Saturday, July 29, 2017

Summer: Thurs., 7/27 - Sat., 7/29

Thurs., 7/27

Some days are just doomed from the get-go. The weather was gloomy, the air heavy and threatening, and the girls woke up on the wrong side of the bed and stayed like that all day. They couldn't occupy themselves. None of my million suggestions were acceptable. They didn't want to do a craft, read, swing, play outside, play a game. I took them on a quick errand to the mall to return a Land's End purchase, and that was about as productive as the day got. My girls--who are never bored--complained for hours about being bored. It was maddening.

Fortunately, relief came at 3:30, when a babysitter arrived and I escaped to the city, to meet up with Andrew, Mom, Dad, and the Kovalls to have dinner and see A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Delacorte--Shakespeare in the Park. Mom and Dad had gotten tickets for us. We had a lovely dinner at Kefi on the UWS, then walked to the theater. Our seats were excellent, as was the entire performance. It was mesmerizing and hilarious--had all of us laughing. What an amazing show. And amazing to get to see Shakespeare in the Park for the first time in too many years. A super fun night.

(And L&G had a fun time with the sitter, their boredom eased with hide and seek, hair-braiding, and a viewing of Descendants 2.)

Fri., 7/28

The morning flew by in a whirlwind of packing and preparing for our trip to NH. L&G were back in their usual good spirits, playing with anything and everything, swinging and running around outside. I took them to Toys R Us to get some new Splashlings--a reward for a week of math, handwriting, and reading work--and then we loaded up the car and left.

The drive took forever. These drives seem to get longer and longer. But L&G played with their Splashlings, listened to both Descendants soundtracks, ate fried clams for dinner from a little roadside fish stand, then watched Descendants 2 and part of Descendants 1 before finally (after six hours in the car) dissolving into whines and exhaustion. We were all thankful when we finally arrived.

Sat., 7/29

Today was a perfect NH day. A good night's sleep erased the long drive entirely. L&G slept in to a decent hour of 8am, then played with their Splashlings and other toys until they got hungry and asked for breakfast. I made them croissants, and then they set up an elaborate system of bowls filled with hot and cold water for their Splashlings (these little toys have paid for themselves a hundredfold). It was pretty chilly this morning, so the inside time was welcome. Meanwhile, Andrew worked outside, tirmming some overgrown bushes away from the windows, and I read.

We ate lunch, then headed to the pond. A neighbor (from down the road) and her granddaughter joined us for a while, and then we stayed in the pond long after they left. Probably three hours all told, and we had to finally drag them out to get some groceries. They just love the pond. As do I. Lots of tiny frogs this time--the tadpoles have grown.

Andrew made us a delicious fried dinner tonight--zucchini, eggplant, onion rings, and chicken tenders. Both L&G devoured the zucchini. While Andrew cooked, L&G played outside, fully immersed in activities involving grasses, clover blossoms, fallen unripe apples, rafts, and a plastic wheelbarrow. Both girls reveal their unabashed happiness when they begin referring to each other as "Sis," which they did for most of today.

An exciting moment of the day: Greta, walking back from the pond, looked down and found a four-leaf clover all on her own. She was so excited. It's pressed in the pages of a book right now.

It's actually cold outside right now. Our Fourth of July trip here is really the only one that feels fully summer--these later-in-summer trips definitely have the feel of fall on the horizon. Tomorrow will be warm, though. On the schedule: pond and creek.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Summer: Tues., 7/25 - Wed., 7/26

Tues., 7/25

This was only two days ago, but I have no clear memory of what we did all morning. I think the Elena scepters and dresses were involved, the girls running around outside. We read some of The Meanest Doll in the World. In the afternoon, we went to the library to redeem their reading hours for prizes, and pick out some books. One of the prizes they got was a small emoji backpack clip, a smiley face with its tongue sticking out, which Greta proceeded to torment Lucia with, trying to make the emoji lick her neck. Lucia protested, to which Greta replied, "But I wasn't licking you with my REAL tongue!"

I made tacos for dinner and the kids watched an Elena.

