Friday, August 20, 2010

The Tail End of Summer

There's a lot of catching up to do, if we are going to keep this blog rolling. . .

So, we packed our boxes, loaded the moving van, and moved across the bridge to the next town over. The girls' bedroom was the last thing to be packed up and the first to be unloaded, so that they could get settled in their new shared bedroom. Remember, Phoebe had still been in our bedroom, sleeping in a big girl bed but only falling asleep with a parent sitting in the room. Miranda had been falling asleep on her own. The first few weeks of two-girls-one-room were painful. Mark and I took turns, toughing it out through two hours each night from lights off until sleep. Phoebe screamed if we left the room, and Miranda would get wound up by our presence. Someone inevitably got a second wind, and then there was nothing to do but be consistent and wait it out. Until 10:00 pm. Every night. It worked. With time we started sitting in the hallway instead of the bedroom, then in the office, and finally, recently, we can tiptoe downstairs after kissing them goodnight. Major victory. (Picture is moving day, playing in our new backyard.)

In June we camped in the Berkshires with a great group of families who have a 30 year history together. The girls were quick to pick up the new vocabulary-- salamander, kayak, tent, costumes, marshmallows. A great perk at camp is the babysitting-- 6 hours a day, with fun attentive college kids on kid-duty. They were remarkably clever at drawing out the kids so their parents could slip away to hike the Appalachian trail for a few hours. At night, the four of us slept on an inflatable double mattress in the tent. Mama & Papa were a little sore by the end of the week, but it was so nice to go back to co-sleeping for just a week, with my not-so-little girls wrapped in my arms (and kicking me in the ribs) all night long. We hiked, we canoed, we turned off the cell phones. Miranda learned to sit on a mediation pillow in half-lotus at the pond's edge and breathe, and Phoebe was brave enough to go kayaking on the lake with a babysitter. Miranda even entered the Physical Feats Talent Show with an impressive Tip & Flip maneuver. (That's putting on a zip-up jacket by laying it on the floor in front of you, putting your arms in, and tossing it over your head so it lands in perfect wearable position-- for anyone not familiar with the stunt.) We came home sun-kissed and relaxed.

In July we did another week on a pond in the woods, this time in Maine at my parents' house. All seven of the kids-- my sister's three and my brother's two, plus ours-- were there. It is just delightful that Miranda and Phoebe are old enough to run laps around the porch under the direction of their big cousins while Mark and I sip gin and tonics. A loon visited us one day, right in the little cove of our beach, while were were all playing in the water. It popped right up in the middle of the chaos, stayed for a moment or two, then dove under the water and swam away. Phoebe started requesting "I want more loon!" One night Miranda asked to help cook dinner, and proudly announced as she dried the lettuce, "If I'm helping to cook dinner, then that means I'm part of the Dinner Team!" One day we went hiking in Acadia, and the girls tolerated-- dare I say enjoyed?-- two hours in the backpacks, cheering "Go, Mama, Go!" on the tough inclines. My mom and dad thought of everything, and did a beautiful job of hosting such a loud and rowdy crowd. We ended the week with homemade blueberry ice cream-- for breakfast. "That's pretty silly," Miranda said.

So where are we now? Well, this week makes 15 months since Phoebe arrived in our life. That means that in a few days she will have lived more time with us than without us. She's a master of 5-word sentences --"I want you change clothes"-- and is working on giving us the daily report at dinner (with details filled in my her big sister, who recently used a 17-word sentence that was so impressive I had to count it). I recently bought a few 20-piece cardboard puzzles for Miranda, and it took Phoebe about a week to figure out how to do them herself. She's been going to a class at the Early Intervention school once a week, and last week for the first time she waved at me and said "Bye, Mom" instead of fussing. I always get full-speed running hug that knocks me over when I pick her up. In the moon bounce, she bounces and cackles with laughter. At the last weigh in, Phoebe weighed 29 lbs 2 oz-- and surpassed her big sister by a whopping 2 oz. When our new au pair arrived to the house, Phoebe welcomed her warmly and sat down to play. No trouble, no resistance. We now have a kid who rolls with punches. Well, except when she's in a Phoebe funk. That happens about once every other day. Wow, that kid can scowl. Her eyebrows furrow and she growls "No" to every suggestion you have until she comes out of it. But if that's the biggest issue we have these days, I think we are doing pretty well.

Miranda, who was good as gold until about two years old-- oh! that's when Phoebe came home-- has become the more challenging of the two girls. She's deep into three years old, with resistance to anything that is not her idea. Bedtime is a tremendously long ordeal, with so many requests and rationalizations. She blessed us with her loudest and most extreme EVER temper tantrum the evening of Sonja's first working day. I recently declared a moratorium on brushing her hair, except once a week when it is wet and soaked with condition; that decision has significantly improved the household peace in the morning. At least she's good for other people-- usually the really difficult moments are with her parents, who will love her through it all.

Oh, yes, the au pair! Sonja, from Germany, arrived a week ago to spent a year with us. She's great-- easy to have around, so willing to help, excited to be starting this year of discovery abroad. The kids are so enthralled that they are tracking her every move-- "Where's Sonja? Is Sonja awake? Is Sonja home yet?" There was one beautiful moment on Sonja's second night when she came into the bedroom during post-bath time rituals and gave the kids each a quiet scalp massage. Phoebe hung her head into her chest and let out the most content little sighs of bliss while Sonja worked on her scalp. At that moment I knew that this is going to work out just fine.

I notice a lot of blogs are quiet for the summer-- everyone is busy eating watermelon on the porch and taking their bikes to the beach, I suppose. I also feel like we've become sort of a stabilized family this summer-- with fewer interesting changes and things to say. And I'm pretty happy about. I could do a little commentary on how I work too much and don't have time for anything other than work, kids, and marriage-- and how I long for books, friendship, and exercise-- but this is the life we have right now, and those three things that I do a lot of are good. Very, very good.