golden holiday

My friend Anna came over yesterday to take some photos of our family. It was a last-minute thing and turned out to be such a beautiful evening. Joan was feeling sick but she had just had a good long nap, and Lux was game for the adventure. We walked down from our apartment, through the Garden, all the way to Copley Square, and then finished with margaritas (and hot chocolates!) at the Oak Bar.

When Anna first texted me that she was available, I immediately wanted to hop in the car and head to Walden Pond, or a field & forest somewhere. The exotic always occurs to you at these times. But of course it made the most sense simply to walk around this little city, the spots we’re always walking. What a treat to celebrate and document them for an afternoon.

I feel so lucky to have these, thank you Anna!

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all photos by Anna Burns

your tradition

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Last year around this time I went to mom’s group that was run by older moms. They were so much older that most of them were already grandmothers. On this date a year ago, instead of the typical morning talk, they set up a roundtable and discussed their favorite holiday traditions. They each had called their adult children and put the question to them: what do you remember of our family holidays as a kid?

You could feel some of the anxiety in the room. Many of us were moms to very young children. Making a sandwich was a struggle, much less a fleet of reindeer cookies. The idea of creating new traditions for the next generation to carry on, traditions somehow built among the remains of the dusty shredded kleenex and fishy cracker crumbs we’d left behind on the floor that morning, well, it sounded almost impossible.

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Some of the women said they’d cried on the phone, because asking their adult children about this reminded them how often their young working husbands had been gone during that time, or how tired the women had been, or what high expectations they’d had for themselves.

There was one surprising revelation from the phone calls: the things their kids loved and remembered were usually not the ones the mothers had intended. Not the three-tiered cookie tray that showed up on the right day, but the fact that the kids got to pick the food coloring colors for the frosting. Not the getting of the tree at the charming corner store, but the bag of chips they were allowed to pick out for the ride home. Not the deluxe Christmas meal, but how many candles she managed to light around the room each year. Not the gifts, but the fact that their dad built a fire every Christmas eve.

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The talk instantly reminded me of how my mom let us have donuts and orchard cider with cheese and crackers for dinner on the night we decorated the tree. In any order we wished: crackers, then donuts. Donuts, then cheese. Hands down it is one of my favorite memories of annual traditions. I vaguely remember that she sent out tins upon tins of cookies each year, vaguely recall the Advent calendar that was different and creative every year, have a fleeting image of all the lovely hearth decorations, but the thing I remember most: cheese and crackers.

I wonder if it was the thrill of a snack for dinner, or the way dinner formality bowed to decorating hubbub, or just the fact that I could tell my mom was happy not to worry about dinner for the night. It doesn’t really matter, anyway. I love that memory.

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To sum, they told us, you do the best you can and they end up remembering the oddest things anyway. Which I think we should take as, do what sounds wonderful and rewarding to you, and skip the rest.

It sounded really really nice to follow up on a promise to Lux and go to cvs and buy candy, so much candy, and then make a little graham cracker house that looked just like the one in Martha Stewart’s kids craft book. And it was.

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p.s: the dough in that top photo is the weelicious graham cracker recipe. It’s delicious and easy. It makes cookies for munching, not housebuilding. I found it in this fantastic cookbook.

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I’m very pleased with my new-found maternal energy for decorating and all things Christmas-y. Truly when I say to you that last year the extent of our decorating was a bare branch, hung delicately around a bare lightbulb, with six ornaments hanging on it, believe me that whatever dwr sickly-modern image comes to your mind is exactly what it looked like. At the time that seemed perfectly apt to what we needed, given that we travel over the holidays and arrive home in January. And yet, this year I believe I’m following, at the very least, two people on Pinterest who have entire boards devoted solely to twinkly lights. This makes me very happy. I have already informally polled most of my city friends about where they buy their Christmas trees. While I was away in Florida, Joe even bravely attempted a melted-peppermints-into-ornaments DIY. It didn’t turn out whatsoever but we are not deterred.

