Friday, January 31, 2014

Letter to Greta: 27 Months

Dear Baby Grets,

Little baby, you are an endless source of frustration and joy. When you are good, you are so very, very good: giggling, joking, dancing with wild abandon and surprisingly good rhythm. When you are...not so good, you are writhing and screaming on the floor instead of letting me put on your coat; you are taking off your socks and shoes as fast as I can put them on you; you are grabbing things from Lucia and running as fast as you can (which is pretty fast) around the house. You are full of opinions, more and more each day: you've even insisted on picking out your own clothes and pjs a few times.

But you are so cute, and so silly, that we'll still keep you around. You love to pretend to put things in your mouth or into a cup of our coffee, watching for our reaction and then saying with high hilarity, "Noooo!" A tiny fairy Squinkie in Mama's coffee? Noooo! Does a plastic coin go in Greta's mouth? Nooo! And on and on. You find this hilarious. You also find it hilarious to suddenly erupt into a wild dance--no music required--that involves a great deal of wild stomping and head-shaking. I call it your "crazy gypsy dance," and it can happen at any moment. You also now know how to turn on the CD player; today you went right over, turned on some music, fished some maracas out of the instrument bin, and had your own little dance party in the living room while Lucia sorted buttons into an egg carton in the play area. Your personalities really came through in that moment: Lucia with her mathematically precise color gradations, you spinning with your arms thrown wide.

Your speech therapy is progressing; we've gone about three times so far. No dramatic improvements yet--but small changes. And you are definitely putting words together more at home, real phrases and sentences now; if only you would just get those final sounds!

You've been sleeping in later in the mornings but still taking a two-hour nap in the afternoons. We haven't yet taken away your pacifier, though you're pretty good about not using it during the day. "You don't need a pa-pa!" we say when we're playing, and you'll dramatically throw it across the room, where it is subsequently forgotten. When you do happen to stumble across it, you are instantly transformed: you immediately retreat into yourself, curling into your bibi and Lambie, wanting to cuddle, whining and cooing.

You are still eating enthusiastically. You do anything and everything Lucia does. If Lucia stands up in her kitchen chair, you stand up. If Lucia asks for milk, you ask for milk. She is your guiding star. It's always fun to see you without Lucia around--you play and giggle but it's definitely strange for you to be calling the shots, directing your own activities.

Your attention span amazes me: for reading, for art projects, for coloring. Your focus is total.

You are in desperate need of a haircut but I fear all of Maplewood will be left in rubble if we take you to the barber.

Favorite toys/activities: coloring, dancing, playing with fairy Squinkies, glitter jar, Doc McStuffins, Sit N' Spin, tiny teaset

Favorite books: Chloe, Little Bea, Good Knight books, What's Up Duck?, Noisy Farm, Click Clack Moo

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Long Days of Winter

Winter with little kids is hard. It is easier to be here, in a house, than it was to be cooped up in our apartment in Brooklyn. Here, at least, we have various areas to be cooped up in--we can be cooped up in the living room or play area; we can be cooped up in the kitchen; we can be cooped up in the basement playroom. Still, we are cooped up. It has been snowy and frigid, so there has been no opportunity whatsoever for going outside, and until this morning our car was snowed in. And so the past few days have been long, long, long.

Tuesdays are always tough for me, since there's no preschool and no babysitter, and this Tuesday was made even harder by an early Greta wakeup, an early departure of Andrew for work, a long freezing day, and Andrew's post-work drinks, which meant he missed bedtime. (He actually skipped the drinks because of the snow, but then had a ridiculous two-hour commute; but I digress.) The day did not start promisingly: the girls' scream-laughing chase around the downstairs took a turn for the squabbly, and, feeling desperate, I turned on Sesame Street. I always feel guilty when I turn the TV on during the day; but since I was at the very beginning of a 14-hour day, I thought there was probably little harm in it.

While they were watching, I rustled up the components of a light table, which I've been wanting to make for a while now (thank you, Pinterest): a plastic bin, tissue paper, a lamp, and lots of transparent colored plastic items (bingo chips, jewelry links, glass stones, pirate jewels, baby food jars, Play-Doh lids). It took about five minutes to make, and it was a huge hit with both girls. Greta moved on to other things after a while, but Lucia was completely enraptured--arranging things, sorting them into jars, and so on. We built a cave out of the many plastic storage bins I bought on clearance last week, and there was our day. It was a nice day, but I was happy when the girls were finally in bed, and I was very much looking forward to an easier Wednesday.

When preschool was cancelled and I accepted the reality of having to cancel the sitter Wednesday morning, it felt like a cruel joke. I felt way more dread than a snow day seemed to warrant, but I'd just gotten through Tuesday, and now I had....another Tuesday. And Andrew had to once again leave early for work. And it was once again freezing beyond freezing outside. At least both girls slept till a decent hour (more than decent, with Lucia--nearly 9am). Lucia immediately asked to play with the light table, so we went to the basement and played there for the morning. In the afternoon, I brought out a small plastic bin full of buttons I've been accumulating from yard sales, along with two empty egg cartons, and that got us through till dinner.

