Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas 2013, Part I: To Florida We Go

Last Saturday, we set out for a new adventure: our first road trip with Lucia and Greta. Andrew and I took many a road trip in our pre-children days, tooling around Spain and California, taking the long way, going off the map, pulling into small, newly discovered towns and worrying about a hotel only at the last minute; or finding great luxury rooms in San Francisco through Priceline or Hotwire, not caring where we stayed. We took a few short road trips with Lucia when she was a few months old, to San Francisco and wine country; and of course we've driven to Connellsville and up to New Hampshire. But sixteen hours from New Jersey to Jacksonville was taking our family road trips to a new level. We planned the trip from necessity--four holiday-season plane tickets and mountains of presents made flying unrealistic--and really didn't know what to expect.

Andrew took command of the itinerary and planned our route down I-95, and in a rented SUV (our small station wagon wouldn't cut it for this trip), off we went. First leg: Maplewood to Silver Spring, where we had lunch with Molly and Luca. The girls had a blast playing with Luca, and Lucia christened him with a nickname: Silly Lukey. We ran into trouble after that: traffic became horrendous. We lost two hours. We were supposed to have a nice dinner in Rocky Mount, NC, but instead wound up at McDonald's. More traffic after that; but eventually we made it to our hotel in Rocky Mount, well past bedtime. Lucia was overcome at the prospect of staying at a hotel--"It's beautiful!!" she shouted as we approached it from the parking lot. Both girls were giddy at finally being out of the car. Much running between our adjoining rooms and jumping on the beds ensued. Miraculously, they did fall asleep.

The next day, we got donuts for breakfast and hit the road. We had lunch at a fabulous BBQ restaurant in Lumberton, NC, called Fuller's--Andrew had read about it on some foodie websites. It didn't disappoint. We paid at the door, were shown to a table, then hit the huge buffet. Lucia discovered a passionate, one-day love for fried shrimp. Greta ate her weight in macaroni and cheese. Andrew and I piled our dishes with vinegar-and-pepper pork. We had a great time.

Then--onward. We had a pretty rough stretch after this. Traffic on I-95 was at a standstill, so Andrew found a detour through backwoods South Carolina. He found it beautiful and charming; I was terrified. We were surrounded by swampy forest and mobile homes. We lost so much time, and had noplace to stop for dinner, and after Andrew announced we had five more hours to go--after he'd said the same thing two hours before that--we all hit a low. We pulled into a gas station. We decided the girls could just have crackers for dinner. They mutinied. We ran out of shows on the iPad. It was a dark final stretch.

But we made it to Jacksonville. We'd had Andrew's parents order us a pizza, which we devoured once the girls were in bed.

It was not the easiest drive. However, that said, Lucia and Greta were amazing travelers, surpassing all our expectations. They played with the toys we'd packed, loved the travel treat bags I'd put together for them (crayons, notebook, tiny toys), watched shows on the iPad when it got dark, slept (Greta), sang, and seemed totally game for anything, even a BBQ restaurant and sharing a hotel room. Of all of us, I probably frayed the most at that final stop, when Andrew ran into the gas station to buy crackers and bananas the girls then refused to eat and it seemed we'd never reach our destination. But we made it in one piece and, with some changes to our route, had no reason to dread the return trip.

Letter to Greta: 26 Months

Dear Baby Grets,

Oh, but you love being two. You've embraced it. You revel in it. The power of no! The power of your own will! It's intoxicating. You have learned that you can assert yourself and your whims in this family with just as much force as anyone else, and there's no going back.

Your worst fits are triggered by having to put on your clothes, socks, shoes, and coat. You also don't like to be told no, or to give up something you want to hold onto, or to stop doing something you want to do. You have learned exactly how to enrage Lucia--grabbing her stuff and running away with it and refusing to give it back. When you're particularly angry, you don't just yell "No"--you scream it at an ear-splitting pitch and volume. If there were ever any considerations of a third child (there have not been), your two-ness would have squashed it expediently. After you are done with all this, we will be free of age two forever!

