Sunday, October 15, 2017

Letter to Lucia: 8 Years Old

Dear Lucia,

You're eight! And so excited about it. You've been waiting for your birthday for weeks and weeks, bidding goodbye to seven before it had even run its full twelve-month course. Finally, today arrived, and we did the usual birthday hoopla. A balloon waited in your room this morning, with more balloons around the table downstairs. You had waffles for breakfast and opened three presents. This year was a little different because you wanted to have a birthday party, so we gathered with a crowd of little girls at Screamin' Parties for a bounce-house party. You had a blast, of course. Then we came home and you opened all your presents from your friends and from us. You and Greta unwound with a Barbie movie, and then we had dinner (takeout Chinese food--your choice) and cake, with a few Num Noms on top. You wanted to have a "relaxing bath" for your final birthday thing, and you did, with a bath fizz a friend got you. And...eight.

I remember turning eight very vividly, still living at Sycamore Street, and the one present I remember receiving is a radio/cassette player. I still have it. We moved to a new house when I was eight. It was a big year.

Eight is such a cusp year--still a kid, of course, but tilting into other pastures for sure. I'm glad you still love toys, and stuffed animals, and I hope we have a couple more years of them being important to you. But you were also incredibly excited about a charm bracelet set I got you, and a bunch of travel-size products from Bath and Body Works, so there's that bigger-girl element rising up too. It's all good.

You had a great day and said you loved your birthday day. That's a wrap. I can catch my breath for eleven days before doing it all over again for your sister, who was all in with the celebration and handled her jealousy very well until the Num Noms on your birthday cake tonight. That pushed her over the edge. You're lucky, I think, in having your birthday first!

Once all the birthday-present-opening wound down, you sat at the table reading one of your new books. You're totally yourself, confident and happy, and I think my wanting to make your birthday memorable is equally about wanting to set you up for a wonderful year. You're pretty great right now. I know you're happy about all the exciting things ahead.






Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Weekend in New Hampshire

The kids had Thursday and Friday off from school last week for Rosh Hashana, so we of course headed to NH. We arrived late Thursday night. Greta was deeply asleep when we brought her inside, but Lucia woke up and walked up to her room herself. We said goodnight, and then Andrew went to unload the car and I started unpacking things in the kitchen. Suddenly I heard Lucia, sobbing at the top of the stairs, screaming for me. I ran up--she'd gotten stung by something. We have a lot of wasps in the windows, and Andrew always does a check before we put the girls into their beds, but there was one he didn't see, and it stung Lucia on the shoulderblade as she lay in bed.

I held some ice on it while Andrew went back upstairs to do some wasp killing (turns out it was a bee, not a wasp). He turned the light on in the room as he swatted around, taking the curtains down and unmaking Lucia's bed, and Greta slept through the whole thing. He did find a couple of bees to kill. Lucia calmed down pretty quickly, considering, and eventually went back to bed. Terrible. This was her second sting in NH.

Friday was hot and sunny, and we spent the morning at the pond, on the dock. The girls tried to catch fish in nets, and they collected berries, cattails, and milkweed.

For lunch, we packed up some food and hiked to the back field, where we spread out a blanket and ate. Afterward, we explored the woods at the very far end of our property line--an area where we always find old jars, bits of broken plates, and rusty metal objects. We did some basic bigfoot hunting, some tree knocks and calls. L&G were fascinated, and did some tree knocks of their own. I invited them to do some calls as well. Lucia did a few owl-like hoots, waiting eagerly for a response. When it was Greta's turn, she thought for a minute, then yelled out, "PINATA!!!" then dissolved into hysterics. That child. Her mind works in very unique ways.

We drove into town later in the afternoon for some groceries, and went out for ice cream. For dinner Andrew grilled sausages and we had sausage, green pepper, and onion sandwiches (L&G had sausage and Trader Joe's mini ravioli). We made s'mores for dessert with the hot coals from the grill.

Saturday was another hot, hot, hot day. In the morning, we hiked to the top of Mount Ascutney. Not our most peaceful hike--Lucia was in super-competitive mode, insisting on being first and faster than everyone else, which was a) dangerous because she was running on the trail and b) upsetting to Greta, who of course wound up being left behind. Sigh.

The day improved, though. We had lunch at home and then went swimming at William and Nelly's pool--crazy that we were able to swim this late in September, when, the last time we were in NH, it was in the thirties at night.

Sunday we headed to another of our favorite places--Riverview Farm. We picked raspberries and apples, and then went through the corn maze. We've been visiting this corn maze annually for probably the past 4-5 years, but we've never been there this early in the season, with the cornstalks still green. It was fun as always. And Andrew got a shout-out from the bona fide, white-bearded farmer who drives the horse cart and used to farm hay in our fields--"Hey! We've got to get together sometime," he called when he spotted Andrew in the orchard--which makes Andrew feel like he himself also has real farmer potential.

We got some maple ice cream at the farm, and then headed home, where we cleaned up and packed up and headed on our way later in the afternoon. After an early dinner at our favorite pizza place, we were on our way back to NJ, sadder than usual to leave NH behind. Greta keeps suggesting we go back. Best case, we'll visit twice more before closing the house; but it might just be once more. We'll see.

A perfect weekend as usual. Oh: I should mention what the highlight for L&G was. On our way there, last Thursday, we stopped at a rest area for a bathroom break. Outside the bathrooms were a bunch of gumball machines filled with various things. One machine had little donut keychains--actually really cute. Of course the girls asked for one, and I said yes, which BLEW THEIR MINDS. Apparently I never let them get anything, ever, from anywhere, and they were just beyond thrilled. They played with and talked about those donut keychains for the rest of the trip.








Thursday, September 07, 2017

Second Day of School

Much less drama today. We haven't settled into a rhythm yet, but we put the kids on the bus, Andrew went to the train, and I went home--which is basically how our routine will be going forward. Greta was excited about going back to kindergarten. Both girls brought mermaids in Altoids tins to play with on the bus.