Wed., 7/26

We were trapped at the house this morning while the cleaners were here because I had to wait for the dryer repair guy, so it was the perfect day for a porch activity: rock painting. We all enjoy this but end up doing it only once every summer. We'd collected a lot of nice rocks last time we were in NH, so we got them out and painted them all.

The dryer guy came and fixed the dryer with a piece of tape, saying we were good to go, to which I said (nicely, but firmly) if that was how he was going to fix it I could have gotten a dryer at Goodwill, and he laughed and said "Just kidding." Sooo hilarious. It was just a temporary fix so we can use it until the real fix. He has to come back again with a new part. Sigh. The dryer is two months old.

It warmed up in the afternoon so we went to the pool with the Splashlings. They played so happily with them until a toddler plopped down beside them, much too interested, grabbing at the tiny creatures and dumping them in the water. The looks on their faces--horrified but knowing he's just a baby so they have to be polite. The mother approached to assure the girls he wouldn't make off with any, but she didn't pull him away. The girls handled it very well, showing the mother the various mermaids and not freaking out as the toddler handled their treasures, but that was pretty much the end of their playing. They swam in another pool for a while with their Splashlings safe in my pool bag.

They watched two Elenas after dinner. I've also started daily schoolwork for each of them--math workbook pages and reading out loud 15 minutes for Lucia, upper- and lowercase letter writing for Greta. Splashlings are their incentive.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Summer: Fri., 7/21 - Mon., 7/24

Fri., 7/21

The kids had a fun day on Friday, after the debacle of Thursday afternoon. It was another scorcher, but Lucia, Greta, and I went on a really long bike ride on the trail--about three miles!--despite the heat. L&G were definitely wiped out but they didn't complain at all--Greta rode up ahead, and Lucia rode behind us, taking her time. She told me she likes riding last because she notices more things. She spotted a concrete tower (I have no idea what it actually is) and was fascinated by it, suggesting it was a snake temple.

After our ride we joined Luca, Mom, and Dad at the pirate playground in Yough River Park. The slides were too hot to go on, but the kids walked along the (extremely muddy) sand for a while and explored. They played in the pool the rest of the afternoon, having a blast.

At dinnertime, we set them up to watch Descendants (the girls' current favorite movie), and I drove into Pittsburgh to have dinner with some high-school friends. It was a lot of fun. A giant shark bowl of liquor with extremely long straws was involved. Andrew was getting in at 6:30am the next morning, so I spent the night at Beth's, and he Uber'ed over when he arrived. We had breakfast with Beth and Nate and then drove home.

Sat., 7/22

It was a pretty rainy day on Saturday, but we occupied the day somehow. Splashlings, running around the house, Little People playground equipment with Splashlings, books. In the afternoon we went to the Soisson House (the moneypit on Pittsburgh Street) to show Molly the progress. Even the kids went. There are gaping windows and many holes in the floor, so the tour was a bit precarious, but they all liked going into the tunnel. It was raining again, and the kids all splashed in the rivers of rain water by the curbs on the way home (and after).

Sun., 7/23

Our last day in PA. Andrew, Lucia, Greta, and I took a bike ride, and L&G made me out to be a liar by complaining a lot of the time (where were the strong bike-riding adventurers from Friday??). We tried to join everyone else at the playground after, but it started pouring, so we had to cut the park time short. At home, I gathered a few bags of stuff from the attic to donate (an ongoing project), and we packed ourselves up. The drive back to NJ was a nightmare--downpours almost the whole time, traffic at a crawl. We even had to pull over at one point because I couldn't see the road. Sigh. L&G played with Splashlings, played with their boxes of treasures Pop-Pop gave them (small pieces of silver paper, rainbow straws), watched Descendants and some My Little Ponies, and listened to music.

Mon., 7/24

Lots to catch up on after being away so long! I gave the girls a bath in the morning because we got home too late last night. Our dryer is broken, so I couldn't do laundry, but I unpacked and took the girls grocery shopping. L&G were deep into playing in their rooms before dragged them to the store, with a sundry mix of toys--Calico Critters and their house, My Little Ponies, Splashlings. All their tiny favorites. We began a new book, The Meanest Doll in the World. Lucia's little best friend came over in the afternoon for a playdate. Lucia was out of town for her birthday party, so she gave her a gift (Splashlings) and they and Greta played for three hours.

