No song has ever gotten more smiles out of Mimi than The Itsy Bitsy Spider. She’s less fond of this real one that stowed away on the year’s first bouquet of daffodils. “Oh! Scare Mimi!”
The gorgeous weekend weather has lapsed into chill drizzle. That’s springtime, I guess. Mimi and I consoled ourselves by bundling off to the craft store in search of picnic baskets!
Isn’t that gorgeous? It’s a nice size for carrying a picnic for two people, looks like a perfect old-fashioned picnic basket, and cost $12. I couldn’t be more pleased.
And because everything is better in miniature, we got a tiny basket for Mimi and her dollies, with a handkerchief for the cloth.
Perfect. We mean to have a lot of picnics this summer.
As Mimi gets older there is less and less tracking that my brain has to do for her. She’ll tell me if she’s hungry. She’ll tell me if she’s wet. She’ll tell me if she’s tired. One by one I am getting some brain cells back. And now I remember the intense domestic fantasies I used to have, fueled by late-night Agatha Christie and BBC binges. I remember that I have a picnic basket and a croquet set. I remember how much I loved my blue and white china. I remember when I bought house plants just to have a sense of responsibility for another living thing.
I hope the memories of my Anglophilia stick with me. They would be useful for de-junkification and decoration of our house, which looks thoroughly lived-in these days. They would be useful for enchanting my little daughter (we need to pack some picnics in that basket). And they’re useful for comparison to my real life, now.
What did that dream-life in the English countryside comprise? Let’s see. Tea and letters in bed in the morning. Long walks in the woods. Low tea in the afternoon. A library with a fireplace, squashy chairs, and lots of books. Glittering Christmases. A nearby village with a tea shop, a yarn shop, and a used book shop. Flower gardens.
And what do I really have? Coffee brought to me while I read email in the morning. Long walks in the woods. Snacktime in the afternoon. A great room with a fireplace, squashy chairs, and lots of books. Glittering Christmases. A nearby village with a sports bar, a quilt shop, and used clothing shop. Five flower beds and a vegetable garden.
See? Dreams really do come true.
From the “my husband thinks he’s pretty funny” file:
A family friend lent us this little toy kitchen that her grandfather, a union carpenter, made for her in the 70s. Since then it’s traveled to her nieces and other little girls of other friends; now Mimi gets to play with it for a while… and she LOVES it. Below the counter are a cabinet and three drawers, big enough to hold all of her play food and her tea set. If I had to recommend the best large gift for a two year old, I’d recommend a toy kitchen.
I think my favorite cutting flower, no doubt, is ranunculus. The ethereal pastel ones with green centers. I’d been looking for a way to buy the roots for these colors for years with no luck. Yesterday at the garden center, I found these plants. SCORE. With any luck I’ll be able to lift the tubers, separate them, and keep them for many years.
We hit the nearest zoo this morning. It isn’t nearly as beautiful as it was last year, when we went in short sleeves and shorts, but it was sunny and still and jacket-weather rather than coat-weather.
Hello nap time.
This year Pookie was finally old enough to understand egg hunting, and she took to it like a duck to water. Her eggs were full of candy, yogurt-covered raisins, hair clips, socks, wind-up toys, and Matchbox cars. We dyed eggs, we baked a coconut custard pie, we put on her frilly dress from Aunt Sherry and we had a big traditional Midwestern dinner at the neighbors’ house: ham, scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, relish tray, dinner rolls, strawberry pretzel salad, none of the classics were missing. Now we are home and all taking naps. Phew! Here’s to many happy Easters to come!
Can you believe it? I can’t.
Two years goes so fast. Every day we can do more and more fun things… I can’t hardly WAIT for all the fun this summer!