Today was much better--Lucia had preschool and stayed for lunch and soccer; Greta and I went to speech therapy and then Target--and then, after nap and quiet time, Lucia asked to play with the felt board. I surprised them with a whole mess of felt shapes of princesses, coaches, animals, and other random stuff that I bought last summer (at a yard sale, of course) and have been saving for a winter day.

We survived these cooped-up days thanks to the girls being in a mellow, cooperative mood; lots of coloring and toys; the light table; the buttons; and--I have to say--the immense collection of things I've saved and salvaged and yard-saled and have kept at the ready since last summer for just such days. A random bag of bingo chips, and Play-Doh lids I held over the trash can a while back before deciding to save? A hit! A jar of buttons? A winter day miracle! Felt shapes so random, so seemingly un-play-with-able, that the yard-sale seller seemed reluctant to even accept the $1 I offered her--another hour of our day, occupied! We're heavy into winter now, and I'll have to dig deep in my stash to get through the next few months. Between my yard-saling and the inspirational wonder that is Pinterest, we should be well-entertained.

Andrew may turn pale when he ventures into our attic and sees the vast stores of things I've hoarded there. But better a cluttered attic than a crazytown mama driven nuts by at-loose-ends girls cooped up for days on end, I say.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Weekend in Suburbia

Friday night, we had dinner plans with friends. We had reservations; we had a sitter all lined up; we had on nice clothes. We'd planned to leave once the girls were in bed. Andrew was giving them their bath when suddenly the power went out. Our entire neighborhood was pitch-black. There were some minutes of chaos as we grabbed the girls out of the water and put their (battery-operated) night-lights on. The power stayed off for an hour, putting our dinner plans in jeopardy; but five minutes before we needed to be at the restaurant, the lights came back on. We speed-walked into town and had a lovely dinner. On our way home, we ran into a neighbor walking her dog and accepted her invitation to come in for a drink. It was nice to be so free-wheeling until reality struck with Greta's 6:30am wakeup. Sigh.

Sunday, our same dinner-friends came over in the morning, and the dads watched all five kiddos while the moms went to yoga. Then Andrew and our friend went out to chain-saw some logs. Greta, thrown into a tizzy by my departure for yoga AND having to share her toys for an hour, screamed until naptime.

This morning, Lucia didn't have preschool but Andrew and I had the babysitter come anyway and headed out--just the two of us--for breakfast and shopping. We ate at the local diner, lingering over our coffee; then drove to a DSW and tried on lots of shoes. Andrew bought two pairs, and I bought one pair. Then, all too soon, it was time to go home, where the girls seemed to have had a fun time. It was a little date-morning.

This afternoon, it was too cold to go outside, but we got the girls into the car (after some high-level coat-donning negotiations with Greta involving M&Ms) and went to Home Depot so Andrew could buy an ax. The girls were thrilled at the chance to ride in a "fun cart." When we got home, Andrew chopped some wood while I settled the girls in for their TV time.

And another week begins.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Letter to Lucia: 52 Months

Dear Little Lulu,

You're growing up so fast. It's suddenly apparent that you are not such a tiny little girl anymore--your hair is getting longer, your preferences for clothing more outrageous and personal. You love wearing tights, and spend most days in some sort of dress-up outfit, usually a leotard or leotard-with-attached-skirt. You are not bothered by the wintry cold in such outfits. I walk around the house in two sweaters, and there you are in a leotard.

Right now you love playing hide and seek, and though our range is limited--you have yet to realize you can hide absolutely anywhere in the house and always just stick to whatever floor we're on--you manage to find inventive places, like covering yourself with pillows on the couch. It's hilarious when you and Greta both play. You both hide in the same place, and though you understand the point is to hide quietly, Greta squeals and scream-laughs, often popping out to see where I am then darting back into your hiding place. There's nothing cuter than finding you two squeezed under a table or lying down with your upper bodies "hidden" under the coffee table, giggling, waiting for me with wide smiles.

You love playing the game Orchard we got you for Christmas, and I suspect you'd love to play other games as well, but Greta is--to put it kindly--generally not so cooperative. We usually play after Quiet Time, when Greta is still napping.

I discovered recently that you've memorized many of the books we read at bedtime. On especially trying nights, when I try to paraphrase or--gasp!--skip a few lines to speed things along, you stop what you're doing and correct me, pointing out that I skipped a page or supplying the line I glossed over. You even catch single word changes. Nothing gets by you.

You continue to love school and often resist going home at the end of the morning. You continue to enjoy Quiet Time, engaging in involved games and intricate creations with beads and tiny cubes. You got pop beads for Christmas, which you've been highly enjoying. Your tiny Sophia and tiny tea sets are your favorite Quiet Time toys right now.