However, I seem to be one accurate Amazon order away from the reality of all my seasonal daydreams. I don’t like to pull the trigger on Amazon orders too quickly, so I often just pile my cart full of things I definitely need, add one or two things I’m not quite sure about, then mull over the lot of it for a week or two. Each day it sadly occurs to me that the very thing I need is waiting for me in my Amazon cart.

For example, right now we have only one child size spoon even though both girls like using child size spoons. We had three or four at one point in my recent memory, and I can only hope they’ve made their way to a good home because they are with us no longer. Every day I think about the pack of six bamboo spoons I have waiting in my cart. Then, as the presiding arbiter in the household who makes decisions based on complete whimsy and then sticks to them like honey on the bottom of a cabinet, I dole one spoon out to one girl and hand the other girl a fork. After weeks of this, they now eye each other’s utensil closely and then examine their own with some suspicion. It’s not always evident who got the better deal (is pasta better with a spoon or a fork?), and isn’t that just like life, my young grasshoppers? Keep your eyes on your own bowl and you’ll be much more content.

Speaking of other people’s bowls, Boston has yet to be added to these cities where Amazon is hiring butlers to run things to your car or small children to pull red wagons with deliveries or whatever else they are promising to young people in San Francisco who only order iPhone cases and bulk packages of green tea anyway. Between chatting with my brother in NYC and my brother in SF, things seem to be dramatically more efficient for them there, but in a mystifying way. Which is to say that even if I could ask someone to bring over those spoons right away, I’m sure I’d still find something to hem about.

South Beach Itinerary

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This past weekend, I went away with some mom friends from my neighborhood. Joe volunteered to watch the girls, the very same girls who ended up being sick all weekend. Alas, poor abandoned family. At least I managed to pack the fridge completely full beforehand (bbq chicken, chicken salad, cottage cheese pancakes, hummus, hard boiled eggs, raspberries).

All the women on our trip have young children around the same age and are usually chasing children at the playground so what. a. treat. to have uninterrupted conversation and truly TALK to each other. I dropped in at the end of all the planning emails, so the rooms were reserved, most plane tickets booked, and dinner reservations already made. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of females trying to plan a trip via email, then you know how nice it is to skip most of it and just show up.

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I spent some time on Pinterest before we left so I had a hit list of South Beach places to see. Total side tangent: pinterest has become an incredibly effective travel itinerary guide. Personally I trace this back to their partnership with Foursquare which allowed them to pull all of Foursquare’s user location-tagged photos. These days even the most wayward cute gas station is discoverable on there. I suggest it as a first stop when planning a trip, even before food review sites or magazines. Thanks to this helpful blog post, this interview by Garance Dore, and many enticing photos, I put together a list I was excited about. I ended up visiting only a few of those places, but I was happy to have options ahead of time. (If you’re traveling to South Beach soon, here’s the board I put together from these recommendations.)

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I went out early one morning and watched as men from each hotel hauled out the beach chairs, then the chair pillows, then the umbrellas, tugging everything into even rows up as they went. The chairs spent the day as proud striped bandstands lined up across the sand, only to be completely dismantled and put away every night.

The water was extra-specially-blue and WARM.

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We stayed at the Ritz, which had wonderful service as always, and good food; though the style of the hotel wasn’t at all beachy which felt like a missed opportunity, and the food was overpriced. However, their pina coladas were excellent and their beach-food-delivery was shockingly fast. The Ritz has the type of service where you might be sitting in a hot tub (a rather glorious thing one can do when not-pregnant, right?), wondering about how to perfect the situation and get a cold beer, and minutes later, someone hands one to you.

I had hoped to visit and take a long soak at The Standard’s spa with their stylized ancient baths, but I called ahead and learned one needed to do a spa service for $135 in order to use the baths, which didn’t feel quite worth it when I already had so many fun things to do.

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Just a block or two down from our hotel was The Raleigh. Gosh what a wonderful treat to the eyes. I couldn’t get enough of the spot. I guess I’m more of an art deco type than a sleek hotel type. We had breakfast by the pool there one day, and another day my friend Jenny and I just sat on the front porch and people watched while sipping the delicious smoothies sold through their diner-esque cafe in the lobby.
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One hot afternoon after sweating in the sun for awhile, a few of us caught a cab down to My Ceviche for cheap delicious ceviche, roasted corn, spicy popcorn, and, if I’d only had room: a basket of stone crab claws. They don’t have tables, but if you order a drink from the bar next door, they let you use theirs.

