It’s a…

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I keep forgetting to mention! It’s a girl. We found out two weeks ago (at 20 weeks, the day before this photo was taken). Good thing I’ve saved everything. And you know what? This makes me really happy that I bought nicer things for the girls here and there, like Hunter rain boots and good winter jackets. Cause I loved them once, loved em twice, and now I get to love them a third time. So you should go push BUY on whatever you have sitting in your zappos cart right now.

I DID want them to say it was a boy, I admit. Because: sons. They seem like a good thing. They contain within themselves less feral mother-daughter drama; like say a dog compared to a cat. They seem blindly loyal, like a hometown sports fan. And also: brothers. They don’t seem like a good thing for a bit of your life, and then: they’re the best. And you realize how much you learned from them all along….obviously there’s many things I could say in favor of the gender that makes up half our human race. Anyway.

But now that I know it’s a girl, in the sense that the girl already exists and it’s no longer anyone’s guess, I’m very happy.

We’re pretty into our spider-catching duplo architects. Our bunny lovers who usually prefer to “roar like a t-rex.” Our dance-adoring pink appreciators who could pick a good twirly dress out of a deep six rack of boxy shirts. Our rain-walk loving, silly screaming, someday-dreaming, fresh white paper hogs who have scribbled every last crayon down to its tattered stub and spend afternoons “just painting with black today.” We can’t wait.

food and family photo from happy Maine by our friend Jared.

teaching gratefulness

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In between forgetting to slather on sunscreen and forgetting to comb anyone’s hair, I can’t get this thought out of my head—how do you teach gratefulness?

I’m not expecting them to grab the spray bottle every morning and clean the floors but the four year old also doesn’t have any specific daily tasks assigned to her. More often it is a request to “run and grab your water bottle for me” or “help Joan move the chair over here” which she does very willingly.

I also ask Joan, the two-year old, to pick up things or put something back after she drags it out. Usually she frowns at me and says, “nocan’t.” “Why can’t you?” “Still reading,” said while she stares vacantly off at a wall. “Mama do it.” 

Her young knack of disregard, the blithe ease with which she shrugs off my request makes me half-smile for a second and then feel overwhelmed with annoyance.

Sample day of the girls’ last week: wake up, eat breakfast, and a friend comes over. Pull out all the dress-up stuff, play dress-up changing clothes every 15 minutes for a couple hours. Share mini-ice cream cones. Have lunch, share another mini-ice cream cone. Make art in the art room with washi tape and pastels. Have a quiet time where Joan naps and Lux gets to watch her favorite 25 minutes of Octonauts. Wake up, help mom make chocolate covered strawberries for a friend, snacking all the while. Play in the living room alternating their fighting/sharing/loving/complaining song-and-dance while mom makes more food and does all the dishes. Mom packs a picnic and head outside for the last couple hours of the day, armed with food, balls, and a picnic blanket. Come home, read stories, go to bed.

Are things getting too idyllic? Am I a flourishing event planner with a preschool speciality–a flare for the lighthearted and festive? This is not an exceptional day in the life of the Ringenberg girls. I could pull from any other day of that week and list the pleasures—activity, food, activity, game.

As a stay-at-home mom in the city equipped with modern conveniences in my home, I am free to do this stuff with them. If we do laundry on the weekends, I clean for roughly thirty minutes of every day, and I cook for maybe an hour (but that’s by-myself-time in a good way). Are there so few demands on my schedule that I’m turning their daily lives into some kind of bucolic Disneyland? (Bucolic is the very word doesn’t apply though. They are not running in the fields picking wildflowers and chasing cow tails. They are gently fingering flowers grown in window boxes hanging over the sidewalk, reminded to touch, but not pick.)

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But no matter how idyllic, I still have a four-year old who complains to me about her day. She asks “But mom, why can’t we go on the merry go round again?” “Why no lemonade/candy/ice cream today?” It must seem to her that we could do anything, if only I would just set my mind to it. And largely my explanations aren’t logical, they must seem almost whimsical to her—we aren’t having ice cream because we’re having dessert tonight. We don’t buy lemonade every day, only some days.

