Friday, October 20, 2017

40/52 & 41/52.

The other weekend we went to Polyface Farms. It was my sixth visit, and wonderful. This trip Cecile could understand some of the information "Farmer Joel" spoke about, and that was particularly rewarding as a parent. We are a family of omnivores, certainly. But a big priority of mine is to raise food-literate children. Every Saturday we go to the farmers market, clucking lines like "know your farmer" (insert eye roll, I know). We greet our "lettuce lady" by way of the donut truck parked at the corner. (Note: donuts raise considerable interest in this weekly errand. For the whole crowd.) We have spent time talking about "happy chickens" and "happy cows," and how not all animals are raised in sunshine and eat grass and bugs like they'd like to. Recently Cecile has connected the dots between, say, a pig that says "oink," the pork on her plate or bacon in the fry pan. (Another side: Ask Genevieve to make a sound like a pig and just try--try!--to hold back your laughter.) How important, to have kids think critically and independently about those connections, about what goes into their bodies, what truly nourishes.

These conversations are part of my own little kitchen-table revolution, maybe. It's the very least I can do in the face of what feels increasingly like an uphill battle. (Some advice, if I may: Don't read The Handmaid's Tale and watch Ken Burns' The Vietnam War in the same week.) Oh sometimes with all the news, but for my girls, I think I may end up under a rock.

But life is for the living! A reminder! Because the other little thing that has happened recently is: FIVE. Cecile is five. Five years old! One whole hand! I can hardly believe it but I can absolutely believe it, if that makes any sense whatsoever. She is precocious and quick to laugh, especially at her sister's jokes. Crafts, books, extreme focus. Oh my first girlfriend, you act so big but really you are still so little. I expect so much of her, and I have to remind myself to meet her where she is ... even if we both know she's destined for the stars. Perhaps that's how it always is with your firstborn, with mother and child navigating the wide world of "firsts" together.

Oh and my sweet-natured, seductive Genevieve. What a pistol. World, don't go thinking my second girlfriend is going to sit around waiting for things to happen to her. Don't let those long, loving hugs she gives out so generously fool you. Genevieve is a force and she commands your attention. Yes, sometimes when I'm holding her on my hip (oy, my lower back) she will take my chin in her hand and direct my face to hers. Perhaps this is all just product of being two years-old, of being the younger sister. Or maybe it's through and through Her. Drop-off at school is still a little hairy, but she comes home with stories of pumpkin-rolling, hand-holding, song-singing. Rare is the evening she doesn't sing some iteration of "bye-bye friends" to herself in her crib. She's enjoying school thoroughly, in other words. A funny little nothing: At school Genevieve has gravitated toward the same frog costume Cecile did two years ago. These days people more often mention how much the two girls look alike. I mean, sure they do. They have the same common demoninators, after all. But they remain so different, so unique to me. Even if they do have a knack for knitting their brows in a similar fashion. 

We went through a week or so of midsummer-like heat in October--breathless days, sauna nights you'd more likely find mid-August. The warmth was relief to a degree because Cecile asked for "Ice Cream for Breakfast" for her birthday party. But I think we have finally turned the corner with the season. Oh, how I missed long denim! And corduroy! A bonus: the sun now sets at 7 p.m., which allows me to start the bedtime march a few minutes earlier. It's the little things in life. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

37/52 & 38/52 & 39/52.

We are a few weeks into the new school year. I am child-free every day 9:00 a.m. until 2 p.m. Yet I have done nothing significant with my time other than what I was already doing: laundry, dishes, dinner prep, gardening, vacuuming. Rinse, repeat. How is there always so much housework?! I promised myself I'd reorganize every closet, put together photo albums, sharpen every corner I've cut for the last five years. I have absolutely no understanding how two-income households ever manage. I barely can. The reason for this little rant is I really want to start freelancing again. I have ideas. Finally! I have ideas and ideas and ideas because the now only voice I hear most mornings is the one inside my head. I haven't published a piece since I was pregnant with Genevieve, and that makes me feel so very out of touch with the person I once considered myself to be. And so I am trying really, really hard not to beat myself up. 