They came home happy and talkative. When Greta got off the bus, the first thing she said, in a loud voice, was, "I DREW A PICTURE OF DADDY WITH LONG HAIR AND WEARING A DRESS!!!" Indeed, she did.

They were tired tonight. One more day then they can recuperate a bit.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

First Day of School

There's a very specific feeling to the first day of school. Both girls clearly felt it last night; Greta was up a few times during the night, restless, upset. But they were both pretty excited this morning, and they put on their chosen first-day outfits and ate the first-day muffins I baked last night and gamely took first-day pictures on the porch, since it was raining. We went to the bus stop, and Greta followed Lucia onto the bus with nary a backward glance. Andrew cried, as he did when Lucia went to kindergarten.

Then we hustled to school, where things were EVEN MORE INSANE than I'd expected. Some kids and parents were outside, since the rain had stopped; some were inside; and my kids? Nowhere to be found. I left Andrew outside to wait, and I went inside, where the kindergartners were supposed to be lining up in the gym. No Greta. I waited and waited. The room kept filling up with kids, not mine. I tried to look for Lucia; no Lucia. I finally found a volunteer, who happened to be a dad I knew, and I immediately began crying (sobbing) that I couldn't find my kids. It was very dramatic, and unnecessary, and I was ushered to a teacher in charge, who told me that parents crying was exactly what WASN'T needed today, and she had me go into the school office until I calmed down. Yes, I was That Mom, making everything worse. I did pull myself together, and when I walked out of the office, there was Greta, walking into the school, Lucia in front of her. I gave Lucia a fast hug--trusting she knew what to do, which she did--and took Greta and her little kindergarten friend (on the same bus) by the wrists to lead them to their area. Sigh.

Greta was fine.

We lined up finally, and then went to Greta's classroom. Greta had a worried look, and she was quiet, but she drew a picture when asked, and didn't cry when it was time for me to leave.

The rest of the day felt odd and provisionary, as I just wondered and wondered how they were doing at school. I had lunch with some friends. I puttered around at home. Then Andrew and I went to the bus stop to pick them up, and they came off the bus happy and excited, talking over each other about all the fun they'd had that day. Greta made a new friend (but couldn't remember her name). Lucia got a sparkly keychain from the prize box. They loved their egg-salad sandwiches (their choice for first-day lunch, strangely).

Back home, I gave them each an Able Baker cookie shaped/frosted like a pencil, and a pack of Splashlings, with a purple-haired mermaid they'd been wanting. They couldn't have been happier. They played with Splashlings the rest of the afternoon, until bedtime.

Greta faded during dinner--I made macaroni and cheese, one of her favorites, but she barely ate anything. We read some books afterward. She was tired, though. What a big day.

Before dinner, Greta's pre-K teacher called--for Greta. She wanted to talk to her and see how her first day went. I heard Greta saying she'd made a new friend, and colored a picture with lots of different colors. What an amazing teacher. We were so lucky both girls got to have her. She also sent Greta a postcard last week, wishing her luck on her first day and assuring her she'd do great.

And onward! Now we can begin settling into a routine. I feel wiped out by all the build-up to today, and my dramatic meltdown. I don't often cause a public scene...but when I do, it's one to remember.

Greta drew a family picture at school. Notice that she gave herself a cat.


At the bus stop


Worried Greta face, right before I left her classroom. Not upset...but not too thrilled.


Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Last Day of Summer: Tues., 9/5

So, we're here. The last day of summer vacation. It seems like we've been here forever--today, especially, it just felt like the kids had been home for years instead of months. We had a good day of not doing too much. L&G played outside a little, played with Beanie Boos and Splashlings a little, read with me a little. I made them mermaid homes from Altoid tins. We started a new book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. They wanted to go to a playground, so we did, and I was reminded of how much I hate going to playgrounds. After dinner (tacos), we went out for ice cream.

Lucia is excited for school to start, though she says she'll miss me. Greta, today, has begun saying she's scared, but I get the feeling she's saying it because I keep asking her if she is. I myself am mired in an unholy mix of anxiety and melancholy, feelings that I'm channeling by continuing to organize every last cranny of my house and getting a jump on the girls' birthday shopping.

We started the day with Greta snuggling with us in bed. Then she brought up a stuffed animal we'd seen last week at H&M, which of course I'd said she couldn't buy and assumed she'd just forget about. Being Greta, she hadn't forgotten about it, and instead had become fixated on how it was going to be Wee's daughter-bunny, and how sad Wee was that we didn't have it, and how she was sure someone was going to buy it and it'd be gone forever. She worked herself up into such a state that she was sobbing on the couch. Not sobbing because she was begging--sobbing because she was genuinely mourning the loss of this animal, because she already saw it as part of her beloved stuffed-animal family of Pot Belly, Wee, and Ginger. Of course I also have a soft spot for stuffed animals, and started figuring out how I could get to the mall today to find it, but I couldn't go anywhere because Andrew had taken our smashed-up car to the insurance adjuster. THANK GOODNESS for the internet because I found it at H&M online and ordered two. Done and done. I told Greta it'll be here for her birthday, but I'm sure I'll find a reason to give it to her earlier because, you know, Wee was so sad.

I suppose you could say I also channeled some of my back-to-school anxiety by engaging in that little exchange above.

Tomorrow will be a big day. The weather's supposed to be terrible, which means the already chaotic first day will be even more chaotic, with kids lining up all over the school. I'd counted on Lucia escorting Greta to where she needed to be, but now they'll be separated when they get off the bus. My five-year-old, who wants to be a deer's mommy and live in the woods, is going to be swept into a sea of people the likes of which you can imagine only if you've been to our annual elementary school Art & Music Show.

It's been a lovely summer. I'm sorry to see it end.