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I personally didn’t make it to Under the Mango Tree but I sent some friends in their direction and they loved it. A bit of a hole in the wall, but very friendly and delicious. Smoothies, breakfast sandwiches, acai bowls, it is a perfect destination after a long walk on the beach.

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Our first night we had dinner at Casa Tua. This hip Italian spot felt very Hollywood, beginning with the tall hedge framing the whole unmarked restaurant. Gorgeous flickering lights and greenery welcome you in, once you finally find the entrance. Somewhat burly, hustle-y waiters frown when you ask for a custom cocktail. Amazing burrata and perfectly-done pasta, with a strong showing of seafood.

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The Sandwicherie: I confess, I circled this place and but didn’t eat there! It looked amazing and I love that they are open for 24 hours. I also love that (according to reviews) they drizzle vinaigrette on your sandwich. This spot was only a few blocks from our hotel, a great walk in any direction. I regretted that I didn’t make it to any Cuban food spots, though I got the feeling I would have had to head back into Miami to find the good ones.

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Thinking of our kids back home, all of us found ourselves watching the families on vacation around us. It seemed like a great spot for them. The sand was silky, the pool was warm, there was umbrellas and accessible food in abundance. Mentally I compared it to St. Thomas, though South Beach is definitely cheaper overall and with better food. For East Coasters, it would be about the same three hour direct flight as the Virgin Islands. Trust me when I say this is on my mind as I return to temps in the 30s here in Boston! Yikes.

Post script: even the H&M was glam:h&m

in November

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There are many ways November tells you you can’t do it, beginning with the election days. Find yourself attached to a small item on the ballot, just a flimsy thing that seemed like a good idea, only to find it scorned by most of your state. It’s passively discouraging.

There’s also something unfathomable about a shift in weather and we worry we can’t make the leap. I’m missing the confidence boost of a larder full of canned peaches, a pantry full of preserved honey, or blueberry jam gathered in August. I can’t look at my pantry of pickles, the wood pile in the backyard, and say: yes I’m ready. Certainly in the past this would have bolstered a homemaker peeking around for encouragement, no?

And if you haven’t yet flown lightly over a grey, long, freezing week with everyone still taking naps and not crying most of the time, you might wonder: can it be done? Perhaps this why fiercely persevering peer-encouraged challenges happen in November, like no-shave-month or write-a-novel-in-a-month (NaNoWriMo).

So many times in motherhood there’s a new corner up ahead and a voice appears like genie smoke in our mind whispering “you can’t do it.”

.I can’t handle four days by myself.
.I can’t handle both of them sick at the same time.
.I could never do it if if we couldn’t go outside.

.I couldn’t do it if she started sleeping badly again.

I don’t know why we set these parameters for ourselves but they fall into place before we’ve even noticed and then we’re stuck dreading the next change. Naturally we end up arcing over these challenges like fillies in the mud, kicking up our heels. But the genie in your head will never tell you that.

In the face of this shark-toothed-month I have mayonnaise to keep me company. I will never, ever, relate to those food writers who say “I can’t understand why people buy mayonnaise it’s so easy to make!” I can’t understand why you would make mayonnaise, it’s so easy to buy! Hellman’s and the American flag are inextricably linked as our national anthem for me. Egg Salad, call me back girl. Tuna melts, comin’ attacha.

Here’s a deliciously satisfying, nearly-evil snack, depending on your feelings about ms. mayo, that Joan and I eat whenever Lux is eating something boring like animal crackers. Chickpeas from a can, drained, rinsed and poured into a bowl. Dolloped with a spoonful of mayonnaise and sprinkled with garlic salt from the spice drawer. Microwaved for 15 seconds or so and stirred to a smooth sheen holding each chickpea within it. So satisfying and you’ll eat a whole 14 oz can this way.

