March 30, 2016

Easter 2016.

It has become a spring tradition – Provincetown with Stephen and John and a bevy of favorite friends/family.

Colette was talking about it for weeks in advance: “Are we going to Provincetown today?” “Is it today?” until finally it was the day. We loaded into the car and, apart from some attempted whistling (round ‘o’ mouth and little wisps of air – her newest obsessive pursuit), she didn’t make a peep for 5 (!) hours. Muted by her anticipation of Cape Cod fun.

Little Romy, sitting next to her was not herself. She couldn’t get comfortable – was squirming and whimpering. She was hot and looked exhausted, but couldn’t fall asleep. Poor baby – by the time we arrived and attempted to get through one night with her, Xavier announced that he was taking her home. I agreed – he was right. Those two got on a tiny plane and flew back to Boston to take the train to NYC. We were worried about Romy, but also about little baby Lars (~2 months) possibly getting sick, who was part of the crew that weekend. It turned out Romy had pneumonia and she and Xavier spent a weekend bonding. So hard to see a little girl like that – not talking, still with sickness.

Colette and I stayed on and enjoyed the Easter festivities, which included egg dying (naturally), lots of luscious food, a walk in the Beech Forrest, a papier-mâché rabbit - named “Needy” by Colette, story-telling and song-singing, baby holding, yahtzee, beach rock hunting, fire gazing and soaking in a really beautiful place.

Lars is the dreamiest baby. Watchful and content.

Madame Colette and her 'doudous' (tucked in like scarves into her jacket) heading back from a beach hop.

A cardinal signaling the color to come. These birds have a special spot in my heart - they were my grandma's favorite.

Baby love.

Two fine looks.

I did a bit of egg research this year and fell upon a Ukrainian easter egg method using hot beeswax and a stylus tool called a "kystka." The dyes that came with the kit were vivid - including gorgeous onyx shade. The dyes took very quickly.

Colette whistling away.

Masks are a recurring theme here. Colette looking betwitching.

Fires and the beach.

March 15, 2016

Alpha girls.

Oh my. My little girls. Xavier is away for a trip and his absence always means special saturated time with the girls. I love it. Ignited by their vim. I think about my life before I had these ladies and then I think of the delirious pace of things now - and then I think about my addiction to them. Almost mania. It has to be that way or it wouldn't balance out. It can be so hard.

For example, tonight Colette lost it.

Background: as you probably know, Colette is an intense soul. I mean, consuming, in all senses. She regularly spends time explaining how our family would still be better if Romy weren't part of it. We thought that line of reasoning would get old. Not yet.

Tonight: Xavier called for a quick chat from Europe. Time difference makes it hard to do later, so I took some time while downstairs in the kitchen after dinner with the girls. Colette was working on an art project at that point and really wanted to show me every iteration of her work. I told her that I wanted to talk for 3 minutes and then I would focus on what she was doing. Her face turned fiery and she sat fuming with her arms crossed. The rest of the night was shot. Screaming incessantly during the bath. After 15-20 minutes, I raised my voice to tell her to stop. It never works. Her screaming just surges and crescendos to a point where she is totally out of control. So I backed down. We've come up with a special signal to communicate the level is too high. Two hands up, stop. She knows what it means. When it gets this intense, the only way I can effectively use the signal is to put up my hands, but make no eye contact whatsoever. I feel myself doing it, furtively glancing at her from only the corner of my eye to gauge any progress, but afraid of the consequence if she sees me. Seriously dealing with an alpha animal.

And then the same little Colette can be years older than almost 4. We had a date on Sunday - a birthday party and a hot chocolate together at a little cafe - just the two of us. We sat and giggled outside, sipping our drinks, making a little acorn she found "talk" - telling elaborate tales of his life being licked by squirrels and where around NYC he would like to be transported, the tree he might become. After she finished her mini drink, she sat straining to raise just one eyebrow (like her papa when he tells stories) and then laughed with her belly and eyes at all my jokes. Dazzling light from her.

Despite being wished away by her older sister, Romy is honey butter. Sweet and creamy. Colette will smack her and Romy will cry a bit and then walk up to Colette with a candied voice and say, "Sorry Colette." Thankfully, her cheeky side is sprouting. She likes to tease Colette - especially when Colette is feeling petulant - poking her in the side and running away giggling; deliberately drawing on top of beloved, fresh artwork on the big chalkboard; sitting a little too close in the bath and scooting even closer when told to 'get away.' All with naughty eyes and a big grin.

She is well-known at our local Harlem park: 'Elephant Park.' Our fabulous Claire spends as much time as possible outside every day with the girls and Romy has picked up some great habits out there. She raises up one leg high in the air, while scooting rapidly on her little razor. Many parents have remarked, "she really shouldn't be doing that." Also on the swings - the big kid swings - commanding, "higher, higher." Underdogs. Daring Danda.

Like most other things, sleep is straightforward with Miss Romy. Even nights where she doesn't want to sleep immediately, she will lie in her bed for 30 minutes singing ABC, Baby Beluga, Frère Jacques - full auto-applause and "Bravo, Romy" to herself following each song. Again and again. No lost enthusiasm between the rounds.