Monday, September 04, 2017

Summer: Sat., 9/2 - Mon., 9/4

Sat., 9/2

It was one of those perfect NH days. The weather was beautiful and fall-like--we had the heat on in the house, and we needed jeans and sweaters outside. We played outside for the morning, tramping through the wet grass and hanging out by the pond. It was too cold for swimming or using our boats, sadly. Lucia gamely went out in a boat for a minute, but her hands got too cold as she tried to paddle around. We saw lots of frogs, fish, and salamanders.

After lunch, we went to Riverview Farm with the intention of picking apples--and were so excited to see that they still had an abundant crop of blueberries. L&G were thrilled; we hadn't managed to pick blueberries all summer. We got our buckets and rode in a horse-drawn cart to the blueberry area. The driver of the horsecart turned out to be a farmer who grew hay on our land for many years--he's Andrew's farmer-idol, so Andrew was particularly happy when the farmer shook his hand and introduced us to his wife.

L&G love picking all kinds of fruit, but they especially love picking blueberries, and by letting them each pick almost a full bucket we ended up with 19 pounds of blueberries. No matter. We always freeze them, and then I can use them for muffins and other baking throughout the year.

After that, we also picked a big bag of apples. Then the kids ate an apple, Andrew had some cider, and we headed home.

L&G played outside the rest of the day, and for dinner we had steak (L&G had pasta). What a great day. We relished every moment of it, knowing the next day would be rainy from start to finish.

Sun., 9/3

It rained from morning till night. No stop. Andrew and the kids took a rainy hike in the morning, thrilling because they found a red salamander and some weird dried mushrooms that emitted some kind of 'smoke' when they stepped on them. We read books on the couch, and then I channeled Ma Ingalls and did some mending while Andrew and the girls played Chutes and Ladders. What was I mending, you ask? Pot Belly, to start with. The gash on his face had gotten more and more gruesome, and his stuffing was everywhere. I also mended holes in a couple of sweaters, and holes in the girls' fleece mermaid tales. I fixed a button loop on a dress for Greta.

After lunch, we went shopping at Walmart for some final school supplies. L&G were excited to buy new PJs as well as stretchy hairbands like Molly had at the beach. That was about it. We had leftovers for dinner. William and Nelly came over for a visit after the kids went to bed.

Mon., 9/4

The final day of our last summer trip. We went outside for a while in the morning, much to Lucia's dismay; she just wanted to keep playing with her Splashlings on the stairs, which she did. Greta and I found two dead frogs and a dead snake on the road, as well as a cute tree frog by the pond, and lots of other regular frogs swimming around in the water. Greta picked a few final wildflowers. We packed up the car. After a late lunch at Pizza Chef, we headed home.

On the way, Greta exclaimed, "I just saw a meadow I want to be in!" My little meadow girl. We also saw some deer by the highway, and Greta declared she wants to live in the woods and take care of deer. Everything seems so cute and heartbreaking today because she goes to kindergarten the day after tomorrow. *sob*

It was our last summer visit to NH, but we'll be back a few more times before we close the house. No one wanted to leave. It's a place of happiness and peace.












Friday, September 01, 2017

Summer: Fri., 9/1

Today started off dramatically, when we were rear-ended on the Saw Mill Parkway, where we then sat for an hour after calling 911 while the cops filled out an accident report. The car that hit us was totally at fault, and the driver was unlicensed, and they were possibly not even documented citizens, and the whole thing was upsetting not just because our year-old Volvo had the bumper smashed up but because after some friendly chit-chat with the cops we eventually just continued driving on to NH while the others had to have their car towed and face who knows what further punishments. It was all very very unfortunate. Facing our privilege and all that. No one was physically hurt, at least.

We did finally make it to NH, and it's true fall up here--it was in the low sixties when we arrived. We ate dinner outside, but we were all pretty chilly. The heat is on in the house. Summer disappeared overnight.

A funny Greta-ism to turn conteract the unhappy car-accident news: Now, before bed each night, we have an elaborate goodnight-saying ritual with Pot Belly, Wee (her lamb), and Ginger (her gingerbread man). Each of them hugs and kisses me in turn, and each announces that they love me "From the moon to the dirt." It's so utterly unpoetic but so adorable. And I, of course, have to declare my love for the animals and then for Greta, from the moon to the dirt.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Summer: Thurs., 8/31

These summer posts are winding down. But it makes me happy to have this record of our days--I should challenge myself to do daily fall blog-journalings as well.

Today was fine, but I'm on edge--the big transition to school is overwhelming, with so many details to get in place, and I begin to fixate on less-than-urgent things that have sent me to Target about four times this week. I'm done. I can't shop anymore. Target and I need a break. I feel this way two times a year: after back-to-school shopping, and after Christmas shopping. Like if I have to go back into that store I'm going to have some kind of suburban meltdown. I'm not sure what that would involve (maybe some overturned bins of unreasonably early Halloween decorations?), but I know it'd be epic.

Lucia had a birthday pool party to go to this afternoon, and she had lots of fun seeing some of her friends. Greta and I went to Target (blech!!!) and then ate cookies and read books. L&G had a calm day at home after the party, just playing and reading books with me. We played Uno. I had them pack their backpacks for our NH trip tomorrow.

And I grew increasingly tired and frustrated as they discovered new and creative ways to make giant messes. That's the downside to the days at home: the messes are just...indescribable. It's not the volume of stuff that comes out--that's alright. It's when L&G begin packing bags with things, resulting in a deranged soup of stones, Shopkins, plastic gems, necklaces, headbands, Num Noms, Splashlings, socks, dress-up clothes, and on and on. Last week, they put all of their socks and tights in their Hello Kitty suitcases, often walking around the house in two or more pairs of socks, or putting socks on their hands or stuffed animals. We still haven't sorted that all out. Today, they put things INTO their socks--stuffed their socks with scraps of material, or scarves, or what have you. It truly pushed me over the edge, and at that point--unstuffing stuff from socks when my energy level had plateaued for the day--I was ready for school to start. It's time.