What else is helping, while we’re at it: a glass of wine with dinner prep even if it begins at 4:30pm in the pitch dark, smiling happily at the sun up so early in the morning, a Spotify station built on “What Else Can I Do” by Kat Edmunson, looking at homemade Christmas decorations on pinterest, this funny cop show from last year, Louisa May Alcott’s cozy Thanksgiving short story.

 

Fix-It

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I received an email titled “Our Fix-It Diaries” and thought: YES. Because it’s been the theme for the past few weeks. First, shoes to the cobbler to sew up and clean up. I don’t know how I manage it but I always pick the most pessimistic cobblers. “This is just a do-our-best and see what comes of it job.” “No, I wouldn’t count on that one coming out matching.” “I’ll fix it but it won’t last forever.” 

I recommend not calling a cobbler if you need a new campaign statement any time soon. Sweaters in otherwise good shape except for tiny holes that threaten to widen. I tried to leave a sweater to get a little hole stitched up at the dry cleaners and she told me I should just do it myself. I wanted to say but didn’t say, “Would you tell a male customer to do that?” Was there something about the way that both girls were clinging to my ankles that made me look at loose ends for something to do with my hands? Sigh.

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Packing away things. Pulling old friendly things out. Remembering how lovely it is to wear a warm sweater with jeans and no coat. The coat stage is coming, but the-just-sweater stage always reminds me of how you actually see sweaters advertised. You get to be warm and not look all buttoned-in. Whistling to myself the passing wish that I had a brand new winter coat and a brand new winter hat. What do we think is the best winter hat trend this year? I would say: mono-color with furry pompom on top. Yup. Forgive me if I’m officially 12 months behind trends. It takes me awhile to warm up to them. haha.

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There was a lull in the land where I forgot what I wanted to do during nap time besides stay utterly and absolutely silent. It’s ironic that I can’t find the words to describe how much chatter fills my day except to say that sometimes people stand near me for  minute or two at a street corners, waiting for the light to change, and then turn to me and ask, “is it always like this?” Yes sir, it is always like this.

I just sat here for three minutes trying to come up with a way to describe Lux’s vocal companionship right now… The image that comes to mind is this tank at the aquarium filled with sting rays that we visited last week. The sting rays have had their stinging-rays trimmed (“Just like your fingernails,” the guide crowed to us), and so denuded, circle the tank like a rapidly flowing tributary of soggy pancakes, bobbing up every ten seconds or so, to brush against your hand. If you move your hand too much they sense the vibration and slink off course ever-so-slightly, and then eagerly swim on, only to circle back a minute later. That’s the best visual my weak brain can muster of my three year old’s conversation in my life right now.

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So besides absolute silence for one hour which falls upon my ears like a soft flannelly manna from heaven–I had a breakthrough yesterday which was: bars of chocolate. I think I forgot about them all summer. And now: they are back! In all their faintly caffeinated glory.

Photos from picking zinnias and finding pumpkins at Parlee Farms two weeks ago. It was raining; it was glorious. Thank goodness for things like child-backpacks. I’m not exaggerating when I say this situation would have been a disaster if Joan had been wandering on her own in the mud. If you go, stop at Dream Diner on your way home.

young city life

I read this article in the Globe the other day, written seemingly on a lark, by a woman who brought her two little boys back the South End (Boston’s Brooklyn, replete with brownstones tugged from the hands of artists who were there first) for a weekend, “to see what it was like living in the city.”

It annoyed me that it was implied that living in the city for a weekend was in any way close to actually living in the city. Like if I went to Spain for a weekend, I could then write about how crazy it is to have kids in Spain.

But to my surprise, even in that short amount of time, she quickly experienced and noted the tough stuff about city life with young children. By the end of it, I didn’t feel that it was a romantic article. In fact, it was the good stuff about city life that didn’t get fair play.

