Thursday, August 27, 2015

For the Love of Ponies

I just wanted to post once more about My Little Ponies, and the serious, exhaustive way they have infused our lives. As the summer draws to a close, the ponies have become vital components of each and every activity the girls engage with. Bike riding around the driveway: bikes must first be "decorated" with blind bag ponies. Building with Magna Tiles and blocks: the structures are homes, castles, and barns for ponies. Playing with tiny Playmobil stuff: the small foods are for the ponies. Coloring: they're coloring pictures of ponies. Playing on the swingset: the ponies are always on the swings or in the playhouse with them. Going to the playground: ponies accompany us. Going to the pool: ponies accompany us (though I make the ponies stay in the car). Fruit picking: ponies accompany us. Painting clam shells on the porch: the ponies have to be forcibly distanced from the paints. Reading books: reading to ponies.

The girls' love of these ponies is intense. They both know the names of every one of their own and each other's blind bag ponies, a total of 40+ ponies with names like Sugar Grape, Flower Wishes, Apple Bumpkin, Button Belle, Ribbon Heart, and Lyra Heartstrings. The ponies have personalities and talk through the girls. Their voices and observations are urgent. "MOMMY. MOMMY. MOMMY. I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING." "Yes, Lucia?" "Luckette doesn't like her name and wants to be called Bon Bon!!!"

Unlike everything else in our lives, L & G don't want the same ponies: part of the fun for them is choosing different ones. They don't like any "boy" ponies except for Cheese Sandwich (yes, that's a pony). They have names for the different styles of pony molds: there are ponies with curly hair (curly ponies), and ones with hair that kind of flips up (swoosh ponies). (Today we debated whether they'd choose "crystal swooshes" at Target.) They want to have all the ponies with them all the time. Getting out of the house is a real trick because I limit the number of ponies they can bring to two or, if I want to thrill them, three. Then there's a painstaking process of choosing which ponies get to come. Then we get in the car and spend the entire ride locked in the turmoil of dropping ponies on the floor and begging me, the driver, to fish around for them at stoplights.

Still. They've never loved anything like they love these ponies. I will continue to enable them, without hesitation.

Lucia's pony-and-tiny-eraser arrangement from today's quiet time. Note the perfect symmetry of the ponies' poses and pairings. Note also that this is only a small selection of her pony collection.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Summer in PA

We started the summer with a week in PA, and we ended it that way, too. We drove in last weekend and packed the next nine days with lots of local fun. Molly and Luca were there, and the kids all played in the garage (their favorite 'indoor' play area) with Mom and Dad, and even watched My Little Pony and Equestria Girls together. We took all the kids to the Youngwood Pool--a new thing for us--and had a great time there. We all enjoyed hanging out at a friend's lovely yard, with a magical playhouse and a 35-foot wooden swing that really makes you feel like you're flying. Andrew, Molly, and I went to Lynn's for some late-night fried food. And Andrew and I even had a double-date night in Pittsburgh with friends.

We also went to the Pittsburgh Children's Museum; shopped for cement yard statues at Marcel's; had nice meals at Randall's and Eat N' Park; and went to a Finley's Fighters fun walk, where the girls got their faces painted and had pink feathers woven into their hair while Andrew and I walked on the Yough River Trail. I did a lot of school shopping, bringing home piles of clothes for the girls to try on since their sizes are all over the map these days. And we capped off the week with a wedding in Pittsburgh, with a reception at Phipps.

It was a full, busy week, and now that we're back in NJ, the end of summer is really upon us. In a little less than two weeks, Lucia will start school. In the meantime: there is more summer fun to squeeze in. Of course, a highlight of our PA trip were the Equestria Girls dolls we found at Gabe's and gave to the girls to ease the insult of being left with a sitter all day on Saturday while we were at the wedding--and now we've kind of lost them to the pony/girl insanity. All they want to do is sing odd songs about a battle of the bands, and they're calling each other Sonata Dusk and Aria Blaze consistently. It may take some doing to drag them away from those toys.

Mt. Washington, after our cousin's wedding

Sisters at Phipps

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Heart of the Summer

It's mid-August. This month, our crazy summer has finally slowed down, and for the past few weeks we've been home: all four of us, no more no fewer. No one visiting, no one traveling. (Well, Andrew was away all last week, so I guess I mean that I've consistently been here. He's mostly been here.) June and July were packed with activities, and now--a break. Of course, this was the part of summer I looked to with some measure of trepidation, since there's no way to get around it now: it's just me and the girls, all day, every day, for 12+ hours of unstructured time. 

That's daunting. The only comparable thing is snow days, which always seem like the most heinous affront to a SAHM: a whooollleee daaaay insiiiidddde, alooooone with the kiiiids. Minutes seem like hours. Thankfully, this summer isn't quite this bad. First of all, we're not stuck inside. Second of all, we're not stuck inside in the basement while doing dishes in the laundry sinks with the cave crickets, as we were all winter during our renovation. Third, and most importantly, summer time seems different somehow. Maybe it's because, with days on end of unscheduled time, the time doesn't drag on so much as it does when we have a sudden, jarring spell of it, like a snow day. Each day kind of gallops along. 

Most people around these parts, even the stay-at-home parents, send their kids to camp for the entire summer, or at least many weeks of it, and we didn't do that. I probably won't ever do that. Yes, there are some really cool camps we could dip into here and there in the future, if the girls are excited about it (pony-riding camp, insect camp, farm camp, gymnastics camp, nature camp...). But besides the four days of preschool "camp" we did immediately following the school year, I just can't get on board with the all-summer choices. It's my luxury as a fulltime SAHM that I can make the choice, I know--it's me, not my office-work obligations, that dictate my summer plans. I'm sure the kids in these camps have fun and do fun things and make fun summer memories. And yet. I see the camps around town now and then, herds of kids in matching tee-shirts being escorted to the park or pool or zoo with their very young counselors, and all I can think is how much I as a kid would have hated every second of it. Hated hated hated it. And maybe it's unreasonable or unfair to transfer my own ingrained introversion onto my kids, but I can't help it. They'd rather be here. This much I know.

So what do we do instead, here together for days and days on end? We've been to the zoo a few times. We've been to the pool nearly every afternoon. The girls play in the yard. They bring out all manner of stuff--wooden blocks, dolls, ponies. We read a lot of books on the front porch. They ride their scooters in the driveway. We sometimes go to Target. (And we've developed an unfortunate habit of buying blind bag ponies each time, which has the fortunate effect of deterring me from making nonessential Target trips.) The girls play with their Legos a lot. 

I can't really account for 100% of our time, because the girls are just...playing. Just doing stuff around the house and yard. Their time is fully their own, and they are never at a loss for how to fill it. They never play with the iPad or watch TV (besides an episode or two of My Little Pony while I make dinner.) This is their natural, preferred state--unstructured, complete freedom. And yes, there are days that absolutely ruin me--too many requests, too many squabbles, too much stubbornness, too much mess, too many things to pack up and carry and remember to bring home from the pool, too many things piled in their laps in their carseats; when these full days of fulltime parenting are, fully, too much. I'll be glad when school starts and we're back to days with actual schedules, with periods of time when the kids are actually not in my care. But for now--summer. Trying hard for the idyllic free days I used to have myself as a kid. 

If I can refrain from killing them, our summer will be a success.