We love you so much, little munchkin. You are a delight. At two years old you are speaking in full sentences, if you can believe it. “I want cereal and milk in a green bowl, mommy.” “This a giraffe not a snake mommy.” “I got boogies inna nose, mommy.” You seem to know letters, too. A few days ago we went to Hobby Lobby and you looked up at the sign and said “H, B, L, O.” You remember so much about your books that we get the eerie feeling you can read. You can run, sing along to several songs, and stack eight Play-Doh cans on top of each other. We love you SO much, darling girl. Happy birthday.
“Announcing your plans is a good way to hear god laugh.” –Al Swearengen, Deadwood
Last May Mimi was fourteen months old. With her pacifier habit licked she began to reliably sleep through the night, and Sparks and I decided it was time to work on baby #2.
We want a second baby for lots of reasons. So Mimi will have a playmate and someone batting on her team. So we get to play with kids’ toys and go on kids’ excursions a little longer. So the house will be a busier and more fun place. So that we can re-do the pregnancy and newborn phase, and know what the heck we’re doing this time, and know how precious and short that period is. So we can use the slick red double jogging stroller that Sparks pulled off a curb.
It hasn’t happened yet. In ten months I have had three early losses, including one earlier this week that happened later than the other two and that finally scared the daylights out of me. The first two were too early to be events, but this one hurt. It was about halfway to labor, I’d say, and without the light at the end of the tunnel.
In the ten days before it happened, I had been only cautiously optimistic at best and downright pessimistic at worst about the outcome. And I was afraid. Pregnancy and childbirth is a major thing for one’s body to go through, and I didn’t play well with it the first time. While I do want another baby, I was very much not excited about another pregnancy.
And so here we are. This last baby would have been due on my grandmother’s 100th birthday, so it seemed meant to be… but wasn’t. And I think I am ready to stop “trying” and accept my family as it is. We’re leaving the door open for another to come along–another one who really wants to be here–but I’m done living in expectation. Done living in pre-pregnancy, if you will. No more temping, timing, or testing. I will take ibuprofen. I will drink caipirinhas. I will have second cups of coffee. We will plan a more ambitious vacation for next year. I will stop keeping Mimi’s old clothes and baby paraphernalia.
Time to move forward and enjoy what I have instead of forever anticipating when and if. Time to have fun.
There’s our darling girl, Little Two Trails, grinning for the camera. What a doll. I love her so much. She turns two in a couple of weeks. It’s already so wonderful, and so hard.
I’m not a person who argues and gets stubborn when people think I should do something–not in the moment, anyway. I’ll hop up to do it, and rally my thoughts in the doing. This is not the way to parent a toddler. If you start to do something for them, you should be able to finish it cheerfully. If you don’t want to do it, you should have the presence of mind to say no from the start. If you’re unhappy while doing what they want, I suspect that they get the feeling that when they get something they want they should feel bad. Which is no good way to go through life.
We keep bashing ourselves up against this again and again and again. Dr. Brazelton says “the two year old even contradicts herself”, and yes, yes, yes! That is SO true! “Uppachair… no down! Mommy, uppachair!” “No walk! … WALK, mommy walk!” And yesterday’s epic waffling over what color of rubber ball to buy. I let her change her mind once and she’s been telling me what color she really wanted ever since (sometimes her abandoned first choice, sometimes another one out of the blue).
She has opinions but she can’t stick with them. It’s one of the first times in parenting that I really need to pull myself together, sit down and think out a plan, and discipline myself to stick to it. And what should that plan be? Never giving her choices seems obviously wrong. Always making her make the choice is wrong, too. I could wait until we encounter a choice she wants to make, but those are the choices that are hardest for her to make. Denying her the power to ever make choices that are important to her isn’t right either. Should I always stick with her first choice, then? Should I let her change her mind once (that caused big problems yesterday)?
How about this:
Occasionally present her with easy choices that make her feel pleased with things: goldfish crackers or whole wheat crackers? When I present easy binary choices between two things she likes, she usually does well.