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Tough stuff: 1/ You are conscious of your close neighbors whenever your children behave like children, and are noisy—crying, stomping, jumping, dancing. You worry that they hate the noise and aren’t complaining out of cringing kindness. 2/ You experience meltdowns in public places regularly because you started the two mile walk back home just a little bit too close to nap time.  3/ You spend less time dwelling at home because home is actually pretty small. 4/ If you use your car, you often can’t find parking close to your apartment, and therefore add 10-15 minutes of walking to your trip home.

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Anything written about this, at my stage of life, must be caveated by the fact that having young children in the city is deemed the toughest. Asking your three-year-old to walk six blocks at the end of the day because you couldn’t find parking and didn’t bring your stroller on the car-adventure, yes, that’s tough. Living on the fifth floor and having the elevator break for most of the summer, yes, it slows you down on your way in and out, particularly when the one-year-old likes to climb stairs on her own. Hopping on the T is complicated by the presence of a stroller and a snack-loaded bag, no matter how small the bag and how slim the stroller. Rest assured the T car will be dead silent when one of yours throws a screaming tantrum, as well. The fact that your children can never wander outside on their own, with you simply watching from the window is tough and feels restraining, even unfair (to them) at times.

Having a nine year old, on the other hand, who is allowed to run to the corner market to pick up milk, who can walk side-by-side with you on the way to class before you go to work, who can name five friends who live within walking distance, and knows which train line to take the the museum, that is nice.

So I can see the future and the future is promising.

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But back to the present: here are just a few things I like, limited to four lest I drone on.

1/ Every walk turns into an ad hoc lecture and discussion as we encounter new signs, businesses, cars, people, or destinations. Almost as if the city coaches me into talking to and engaging with my child. It’s probably just Boston traffic talking, but I never have these type of discussions when we’re in the car.

2/ I get excited about visiting new places. New coffee shops, bakeries, markets, parks, these things get me out of the house. They are probably the primary reason I live in the city at all. Your children have a calibrated barometer on your mood and know very well the things that please you. It makes me happy to know that Lux knows I’m excited about what we are doing, and that she gets excited too.

3/ You learn that the “tough stuff” is actually not that bad. It doesn’t matter how many people see your child freak out. It’s not really that big of a deal if you go out to eat and it goes terribly. It’s actually pretty fun to get stuck on a long walk in the rain, even if the baby does cry the whole way. In the end, you always end up home, and you always begin again the next day.

4/ Hyper-awareness of strangers. I like that the girls see so many strangers every day, they get very good and clear about whether they want to interact with them. If they aren’t feeling it, it’s obvious (here I’m remembering Lux dropping everything and sprinting towards me when she didn’t like an older lady that had started talking to her) and I don’t have to worry about them wandering into something. Conversely, I like that no one is really surprising to them. They see people from all over the world smiling at them every day (even if they choose not to smile back!).

What do you like about where you live? What’s tough? I’d love to hear.

 

 

Two girls to a room

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I get a kick out of the girls sharing a room. We moved Joan into Lux’s room when she was 8 months old, I wrote a little bit about that here. Even when they are keeping each other up at night, even when one of them wakes the other up pre-maturely in the morning. Sometimes the night ends with both of them grousing in their beds, egging each other on, louder and louder. I like it. Remember in grade school, what was the great uniting power ? A common enemy. Nothing to build sisterhood among two humans of disparate age and interest like grousing about the same thing.

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There’s power waiting to be taken in having a small space. Anyone can do it. You begin to take joy in every bag of things you decide to give away or throw away. The good stuff shines through. The girls have a small cabinet of additional toys, but their chief choice items, the ones they point at and ask for, are on this shelf. Having this stuff be out of their reach is as un-Montessori as you can get. Maria would shiver at the sight. I wish it wasn’t the case, but I also find that the act of requesting something causes them to value it a little bit more.

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Note above my system for the girls’ clothes, on the top shelves. It’s one tub to every six months, with an extra tub for shoes and winter gear. Be sure to label them, and give yourself a month or two after they grow out of things before you pack them away. The time helps you truly evaluate the stuff and what kind of shape it is in.

