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.