Monday, October 03, 2011

Lila News: 21 Months

Dear Lila,

I started writing this post in March, and - can you believe it? - I got sidetracked and put it aside.  This is what I wrote:
You gave me a kiss for the first time last week (you had already smooched daddy and River a few days before and I was waiting anxiously for my turn).  It was a slobbery open-mouthed face mash and just about the sweetest thing ever.  It was evening, you were warm and cozy in your pajamas after bath time and your dad said, "Okay, Lila, it's time for bed.  Give mommy and River a kiss."  You hit us with your mushy love, waved and said "bye bye,"  and then led the way to your bedroom.  Amazing.  I think about the fact that you only just learned to walk a few short months ago, that it's even less time since you stopped putting EVERYTHING into your mouth, and I realize how quickly you've gone from baby to toddler.
My heart breaks a little bit to think of those baby days as "past."  To know that you won't ever again be a little 8 lb beauty practically floating in my arms; that I can't repeat those precious moments watching you discover your own hands; that I'll never again kiss those impossibly tiny toes.  Of course it's not a tragedy because I get to hold my 20 lb big girl as you chatter at me, and I can watch you discover how to hold a spoon or fork, and I can kiss those impossibly cute cheeks (and toes) anytime I want.

I wanted to share this with you because it's such a sweet little kernel of "Lila-life" and I don't want to forget it.  You have become quite an adept - and frequent - kisser, and every exit and goodbye is accompanied by a sweet smooch from you.  But should I try to request a kiss outside those parameters? Don't even think of it, buddy.  I used to worry that you would never be a cuddly kid.  You're so independent; you have never needed rocking and holding the way River did.  You have always pushed away too much affection and demanded your personal space.  But slowly, right about the time you finally deigned to let us have your sweet kisses, you started to allow a snuggle here, a hug there, until now, you will frequently occupy my lap for a long cuddle.  The key is that YOU must initiate.  If River or I go in for a hug (as we so often want to do), you will resolutely reject all advances.  This affection thing will occur on your terms or not at all.  It's something I love about you.

Your ability to fend off unwanted advances extends beyond people.  I remember a moment from last spring when we were at River's school to pick him up and one of the other parents had brought along their hyper, jumpy little puppy.  She was bouncing around from kid to kid and when she approached you for a quick nuzzle, you looked sternly at her and gave her a little "no, no, no" wag of your finger.  Every adult around dropped their jaw, then burst out laughing.  "Oh my," said one of them, "you don't have to worry about her at all."  We'll see.

While you don't want affection thrust upon you, you don't have the slightest compunction about thrusting your affection on animals.  Our long-suffering kitties have born the brunt of your rough love, enduring full-body tackles, sticky finger petting, and the occasional fur-pull.  Poe is smart enough to move away when she's had enough of your "love," but Edgar is too lazy to move; or perhaps so needy for affection that he is willing to put up with all sorts of indignities to get it.

You love all kinds of animals!  You gravitate toward animal picture books and whenever we're outside you're sure to point out the birds and squirrels and bugs that you see.  For a while you used the "bird" sign to point out small creatures, making a little "cheep cheep" sound as you pressed your thumb and index finger together.  Ducks made the "quack quack" sound, which you imitated quite well, but all other animals were ferocious beasts who made a deep-throated growl.  Elephant?  Growl.  Tiger? Growl.  Alpaca?  Growl.  After learning a series of real and made-up signs, you now know how to distinguish a monkey from a fish from a dinosaur.  For all the other myriad creatures you don't know the name for, we now sign "animal."  I miss the growl a little bit.

You are a little expert at sign language.  I know we could be having full conversations in sign by now if I could learn it more quickly, because you pick up a sign within the first few uses.  It's helped us tremendously in communicating with you.  You let us know when you're hungry or thirsty, when you need to potty or sleep; you point out things you see like flowers and helicopters (for which you've created your own sign of "air train"!).  And while you're moving at your own pace in speaking, you are definitely not missing out on sharing your ideas with us.  Sign came in handy a few months ago when you insisted on calling any grown-up mommy, even your father.  I taught you the sign for daddy and instantly you were able to say the word.  Now grown-ups are divided by gender into "mommy" and "daddy" - which is pretty amusing when you attack a stranger with a hug and an exuberant "Daddy!"