Later, L&G watched Descendants 2, which was just released a couple of days ago. Monday down.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Summer: Thurs., 7/20

It's always fun to discover new fun things to do in SWPA. This morning we headed to Nemacolin, where we explored all the amazing things to do for free on the resort grounds. First, some impressive animal habitats--lions, tigers, mountain goats, hyenas, and more. Next--the hit with all the kids--was the miniature golf. They had a lot of fun and played all eighteen holes. Then we had lunch and ice cream in a little cafe, where there was also a giant aquarium and a room with a beautifully displayed shell collection (like a mini shell museum). There was a foosball table, too, which the kids played with despite having no idea how to actually play. We were at Nemacolin for about four hours--a lovely way to spend the day.

The rest of the day was difficult. Three is a tricky number of kids sometimes, with alliances forming and odd kids out, and with the heat and the kids already tired, it was quite a slog to bedtime. Thank goodness the first half of the day was so much fun. Nemacolin is definitely going onto my list of things to do for our annual summer week.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summer: Wed., 7/19

Another scorcher. These hot hot hot days are hard on everyone. I'm glad I'm not in NJ, though, since we have no central AC! But still, here, we're outside a lot with the kids, so we are immersed in the heat. Luca came today, and the kids had fun playing in the pool again. We did go out on the bike trail in the afternoon, despite the sweltering temps; all three kids rode well (as did I!). Later, we went to Linda's to play in her magical backyard.

A mildly annoying heat headache has just blown up into a full-blown headache, so I'll keep it short tonight.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Summer: Mon., 7/17 and Tues., 7/18

Mon., 7/17

A busy day in SWPA. We headed to Pittsburgh this morning for our annual summer visit to the Carnegie Museum. The first thing we saw was the gruesome diorama of the camel and courier being attacked by lions. L&G are absolutely mesmerized by this every year. Lucia was incredibly interested this time, while Greta was more freaked out than anything else. They asked lots of questions about why lions were attacking, how it felt to be attacked, whether we'd be attacked by lions ourselves, whether the animals in the diorama were real.

Next, Lucia requested that we see paintings, so we headed to the art wing instead of the natural history wing as usual. We all enjoyed walking through the galleries. L&G were particularly interested in how people sat so still while their portraits were being painted.

Then we went to the Hall of North American Mammals, always our favorite. Then we took a snack break, and finished off with Gems and Minerals.

We had a late lunch at Eat N' Park, and then the girls played outside for the rest of the (late) afternoon until bedtime.

Mom, Dad, and I sat outside talking to friends later that evening, and then--at 8:30pm--there was a knocking at an upstairs window. It was Greta, looking down at us. I went inside, and she was crying--her very very very loose tooth had finally fallen out, and she couldn't find it. She, Lucia, and I looked all over the beds and floor, but no luck. Then Greta said that actually she thought she'd swallowed it. She thought the Tooth Fairy wouldn't come because she couldn't find the tooth; I assured her she would still come, with a note and a gold coin. Tooth number two for Little Miss Grets.

Tues., 7/18

We started today off with a ride on the bike trail--and this time I rode as well! It was exhilarating! I can't believe I haven't ridden a bike since 2008--the last time was in Japan, when Andrew and I biked around to a few temples with borrowed bikes from the monastery we were staying in. I rode with L&G a good ways down the river trail. We ran into some problems--Lucia's training wheel flipped up, and she took a spill--and it kept loosening as we rode back. I took the girls' bikes to the bike shop a little later to get the training wheels tightened up.

Back home, we filled the pool Linda had lent us, and L&G were in the water for pretty much the rest of the day. It's a nice big pool--so much better than just a wading pool. They could really swim and play, and did, with gusto. Their Splashlings were constant companions in the water. It was a blisteringly hot day, so this was the perfect activity.

