Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dear Mia, Part 17

You are five now. Five. You are a kid now, not a baby, or a toddler, or even really a preschooler, but a kid. When people say these years go by in a flash, I never could have believed how true that is.

You graduated from preschool yesterday, and I was completely taken off guard by how SAD I am about it. Your preschool experience has been really wonderful for both of us. Your teachers and your classmates recognized how special you are. I got to help in the classroom and get to know your peers and their parents. I got a front row seat to your school experience. I am going to deeply miss bringing you in three mornings a week and standing out in the hallway before school started, watching you greet your friends with whatever news you had from the past few days apart. You were always so excited about school and bounced right in to the classroom, and I'm so glad I got to be a part of that. Some mornings I was frazzled and frustrated that you and your sister weren't moving fast enough, and now realizing how much I'll miss those moments, I wish I'd savored them more.

For five years now it's been you and me (and Gracie) every single day, and when you go off to kindergarten that will all be changing. You'll be going off (mostly) on your own, and oh, it is so hard on my heart. If you ever wonder about my decision to be a stay-at-home-mom (and I know it's not right for everyone, and may not even be right for you), know that it was absolutely the right choice for our everyone in our family, and I've never (not one time) regretted it. I would relive the past five years over and over, if I could.

For your birthday you and I went on a road trip. We went to visit my friend Pam and her daughters for a night, then we went to Schenectady to see The Lion King musical and spend a night in a hotel. It was a memory I will keep close forever. You've loved The Lion King movie for a few years now, and I've always wanted to see the show. It was like going on a trip with a friend, we had so much fun. 

I took you to the doctor for your five-year well-check last month and when the doctor came in she said, "Let's see how Mia is growing," then she reviewed your height and weight and your growth curves and said, "Well, Mia is a giant." You are in the 91st percentile for height and the 83rd percentile for weight and you look like an adult compared to most of your classmates. You lost your first tooth in November and your second a month later, and if I didn't birth you myself I'd start questioning your age. The dentist said once your front teeth come out you should stop sucking your thumb, but we're all a bit in denial about that. To me, it is your last hold-over from babyhood. You started sucking your thumb when you were 15 weeks old, and I almost fell over dead from the cuteness. I think I will be really sad when you stop. 

You are also reading chapter books and doing a first-grade-level math workbook your dad bought you. You are brilliant and always desperate to learn more more more. You want to know everything there is to know about everything. 

We got a puppy in March. You had been begging to get a dog for about a year, and for some silly reason your dad and I agreed. We went to the animal shelter and you and your dad fell in love with this scared little Australian Shepard mix that you named Clover. She is the sweetest dog, and you have been so good about taking her outside and taking her for walks.

You had your end-of-the-year dance recital last week, and you just love performing. Your teacher had repeatedly told the class to practice outside of class, but I didn't try to force it on you. You wanted to practice over and over again. Then you wanted to relive the whole thing the day after the recital. You are a star, kid. Whatever it means for your future, whether you end up performing for a living or simply lighting up every room you walk into, you are a bright and shining star. 

We registered you for kindergarten in March. Soon enough you will have a school life entirely separate from me. As I can see this on the horizon, I start to feel apprehensive and scared for all the messages and information that will come at you when I'm not around. Obviously, this is a part of growing up. I can't always be there to filter the world for you, but, for five years now your dad and I have been the main influencers in your life. Next year we probably won't be anymore. 

You've been having a tough time at school with your friend Johnny. You think he is just the coolest, and he might be a bit more lukewarm on you. You want to play with him all day every day, but he sometimes tells you he doesn't like you or doesn't want to play with you, which makes you sad. This breaks my heart, not only because he doesn't see how wonderful you are, but because you seem to let his nastiness affect you so much. We've talked so much about how every other child in the class loves you and would love to play with you. We've talked about standing up for yourself and telling him he makes you feel bad. Last week when we said these things to you, his mother was helping in the classroom and heard. She told you, "he didn't mean it," and "boys just act that way," and "boys just do that for attention," and I got very prickly when I heard all that. I'm sure it was just a flippant remark from a mom wanting the conflict to end, but I hate the message it sent, and it seems obvious he acts that way because he's never held responsible for his actions. We talked a lot about how not all boys are mean. You have many male friends and cousins who are kind and sweet and would never say anything mean to you. 