I mentioned your use of the sign for "potty" above and I don't want to skip over the fact that at 21 months you have effectively potty trained yourself.  River loves to hear the story I tell about how this came about, so here it is: You followed me into the bathroom one afternoon having nothing on but a diaper.  We had taught you the "potty" sign in anticipation of using it down the road, and you signed it to me then.  I said, "Yes, mommy is going to go potty."  You kept signing and started pulling your diaper off.  Finally it clicked and I asked if you wanted to try to go potty.  You gave a resounding head nod, so I pulled out River's old training seat and set you up.  I figured you'd be there for a few minutes and get off.  When I asked if you were done you shook your head no, so we waited a bit more.  Finally, I heard a little tinkle tinkle in the pot and I couldn't believe my ears.  We decided to seize the opportunity and get you into panties for a training weekend.  It went so well that you're now in them all the time (except sleeping), and we have lots of days with no accidents at all.  I'm so proud of you.

There is still one area where your independence waivers a bit, and that is blankie.  River has his stuffed bear as a sleeping companion but for you, it's always been the little punk rock quilt I made for you.  You've never taken a pacifier to sleep, and as I mentioned above, you're not really a cuddler, so most nights your bedtime routine is a few books and songs in a chair, then we lay you down with blankie, you pop your thumb in your mouth and fall asleep.  But blankie is such a comfort item for you, you've started carrying it around whenever we let you.  And when you have it in your hand, you almost always want to lay down on it with your thumb in your mouth. It's the cutest Pavlovian response I've ever seen.  It's really the only time you suck your thumb - but you simply can't resist when you have the pink and black blankie in your arms.

Lila, you are growing into such a fun and amazing person.  I've loved watching you transition from teeny baby to independent toddler.  You love to follow River around and try to do everything he does.  As a result you're quite a good climber and have surprising dexterity.  You love music and will dance to the beat anytime you hear it.  You are funny and happy and so easy-going.  And while the two's are on the horizon, and I know they won't pass us by unscathed, you have already shown us your basic approach to the world: enjoy life, laugh a lot, and don't let the little things stress you out.

I love you my baby girl.  To the moon and back.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

High-flying adventure

In spite of keeping pretty close to home this summer, we've had some great adventures in and around Boston.  This Friday we took a little drive to Kimball Farm in Westford with a few friends from Cambridge.  Three moms, six kids, and a crazy amount of fun!

First on the agenda was a hot air balloon ride!  I've never been up in a balloon and this was quite an experience.  As the kids and I drove up to the parking lot, our friends were already there and waiting in line.  The plan was for Hilary and myself to take the 4-year-olds up in the balloon while Sarah stayed down with the three toddlers.  I didn't have much time to prepare River or myself for the experience, which was for the best since it didn't give me a chance to get nervous. 

 River hopped into the doughnut-shaped bucket willingly, we got all the kids hooked onto their safety lines; then, before we knew it, the tether was loosening and we were floating up into the sky.  My stomach dropped out from under me and I looked over to River, who showed no signs of stress.  Personally, I felt much better knowing we were tied to the ground and wouldn't be going higher than 300 feet.

The other kids did amazingly, and also showed no signs of fear.

 We got some video of the adventure.  I was terrified I was going to drop my phone, so it's pretty short and sweet.

 And here's our shadow as we were pulled down.

Next, we wandered through the farm to see what was available and discovered a fantastic mini golf course.  I was drawn to the bumper boats, but the logistics just seemed too difficult to work out.  Instead we got three balls and clubs for the big kids, extra balls for the toddlers and we set them loose.

 What followed was pretty unrestrained chaos.  Everyone was on the green at the same time.  The little ones kept stealing the big kids' balls; which didn't actually matter that much as the game they were playing could be considered "golf" in only the loosest of terms.

Basically we'd let them knock their balls around the course until a group came up behind us, then we'd move on.

 Here's a typical moment from our game.

 It was by far the best mini golf course I've ever been on.  There was a little river running next to the course, with bridges, waterfalls, and little gullies.   The course went up and down hill and in and out of caves.  The kids were never bored, and we wore them out plenty.

 A brief moment of calm with River and his friends.