But enough about that. The kids! If there is one post-Labor Day change it's that when Cecile and Genevieve return from school, I am ready for them. It's so nice to be present, to engage with a craft in the playroom or to read books or to really listen and respond without the nagging pull to be doing something else. 

Cecile transitioned right back into school, not missing a beat. I overheard her say, "I liked being a First Year Friend because you can use your time any way you want. Being a Second Year Friend is all about the work." Oh girlfriend, how much you have to learn. She does concede that the Montessori banking and the moveable alphabet work are quite fun. Another bit of excitement (and I know I've said this before, but): Cecile is reading. Like, really reading. Her nose is always stuck in a book. And while we're still working through phonetics together, she knows most words she encounters. Gone are the days we can go to a restaurant and tell her there are no chicken fingers because she reads the menu herself. It's a good problem to have.

Genevieve took a little longer than her sister to warm up to school. She loves her days with her teachers and classmates, but the morning separation is still sticky. We'll get there, I know it. And then I'll be left wishing I were more wanted. So it goes. 

Let's see ... favorite things about Genevieve at the moment: When I wake her up from her nap (if she naps, that is), she always wants a long hug before we get undressed and march onward, and it's just the best. She will try any food. Any! The other day I made linguini with clams and she took more clams for herself than anyone else at the table. She has happy feet. Her run is more of a frolic, really. "I go fast!" she says. 

The weather is showing some signs of change, but it's not consistent. Summer in the sun and autumn in the shade. Beech nuts litter our yard, forcing us to wear shoes in our backyard for the first time in weeks. I've grown accustomed to fresh herbs from the garden, cucumbers on demand, and fresh tomatoes ripened on the vine. But I am anxious to bring out the fire pit and seek warmth under a blanket. It will come. All of it. With time. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

31/52 & 32/52 & 33/52 & 34/52 & 35/52 & 36/52.

We all have that friend we've put off calling back. It's always a good, good friend. But it's been so damned long since we've last caught up that when her name lights up my phone and I'm in the middle of something, I ignore the call with the genuine intention of dialing back when I'm sitting down, focused, and can really give a solid update. Only then I never call her back. But because I do have this real desire to give her the attention she deserves, the bar gets raised. Can't call her back on the way to the grocery because it's too short a trip. Not during naptime because I want to laugh loudly at the stories I'm sure she'll tell, but I don't want to wake the kids. Not after bedtime and dishes because I'm too tired and she'll sense that. 

This post is kind of like that. It's been so long since my last update. And now I can't tell you exactly how each summer day unspooled, other than to say it was sometimes long and likely hot, but also probably peppered with some pretty joyful moments and some trying ones, too. 

So let me just say it was a good summer. Maybe the best yet. No, definitely the best. But now you'll have to please excuse me, because I have some phone calls to make.

Friday, August 4, 2017

27/52 & 28/52 & 29/52 & 30/52.

August! Boom, just like that. We've had camps, we had free weeks. Days away and days at home. Museums, pools, parks, the theater, and afternoons of quiet time spent in the cool air conditioning. This past week both of the girls were in camp Monday through Thursday from 9:30 until 1 p.m. The sudden time to myself caught me by surprise. Not just the minutes and seconds and the ability to get things done without interruption. But to suddenly have access to one's own headspace, the ability to not have to listen to another voice but one's own. Is it possible to forget the way silence feels in the daytime? Apparently so. 

Yesterday I spent some free time at the art museum. Alone. Picasso, Matisse cut-outs, Pollack: Why is it they all seem to remind a mother of their toddlers' art? No, I'm not questioning art's value or an artist's skill. It just that when you're so used to small voices from small people filling your head, dictating your days, when you finally find yourself staring up at the soaring ceilings of I.M. Pei's East Wing at the National Gallery and you see Alexander Calder's outsized hanging mobile, why is it that the first thing that comes to mind is a baby mobile? Goodness, phantom limbs. 