Isn’t her approach a little of what we encourage in Americans, especially American consumers? Ask for more, see what else you can get, fight for what you deserve–a refund in full, receipt be damned. I wonder how many times a day I model those values to the girls instead of Christian ones: love all, the last shall be first, put others before yourself, come humbly before God.

A few days ago, while washing dishes, I examined the contents of the sink and realized I could probably teach Lux to wash the morning load with a few tries. Later, when Joan was napping, I heralded it with trumpets as a new project and Lux took it on cheerfully. The floor was doused with soapy water and it took twenty more minutes than it would have taken me, but it was entirely successful.

But then I haven’t remembered to follow up and ask her to do it agin in the days since.

I dug out the letters my mom wrote to me on my birthday each year (I know! another post for another time), and found the one from when I turned four. She writes that my older brother and I were talking turns emptying the dishwasher and setting the table at that point. I was the second born so she had more time to figure it out, just as Joan has more expected of her than Lux did. (Mostly socially though—she’s expected to apologize, to share, to take turns. Things I didn’t ask of Lux at two.)

But gratefulness is such an undercurrent in a personal ocean. Its presence is so easily overpowered by the waves of needs and wants that lap steadily. It’s hard to feel its tug, even harder to distill it, and show it to another.

 

Orzo pasta salad

chopping turmericorzo pastasalad

Here’s a pasta salad I just love. I make it for moms with new babies (to go with a bag of marinated steak, and cake), and I always make two batches so we can have some at home. Something about using turmeric to dye the orzo makes it taste more exotic, and the triple salty punch of feta, olives, and capers is divine. You can eat bowls of this, by yourself, for several days.

It doesn’t exactly double well, better to have two separate bowls going as you chop things up.

Orzo and Feta with Lemon-Caper Dressing and Kalamata Olives from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 pound orzo

 

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup finely minced fresh parsley (this part takes forever but it’s worth it)

1/8 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon capers, drained

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 cup pitted, roughly chopped Kalamata olives

1 cup crumble feta cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the turmeric, and then add the orzo. Cook according to directions for al dente. Drain the orzo, rinse it in cold water. Set aside.

In a bowl large enough to hold the orzo, make a dressing by blending the olive oil, pepper, salt, parsley, lemon juice, capers, and sugar. Add the cooked orzo to the dressing, and combine. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and olives. Carefully toss in the feta cheese, mixing lightly, so the feta stays in nice pieces.

 

 

 

Third pregnancy is

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Third pregnancy, first trimester is: I wake up feeling nauseous and it stays with me. I’m feeling so tired and overwhelmed by the girls. I feel like Lux must be bored with me all day, and has nothing to look forward to every day. I hate making food. The smells in the kitchen gross me out. The trash and the fridge both smell awful from a distance. I feel so tired at night that I’m sad. I’m so tired that I feel darkly about how the day has gone. Joan wakes up so grouchy that it immediately discourages me when I encounter her. I feel surrounded by women who are making things and creating; and I’m just making a baby. And feeling sick the whole time of it. And that’s how the sentence rings in my head: just making a baby.

but then, finally, second trimester:

Third pregnancy is your midwife telling you to just skip the next appointment.

is feeling a little dismal about the lack of attention you’ve given your body in between babies. Like it’s the closet that didn’t get sprucing last spring. Like it’s the shoes that are cracking when you really need them. They’re still yours, but you think maybe you could have treated them better.

is your friends who “are done” joyfully trying to give you everything and anything baby-themed in their homes.

is not thinking about being pregnant once all day, and then thrilling at a tiny kick.

is being happier about how your oldest reacts to the news than anyone or anything else.

is knowing more women who are fighting infertility than you’ve ever known. Feeling like the one with a sandwich in a room of hunger. Wishing you could share. Wishing you could fix it. Wishing pregnancy was infectious via hugs.

is wondering how soon I should ask our beloved sitter how she feels about three.

is grinning when you get an email from your doula because it’s the only thing you’ve done for this one of your kids in weeks.

is your four-year-old, at a dinner party, loudly whispering “your belly looks really big” at 16 weeks.

