Two years old

We celebrated Alina’s birthday with a blizzard. I.e., with a Nor’easter named Stella who dumped 14 inches of wet, heavy snow on central Massachusetts, prompting Johnson Matthey to make the unprecedented decision to close operations for the day despite the fact that a travel ban was not instated. PAREXEL stayed open, but my internet connection held out until the end of the work day, so I was able to work from home. Alina was happy to be home with family for the day; I enjoyed the extra hour of evening daylight for snow blowing and shoveling; and we all enjoyed the ice cream cake that Alina picked out. Son had recently developed shingles, so I think he appreciated the day off, too. Homebody Peter of course made himself comfortable as well. If it hadn’t been so windy, I would have sent him outside to make a snowman, but it was, technically, a blizzard, so the husband and kiddos stayed cozy inside.

Now we’ve reached the second anniversary of her due date. I just realized a few days ago that Alina’s due date coincided with the date of the fateful nuchal translucency scan where I learned that Peter was a beautiful, healthy fetus but his twin had left us several weeks beforehand. Don’t worry, though; the wistful mixture of joy and sadness from that day has receded for me. I just find it interesting to watch Peter wrap his head around the fact that he had a twin in utero. He often includes his twin in family pictures these days. Baby A is portrayed as a small brother named Columbus who plays in the clouds with our deceased cat. It’s quaint, but I’m glad that Peter has – like his father – an instinctual faith in heaven and afterlife.

Alina is still my little firecracker, but her language has really exploded since the fall. She speaks in full sentences and in typical 2-year-old fashion, does not hold back her feelings. “I don’t know what to do!” “I’m so hungry!” “That’s MY pig!” “I watch hippopotamus!” “Alina ride bicycle!” “I go see dragon!” “I sit on couch, drink Mama’s milk!” It doesn’t really stop until she passes out for her afternoon nap or until she agrees that we have read enough bedtime stories and can turn out the light. (She now demands to be allowed to do this herself since she recently figured out how to turn the lamp switch.) Honestly, though, I love it. Two really is an amazing age, a time when speech allows you to better understand your child’s preferences and strengths and weaknesses and personality. A time when they can throw a tantrum or say something tactless and no one will think worse of you as a parent. My main regret is that Alina thinks that she is now big enough to choose which seat she sits in during car rides. She may choose her brother’s seat, the front passenger seat, the rear seat without a car seat, or the driver’s seat; she usually only agrees to her own seat without a fight if you distract her with candy. This isn’t a problem for short trips, but as the weather gets warmer, we’re going to want to go on some summer excursions. Hopefully, they won’t be too painful. I suppose this really isn’t anything new, though; Alina started driving me crazy on car rides when driving to and from work with her at 4 months old.

Alina’s first trip to Vietnam was a success, all things considered. The extended Vietnamese family and friends and hotel staff and random people in the park all thought that she was adorable with her pigtails and mini áo dài and dimpled grin and insistence on wearing the most fashionable flip flops and demands that she be allowed to draw on Peter’s homework. Peter was a good sport throughout the trip, though it did take a lot of effort to get his homework completed, and we had an age-appropriate amount of whining when we had to leave an amusement center or turn off the smart phone. I did my best to be patient as well, but this trip was mostly about visiting (non-English-speaking) people, so I did tire of the social isolation by the end of two weeks. Thankfully, Alina and Peter had my (almost) undivided attention, and I benefited from their ability to speak English and entertain me. The digestive systems of me and Alina were more than ready to head home after two weeks as well; although it was delicious, we didn’t do very well with the Vietnamese food after the first week. On a plus note, though, the weather was fantastic, and we had very nice accommodations throughout the trip. I was anticipating highs in the 50s and 60s like when I was in Vietnam during the lunar New Year, but instead, we had highs in the 70s and low 80s and little rain. Our nieces were very nice playmates for Peter and Alina, and the aunts enjoyed spoiling them with gifts and treats. I’m glad we made the trip because it was good to see family and expose the kids to the Vietnamese culture, but I think I’ll need a year to recuperate before I can think of going back.

Alina received several fancy dresses from the Vietnamese relatives for her birthday, and that suited her quite well because she is a girly little girl who loves to wear dresses and would rather not wear anything bulky or unfashionable such as a winter jacket. Even when it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit outside the weekend before her birthday and I took her to Heifer farm to see the animals and eat pancakes and sausage, she declined to wear a coat. She doesn’t complain much about the cold, but I’m sure that she will be happy when spring finally arrives. On warmish days, she likes to ride the balance bike around the neighborhood with my help. I think that she may figure out how to use the bike independently by the end of summer. She’s quite good with gross and fine motor skills and recently has been quite jealous that she is not allowed to join Peter’s gymnastics classes. Happily, Alina was allowed to play on all the gymnastics equipment with the big kids today at her day care friend, Lili’s, birthday party. She particularly likes the balance beams and swinging from the rings. Part of me wants to sign her up for a toddler gymnastics class… they’re only young once! But the other part of me thinks that she should wait until age 5 for organized extracurricular activities, like Peter. She does, after all, get plenty of organized activities at day care. I did treat Alina on behalf of her grandmother yesterday and took her to the new Enchanted Passage book shop, where she picked out a book, a stuffed pig, and a set of glittery stickers. She’s not a deprived child, and she won’t ever be because she demands plenty of time ,love, and attention from her mother.

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