Sunday, September 30, 2012

apple baking (of course)

While Liesl attempted to nap off her cold (and infected eye), Sebastian and I attempted to use up some of our orchard apples. As you'll see below, we barely made a dent in the basket, but we tried hard - we made an oatmeal apple almond crisp, and whole wheat apple muffins. Success all around.

There were spots of frustration today - extreme frustration - but there was also some terrific cooperative play. They chased and tickled each other, they kicked soccer balls and chased them side by side, they played hide and seek around the apartment, we made a fort behind the couch that they hid out in, they decorated pumpkins, they ran up and down the hill at Lyndhurst after each other, and they crawled into bed together at 7:40 and passed out.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

apple picking

Steve is away on an extended business trip - eight days, from Wednesday to Thursday. It's the longest we've been apart since before we had children, and the longest either of us has been away from the family. We miss him. Liesl keeps running into the apartment and saying, "Daddy?" And Seb keeps asking how many more days he'll be gone.

But we spent today out and about, regardless. I went to frisbee this morning and managed to play while Seb and Liesl entertained each other on the playground and in the sandbox. I bribed them with promises of fresh bagels and butter if they'd just let me play until the end, and that worked remarkably well.  And there are some older kids (9 year olds) who also come with their parents and can be trusted to keep an eye on small fry.

We came home and got packed up, and then headed north to our favorite orchard, Wilkens Farm. We rode the tractor wagon to the orchard, picked lots and lots of apples, taste-tested five or six, climbed up various hills (of wood chips and hay bales), and ate cider donuts. Many of Liesl's old friends from Happy Harbor had decided to meet up for a reunion apple picking excursion, and it was fun to see them all again.

Pictures from the apple orchard below and in our September album.

After lunch and long naps (we hit the trifecta from 1-2:30! woo-hoo!), we biked over to Dobbs Ferry for the annual Festa. The kids raced twice through a ladder/slide/tunnel contraption, got two turns inside a bouncy castle, and slid down a giant slide together three times.  There was live (loud) music and we got some roast pork and corn from one of the vendors. And some cupcake pops, which Liesl adored. We then hopped onto the train to come back home, in time for baths, stories, and sleep.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Painted face

We went to a birthday party on Saturday for Seb's friend Liam. The kids ran foot races, hit a piƱata filled with candy*, played on the jungle gym, ate jello and cake, and painted each other's faces. Penelope managed to decorate both of our children.

*On Sunday morning, I came out of our room at 6:30 and asked Steve where the kids were. "In their room, playing really nicely together" he answered. We were touched. How sweet! They were so good, so quiet, so cooperative.  And then we opened the door and looked in, and lo.... they had been eating all of the candy from Seb's goody bag.  There was an enormous pile of wrappers under the bed. Nothing like sugar and chocolate for breakfast! No wonder they were so good and quiet!  What a disaster.

Monday, September 17, 2012

the terrible toddler twos...

Liesl has been going through her own transitions, some of her own making, and others not. She has definitely left behind the very sweet and malleable stage that we had been enjoying so much, and is showing her stubborn side. We're seeing all the markers of the terrible two's - the desire to do everything on her own, to make her own choices, to communicate her desires and thoughts, accompanied by some truly outstanding temper tantrums.  She screams and cries, she throws herself on the floor, she'll kick and hit you... and then it'll pass, immediately, if she gets her way. Or if you ignore her and leave the room. She totally gets the concept of the faked tantrum and has mastered the fake tears to accompany it.

Of course, it's not all bad. Most of the time she's very affectionate, and will hug and cuddle and kiss us, and she is always very sympathetic when Sebastian is hurt. (Even if he just has a time out in his room, she'll go hang out by the gate to keep him company.) She loves to play with her baby dolls - she lines them up, she puts them to sleep, she reads them stories, she takes them for walks. It's adorable. She loves playdough and coloring with markers. And she especially loves to climb and jump and run.

One of her funniest phrases is "No Baba!" - accompanied by an imperious pointer finger.  Baba is Sebastian, and its how she communicates her displeasure with his actions or his presence. It cracks us up and we have to remember not to laugh and encourage her. She says "Own" a lot, as in, this is my own, and not yours, so go get your own.  Copying her brother, she'll say "cool" and "no way!".  I love the way she says "tumb", for thumb.  She can't really say her own name yet, so we've encouraged her to call herself Elfie, the nickname Steve and I originally intended to give her. She likes it and will now respond to Elfie or Liesl, and say Elfie in reference to herself.

