Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Last Trip to NH

Last weekend, we went to NH for my birthday--our last trip of the season, which meant we had to say goodbye until next May. Usually we get to go once more in November, but this year we can't. We were all very sad to leave.

It was a quick trip--Friday night through Sunday late afternoon--but worth it, as it always is. I love being up there in the fall--this October trip always feels so moody and final. It's not a place that's all that welcoming for outsiders once the weather drops, and there's the feeling of being ushered out, we who don't really belong there, we who won't be around when the snow piles up around the barn. It's time to leave the house, and the woods, to the ghosts--whose presence we both feel strongly, especially once summer draws to a close.

It was not only cold this weekend but rainy, but we managed to squeeze in the things we love. Saturday, we went to our favorite farm to pick pumpkins and run through the corn maze. We celebrated my birthday that evening, with champagne, a steak dinner, cake (leftover from Greta's birthday), and presents. For a birthday like this--or any birthday, really--I felt it was best to mark it as far from civilization and regular life as possible. Forty slipped in without much fuss.

Sunday we took a nature walk and the girls played around the pond--lower now, allowing them to explore places they usually can't reach. We spent time inside coloring in the girls' new Pusheen coloring books. We carved all the pumpkins, and roasted the pumpkin seeds. The girls spent a surprising amount of time pulling corn kernels from dried ears of corn they'd scavenged from the corn maze, then playing with the kernels in a way I can't quite pin down--feeding them to the jack o' lanterns? Feeding them to their Shopkins? Unclear.

And then we closed down another season with dinner at our favorite pizza place before getting on the road.

Until next year, lovely farmhouse.


Halloween 2016 was a great success. The chosen costume for both girls this year: spies. They wore black pants, black shirts, black vests, black boots, and black hats, and each had a black bag full of "spy tools": flashlight, red-dot laser, rope, calculator, old cell phone, notebook, pen. (Neither girl would wear the hat for her school Halloween parade, which made them look more like New Yorkers than spies.) For trick-or-treating, they added night-vision spy goggles I'd gotten them--blue-lens glasses with little lights at either side.

The day was packed very very full. First, Greta's parade at preschool. Next, Lucia's parade at school. Then trick-or-treating at the shops in the village. A quick dinner at home, then trick-or-treating around our neighborhood. The girls had so much fun. What a change from two years ago, when we barely managed to do all the houses on our street--this year, they would have gone on and on. (Last year, of course, we didn't trick-or-treat because we were at Trina's wedding--which L&G still talk about.)

All in all, a great great day. I have to say, though, that I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it was over. This has been a CRAZY month, with both girls' birthdays, Greta's birthday party, a trip to NH for my birthday, a trip to PA for my library event, and then Halloween. Whew. November is scheduled to the hilt as well, but it's not nearly as stressful for me as planning birthdays and Halloween. I feel so much pressure to make those things magical. There are so few of them in their little childhoods, and I want every part of them to be perfect. Another year of happy events all around--done and done.

And yes, that's me in a purple wig and witch's hat in the picture below, getting into the Halloween spirit. L&G were thrilled that I put on a costume, and Greta referred to me only as "witch" the entire evening.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Letter to Greta: 5 Years Old

Baby Grets,

Happy happy birthday!! Five is HUGE. A game changer. You've already changed so much in the past couple of months, and so much more will come this year.

Though no one can match the birthday excitement of your sister, you were pretty excited about your big day. I had balloons for you in the morning, and you opened two presents--a Pusheen plush eating a donut, and an Applejack Equestria Girl. You requested chocolate croissants for breakfast (Pillsbury croissants baked with chocolate hazlenut spread). Then you went off to school, where the kids sang Happy Birthday and shared the treat you brought in--vampire donuts.

After school, you had a playdate here with a friend whose parents needed some last-minute help. (A hilarious comment I overheard you make as you showed her around your room: "Would you like to see some of my magical things from Disney World?") When Lucia got home, you finally got to open the rest of your presents. You were thrilled with them all, declaring at the end that you'd gotten everything you'd wanted. (Whew.) Then we had some of the delicious rainbow-sprinkle cake Daddy had made, after being inspired by an article this week in the New York Times. Your favorite presents were a Woodzeez bakery and ice cream shop.

By that point you'd been birthday-d out, and you and Lucia watched an Equestria Girls movie before we all had waffles for dinner.

Your birthday celebration will continue tomorrow, Friday, when all your pre-K friends come over for a party. You asked for one, and since Lucia had a party for her fifth birthday, it seemed fair. The fact that it's cold and wet outside is making me rue this decision just a tiny bit...but I'm sure it'll be fine.

Anyway: At five, you are as cute and funny and cuddly as ever. I wonder if you'll ever not want to cuddle so much--Lucia will agree for a few seconds, then off she runs to something else. You love being read to, and you so desperately want to read--I feel confident you'll pick it up quickly when it's time.

You love playing with tiny things, the tinier the better, and your new Woodzeez things, as well as Shopkins, are your focus. You get so wrapped up in your imaginary play--the rest of us, and the world, disappear while you set up your little spaces and play with them.

You love your pre-K class and have really grown since the start of the school year. You eat lunch at school four of the five days, and every day you join your class line without a backward glance. Not even one tear at dropoff this year. That's amazing to me. You've made many new friends but, as expected, you're still on the quiet side--steering clear of crowds and chaos. (This is right, because you're mine.) But you've also become much more independent and less clingy--you don't have any issue now going off to your swimming or gymnastics classes. And oh, what a struggle both of those were at first.

You love animals; you love horses and ponies. You love learning to draw new things. (Ghosts and candles are your current favorite discoveries.)

So: happy fifth birthday, Miss Miss. It'll be an incredible year.

Favorite books: Big Pumpkin, Pumpkin Town, Crows of Pear Blossom (gag), Little Witch's Big Night, 10 Trick or Treaters, Five Little Pumpkins

Favorite toys/activities: Shopkins, Shopkins, Shopkins, tiny foods, Woodzeez sets, Pusheen, My Little Ponies (less now, sob), Legos

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Post-Birthday Fun

One of my least favorite things is when Andrew is away for the weekend. Being alone with the kids during the week has gotten easier--we're so busy with school and activities--but the weekends just feel so isolating. Sigh. Fortunately, Lucia and Greta had lots and lots of things to do today, and we were busy all day long as they played with gifts from yesterday's birthday celebration. Both of them are wild about the Legos we bought at the Lego Store, and we spent most of today working on their sets. Lucia is so good at it--has been for a while but it's always fun to watch her build. The set she chose is the biggest and most challenging she's had yet, and she didn't come anywhere close to finishing it. It's a multi-day set for sure. She loved building it and she also loved just playing with the little characters that came with it.

Greta is starting to come into her own with Lego building too--today she worked on the Friends hot dog stand, and she was doing it on her own by the end: looking at the instructions, finding the right pieces, positioning them to match the illustrations. She was so pleased with herself.

Besides the Legos, Lucia played with her bakery a lot today, and both girls love the balloons (which are still keeping their helium). Birthday fun.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Letter to Lucia: 7 Years Old

Dear Lucia,

Happy happy 7th birthday, little love.

You were so excited about your birthday this year. Every year you're excited--but more so this year than any other so far. You couldn't wait to turn seven (and have stated definitively that you now, in fact, feel seven). You counted down the days till your birthday for weeks; and you were just beside yourself with excitement as the big day approached.

So much excitement is adorable, and touching--but it also puts a lot of pressure on me, as your mother, to make sure you have a day that lives up to your expectations. When I remarked to your daddy this week that I was feeling overwhelmed with birthday preparations in the midst of an already crazy week, he suggested I cut some things out--like not bother getting you helium balloons to greet you in the morning, which you had specifically requested. Would you have withered in despair without balloons? No. But I went to the Dollar Tree at 9pm last night to get them anyway. And you were so happy to see them this morning. One was in your room when you woke up. The rest were tied to chairs at the table downstairs. You loved them.