I took a big step with my photo book project tonight--I ordered four volumes of Snapfish photo books, encompassing 2009 through 2013. I've been working on these for months, slowly, and was able to take advantage of a huge Snapfish sale. Progress. I have three Chatbooks I made for 2014, 2015, and 2016, so my efforts have brought me more or less in line with where I'd hoped to be when I made this resolution.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Summer: Wed., 8/30

We're leaving Friday morning for NH for the weekend, and school starts next Wednesday, so we did lots of last summer things today. First, we went to the zoo. We ran into friends there, which was fun. Zoo train, hyenas, butterflies, carousel, prairie dogs, sting rays. After lunch, we went to the library for a final round of summer books; I need to find something new to get excited about, now that the Doll People books are finished. Then it was on to the pool for one final swim. We didn't stay long--the water was too cold--but it was really just to have a chance to say goodbye. Next year they'll be even better swimmers, and it will be even more fun. This was the best year yet for sure.

Then I dragged them to Stop N Shop and was suddenly less mournful about summer being over, because I realized that--come next week--I won't have two silly appendages with me as I try to run necessary errands. I can just...hop out to the store. Easy, breezy. Just me and my shopping list. No one to herd and manage. That will be mighty, mighty nice.

We read lots of books together on the couch--I'd pulled out all the picture books about going to school, or that are set in a school. Rediscovering some old favorites.

I let them watch three Elenas tonight while I made Trader Joe's pot stickers and egg roll bowls for dinner--basically the insides of an egg roll, in a bowl. Pretty delicious. But it involved lots of vegetable chopping, hence the extra shows. Greta, contrary to last night's showdown, ate it without complaint. Lucia gave it a more tepid response.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Summer: Mon., 8/28 - Tues., 8/29

Mon., 8/28

School shopping day. I've been slowly accumulating things for the school year, but we needed to get a few clothes and shoes. L&G like to shop, and they like picking out clothes, but they just get so silly sometimes that it was really anyone's guess how the outing would go. Happily, it was okay. We went to TJ Maxx and DSW first, and each girl got a pair of shoes. (Lucia: sparkly fun sneakers; Greta: light-up sneakers.) Then we went to the mall, where we found a handful of cute dresses at Land's End. They also each selected a Beanie Boo backpack clip. Finally, Target, where they got shirts and jeans. Done. We're set now. They'll need fall things once it gets cooler, but for now they're ready.

We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. It was sunny but too mild for swimming, and L&G just wanted to stay home and play, so we did. I made kale quiche for dinner.

Tues., 8/29

A cold, rainy day. L&G played the morning away, covering the entire couch with blankets and stuffed animals, pretending that they didn't have legs and that their animals were in danger of falling into hot lava. Seriously, ??? I wasn't paying too much attention, but every now and then they'd both start screaming bloody murder, and I'd look over, and they'd be frantically trying to rescue the animal that had fallen into the lava. That took up the morning. After lunch, one of Greta's friends came over to play, bringing a bag of her own Splashlings, and they played with those and with dress-up clothes.

Later, I took L&G to the salon in town for haircuts. I was almost embarrassed to take them in--their hair was tangled, matted with chlorine, and just generally wild. They looked like feral children. They emerged with perfectly smooth blowouts. Lucia loved every second of it; Greta was less thrilled.

They watched an Elena before dinner. I made burrito bowls, which Greta--uncharacteristically--violently denounced and refused to eat. I <3 cooking="" for="" kids.="" my="" p="">
We finished The Doll People Set Sail today--the last in the series (for now?). It was so good. I feel really sad that we don't have another one to begin. Along with A Little Princess, these four novels were our big read-alouds this summer (with lots of shorter chapter books and picture books too, of course). I hope L&G both will want to reread them lots of times. They're magical.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Summer: Sat., 8/26 - Sun., 8/27

Sat., 8/26

A lovely summer Saturday, with fall definitely in the air. We had the Kecks over for the afternoon--they drove in from Brooklyn. Barbra and I left the kids with Andrew and Chris and went to a rummage sale, and then we relaxed while the kids played in the basement and outside. We had lunch on the patio. A great visit. None of the kids wanted the day to end.

Later, I worked on a photo book and watched House of Cards, and Andrew went to a neighbor's to watch a boxing match.

Sun., 8/27

I went to yoga this morning and then we just relaxed around the house. L&G got some Splashlings, played outside, put on some dress-up clothes. We read some of The Doll People Set Sail. Later in the afternoon, we all went for a walk on the Fairy Trail in the reservation. Super fun.

Back home, the kids played while I worked out some of my back-to-school anxiety by organizing anything that crossed my path. You should see my makeup drawer! And the space under the bathroom sink! And the girls' bookshelves! I also worked on another photo book. Tonight it's so cool outside it feels like October.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Summer: Fri., 8/25

A day at home. Too mild outside for the pool. L&G played outside for most of the day, mainly riding flash riders and playing in the playhouse. We read more of The Doll People Set Sail. We looked at some pictures of them as toddlers (my first photo book arrived today!).

The day progressed. They colored in their metallic coloring books in the basement for a while, which devolved somehow into arguing, and they wouldn't stop or come upstairs or listen, and I threw their coloring books in the trash, to much hysteria. (I took them back out, of course.) Keeping it real, people. It ain't all DIY Calico Critter furniture around here. (But we/I did sew tiny Calico Critter sleeping bags today, later, and before bedtime Lucia set up a little CC campsite, with a little elephant in the sleeping bag, claiming that camping was the elephant's dream come true.)

That's it, really. Flash riders were the focus, with some reading and Calico Critters thrown in.

