Thursday, March 27, 2014

Letter to Lucia: 54 Months

Dear Elsa,

"Elsa" is what you prefer to go by these days, as we've lost you to Frozen fever. You've loved shows before and learned favorite songs from "Sofia the First" and "Doc McStuffins," but nothing--nothing--has captivated you quite like Frozen. Like every other child in the country, you belt out "Let It Go" over and over again for much of the day, adding more of Elsa's motions each time--shrugging off her cape, tossing away her crown, conjuring the ice castle, stomping to create a giant snowflake, running up an ice staircase. You and Greta (who's always Anna, of course) reenact scenes from the movie, with you feeding lines to Greta and then bursting into song. I never thought I'd have so much fun seeing a child of mine swept away by Disney, but there we are.

You're sick of winter. We all are. For the past couple of days you and I have lamented all of the wonderful things we'll do once summer finally gets here: put out the porch furniture; eat all our meals on the porch; pick flowers; climb trees; go to the pool...on and on. "I hate staying inside all the time!!!" you yelled this week, after I had to admonish you that you couldn't swing your butterfly net around near the exposed light bulbs in the basement. We are all just done, done, done with this winter.

Your Quiet Time activity the past couple of days has been arranging your large number of tiny stuffed animals in a "party"--there's a snack area, where you arrange your tiny tea set; lots of games for the animals; a nail polish and lip-gloss area; and a place for them to rest. It takes up most of the floor of your room, makes an enormous mess, but is also quite orderly and intentional, with all the little animals arranged in neat little groups. (And such an activity reveals a fundamental difference between your Daddy and me: Daddy's reaction to such a setup is to remark on just how many tiny stuffed animals you have; my reaction is to buy you more, since you love them so dearly.)

You continue to love preschool. We met with your teacher for a "parent/teacher conference" this week, and you were praised for your flawless willingness to share and your enthusiasm. You have several consistent friends but she said there's also a "gravitational pull" toward you--the other kids like to play with you because of your self-confidence and the fact that you always have an idea of what you want to do.

Your eating has taken a turn for the more difficult, if this is even possible. You're "tired of cheese." You seem to want to live on bread and butter, milk, baby carrots, and fruit. Mealtimes are very frustrating these days, you with the endless negotiations, and Greta screaming and covering her face with her hands whenever she looks at her dinner plate. Once she did it even when the plate was empty. Sigh.

Favorite toys/activities: Elsa and Anna dolls, Magiclip princesses, tiny stuffed animals, hobby horse, dress-up, gnome tea parties, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, sit n spin

Favorite books: Gruffalo, Spiffiest Giant in Town, The King Who Wouldn't Sleep, Ella Bella and the Sleeping Beauty, Poppleton books, Grumpy Bird, Zoe Gets Ready, Zoe's Room

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Comings & Goings

We were a busy household last week. Andrew flew to California last Sunday, and Mom and Dad arrived a little after that to help out for a few days. The girls were thrilled to see them, of course. Lucia had a busy schedule of preschool and a birthday party, so Greta got lots of one-on-one time with Gra and Pop-Pop. Both girls were beyond excited last Tuesday, when our Frozen DVD arrived in the mail--we marked the occasion by giving them each Elsa and Anna dolls. Lucia's reaction when she pulled them out of her bag was priceless--a gasp, a scream, a face of total disbelief and joy. She should be excited: these dolls are sold out everywhere. Mom and Dad got the Annas after searching several places in Southwestern PA; and Andrew had made a late-night run to a Target in a nearby town after the Target website claimed to have the Elsas in stock. Neither girl has been without her dolls since.

A highlight of the week was a dance party in the basement, with both Lucia and Greta dancing movingly to emotional Spanish music and pausing now and then to take dramatic bites from a plastic leg of fried chicken.