You got to celebrate your birthday at school yesterday: I dropped off cupcakes with Halloween frosting and picks (store-bought, of course), your class sang Happy Birthday, your teacher had everyone write a birthday message and picture which she put into a little book, and I went in to volunteer at lunchtime. All fun.

And finally--October 15. Your birthday. You had some very specific requests for how you wanted the morning to go, which we did our best to follow. First: have balloons greet you (done). Next: open two of your presents. Finally: have scrambled eggs and chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. After that, you and Greta had your gymnastics class, and then we set out on our birthday adventure: a day in the city.

You didn't want a party this year--I floated the idea, but you were quite clear about not wanting one--and after a lot of debate a city adventure is what you chose. You decided the itinerary: Lego store, candy store, pizza lunch, playground. We drove in, parked near Madison Square Park, and began our (wallet-draining) quest for birthday excitement.

I think I can safely say the day exceeded all of our expectations. You and Greta were both soooo excited about getting to pick out new Legos; you chose a gigantic dragon castle from the Elves line, and Greta chose two smaller Lego Friends sets (hot dog cart and supermarket). The cashier threw in a ridiculous number of free items as well--two knight Lego figures, a Lego City fountain set, and a holiday set.

Excited beyond description, we emerged from the Lego store and walked to lunch--a little restaurant where your daddy and I used to eat all the time when we worked as editors together. We even walked past our old workplace. It was more than a little strange to be back in that exact spot, where--in 2003--we met; and where, in 2016, we were strolling with you and Greta. Time! Life choices! Luck! (But you're seven. You won't understand those wonders for a long while.)

Next up: some bank-breaking candy-shopping fun at Dylan's Candy Bar. You get your love of candy from your dad. (I don't much care for anything but chocolate.) You and Greta filled your bags with all manner of gummies and licorice.

And then--some candy eating and playing at the playground in Union Square Park. You had so much fun on all the slides and climbing equipment. It was hard keeping you both in sight at all times, especially when we walked back out through the Greenmarket, and when you were both skipping and running down the city streets, reminding me (again) why--despite perfect city excursions like today's--I'm so glad we don't live there anymore. (Meanwhile, your dad started perusing NYC real estate listings as soon as we got home.)

On the way back to the car, a cashmere-sweater store was handing out free cotton candy. You were meh; Greta declared that SHE NOW LOVES COTTON CANDY. You were so happy with the entire day, and so ready to go home to open the rest of your presents. We left on a high note.

Back home, you got to open the rest of your presents (a Woodzeez bakery was your top favorite birthday gift), and we sang happy birthday with a lovely cake your daddy made (which I adorned with Shopkins). Then--some playing, and bedtime.

Your dad left for Germany after he read you a story, which was a sad end to an otherwise perfect birthday. Nonetheless, you told me it was the best birthday ever--thanking us for all your presents and for letting you get the BIGGEST Lego set--which makes all the crazy planning worthwhile. Whew.

It was a fun birthday for all of us, lovey. Now onward with your seven-year-old fabulousness.

Favorite books: Elephant and Piggie, Never Girls, Stella Batts

Favorite toys/activities: Shopkins (top favorite toy right now), ponies (less now; sigh), Uno, other games

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Fall in NH

Ah, fall in New Hampshire. We love coming up here so much in the summer, and usually only make it once or twice in the fall, but somehow our fall visits are among my favorites. We still get outside, but not as much in the cold and damp, so we spend much of the days just here inside, the four of us, enjoying the quiet and stillness.

Well, Andrew and I enjoy the quiet and stillness. The girls keep themselves as busy as anywhere else. A rundown of our days so far:

Friday, Sept. 30

We drove to NH after Lucia got home from school--a long, endless drive with lots of traffic.

Saturday, Oct. 1

L&G started off our weekend with their go-to NH activity: playing doctor with antique kitchen gadgets. Then on to hide and seek. We also played Candyland and Memory.

Wary of a rainy weekend, we seized the afternoon to go apple picking at our favorite spot, Riverview Farm. We picked apples, went on a hayride through the orchard and blueberry fields, ate maple ice cream, took pictures by pumpkins. It was a ridiculously nice fall afternoon.

Bonus: On our way to the farm, we drove past a rummage sale in its final hour, where they were giving everything away by donation. We never know exactly when this rummage sale is, but we've stumbled upon it now for three years in a row, and we never lack for treasures. An unopened off-brand Rainbow Loom thingy, a big jar of play money, puzzles, vintage Chutes and Ladders, and two never-used zippered Clinique pouches to store Shopkins. Also a creepy hand-drawn portrait of a baby. Score.

Then we went grocery shopping and then went home. We had hot dogs and ribs for dinner. Andrew threw the Frisbee around with the girls while he grilled. Greta declared herself a "fan" of ribs and we had to stop her from eating the entire rack. Lucia nibbled one and gave it a thumb's down.

Also notable is Greta's new expression: "as well." "Can I have water, as well?" She must have picked that up at school. So polite.

Sunday, Oct. 2

We finally made it out for a nature walk today and went into our favorite part of the woods, to the place the girls call the "fairy forest." Greta became so focused on collecting sticks that, after our walk, she and Andrew returned to the woods with a wheelbarrow to collect more officially.

After lunch, we did some indoor things--puzzles from the rummage sale, lots of loomed bracelets, Shopkins fun.

We went out to dinner at the Weathervane. Also, we saw a huge fox strolling down the road this morning. I've never gotten so long a look at one. We've also seen lots of turkeys and deer. Fall!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Greta's First Week in Pre-K

There were no tears from Greta on the first day of pre-K! As I said in my last post, I really thought it could go either way--no tears or big tears. But she was excited to go, and joined the children in the pre-K line with nary a backward glance. And it's been like that all week. She's talking about new friends, the pre-K kindness cheer, and center time. At the end of the day, she plays on the hill outside the school with her friends.

There's something about the pre-K teachers that's truly magic. Even after just one week, I see a change in the little miss. This makes me happy....and sad. She's my baby!

One of the things I've had to talk to L&G about a lot lately is tone. From school and YouTube videos, they'd picked up "Duh!" with its attendant insolence and eye-rolling. I explained that saying "duh" isn't polite, that it is, in fact, rude, and they took it to heart. If they slip, they theatrically clap their hands over their mouths. And now it's gotten really hilarious because they'll pounce on each other for doing it--"MOM!! GRETA SAID 'DUH'!!!" Lucia will yell. And Greta will immediately defend herself: "I didn't say 'duh.' I said...'suh.'" "MOM, GRETA SAID 'SUH'." "Greta, you shouldn't say 'suh.'" Now and then, they'll look at me and say, "We can't say 'duh,' or 'suh,' or 'buh.'" 

We have some funny conversations these days.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

One Week Down

We made it through the first week of the school year. Lucia has settled into first grade with nary a blip. She seems very happy. She was also very happy for the weekend, when she and Greta could just stay home and play. All weekend they played with Shopkins, ponies, and Magna Tiles. Lucia also requested we do a craft: she wanted to make homes for her toys. So we made a few box-homes with wallpaper and carpet scraps.

We did have some disruption on Saturday because we're doing a facelift of our bedroom, and the workers were in our house all day replacing the windows in our bedroom and my office. Tomorrow, they'll paint. We're trying to find wallpaper for one wall of the bedroom but have so far failed to find anything we like. This is proving to be difficult. But the new windows look amazing.

Today I went to yoga and then we just stayed home and relaxed. Andrew made fried chicken for dinner--our summer favorite, made in a cast-iron skillet on the grill. We're gearing up for Greta's first day of pre-K tomorrow. It's impossible to predict how it will go. Sometimes she seems excited about starting pre-K; sometimes (today) she says she just wants to stay home with me. It may be a rough beginning...or it may not be. She's becoming more predictable, but school is big, and it's a big change from the summer.

To her credit, she had her first swimming lesson of the fall on Thursday, with new teachers, and she did great--whereas in the past, I had to resort to Shopkins bribery to get her to have a good lesson. And on Saturday, she had her first gymnastics class of the season--again, a new teacher, and a chaotic crowd of kids. But she went right in and did a great job. So, progress. Five years old was a real turning point with Lucia, so maybe we're getting there.