Third pregnancy is laughing at how clueless you feel about how much your life will change soon. And how it doesn’t matter.

photo by Lux
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Favorites

joe_and_luxThis photo by our friend Jared. You see photos like these and you remember–oh yeah, phones have nothing on nice cameras.

Popsicle week!

the girls are loving: Kiki’s Messaging Service (1989) Hooray for the discovery of another wonderful anime movie from Studio Ghibli. We love the lively spirit of the young girl characters in Our Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Ponyo, and Kiki’s got the same mix of honor and adventure. She’s a current top contender for Lux’s halloween outfit.

For our next movie day I’ve got my eye on Song of the Sea. Has anyone watched it with their young ones?

Can I wear this to Costco? a pinterest board by Grace that I just discovered.

Bloom Naturals salt scrub: the girls are obsessed with taking “just a pinch” of this at the end of their baths. It makes them smell delicious and rubs off dead skin as well. Wildly all-natural and a great price. I also use her bug spray on all of us in the evenings because we get nighttime mosquitos (does such a thing exist?? We’ve got them.) and I don’t have to worry about crazy chemicals being on our skin overnight.

10 Lessons from Tibor Kalman: I really loved reading this. I’ve been curious about Maira Kalman’s deceased husband Tibor and their relationship for a long time.

Speaking of creative couples, Lux is really into the TV show Octonauts and I am just loving the fact that it was created by a husband-wife duo that live in Canada. They are incredibly talented! Here’s a overview/interview of Meomi Studio.

Joanie’s wedding photos

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For those of you who asked for more photos of my little sister’s dreamy wedding last March, there are lots up at the blog greenweddingshoes. They remind me that standing on the stage under those green ivy balloons felt like getting lost in the prettiest sky-jungle!

Every month or so I find myself wishing we could relive that week. The family-celebration endorphins were super charged! But then I chat with my contentedly newlywed sister, with her frozen Trader Joe’s dinners and their frequent nights out on the town with friends or spontaneous movie dates seeing the absolutely hippest movie that I haven’t even heard of,  and it makes me so happy.

(and…perk of a big family, we’re already looking forward to my little brother Wilson’s Alabama wedding next summer!)

vibiana walking group joans crown girls bridesmaids family(me reminding Lux that the people with big cameras are in charge and to do what they say. Flower girl territory. )joanandcale joanbea family

photos by Luke and Katherine Griffin from Max and Friends

Lux’s camera

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Two months ago my sister Joanie sent Lux her old digital camera. These funny digital relics. Most of them are great cameras with plenty of megapixels and are fully functioning. They are only obsolete when faced with the connectivity ability of our phones.

When we received the box in the mail, I greeted it with my usual skepticism of oh great, yet another accessory we are going to need to remember before we go out the door. But actually it’s been really fun. She only thinks of occasionally, usually for events, loves taking the photos, and can do it completely on her own.

After she took almost 1000 photos I uploaded them onto my computer. Her brief obsession with flags (after she learned they represented different things) is well documented. Passing home life photos that remind me of film photos from the 80s. She started taking self portraits right away, which is funny because I don’t think she’s ever seen Joe or I take one like that, with the camera pinned up inches from our eyes. I love them.

She seems to feel that something is safely archived if she takes a photo of it, which is relieving for both of us as before it felt like she counted on me to remember–“Mom, remember that bunny with the crazy whiskers we saw in the book a few weeks ago? Which book was that?” “Hmmm…no I don’t remember.” And, for example, she had something concrete to do for herself when she had to wash a detailed face paint off, just an hour after it had been applied (due to bedtime).

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She’ll say:

I took that photo of you because I love you.

I can’t wait to show dad this photo.

I can’t send you this photo. My camera only takes pictures, it doesn’t message them.

Look Joan, here’s what color your tongue is.