When she wants to make a choice, stop. Don’t just go with it right away. Gently ask her if she’s sure. Once she’s made it, repeat her choice, and slowly explain that we’re sticking with that one. For example: she asked for the purple ball yesterday, and I popped it in the cart and moved along. Four aisles later she wanted the orange one instead… cue frustrating meltdown and mommy-quandary. We needed to have spent more time choosing in the first place, maybe.
And when we’ve made a choice (including when I decide that Mimi doesn’t get a choice)… mommy doesn’t get to give in to toddler changes of heart. It was her choice, she made it, and we both need to be content with that. Mommy shouldn’t let herself be pushed around. This is a boundary. Mimi is happier with it.
Sigh. So hard.
Mimi and I have come to the end of a golden week. Last week she couldn’t rest because of her cough, and was a hot sticky mess because of it. Last Friday night, though, she fell asleep and slept silently for twelve hours. On Saturday morning, she was a brand new girl.
Her sweet demeanor was back, magnified by being so happy to feel happy, and her appetite was back, oh my goodness. She wolfed down two scrambled eggs and a waffle for breakfast, and the eating train didn’t slow down until yesterday. Breakfast the INSTANT she woke up in the morning. Last minute bread-and-butter at bedtime. Roast chicken, chicken nuggets, pasta, crackers, fruit, green beans, cheese and yogurt and milk all day. Yesterday morning she woke up and I reflexively fixed eggs and toast… and she slowly ate the toast and just picked at the eggs. I guess she’s done making up for being sick.
She’s still sweet, though. She wants to be in my lap all the time. She wants hugs and kisses and tickles and cuddles. She sits through a whole Berenstain Bears book. When I put her to bed she softly sighs “go to bed… fall asleep” and does so. I love this little girl.
To cap off our golden week, we hit the mall. We played on the playground and climbed in and out of the coin-operated cars (too scary to have them actually move, at this age). Then we rode this gem. Mimi sat on a white horse and told me the names of the other carousel animals as I stood beside her, holding her around the waist. Then the carousel began to move. Equal parts terror and delight from both of us… and some sentimental mommy tears. I LOVE this little girl.
For the second year in a row (and that means we’re batting 100), late winter has brought the very worst of cold and flu season upon our little girl. Ten days ago I was smugly thinking to myself that all in all, this hadn’t been a bad one. Sparks did have the flu (the real thing) over Thanksgiving, and we all had Norwalk virus in October (oh, didn’t I blog about that?), but other than that Mimi hadn’t had much more than stuffy noses and a little blustery coughing. We were going to get through this winter just fine!
She got a very stuffy cold. Then she got roseola with the full set of possible symptoms including fatigue, irritability, lack of appetite, and a truly disconcerting rash. Now she has another cold, a stuffy and runny one, and one that makes her cough all night, night after night after night. You can imagine how rested and refreshed she feels after her night’s slumber, and what a tractable joy of a child she is because of it, right?
I took this picture in December after a friend told me that when her toddlers got to be too much, she would cover them in post-it notes and gain twenty minutes of peace while the kiddos un-stuck and re-stuck the notes. I was such a cute idea that I had to try it.
Sticking the notes all over her at my own adult pace, without her consent or participation, was curiously therapeutic. She pulled them all off in thirty seconds though. Rats.
Finding ways to blow off steam when your kid is driving you crazy… is important. Very, very important. If you can turn it into something constructive, all the better. I have a few things I turn to when Mimi starts to feel like more than I can handle: sometimes I start a yelling duel with her, which she loves. I yell, then she yells, then I yell louder, then she yells, etc until we’re both giggling. Sometimes if I’m lying on the floor I gather her up in my arms and roll back and forth, loudly singing Rockabye Baby.
