Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving: The Girls

[As you will be able to tell, I began this entry on Thanksgiving Day.]

Happy Thanksgiving dear Family and Friends!

We managed to not celebrate Thanksgiving in any formal way this year, despite both sets of grand parents being within an hours travel from us. My parents-in-law are visiting France right now, but took the day to explore Paris as a duo. My own parents opted to stay in Fountainebleu while my Dad recuperates from a collar bone injury. I didn't even have a meal planned for tonight. Here's what we ended up eating:

Noodles fried with egg and onion, with red cabbage (+ bacon!) as a side. We eat noodles fried with eggs at least once a week--I am not up and running with meal plans yet, and noodles with eggs is our standby when there's no meat in the fridge. Speaking of gratitude, I'm awfully grateful for red cabbage. It tastes wonderful cooked with a little vinegar, mustard, and sugar. It's such a mysterious indigo blue when you buy it, and when you slice it, the the cross sections is so complex and yet ordered that it calls to mind medieval ornament. Then the cabbage turns a deep crimson once you add the vinegar. Beautiful at every stage...and it keeps well.

After that rambling, I'll come to the point. We have so much to be grateful for this year, and high on the list are the two small creatures who share our apartment. I find it a little difficult to write about the girls. After all, it's so much easier to concentrate on trifling things like red cabbage, and to write about Maria and Louisa is to acknowledge their fleeting youth.

Maria's personality is coming into to deeper relief as she grows stronger and more independent. She still loves books with a passion. I was going to write that she currently lives and breathes Babar--but recently Babar has a challenger in the form Winne-the-Pooh (thanks to a box set brought by Meme and Grandpa) . Maria talks about her books before she goes to sleep at night, and goes back to them as soon as she has her milk bottle in the morning. She particularly loves drawing associations between books and what she hears talked of around her. If you begin taking about ghosts, she will run and fetch the Babar book that has a ghost in it. If you read her a book about an owl, she will often want to follow it up with a different book about an owl. Her excitement at finding these connections is profound.

She also surprises us with her creative perception. Back in October, she noticed a white spot on the back of her tooth brush and pointed out that it was a ghost. Just today, she noticed a wet mark on my shirt, and pointed out that the mark looked like a "doggie" and that a nearby mark was a "bone."

Her independence is growing. Certain things she must do "by self, by self." For instance, she simply must climb into her booster seat by herself---woe be to the person who has the effrontery to lift her into the seat. She must also put her bib on "by self." While she does need help dressing, undressing is a "by self" activity, as is the donning of certain garments---her hat, scarf, and vest.

A big development in Maria's life is that she's begun going to the "Haltegarderie." The Haltegarderie is a preschool that looks after kids who have a parent at home. It's different from a regular preschool in that you can enroll your child for a maximum of two whole days or four half days. Maria will be going to the Haltegarderie every Tuesday, from 10am-4pm. (Our preference would have been to put her in for two half days, but they didn't have two days available, and given that it's a 25 minute walk in one direction, I'd only get an hour at home before I'd need to start walking to pick her up.) We've been going in for longer and longer stints, working up to a full day. Maria's last day was less than exemplary because she didn't want to take a nap and screamed when they suggested it...sleep is such a complicated matter (sigh). It may be that Maria just doesn't get a nap on Tuesdays.

Does Maria like the Haltegardeie? Good question. When I bring her in, she runs into the meelee of children and toys without so much as a backwards glance. I take this to be sign that she likes it. ( She also says "yes" when we ask if she likes it, but she says yes to all questions to which she doesn't know the answer.) When I pick her up, she's always a little dazed. Usually, she is so completely absorbed in playing that she doesn't notice me until I get right up next to her. Then she hugs me, and heads straight for the door. I remind her to say "aurevoir" to her little friends and to Ms. Isabelle, the toddler supervisor. She mumbles "aurevoir" while looking about vacantly. It's as though the room with its sturdy German playthings is already fading like a dream and has lost its significance. Mami is here to bring her back to waking life. When we ask what she did during her time at the Haltegarderie, we don't get much of an answer. When we ask yes or no questions, the answer is always "yes." I believe her vagueness is a result of the language difference. She still hasn't reconciled the Francophone world of the Haltegarderie with her Anglophone home. And the noisy abundance of the Haltegarderie, where there are playmats and play food, and most importantly, playmates, is such a different world from life at home with Mami and Baby Lulu.

How about that Baby Lulu? Well she's definitely a baby now, not a newborn. She's able to hold up her head for a while, and is very interactive (no more staring at the top of your head instead of making eye contact.) She's smiley, which is a wonderful thing for a parent-- those lovely, open-mouth grins and gurgley croons more than make up for the loss of sleep (she doesn't have a bedtime, btw.)

Louisa brightens when Maria comes near. Maria, for her part, loves Louisa and will sweetly hold her hand, and tell her to "calm down" when she cries. She will also sometimes "pat pat" Louisa in a way that is none too gentle, and Louisa is usually a very good sport.

Something else that I very much want to remember about this stage is that Louisa likes my singing. This is probably because she heard me singing to Maria while she was still in the womb. In fact, she's especially responsive to the two lullabies that I regularly sang to Maria during pregnancy. This is so different! For Maria, my singing was something of an acquired taste. I remember singing lullabies to her during the early weeks and thinking that lullabies do more to comfort tired mommas than to soothe children.

Now, I must mention sleep--it's always a complicated issue for us. I had hoped that it wouldn't be so complicated with Louisa, but perhaps its just in the genes. Louisa mostly sleeps in bed with us. We are grateful when we can get her to sleep a couple hours in the pack-and-play--our bed is pretty small. Louisa is very good at helicoptering--that is, hovering between sleep and wake, and opening her eyes as soon as she is laid down. She can helicopter for hours and often does, between 8pm and 11:30pm. So, she pretty much goes to bed when we do. When we try to go to bed earlier, she still stays up till 11:30. We're at the stage where the sleep book says "watch for an earlier bedtime to develop." Well, we're watching...

And now to make it stumbling back to the beginning: gratitude. Thank you, Lord, for these little people!

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