 

Berkshires Family Itinerary

The Berkshires is a general term applied to the hills and valleys running along the western edge of Massachusetts. They are oddly sophisticated with grand old hotels and great mansions like Edith Wharton’s The Mount. There are swimming holes, orchards, museums, and lots of long beautiful country roads that smell like damp woods and the rushing wind. Joe and I had been wishing for a couple days there with the girls for a long time, and finally things fell into place.

We drove out from Boston Thursday evening arriving at the Porches Inn, the hotel across the street from Mass MOCA around 9pm. Weekday nights run about $80 cheaper than weekend nights at Porches ($300 total). We had requested a pack n play and a pullout couch for our room–both were already set up as beds for the girls–lovely! It was pouring rain and pitch dark but we decided to show the girls the hot tub anyway. The four of us sat in there with our hair getting soaking wet from the rain, and it felt like such a family memory, I loved it.
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night detective

volcano

It feels as if every night our household is given a measured sand sack  of sleep, and one never knows how it’s been divvied up until the sun rises. Lux is murmuring to herself late into the night, then sleeping late into the morning, complaining if someone wakes her up before 9am. Joan is a wreck at 7pm, weeping with fatigue as we tuck her in, and waking like a clock at 5am. She gets out of bed, walks into our room, creeps up close up to our bed and whispers “cereal” in the direction of my pillow.  

Occasionally Joan wakes at 2am or 4am and takes up the blanket that I tucked her in with, after she was asleep, that is NOT her usual blanket. She walks into our room and throws it at me and walks back to her bed. 

It’s just a suspicion but I think I’m getting the lightest dwindle of sand, just a sweep over my eyelids every evening. It fascinates me that I wake up to Joan’s vindictive blanket walk no matter what time of night. The soft swish of her diaper and the pad of her feet on the carpet in our room. I appreciate that motherhood has cracked the vise grip sleep-adoration once had on me. It doesn’t hold the same promises it once did, a cure-all soother that could go on forever. But just how lightly am I sleeping that I can wake up to those soft footfalls, I wonder to myself. Does lightly even mean poorly to me anymore? 

I used to aspire to family dinner, like people putting food in their mouths at the same time at the same table, and I think I used to aspire to family sleep. Or couple’s sleep. It was on my fairy tale list of demands that Joe at least pretend to fall asleep with me. But now he basically tucks me in and gets back to his life of productivity, and I’m used to it. I wake up with Joan and it takes him hours to join us. Lux wanders out even later. 

Recently, I’ve been forced to disregard all personal thoughts that occur after 8pm. I’m so tired. Did I do anything right today, I wonder to myself. Was anything easy? Did the girls have a good day?

Naturally these thoughts are occurring at a time of day when all is murky, I’m not even sure if I remember what we did that day anymore, much less can offer an analysis of it. I am a once-nimble detective examining my evidence with bleary eyes, rifling through my nonsense notes to self, scribbling down clues to malfeasance. No, I finally conclude with a sigh, better simply to fall asleep and examine the postmortem where I find it in the morning. 

Naturally in the morning all evidence of misbehavior has disappeared from the scene. “Cereal” and a vague plan of action that sounds fun for our day is forming in my mind. Both girls are grinning at me with an odd infusion of cheer. The fridge does appear relatively full after all, and it looks a bit like the sun might be coming out. 

Finish every day and be done with it. 

You have done what you could.

Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in;

forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day: you shall begin it serenely

and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

-Emerson

Photo: I made a volcano because Lux digs them these days, using Oh Happy Day’s printable photoreal mountain box.

My sweaty lemon slush family friendly Boston summer bucket list

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Attend all the events at our local playground: our neighborhood playground hosts free lovely events for kids every Thursday. At 4pm it’s the perfect time of day to get one last trip out of the house, but I always have to give myself a kick to get out the door (or promise myself pizza from Primo’s down the street). You can see the schedule here (photo above from the visiting balloon artist).