I've spent five years going out of my way not to label people. You've never heard me call someone "fat" or "ugly." You've never heard me say anything was specifically "for girls." You'd never even heard someone called "black" until a few months ago. I think often when we label people we are also subconsciously defining these labels as "good" or "bad." I do this, not because I think I can shelter you from all of this, but I hope by the time you go out into the world you'll have formed your own opinions and have decided that these labels are mostly "indifferent," and say more about the person doing the labeling then about the person being labeled. Recently you said mater-of-factly that you'd noticed a girl in your class was "chunky." I very delicately asked you about it. "Does that matter?" Nope. You were just noticing, as you would notice the sun in shining today. 

As the responsibility of raising two daughters in today's society falls hard on my shoulders, I find myself becoming an aggressive feminist. I find myself dreaming of what kind of women I hope you and your sister are someday, not so I can mold you to some ideal, but so I can help guide you with what I believe are the skills and traits you already have.

I hope you are assertive and fierce, but still warm and kind and nurturing. I hope you stand up for yourself and never back down when you know in your heart you are right. I hope you are not jealous, there is enough success and beauty and confidence to go around. Just because another woman is moving mountains does not mean that you can't do the same (but it also doesn't mean you have to if you are not so inclined). I hope once you've reached great heights you turn and lend a hand to the woman behind you. I hope you turn heads with your confidence. I hope you know that you can do any job a man can do, and you deserve equal pay and equal recognition. I hope you don't accept stereotypes. I hope you surround yourself with people who build you up because you don't deserve anything less. I hope you fall in love and that person sees wonderful nuances in you that you didn't even know existed. 

This is very very important, because it's something that only hit me recently, when I really stopped to hear these words and what they mean: I hope your self worth is not defined by how you look. A man does not go out into the world expected to be treated differently if he is having a bad hair day or if he's not wearing make up or if his clothes are not flattering to his body type. Those thoughts have never even crossed a man's mind. I don't know that I can hope they never cross your mind, but I hope it's rare. You are beautiful, but you are so many other things. 

Mia Jane, I stand constantly in awe of you. You are so different from me. You are the type of girl I would have wanted desperately to be friends with. You are amazing, and I hope you always know I think so. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Books 2015

1. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch
Funny. Several chapters seemed to come directly from her blog, but several also had my laughing out loud.

2. Testimony by Anita Shreve
Meh. I don't know. Entertaining, I guess. 

3. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
I enjoyed this one. It was an interesting way to find out the story along with the main character. 

4. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Loved this. I wanted to keep reading about Ifemelu and Obinze after it ended. I kept forgetting I had finished it and wanted to pick it back up to keep their story going.

5. The Girl on the Train by Paul Hawkins
A good thriller, can't wait to see the movie. 

6. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Meh. I loved We Were Liars so much I thought I'd go back and read an earlier book. I might have loved this in high school. The dialogue bothered me a lot. No one talks like that, especially the popular guys in high school. And it ended basically by saying "hey, maybe Frankie's a psycho narcissist," which was not my takeaway at all. 

7. In the Woods by Tana French
Meh, again. The writing was good, sure, but I so hated the narrator. And ((SPOILER)) the one line in the book that really bothered me was when the narrator says something like "Rosalind fooled me, but then the fooled you too, didn't she?" But she didn't fool me! Not for one second! Give me some credit, author/narrator!

8. Euphoria by Lily King
Apparently I like reading about anthropologists studying river tribes (like State of Wonder by Ann Patchett), because I loved this. 

9. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Way too long. I hated all the characters. Kind of upset I wasted like 2 months pushing through it because it was described to me as "a slow burn." I would say it had NO burn. 

10. The Vacationers by Emma Staub
Bleh. Boring. All the characters were terrible, not fleshed out. 

11. The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
 I enjoyed it, but seeing it compared to Gillian Flynn novels was kind of its downfall for me. It's more like chick-lit with a bit of a dark side. And I was waiting for an even bigger twist/mind-fuck (that was hinted at) at the end that never materialized. 

My two cents: Worth the read, but not as good as I thought it would be. Not as suspenseful as I thought it would be. More chick-lit than I thought it would be

12. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Loved. A very interesting take on a World War II story. 

13. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
I have many thoughts... some of them may be spoilers. 

I probably would have given this 3.5 stars, but I'm feeling generous because the first half was outstanding. Sarah's story was so hard to read, but I'm glad I did. And for the first half of Julia's story I felt I could relate to her. Of course she wants to find out more about what happened in the apartment. 

The second half when it becomes all told from Julia's POV is when I got frustrated. I hated the character of Bertand and not just because he's unlikeable, but because the character was not fleshed out or realistic. First he's sexy, then he's a terrible husband, the he's depressed, then he's a cheater and still a terrible husband. I got whiplash from a character who did nothing to move the story along. I think the whole book would have been better off without him. 

