Wednesday, November 15, 2017

One Last NH Weekend

Last weekend, we went to NH for the final time before closing the house for the winter. We've never gone up this late in the year before--our November trip is usually a week earlier--but the kids had Thursday and Friday off school, the perfect time for a long weekend. We drove up Wednesday night. It was unabashedly cold--in the twenties--and we arrived at night to a shivering-cold house. The heat cranked on, though, and we warmed up quickly.


Thursday, frost covered the ground when we woke up, but the girls and I took a cold walk into the fields late in the morning, while Andrew did some work calls. A whole stand of trees had fallen during a massive windstorm a few weeks ago--it was shocking to see, at least ten tall, skinny trees yanked up by the roots, piled and twisted on the ground. The girls were entranced, eager to explore, and game to consider that some of the more tangled branches may have been "woven" by mysterious creatures, such as Bigfoot. Lucia did some knocks and calls; alas, we heard no response. However, we did find some branches with what truly appeared to be hieroglyphic-like carvings. We also walked around the pond, in the shady areas where frost lingered throughout the day.

After lunch, Lucia was so eager to do more exploring with Andrew that I took Greta to the grocery store so she could squeeze in more adventuring before Andrew's next phone meeting. They were out there the entire time we were gone.

When it's this raw and cold outside, and it starts getting dark at 3:45pm, we hunker down and enjoy the insider life of the house. L&G had brought Hatchimals, stuffed animals, and coloring books. We played Guess Who. We read books. It was lovely.

We "cooked" instant ramen for dinner, determined to relax as much as possible during our stay--to not even cook.


Andrew spent much of Saturday morning chopping wood outside. The girls and I stayed inside, making tiny donuts out of polymer clay. We embarked on a game of Monopoly--Lucia's new favorite--with an old board Andrew played on as a kid. The game went on and on and on. Greta, uninterested, busied herself with other things.

We took a long, cold winter walk in the woods. That's when we really start feeling the ghosts.

Later, Andrew made a fire in the fireplace, which we've never done before, always too frightened of what might be in the chimney. But he determined it was clear, and the fire was the perfect thing for the cold evening.

It was so cozy in front of the fire--reading, playing, continuing Monopoly--that none of us wanted to leave, even though we also wanted to go out to dinner. We finally dragged ourselves away from the fire and went to the Harpoon Brewery, and were glad we did.


More walks in the woods and fields. We collected a million pinecones (which we then forgot to pack in the car). L&G made a secret hideout in some vine-y growth in the woods. The pond had frozen overnight--the first time I'd ever seen it frozen--and we spent some time throwing rocks onto the surface, watching them skitter and slide.

More low-key inside time. Greta played pizzeria by folding a chair mat into fourths and offering it around. They played doctor with antique kitchen tools, ministering to their stuffed animals. We all colored.

We did leave the house again, for some shopping in a nearby town. We like wandering through the Walmart, feeling local, buying provisions. We let the girls buy some Hatchimals and pumpkin-pie-flavored Chapstick. Then we went out to dinner at the Weathervane, where we ate our weight in fried clam strips and fried shrimp, and the girls strewed Hatchimals shells all over the table. (The waitress, familiar with Hatchimals, kindly brought us a paper bag.)

Being out in the unnatural early darkness makes the girls incredibly slap happy--they're convinced it's the middle of the night at 5pm. Oh, the hysteria on the drive home.

We made another fire once the kids were in bed. I began mourning our imminent departure.


A long, final walk through the woods. We explored an old stone wall, and the remains of an old stone silo. Then we began the work of closing up the house, making it as inhospitable to mice as possible, though they'll do what they do regardless of our precautions. (There was the year they ate all the candles. They always eat the kleenex. One year they ate glass Christmas ornaments and Andrew found two of them dead in the hall.)

And then we said goodbye. Sadly, sadly. It's a place outside of time and real life; we need our time there, that feeling of being deeply rested and peaceful. Yes, a wasp flew into my hair; yes, clumps of dead ladybugs gather daily in the corners of the ceiling; yes, there were, oddly, flies buzzing around our bedroom every night. And yet. Our happiness there is real.

We planned for dinner at our favorite pizza place on our way out of town--only to be greeted by locked doors and a sign indicating it was closed on Sundays. This must be a seasonal change, one we'd never been around late enough to encounter. So we got back in the car and headed for the highway, all of us hungry, all of us wishing for just a little more time in a warm lighted place in New Hampshire.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Birthdays in the City

We really went all out on the birthdays this year, and the celebration continued over the weekend. Saturday morning, Andrew, Lucia, Greta, Mom, Dad, and I all drove into the city to continue celebrating the girls' birthdays. Saturday was one of those perfect New York days when all the stars are aligned and everything just goes beautifully. Perfect weather, everyone had fun, the things we did were super fun. All a big success.