I went to the dreaded Short Hills Mall tonight to return a backpack to Pottery Barn Kids, which was a pain, but at least the girls have finally made their final choices for backpacks and lunch boxes. And I have all their school supplies, except for any additional requests sent along with teacher assignments next week. Haircuts next week, and a day of shopping for a few back-to-school outfits. And then...*sob* summer nears its end.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Summer: Wed., 8/23 - Thurs., 8/24

Wed., 8/23

The cleaners were here for the morning, so the girls and I went to the zoo. We rode the zoo train, fed birds, rode the carousel, saw hyenas and prairie dogs. L&G had each brought a couple of Calico Critters, and they spent some time gathering weeds for their food. We spent two hours at the zoo, then headed home for lunch.

L&G were involved with all manner of toys in the afternoon, mostly Calico Critters, which are having a huge resurgence. They were so wrapped up in playing that they almost decided not to go to the pool. But they changed their mind, and we got there around 4pm. They went down the water slides about a hundred times. (I was in the pool, hanging out nearby, in case Greta took a wrong turn after splashing in and couldn't make it to the ladder. This happened several times.) They even jumped off the diving board (the low one) a couple of times. So many things at the pool have opened up to them this summer.

Dinner was macaroni and cheese. They watched an Elena while I cooked. We decided to make some Calico Critter things the next day.

Zoo train 
Catching birds




Thurs., 8/24

L&G woke up ready for our Calico Critter day, so I fired up the glue gun and brought the fabric bin down from the attic. We made a few dresses, four beds, and two couches. In the middle of it, we went to the Dollar Tree for these fun furry "skins" that are perfect for upholstering cardboard furniture.

We'd spent the entire morning inside, so I shooed them outside after lunch. They rode around on their flash riders and were involved in some elaborate game. I lost track of what they were doing because I was reading.

We had some snacks on the porch and read some of The Doll People Set Sail. Then we went to the pool. They again did water slides the entire time. This time, I didn't get in at all--Greta finally mastered which way to turn to get to the ladder when coming down each slide. We didn't stay too long today; it wasn't very hot outside and the girls got cold.

Back home, they watched and Elena and I cooked a Greek chicken sheet pan dinner. Then we had to pry them upstairs to bed, where they immediately became deeply immersed in Calico Critters instead of bedtime. Still, a nice day all around.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Summer: Sat., 8/19 - Tues., 8/22

Sat., 8/19

Spent some time today hanging stuff that needed to be hung, and organizing things that needed to be organized. House stuff. Later in the afternoon we all went to the pool. Pesto (with basil from my plant) and grilled chicken for dinner.

Sun., 8/20

I went to yoga, and then a rummage sale. There were no good finds, but I stumbled on a yard sale on my way back and found an amazing cedar chest for $5, exactly the size trunk I've been looking for. It is now the designated spot for all my childhood treasures that I'm slowly excavating from Mom and Dad's attic. I've imbued the trunk and its contents with mystery, telling the girls they can't ever open the trunk without me--but this is mostly because there's no way to keep the lid from crashing down onto their heads if they try to lean in and rustle around. They were captivated by the things I put into it and played with some of them. Meanwhile, Andrew organized the garage, which mostly involved getting our giant stack of firewood and kindling under control. File this under: homeownership, suburbs, adulting.

We went to a neighbor's for a BBQ in the late afternoon, and L&G had fun walking on their slack line. As we walked to their house, Greta asked me if I was wearing a nightgown, even though it was just a regular sundress.

Mon., 8/21

Kind of a tough day for me--I've been fighting some kind of summer cold, and my throat has been really sore for a couple of days, worsening on Monday. It was hard to read to the kids (which we do for so much of each day), and by afternoon my energy was tapped out.

BUT it was eclipse day, so there was some fun to it too. The girls and I made pinhole viewers out of cereal boxes and went outside periodically to check the progress. I kept the NASA live stream on the TV. I also kept the girls inside (except for our periodic viewings) because I was paranoid about them looking up. It was fun to get to see the 70% coverage--maybe we'll journey to totality in 2024.

Tues., 8/22

A friend of Lucia's came over for a playdate in the morning, and L&G had a lot of fun with her. We made puffy slime, and then they played with that, swung on the swings, played a game, and played with Calico Critters. A really good playdate.

L&G played around the house in the afternoon, and then we plus Andrew went to the pool with our giant donuts for Float Nite (a do-over since the last one got rained out). Lots of fun. The pool was full of giant inflatable donuts, clearly the float of choice this summer.

My throat still hurts but feels better than yesterday--hopefully a cold won't materialize.




Friday, August 18, 2017

Summer: Thurs., 8/17 - Fri., 8/18

Thurs., 8/17

A good day. I tried to get L&G to go to the zoo in the morning, but they just wanted to stay home and play with their Shopkins, which they did, out on the patio. Then they swung on the swings, rode their flash riders, and played in the yard till lunch. Then they did a little math and writing work.

In the afternoon, one of Lucia's friends came over for a playdate. They played with puffy slime and played outside. Greta--for some inexplicable reason--didn't want to play with them, despite their repeated invitations to her. Greta boggles the mind sometimes.

After the friend left, L&G and I headed to the pool for a couple of hours. L&G--who hadn't taken off their ankle bands since they'd gotten them--went on the water slides nonstop for an hour. They had so much fun. Then they played in the little pool with their Splashings for a while.

Dinner was leftovers. A pretty great summer day.

Fri., 8/18

Blech. Bad days come out of nowhere, and our worst days this summer have so often coincided with icky weather. Today was hot, humid, rain hovering on the horizon all day. It was awful, and all of our moods were too. I took L&G to the mall this morning to return two lunch boxes to Pottery Barn Kids, a dreadful errand, since I abhor going to the Short Hills Mall. The store was crowded, the girls were silly, and I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

We read books for a while, which was good, but it all just degenerated into irritability. They rallied a bit later in the day, though the weather was still terrible and rain still loomed. At 5pm, I decided we'd risk getting rained out and hustled us to the pool--today was Float Nite, and we'd gotten giant donut floats, and we did end up getting to swim for about forty-five minutes before the pool closed for the coming storm. Andrew came with us too, and it was a good turnaround to the day.