Usually, though, I clean the kitchen. In a few editions of his book Dr. Spock recommends that when parents feel their children have become too demanding, they set themselves a program of housework and go about it with great determination, making it seem very very important. So when I feel like Mimi has been played with and paid attention to enough for the present, I retreat to the kitchen, where there is always, always a full-on cleanup to be done. Unload the dishwasher, re-load the dishwasher, put things back in the pantry, hand-wash some things, wipe down the counters, detail cabinets and appliances, and finally if I still have the energy take a wet rag and scrub at some of the spots on the floor.
Every single time, Mimi decides that this is boring, and totters off to play by herself while mom is being boring. If she hasn’t decided by the time I get around to wiping spots off the floor, I offer her a wet rag of her own, and she decides playing by herself would be more fun.
So imagine my delight when I read item #12 in this list. How to be a calm parent? Clean. YES!
Mimi’s second year of life is coming to a close (?!?!?!) and because I think it’s so interesting, I’m going to share with you what she has liked to play with best during this year. Every kid is different, of course, but I think that the things which were a hit with her would be a hit with any one-year-old you come across. It basically comes down to four B’s: bears, books, balls, and blocks. Plus some other stuff.
1. Bears, by which I mean all soft cuddly toys. During this year, Mimi began to need some company and reassurance during the night. She’s gotten attached to a dollie and to a plush frog. They are squeezed and bitten while she sleeps, and are playmates while she’s awake. Mostly they are fed play food, but they also require good-morning hellos, bedtime kisses, and special seats at meal times.
2. Blocks. Mimi has a set of large, heavy wooden building blocks that are fun to stack and knock down. She also has a set of oversized interlocking blocks–not Duplo yet, I think that will be better for this coming year–but the really big ones (you know the ones I mean?) that go together and come apart easily. She sticks them and unsticks them, and loves to have us build things for her. She has bristle blocks, too, also mostly good for sticking and unsticking and having us build things for her to play with.
3. Balls. The delight these elicit in her is incredible. No other toy moves so fast or in such a fun way. I bought rubber balls in a couple of sizes (small 4″ for rolling back and forth, larger 10″ for kicking in the yard) right around her first birthday. Since then I’ve also discovered small rubber balls with LED lights inside that flash when the ball is bounced. What a hit!
4. Books. This will be highly dependent on a child’s taste of course, but in this year Mimi started to feel that board books are “babyish”. She loves compendium storybooks (there are good ones of Al Perkins, Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bears beginner books, Curious George, and Little Critter–the earlier stories of those last two are the best) and like I said in my last post Eyewitness books are a recent hit. Eric Carle and Maurice Sendak are big hits too. The regular Berenstain Bears books seem to be too long-winded at this age.
5. Art supplies. Mimi received crayons for her first birthday, and by fifteen months (with a lot of practice) she had figured out how to scribble. At the same age, it was easy to teach her how to use a Magnadoodle and clear the screen for herself, which was great for long car trips. We’ve also tried sidewalk chalk, finger paints, markers, stamps, and play-doh, all with great success though as far as I’m concerned, play school can take the finger paint share of the things. The cleanup lasts longer than the painting. I also realized this year that while coloring books might be blamed for stifling creativity, they are also a cheap and plentiful source of fresh picture books, so I like them.
6. People playsets. Mimi’s Little People castle was the toy that kept her attention the longest when she was one year old–she could happily play by herself for thirty minutes. She got the Little People house for Christmas, and she can literally keep busy with it for an hour at a time if I’m lucky. She’s especially interested in deciding which of a group of objects are the mommy, daddy, and baby, and she also likes putting things in and out of windows and doors. The house is an ideal toy.
7. Wooden puzzle toys. At the beginning of the year she couldn’t do very much with the ones she had. She has one with zoo animals, and mostly liked to play with the animals. She had a wooden ring stacker, and mostly took the rings off and played with them. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it occupied her pretty well. Only toward the end of this year has she begun to be able to stack the rings and “do” the puzzle. She also enjoys a latches board. A puzzle with magnetic balls that are guided with a magnetic wand is a little too complicated, but she’s intrigued by it and will figure it out soon. Throughout the whole year a wire bead “roller coaster” toy has been a big hit.
