Thursday, August 21, 2014

Letter to Lucia: 58 Months

Dear Lulu,

It's been an incredibly exciting month, a fun near-end to summer, and this past week you've been in camp at your new preschool. You have loved every second of it. You had a wobbly chin when I left on the first day, but you didn't cry, and the teacher said you were quiet for about ten minutes and then were fine. You've had so much fun--you're so excited to go each day, and when I pick you up, you're eager to return the next day. As usual, you won't give us too much information about what you did, but now and then you'll share a detail, like making trail mix (you were thrilled, and we've been making trail mix each day since).

This is all a big relief to me, because you loved your old school and friends. But we get to walk to school now, which is exciting; there is an outdoor playground; and everyone seems warm and kind. I'm really glad you got to do this camp, jus
t to get familiar with the school before the year actually begins, and I think I can finally stop my hand-wringing over whether you'll be scarred for life over the switch.

I took you to a play last week--a local kids' musical-theater camp's production, which one of our neighbors was in--and you were so excited. It's funny sometimes, realizing how much you're capable of, and I think we have to do a better job of taking you places and challenging you alone, without Greta--who, though we all of course love her, is definitely not quite at an almost-five-year-old level of attention and pliability.

You really like when I conspire with you behind Greta's back--that sounds terrible, I know, but sometimes it has to be done. Usually it deals with the toys you want to bring upstairs with you for Quiet Time. Whenever Greta sees you select something, she throws a huge fit and insists on taking part of it for herself, to put on her bureau for her naptime. She cannot be swayed, and it's frustrating for you when you have to give up, say, a handful of Playmobil animals when you want to play with them yourself while Greta naps. So you and I have a little routine now, where you'll pick out something for Quiet Time, Greta will make a grab at it, and I'll tell you both that it has to stay downstairs. Then I turn to you and give an exaggerated wink, which you return (hilariously); then I bring the toy upstairs once Greta is down for her nap.

Favorite toys/activities: My Little Ponies, coloring, the pool, the beach, hobby horse, wearing your mermaid tail

Favorite books: Goofy and the Magic Fish, The Penguin Who Hated the Cold, Twelve Dancing Princesses, Blueberries for Sal, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Orphan

In with the Ponies

We are on the cusp of change: ponies are overtaking princesses. We've been in princess-world for almost one full year, and now, as summer comes to an end, both girls' interest in the Disney Princesses seems to be waning. They still play a lot with their Barbie-size princess dolls, but they haven't played with their Magiclips very much lately, and they no longer gravitate toward any potholder, keychain, outlet cover, or what-have-you with a princess on it. Today Lucia even told me that next time we go to New Hampshire, she doesn't want to take her princesses. She wants to take ponies instead.

And so begins our My Little Pony era. We've had ponies for a while now--I bought a few at a yard sale a couple of summers ago, and the girls have always played with them now and then, without much fervor. Greta was always much more interested. But now--but now. They saw an impressive collection of My Little Ponies when we visited friends in Pittsburgh last month. And they discovered the My Little Pony TV show at the beach last week, when another little girl was watching it. There was no going back.

Both girls now know most of the ponies on the show, and even Greta can say them perfectly--Pinky Pie, Rainbow Dash, Applejack. They've been inseparable from the My Little Ponies we own (which, for now, thank goodness, are the early-2000s version and not the creepy anime style currently in stores). It's funny to see how the new obsession is merging with and overtaking the old--in the car this week, we've still been listening to Frozen, but now Lucia makes a pony she calls "Princess Celestia" sing along with "Let It Go": "Nay nay nay naynay nay nay nay naaay..."

Ponies have accompanied us to the pool every day this week. I found a couple of ponies at the church sale in July--I'll trot them out (ha) this weekend when we drag the girls to a kitchen tile showroom. I'm not wild about the TV show, or the incredibly ridiculous pony names, but I in general I love collections and am always more than game to share in any new obsession that comes along. Let the yard-saling continue in earnest!