Mom and I wanted to visit Grandma and Florence but couldn't bear pulling the kids away from their fun, so we left them with Dad and made our visit. We did a quick Gabe's stop too, and I got some new sneakers for the kids. I always buy them before school starts, but there's no way we can make it through the summer--Greta's feet barely go into hers anymore. Gabe's to the rescue.

After the kids were in bed, I rode my bike all around the neighborhood. It felt like summer.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Summer: Sun., 7/16

A fun day in PA. Andrew left early this morning for FL, driving himself to the Latrobe airport, and Dad and I went to pick up my car later on. After that, I ran a few Greensburg errands (including Gabe's), the most fun of which was spotting my book in the wild at Barnes & Noble.

L&G had a blissful day of playing. They went to the playground, and played with water balloons and regular balloons. I gave them each a new pack of Splashlings, just for fun.

We went to East Park later in the afternoon. There are rich, rich people-watching opportunities on a weekend day here. L&G were wading in the creek near a pavilion where a woman was yelling at her very little kids (like 3-ish) incessantly. She may have been their mother, or the mother of some of them. Or maybe their grandmother. Another woman was there as well. One of the toddlers was wandering around barefoot, in a diaper. Some highlights:



Also overheard, defensively: "I mean, sure, I whup my kids upside the head sometimes, but who doesn't?"


We went to a different part of the creek next, where there is a large waterfall. L&G clambered down to the bottom of the falls, where they were walking around on some rocks. A young boy rode over to us on his bike, casually suggesting they may not want to play down there, because last time he was down there he saw six snakes, and one swam over his foot. We hustled the girls to safety.

Meanwhile, above the falls, a whole crew of kids were playing, marginally supervised by two people who may or may not have been parents of some or all of them. One of the boys--probably around 8 or 9 years old--was standing, barefoot, at the very edge of the falls, creeping ever closer, so close to the edge that we couldn't even stand to look at him. His mother (or whoever she was) was paying no attention. She walked to her car and got a cigarette, saying nothing to the boy. It was riveting and terrible.

Then Mom had an idea: "Girls, let's go to the tunnel and the graveyard!" Because this is Appalachia, and of course! The tunnel and the graveyard! The girls cheered. They were both very, very interested in the falling-over gravestones, wanting to know the names and ages, asking questions about the buried bodies, worrying that they were walking over dead bodies. Good times.

We rounded off our East Park adventure with ice cream at Dairy Queen. And more playing at home in the backyard before bedtime. A good day.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Summer: Thurs., 7/13 - Sat. 7/15

Thurs., 7/13

More fun for the kids at art camp--they're really enjoying it. They come home excited each day to tell me about what they did. It was a hot hot day, so we went to the pool right after lunch. L&G swam for well over an hour in the little pool, playing with their Splashlings, while I read a book. Things kind of derailed after that--Greta was in a clingy mood in the big pool, pulling at my arms and refusing to swim; then Lucia wanted to go back to the little pool but Greta didn't; and so on. We left earlier than any of us wanted, and picked up a few things at Target.

Andrew was supposed to be home by bedtime but his flight was delayed. I did the laundry only to discover that our brand-new dryer has ceased to work--we'll have to bring a trash bag of wet clothes to PA tomorrow.

Fri., 7/14

Last day of art camp. Andrew was back, and he and I packed up while the girls were out of the house. I met a friend for lunch and then picked up the kids, who were bubbling over with happiness about the fun they'd had on their last day. That was nice to see. We've been carpooling to camp with a friend (she takes the kids, I bring them home), and at dropoff time she surprised L&G with a blind-package of Splashlings.

They played with them for a good part of our hellish drive to PA--tons of traffic and downpours and detours. It was horrendous. Sigh. We made it eventually, much later than we wanted. I dropped everyone off at home and went to the St. Rita's Fair just to grab some cavatelli.

Sat., 7/15

Andrew and I met our contractor at the house this morning to see the progress and talk about the budget. It's looking so beautiful. We felt pretty good about everything after our meeting.