She's trying out the potty, and has managed to pee a few times in the potty seat. Unfortunately, she really really wants to pee standing up like Sebastian, which is funny and cute and kind of sad.  I try to show her that she's too short, and missing the necessary part, but she's really focused on it. Especially when we're outside - she'll drop trou and try to pee on a tree. But I've promised her chocolate, which she adores and calls "choc-choc", if she'll sit and pee in the potty, and that has gotten her attention.

Since Happy Harbor closed its doors in August, we had to find her a new daycare. We started her at one place in Hastings in late August, but had doubts from the beginning. The teachers seemed overwhelmed by just the most basic child care tasks and didn't actively engage with the children very much at all. Liesl's classroom was strangely bereft of toys, and the outdoor play area was tiny and boring. And even though one of her best friends from HH was also at the school, they wouldn't put them into the same classroom, because they're three months apart in age and the school strictly enforces six-month age groupings for the toddlers. Which makes no sense.  Liesl just didn't like it - would repeatedly ask not to go there, and cried every day at drop off.

So... we found a different place - the Elizabeth Mascia Center, in Tarrytown. She started there last Monday and had a terrific first day. Steve stayed for a couple of hours in the morning and then left her for the rest of the day, and she apparently ate a good lunch, had a long nap, and loved playing outdoors on the playground.  I dropped her off Tuesday and Wednesday, again staying for an hour to ease the transition, and she barely made a peep when I left. So we're already feeling better about the situation. My guess is that part of her recent crankiness has to be connected with all of these big changes in her everyday care situation - it makes her tired and anxious. We feel confident that we've settled again for a while, though, and hopefully she'll start being a bit less domineering.  Or not.  :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

outdoors in the Rivertowns

The weather around here has been unbelievably perfect for the last couple of weeks - low humidity, crisp air, sunshine: just the barest hint of fall coming.  I'm sad that we've been so busy with work and school, and unable to enjoy the outdoors every day together. But we get out as often as possible to our playgrounds, trails, and farmer's markets.  Some recent photos:

Traffic jam on the slides at Station Road playground.

 The new riverfront trail between Tarrytown and Irvington, the morning after a rain.

Late Friday afternoon at Matthiessen Park. Liesl stayed home with a fever and so we picked Seb up directly from school. After some much-needed snacks, we dug in the sand and made castles, and raced up ladders and down slides.

Saturday morning at Tarrytown Coffee Labs: coffee for mama, pastries for children.

Early this morning at Rockefeller Park - the children happily engaged in their favorite pastime, picking up rocks and throwing them off bridges to watch the splash.

There were tiny new baby piglets at Stone Barns farm today. Liesl loved them and squatted down close to the fence in order to more closely commune with them. She liked watching the piglets jump around and wrassle with each other and nurse, and watching the mama pigs drink water from a jug.

Apple-cheeked children at the annual Book Fair at Washington Irving's home. We met some authors, bought a bunch of new books, and ate apples while listening to some music - all on a gorgeous late afternoon overlooking the river.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Seb's ambitions

Me: What do you think you want to be when you grow up?
Seb: I want to be a daddy.

Seb: I wonder who I'm going to marry?
Me: I don't know. It's a good question. Who do you think?
Seb: I don't know. Do you think it will be a man or a girl?
Me: Hmm. Well, that's up to you.
Seb: Hmm. I think a man. No, wait, maybe a girl. I don't know.
Me: You've got some time to figure it out.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

kindergarten boy

Sebastian's first week of kindergarten (okay, first 2 1/2 days) were a smashing success. He came home happy every afternoon and was excited each morning to get on the bus and go off. On Thursday, he was second in line at the bus stop and climbed on board without even a backwards look or wave goodbye. On Friday, Steve tried to pick him up early from his afterschool program (the ICC) and was told to go away.  Seb was riding tricycles around the yard with all the other kindergartners and didn't want to leave. On Thursday he came home and told us he'd made a friend at the ICC, and on Friday a friend in his kindergarten class. He didn't know their names, but we were delighted for him nonetheless.  He's come such a long way from the baby and toddler who wept at dropoff every day, and the 3-year old who clung to our legs and didn't want to try anything new. We're amazed at his development and so happy that he seems so confident and self-assured.