8. Musical instruments. What kid doesn’t like to make noise? A tambourine, a xylophone, jingle bells, maracas, drums, and shaker eggs are perfect for this age. I recently found a plastic ocarina at Target, and she can get noise out of that, which she really enjoys.
9. Toy food and dishes. Mimi’s plastic cups and plates and bowls live in a low drawer in the kitchen, and she plays with them incessantly. I also let her play in a drawer full of colanders and unbreakable mixing bowls, and she loves it. When I’m desperate to keep her entertained in her high chair, out come measuring cups and spoons, basting brushes, tongs, cookie cutters and funnels. Because she sees me “playing” with this stuff all the time, she’s fascinated too. She also has a lot of toy food and a toy tea set, and gets much mileage out “feeding” us and her cuddly toys. At this age I’d recommend plush food rather than the wooden stuff, because it’s bound to get thrown… at furniture or at you.
10. Anything with buttons that makes noise. The B. Toys Hellophone and Alphaberry are the two I’m thinking of. Leapfrog makes some other toys that she’s enjoyed. Especially in the first half of the year, when she was less able with her hands, the agency this kind of thing gave her was a delight. Push a button, hear music! Hooray!
I hope this list is useful to someone. As I said every kid is bound to have different interests, but their capability to understand and play with different things probably progresses at about the same rate. This age is mostly too old for “baby” toys like rattles to be entertaining, for example, and mostly too young for very complicated puzzles or any toy that can’t be properly played with without narrative imagination. Enjoy!
I bought a pile of secondhand Eyewitness books on eBay, and they are a big hit. Mimi had become obsessed with some packs of science-related flash cards I bought in Target’s dollar aisle last summer. That was great, but handling the flash cards was high-maintenance entertainment and cards were always getting lost and folded anyway. The Eyewitness books were supposed to replace them, and they have.
These books are so beautiful. I enjoy looking at them as much as Mimi does. I hope she keeps enjoying this kind of thing as she gets older. We can fill plastic divider boxes with specimens we pick up on walks, we can press leaves and flowers, she and Sparks can get a telescope, even… um… are insect collections still politically correct? Hm.
Anyway, the books are great, and I’ll never get tired of hearing that baby voice lisp “nebula… black hole… milky way galaxy”.
There is no excuse for February. Or for August, but let’s talk about February. Let me list ten good things about February.
1. It’s short
2. Sparks’ birthday
3. Valentine’s Day
4. The Super Bowl
5. Groundhog Day
6. It only happens once a year
7. Pancake Day
8. It’s short
9. It’s short
10. I’ve run out things to say.
I started to hop up and down, waiting for Gap to release a really good springtime line of toddler girl clothes, on January 1. Finally they complied. I love this line, with its perfect little-girl colors and sweet florals. On top you see a floral denim jacket and three solid-colored pairs of jeans. A floral belt (for my skinny-mini, so her pants don’t fall down) was supposed to ship with these but didn’t make it into the package. Soon, they promise.
At the bottom you see seven pieces of fabric with which I intend to make sweet flowing tops. I have two different patterns in mind, one a ruffly confection and one with a yoke and a couple different sleeve options. I’m going to have to learn to make buttonholes *eeeeeeek*
If my Samsonite is Mimi’s friendly droid pal, then this is our temperamental Italian droid.
The coffee is wonderful. Every day I have at least one latte and Sparks has at least two. I experimented with Moka pots and French press before I met Sparks, and believe me, this beats them all hollow. His first one lasted six years. This one, we hope, will last as long and compared to the cost of Fourbucks lattes, it has already paid for itself many times over.
It is temperamental though. Water full? Coffee full? Grinds compartment empty? Pump primed? Did you replace everything just right?
Luigi and I are just coming to terms now, about two years into his life with us. Usually I can make him work without calling Sparks. Usually.