We mostly hung out at home until after lunch, when L&G went to the playground with Mom and Andrew. Dad and I walked past the Sycamore Street house (my ritual) and then joined them. Mom and Dad were working at the fair again, and Andrew, the kids, and I went there at 5pm to have dinner and play games. L&G had so much fun. They loved the cavatelli and manicotti, had ice cream, and won a bunch of prizes. Greta was on a streak of good luck, winning two of the long-odds games--she was nice enough to let Lucia choose a prize the second time, so they ended up with the same number of prizes. She can be such a sweetie when she's not wreaking havoc!

Unfortunately for us all, Lucia's proud prize selections are poop emoji pillows, which seem to have been made specifically for the second-grade demographic. Sigh. I suppose it was inevitable that they'd come into our house eventually.

We got fried dough before we left, and L&G both devoured it at home. "I love this fair!" Greta declared several times today. A fun day all around.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Summer: Sun., 7/9 - Wed., 7/12

Fell off the wagon with my blogging the past few days. Here's a catch-up:

Sun., 7/9

Our last day in NH. It's always a trial to get out of the house after being there for so long--lots of repacking and cleaning and closing up. But we did get in some pond time. L&G played "My Darling, My Love" for an hour and a half. I read in a chair. The pond was definitely the highlight of our trip this summer.

We had an early dinner at Pizza Chef and then got on the road. The girls watched The Descendents, their current favorite movie. They resisted going to sleep in the car. But eventually they did.

Mon., 7/10

Andrew left early for a business trip to CA, and I got back to my routine of getting up before the kids for some writing time. Today was the first day of their art camp--the only organized activity I chose for them this summer. Five days, 9:30 to 12:30, African art activities out of a local woman's backyard studio. They seemed to have fun. After lunch at home, we went to the library to catch up on redeeming their reading hours for prizes, and then went to the pool for a while. We ate dinner at the pool. Definitely calling it in this week with dinners. I'm on my own and it's just too hot to cook.

Tues., 7/11

Another day of early rising for me (which is amazing when they sleep till 8--I get two solid hours of work time), and then camp. Everyone, including me, was irritable today. The weather was humid and threatening storms, so we didn't go to the pool. We read books for two hours on the porch. The girls bickered. Not our best day of summer fun. I made turkey meatloaf in the slow cooker, and corn casserole, and of course the meatloaf they devoured last time wouldn't be touched with the tines of a fork this time. Cooking for my children is so fulfilling.

That said, we did rally after dinner, and I took them to the rummage sale down the road. It's the last time I'll be able to go (we're out of town for the remaining dates), and I'd promised to take them, and it was fine. We got some books, I got a miniature frame, and they chose a few extremely tiny toys. Everyone was happy with their purchases. I spent $7 total.

Wed., 7/12

A much better day today. Early work time (two hours!), kids went to camp, and we hung out at home a bit. I read to them on the porch. Then we made a concerted effort to find somewhere to buy Splashlings to take to the pool with us this afternoon. These are a new find--tiny, of course, a little set of a mermaid and some sea friends. I found them in stock at a nearby Toys R Us, so we had a little field trip. L&G were so excited. We went directly to the pool, where they played with their new things for an hour while I read in a chair. Money very well spent. Then we all swam together in the big pool, then they played again in the small pool with their toys (more reading time!), and then we had dinner there. A good day all around.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Summer: Sat., 7/8

Our last full day in NH. Sob. It rained off and on today, so we spent most of the day inside. We finished A Little Princess, which I've been reading to the girls for the past couple of weeks. It was a bit over their heads, but there were enough vivid scenes to keep their interest. I'd never read it before and I was fully into it too.

When it cleared, we got in some pond time--L&G were excited to play "My Darling, My Dear," their favorite new game. They spent most of the time leisurely paddling around in their boats, looking for pond slime. There's a baggie filled with water and pond slime on the kitchen table right now.

Faced with the reality of having picked far too many strawberries at the beginning of our stay, I decided to make some strawberry jam. At the hardware store in town, I invested in a canner, finally--which significantly improved the process. L&G helped me cut off all the stems, and I mashed the berries. I made 11 jars. It looks delicious. We still have some excess berries, but we can freeze them--just a couple of baggies' worth. Not bad.