Then I just got annoyed with Julia. The act of finding Sarah and then her son just seemed so selfish. And then the last several chapters set in 2005 felt like an epilogue where she just defended herself over and over. Ugh, it really lost me there. I won't even get started on the sexual tension between Julia and Sarah's son. 

Another tiny complaint - Why was it necessary for Julia to be constantly mentioning like 10 close French friends by name, some of them I don't even think ever came into play? Rosnay needs to learn about writing realistic secondary and tertiary characters. 

The first half was historical fiction with some suspense and a touch of chick-lit and I dug it. The second half was more chick-lit than anything else, and not particularly good chick-lit. 

To wrap up: I'm glad I read it. For the first half I thought it was a slam dunk, a new favorite. The second half: not so much, but not enough to ruin it.

14. Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill 
I remember this was short and written in a stream-of-conciousness kind of way, and... that's all I remember. So I can't really recommend it. 

15. Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell
Oh I just loved this. This is what every book about a dysfunctional family (see: The Vacationers) wishes it could be.

16. The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor
Meh. Another forgettable book with no likable characters. 

17. The Book of You by Claire Kendal
I'm starting to think I'm too tough a critic on thrillers/suspense, and if it doesn't live up to Gillian Flynn, I'm disappointed. This book was way too long. I enjoyed it, but as it dragged on it was harder and harder to sympathize with Clarissa for not telling anyone about her stalker. And I felt like there were loose ends, like the Lockyer trial. And it felt strange when Clarissa's friend (Annie, I think) randomly warned her about Robert because there had been no foreshadowing up until then that he wasn't genuine. And then I thought there was going to be some crazy twist at the end that I couldn't see coming, but there wasn't. And there were too many characters with similar names. And Clarissa had all these friends and acquaintances that she mentioned by name but never really factored into the story and I couldn't keep them straight. And and and. It just felt a bit unedited to me.

18. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
In a word: devastating. But I gave it 5/5 stars. Beautifully written and I think sheds light on what goes on inside the head of someone who is depressed and/or suicidal. 

19. The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison
Again, I'm possibly too critical of suspense books, but I was "meh" about this too. I... honestly can't remember how it ends. Maybe when the movie comes out I'll be surprised all over again. 

20. Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
I HATED this. I HATED the main character, and not in a good, interesting way. I figured out how the book was going to end a few pages in, and wished it would just get there already. 

21. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
LOVED. I LOOOOOOVE Paula McLain. She writes so beautifully. How someone can write historical fiction this way is mind-blowing to me. She really takes you there with such beautiful detail, and this review is definitely not doing it justice. Her books are definitely not page turners, but I want to read them slowly to digest every word. 

22. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Loved it. 

23. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This was good, something I wish I had read as a teenager. I just had a hard time reading it at this particular time in my life, it was too heavy.

2015 in Review

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before? 
Took my kids camping, watched Mia in her first dance recital, got Mia's ears pierced, watched Mia learn to read and ride a bike. Took Gracie on an airplane (which was exactly as terrible as I thought it would be). 

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Last year I said, "I want to continue getting in shape and losing weight, and I HAVE to be more frugal, there's no more trying." I am definitely (endurance and strength-wise) in better shape than I've been in years, but the scale hasn't moved much. And we are a few months away from paying off some major debt, so I think I was pretty successful there too, but there's always room for improvement. In 2016, I still want to lose weight and continue to get in better shape. I also want to be a better saver (with money). I want to spend less time staring at my phone and more time engaged with the world about me. And I'd like to get a start on figuring out what I want to be when I grow up (i.e. when the kids are in school full time).

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?  
Jeff's cousin had a baby in March, and Jeff's brother and sister both had new babies in September. 

4. Did anyone close to you die? No. (I always feel too superstitious to answer this question before January 1st)

5. Where did you travel? We went to Florida in February with all of Jeff's co-workers and their families - it was great because it was -3 degrees here. Also trips to Syracuse and Buffalo and a fun weekend camping trip about an hour south of here. 

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015? Last year I said "I'd like to have more clarity about whether I want to grow our family or whether I'm settled with 2 children." And I finally feel like I have stopped debating this in my head multiple times a day. Two is just right for us. In 2016 I want a new family room rug, and possibly a dog to ruin said rug. 

7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 
September 13, birthdate of our new nephew and September 30, birthdate of our new niece. 

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Out of the whole year I don't think I went a whole week without working out, most weeks I worked out at least 3 times. I can run 4 miles in 38.5 minutes. I don't think I've been this strong since high school. I was terrified of falling into a depression/anxiety-spiral last winter, especially because it was one of the coldest and longest I ever remember, and working out regularly definitely helped me stave that off, big time. 

