June 5, 2012


The best part of a Beatrix Potter birthday party?

(Aside from the double-chocolate mini cupcakes and lavender lemonade, naturally)

Beatrix Potter party hats made by Aunt Zizzy and animal faces done by Oma.

Of course, Jemima Puddleduck's egg hunt:

Mr Jeremy Fisher's fishing game:

and Peter Rabbit's Garden Obstacle Course (organized and led by Grandpa):

... are all great fun, too.

One happy and tired three-year-old!

May 30, 2012

My little girl

See that little girl toddling around in the ladybug bathing suit?

She's getting to be pretty definitively a little girl these days, but kissable hints of babyishness still remain; those (long!) chubby legs, the cuddly way she lays her head in my lap when she's tired, her enduring love for her "ba ba." But she can say "ba ba" now, when she wants one. That's new.

She has an all-encompassing passion for cats. She chases her cat friends around and around the house, grabbing onto their tails with a little vise grip. She has learned to make the "tsk tsk" sound to call them over to her. She greets them when she sees them: "Hi, Cat!"

She can identify every cat in every one of her books. She has also learned the sound a pig makes and tries to imitate it, making a kind of coughing sound because she doesn't know yet how to snort the way mama does. She loves books with peekaboo flaps and lifts them so enthusiastically that she accidentally tears them off and we find them stuck to our feet days later.

She waves wildly to everybody she meets and isn't content if they don't wave back. I have a secret love in my heart for everybody who does. She has learned about babies, and she loves to see them. "Bee bee!" she cries, when she sees one in its mother's arms at the splashground, or in a picture, or on TV.

She loves to watch videos of herself as a baby on the laptop. She kneels and puts her face close to the screen to watch, scrutinizing every detail, as though there is going to be a test.

She is good at giving kisses. Sometimes she will lay them on thick in a string of five or six open-mouthed busses: "A-WAH! A-WAH! A-WAH!" Sometimes she shakes her head no, smiling because she knows she's teasing and she likes being in on the joke. Some people only warrant a blown kiss, a little chubby hand that flies to her mouth and lingers there, because, yes, hands are still delicious.

She's a funny little girl, who loves to laugh, who gets angry because the ice cubes from my drink are too cold to hold but she doesn't want to put them down, who finds a soft pillow on the floor and lays down to drink her bottle in peace and comfort. She points to things that she finds novel or interesting, and the list grows longer every day. Every day she takes a few more steps on her own...but she still looks back over her should to break into a grin when she sees we're watching.

She's my little girl, and I love her so.

May 29, 2012


I think the process of moving, if you were to plot it on a graph, would be as spiky up and down as the heart monitor of a tachycardia patient. You have the task of looking for a new home, which is full of peaks and valleys as you search for the right place for your family, find it, fall in love with it, and then find out it's off the market or has been whisked away for some reason or another. There's a big spike up when you finally find the right place and get it. Then you ride that wave for a couple of days, a week, as you plan out all the fabulous summer barbecues, the birthday parties, the cozy winter nights by the fire. (Your "Pin it" button gets a lot of use in these times.)

But then you start the process of packing, of actually dismantling your life in the place you're leaving, and slide down into a kind of valley. Not only because packing in itself sucks major ass, brings about the desultory realization that you have accumulated SO MUCH CRAP you don't need, but because you start to realize that despite the crappy neighbor, the lack of yard, the lack of space...you are going to miss this place, the place you have lived, the place you live now.

I will never forget the day, four years ago, that James and I visited our condo for the first time with our realtor. It was a sunny day, light streaming into the windows, and I walked around the living area, imaging our furniture in it.  I closed my eyes, and placed the couch along the long wall in the back, really seeing it. It was a perfect fit. I thought, someday I'll bring my newborn baby home from the hospital and sit with her on that couch, right here in this room. 

And it happened just like I thought it would. 

There are so many memories I will have of our first home together. Soaking in the bathtub with my Federal Courts casebook propped on the edge, turning the pages with wrinkled fingertips. So many poker nights with friends, the slap and zip of cards being shuffled, laughter filling the air. Under one of the tiles on the kitchen floor, Baby Lulu's name is written in Sharpie, along with the names (and cartoon faces) of each of the cats; we wrote her name there the day we found out she was a girl and finally decided it for certain, which just happened to coincide with a frenzied, nesting-based kitchen remodel.

And then there's the first night we brought Lu home from the NICU, when J. and I lay in the bed with her, too amped and afraid to drift off to sleep. Her first Christmas, with the tree wedged in the corner. Her first birthday party, with zig-zag banners and overflow guests sitting cross-legged on our sisal rug. And all the little quiet moments in between.

My parents moved from my first home to the house I grew up in when I was four, and I remember it, vaguely, my old house, my birth house. Laying in a slant of light in the sunroom, sitting against the olive-green refrigerator in the kitchen. Lulu's too young to remember her first place. And that makes me sad. Because for all of its paint-peelingness, too-smalledness, outgrownedness...it was a good place for us. It deserves to be remembered. There's been a lot of happiness here.

We'll have to be sure to tell her all about it. So that we don't forget, ourselves.

February 23, 2012


Checking out the two dozen robins AND female woodpecker that appeared within the course of five minutes in our backyard this morning (seriously - I said, "Carl, I saw the first robin!" and by the time he made it to the window, our yard was carpeted with them).

We are all SO ready for spring.

(Side note: I made Gracie's dress for her; it's a little big (new pattern, measurements are a bit wonky, but now that I know what to expect I can adjust accordingly), but she refused to take it off after I tried it on her this morning. I am washing fabric now to make one for Joy. Easiest pattern I've ever used - so happy, because I love being able to make clothes for my littles!)