Tonight Andrew made a cherry cobbler with some cherries we hadn't eaten, and we went out to dinner at the Weathervane, a seafood restaurant in a nearby town. Andrew had a lobster roll, I had fried clams, and L&G had fried shrimp.

L&G are not happy that we're leaving, and neither am I. I wish we could stay. We'll be back in August, and more times in the fall, but this is such a lovely long week. Not goodbye, but the next few visits won't be quite like this. Fortunately, the next trip we have coming up is our week in Connellsville--I hope my parents are as excited for our arrival as we are!

We'll have time for some fun things in NH tomorrow to finish off our stay.

Happy girls with pond slime

Friday, July 07, 2017

Summer: Fri., 7/7

With rain looming for tomorrow, we tried to make the most of our outside time today. L&G both slept late (8:15 for Greta, 9 for Lucia), and then they just played and played an elaborate game involving all their toys on the steps. Later in the morning, we went to the creek, where they collected stones, explored, and made up elaborate workout routines using rocks as weights. We had to drag them home for a late late lunch.

After lunch, they became once again immersed in their playing, and Andrew and I confronted a rapidly escalating plumbing issue. All week, strange drainage things had been happening, and today, when we put in a load of laundry, the shower filled with several inches of water. Flushing the toilet caused more water to flow into the shower. We had a dishwasher full of dirty dishes, a washer filled with water and half-washed clothes (we'd shut it off when we realized the problem), and we were afraid to run any water. Calls to the plumber went unanswered. We feared an evening of washing dishes in the pond and an early departure.

While waiting for a call back from the plumber, we went to the pond, where L&G had more fun than ever floating around on their boats and playing. These boats, rope, and life jackets have really set them free, and they were in the pond, way on the far side, for an hour and a half--playing some kind of game that involved loud declarations of "My love!" and "My darling!" in British accents. They would have stayed much longer, but after about two hours the plumber called back, and we went back to the house to deal.

By that time it was six, so I fed the kids dinner while Andrew, the plumber, and William tramped through the poison ivy, trying to find the septic tank. They didn't. But the plumber managed to fix whatever was blocking the pipes, thank goodness. Andrew was glad for the chance to "help," which involved wearing his Rural King boots while watching William clear part of the field on his tractor, to try to find the septic tank; and then hauling buckets of water out from the basement as the plumber drained the pipes. He loves any chance to wear those boots.

Crisis averted. We don't have to leave early. We put the kids to bed, and had William and Nelly up for drinks around the fire pit.

These days are so lovely. I can't believe we're coming up to the end of our long stay.

Andrew and I have each had one teensy tick. We obsessively check the girls. Ticks come up frequently in conversation. Greta suggested today we call the creek "Tick Creek." They often claim they've seen ticks on themselves and on us (they haven't).

Some pictures from yesterday's hike:

The mountain was quiet until the girls decided they were rock stars, singing into stick microphones.

Lucia way ahead, lost in thought

Ice cream (this is from a different day)

Family selfie from the top of Mt. Ascutney

And some pictures from today:

Playing in the creek

Playing in the pond

L&G spent over an hour playing in this part of the pond--way across from where we were

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Summer: Thurs., 7/6

Another lovely NH day. We went on a nature walk this morning, and I collected some sticks for my next craft project--yarn wall hangings. Then Greta and Andrew went back into the woods to procure a log Andrew wanted for firewood, while Lucia and I went to the pond to catch fish in nets. Then Greta and Andrew joined us, and both girls caught fish.

After lunch, we went for a hike to the top of Mount Ascutney--the girls' requested activity for the day. They love this hike, and they're pretty intrepid. We hiked to the observation tower, had a quick break, and then hiked down. It's a 1.4-mile-round-trip hike. Both kids handle it without breaking a sweat.

We got ice cream afterwards at our favorite place, and then went home for dinner of pesto and grilled chicken. While Andrew and I cooked, L&G played in the yard with plastic pots and pans, cooking up more brews. They also had an elaborate game going on where they'd call each other on large stones (their phones), begin talking, and then realized they lived right next door to each other and would rush out to meet. Too funny. I love the things they find to do up here. They are never at a loss. They took another stone-and-wildflower walk tonight too.