I'll be heading out of town this coming weekend for Aunt Joanne's funeral--a sadly sudden loss. I haven't talked to L&G about it yet, though Greta was home on Friday when I got the news and hugged me when she saw I was crying. She also kept asking who died, who died, and a little wash of fear went over her face when I said it was my aunt--she thought I was talking about Aunt Molly. The "aunts" in her world are Molly and Katherine. So many scary ways for kids to try to make sense of overheard adult conversations.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Lucia's First Day of First Grade

Lucia was so excited about starting first grade. Without all the unknowns of last year, she was a little freer to just enjoy the excitement of beginning a new school year. We all walked to the bus stop, and then, once she was on the bus, we drove to school to meet her. We got to see her classroom and meet her new teacher. She has a few friends in the class, which is great. She was a teeny bit sad when we left, saying she'd miss us, but she got off the bus at the end of the day happy. She told us she knows she's in real school now because there's no rest time and no play time. Just work.

I had to go to Target yet again after bedtime for still more school supplies. I don't even know how many times I've been to Target over the past week. I threatened to just buy a tent and set it up in the parking lot. Sigh.

Summer Day 9/5: Labor Day

Last day of summer. We spent the day close to home, and made a trip to Pier One to buy new bedroom furniture. Fall brings two home renovation projects: a small renovation of our bedroom, with new windows, paint, furniture, and carpet; plus a larger renovation of our basement, involving a full demo and brand-new everything, including a bathroom and laundry room. Nothing will be as disruptive as our kitchen renovation, so we're excited to get these started.

Otherwise, the girls just played. Last day of summer. By evening, Lucia was jumping up and down with excitement about starting first grade.

I'm very glad I did this (more or less) daily blog this summer. In June, the summer seemed like it stretched ahead endlessly--the first couple of days really threw me for a loop, with both kids home all day, and no time to myself at all. But we hit our stride as the days went on (though I never did get any time to myself). The first half of the summer was somewhat of a trial, with lots of bickering and Greta's insane "fisherman" whining; we reached our nadir during our week in Connellsville, with the Pinkie Pie Sweet Shop debacle. But that proved to be a reckoning, and our summer from that point on was markedly different.

Now the "fisherman" is kind of a family joke--now and then Greta will pretend to whine, and we'll theatrically say oh, no, the fisherman is coming, and Greta very forcefully orders us not to say it--not to say "fisherman." As though speaking the name will summon him/it. Still super, super strange and vaguely disturbing. But on we go.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Summer Day 9/4: Storm King

We continued our Ocean City makeup weekend by taking a day trip today to Storm King Art Center, something I've been wanting to do for ages. It's about an hour and fifteen minutes away, an easy drive, and so worth it. We had a great time. Storm King is a sprawling sculpture park, 500 acres, with gigantic sculptures by Calder, Serra, Maya Lin, and many many more. It's a beautiful place, and walking through the enormous fields, with sculptures towering overhead, was stunning. We'd brought lunch and had a picnic under some trees. L&G had a lot of fun too, not least because I'd let them each bring a small purse with four ponies. The ponies came out to play whenever we stopped to take a break.

A highlight for all of us was Maya Lin's Storm King Wavefield. We climbed along and over and down the grassy waves, feeling much higher up than we actually were.

We walked around for well over two hours and had just hopped on a tram to head toward the parking area when Lucia said, "I can't find Rainbow Dash." One of the ponies was missing. We'd made our way around a good bit of the 500 acres. There was a long moment of horrified silence. We got off the tram near where we'd come into the park, and discussed what to do. There was no way to retrace our steps; but Andrew had a suspicion that we'd find Rainbow Dash where we'd stopped for lunch. So he and Lucia went on a hunt while Greta and I hung out near the museum building.

Lo and behold, Rainbow Dash was found. Lucia decided Rainbow Dash's punishment would be not getting to join us when we stopped for ice cream on the way home.

This was a super-fun trip--definitely a place to return to, maybe in the fall. What a lovely way to finish off the summer.

Walking through the South Fields

A sculpture in the South Fields

Walking on the Wavefield

On the Wavefield

Summer Day 9/3

To assuage our disappointment over canceling our Ocean City trip, we planned a fun city excursion for Saturday. We drove in and went to the New Museum to see "The Keeper," an exhibition I've been wanting to see. I thought the girls might like it, since it's about collections and collecting, and I'd seen a writeup in the Times that there was a family event on Saturday morning--a teddy-bear-decorating workshop to complement the centerpiece of the exhibition, a collection of vintage photographs that all contained a teddy bear. L&G were thrilled when they were each handed a small white teddy bear when we got to the museum's workshop area, where tables full of art supplies had been set up, along with hot glue guns. They worked for a long time making things for their bears, less interested in making clothes and hats and more focused on making accessories--which I guess is no surprise.

Bears complete, we headed down a few floors to the exhibition, which was pretty great. L&G really liked seeing all the collections, and spotting the teddy bears in the photo collection. There was a group of photos of Holocaust children with teddy bears, and when L&G asked about them, I said that the children were prisoners and they had only one special toy. I tried to deflect their further questions about why the children were prisoners, who'd captured them, what happened to them, etc. Greta has asked about the "prisoner children" several times since then, clearly aware that there's more to the story.

After the museum, we had dumplings for lunch at a little place on the Lower East Side. That was really fun--L&G don't yet know how to use chopsticks, but they tried valiantly.

There was a small playground near where we'd parked, so we let them play for a little while before driving back home. It was a really perfect city day.

Saturday night, we invited six neighbors over for an impromptu gathering around our fire pit. We felt happy to have created a day that seemed like a perfect balance of city/suburb.

A museum worker photographed the kids with their bears

The teddy bear photos in "The Keeper" exhibition

Dumplings and noodles

Girls in the city. Note the knee socks.

Summer Days 8/30-9/2

Tues. 8/30 & Wed. 8/31

These days have kind of blurred together. There was more swimming at the pool on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the girls and I went to the zoo for our final trip of the summer. We had a lot of fun doing all our favorite zoo things--riding the zoo train, feeding birds in the aviary, riding the carousel. I definitely felt some end-of-summer melancholy.

We went swimming later on Wednesday afternoon. However, an hour into swimming, Lucia began complaining that her ear hurt--we headed home, and her pain quickly escalated until she was sobbing. Fortunately, it was walk-in hours for our pediatric practice, so after changing out of our swimsuits we rushed over for a checkup. It turned out to be nothing--just a tiny inflammation that a dose of Motrin seemed to take care of. Poor Lucia, though--she's not a complainer, so I really thought this was going to be a raging ear infection.

Thurs. 9/1

Thursday we had a regular day at home. We also went to Target, and I let L&G buy their final reading prize--a pack of Happy Places Shopkins. Greta chose the Bathing Bunny set, which has a miniscule toothbrush that she's been coveting. "The toothbrush wants to be with me," she said earlier in the week. Lucia chose Kitty Kitchen. They played with Shopkins and ponies for most of the remainder of the day.

I also dragged them to the mall on Thursday afternoon. The goal was new sneakers for L&G--I'd dismissed the idea as unnecessary until, in my back-to-school-preparation frenzy, I realized their sneakers are a mess and they can't possibly wear them for another school year. So, off we went to the Short Hills Mall, where we didn't find sneakers but DID find some cute sparkly light-up fun shoes that were on sale at Nordstrom. So they each got a pair of those.

The way I manage my back-to-school anxiety is to spend money, apparently, and along with Target and the Short Hills Mall I also placed a large order from Carter's for pj's, and Zappo's for the tennis shoes I failed to find at the mall.

Fri. 9/2

We were supposed to leave for Ocean City on Friday for our long-planned finale trip of the summer. We went over Labor Day last year and had so much fun we'd decided to do the trip again this year. Alas, Hurricane Hermine's imminent arrival convinced Andrew we should cancel. I pressed to still go, but as he read the increasingly dire weather advisories to me, it was clear we probably shouldn't go. Sigh. We were very very disappointed. L&G were unaffected--happy, in fact, to be able to just stay home and play. Which we did.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Summer Day 8/29

Back home. L&G seemed happy to be here and began playing with all their ponies and Shopkins in earnest the second they woke up.