You continue to eat like we're forcing you to consume a plate full of mud, with sighs and a sad, woe-is-me expression. We cook things you like, or once liked; we've stopped the U.N.-caliber negotiations and made the amount you eat your "choice"; we're just trying to find what works. Greta often eats so much that she finishes off whatever I've cooked--and then she begins agitating to eat what's on your plate, which, of course, you refuse to share with her, not realizing it means you'd have less food to face. Sigh.

Favorite toys/activities: tiny Sofia doll, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, forts, hide and seek, blocks, pop beads, coloring (all of a sudden you're coloring more or less in the lines), tiny tea set, running around in the basement rec room, dress-up, dancing

Favorite books: My First Little House books, Ladybug Girl, Good Knight books (all of these are read pretty much every day)

Saturday, January 04, 2014

...And a Few More Pictures

Just backed up all my pictures (ha!) and thought I'd post a few more from our winter and holiday activities.

Fun in the snow:

Cookie baking:

A folded-book Christmas gift:

Playing "resting":

Christmas 2013, Part III: The Journey Home

Two things happened to make our return journey memorable: it rained the entire way, both days, and Andrew erased all the content (pictures, contacts) on my iPhone. We got an early start on the 28th, drove in the rain, stopped for lunch at another great BBQ restaurant called Duke’s in Orangeburg, SC; drove in more rain. We stopped for the night in Christiansburg, Virginia, and made peanut butter sandwiches in the hotel room for the girls. Andrew and I ate takeout Olive Garden. (And I went to a Target just down the road before picking up our food to buy some 70%-off Christmas stuff.) The next day—breakfast at the hotel, and then more rain, and then a very unwise stop at a pub in Winchester, Virginia, where Greta was teetering dangerously on the edge of a total meltdown. I thought some videos would get us through lunch; couldn’t get the YouTube app because my iPhone hadn’t been updated in forever; Andrew decided he knew how to update my operating system; and then—everything was gone. My phone was a clean, fresh slate for the new year. No contacts, no pictures, no texts. Fortunately I’d backed up all my pictures at the end of September, so it could have been much worse. Still.

We made it home. Lucia and Greta were intrepid travelers. They played with the stuff in their travel treat bags and made various dolls and animals dance to a Tinkerbell CD and snacked and watched shows on the iPad. Greta did discover the incendiary power of stretching her little bare foot out of her carseat and resting her toes, ever so slightly, on the edge of Lucia’s carseat; but aside from this, they were companionable and calm. We’re not in a hurry to drive to Florida again anytime soon, but at least we know it’s possible without any of us losing our minds (for very long).

Christmas 2013, Part II: Our Christmas

We spent Christmas week in Jacksonville this year, a lovely reprieve from the winter back home. When we arrived, it was in the eighties; the girls got to play outside and run through the hose. They were ecstatic. They shared a room at Andrew’s parents’ house, which we weren’t sure was a great idea, but it worked out fine—once again showing us that we’re slowly approaching a time when we’ll once again be able to travel with some degree of sanity.

The weather cooled but remained nice for most of the week, and we kept the girls outside as much as possible—going to playgrounds, looking for cats, playing with toys on the deck. The day after Christmas, Andrew, Lucia, Greta, and I even went out to Atlantic Beach. It was pretty cold that day, but the girls still took off their socks and shoes and ran in the surf. Greta made designs with shells in the sand. Lucia built an elaborate structure from sticks she found in the dunes. Andrew and I were freezing, but the girls were in no hurry to leave. We finally did get them back into the car, and then headed out to meet the rest of the family for lunch. Greta fell asleep as soon as she was buckled into her carseat and slept on Andrew’s shoulder for nearly the entire meal.

The day before we left, we and Andrew’s mom took the girls to Jacksonville’s science museum. There was a huge train display, which the girls loved—the little train cars were carrying tiny presents, snowmen, candy canes, and Santa. In the small aquarium area, Greta was captivated by a tank of swimming turtles—we stayed there, watching the turtles, long after Andrew and Lucia headed on to other things. When a few older children came over to the turtle tank, Greta pointed out the turtles proprietarily, like a little docent.

And, of course, in the middle of the week was Christmas itself. Lucia was so excited for Santa to come, and both she and Greta loved opening their gifts and exploring their stockings. Their favorite gift was—as I’d hoped—the treasure chest I made each of them: antique chests, gold coins, various jewels, and an assortment of amulets. They immediately loved small Sofia and Amber dolls (from Sofia the First), a selection of tiny stuffed animals, and Tinkerbell coloring books. They were also thrilled at new My First Little House books from Aunt Katherine and fish purses from Andrew’s parents. It took them days to really discover everything.

No one had any Christmas meltdowns; nor did the girls eat any Christmas dinner (Andrew and I made our standby big-dinner fare: maple-bourbon ham, scalloped potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, corn bread). Greta was so opposed to the idea of dinner that she sat backwards in her seat; I think Lucia might have had a little corn bread and a cookie. Ah well. It was a successful Christmas nonetheless.

With Great-Nanny:

With Cousin Thomas in Thomas's Christmas wagon:

With "Bobby and Nina":