All this said, you are also completely adorable. Your smile could melt stone. You are a cuddler, and love to be held and snuggled. You like to give everyone a kiss and a hug. Any object that we ask you to put away or give up receives a kiss and a cuddle first, even things like cups or spoons. You like to curl up on the floor of the living room with a pillow and blanket and just cuddle up with your Bibi and Lambie. You love dancing, and do a hilarious dance that I call your "crazy gypsy dance"--no music required. You have tons of energy and are in constant motion most days. By naptime, you are exhausted, and two hours' rest is your norm.

You are talking constantly but are still mostly unintelligible, and next week is your speech evaluation, which will determine whether you'll need some speech therapy. I have no expertise at all in this field, so I'm not sure what to think; all I know is that you know tons of words, your colors, your numbers up to ten, and seem to truly believe you're conversing normally. I don't fear for your comprehension or ability to pair words with ideas and objects. You just need to articulate.

Favorite toys/activities: coloring, stickers, "resting", taking ornaments off the Christmas tree, Magiclip princesses, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins

Favorite books: Good Knight books, My First Little House books, Christmas Trolls, The Night Before Christmas, Frosty the Snowman

Letter to Lucia: 50 and 51 Months

Dear Lulu,

***Note: For the first time in four years, I'm going to combine two months of letters into one. I wrote your 50 Month letter last month, and forgot to post it; and now here we are, past time for Month 51, and I've missed this one too. It's New Year's Eve, and for the sake of finishing off the year all caught up with blogging, I'm going to just post a two-month post. Forgive me...***

As I've said before, being four years old seems to suit you. You can do more and more things on your own all the time--from getting dressed entirely to putting on your boots and coat to retrieving your scooter from the basement and carrying it upstairs. The house is your domain: you traverse it from top to bottom, from attic to basement, embracing the various activities you do in each room. Your bedroom: stacks of tiny cubes, elaborate games with your many princesses. The basement: riding your scooter, crawling through the tunnel-and-hut setup, coloring, doing art projects, dancing, building with blocks, playing dress-up. The living room: playing doctor, playing with Squinkies, playing with princesses, reading books. You are never at a loss for things to do. You are never without a song to make up.

You are becoming more little-girl-like all the time, attracted to anything sparkly and glittery and pretty. You still pick out your outfit every day. (You rarely match, and choosing each individual sock takes much consideration.) You love socks: some of the socks you have can be pulled up to your knees, and you call these "super socks." You feel the need to wear only one super sock at a time. Sometimes you and Greta will each wear one super sock. Most days you wind up wearing a leotard or a dress-up dress, super socks and all.

You are into rhyming words, and beginning to be good at coming up with rhymes on your own. You can almost write your name, though the A still gives you trouble. You can almost count to 20, though you get confused sometimes in the teens.

At night, Daddy and I put you to bed (Daddy gives you a bath, reads you books, and sings you a song, though sometimes I do the reading and singing, depending on whom you ask for), and then you skulk about for half an hour or more--never calling downstairs to us; just...wandering and playing. Sometimes, like a mouse or crow, you'll take a small object from our bedroom or my office and bring it into your room, where you put it beside your glowing mushroom nightlight. We always eventually find you in your bed, asleep, a cover pulled up to your chin. You just need that extra winding-down time, on your own.

I've mentioned princesses a few times, and I'll mention them again: you love them. You currently have six Magiclip Princesses and three Barbie-like princesses. All are cherished and played with. One usually accompanies you when we go to school or out shopping. You want to love, but don't really love, the princess movies, though you adore watching Sofia the First and the Tinkerbell movie (more your speed, for now).

You have silliness, personality, and funny expressions to spare. Most days are fun, little one. Still some rough spots here and there, but mostly we get through our days pretty smoothly.