Late in the morning, we went to the library and got out a zillion books--probably our last summer library trip. I've loved this part of our summer--our regular weekly library visit. In years past, it was difficult to take them to the library. For one thing, when we first moved here, when they were very very little, I stubbornly held onto the idea that I should walk to the library, which meant pushing two kids plus a bunch of books up the hill in a double stroller to get home on a blisteringly hot summer day. (What folly: this is why we have cars in suburbia.) Second, there were diaper changes to consider. And nursing. And then potty training. How, how, did I ever leave the house at all???? You couldn't pay me to go back to all that. Anyhoo, then there was a stage where one or both would throw some kind of fit in the library, or run wild. Sigh.

Finally, we're past all that. Our library trips have been so much fun. Both girls love picking out books and discovering new favorites. They liked doing the library's reading club this summer--adding stars to their mobile hanging from the ceiling of the children's room and getting small prizes for hours-read. Here are some of our favorite books and series of the summer:

Ivy and Bean (series)
Never Girls (series)
Critter Club (series)
Elephant and Piggie books
Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep (and other Mo Willems in this series)
The Apple Doll
Memoirs of a Hampster
Princess in Black (series)
Geronimo Stilton books (my least favorite--too cartoony for my taste)
And so many more.

Today, we read a few of our books on a bench outside the library, then went to the Able Baker for cupcakes. Then we went home, hung out for a bit, had a little quiet time, then went to the pool for a couple of hours. Both girls can now do forward and backward somersaults underwater.

All in all, a lovely end-of-summer day.

This pic is actually from Tuesday. But I uploaded it with the others so here it is.

Summer Days 8/27-8/28: New Hampshire

Sat., 8/27

Since this was our last visit to NH this summer, we made our annual trip to the recycling center to deliver all the recycling we'd been saving up over the past few months. Of course we couldn't escape NH without an injury: Andrew cut his finger as he grabbed a bag of glass bottles. It looked terrible, but he didn't think it needed stitches, so we went on with our day.

Next we went to Walmart so L&G could pick out their reading rewards--Lucia's been doing daily reading practice plus journal entries, and though going to Walmart is never fun, the girls were so excited. Greta chose a blind bag pony--Sapphire Shores--and blind bag Happy Places Shopkins. Lucia chose a blind bag Happy Places Shopkins and a regular blind bag Shopkins. The Happy Places Shopkins are ridiculously cute--and tinier than anything else the girls have. That's saying a lot. Each set comes with two regular-size Shopkins plus a miniscule accessory: a Shopkins bank plus a miniscule Shopkins coin; a Shopkins egg cup plus a miniscule egg to go in it. Everything has a pet face.

We, Sapphire Shores, a variety of other ponies and Equestria Girls, and the miniscule Shopkins army next went to lunch at our favorite ice cream place, where we'd never before ordered anything but ice cream. We could barely get the girls to eat their grilled cheeses, so intently were they playing with their wonderland of toys on the picnic table. Then we all got sundaes for dessert.

We spent the rest of the day at home. Andrew and I tried to get L&G to swim in the pond, but all they wanted to do was play with their Shopkins. (Andrew took a swim; I went out in my raft.) We ate dinner outside and L&G played rambunctiously with the Cozy Coupe--they're too big to really get in it now but they've been playing on top of it, knocking it over while someone's inside, and scream-laughing maniacally.

Right before bedtime, Sapphire Shores went missing. Greta was unclear if she'd left it by the pond. Andrew went on a hunt and found it in the back of the Cozy Coupe.

After L&G went to bed, Andrew and I built a fire in the firepit and enjoyed our last summer evening in NH.

Sun., 8/28

Sigh. Last day of our last summer visit. We cleaned the house, did all the laundry, took a nature walk. Lucia was obsessed with playing Frisbee with Andrew. Greta is slowly learning how to properly throw a Frisbee as well. We ate dinner at the Pizza Chef and then got on the road. We were all sad, even though we'll be back in October. Ending our summer visits really feels like the end of summer itself.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Summer Days 8/25-8/26: New Hampshire

Thurs., 8/25

We did something new-to-us yesterday--traveled an hour and a half to Lake Winniepesake to meet some of Andrew and Katherine's college friends for lunch and some lake fun. It was such a nice place--we had lunch at a restaurant right on the lake called Town Dock, then went to a public beach, where there was a lovely swimming area. Sandy bottom, no sludge, crystal clear water, waist-high for the kids at the deepest point. L&G had of course brought Equestria Girls, but they actually played with real kids too--two of the kids there were little girls age four and six, and the four-year-old had brought a big bag of My Little Ponies as well as an Equestria Girl of her own. It was a beautiful lake. Definitely a place to return to.

We got home around 6:30pm and went immediately to our cousins' house for cocktails. I was worried about the kids being a tired mess--but they had so much fun. Our cousins brought out some toys they'd saved from their own kids' childhoods, and Lucia, Greta, and Thomas played happily the entire time we were there. It was a very nice visit, sitting outside, even though it was too foggy to see Mt. Ascutney.

L&G collapsed as soon as they got into bed.

Fri., 8/26

Katherine, Patrick, and Thomas left this morning, sad for all of us. The kids had a lot of fun together this week--so nice for the cousins to have time together, just like L&G did with Luca at the beach. They only have two cousins; it's important that they get to be close with them both.

We took it easy for most of the day but headed out for some blueberry picking late in the afternoon. We went to a different place this year--the same farm where we get pumpkins every October. The bushes were packed with berries. L&G were so excited. Usually Greta is the one eating her weight in berries--this year it was Lucia. She expressed a desire to live on the blueberry farm. Greta expressed her gratitude to the blueberry bushes as she picked berries--"Thank you, tree!"

A little over a week from now, school starts. All the tiger lilies and black-eyed Susans by the roadside are dead. I love fall but transitioning into it makes me queasy and anxious.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summer Days 8/20-8/24: New Hampshire

Lost some days in here but I'll try to recap the past few.

Sat., 8/20

Did a preschool cleanup in the morning, then went to a rummage sale, then spent a lot of time losing my mind over the sheer intractable mess that was our house in preparation for a weeklong trip away, during which time the cleaners would come, so the house had to be both vacation-clean and cleaners-coming-tidied. Not fun.

I gave the girls their first week's reading-practice prize--a blind bag pony and blind bag Shopkin. Lucia's been doing great with her daily reading practice, and as everyone knows I like to buy the girls their favorite tiny things, so the reading-practice incentive is win-win for all of us.

In the evening, Katherine, Patrick, and Thomas arrived, to much excitement. L&G had been eagerly awaiting their arrival all day. A whirlwind of Shopkins and pony introductions ensued.

Sun., 8/21

Katherine and I went to yoga first thing in the morning, and then we packed up the cars and set out for NH. It was a long drive. L&G played with their ponies and Equestria Girls so intensely for the first part of the drive that they forgot to even ask about watching a show. They watched a few My Little Ponies for the last hour or so of the drive. When we finally arrived, we made a grocery store stop then went to the house in time for dinner and bedtime.

Mon., 8/22

First full day in NH. Glorious to be here. We hung out outside almost all day. In the morning, we went to the girls' favorite creek. Thomas wasn't a fan, but L&G got swept up right away with their Equestria Girls adventures. In the afternoon, we swam in the pond (I went out in the raft). We went to our favorite ice cream place, despite it being a very chilly evening. We grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for dinner. After the kids' bedtime, we made a fire pit.

Tues., 8/23

We all hiked to the top of Mt. Ascutney today, which is so much fun. We spotted two small brown tree frogs. L&G were intrepid hikers. Thomas was so worn out by the hike he fell asleep in Patrick's arms on the way back down.

In the afternoon, we played outside, read some books in the elephant tent, and prepared for some dinner guests. One of the cutest things this trip is when Lucia reads Elephant and Piggie books out loud to Thomas and Greta--they all love it.