Friday, August 08, 2014

The Big Questions

This evening, as Lucia, Greta, Andrew, and I ate dinner overlooking the fields and pond in New Hampshire, Lucia expressed her ardent appreciation for the pieces of plum on her plate. It was as though she'd never seen a plum before, as though I hadn't been offering them to her all summer.

"Mama, these are so, so yummy," she said. "How did you MAKE these plums?"

"I didn't 'make' them," I said. "They're pieces of fruit, like apples, cut into slices."

Andrew, always helpful, said, "God made the plums."

Lucia gazed out over the twilit fields. Birds chirped. Crickets chirped. A few remaining clouds wisped across the sky in the cool, brilliant, final light of day, illuminating the gold and purple wildflowers. "Who IS God?" she said eventually.

My response was weak. I had no idea what to say, falling back on creationist nonsense because I couldn't come up with anything better. "And that's why we go to church. To say thank you," I concluded. (This isn't the point of this story, but a relevant aside is that if we're not going to send these girls to Catholic school and outsource all the religious education, then I need to figure out exactly how I'm going to teach them at least the basic information without sounding so insane and lame. Next I'll be telling her cryptically never to read the Book of Revelation without a priest present. But I digress.)

Lucia nodded sagely and once again looked out over the fields. I dreaded whatever the follow-up question would be. We waited.

Then she said, "If I covered the barn with ketchup and mustard, do you think I could put the whole thing in my mouth and swallow it without chewing?"

We were saved.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Letter to Lucia: 57 Months

Dear Lulu,

This letter is late, but I purposely waited to write it so I could write about a very exciting event: your big debut as a flower girl in your cousin Lexi's wedding on July 19. For months, I'd been preparing you: talking up the honor, the dress, the excitement, the princess-like aspects of the day. We watched YouTube videos of flower girls. We talked about brides and aisles and flowers. You're almost five years old--an age of reason, usually. But it was the "usually" that, of course, made me nervous. Ninety percent of the time, you're agreeable and amenable and wonderful; ten percent of the're otherwise, like any kid. With a four year old, there's no guarantee of predictability.

But we needn't have worried. You were so extremely excited, talking about the wedding for weeks beforehand. You sailed through the rehearsal, and had a good sleep the night before the wedding. (We had two adjoining suites at the Mayflower in DC--royal accommodations assigned to us simply by chance; so you and Greta slept in separate rooms, avoiding any problems with giggling late into the night.) The day of the wedding, you woke up happy and excited, and stayed that way throughout the day. You got your hair done; took pictures with the bridesmaids in matching bathrobes; got dressed; wore your fancy headband; followed instructions from multiple people, which changed a few times before you actually walked down the aisle; sat (mostly) patiently through the ceremony and Mass; carried a banner back down the aisle, behind the bride and groom; and charmed everyone with your smile and cuteness. You were also excited about the fact that Greta had to stay with a babysitter while you got to eat dinner with the grownups. (You lasted through dinner and a little dancing--and then crashed, sobbing in Daddy's arms as he took you back to the room, where the babysitter put an exhausted you to bed.)

It was a lovely wedding, and you were such a star, and I really think you'll remember this forever.

The other big news is that I finally told you we're sending you to a different preschool this fall. All summer, I've avoided any mention of it, but lately you've been missing school and your little friends, asking when you're going back to school, and so on, and I just couldn't hide it any longer. I talked to you about all the fun elements of your new school, your new teacher's name, the little boy you're friends with who'll be in your class, and promised we'd have playdates with your friends from your old school. You took it in stride and seem unfazed. I'm sending you to a one-week camp at the new school so you get familiar with it before the school year starts, but I'm feeling much better about the transition.