I hate that it's Thursday already. I want to stay here all summer. OR I WOULD, IF ANDREW WOULD CEASE THE ENDLESS, EAR-SPLITTING SCRAPING OF THE WALL PAINT.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Summer: Wed., 7/5

We definitely felt the effects of the kids' late bedtime last night. Lucia's old enough now to basically remain human even while tired, but Greta--her whining spiraled out of control a few times today. Nothing is worse than a whining Greta.

The best story first: At dinner tonight, after many many hours of happy, pleasant Greta and a lot of family fun, I suggested that perhaps tomorrow she might decide not to whine. "I promise," she said. "Tomorrow I won't whine." Then she put her palm in front of her face, as though it were a notebook, and said, "Let me just check my whining schedule. Oh--every day says whining!" I lost it. So did Lucia. Then Greta pretended to make notes in her schedule, saying, "I'll just change this to 'not whining'!" She kills me, this child. The things she comes up with--I just can't handle it. Whining schedule? She's too much.

The day began with pancakes and then some whining. Lucia and I escaped to the pond, where Lucia caught her first fish of the summer in her net. She was so shocked and terrified that she immediately dropped the net into the water. (She wanted me to catch the fish after that--and I did, several times. Letting them go right away, of course.)

When we went back to the house, Greta (no longer whining) was helping Andrew scrape paint off the wall in the living room. (Andrew has decided, against my wishes, because I'm fond of peeling paint, to repaint a wall.) We read a few chapters of A Little Princess, worked on a puzzle, had lunch. I really scraped the bottom of the barrel for lunch today--we all got just a few pieces of old brie on crackers. Farmhouse life! We'd planned our groceries very meticulously...up to and not including today's lunch.

We then went grocery shopping and out for ice cream. We had to wait for our internet service repair man to fix the wi-fi for a bit of the afternoon, but after that we all went down to the pond for more fun with the rope and inflatable boats. Seriously, I love this so much, more than the girls for sure. Zipping across the peaceful pond, from end to end, without ever having to actually be in the water among the fish and pond plants--it's ideal. L&G zipped along for a while in the boats but then decided to "tightrope walk" along the rope by themselves, which they're able to do safely with their life jackets. They had so much fun. I left them to it and just floated around the pond in my inflatable boat. I saw tadpoles, fish, and a few frogs.

OH! I forgot to write about something amazing from Monday. Monday, as we walked down the road to get to the pond, I noticed something swimming in the water, near the rope. It was the fabled snapping turtle! Though many have seen him, he's only appeared to us once before, about two years ago. We hadn't seen him since, and feared he was dead. Not so. He floated to the surface, seemingly investigating our rope, and even lifted his head above water. Then he slowly disappeared back into the deep.

Anyway--after our pond fun, we changed clothes. L&G said they wanted to "take a walk to collect stones and wildflowers," which isn't a request I'll ever deny, so Andrew cooked up some boxed mac and cheese for them while I took them down to the road.

Later, after the kids' bedtime, Andrew grilled us steaks and we ate behind the house, looking out at Mount Uscutney. A perfect summer day.

Full disclosure: This picture is staged. "Stand next to each other and look out at the meadow," I instructed. Their arms around each other, however, was their own decision.

Summer: Tues., 7/4

Fourth of July at last! L&G were so excited about the holiday. Monday morning, as they played together in their room, they were singing patriotic songs ("This Land Is Your Land," etc) as they made Rainbow Loom bracelets. Finally, Tuesday, we were able to go into Plainfield, NH, for the Fourth of July festivities. This year brought a new event: a recitation of the Declaration of Independence by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who said he and his family spend many summers in Plainfield. Secret Service guys were staring out at the crowd as we watched Justice Breyer, and there was a drone overhead, ostensibly for security-related purposes. All very interesting and festive.