9. What was your biggest failure? Any time I lost my temper at my kids, and now seeing Mia mirroring my short temper and the snotty way I talk when I'm frustrated.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? 2 sinus infections. 

11. What was the best thing you bought? I really didn't buy much this year, trying to be frugal. We had to spend a lot of money on maintenance things around the house - landscaping, a new dishwasher and a boatload of money on insulation in the attic. For Christmas I did get a new kitchen table off of Craigslist which I refinished and LOVE. 

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?  I think I usually say my husband, and that holds up, he has to deal with my crazy ass. 

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Mass shooters and terrorists. It's a scary world. 

14. Where did most of your money go? The mortgage and groceries.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? My parents moving 15 minutes away. I love seeing them whenever I want and having babysitters nearby has been Life. Changing. 

16. What song will always remind you of 2015? Bad Blood (Taylor Swift),  Shut up & Dance (Walk the Moon), and Uptown Funk (Bruno Mars).
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? About the same - happy
b) thinner or fatter? About the same, but stronger 
c) richer or poorer?

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Hmmm, I honestly can't think of anything.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?  Stared at my phone. I'm working on it. 

20. How did you spend Christmas? Christmas Eve we went to my parents' church service then had dinner at their house. Christmas morning was at our house and my brother and parents came for breakfast. Then we went to Buffalo to Jeff's parents', his sister's, and his aunt's houses. 

21. Did you fall in love in 2015? It's always the same answer, more and more with my family.

22. What was your favorite TV program? The Good Wife, Homeland, Orange is the New Black, Life in Pieces, Making a Murderer

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Donald Trump

24. What was the best book you read?  I read a lot of good books this year, nothing that was far and away the best. My favorites were probably Americanah (Adichie), The Girl on the Train (Hawkins), All the Light we Cannot See (Doerr), Instructions for a Heatwave (O'Farrell), A Little Life (Yanagihara), and Circling the Sun (McLain). 

25. What was your favorite music?  I mostly listened to pop music this year because that's what the kids like to listen to, can't say there was anything new. A lot of Taylor Swift. 

26. What did you want and get? I finally got a mantle (and a new fireplace screen) for my birthday! 

27. What did you want and not get? Same answer as last year - a new living/family room rug. Also, a smaller waist-line.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? I think the only movies I saw in the theater were American Sniper, Pitch Perfect 2, and Minions. Also loved Boyhood and Chef, and enjoyed Trainwreck and Whiplash.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 33 on Labor Day (and it was 90 degrees out). A few nights before Jeff and I went out to dinner and had drinks, then on my birthday my parents came over for Indian food. And Jeff and his brother made and installed my mantle. 
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Same as last year - If my husband's old company had sold so we could cash in on all our stock options.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015? Jeans and tees and sweaters with boots or flats. I don't think I'll ever be a fashionista. 

32. What kept you sane? Sunshine. Exercise. Coffee. My family. Good books. Good food. Fresh Air. Podcasts. Cocktails. Date Nights. Netflix. Chocolate. 

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Jeffrey Dean Morgan

34. What political issue stirred you the most? Gun control, good Lord, gun control!

35. Who did you miss? I miss my older brother, sister-in-law and nieces and nephew who moved to Connecticut in June. We were sooooo close to having all of my family living in one place at one time for the first time in 18 years. I'm still bummed it didn't happen and so sad that Mia and Gracie don't get to grow up close to their cousins. 

36. Who was the best new person you met? My new niece and nephew, new mom friends at Mia's school.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015. I rarely have an answer for this. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Dear Mia, Part 16

Well, holy cow, I had no idea it had been over a year since I sat down to record you.

In a way, not much has changed. Your personality bloomed and stayed that way, but a lot has happened in the past year I feel the need to remember.

The first thing I think of if I need to describe you is how FRIENDLY you are. Mia, that is not a word I would ever use to describe myself, you definitely get that from your father, and I am solidly okay with that, but I couldn't be more in awe of how easily you make friends and how kind and nurturing you are to all of your peers. 

You draw pictures and write notes to all your classmates at school. You are sad when a particularly shy child doesn't want to play with you. You reach out of every single one of your classmates. You definitely have your crew that you play with the most, but you never exclude anyone. Three or four moms from the class have approched me to tell me (and sometimes thank me) for how kind and nurturing you are to everyone in the class. I am so incredibly proud that this is the mark you are leaving on people, but at the same time I don't really feel like I can take credit for any of it. You were born a shining star. 