 Lila already had a sense for how to hold the club and was desperately trying to play along.  (After a short t-ball session yesterday, I can say with near certainty that she is going to be the jock of the family.)

 We made it about 2/3 of the way through the whole course before hunger and fatigue took over.  We ate at the little outdoor grill nearby while the kids watched the chickens, goats, and ponies play.  Of course, some special treats were involved, and River picked out some candy buttons that were a big hit with the whole gang.
Tired, happy kids, at the end of the day.

We had such a great time.  I'm so glad to have made friendships like these in our time in Cambridge.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A day in the sun

One of the really lovely things about where we live is our proximity to the ocean.  We haven't spent much time on the water this summer, so we were thrilled to have an invite from River's pre-school teacher to visit her and her husband at their cottage on the cape last Sunday.  Thom was out of town on a ridiculously short trip to Europe, so it was just the kids and I (and I could imagine nothing better than to spend the day with a pre-school teacher while doing the solo parenting thing!).

Toni and Derek's house is right on the water, and when we weren't under the shade of the porch snacking and chatting, we were down on their tiny beach enjoying the sand and gentle surf.

 Derek has a couple small boats - one that is designed for teaching kids to sail.  River went out with him solo before some other guests arrived (another family that goes to River's school), and he just loved being on the water. 

 Given River's history with boats, I wasn't sure he would last long (he's always been slightly afraid of the water).  Whether it was Derek's reassuring demeanor or the boost of confidence from wearing a life vest, River was happy and secure the whole time.

 After the little sailing expedition, we all took a walk up the beach to a little inland river created by the tides.  River and Derek walked quite a ways, exploring the creatures in the shallow water.

 Lila loved chasing the swarms of crabs which made their home on the beach.  I wish I had gotten a picture of them all together - there were so many it looked like the sandy beach was rippling.  By the time Lila got close, of course, they had scattered.

 She did manage to chase one around for a while before he too escaped the reaches of the terrifying toddler.

* Edit: That's funny.  I just reread the text here.  It's supposed to say "Her Cuteness MUST Be Stopped" but I'm too lazy to change it.

In spite of being forced to skip her nap entirely, she was adorable and happy (with only a few momentary lapses) the whole afternoon.  She loved the sand and rocks, but steered pretty clear of the water.  She was especially disturbed by the squishy feel of the seaweed on her toes.

 After a fantastic lunch, we headed back out to the beach.  Before it was their turn to go out on the boat, River and his friends waited excitedly for the guys to set up a little skiff for Daniel (the boys' father) to take out on the water.

I think River has new best bud - he was pretty much attached to Derek the whole day.

 Derek got Daniel out on the water while River bravely trudged back to the shore.  Once the second boat was ready, River and his friends went out with Derek to a little island across the way.  Apparently, River swam for a long time (his bravery boosted by that life vest).

Back on shore, the rest of us enjoyed some more time in the sun and sand.  Our pale skin was all pink by the time we left around 5pm, and Lila sacked out on the car ride home.  What a memorable, fantastic day!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Estes Park

On our last full day in Colorado we visited the town of Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park with my parents, grandparents, my brother and niece.  Estes Park is a charming little town with a creek running right behind the shops on their main street.  We enjoyed a little window shopping and lunch before trekking out to the nearby National Park.

 The whole gang (from the left): Gordon, Frankey, Nelse, Sydney, Terry, Me, River, Janie, Lila, Thom

 I was so glad my grandparents could fly out from Nebraska to come visit us.  It had a been a while since we last saw them and they had never met Lila.  We had a great time re-hashing old stories and playing 3 to 13 late into the evening while they were there.

 Lila loved the little creek and was intent on sharing her sign for "water."  After lunch we separated in to two groups.  The altitude of the hikes in the National Park was going to be a bit much for Grams and Gramps, so they took a tour of the town with Dad while the rest of us tried to figure out the park shuttle system.

The information site in Estes Park was ill-equipped to handle our questions; after asking for the best shuttle to take for an easy hike for our little ones, the ladies at the desk suggested we "just drive up there" or "just skip the national park and head to the playground up the street."

Needless to say we worked it out on our own.

 Lila was thrilled, THRILLED to be in the forest.