Seven relatives came over for dinner, and we had a lovely tiki-torchlit setup in the front yard. We even made a fire pit for smores after dinner. The kids had a blast running around together, up and down the front hill, laughing hysterically. It's so cute to see them play together--Lucia told Katherine later how much fun they'd all had.

Wed., 8/24

Andrew and Patrick spent the morning fly-fishing. Katherine and I hung out with the kids. We took them down to the dock, where they tried to catch fish in their new extendable nets. Lucia caught two fish, thrilling everyone.

Once everyone reconvened this afternoon, we went for a swim in William's pool. Unfortunately, Lucia is sick. She was grouchy and whiny this morning--totally unlike her these days--and even agreed to a nap in the afternoon (though she failed to actually fall asleep). She was excited about going swimming, but once we got there she was listless and quiet, sitting in a lounge chair wrapped up in towels the whole time. Usually we can't get her out of the pool. I took her temp at home and she has a fever of 100. She and I stayed home while everyone else went to dinner at the Pizza Chef. We read, had some dinner, she watched some YouTube videos, I gave her a bath, and she went right to sleep--could barely make it from my room to hers. Fingers are crossed that a good night's sleep makes a difference.

She was alarmed that she'd neglected to write her daily journal today and kept asking if she could do it before bed, even though she was barely standing upright. (I assured her she could do a journal entry tomorrow and her reading/writing prize would not be affected.) She was also alarmed that she had so many things she wanted to write in her journal--had no idea how to choose just one thing and was relieved when I suggested she write a couple of sentences instead of just one. Pretty cute, though I'll still be pushing computer engineering.

Greta, meanwhile, had fun tonight out to dinner with Andrew and everyone, and she was so excited to bring home a ring pop and a gumball-machine "real live diamond" for Lucia. She can't wait to present them to her in the morning, which is sure to be heartbreaking as feverish Lucia will fail to give the appropriately exuberant reaction. Ah, sisters.

We're supposed to drive out to Lake Winni-something or other tomorrow for the day, to meet up with some of Andrew and Katherine's friends, so let's hope Lucia feels better.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Summer Days 8/15, 8/16, and 8/17

The past few days, L&G have really just been happy to be home. All they've wanted to do is play with their stuff--all their stuff. All together, all at once, creating by the end of day a huge, house-size soup of stuff. Shopkins, ponies, animal figurines, play food, Equestria Girls, Playmobil food, Legos, kinetic sand, Beanie Boos. It's been blazing hot, but they haven't even asked to go to the pool. They just want to stay inside and play.

We did go to the library twice so far, getting stacks of books. Today we read together nearly all day. We've found a new series called Never Girls, which is really cute and has totally captivated them. (Hence our two-days-in-a-row library visits. We read #1 straight through and had to go back for more in the series.) I'll miss our regular library trips once school begins.

With school just a few weeks away, I've set up a reading challenge for Lucia--if she reads out loud every day (about 20 mins), she gets a sticker on a chart, and after seven stickers, she can pick out a blind bag pony or a blind bag Shopkin. Of course she's all-in. She's doing well with the reading--just needs more confidence and practice sounding out unfamiliar words. I think daily practice will really help.

Today, at the very end of the day, they set up an elaborate camp outside--Camp Flaming Arrow once again. They set up chairs and a little table and ate their dessert in the camp.

This morning, before I'd had coffee, L&G requested tents for their ponies. So (again, before coffee) I made two pony-size tents out of a beer case, covered them with metallic fabric, and made two little campfires with tiny river stones hot-glued to cardboard circles, with red and orange tissue paper flames in the middle. Bring it on, summer.

Summer Days 8/7-8/14

Beach week! We spent last week in North Myrtle Beach, all together in our cousin's beach condo: Andrew, the girls, and I, plus Molly, Luca, and Mom and Dad. None of us had been to North Myrtle before, and there was so much to do. We spent almost every morning at the beach, and then did some swimming in one of the condo's pools. We took a few excursions as well, and had some delicious restaurant meals. Here are a few highlights:

--All three kids learned how to use a boogie board. Lucia, the eldest, was the most proficient, and she was beyond excited at her new skill. She said it was her favorite thing about the trip.

--We visited the Alligator Adventure animal park, which was surprisingly fun--tons and tons of huge alligators, plus lots of other somewhat terrifying creatures. We watched a reptile show, and all the kids touched a skink. And learned the word "skink." The admission price included a second visit for free, so we went back to watch an alligator feeding--a zookeeper tossing raw chicken off a footbridge to giant jumping alligators. Terrifying.

--Another day, we went to the Ripley's Aquarium, which was also fun. We watched a live mermaid show, which the girls loved, and they got to meet the mermaids afterward. A tunnel with sharks, sawfish, and other creatures on three sides of a moving walkway was particularly impressive.

--We all had fun getting ice cream at Barefoot Landing a couple of times, especially one night when we had time to browse around the shops and walkways. Mom bought the kids a Beanie Boo and they were so happy they all broke into wild, hilarious dancing to the lively music playing in the store.

--Jellyfish were a problem. Lucia got stung twice, and Molly and I got stung once. Fortunately, Lucia was not deterred from further ocean swimming.

--Candy stores were everywhere. We went into one and let the kids all pick out some candy. This was thrilling to them. L&G leaned heavily toward gummies of all kinds.

The kids all had a blast and played together all week. A fun vacation for sure!

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Summer Days 8/5 and 8/6

Friday's another one of those days that I remember little about, even though it was yesterday. I know the girls played a lot and made a gigantic mess of games and ponies and Shopkins. And Andrew and I got a babysitter in the evening and went out to dinner with friends. We also met with a contractor and then an architect about our basement renovation. It's moving ahead nicely.

Today the girls slept in till 8:30am. They played for a while and then Lucia had a birthday pool party to go to over lunchtime. While she was gone, Andrew, Greta, and I went to the basement to start a massive cleanout. Greta was immersed in playing with pony stuff while Andrew and I tackled the scary area behind the refrigerator, plus the root cellar. We threw away a lot and sold a lot. We packed up all the stuff we're keeping and moved it to the attic. We made great progress and kept working even after I picked up Lucia. L&G were in a mood of happy cooperative playing, and they basically were on their own the whole afternoon, playing as we cleaned. This was great, but also neglectful, because it occurred to us later that Greta never changed out of her pjs today and never had lunch. Ah well. She never made a peep--just played and played.

Our cleanout has not unearthed any large insects, but it has revealed some of our uglier hoarding tendencies. We got rid of so much stuff today that was actually garbage. Lids from takeout containers, old jars from nonperishable food products (not mason jars or anything like that), empty wine bottles. I admit, many of these things are things I'd saved over the past few years, fueled by Pinterest-inspired winter-day activity ideas, which I don't really need to rely on anymore now that the girls are old enough to entertain themselves. So, out it all goes.

Andrew, inspired, went to Home Depot and bought several large organizer bins to sort and store his nails and other tool items. We are a family of sorters. It's no wonder that the first thing Lucia does when she begins playing with Shopkins is sort them by food type.

Tomorrow, we're headed to the beach for a week. We're all excited!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Summer Day 8/4

Today I took the girls for a walk on the Fairy Trail in the local nature reservation, a lovely adventure that was recently written up in the New York Times. It'd been on my to-do list all summer, so today the girls chose it over the zoo, and off we went.

And it was pretty thrilling to start walking along the trail and spot the fairy houses--L&G were so excited each time they saw one. They stopped after a while to make their own fairy things--a campfire from a ring of stones and flame-colored leaves was the highlight. The reservation is beautiful, and we were having an extremely pleasant stroll.

But then the stroll started going on and on and on, and I knew approximately how long it was supposed to be, and this was much much longer. And we were no longer passing other people. And there were no more trail markers, or fairy houses. We were lost in the woods--on a trail, yes, but not the right one. Fortunately, L&G were game for hiking and hiking, and eventually we made our way back to civilization.

After lunch and quiet time, we played a few games. Both girls are really into games right now, and we played Sequence for Kids and Hiss. We've also been playing a lot of Uno, Zingo, Busytown, and Busy Busy Airport. Then we went to the pool. Andrew came home on the early train and we ordered Chinese for dinner.