Last year there was a boy in your class named Abe that you said you loved and he adored you back. All summer you said you were going to marry him. Unfortunately, he is now at a different preschool, but you've latched onto a new little boy named Johnny. I couldn't have imagined that at 4 I'd be counseling you on not smothering a boy and worrying that you were being distracted from school by boys. Lord help us in your teenage years!

Over the summer you begged me to teach you to read. Grandma bought you some early readers and we joined the library's summer reading program that required you to read for 20 minutes a day, and now I'd say you are a reader. You can pick up most early readers and figure them out. 

You also learned to ride a two-wheeler this summer. It's obvious what things in life are important to your dad and me by what skills you picked up this summer. 

You and your sister play together quite a bit, but girl, you are bossy. And your sister is no doormat. So I spend a lot of time refereeing. You want to script out every game you play with her and get mad if she doesn't understand what's going on or loses interest and wanders off. It's either you bossing her around or the two of you wrestling until someone gets hurt. Pretty exhausting. I'm trying to step back and let you guys work some things out on your own, but it often ends in tears. 

You still love to play with your stuffed animals more than anything. You play a lot of imaginary games by yourself. You love writing and making up stories. You love any sort of craft. You go through stacks of paper coloring and drawing every day. You love looking at books. You love maps. You love helping in the kitchen. You still love to sing and perform.

You had a dance recital in May for tap and ballet, and as your class entered the stage the whole audience did a collective "aaaawwwwe," and you gave 110% percent. While other girls froze with stage fright or had to look around at others to remember the steps, you just got up there and danced your little heart out. 

Over the summer you took gymnastics and dance classes. You also took a swimming class and are so close to swimming on your own without any floaties. Next summer you'll be there for sure. This fall you did soccer. There were only 2 other girls in the class with about 15 boys and you were not the least bit intimidated by anyone. 

You are a giant among your classmates. You are one of the oldest and definitely one of the biggest. You are as tall as your cousin Abby who is almost 6.

You still love school. You are going 3 mornings a week now. Honestly, if I could have put you in kindergarten this fall I would have. But going from only 2 mornings a week to three has suddenly put into sharp focus that soon enough you will be at school more than you are home with me. For four plus years now you've been my side kick, and soon you'll be having so many of your experiences apart from me. I'm not often nostalgic, but this is a hard thing for me.

A few weeks ago you told me you wanted an American Girl doll and all my childhood dreams of passing down my own dolls to my daughter someday came true. Now we are making our way through the Molly and Kirsten books, which is an interesting experience as the Molly books talk about World War II and bombs and the Kirsten books begin with her best friend dying of cholera. Education! 

Over the summer you got to do lots of new things like see fireworks, go to a minor league baseball game and go camping. This is one of my favorite parts of parenting, getting to relive all of these firsts through you. 

You also got your ears pierced and did not even flinch, you only cried when I noticed your lip quivering and said, "It's okay to cry," but you stopped immediately when you were offered a Lollypop. I had some mixed up guilt afterward about the message I was sending that "beauty is pain" or something, but you seem to love having your ears pierced, so all is well. 

Grandma and Grandpa moved at the beginning of the summer and now live only about 15 minutes away. I am just so excited that you get to have a relationship with them I never really got to have with my own grandparents. You've had a few sleepovers at their house and we get to see them a few times a week now. 

For Halloween you dressed as a Dalmatian because you love 101 Dalmatians and your favorite character on Paw Patrol is a Dalmatian. In a world of little girls dressed as princesses, you definitely make a statement dressed as a dog. Not that you (or I) are trying to make statements, but I find it so fascinating how uninterested you are by the princess culture for the most part. 

I don't usually do this, but I feel compelled this time to talk a bit about things that are going on in the world today. There is a deep sense of unrest, at least for me. There are horrific terrorist attacks, far too much gun violence, and racial tension. But in the last year we've also seen the federal government recognize gay marriage. Things are so scary but so hopeful at the same time. I write about this hoping that you might look back knowing the world you grew up in and seeing how far we've come. Hopefully this fear will all be a distant memory. If I've done nothing else by bringing you and your sister into this world at least let us tip the scales even a hair in the direction of love and acceptance and peace. 

Favorite colors: purple and pink
Favorite TV shows: My Little Pony, Paw Patrol
Favorite movies: The Muppets movies, 101 Dalmatians, The Lion King
Favorite foods: Pancakes, fruit, grilled cheese, hot dogs, any kind of ice cream, candy, baked goods
Favorite books: The Nutcracker, American Girl books

Monday, August 3, 2015

Dear Gracie, Part 6

Gracie Lou, you are just over 21 months old now, and all at once I wonder how it can be that you are almost two and also you are so obviously almost two. 