This summer has been good to us. Of course there are moments, even whole days, when the girls are really tough. And it always seems it's on those days a stranger will single me out and tell me how fast it goes, yadda ya. And I'm seeing truth in those statements. What is it: long days, short years? Anyway, generally speaking Cecile and Genevieve are in this awesome place right now. While not exactly "easy" to travel with, they are manageable. Cecile, dare I say, can even be helpful, when she wants to be. And so our yearly summer trips to Kiawah and Lake Placid were, I might venture, fun! (Note that last year, following those very same trips, I declared we would never set foot in Kiawah, nor Lake Placid, ever, ever again.) I couldn't yet categorize our travel as relaxing, but enjoyable! Yes! 

I want to hit pause, savor this, hold them, smell the sweaty sunscreen in their curly hair. Cuddly moments are becoming fewer and fleeting. But there is such also pleasure in witnessing how brave and active and part of this big, big world they they are becoming. A tender process. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

23/52 & 24/52 & 25/52 & 26/52.

Since my last post we've had end-of-school parties and picnics, a spat of pneumonia (Cecile), ballet recitals (also Cecile), a quick trip south with my in-laws, and a neighborhood block party here and there. I keep thinking, oh, it'll be the next week when we hit that slow summertime stroll, but each week seems to roll even faster forward than the one before it. And so what begin as a twice-monthly post has become a monthly update. 

Genevieve narrates her day. "My get in car." "My go to MOM'S." "My play with baby and baby cry and my give her pacifier." "My pool now?" "My pool after nap." "Ice cream after good dinner." She's remembering a lot, too, often resurrecting moments I thought we had long moved past. All in all, I love two. It may be my absolute favorite age thus far. Honestly, if I could fast-forward through most of the baby phases (checking in every now and again to nurse ... oh, how I miss nursing) and stop just shy of a second birthday and take it from there, I'd have one hundred children. Sadly, I'm not sure I was fully present for Cecile's twos, as I was in the fog of pregnancy for the majority of it. And so this go-around with Genevieve, I can't get enough. There's just enough squish in her cheeks and legs, I can still comfortably put her on my hip or in the carrier on my back, and she still naps for a solid two-hour stretch. She's fabulous company and curious and a talker, and yet we're still a little ways away from the manipulation tactics and inability to distract ... traits I know are just around the bend. I am savoring every bit. 

Cecile transitioned straight out of school and directly into a full-day camp. She takes the bus! It's hard to believe she was ever a kid who was not too hot with transitions as a small child, because these days she pivots and dives right into new situations with such ease. These last three weeks she's home every day from camp with names of new friends and stories of how much fun she's having. It's fantastic. Cecile has also turned out to be quite the reader. Sure, she's been "reading" (a.k.a. memorizing and reciting) her favorite bedtime books to us for some time now (which has totally freaked out a few of our babysitters, ha). But these days she'll slip the newspaper out of its sleeve and work through a few headlines ... for better or worse, considering what those headlines have been lately, ugh. The last few weeks I've been reading her Charlotte's Web, chapter by chapter. She's so innately interested in storytelling and words. It's a beautiful piece of her person. 

A mistake I made: trying to potty train Genevieve and teach Cecile how to ride a two-wheel bike in the same week. Ultimately I threw in the towel with the bike-riding. But! Genevieve took up the potty so quickly! She is so proud of herself, as is the rest of the family with her. Both girls still wear pull-ups at nighttime, but how nice to be nearly diaper-free. As for the bike, I'll try to take off the training wheels again next month. One milestone at a time. 

Even as July has turned quite hot (the heat index is over the century mark as I type), the hue of our hydrangeas are telling me Autumn will be here before we know it. I dug up the last of our spring vegetables (I tired of holding out hope for the beets, which never beefed up), and sowed the beginnings of our fall harvest (arugula, carrots, Brussel sprouts). The girls fight over our ripe golden tomatoes ("'Mato ready!" Genevieve shouts), and we're giving a trellised cantaloupe a try. So, yes: Forward march into more long days with long shadows. Stone fruit and fireflies. Summer hair and hats. Naked ice cream nearly every night. And so it goes.