Determined to play until the very last second before bedtime, L&G created an elaborate camp setup in the yard and called it Camp Flaming Arrow--just like the camp in the latest Ivy & Bean book we read. This isn't the first time they've internalized Ivy & Bean's adventures. What a great series.

Once the girls were in bed, I plummeted down the frustrating wormhole of trying to figure out how to get the kids' favorite music/stories from iTunes onto my phone, since our new car doesn't have a CD player. Storage woes, syncing, format incompatibilities, etc etc. This is why we need a used car with a CD player. It's insane.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Summer Days 8/1, 8/2, and 8/3

Monday was a rainy rainy day. Right now, as I write this, it's only Wednesday, but for the life of me I can't remember even one detail about Monday. Not one. Was I even here???

Tuesday started off on an unfortunate note. In search of some packing material, I went down to the basement like I've been doing for the past four years, la la la, just going down to our basement, not even thinking about it, not scared, not even of the scary root cellar, and then, when I turned around to go out of the raw-storage area, I saw A ROACH by the refrigerator. It was the largest roach I've ever seen, and I've seen my share. My reaction was not in my control (see: phobia born of two nights amid roach-covered walls in Juarez, circa 1997). The next thing I knew I was in the kitchen, screaming and sobbing and hyperventilating, not even able to verbalize to Andrew what I'd seen. When I managed to rasp out roach to Andrew, he went downstairs...but found nothing. And had the gall to ask if I was sure I hadn't mistaken a dark spot on the cement floor for a roach. I had not.

That very day, we got our first bid for our basement renovation, which we'd been planning on putting off for six months to a year. Not anymore. I want the basement GONE.

The girls were discomfited by the sight of me, deep in the throes of a phobic reaction, and Lucia comforted me in a way she knew would be a sure-fire success: she dumped out her pony bucket and brought over my three favorite ponies, Florina Tart, Sleeping Applejack, and Hot Beans (our family name for Pepperdance).

The appearance of this roach is badly timed. Throughout my life, roaches have been harbingers of unpleasantness, and this roach appeared on the very day we went to purchase our new car. It signals that we've made an error, a grave error. Nonetheless, we went to the dealership yesterday late afternoon and bought our car and brought it home. A brand new car, our first ever. We are happy, but also worried it was a mistake and that we should have just gotten another used car.

Also, while we were getting our car tutorial at the dealership, L&G were playing peacefully with their ponies near an air shaft, and of course one of the ponies FELL IN THE AIR SHAFT, and Greta was hysterical. Andrew made a valiant decision to jump down and get the pony. Let's just say this was not a great decision. We don't yet really have a resolution for what happened. I'll say only that he did get the pony, but there were consequences. Let me remind you: the roach.

Today, Wednesday, Lucia slept till 9am and we had a quiet morning. Reading, playing outside, running like feral wildcats around the house, making a gigantic mess of ponies and games and Shopkins that covered the entire downstairs. We went to the pool for a little while. I made tortilla pizzas for dinner.

I haven't been to the basement since yesterday morning. Andrew's gone down several times but has not yet found the roach.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Summer Days 7/29, 7/30, and 7/31

Friday 7/29

Andrew worked from home and took the girls to the pool in the afternoon while I grocery shopped. Cheeseburgers and zuccini on the grill for dinner.

Saturday 7/30

A big day for us. In the morning, we went to a local Volvo dealership to test-drive Andrew's desired car, the XC90. It's a three-row car, much larger than our small wagon, and it's been clear for a while now that it's time for us to upgrade. So we test drove it and then L&G occupied themselves in the car dealership's kid-friendly waiting area (TV! Balloons brought to them! Snacks!) while we suffered through the ridiculous charade that is buying a new car. End result: we bought one. It's the third car of our marriage, and the first brand-new one. I hope we like it!!

L&G were freaking out during the test drive, beside themselves with excited proclamations of how much they loved the car, how we HAD to buy it, how they loved the white color (we're not getting white), how they loved being higher on the road, etc. They loved the sun roof, the AC vents, all of it. Dismayed to hear my hesitations over various things, Lucia turned to Andrew and said, "Daddy, can we count on you to buy this car?"

We'll see how much they love it when Andrew tries to enforce his no-food-in-the-new-car policy. Ha ha ha! (That's me laughing mirthfully at Andrew and his ridiculous plan, not at the kids.)

Saturday evening we gathered with some neighbors for a welcome-back party for other neighbors who'd been living abroad for the past two years. It was a fun way to end our rainy Saturday.

Sunday 7/31

Another rainy rainy day, but it didn't matter because this was my long-awaited visit to see the Diane Arbus exhibition at the Met Breuer. I went to yoga in the morning, showered, and then caught a train to the city while Andrew undertook the day's entertainment of the girls. The exhibition was interesting--early Arbus work that laid the groundwork for her later iconic images--and included one of my favorites, Xmas Tree in a Living Room. Then I walked across the park to the UWS, where I had falafel for lunch before heading back to the train, which I rode back to NJ with an iced coffee and a book. Lovely.

Andrew made an ambitious dinner--clam fritters, deep fried in a cast-iron pan on the grill, plus a plate of tomatoes and mozzarella. Even the kids liked the fritters, although toward the end of dinner Greta did say she was scared of her remaining fritter. Oh, and when she saw the fritters on her plate before she sat down, she said, "I don't want that. I'm outta here." Love that she's blossoming into such a demure, polite child.

And now the second week of our two-week at-home stretch begins.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Summer Day 7/28

Thursday was, yet again, a good day. I think we've reached a kind of turning point with little miss Greta. She's been pleasant and amenable to doing things like, you know, getting dressed and putting on shoes, with no wild whining that brings our day screeching to a halt. So, good. Maybe the whole Pinkie Pie Sweet Shoppe debacle will have led to something good in the end.

We didn't do too much Thursday morning, just hung out at home. Lots of playing with ponies, Shopkins, and Legos.

In the afternoon, one of Lucia's friends came over for a playdate. Lucia had been soooo excited, and they all had fun.

Some iPad time, leftovers for dinner, lots of reading (Princess in Black, Francine Poulet and the Ghost Raccoon, Stella Batts: Superstar), and we'll call it a day.

One thing I forgot about Wednesday. At one point during the day, L&G were happily playing downstairs in the basement with a bunch of toys they'd carried downstairs. I was in the kitchen, online-shopping for rash guards for our upcoming beach trip. Suddenly, I heard both girls screaming and sobbing. I ran downstairs, ready to break up a fight over a Shopkin or a penny or something, and found them both cowering at the far end of the playroom, sobbing, shrieking. "A BEEEEEEE!" they screamed. And, indeed, a bee was buzzing around one of the ceiling lights. It was big and scary and I wanted no part of it but, as the only adult in the house, was forced to deal with it. Finally it flew to the side of the room, allowing the girls to escape up the stairs, where they sobbed on the couch in my lap for a little while. Thursday morning, Andrew found a dead bee in the laundry area, and we thought that was it. But unfortunately it wasn't The Bee, which scared Lucia yet again Thursday, and this time it flew up into the mudroom, where it met its demise in the form of Lysol disinfectant spray and one of Andrew's shoes. Shudder.

Final note. Greta accidentally left two small toys in PA last week. She didn't know, and I didn't share the picture Gra and Pop-Pop had sent of them. Today, though, she was frantically searching for her prized blue pony, and I had to tell her it was in PA, along with her tiniest Beanie Boo cheetah. Some distraught crying and mourning ensued.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Summer Day 7/27

Wednesday was a nice day, all around. The cleaners were here, which meant we had to be out of the house for most of the morning, so I took L&G to the mall with me to return some shirts I'd bought and no longer needed thanks to my super-deals at Gabe's last week. They were pleasant and happy at the mall and even tried on some rash guards, which I was hoping to find for our beach trip in August (no luck). There was no whining, no bickering, no silliness. We even went to Bath & Body Works and I sprayed the girls with their choices of body splash. (I'd gone there with the hope of finding some Sun-Ripened Raspberry products, which I'd heard they were bringing back--but alas, they brought back that scent only for June.)