First stop on Saturday: the Lego store, of course, where Lucia and Greta both selected new Friends sets. Next we went to lunch at Wagamama, where we all had ramen--we all loved the restaurant and our food. The girls ran around across the street at the playground at Madison Square Park for a while after that, with their lambs and bunnies. Then we strolled down to Union Square, making a couple of stops on the way at Dylan's Candy Store, and an AMAZING store called Flying Tiger, where we were all overwhelmed with cute Danish bargains. L&G ate some candy at the playground at Union Square and played on the giant dome/slide thing there. All very fun. 

Our afternoon complete, we drove to the Conrad, our hotel for the night. L&G love staying here, and Mom and Dad loved it too. We had rooms next to each other. As we relaxed, someone knocked on the door and delivered a plate of macarons, a delicious red velvet pastry, and six movie ticket vouchers to me, Lucia, and Greta to mark our birthdays--gotta love that kind of personal attention. We felt very pampered and decadent. 

Then we headed out to dinner at Benihana. You may frown at this as being too New Jersey--traveling into Manhattan only to go to a chain restaurant--but I wanted something different for the girls' birthday dinner, not just a regular (albeit delicious) meal at a regular place. It turned out to be really fun. The girls loved watching the chef's tricks and they loved the food. Greta ate her weight in shrimp. They were sung to in English and Japanese when their ice cream arrived. A big success (though by the end Greta was practically falling asleep at the table).

The car ride back to the hotel was insane, with the girls overtired and ridiculously punchy with their second wind, and it took them forever to fall asleep. They had a great day, though. 

In the morning, we had the delicious buffet at the hotel, always spectacular, and then headed up to the Met. It was a rainy, rainy, rainy day. L&G were tired. We saw some paintings and mummies and then decided to head back home, where the kids spent the rest of the day putting together their Legos. We ordered falafel for dinner and--gasp!--celebrated my birthday with presents as well. Bet you forgot it was my birthday too--Mom and Dad almost did! They made up for it by delivering a new cement gnome for my collection.

And that, my friends, is the conclusion of Birthdays 2017. It was big, and bold, and endless. And all pretty great.


I think Mom would agree that the high point of their visit to New Jersey was running errands with me on Thursday night. Usually I'm on my own for pre-birthday errand-running, but when I invited her to join me, she agreed. First: Dollar Tree for birthday balloons. Two of the balloons were deflated by the time we got to the car, so we went back in, and I swapped them for fully inflated balloons tied to a display. Next: Shop Rite for cake supplies. Then on to Target for last-minute Num Noms, because when you're in this deep with birthday overload, there's no going back. Next: Whole Foods for pumpkins, because in all the craziness this month Andrew and I still hadn't managed to get any. I got three giant pumpkins which subsequently would not fit on the floor of the backseat, and the balloons were in the trunk, and in the midst of trying to get everything sorted out one of the balloons flew out of the car and floated away. At that point it was just too much. Too, too much. We could only laugh, though I did have my forehead on the car window as I did. Sigh. 

Letter to Greta: 6 Years Old

Dear Grets,

Happy happy birthday Little Miss! You've been awaiting this birthday intensely, fast on the heels of Lucia's birthday two weeks ago. You were excited mainly about the arrival of your beloved bunny, the one you've been yearning for since August. For the past couple of weeks you've been talking to your bunny each night, and she (I) has told you she's been journeying tirelessly to get to you. Finally, on your birthday morning, there she was at your place at the kitchen table, the first present you unwrapped and pretty much the only one you've played with since. Lucia got a bunny, too. (And we surprised you with a lamb from the same line of toys--just as cute, and now just as beloved.)

Gra and Pop-Pop came for your birthday this year, which was super exciting. They came on Thursday, and Gra got to sit in on your piano lesson. They were there on your birthday morning--balloons, pancakes, and two presents before school. I went in to see you for lunch, then went to your classroom in the afternoon with cupcakes and goodie bags for your class. All very fun and exciting. You were wearing a paper birthday crown all day.

You got to open all your presents when you got home, and there were a lot. "There are so many presents!!" you exclaimed. It was an abundance of fun things: Num Noms, Splashlings, Calico Critters, the bunny and lamb and some clothes for them, books, Bath & Body Works things. The biggest hits were the bunny and lamb, and the Hatchimals from Gra and Pop-Pop.

Dinner was macaroni and cheese (your request), and then a chocolate cake. With Num Noms on top, of course!

It was a great day. You loved your presents and told me "I loved my birthday!" before you went to bed. You were a very happy birthday girl!

And you're such a sweet six-year-old. It does make me sad that now I'll have no more five-year-olds...but six will be great too.

(There were more Num Noms than this. This is just a post-singing picture.)

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.