German car day at the Larz Anderson museum. As Joe and I have fallen fully into the Mercedes Benz nerd lifestyle we will be taking the girls and wandering this pleasant picnic opportunity held at a grand old mansion in Brookline (was a more dreamy phrase ever written?). Yes we will.

ferry_ride

Stay in a yurt on the Boston Islands: the boat ride out there is pretty fun in itself. Last year we had a dour sardonic guide who narrated the whole trip with grim details of Boston Harbor history. Prisons, trapped immigrants, aging homeless shelters,  all historic and totally distant when fresh salty wind was blowing on your face and you had chilled wine hidden in your bag. I managed to book a yurt for camping in by setting an alert for any August day that might free up on Reserve America.

Movies on the Esplanade I think this IS IT. The year I can keep my girls up late enough to enjoy these movies. They launch after July 4th, on the newly rebuilt Hatch Shell ground—softer, less likely to swamp, better drainage means better picnic-ing. If I think of it in advance, I’ll make a reservation for the pre-fixe dinner at the Esplanade restaurant as well.

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Morning at Revere Beach: We’ll be hopping in the car headed for this easy drive more often this summer, hopefully scoring a streetside parking spot. I’ve got my eye on a lunch of hot dogs and ice cream at the twist & shake. Believe it or not Revere Beach water quality just got rated some of the best in the country. This is mostly irrelevant to my girls because we rarely get in much beyond our ankles.

Tour de splash pads: Spray decks are the new pools because state departments don’t have to insure them. Depending the force of the water and the amount of shade, they are awesome for young kids. The Esplanade will have new one come July 1st, but there are already ones all over the city. A good list here. Despite the ease of opening them, most of the DCR ones don’t open until the end of June (however the North Point Park one is open, across from the Science Museum).

lemonade

It’s well known at this point but Boston has some remarkable ice cream. If you haven’t individually visited J.P. Licks, Toscanini’s, and Christina’s, this is the summer to do it. Each spot rolls out fresh flavors for summer months. I’m still thinking about J.P. Lick’s peach ice cream which appeared for all of August last year. Do you have a local homemade favorite?

Piers Park Highly recommended by a my friend and by Yelp. I have never seen so many enthused five star reviews for a public space, I’m not kidding. Water play and city views.

berries

Pick ALL the berries. Last summer I managed to do strawberries with my girls, that season begins about mid-June around here. I had to carry Joan in a carrier and I felt like a meager laborer in the hot sun. But these days Joan is walking and foraging for trash on her own, so I have higher hopes for our tasty luck out there. I find blueberries and raspberries take a bit more driving and hunting to find spots, but I’d love to do all three this year–any favorite spots?

Eat at the Barking Crab: It’s an insult to my reputation that we haven’t eaten here as a family. Walking distance to the children’s museum, open air, boat watching…come on! I have a new category for restaurants in my head. Here it is: NEEDS NO YELP REVIEW. If a place with this kind of location appears to be serving food that didn’t poison its customers upon contact, then I am sold.

Plum_island

Walking the shady boardwalks at Plum Island: I love a good boardwalk through the wilderness. They make loud noises when you run on them and your feet don’t get muddy. I like how the ones at Plum Island go in and out of shade and you can finish up at the beach if you wish.

The Dance for World Community Festival, (June 13th) I already know we’re going to miss this due to a trip to Maine. I am super bummed we are missing it and rest assured I will not be noting our absence to Lux. If any one in your family is even slightly interested in dance do not miss this. Free, based in Harvard Square and composed of dance troops from around the city. Kids and adults dancing to all sorts of music in amazing costumes. We could not pull ourselves away last year. There are food trucks on location, plus, you’re in Harvard Square so you can do just about anything you want after that.

greenway

Pick up pizza from Umberto’s and play in the fountains on the greenway. Call ahead so you can skip the line and take this amazing decadent pizza back to the greenway. You can eat, the kids can grab a piece and get back to playing in the water (photo by Bridget Hunt).

Day trip to York, Maine: We stopped off at this cute town on the way to deep Maine, and I wished we had more time. There’s a big beach with lots of parking, and vintage arcade, and a charming salt water taffy spot from 1827. For a Maine beach, it’s pretty quick at 1.5hrs drive.

Sigh, after all that, I know I’m still barely brushing the surface! Still, it’s a start.