When we got home, we had lunch and quiet time. A note on quiet time: it became clear early in the summer that the quiet time we've had all these years to this point--just playing in their rooms--was no longer going to work. The reasons are many. One: They already play a lot in their rooms and don't really need a separate time dedicated to this. Two: They don't want to play separately, and their joint quiet time was consistently become wild and/or filled with fighting. Three: I really really need an hour each day to myself so I can keep up with a summer-long freelance editing project I've taken on for the third summer in a row. So, quiet time is now their daily hour of iPad time. It works for us all and they get to just sit still in their air-conditioned rooms.

After that, we went to the pool for a while. They had a blast as usual.

For dinner, I made pesto with basil from my basil plant. After bedtime, Andrew and I watched the DNC. (An aside: I may or may not have been flipping back and forth on Tuesday between the DNC and The Bachelorette Men Tell All. Only I know the truth.)

NO WHINING TODAY FROM MISS GRETA. She still seems very aware of it and has even made a joke out of it. After the pool, when I remarked to the girls what a nice day we'd had, Greta gave Lucia a sidelong glance and whined "Moommmmeeeee! Mooommmmeeeeee!" then laughed--ha ha ha!--at her hilarious prank. Sooooo funny, Greta. It'll be even more funny when we don't have a daily conversation about shoving the fisherman and his army into the coffeemaker. (The fisherman meets his demise in all sorts of interesting ways when Greta reaffirms her pledge to no longer whine.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer Day 7/25 and 7/26

Monday, it was back to normal here in New Jersey. Andrew went to work, and the girls and I had our day. It was a surprisingly good day all around. No fighting, no whining. We went to the library, had lunch, then went to the pool for a little while before going to gymnastics.

Going to the library has been really fun this summer, with the girls' interests expanding and deepening in new books and series. Lucia especially loves the Stella Batts series, which I like too. And yesterday we discovered our first Princess in Black book--really really great. I ordered two from Amazon because it's clear they'll be favorites for a long time.

Today wasn't as fully good as yesterday. Greta descended into some whining this morning, pushing me to my limit, but she eventually rallied. We had lunch and quiet time and then went to the pool for the whole afternoon. It's been in the nineties, so the pool has been a real relief since, of course, we don't have air-conditioning. Both girls had a ton of fun swimming.

I'll offer a bit of hope: though there were a couple of whiny episodes today, Greta does seem like she has an increased awareness of it and has been able to snap out of it faster. Let's hope.

Summer Days 7/23 and 7/24: Connellsville

Saturday, Mom and I took the girls to the Yough River Trail for a bike ride. They rode three miles with barely a blink of fatigue--Lucia rode far ahead, zippy; and Greta, too, pedaled fast enough so that I had to run to keep up. They had a lot of fun. Afterward, they played by the river, "not going in the water."

Andrew flew back from CA that evening, so I drove to Pittsburgh to meet him and go out to dinner with three of our friends. We had a great time--building the case for a move to Pittsburgh someday...

Sunday was the day of an epic Parenting Fail. As you may recall, we embarked on our week in Connellsville with a grand agreement: Greta agreed not to whine, and she and Lucia would receive the Pinkie Pie Sweet Shoppe set in return. Lucia's part of the bargain was not to bicker with Greta so much. Neither girl fulfilled her end of the deal for the entire week. There was a lot of whining. There was a lot of fighting. Requesting pristine behavior for a week was a rookie mistake, because the behavior was NOT PERFECT, but how could I not give them the set they'd been pining for? I felt hoodwinked. Totally hoodwinked. We compromised before getting in the car to drive home, and I let them have a few of the figures but not the shop itself. Anyway. I won't make a grand bargain like that again.

That said, they were both exceptionally good travelers on the drive home, which was great.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer Days 7/21 and 7/22: Connellsville

Thursday, Lucia, Greta, and I started off the day with a visit and swim at the home of some of my very very old friends, along with another old friend and her daughter. It was so much fun to see all the kids in real life, not just Facebook life. Lucia and Greta had a blast. They'd swim all the time if they could. We were there almost two hours and they got out of the pool only once, to eat a donut.

Mom's cousins were in town so the girls played at home the rest of the day. They made a big mud puddle outside, in which their ponies played.

Today, I went for a walk on the Yough Trail first thing--if I could start off every day this way, I would. What a peaceful, beautiful place. When I got home, we all walked to a rummage sale at a nearby church. It was underwhelming. Unfortunately, Greta's disappointment at not finding a treasure propelled her into a downward spiral of whining that she couldn't break out of. So much for the Pinkie Pie deal. Mom and I got her to get into the car to take a trip to East Park, but she whined the whole way there, and we went the tough love route: I stayed at the park with Lucia, Mom drove Greta back to the house and left her, sobbing, with Dad, then drove back to meet me and Lucia.

Mom, Lucia, and I had a ton of fun at the park--Lucia waded in the creek and found an old bone (shudder), we walked through the scary tunnel, we explored an old cemetery. I tried to scare Lucia by telling her that if she sat down on a gravestone, a ghost would wake up and follow her home. She was eager to try it out.

Greta had bounced back to the world by the time we got home and was calm and pleasant (mostly) for the rest of the day. Whether the tough love had any effect remains to be seen. She was VERY UPSET to be taken home, and she's definitely able to understand why that happened. We'll see.

Tonight I went to Gabe's and found some great deals--clothes for myself, and some Equestria Girls on clearance for L&G for birthdays. Nice.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer Day 7/18, 7/19, and 7/20: Connellsville

Monday, Andrew drove into Pittsburgh to work at the Pittsburgh office for the day. After our Idlewild outing, we took it easy at home, just playing here. We visited Grandma and Florence at Beechwood. Afterward, Mom had promised L&G some new Shopkins, so we went to Target to pick some out. Later, L&G and Mom and I took a walk/scooter ride around the neighborhood in the evening.

Tuesday, we all drove into Pittsburgh together to go to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Such a wonderful place. Andrew got to stay with us for about an hour, before Ubering to the airport to catch his flight to CA. Mom, Dad, the girls, and I stayed at the museum. L&G like the dinosaurs and the gems, but more than anything else they love the Hall of North American Animals--beginning with the gruesome diorama of the lion attacking the camel and rider. They also love the bears eating salmon, and anything that depicts a predator attacking or planning to attack its prey. Greta really liked feeling all the different animal pelts. They are captivated by these depictions of violent natural life. We had lunch at the museum, walked around a bit after that, hung out in the sculpture garden for a while, then headed home.

On the way home, we stopped for frozen yogurt at Trailside Treats.

Today (Wednesday), Mom and I took the girls to visit Beechwood again, and then we drove to Marcel's so I could select a new addition to my sculpture garden. I chose a seated angel, very large, about the size of my gargoyle. She's lovely. She's also extremely heavy--a burly man loaded her into the back of my car, which is where she'll have to stay till we're back in NJ.

This afternoon was an ill-advised attempt at a slip-in-slide I'd bought a few weeks ago and brought here. It didn't work properly and then Lucia landed on her knees, hit her chest, and knocked the wind out of herself. It's going back to the store.

Tonight Mom, L&G, and I went to play at Linda's. L&G were so excited about all the wonders of Linda's yard--the trampoline, the tree swing, and the playhouse. They had a blast.

All day they were in and out of hysterics because of an insipid Barbie video Greta stumbled across on YouTube. It's a short Barbie skit in which Barbie's sister Skipper and Skipper's friend Allegra wait in line to get tickets for a concert by a Justin Bieber-like heartthrob. The heartthrob turns out to be a spoiled brat and etc etc etc. But at one point, trying to get attention, he turns his baseball hat to the side and says he needs to get his "swaggety swag." The girls find this beyond hilarious and acted out the scene all day with their Minnie Mouse baseball caps. They laugh to the point of incapacitation each time they do it.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Summer Day 7/17: Connellsville

We made a big plan for today: Idlewild. It almost didn't happen, because Greta succumbed to a fit of whining in the morning and refused each and every part of the preparations, including but not limited to putting on sunscreen, putting on her shoes, and putting on her clothes. We got her out the door, and by the time we got to Idlewild she'd rallied, and she was fine the rest of the day.