So far he loves his new backpack, lunchbox, water bottle, and lunch/snack containers, all of which match and are cars-themed. (He picked them all, obviously.) He loves the school bus and is incredibly excited to ride it twice a day. His only complaint so far is that he doesn't get to ride it home from the ICC. He also loves the ICC, where he gets to play outside with trikes and balls and on the playground, and inside with legos, blocks, trucks, cars, and trains. We too have been incredibly impressed by the organization and enthusiasm of the ICC teachers, who seem happy and actively engaged with the children. Kindergarten itself, with Ms. McNamara, comes in for a lot less disclosure - he liked the field trip to the library, where he got to check out a book by himself, but he hasn't been very talkative about what is actually happening in the classroom. He made a name tag for his cubby, writing his own name and coloring it. He ate graham crackers for snack. The aide is named Mr. A. That's about all I've gotten out of him so far.

Since his kindergarten is nut aware, and the ICC is nut free, I've been thinking about ways to make tasty snacks that conform to the guidelines. We're such a nutty family - almond butter sandwiches for breakfast and lunch, nuts in our breakfast cereals and dinner salads, dried fruit and nuts for snacks, granola bars with nuts, bread with nuts, etc.  It's hard for me to get out of the groove. But I tried out a new recipe today for nut-free granola bars, and they turned out really tasty.  I still thought they'd be even tastier with some peanut butter and pecans added in, but these can go with Seb as a snack to school and afterschool, and that's great. It's nice to have an alternative to fruit and crackers.

Along these same lines - our boy is growing up - we have embarked on our first real chapter book. I suppose we could have tried earlier, but there are so many terrific picture books out there, and short chapter books (the Poppleton series, with 3 chapters in each book, are our favorite), that we simply haven't. But now, spurred by our family fascination with the enormous spider living on the screen outside our dining windows, we are reading E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. We're about halfway through, reading 1-3 chapters a day. The story is scarier than I remembered - there's a lot of talk about death - but he seems really interested in the fate of Wilbur and able to pay attention to the slow development of the story line. It's super fun. I already have the next book in mind - Roald Dahl's The BFG.  I borrowed it from the library and will pre-read it first, but I remember it with glee.

And finally, one last interesting development. Seb learned to say grace during his week with Grandma and Grandpa Raab - a simple rhyming prayer. For a few days after he returned, he didn't mention it, but suddenly on Friday night he told everyone to sit down at dinner so we could say grace together. Steve and I were surprised, but complied. And then he wanted to do it again on Saturday, so we once again complied. This time I made us all hold hands, in the Avery tradition at celebratory meals. I don't know how long this will continue, but it's interesting, and we're certainly willing to go along if he's enjoying it. There's undeniably something sweet about the four of us sitting together, holding hands and looking at each other, and saying thank you for the food and for our life.

We are happy, and Seb is clearly happy, to have returned to days with clear structure and expectations and lots of kid play. He's been much better behaved since Wednesday, and nicer to us and Liesl in particular.

Phew. I have more to write, about Liesl, but this is long enough for now. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


We have been so busy these last few weeks - vacation, then the close of Happy Harbor, scrambling for child care arrangements of various stripes (parents, grandparents, babysitters, gymnastics camp, new daycare), preparing for the fall and school, all coinciding of course with the busiest time of the year for me at work. Phew.

But today was the first day of kindergarten, and Sebastian did terrifically well. He was happy to get on the bus, happy to see his classroom and meet his teacher, and seemed perfectly comfortable, if reserved.  Of course, the day was very short, beginning at 10 and ending by 12 noon, and I got to ride the school bus with him, so it was an easy introduction.  After kindergarten, he rode the bus by himself to his after school program and stayed there for a few hours more.  He was happy when I picked him up and ready to return tomorrow. We are so proud. I thought I might be more teary about it, but instead I was just happy to see him so ready to go off into the next new thing.

Notice Steve outside the window. He raced the school bus from our stop to the school, and easily won. Seb and the other kids and parents were very impressed. :)

This is my favorite. He looks so proud and confident.
Notice the way our boy, the observer, is safely in his own space at the back of the classroom.