Back home, Andrew made Swedish meatballs, L&G watched and Elena, and the day ended up okay. But what a morning.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Summer: Wed., 8/16

Today was a pretty perfect summer day. I tried to get L&G to go to the zoo this morning, but they just wanted to play at home, which was fine. I'm not sure what the context was, but they both packed their small Hello Kitty suitcases full of socks and tights, and they were both wearing tights with socks over them and were sliding around the house.

Then Lucia said she really really wanted to make puffy slime (which we'd made once during the winter), so we went to Target to buy shaving cream and Elmer's glue. They also asked if they could buy a little box of blind bag Shopkins, with Lucia making grand promises of doing extra math workbook pages, and they were so excited when I said yes. (And she did do the math pages, as soon as we got home.) The new Shopkins are as tiny and cute as ever.

This purchase rekindled their love of Shopkins, which had waned for a while, and they got out ALL their Shopkins after that (which are now carpeting the floor of the living room). We had lunch, then we went to the porch to make the slime, which was super fun. It's a great result. When it was made, they brought out their Shopkins, sending them on adventures into the puffy slime.

At three, we headed to the pool with Splashlings. We'd arranged to meet up with one of Greta's friends, who's moving tomorrow to CA with her family--we brought her a pack of Splashlings as a going-away present, and the three girls had a blast playing together with their mermaids.

Then--finally--L&G decided they were ready to take their deep-water tests! I've asked them every time we go to the pool if they want to take the test (passing it allows them to go on the water slides), but they always say they don't want to. But today, when their friend asked if they wanted to go on the water slides with her, then assured them the test was easy when they said they hadn't taken it, they decided they were ready. And they both passed, yay. They were both so proud and excited. "I can't believe this is happening!!" they kept saying as they went on the slides.

They didn't want to take off their deep-water certification ankle bracelets and wore them to bed.

We also read some Heidi Heckelbeck today. I made turkey meatloaf and corn casserole for dinner. They watched an Elena episode. I had a drink with some neighbors after bedtime. Now Andrew and I are going to watch an episode of Silicon Valley. Summer.



Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Summer: Tues., 8/15

I registered L&G for swimming lessons this morning--they'll be in Level 2 and Level 3. Greta probably isn't *quite* ready for Level 2, and Lucia is *almost* ready for Level 4, but this was the best I could do schedule-wise (and it's what their teachers from the last session recommended).

It was a rainy day. We played games in the basement (the family fun room, as we call it): two rounds each of Uno, Chutes & Ladders, and dominoes. Then I taught them Parcheesi. I'd forgotten how many rules there are, but they were getting into it. We finished The Runaway Dolls and read some of a Heidi Heckelbeck book. There were mentions of mimes and moonwalking in the Heidi Heckelbeck book, which led to me showing them YouTube videos of mimes and Michael Jackson, including the Thriller video.

After lunch, we went to the library, the post office, and Target. When we got home, I made a huge bowl of popcorn, and we sat on the couch for an hour and read the new library books. Then they watched an Elena episode while I made tacos. And that was the day.

It was pretty nice all around--no notable squabbling. I will say, though, that getting Lucia to do her math workbook pages is difficult. And I myself have trouble figuring out some of the math. Sigh.

I'm making progress on my 2017 resolution to get the best of my digital photos from 2009 to the present into photo books--hard copies, lined up on a bookshelf, that we can all look through. This is time consuming and somewhat impossible, since I feel like any picture I don't choose is being relegated to a digital boneyard, but it's important, and I WILL do it.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Summer: Mon., 8/14

This morning I had a piano tuner come in to tune the piano, in preparation for the girls' piano lessons that start in September. L&G played on the stairs while he tuned. This has been their activity for the past couple of days--making elaborate setups on the steps with Calico Critter foods, eraser foods, Splashlings, Shopkins, Squinkies, and Num Noms. It's time-consuming and hazardous. Today it finally degenerated when Greta put a foot on one of Lucia's stairs.

We had lunch, read some more of Runaway Dolls, cleaned up the steps, swung on the swings, did math and handwriting pages, and then went to the pool. It was an overcast afternoon, and hardly anyone was at the pool--but L&G ran into one of Greta's friends, who ran into another friend, and the whole group of little girls played together with Splashlings in the little pool.

I made eggplant parmesan for dinner, using the friend eggplant Andrew made for dinner yesterday. Then the girls and I drove to Millburn to pick up Andrew at the train station, after other trains into Maplewood were cancelled. Then bedtime.

I'm quite tired despite the niceness of the day. I watched the final episode of season 3 of Catastrophe, and now I'm off to read.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Summer: Fri., 8/11 - Sun., 8/13

Fri., 8/11

Our last day at Bethany Beach. I went to yoga at 7:00 a.m. again--three times in one week. So lovely. Molly gave all the kids a set of Squinkies Do's when they got up, which they all loved. Then we put in another full beach day--lovely weather, despite the prediction of rain from earlier in the week. In the morning, the kids mostly played in the sand. "Remember when we were being chased by that baby?" Greta said to Luca. "Yeah," Luca laughed. And Greta said, "That was so fun." 

One notable part of our week--Andrew twice found a horseshoe / helmet crab in the sand. Huge and monstrous. Once he picked it up and threw it into the ocean, tail thrashing. The next time it was already in the water. Everyone hoped to see it on our last day, but it didn't appear.

After lunch, when the tide was further out, we all swam. Lucia, like in previous days, was in a new kind of watery, wave-jumping heaven. Molly carried Luca out a few times, and--at the end of the day--Greta finally let Andrew carry her out. I also swam, again pushing past my usual fear of deep(ish) ocean water. For dinner, we had pesto that Mom had brought. Then we went to the boardwalk for ice cream, and Mom and Dad bought the kids Beanie Boos at Candy Kitchen. Sadly, we had to pack up after the kids went to bed. Our last day at the beach. It was a perfect week!