The weather was nice enough last week to play outside for at least a little while, and the girls rode their scooters. Greta, swept up in the fun of the week, had a great speech therapy appointment last Thursday, stunning the therapist by saying "Mommy," "Daddy," "Pop-Pop," and "Emmie" (the therapist's name). She came home that day and said "bubble." Small but good progress.

Besides the help of Mom and Dad last week, I also had a visit from Rachael, and because of the built-in grandparent help, we were able to spend the day in the city on Wednesday. We went to the math museum (Rachael's choice, obviously), had a large cheese and salumi platter at Eataly, and met Barbra for dinner at Cook Shop. It was such a fun day that we were able to treat what happened next as a rousing adventure--we inadvertently took the wrong train out of Penn Station and wound up a few towns away from Maplewood, in the pouring rain, with no taxis to be found. (We did get a taxi eventually.) Ridiculous.

Mom and Dad left on Friday, and Andrew came home. Though jet-lagged, he gamely agreed to spend the day with the girls on Saturday so Rachael and I could venture again into the city. This time we went to the Frick; walked through Central Park; met Barbra for lunch at Joe's Shanghai; shopped in Soho; and unwisely attempted to find Frozen merchandise at the giant Times Square Toys R Us (everything was completely sold out and we quickly jumped ship). When we got back home (right train this time), the girls were playing outside with Andrew. It was a gorgeous day, the perfect day for some city-wandering.

And on Sunday we met up with Rachael's sister and nieces at the Crayola Experience in Easton, PA. We almost had to leave Greta behind, so enamored was she with the neon-marker light-up blackboards. Lucia's favorite part was a giant-size Lite Brite-type contraption.

Now all our guests have left, and the weather is freezing again. It was such a nice week--a spring-like break from regular life. Today it was so windy the girls were almost blown off their feet.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Sisters' Secret

Every single night, when I go up to check on the girls after they've fallen asleep, I find a random assortment of things in Greta's crib, which Lucia has tossed in. All the pacifiers are always in there, and I've also found bath toys, Greta's night light, stuffed animals from her storage basket, and much more. One time I found a large "artwork"--styrofoam peanuts on cardboard. Every night, I tell Lucia not to go in Greta's room. Greta always falls asleep quickly, and I'm afraid, one of these nights, Lucia will wake her up when she makes her crib deliveries. "But she wants them," Lucia has said. "She likes when I come in." I've always discounted her claims. We've tried to get this to stop, to no avail.

At least, this has been my impression of how things go. Last night, I learned more. About ten minutes after I went downstairs after finishing up Lucia's stories, I heard Lucia walk into Greta's room--and Greta start talking to her. I went upstairs but ducked into my room before either girl saw me, wanting to see what, exactly, was going on. "Okay, Greta," I heard Lucia say. "You can give it a hug and a kiss, but you can't keep it. You have to give it back." I knew immediately what was happening: when I put Greta into her crib last night, she'd immediately stood up and asked me for her night light, insisting on giving it "a kiss and a hug" before allowing it to return to her bureau. I'm assuming she asked Lucia, too, for the night light. There was a little giggling. Then Lucia quietly began singing Greta a song--a sweet little song from "Doc McStuffins": "Tell me what's wrong...What's going on...There must be something we can do...Tell me your fears...I'll be right here..."

I'd planned on warning Lucia to not go into Greta's room; but instead, I crept back downstairs while Lucia was still singing. I have to assume this happens every night--a secret sisterly ritual. You can't get much cuter than that.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Letter to Greta: 28 Months (Belated)

Dear Baby Grets,

Way back, when you were a tiny, cooperative little baby, cute as a button and doing everything exactly right--sleeping well, eating spectacularly, going with the flow--it was impossible for me to imagine ever getting mad at you, or ever having reason for anger at all. Oh ho, little one, how low you have brought me. You are still cute as a button, still beloved and lovable, but you are also the most willful, stubborn, uncooperative two-year-old I've ever had the joy of raising. Your terrible-twoness coincided, unfortunately, with this endless winter, and leaving the house--which of course requires socks, boots, and a coat--has become all but impossible. A trip to Target or Trader Joe's used to get us through a particularly long morning; but now, the nightmare of getting you ready renders such trips pointless. No perusal of the dollar bins can possibly be worth what we have to do to get out the door.

