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.

2014 in Review

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before? Pet a giraffe, watched my little brother graduate from college, sent my first-born to preschool, watched my second-born learn to walk, took my kids apple picking, took a long road trip with 2 kids and dipped Gracie's toes in the ocean. 

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Last year I said, "I want to lose weight and be more frugal and save more money. I also want to be nicer to my husband." In 2014 I lost weight and gained weight and I'm probably not any lighter now than I was a year ago, but I'm definitely in better shape. I was not more frugal, but I tried really hard to be nicer to my husband. You win some, you lose some. In 2015, I want to continue getting in shape and losing weight, and I HAVE to be more frugal, there's no more trying.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? A good friend had a baby in April, Jeff's cousin had a baby in October and a new friend/neighbor had a baby in early December. 

4. Did anyone close to you die? My sister-in-law's mom died in October. I wasn't terribly close to her, but was heartbroken for my sister-in-law and her boys.
5. Where did you travel? We took an awesome road trip with my whole family to the Outer Banks in July. I was so stressed about how Gracie would fare in the car and whether she would sleep all week, but it was great beyond my wildest expectations.
6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014? Last year I said, "I want to find our Forever House, specifically one where the floors don't creak and sound doesn't carry like a sonofabitch. Where I can get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night or put in a load of laundry during nap time without worrying I'll wake everyone up." And, oh, we found it! I thought it would be so hard to leave our first house behind, but I love this new house so so much. The floors creak, but we have so much room, and we have a master suite so I can go to the bathroom any time I please! Anyway... back to the question at hand - in 2015 I'd like to have more clarity about whether I want to grow our family or whether I'm settled with 2 children. Other than that I do not feel I was lacking anything. 

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? April 16, the day we closed on our house. October 10, when Jeff's cousin had her baby, who will grow up as close as a cousin to Mia and Gracie.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Breastfeeding Gracie until 10 1/2 months when she abruptly wanted nothing else to do with the boob and surviving until July with some serious sleep-deprivation while we worked through Gracie's sleep issues.
9. What was your biggest failure? Overspending money. 

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Lots of colds and a urinary tract infection (tmi?)
11. What was the best thing you bought? Our new house, followed closely by paying someone to remove the wallpaper and paint the first floor of said house, followed thirdly by a king-sized bed and a huge sectional couch.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My husband
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Walter White

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

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Finding, buying, and moving into our new house. Going to the beach. Mia starting preschool. Gracie's first birthday.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014? "Shake it off" and anything by Iggy Azalea or Ariana Grande - Mia loves any good dance pop song.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Happier.
b) thinner or fatter? About the same
c) richer or poorer?
About the same

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?  I wish I'd been more frugal and saved more money. 

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? I wish I'd lost my temper less. (Same answers as last year...)

20. How did you spend Christmas? The weekend before Christmas we spent the night in Buffalo to celebrate with Jeff's family. Christmas Eve my family took all the kids to Skyzone, then everyone had pizza at our house. My parents and younger brother stayed at our house where we had Christmas morning, then Christmas dinner was at my older brother's house. It was so nice not to travel anywhere on Christmas day, and Mia was so into Christmas morning this year.
21. Did you fall in love in 2014? The same answer as every year, more and more with my little family.

22. What was your favorite TV program? The Good Wife, Homeland, Orange is the New Black, Scandal. We finished Breaking Bad, but I would not say it was a favorite. 

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No.
24. What was the best book you read? The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, honorable mention to We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
25. What was your favorite music? I finally came around to Taylor Swift, something about her rubs me the wrong way, but damn if I don't love her music. And she's not such a bad role model for my girls.
26. What did you want and get? A house that fits our family perfectly and makes me so happy. And I got my husband back to working a normal 8-6, Monday-Friday schedule at a new job he loves rather than the 60 hour work weeks we had been enduring.
27. What did you want and not get? Same answer as last year - a new living room rug. Also, a smaller waist-line. And a mantle for my fireplace. 

28. What was your favorite film of this year? The only movies I saw in the theater this year were Frozen, Gone Girl and Annie. Other than that I'm drawing a blank on any other movies we watched, let alone good ones.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 32. The night before my birthday Jeff and I went out to dinner with friends, drank Mojitos and laughed more than I have in a long time. On my birthday my family came over for brunch and cake. 
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 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 2014? Leggings or skinny jeans with long, flowy tops and boots or flats. 

32. What kept you sane? Sunshine. My family. Close friends I can vent to. Good books. HGTV. Wine. Netflix. My big, comfy bed. Chocolate. 

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Joseph Gordon-Levitt

34. What political issue stirred you the most? Hmmm, I'm burying my head in the sand a lot lately when it comes to the news, for the sake of my sanity.

35. Who did you miss? Anyone I don't see every day. 

36. Who was the best new person you met? New neighbors and Mia's preschool teachers and classmates.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014. I have to wake up every day and choose patience and kindness.