I hadn't been to Idlewild for thirty years, I'm guessing, but I have vivid memories of pieces of it, and it was fun to be back. We started off in Storybook Forest. L&G liked going into all the little houses and identifying the storybook figures along the way. They met Princess Lily in the castle at the end.

Then we went to Jumpin Jungle, which they loved. They REALLY loved the ball pit, and liked doing cannonball jumps into the balls. They both even climbed the huge rope-net climb thing, which is notorious in our family for an incident in which a young Molly got stuck in the middle, unable to go either up or down, and had to be rescued by Dad and Uncle Don. Shockingly, both girls scrambled right up. Lucia looked like a little spider zipping to the top.

We did a bunch of other things there as well--they liked it all.

Then we had a picnic lunch in a pavilion before heading to Raccoon Lagoon.

Raccoon Lagoon was also really fun. The girls did the hand-crank cars, teacups with Andrew (three times of insane spinning), the little ferris wheel, the boat ride, and got prizes at the fishpond. We were all amazed at how uncrowded it was, and how perfect for this age. Plus: lots of shade.

We made one misstep for the day: trying to go to the Soak Zone waterpark. It was blazing hot, stampedingly crowded, and way too splashy for L&G. They liked the lazy river, so we did that a couple of times, but then we high-tailed it out of there.

We got some ice cream after that, and rode the merry-go-round, and got more prizes from the fishpond. Our final ride: the hot air balloons. Andrew and I and the girls all went on together.

And then we made it back to the car and came home. It was a super fun day. L&G really had a great time. It was a big, active start to our Connellsville week, one of our fun to-do's to cross off the list.

Summer Day 7/14, 7/15, and 7/16: Connellsville

Went to the pool Thursday afternoon. Got rained out by a huge rainstorm. Went to the diner later for dinner.

Friday 7/15 we drove to Connellsville for the next big portion of our summer.

Saturday: Connellsville! The girls are so excited to be here, and so are we. In the morning, L&G asked us to leave them alone with Gra and Pop-Pop, so Andrew and I took a run/walk on the Yough River Trail and then went to Gabe's and lunch at Panera.

In the afternoon, Mom and Dad went to work at the St. Rita's Church Festival, and we met them there at 5pm for some delicious food. L&G loved the food as well and then had a blast playing down by the river. Our festival fare: cavatelli, meatballs, manicotti, pierogies, sausage sandwich, fried dough, ice cream. Food bliss.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Summer Day 7/13: A Grand Agreement

Today was much better than yesterday. This morning, L&G played with their ponies for a long time, and then we went to the zoo. We rode the zoo train and the carousel, looked at the snakes and lizards, and Lucia touched lots of stingrays. Then we had lunch and quiet time. Then we went to the pool, which was less successful today because it was overcast and the water was cold and the girls were too chilly to stay for very long. They each had an ice cream there and then we went home.

We read a bunch on the porch today. We finished Stella Batts: A Case of the Meanies and read most of Daisy Dawson Is On Her Way, and Lucia read a few paragraphs herself.

Tonight a teacher from our preschool invited me to her book club--they'd read Each Vagabond by Name this month and I joined the discussion. Really fun to talk about the book and the inspiration for it.

Greta made a grand pronouncement today: she will NOT WHINE the entire time we're in Pennsylvania. In return, I will buy her and Lucia the Pinkie Pie Sweet Shop playset. I agreed to the deal. It'll never happen in a million years. Then again, she really really wants the playset. She refrained from having wild screaming fits at bedtime for four nights in June to get a Beanie Boo octopus; so, who knows? The sets are on clearance right now at Target, so I went out tonight and bought the last two, just in case.  She told Andrew that the "fisherman" will not be coming to Connellsville because he's stuck in her closet and his head has gone through the ceiling.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Summer Day 7/10, 7/11, and 7/12: Home

We drove home on Sunday. We'd planned to spend most of the day in NH but it was pouring rain and the girls were surly so we just called it a wrap.

Monday, we hung out at home, went to the library to get some new books, and then had gymnastics class. Of course Greta put up a fight about going, but then Ollie, her Beanie Boo octopus, suggested to me that if I gave Greta a hug she'd change her tune, and lo and behold, it worked. Sometimes I have serious worries that Greta is a schizophrenic.

Today. Oh, today was a doozy. The girls woke up in a mood and were attempting to kill each other at the breakfast table. I was able to jump ship to go to the chiropractor, but when I got back Andrew left for work and we had to forge ahead with the day.

Fortunately, they were in better spirits by that point and spent most of the morning riding things around the driveway and soaking each other with the hose. They were having a great time so I didn't intervene. We read a lot on the porch once they dried off. After lunch, we had some quiet time, and then we went to the pool. Oh, wait: there was a Greta interlude here, of her refusing to put on her bathing suit and screaming about how much she hated sunscreen. Then, the whole way to the pool, she went on and on about how she couldn't control the "fisherman" and how the "fisherman" made her have fits and she wasn't able to stop it. Am I supposed to be worried at this point? At what point does one worry?

They had a blast at the pool and I had to drag them home. While I made dinner, they sat on the couch and looked at some Look & Find books. That was nice and peaceful.

And then things completely fell apart. They were both immersed in sections of an Oriental Trading catalog during dinner, and neither was very interested in eating. There were some mild squabbles about who had the better half of the catalog (I'd torn it in half). Then Greta announced she had to go to the bathroom. At this point, Lucia jumped up, raced Greta to the bathroom, and elbowed her out of the way, sitting down on the toilet as Greta screamed in rage. Greta proceeded to PULL LUCIA OFF THE TOILET as she was peeing. Pee was all over the floor. Both girls were screaming. I was yelling.

And that is how Andrew found us when he got home. Sigh. Greta was still apopleptic with anger. She couldn't BELIEVE Lucia had elbowed her out of the way. She neglected to tell Andrew the part about pulling Lucia off the toilet. When he asked how pee got all over the floor, she said, "Mommy will tell you."

I have a headache.

On the brighter side of this day, I went to the big church rummage sale tonight and got several wonderful additions to my portrait gallery.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Summer Day 7/9: New Hampshire

Our last full day in NH and it rained all day. We made it through, for the most part. Lucia wanted to work on "The Ghost of Mystery" right away--she'd even written a page on her own before we went downstairs--so we did that. We're marking up her sight word flash cards with key words she's learning for the story--ghost, mystery, spooky, scary, hunter. She's very motivated and excited about the project.

We read books and played Memory and the girls played with their Num Noms. Greta likes hers more today, mostly the Nom that vibrates and scuttles around the table. The others she sometimes wants and sometimes gives to Lucia.

We tried to get L&G to go for a rain walk, but they were uninterested. Later, though, after a little iPad time, we corralled them outside to the woods to check on the fairy doors. They got totally wrapped up in creating more elaborate fairy setups with fern leaves, sticks, and other found materials. They worked on those for a long time. In the woods we could barely feel the rain.

For dinner we drove to the Harpoon Brewery, which Andrew loves going to. The cooped-up girls had been running around the house screaming like banshees before we left for the restaurant, so we thought the whole excursion was doomed, but at the restaurant they busied themselves with their Equestria Girls coloring books and were good as gold. Greta, the day catching up with her, at one point nearly fell asleep at the table while we waited for our food.

We stopped afterward at our favorite ice cream place, one last time for the week.

Very sad to be going back to NJ tomorrow.

One more thing--yesterday, at the cocktail gathering of Littell Road neighbors, we learned about a creature that lives in our woods: the "fisher cat." People were talking about its viciousness and ability to hunt other creatures to the death, even porcupines. Doesn't that sounds terrifying--a fisher cat? I Googled it, of course, and it's a medium-size weasel-like creature a little bigger than a housecat. It makes a terrible screaming sound that (thanks to a YouTube video) Andrew and I realize we've been hearing outside at night. And here we'd thought it was a Sasquatch.