Next was the parade, a highlight for L&G. They are so thrilled at having candy thrown at them. Greta is particularly fond of getting a small bottle of chocolate milk from a local dairy. They had their picture taken with Smoky the Bear. After the parade, we had lunch at the tent and heard a local band (guitar, banjo) playing as we ate. I always feel so fortunate to celebrate the Fourth this way. Many people aspire to small-town America, but this is the real deal. The realest of real deal.

It was a hot Fourth, so we went swimming in the afternoon at William and Nellie's pool. Even though any pool we ourselves could install in our own yard wouldn't have anything like a view of Mount Uscutney, swimming there always gets us daydreaming.

We BBQ'd some hot dogs and burgers back at our house, then lit the fire pit so the girls could make s'mores and play with some sparklers. (All of these parts of our day had been very highly anticipated.)

Then we set out for Claremont, where we planned to see fireworks. We went to a large central park in town and set up our blanket along with the locals. I gave the girls a ton of glowsticks, and they played with those while Andrew and I people-watched. Claremont is a big city by New Hampshire standards, but with a population of 13,000, it had a familiar Connellsville-like vibe. The fireworks were very nice. L&G alternately watched the fireworks and played with their glowsticks. They played with those glowsticks for about three hours that night. $2 well spent.

It was a late, late night for everyone, but a fun Fourth all around. I love our little NH tradition.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Summer: Mon., 7/3

It never ceases to amaze that the kids wake up at the same time--or earlier--whenever they stay up late. Lucia's been sleeping till 8 or 8:30 each morning, except for today, when she and Greta both got up at 7:30 despite the late bedtime last night. Sigh.

We had a fun, relaxing day today. We hung out around the house this morning and went for a hike down to the creek. L&G had fun wading through the water and exploring.

After lunch, L&G made various soups and stews and brews with leaves and berries. Greta was making an elaborate dish of "overcooked lettuce." We drove into town for ice cream and a few groceries later in the afternoon, then went to McNamara Dairy Farm to buy some maple syrup from their farm shop. Greta was captivated by the cows; Lucia couldn't get past the farm smell.

We rounded out our day back at the pond. I'd picked up another inflatable raft/boat thing at Dollar General, so both girls could be out on one at the same time, and it was a ton of fun. I love zipping through the pond with our rope. I was inspired to do some graceful boat-dancing with the rope, swooshing over and around, with spins and footwork. At one point, I looked over, and Lucia was ROLLING HER EYES at me. But both girls immediately did their own dances when they got into the boats themselves.

Tomorrow's the Fourth. L&G are super excited. Having candy thrown to them at the parade is a highlight of their summer.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Summer: Sat., 7/1 and Sun., 7/2

Sat., 7/1

Torrential, all-day rain on Saturday. We stayed inside all day and made a trip to Walmart for various essentials, including candles in case we lost power. (We didn't.) L&G occupied themselves in various ways, playing with random things around the house. We fried chicken, zucchini, and eggplant for dinner. It rained some more. Thunder and all the rest.

Sun., 7/2

Today was beautiful, sunny and warm, the opposite of yesterday. We started the day with strawberry picking. After lunch at home, we went down to the pond and managed to execute on a plan we'd had last time we were here: stretching a rope the whole way across the pond (long-ways) so we could pull ourselves across in various floats. I was inspired last year but a fun ride at Idlewild, where kids pull themselves across a pool by going hand-over-hand on ropes strung across. And it worked out well! We got life jackets for the kids since the middle of the pond is so deep and we wanted them to be able to do it themselves. Fun for us all.

Late in the afternoon, we went up to William and Nellie's house to swim in the pool. L&G had a blast.

We had a late-ish dinner at home and then brought out the fire pit to make s'mores with L&G, which we'd been promising to do. When it got dark outside, we went back to William and Nellie's for their annual fireworks display, always spectacular. The girls love fireworks so much--they sat with their arms around each other to watch. So cute. But a very very late night. Hopefully we won't pay the price tomorrow.

Though we have yet to see any (knock wood), ticks are a constant, menacing presence here. When we were discussing names we might give to the house, Greta suggested "Tick House." In the backseat today on the way home from strawberry picking, L&G were playing a game where they pretended to put ticks on each other and their toys then plucked them out. Country life.