One of the cutest Romy sayings at the moment is "Ras le bol" (sounds like 'rall bull'). In a French children's song (Une Souris Verte) there is a verse with the lyrics 'j'en ai ras le bol' (the phrase means I'm fed up). Romy loves the ring of it and repeats it around the house - which is a very funny thing for 2-year old to be parroting from French. She says it with her nose scrunched up and a lot of guttural emphasis on the 'r' - mimicking the recording we have. "Ras le bol"! Fed up!

March 1, 2016

Ilsa Holbox (again).

Romy getting comfortable on the voyage.

After my solo trip last year to Holbox Island in Mexico, I decided I wanted to take the girls and Xavier - such a remarkable, untouched place. We planned the trip for when Marguerite would be with us in New York. If I could do it again, we would have stayed longer. Travel takes almost a full day on both ends (flight to Cancun, 2.5-hour drive northwest through the Yucatán Peninsula and then a boat ride to the island). Thankfully, Marguerite, Colette and Romy were cooperative and in good spirits through the trek - entertaining each other. Colette played the role of pilot in one of the games they were playing at the airport: “Does everyone have her ipad and her doudou ready for takeoff?” Romy and Marguerite nodded seriously in response.

ipad check, doudou check

The drive through the peninsula is a path through a Mayan lowland tropical forest – very little evidence of community life or civilization. It feels strange landing in Cancun and then driving for over 2 hours and seeing only trees and an occasional tiny settlement. By the time we got to the ferry it was late and dark. The little girls had slept on the way and were revitalized for the passage across the water. Despite being worried about the steep drop from the top of the passenger deck and the lack of barriers, we swaddled the girls close and sat out on the on the bench under the exposed sky. The passage between the island and the peninsula was mystic – eerily calm. We were soothed by the silver lambency of the moon as the boat carried us and the idyllic silhouettes cast of each of the girls. The water was calm, the stars above us resolute.

We pulled into the small dock of Holbox, past the flooded forests that lead up the island – trees submerged in water without any discernible land platform. We were all a bit under the spell of the place, but it was 8:30pm and I was worried about finding our house. It wasn’t a hotel – just an Airbnb and the directions were abstruse even for the local ‘taxi’ driver. He squinted reading the instructions. There are no cars on Holbox (except Police trucks) and everyone gets around by bike, horse or golf cart. We set off jouncing along the sandy streets (no pavement) – the girls were delighted by the open air transportation. The taxi golf cart drove through the central village and then out to the cost line to follow the beachfront path away from town. It was very dark – the moon alone spread light around us. We stopped at one location and our taxi driver shook his head and continued on. We asked some local residents passing by on a scooter, showing the picture of the gate and the house from my phone. No one knew. I had a sinking feeling when the lady we were renting from wasn’t answering her phone. Finally, someone with a flashlight was waving our vehicle down and we were all relieved to find the caretakers there to welcome us to the house.

The house was great – built up and up toward the sky, like a great tree house. The first floor was the equivalent of being on the 3rd story of a traditional house. Terraces off every room. Wide windows facing the ocean. And climbing another two stories of steps, the rooftop terrace. Remarkable perspective. And right there – the beach. We woke up and all flooded out onto the beach, which was clearly ours. The northern side of the island is unique because the ocean water remains very shallow for a long walk out. Perfect for three little girls. Like a grand wading pool. Turquoise, clear, white sand. Romy fearless, Colette breathless but hesitating, Marguerite joyful.

The dizzying perspective looking down from the rooftop terrace.

The three girls spent the time splashing, digging for crabs, shells, fish; doing gymnastic and yoga routines on the beach; chasing each other into the sunrise and set; impatiently abiding sunscreen smears (the sun was so intense, I mandated reapplication every 30 minutes); watching pelican after pelican dive for fish; swinging along the beachside restaurants and bars (none of which were ever crowded – sometimes we were the only patrons); mermaiding in the sand; taking golf cart driving lessons and holding on for dear-life when Xavier was chauffeur; lounging on the roof; licking ice cream cones; insulting mosquitos (couldn’t be perfect).

Little Romy was a roving lady from the minute we set foot on the island. The first morning on the beach, I was applying sunscreen on Xavier, focused on the task. We looked at each other after a couple of minutes, “where is Romy?” Searched everywhere around and ended up finding her walking down the shore, a bit far off – heedless of us or the distance, wrapped up in her journey.

We visited various beaches around the island during our stay and at each one, she would find the right opportunity to take off – particularly if she spotted kids anywhere. At some point, she joined a gaggle of local kids who were chasing schools of fish in the shallow water. She was part of the gang. When I called her name, she tried to hide behind one of the bigger kids since she knew I would herd her back toward our station.

Even while sleeping she wandered. We didn’t bring a portable crib, so we put a mattress on the floor and called it hers. Numerous times in the night she would call out and we would go in to find her confused by her surroundings, in the curtains, on the floor next to the night table, halfway under the bureau in the room. On the move.

The light in general bouncing around Isla Holbox - dazzling, but particularly at the beginning and ending of the day. Pastel - or black and white anodized.

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