But you are also lots of fun right now. You love playing with whatever is at hand, and you and Lucia occupy yourselves effortlessly day in and day out. You love going to Lucia's preschool and never want to leave when we drop Lucia off or pick her up--sometimes you carry her lunchbag home in your carseat, and once you even kept it with you for your nap. You are so silly much of time time. One of your silliest games is to take one of your small toys or your pa-pa and pretend to put it various places--into my coffee mug, into your cereal. "Here?" you say, and I say with great drama, "Nooo!" "Here? Here?" You giggle like crazy.

You love to hide, and bedtime has gotten more insane than usual. You and Lucia rush to the top of the stairs, and one of you screams, "Hide!!!" and you tear off to go hide in one of your closets, with much hilarity.

You love wearing dress-up dresses and, once you put one on, it usually stays on for the rest of the day, including through naptime. You insist, always, on pushing up your sleeves and your pant legs, and you refuse to ever wear socks.

You love cuddling, and you are clearly the baby of the family; you retreat into this role often. But you are also so aware of what Lucia is doing, and this is propelling some quick changes. Most notably, you're potty training yourself. "Pee! Pee!" you say, pulling on our hands. We haven't been pushing this at all. You started doing this on your own, and you seemed to just know what to do. You've been going a couple of times a day on the potty, and I think when we start potty-training in earnest it'll go pretty smoothly. (Famous last words, perhaps, but I don't think so.)

Every day is an adventure with you, little baby.

Favorite toys/activities: sit n' spin, coloring, peg gnomes, Sophia and Amber dolls, dress-up, dancing, dollhouse, Little People farm, GlowPet unicorn

Favorite books: Hippos Go Berserk, Brown Bear Brown Bear, Pajama Time, Chloe

Letter to Lucia: 53 Months (Belated)

Dear Little Lulu,

This is a very late letter, but at least it's here. This has been a crazy month, highlighting one of the central frustrations and phenomena of parenting: the more time we're cooped up at home, the less time I have to do anything. We've been at home a lot a lot a lot the past few weeks because of this crazy winter, so things like timely blog post have fallen by the wayside.

Anyway. It's been apparent for a month or so now that you are becoming much more kid-like. You have friends at preschool whom you enjoy playing with. You love Thursdays, when you get to stay for "Lunch Bunch" and soccer. You have an amazing memory and are almost too observant; you forget, and miss, nothing. You aren't all that interested in playing games on the iPad anymore, but when you do play games like Fruit Pop, you're uncannily skilled: swiping your finger to link three fruits, connecting fruit chains to coconuts, spotting groups of fruit faster than me sometimes. You understand a lot about stories and shows, in a deeper way than before--we've been watching a lot of "Frozen" songs on YouTube, and during one where Elsa is sad, you explained that she's sad because she's afraid she'll hurt her little sister. I don't remember giving you a lot of context or background to the song, so this dynamic is something you picked up on yourself.

You and Greta are the best of friends most of the time, and you are patient (usually) beyond your years. You still talk for her, and translate what she's saying, and though I feel this is contributing to Greta's speech problems, it also, I think, bonds you together. I had to take you to Greta's speech therapy appointment last week, which I thought would be a disaster, but it turned out to be quite good: Greta opened up more to the therapist with you there; you set her more at ease. You unfailingly take care of her, which is always pretty amazing to see.

Favorite toys/activities: Sophia and Amber dolls, Ariel doll, Silvermist and Rosetta Squinkies (when they aren't hopelessly lost), GlowPet unicorn, Hello Kitties, coloring, dancing, dress-up, peg gnomes, sit n spin, pop beads

Favorite books: Cloud Tea Monkeys, Knuffle Bunny, Kevin Henke books