Favorite toys/activities: Gingerbread Girl (tiny McDonald's toy), princesses of all kinds, stickers, glitter glue, coloring, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, Tinkerbell, mermaids, tiny cubes, dancing, Playhut tunnel structure

Favorite books: Gingerbread Baby, Christmas Trolls, Frosty the Snowman, My First Little House books, That's Not Santa, Three Little Pigs, The Golden Egg

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Holiday Update

It's been busy busy busy around here the past few weeks, but we've been having lots of fun with the holidays. We went to Connellsville for Thanksgiving, driving during the day both there and back, and Lucia and Greta were superb travelers--playing together, playing with toys (especially their Magiclip princesses and small Gingerbread Girls). We had a great week--Andrew and I got to have some shopping getaways; and we had a night out at Lynn's Bar with Molly. Lucia and Greta loved playing with Luca. Neither girl ate more than a bite of Thanksgiving dinner.

We also did our Christmas celebration, since Andrew and I will be in Florida for Christmas this year. The highlight, as always, was our homemade gifts. Molly made dot-painted boxes filled with recipe cards of the best recipes she made this year; for Lucia and Greta, she made boxes of elf donuts from Cheerios; Mom and Dad created a photo book with detailed, photographed instructions on making scrippelles; and I made tiny bird-nest ornaments from acorn caps I collected in our yard, plus folded book sculptures.

We came back home to a tough week. Andrew left the day after our return for a business trip to Mexico, so the girls and I went from constant fun (them) and help (me) to...regular life, without Andrew. It was one of the toughest parenting weeks I've had. Mostly it was Greta rearing her two-year-old monster head; but Lucia held her own as well in the make-Mama's-life-impossible department. When Andrew said it was possible for him to come home a day early, I said YES. BOOK THE FLIGHT NOW. Some sanity, at least, remained intact.

Things got brighter after that. We got our Christmas tree and decorated the house. Andrew put up lights outside (only to then have two sections of a brand-new strand stop working). I made red-ribboned swags out of spare pine boughs. We got out all the Christmas books (and I alarmed the girls when I read them Polar Express, new for us this year, and promptly began crying when I got to the last page). Lucia and Greta have been swept away by the holiday episodes of Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins. 

And now--one final week until we leave for Florida.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Letter to Greta: 25 Months

Dear Little Grets,

This later is late, and I have only you to blame, little one. This is just a fact of life right now: you are taxing. You take all our energy and then some. Most nights the last thing I can think about is writing a blog post. You have fully embraced Being Two, and we've entered a stage where everything--each piece of daily life--is a challenge. The hardest things are changing your diaper, putting on your clothes, putting on your socks, putting on your shoes, putting on your coat, getting you into your car seat. Unfortunately, these are all the things we have to do pretty much on a daily basis--usually more than once a day. This might be the winter that we just never leave the house.

You're also getting frustrated with talking. You know so many words, and are putting two and three together--but you are more or less unintelligible. The three of us--Daddy, me, and Lucia--understand almost everything, but occasionally you stump us, and this makes you very angry. We're finally taking you in for a speech evaluation in January. You had a hearing evaluation a few weeks ago, which you passed with flying colors. So we'll see what happens. I'm worried, but not overly so, since you are still very little.

You have become a little dancing machine. When I put music on, your whole face lights up, and you immediately start dancing enthusiastically--you put your whole body into it, lifting your feet, swaying, bouncing, spinning. It is adorable. You like wearing dress-up clothes and having dance parties with Lucia.

You are sleeping through the night most nights, sometimes waking up for your pacifier but sometimes not. You get up around 6:45am, which has been great. You're napping for 1.5-2 hours each afternoon. You are still a phenomenal eater, though now and then you boycott a meal entirely. We let it slide. At your two-year checkup you were off the charts for height and in the 50th percentile for weight, so you are clearly getting exactly what you need.

You are open and loving, always saying hello and goodbye to people, asking anyone who comes into the house for a hug and kiss before they go.

Don't get me wrong, little banana: you're too adorable for words and make us laugh every day. But if I had to use one word to summarize you right now, it would be a shrill, screamed "NO!!!"

Favorite books: Brown Bear Brown Bear, Christmas Trolls, Gingerbread Baby, Too Many Kittens, Ho Hum

Favorite toys/activities: coloring in your Sophia the First coloring book, Magiclip princesses, gingerbread girl stuffed animal, plush jack-o-lantern, stickers, painting, Sofia the First, mermaids