You speak in complete sentences and paragraphs now. It happened so fast. Yesterday you wandered into a room with no pants on, and I asked you why you took off your pants. You answered, "Because I didn't want my pants on." And my mind was completely blown. A year ago you were a blob, and now you are a complete person. A person who can express herself, and does so, loudly. If I don't respond to you the very first time you ask for something you start screaming your demand over and over until you get a response. 

If I ask you what you want to eat or ask you to decide between two things, you answer, "I like.... ummm..." Or if you want something, you come up to me and say, "Mommy, I like (insert request here: milk, fruit, etc)." 

You are a fish. You just love to be in the water. I love that you and your sister are both water babies. You used to spend all your time in the water attempting to get away from whomever was holding you and getting frustrated. This summer we put you in a floaty and you are so happy to motor around on your own. 

We went camping this past weekend and you would have spent all day playing in the brook, throwing rocks, showing me rocks and splashing around. Whenever we go on a trip, I'm always concerned about how you will sleep, but you slept like a champ, even in a noisy campground and through a thunder storm. 

You and your sister play together a lot. You do butt heads, but you play nicely more often than not. Mia comes up with pretend scenarios and you follow her around enacting whatever she demands.  You are definitely not a doormat, though, and speak up (sometimes hitting or yelling) if you don't want to do what she's insisting of you. You parrot everything she says and want to do everything she does. You have a hard time with her doing things you can't do. "Me go too!" is heard a lot if Mia gets to go somewhere without you. When Mia spent the night at Grandma and Grandpa's house, you insisted on packing your toothbrush in a little bag too. 

You love to color. You never sit still to watch TV for more than 5 minutes at a time. You love your dolls and stuffed animals. You would sit in a swing all day if someone would keep pushing you. You give the best hugs, including a little back rub. You refer to yourself as "Dassie." You are such a little helper, always dragging a little chair over to the kitchen counter to try to help cooking. You love to help bring in the groceries and clean up your toys. You want to do everything "self" - getting dressed, putting on your shoes, brushing your teeth, going up and down stairs. When you don't know the word for something you point and say, "Dis, mommy?"

You love blueberries, macaroni and cheese, any kind of pasta dish, French fries, graham crackers, cheese in all forms, guacamole, and sweets. You always want a bite of whatever I'm eating, no matter how spicy, and often ask for seconds. That is all new to me, because at this age I'm pretty sure Mia ate nothing but ketchup. You, however, are a garbage disposal. 

You are still so very dramatic. You skinned your knees yesterday, and one would have thought you'd been amputated below the knees the way you were carrying on. I put a bandaid on one knee and you walked around, knees together and bent whining, "My booboo hurts," for nearly an hour. And God help us all if you don't get your way, you will scream until it sounds like you might vomit. And then you will scream some more. There is nothing else to do but let you scream until you are ready for a hug. 

But as I said last time, you express joy and rage in equal measures. When you are happy you could light up a whole city.  

I keep your hair in a little ponytail on top of your head or it all falls in your face. You hair is light brown, but the top has gotten bleached blond from the sun. Your eyes are dark blue with tiny flecks of green around the pupil. 

When Mia was your age, I was trying to get pregnant with you, which is astonishing to me, because I still think you are a baby. I still bury my face in your neck and pinch the chub on your legs and tell myself you're a baby. Maybe it's because in relation to your sister you are still so small. You are a wild, delightful little thing and I try to savor your little-ness as much as impossibly can. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dear Gracie, Part 5

Oh girlie, you are closing in on 17 months now, where the heck does the time go? You are a demanding, high-maintenance child. You never, ever sit still. You get into everything that isn't locked up or out of your reach. You screech and throw tantrums when you don't get what you want. But you have the most infectious smiles I have ever seen.

You are a total Mama's Girl, preferring me to anyone. If I'm not around, Daddy will do, but if you know I'm around somewhere you must be with me, preferably carrying you around. While I make dinner at night you cling to my legs.