Sat., 8/12

Drove home from the beach. Greta, in particular, didn't want to leave and said she wanted the beach house to be ours. The drive was easy. All of us got hash browns from McDonald's. L&G watched Descendants 2. Back home, we unpacked, I did a mountain of laundry (five loads of towels, sheets, and swimsuits), and Andrew made steaks and hot dogs for dinner.

Sun., 8/13

Yoga this morning (four times in eight days!!). Then we just relaxed at home. Andrew went for a run. I ran errands at Target and Trader Joe's. L&G played all day with various things--microphone-bubbles, Squinkies, Splashlings, Legos, Beanie Boos. They set up a Beanie Boo salon in the kitchen and combed the animals' hair with water and tiny Lego brushes. They swung a lot. We read a lot of Runaway Dolls. Back to regular summer now; our beach trip was the our final long trip.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Summer: Sat., 8/5 - Thurs., 8/10 (Bethany Beach)

Beach week! I’ve neglected to blog. I’ll try to capture the highlights of our week at Bethany Beach.


Sat., 8/5


Long traffic-y drive. But the beach house we rented for the week is beautiful--it’s two separate apartments on two floors, and we rented both, so there’s lots of space and bedrooms for everyone. One block from the beach and boardwalk. It couldn’t be better.


The four of us headed to the beach after we unpacked, and Mom and Dad met us there after they arrived. We got dinner from DB Fries and ate it on the picnic table in the backyard of our house. Then we went out for ice cream. A perfect first day.


Sun., 8/6


Beach morning. I went to yoga on the beach at 7:00 a.m., and then we all went out around 9. Molly arrived around lunchtime. The waves are really big here so we didn’t do too much swimming. Lots of digging, sandcastle-making, and collecting stones and shells. Obsessively collecting stones and shells. It was a beautiful day and we made the most of it, knowing the weather was going to turn the next day.


We made enchiladas for dinner (I made the chicken and red sauce at home so we just had to assemble and bake them here), then more ice cream.


Mon., 8/7


The day delivered what it promised: rain and storms and more rain. The morning was gloomy and rain-free, so we did go out to the beach for a little while. Luca arrived around 11:00 a.m., and as soon as he joined us on the beach it began to rain--we gathered everything up, rushed home, and then the deluge began. It rained for the entire day, mostly intense downpours. Just so much rain. We had lunch at home, and then the kids played spies, running around the house but quietly, because they were spies. A little while later, when there was a break in the rain, Molly, the kids, and I went out for a walk--and the streets around our house were completely flooded, up to the kids’ knees in places. The water was rushing up over the sidewalk at some points. It was crazy. Of course it started pouring again while we were out, and we all got drenched.


At 3:00 p.m., we put on Descendants 2, and then had dinner after that. Andrew and Dad went out to pick up BBQ from Charlie K’s--delicious. That brought us to the kids’ bedtime--successfully filling the rainy day.


Tues., 8/8


It was cool and gloomy in the aftermath of yesterday’s rain storms, but we managed to spend the morning on the beach, doing beach things. We ate lunch at home and then headed to Rehoboth Beach to go to Funland in the afternoon, which was pretty much the worst thing ever. The kids were all enthusiastic when we arrived, but the insanity of the close quarters, noise, and abundance of games with impossible-to-win prizes took its toll. Funland was not fun for any of us.


We made our escape, ditched our plans to find dinner in Rehoboth, and headed back to Bethany, where we returned to DB Fries for takeout dinners and ate on the beach, redeeming the day.


Tonight, after the kids were in bed, the adults played Taboo. It was lots of fun.


Wed., 8/9


I went to yoga on the beach at 7:00 a.m., which was lovely--sun rising, and dolphins leaping out of the water. So perfect it seemed staged.


We went to the beach in the morning and got out the surfer girl. Greta was enthralled and played with it more or less constantly for the rest of the day, tossing it again and again into the waves and running after it when it surfed back. Lucia discovered a new love of jumping in the waves--Andrew carried her out beyond the breakers. She even treaded water and swam a bit on her own. I went out too, with them and with Molly, even though the water was over my head at times--my comfort level with the ocean is generally knee-deep. But it was lots of fun being farther out--which, on this beach, isn’t even that far, because the water gets deep really close to shore. So we had our wave-jumping fun without having to go into shark territory (or so I’m telling myself).


Mom had brought stuffed shells, and she prepared those for dinner. Then we went out for ice cream. A pretty perfect beach day. Every day is fun as long as it’s not spent at Funland.


Thurs., 8/10


Absolutely perfect beach day. Molly and Luca went out this morning to get donuts from the Sky Pony donut truck, and then we all headed to the beach. We carry so much stuff there, but we have it down to a science by now. Greta returned to the surfer girl with as much obsession as ever. The waves were a bit too crazy first thing in the morning, making it hard for Andrew to carry Lucia into the water for wave-jumping, so she took an interest in Surfing Girl as well, which meant we of course had to go out to get another one. The toy store was sold out of girl surfers, but the employee arranged to have one delivered to the store later in the afternoon. (Andrew picked it up around 4:00 p.m.)


We had lunch at home, and then the tide was out, and we all got in some good swimming and wave-jumping. Lucia is just beside herself with joy when she’s out there. She’d stay out all day if Andrew didn’t feel like he’d collapse. Greta didn’t want to go out; she just wanted to play with Surfer Girl. Luca was reluctant but finally went out with Molly later in the day, and had fun too.


We’d planned to spend the entire day on the beach, and at dinner time we got pizzas from Pomodoro’s and ate on the beach (with some surreptitiously poured wine from our cooler). L&G played still more with their Surfer Girls--these things are the greatest beach toys ever. We didn’t leave the beach till nearly 8:00 p.m. It was a long long long beach day but so much fun. The kids are all having a blast, and so are we.