I hear birdsong outside, and it's sweeter than any music. Spring means adventures and outdoors and sunshine and our first-ever garden (in containers, but we're very excited). And probably mosquitos, given how bad they were last summer and fall, but we're going to include lemon verbena in our container gardens, so hopefully that will help ward them off.

Are you excited for spring?

February 14, 2012

Gunka Trips

Sometimes I like to stop and try to look at things through the littles' eyes, wondering what sort of memories different activities and events will form. How will Joy remember these days of attempting kindergarten together? Will her skating lessons this winter affect how she approaches every other new challenge (she has AWESOME teachers, BTW - props to the Albany Skating Club)? Will Grace remember all the cuddles and snuggles and us listening to her wild stories, or will all that fade as she grows older?

I have some memories from childhood that stand out with brilliant clarity; some that have faded so much I need others to bring them up. Then there are the stories other people tell which I KNOW, from other memories, cannot possibly be true (no, Auntie, I NEVER got scolded for choking on a too-big bite and eating too fast - I couldn't have, because #1, that's not the sort of thing Dad would have scolded me for, and #2, I was always such a slow eater that by the time I went to kindergarten Mom was worried I'd starve because I wouldn't eat my lunch in enough time. So there).

So, so many of my memories revolve around my extended family. All the aunts and uncles and cousins, and the great-aunts and great-uncles, too. 

One of my younger uncles - Dad is the firstborn of eight, he comes sixth in line - has made a point of visiting us for a few days once a year, ever since Joy was very little. So many of my early childhood memories are around doing fun things with the younger uncles and aunts - going to the county fair, early morning trips to the local bakery for maple eclairs, babysitting adventures and watching The Princess Bride, etc. So it is especially peculiar for me to put myself in my children's shoes as I watch them interact with "Gunka" (short for great-uncle - he chose the nickname, but the girls often tease him by changing it to Gunkie). He is no longer the uncle just out of high school, hanging out and having fun, but he still make a point to visit and do fun things, to be a part of their lives as much as he can. How will they remember these days when they are grown? Will he be Grandpa's fun and funny younger brother (I have a couple of those, since my grandfather is also the oldest of eight), or will he be more, almost a glorified uncle, since they only have one actual uncle right now? Or am I overthinking it too much, will they just accept him as a part of their lives without ever classifying their memories of him?

However it goes, I'm excited to find out, someday.

February 7, 2012

Trains and Meltdowns

Sometimes Carl and I forget just how much the littles do pick up from our conversations with each other. Car rides are our best time for discussion, which means that they get to hear everything we say. We do have some sense of propriety - some matters for discussion stay in the bedroom, yes? - but we never hesitate to talk about serious matters in the car or at the dinner table, from politics to philosophy to theology to our future.

It's that last one that was giving Joy some worry, and made me realize how aware I really do need to be of little ears.

We've told the girls for a while that we will probably be moving to Chicago in the next year. We've built it up for them, given them all sorts of things to look forward to when we move out there (especially, oh especially the train). Except now all of the sudden Chicago has become Boston (most likely - long story that can be summed up in "just as good of a grad school for Carl, better job opportunities"), and we kinda sorta forgot to talk it over with the littles.

We've talked about it plenty in front of them, though, which just might explain Joy's most recent meltdown precipitated by not being able to ride the train when we took Gunka (their great-uncle) to the station after a visit. I got no sense out of her sobs (with hands pressed firmly over her eyes while tears streamed down behind them), but Carl finally managed to get out of her that she didn't want to move to Boston; if we were going to move at all, she wanted to move to Chicago. With the trains.

A little more digging also found out that this upcoming trip we're taking to visit the school, she thought was going to be our move. She thought we were moving to Boston this weekend.

Ack, my heart broke.

Joy pays attention to everything, she thinks about everything, but she doesn't talk about much. Especially when she's worried or scared.

We explained to her that we don't even know for certain yet that we will be moving to Boston, but when we do know, we'll tell them. We'll have lots of time to prepare (granted, our move from PA to NY took place in two weeks, but to a kid, that's long enough). We won't just up and move them without talking about it.

Then we started talking about all the fun things there are to do in Boston - I even read to her a little from Make Way for Ducklings - and we promised that there are trains in Boston, too, and we will ride them.

She's been doing better ever since then, but it was a good reminder to us that, as they used to say, "little pitchers have big ears," and if we are going to talk about everything and anything in front of the littles, we'd better make sure we are including them in those talks, explaining things to them, and using language and ideas they can understand.

Otherwise, there is going to be a whole lot of confusion, and many more meltdowns.

And nobody wants that.

February 2, 2012

Six More Weeks of What?

According to Punxsutawney Phil, we have six more weeks of winter.

To which I say HA! And ha again.

What winter?

The littles have been asking every day to go build a snowman.

Dudes, we don't even have a dusting of snow. It rains at least once a week. The rest of the time it is either mild and sunny or mild and cloudy or - just to keep us from getting too comfortable - it suddenly turns to bitter cold. But still no snow.

It's been a disappointment to us. We are finally living in a house with a yard, first time ever. We finally have a place where we could drag the littles around in their small sled (the last year Joy will fit into it, the way she's growing - Gracie might squeeze in another year, but not Joy), where we could build a snowman, snow fort, snow angels, have a blast.

And instead, winter is soggy.

This was last January:

At the park where, I swear, they were having more fun than it looks

And this is last month:

We had to go all the way to the mountains of Massachusetts to find even this much snow!

At this rate, spring will come before we've even noticed there was a winter.