You say dada, mommy, sissy (you refuse to say "Mia" or "Gracie," both are simply "sissy"), no, apple, treat, up, down, hot, cold, shirt, baby, hat, car, ball (usually followed by "shoot"), kitty,  night night, "fff-fff" means "woof woof" for dog, shoes (which also means socks), cheese (for the food and also if you see a camera), eat (which you also use for "read"), seat/sit (for chair), you call Elmo "Wawa" (and sometimes apply it to other characters you recognize), "suit suit" (for swimsuit), "baba" (for bottle), "cuck" (for cup), "cuh cuh" (for cracker), "tutu" (for tissue) "soon" (for spoon or fork), "boops" (for boots), "coke" (for coat). You know the sounds of several animals: cows, ducks, dogs, monkeys, sheep, owls, horses.  If we ask you a question that doesn't have a yes or no answer you say "ummm." If you ask where daddy or sissy are, and I tell you they are at work or at school, you say "oh!"

Your favorite foods are macaroni and cheese, hummus and crackers, guacamole, chocolate, and apples.

We went to Florida a few weeks ago, and I thought I knew what we were in for, having taken Mia at almost the same exact age, but you were completely and utterly without fear around the water. You would walk right into the ocean if we let you. You would walk right into the pool if unsupervised. You would spend the whole time in the water trying to get out of mine or daddy's arms, convinced you could float. It was exhausting. And you were as bad of a flyer as I knew you would be. You hated being confined for several hours.

All this is said with love though, Gracie. You are exhausting and high-maintenence, but you are absolutely delightful. You are curious and silly and as cuddly as a squirrel. You think whatever your sister is doing is the most fun thing in the world and are outraged if you are not allowed in on it. You exhibit joy and rage in equal measures and very little in between.

You are very thoughtful and deliberate when you play. You set out to enact certain things (things I often have no idea about), and you get lost in your little world of play. Most often you like to play with your dolls. One in particular is your favorite, and if it is lost or in another room you act like you are being reunited with a long lost love when we find it. You love pushing it around in a stroller and giving it a bottle. You also love building with legos, coloring with crayons, and reading. I can't wait for the weather to warm up so we can get to the playground because I think you will love climbing and sliding and swinging.

You are timid around strangers, but warm up pretty quickly and after a few minutes you are trying to charm them with smiles. You are fine when I leave you at Child Watch at the Y now, you march right in. I'm not sure you exactly love it, but you tolerate it, and you are so very excited to see me when I come back for you.

I just love seeing the relationship grow between you and your sister. You play together more and more every day, but you also butt heads quite a bit. I'm pretty sure if the two of you can work together you will be able to take over the world one day. She's outgoing and bossy, and you're thoughtful and loud, and you're both smart and stubborn. I did not birth any wallflowers, is what I'm saying, and I couldn't be prouder.

You poop in the tub too often. You throw food. You tickle any exposed skin you see. When we try to get you to say "I love you," you walk around kissing everyone in the room. You dance. You do all the arm motions to "Wheels on the Bus." You scowl at strangers. You wouldn't mind playing in the snow, but you hate having cold hands. You still drink your milk from a bottle because you refuse it from the sippy cup. When you need a diaper you grab your bottom and say "toots."

If I had to describe having a child to someone without children, I think I would tell them that there is a certain window of time (say 8 months old to 18 months old) when you think, multiple times a day, about consuming your child. Like, you actually ponder the logistics of gobbling them up. Their chubby cheeks, their plump little bottoms and rubber-band wrists look simply delicious. Not to mention when they laugh it is more palatable than an entire chocolate cake. What I'm trying to say is, I want to eat you up. I love you so much, I want to eat you up. You spent 9 months in my belly, and I desperately wanted you out, and I've spent the last 17 months thinking about putting you back. You just have no idea what that love is like, what it's like to actually have to restrain yourself from consuming another human being, until you have children.

Gracie, you are sunshine... and then you are a hurricane. You are a wild woman, and I know it's cliche, but I can't imagine life without you.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 Books

1. Attachments - Rainbow Rowell
I loved this... right up until the end, not that I hated the end, but it was just too shmoopy for me. I expected it to wrap up neatly, I WANTED that, but it wrapped up too sweetly, I guess, for lack of a better word. It was light chick-lit, but it was smart and witty too.

2. Someone Else's Love Story - Joshilyn Jackson
Ugh, I really wanted to like this, but I just didn't. I really hated Shandi, and didn't really like any of the characters until the end when I came around to the William/Bridget storyline which I enjoyed. I loved A Grown-up Kind of Pretty so much, I had high hopes for this one, but I wouldn't recommend it.

3. Me Before You - JoJo Moyes
I have many undeveloped thoughts on this. I really liked it, a lot, but wouldn't say I loved it. I had no idea what it was about before I started it, which I think was good in this case. It was sad and heartbreaking and I think the arch of falling in love was perfectly written. I guess I'm struggling with my feelings toward the Will character, because I know I can't possibly understand where he was coming from, but I was disappointed in how selfish he stayed throughout the book (hope I'm not giving anything away), although maybe that was the point?