 As requested, River found giant boulders to climb...

 ... and treacherous waters to navigate.

 We saw a beautiful bull elk munching leaves just off the trail.

 After a long hike we made it to the top of Alberta Falls.  It was a gorgeous view next to a precipitous fall.

 After a wonderful day we headed back to home base and ate Chinese food while screening Independence Day.  All around, pretty perfect.

The next day we had to say our goodbyes and head home.

 River and Lila were troupers on the flight.  Lila even took a nap!

Here she is on the floor of our plane, curled up in her standard sleeping pose: thumb in mouth, favorite blankie gripped tight.

It was a wonderful vacation and one we'll remember for a long time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


We traveled to Colorado earlier this month to attend the wedding of my cousin, Sara, and her beau, Jordan.  The weather had been beautiful all week, but of course, as it was time to leave for the wedding site (on the beautiful grounds of a local home) the skies darkened ominously.  An hour before the ceremony was to start, it started to sprinkle and the wind whipped around so fiercely tablecloths flew off their stands and my hair decorated my face like Chewbacca.  I was certain we'd have a late ceremony or a drenched bride.

Then somehow the clouds cleared and the next thing I knew there stood the groom next to a beautiful, wind-free canopy, and soon after the bride walked toward her man under a clear blue sky.  Magic.

 We got seated pretty early, to make room for our large crowd.
 Lila entertained her great-grandparents, Frankey and Gordon...

 ... and auditioned for the part of the flower girl.

 Uncle Nelse (and the iphone) helped keep River busy.

 Jordan looked calm and handsome as he waited for his bride.

 Sara was just gorgeous, of course, and so happy.  The ceremony was lovely and unique, written entirely by the couple and presided over by their close friend.

After kisses and congratulations were passed around, Lila spent most of the evening doing this:

I had a fantastic time at the reception.  The food and company was fantastic.  After the kids were fed, we hit the dance floor with the kids and didn't leave until well after their usual bedtime.  There is something about dancing with kids that is just so liberating.  You don't really care what you look like out there because everyone is just having so much fun.

It was a wonderful, memorable event.  Thanks so much, Sara and Jordan, for sharing it with us!

Friday, July 15, 2011


We traveled to Boulder, Colorado over the 4th of July weekend to visit family and attend my cousin's wedding.  With 14 of us crammed together in one house it could have been a complete disaster, but the rental house was spacious, the company fantastic, and the bathrooms plentiful, so we did just fine.

We got a ton of use out of the backyard which featured a beautiful deck, lots of grass for the kids and dogs to run around, and a hot tub (!!) for the little ones to enjoy during the warm afternoons.  The first evening we were there, we hosted the groom's family at a BBQ for nearly 60 people.  Above are Thom, myself, and my brother, Nelse.

 Lila is in a super daddy phase right now.  She pretty much wanted to spend every waking minute with him during this trip.  It was pretty cute - and made more hilarious by the fact that she insisted on calling him "mommy."

 River had so much fun with his cousins, Sydney and Chloe.  He followed the older girls around for hours and hours, and they never seemed to tire of him.  It was the first time I was able to really just let go of keeping track of him every second.  I knew he was occupied and safe while playing with them, and that freed up my attention to catch up with family.

 Dadu, of course, was a big hit with Lila.  She just loves that goofy guy and he adores her.  Lila was particularly clingy with mom and dad this trip (thank goodness River was occupied or we would never have had a hand free), but she did let Dadu keep her company.

 I was really glad to be able to spend some time with my mom.  We prepped meals together, went hiking, and hung out chatting long into the night.  Sydney and I took a special Auntie-Niece trip to the nail salon for a mani-pedi before the wedding.  I was so glad to introduce her to a key girlie ritual.

 The first hike we did together was a short trek up the Ironside Mountains in Boulder.  It was a brutally hot day and the little kids got wiped out pretty quickly.  A couple of us hung back with Lila and River while the group went on.

 While we were waiting River worked on a fairy house (that little bundle of sticks and leaves at the base of the tree).  It's something he's been introduced to at school, and now whenever we're in a woodsy place, he likes to construct a home for the wee folk.

That was the first part of our adventure.  I'll be back with more on the wedding and a trip to Estes Park soon!