In other news--you're acting more kid-like all the time, doing kid-like things, saying hilarious things all the time. When we were making clothespin mermaids this week, your mermaid had a tail but I hadn't yet drawn on her face, and you were making her swim around while saying, "I can swim! I can swim but I can't see! I can't seeee!" Too funny. You've been wearing the mermaid tail Aunt Katherine got you nearly all day, every day. You're in a real mermaid phase right now, have been for a while, and the clothespin mermaids have been a lot of fun. We worked on them today for a solid two hours. (Of course, by the end it was me and the glue gun, finishing them up, while you and Greta spread out all the porch-furniture pillows to make a "pillow patio," but no matter.)

You would prefer to eat nothing but snacks, but sometimes you'll eat your whole dinner and then ask for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich--so you're definitely growing. You wear a 5T and a size 10 shoe. You go to sleep around 8:30pm and get up around 7:30am.

Favorite toys/activities: clothespin mermaids, mermaid anything, Li'l Me dolls, Barbie-size princesses, Magiclip princesses, Playmobil animals, coloring, drawing pictures, arranging things in rainbow colors, large quantities of anything, bubbles, bubble machine

Favorite books: Twelve Dancing Princesses, Berenstain Bears, Three Little Horses, Frog and Toad, The Mousery, Father Bear Comes Home, Mercy Watson books

Letter to Greta: 33 Months

Dear Baby Grets,

Sorry: Big Girl Grets. You won't abide being called a baby these days, and you're taking more and more pride in doing things by yourself. "FELF," you say firmly, whether it's climbing into your carseat, climbing out of your carseat, getting dressed, or using the potty. You also don't like when we offer you bites of food you've expressed an interest in: "No. OWN," you say. And so we give you your own.

Miracle of miracles, you seem to be potty trained. Not only that: you don't even want help. You announce "Go pee-pee," stride into the bathroom, pull down your underwear and pants, climb onto the toilet, and go. You (cursorily) wipe, flush, and step onto the step stool to wash your hands. The first time you managed to flush by yourself, you were overcome with pride and excitement. "Me big girl now!!" you exclaimed, clasping your hands in front of your neck. I am just as excited about this development as you are.

Your speech is improving by leaps and bounds. Most of your words are intelligible; you're trying hard at more complicated, multi-syllable words; you're speaking in full phrases and sentences. You confuse "me" for "I," but that seems like a pretty usual two-year-old thing. Your speech therapist said she's changing her objectives now to focus on sounds, since your language development and structure are so much improved.

You're heavily into silly talk right now, thanks to Lucia. Silly voices, nonsense jabber. It's constant, and, I have to say, annoying. I'll be happy when this stage passes. On the bright side, it's introduced some pretty funny things into your repertoire, like a cackly, witchy voice in which you call people "my dearie." "Okay, my dearie," you cackle, with a sly little smile.

Your days of ravenous, voracious eating seem to be over, though you still eat well at almost every meal. When you don't like or want something, you refuse to even keep it on your plate. You love cheese above all else. And bagels. You couldn't care less about snacks, sometimes eating one when I offer it, but just as often ignoring it. I don't think you've ever actually asked me for a snack--which makes you as different from your sister as it's possible to be.

You are sleeping from 7:30pm till around 7am, with no night wakings. You wear a size 4T and size 9 shoe. You're finally letting me put a barrette in your hair so you don't look quite so much like a sheepdog. You are still cuddly and clingy, some days clingier than others, though you no longer cry when you're left with a babysitter (probably because you're always with Lucia, too, since it's summertime).

You're still insanely stubborn, and naughty, and you like to goad Lucia; but you're generally pleasant and fun. And hilarious, too. Cuter and cuter every day.

Favorite toys/activities: Barbie-size princesses, My Little Ponies, Playmobil animals, bubbles, dancing, puzzles (up to 48 pieces), seeing animals outside

Favorite books: Five Beds for Bitsy, Too Many Kittens, I Like Being Little, Aristocats, Brave Little Tailor, Emperor's New Clothes, Frog and Toad books