A highlight from today was at the very end, as we were packing up all our beach things and the kids were still determinedly playing and running around. A toddler ran over and began chasing the kids, and the kids began running around, screaming and laughing, yelling, “A BABY IS CHASING US! BABY: INCOMING!!!” It was hilarious.

Also, Lucia occasionally forgets a seagull is called a seagull and calls it a peacock.









Thursday, August 03, 2017

Summer: Thurs., 8/3

A full, nice day. As soon as L&G woke up this morning, they wanted to go into the basement playroom to continue coloring in their metallic coloring books. Usually they play for a long time in their rooms, but this morning they had a single focus. We added metallic gel pens to the markers that came with the coloring books, which work splendidly.

With our beach week coming up, I spent some time getting things organized and packed. We read together, worked on our yarn wall hangings, and played a game. L&G swung for a long time outside. After lunch, they did their summer work (math, handwriting) and then we went to the pool. It was a good swimming day. Unfortunately, at 5:00 p.m., there were dark clouds and thunder, and everyone had to leave the pool. We were nearly ready to go anyway. At home, I "cooked" dinner (more random leftovers from the freezer--I was loathe to grocery shop since we are only here for three days) and the girls watched an Elena. A nice day all in all.

At one point today, they were involved in an elaborate game with mardi gras bead necklaces and plastic bracelets and rings--things they haven't played with in some time. Impressed with their endless capacity to find new ways of playing with old things, I said to them, "You know something I love about you girls?" Before I could go further, Lucia said, "We're creative?" And Greta added, "We're smart?" Clearly they don't lack for parental praise.


Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Summer: Sun., 7/30 - Wed., 8/2

Whew. Getting a little behind but I'm *determined* to note at least something about each day.

Sun., 7/30

A lovely day in NH. We went to the creek today--always a favorite place. A few Splashlings mermaids joined us, and L&G did their best to make them little boats out of pieces of bark. (This was only marginally successful.)

We went out for ice cream after lunch, and on the way home we stopped at Dollar General so I could buy a few supplies to make better Splashlings boats. The only thing I ended up really needing was a pool noodle--sliced into segments and then sliced lenghwise, they were perfect little boats. I also made some rounds, which were inner tubes. We used all of these things when we went swimming (with Splashlings) at William and Nelly's pool later in the afternoon.

We had a big dinner Sunday night--William, Butch (Andrew's cousin, staying in the house for the weekend), Andy, Cindy (both also staying in the house), and the four of us. Andrew made gazpacho and I made pasta with roasted peppers, feta, and grilled sausages. We ate outside. The girls made s'mores at the fire pit afterward. After they were in bed, the adults sat out back with the fire pit, watching the sun set over Mt. Ascutney.

Mon., 7/31

Andrew had to get some work done (gasp!), so the girls and I were on our own for some of Monday. We set out with Cindy to go blueberry picking, but the stars weren't aligned--the places we tried were either out of berries or not yet open for picking.

I read more of The Meanest Doll in the World to the girls after that, and then we went to the pond just the three of us. I've never been confident enough to take them in by myself, but with the life jackets and the rope and the rafts, I feel pretty well in control now--not afraid they'll drown, and able to navigate over to them if they get stuck in the reeds or algae or whatever. We stayed in for an hour and a half, just floating around.

We had another big dinner Monday night, the same group as Sunday plus Nelly. Andy made some pizzas, which were delicious.

Tues., 8/1

Andrew and I slept poorly because mice were scrabbling in the closet and walls of our room in the middle of the night, and then very clearly running around the room, under the furniture. Country life.

We'd all gathered in NH this weekend for a purpose--the memorial service for Andrew's grandparents, in Massachusetts. We all set out early Tuesday morning and drove to a cemetery in Shrewsbury, where the family gathered with the ashes of both grandparents. No one is religious, so there were some brief remarks and then we headed to a cousin's house for lunch. L&G will remember the cemetery, though, both for their presence at the burial and also the fact that they both found handfuls of giant turkey feathers--pretty spectacular, if I do say so.

The reception was very nice--mostly people I've never met, first-cousins-once-removed of Andrew, some second cousins. The house where some of these cousins live is actually the house where Andrew's grandmother and her five siblings were born. It was built in the 1700s and used to be a large farm. All the stories Nana always told us took place in that house. L&G were really captivated by the idea that this house was where Great Nanny (as they call her) lived as a child. They peered into every room, asking if the things they saw (like a bottle of hand soap) had been Great Nanny's.

We stayed for most of the early afternoon. The girls did well--there was a swing hanging from a tree, and a kind cousin to push them, and only at the end (overheated, tired) did Greta start to fray a bit. We left with Katherine, Patrick, and Thomas, and joined them at their hotel for a swim in the hotel pool. Katherine and Andrew's college friend Rachel joined us for a bit, and she brought cool metallic coloring books--black pages with metallic markers--for L&G. This was incredibly nice, and the girls are wild about these books.

Then we headed back to NJ.

Wed., 8/2

Home again, for just a couple of days before setting out once more for a beach trip. L&G played and swung and colored this morning. I dragged them on a very necessary trip to Target. I discovered that mice have taken up residence underneath our kitchen sink and chewed up all the paper towels (they must have traveled with us from NH.) We ate lunch and finished The Meanest Doll in the World. Lucia did some pages in her math workbook, and Greta practiced writing a few letters. We worked on yarn wall hangings. We dealt with some Greta whining. We ate dinner (random leftovers from the freezer). L&G watched two Elenas. I took outgrown socks out of their sock drawers while they combed water into their hair instead of brushing their teeth. Just another summer day.

NH selfie

Tables set for dinner in NH

Nana's childhood home


Lucia sitting on a wall in MA from the 1700s

Car selfie, with beloved animals