4. Cartwheel - Jennifer DuBois
This was a loosely based on the Amanda Knox story. It was interesting to read someone's idea of what could have happened and how all of the characters surrounding the case reacted, but I wasn't really INTO it. It was long and took me a long time to read. 

5. Domestic Violets - Matthew Norman
Light, easy read that reminded me of Jonathan Tropper. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't life-changing. 

6. The Rosie Project - Greame Simsion
Everyone raved about this, and I enjoyed it, but again, it wasn't life-changing. It seems there are to be sequels to this book, but I don't know if I'd read them. 

7. One More Thing - BJ Novak
I listened to this on Audible while painting and running on the treadmill and I really enjoyed it, especially since Novak himself narrates most of it and it's great to hear exactly how an author wants his own words read. Also, Rainn Wilson, Jenna Fisher, Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling narrate parts. Fine holiday fun. 

8. Defending Jacob - William Landay
So good. This is the point in my year where I realized I wanted to read mystery/suspense/thrillers almost exclusively. Enjoyed the hell out of this. 

9. We Were Liars - E. Lockwood 
Another mystery that I LOVED, one of my favorites of the year. I had no idea how it was going to end, which is rare. It was spooky and creepy and wonderful. 

10. The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer
Ugh, long and I had to force myself to finish it. I WANTED to love it. I loved the writing, but I just spent the whole book wishing Jules would just GET OVER IT already and stop living in the past. I just wanted her to be satisfied with her own life, and I hope I'm not spoiling anything by saying she NEVER IS. It's nearly 500 pages of a middle-aged woman wishing she were 16 again. I suppose that was the point, but to me it was bit torturous.

11. Tell The Wolves I'm Home - Carol Rifka Brunt
Enjoyed this one too. The narrator and the time period and events all felt authentic. 

12. The Storied Life of AJ Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin
Oddly light and quick read despite how depressing some of the subject matter might be. I didn't love it, but enjoyed it enough. 

13. The Girl With a Clock For a Heart - Peter Swanson
Another thriller I burned through. Another one I enjoyed. (I'm getting sick of typing the word "enjoy," but it's the truth, so many of these books were good and I had a good time reading them, but they weren't transcendent). 

14. Landline - Rainbow Rowell
So many people hated this. I'm not sure what they were expecting - Rowell is not Hemingway (and doesn't set out to be). I quite liked it! Sure, it had flaws, but I thought it was cute. I read it in 48 hours, so that's a testament because I don't usually have a lot of time to myself to read.

15. One Plus One - Jojo Moyes
Meh. I'm kind of surprised I finished this. I skimmed a lot of it. It did not have the depth and struggle of Me Before You. It was like Little Miss Sunshine in a novel. 

16. Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty
Again, I enjoyed it. It's chick-lit but with a bit of a darker tone. 

17. Dirty Love - Andre Dubus
Short stories. I loved the first 3 stories, but the fourth one took me many months to get through. Devon's voice lost me. I don't think Dubus's calling is to write from a teenage girl's perspective. (And, frankly, it made me terrified for my daughters to become teenagers, but that is not the fault of the author.)

18. The Good Girl - Mary Kubica
Loved it. The ending was a total mind-f*ck (for lack of a classier word). I almost want to read it all over again knowing the ending. Kubica wrote from 4 different points of view and managed to have distinct voices. The only thing holding me back from 5 stars was probably what I perceived as editing issues - sentences I had to reread several times to understand who the narrator was referring to or issues with past and present tense. I worry that people might read this as some cheesy 50 Shades of Grey-esque love story, but it went a lot deeper than that.

19. The Paris Wife - Paula McCain
Fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway's first wife. My favorite book of the year. I just loved this book so much, I didn't want it to end. The writing is so so beautiful and authentic and it was just so fascinating.

20. Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel 
Another one I enjoyed. It was a bit hard to read a dystopian novel that feels like it could actually happen. 

21. The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty 
Similar in feeling to Big Little Lies, and in hindsight I'm confusing the two a bit because the characters were kind of similar, but I enjoyed it. 

22. American Wife - Curtis Sittenfeld
Loosely based on Laura Bush's life. Very interesting and compelling and I definitely spent a lot of time researching the Bushes while reading, but damn it was long, probably 200-300 pages longer than it needed to be. We don't need to know what every tertiary character looked like and was wearing, and the last 50 pages really seemed to be Sittenfeld waxing on about what it would be like be the First Lady.