as Lucia got her hands on Ariel, she had buyer’s remorse and insisted on trading back. Greta was amenable, however, as she sometimes is, and we were able to move on to breakfast without further incident.

After a few mini bagels (I know, mini bagels again, but we were basically out of milk!) we changed clothes and headed back to Taylor Park.  The girls were tired today, and we only stayed for 45 minutes or so, and then headed to Trader Joe’s to get milk and a few other necessities. The girls held up admirably at TJ’s, even though we were already pushing 11:30 and I could tell they were hungry.

When we got home, I made the questionable decision to not only have another picnic lunch in the backyard, but to also have hotdogs prepared on the grill. This may sound like not too bad of an idea, but logistically it was a nightmare. Basically, I had to get everything we would need on a tray, move the tray and the girls outside, fire up the grill, keep the girls entertained and away from the hot grill while the hotdogs cooked, unable to go inside at any point as then I wouldn’t be able to stop the girls from touching the grill. It was ridiculous, but I did it. Lucia, of course, had like three bites of hotdog.

1pm sharp we were up for quiet time and naptime. Greta slept until almost 3pm. Lucia called down to me regularly during her quiet time, and started saying how after quiet time she wanted to build a fort in the living room, so that is what we did. Greta didn’t quite get the point, and regularly walked into the blankets creating the fort, or tried to step on top of them.

The Fort got us through most of the afternoon. About 4:15 we went outside and Lucia rode her scooter on the road. We were out there for over 20 minutes and didn’t see a single car. Dinner was leftover mac and cheese, and then we went over and saw our neighbors for about 15 minutes before it was time for bath and bed.

Lucia and I have an elaborate bed time ritual, which usually involves reading 2-3 books, singing 2-3 songs, multiple hugs and kisses, at least two trips into the bathroom for water and itch ointment, lots of pleading for water, crackers, etc., and usually two trips up to talk to her on the landing of the stairs.

We’ve also lately been stuck on a rather strange selection of bedtime songs, usually covering at least some of the following: Let it Be, Hey Jude, If I Had a Hammer, Mary Lou, Do You Wanna Dance, All my Life’s a Circle, Taxi, Margaritaville, Come Monday. Quite a list.

And so ends my four days alone with the girls. Margo’s parents arrive tomorrow. It has been incredible. Rewarding, fun, full of love, sometimes frustrating, constantly in motion. I can’t wait to do it again.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Guest Post: Day 3

Friday, August 16, 2013

The girls must be adapting to my schedule unconsciously, as today they both slept in until 7:30. Actually, Lucia woke up before Greta did (well, Greta really woke up at 5:30am, but then only wanted her paw-paw and then went back to sleep), and we tiptoed downstairs to have breakfast before hearing Greta at almost 7:45. Wow. I could get used to this!

This morning, Margo gave the girls some new markers, Hello Kitty pads, and Hello Kitty stickers, and they were in seventh heaven. Lucia cherry-picked all of the markers she wanted out of Greta’s bucket before Greta came down, but then I made her make sure each girl had an even number. Lucia did wind up with all of the pink/purple/red colors, though, leaving Greta with the blues and the browns. Greta didn’t seem to mind, though, and they went right to work, applying the stickers to the pages, coloring with the markers, and then coloring their hands with the markers, all before having anything to eat. It was great, as I got to make myself a pot of coffee almost unmolested.

We had mini-bagels for breakfast, and each girl must have had 1.5 of them (stop me if I’m giving you far too much detail in these posts; I’m not sure how many of you are used to/interested in this level of daily minutia. I’ll try to keep things interesting!). 

My plan for the morning was to take the girls to the zoo since the weather continues to be so amazing (in fact, this morning my outdoor thermometer read 57! August?!?!). However, after breakfast the girls went in to the living room and played so nicely together that I was hesitant to break the spell. I fetched the paper from the front porch and sat on the couch and actually read a bit, all the while watching the girls play happily together with their markers and squinkies. We then decided to head outside for a bit, and I decided that I’d try to let Lucia ride her scooter on the road while I held Greta. This worked ok for a few minutes, but then Greta started to object. So we pulled off the road in front of another neighbors house and pet their sweet dog and collected acorns from the big tree in their front yard. 

Then occurred one of the more uncomfortable conversations that I’ve had in Maplewood. Our neighbor mentioned that her dog Peaches liked to eat the acorns in their yard, so it was fine if Greta and Lucia wanted to come back and collect them, to which I replied “Oh, like the famous pigs in Spain?” She looked at me blankly, so I continued: “Apparently the pigs for jamón Ibérico are fed a diet of acorns for most of their life. It gives their ham that unique flavor.” “I didn’t know that,” she replied, pulling her dog closer to her, or so I imagined. Ugh. They probably all can’t wait for Margo to get back. (More info on the acorn diet of pigs in Spain can be found in this NYT article:

I have to say, though, that our neighbors have all checked in on me throughout the past 2 days. “You doing ok?” they’ve yelled out as they walk past the house. Many have stopped by to make sure we are all still breathing over here. It has been touching, really, to experience.

As we walked back to the house, Lucia began making these strange crying noises, and I was worried that something was wrong. I stopped and said, “Oh, what is it? Are you ok?”

“Eeee! Eeeeeeee!!!” Lucia continued. What I should have known, of course, or realized, was that this wasn’t Lucia who was crying, but one of her stuffed animals inside the house.

“Oh no!” she said finally. “Cupcake is crying for her mommy!” Ah, right. Periodically throughout the day, usually when there is a lull in the action, Lucia will pull out this gem. There is no ignoring it. You must respond in the following way:
“Oh Lucia, I think [Cupcake pillow, manatee, Squinkie, etc.] misses her mommy! You better go and get her!”

Then Lucia will run upstairs to her room to get said animal or object, and bring it down to you and exclaim “She really wanted her mommy!” It is fun, and keeps you on your toes since you are never quite sure exactly who it is that is missing her mommy.

Soon it was time for lunch, which today I decided we would have as a picnic in the backyard. The mosquitos have lessened lately, either due to the unseasonably cool weather lately or the spray I applied to the lawn a few days back, so it was actually really nice to sit on a blanket in our own backyard and a few plates of cold cuts, bread and butter, and (Margo, cover your eyes) potato chips (gasp!). We played around in the backyard until 1pm, and then headed up for naptime and quiet time. I actually made a quick work call during quiet time, and responded to some email. Lucia was down in 60 minutes on the dot, and then Greta called out about 2:30, which was pretty good. I came down with Greta just as Lucia was finishing up with her 20 minutes on the iPad, and Greta screamed out “Pad!!” clearly wanting her own time with this magical device (Margo, darling, we might have to talk about this when you are back). 

After refereeing another 10 minutes of iPad use, I then got the girls into their shoes and we went back out to Taylor Park playground. The rest of the day zipped along nicely from there, with Doc McStuffins on while I made a mac and cheese dinner, eating out on the porch, and then a quick romp around the yard before bath time and bed time.  

The past few days Lucia has taken to running upstairs ahead of Greta and I as we head up for bath time, and by the time I get to the top of the stairs she has closed the door to her room. “Guess what, Daddy?” she says. “I already cleaned up my room.”

I’ve been playing along and only going into her room after putting Greta to bed, and then when I go into her room I exclaim “Oh no, Lucia, I think a monster came in and played with all your toys and now we have to clean up again!” She thinks it is hilarious.

Another fun, good day here on 25 Hickory Drive. No bleeding, 3 meals consumed, both kids asleep by 8:30. Success? We’ll take it one day at a time.