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Of the things on the wall, the maps get the most attention. Though when Lux was younger, she adored that Rifle Paper Co. alphabet poster (I just checked to see if it is still available, it’s not, but my goodness does Anna Bond have some good ones these days!). My older brother, who works in South Sudan, visited recently and pointed out that we need a map of Africa. He’s right! Both of our current maps came from Joe hounding etsy for vintage school room maps (they are not cheap. they are so worth it.) The New Yorker cover is a recent resurrection of a Saul Steinberg drawing combining several of Lux’s favorite things: skeletons, ballerinas, and mice. We are happy to change things out as the girls have new interests. Joe often places nice wrapping paper behind a print as an easy and cheap mat job, and we frequently use Ikea frames.

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I’m happy to have these photos to document this tiny phase in my family’s life! I’m sure the place will transform in the next year, perhaps even in the next six months. The room I shared with my sister as a kid is so etched into my visual memory, I treasure those images. I want to remember Lux looking out her window for the moon each night, I want to remember finding Joan with a pile of toys in her crib in the morning, donated by her benevolent sister, I want to remember Lux telling me that bunny lives in Mexico and her hunting for all the “x” letters on the map, I want to remember their matching cribs and orange-striped sheets and how content they were with them.

 

Champagne jelly

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The other day I had leftover prosecco in the fridge. Is there anything worse? When seen at the crack of dawn, light streaming into your refrigerator as you hunt for the milk, you know it’s already ruined. I had cheerfully popped the bottle the night before for a friend, we didn’t finish it before she left, and I certainly wasn’t going to donate a morning’s headache just for the sake of finishing it. Had it been good champagne, yes, certainly, but just-fine prosecco? No thank you.

So I made this champagne jelly, an idea first whispered in my ear by Ottolenghi. His recipe is for a full bottle, but, when adjusted, it’s perfect for using up the last cup of so if you have some in the fridge. You boil most of the alcohol with some saffron ( for color), but then add a little in at the end for flavor. So yes, if you share it with children they taste real alcohol. Good on them. 

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It has a strong champagne flavor, looks pretty in flutes, and would do well with some sweetened whipped cream on top.

Oh, and it wasn’t a hit at all…:

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Champagne Jelly by Ottolenghi

+ 1 cup leftover prosecco/cava/champagne

+ saffron threads

+ 1/4 cup water

+ 1 gelatin envelope

Pour about half of however much leftover champagne you have into a pan. I poured in half a cup, and added a quarter cup of water. Bring that to a boil with few saffron threads and then removed from heat. Strain out the threads. Follow the instructions on your gelatin packet–mine advised sprinkling gelatin over the remaining champagne, pouring the hot liquid on top of that, and then stirring for about five minutes. Mine filled three flutes.

How it’s going with the help

An update on how it’s going, since I began hiring a babysitter for three hours a week. It sounds so minor as I type that. Seriously, three. hours. But as you might have read, it was a process to even get there. I found (using sitter city), hired, and had a great girl for about six weeks, and then she had to quit for another job with more hours. As one often does. However she found a replacement for herself, one who is just as sweet natured and kind and they transitioned so smoothly that we barely hiccuped. Both of them are former music majors, devoted musicians, and they have the sweetest spirits.

After I remind Lux on Tuesday mornings about what’s coming up, she looks forward to the afternoon with the babysitter and is always pleased when she arrives. Joan is never pleased but supposedly she does not cry for longer than five minutes, though she absolutely screams when I leave. That would have ended the whole deal with the first child, but with the second there is a sense that all with be well. Plus there is that glow of reminisce and affection with which the three of us greet each other when I return.

Very quickly I realized it was just as some of you predicted to me: the babysitter formed her own relationship with the girls. Certainly she is polite to me, but it’s clear she is here to see the girls. I am the facilitator of the relationship, but part of it is about me not being there. And that’s nice.

It did take me a few times to learn that I should not do morning trips with the girls on the day that we have the sitter. A couple of times we arrived home at the same time the sitter arrived. You can imagine—frazzled mom dashes out the door to get her hours, goodbye to abruptly-abandoned children just taking off their shoes. Not good. Far better to have a relaxed morning at home, and then Joan still deep in her nap when Hannah arrives, and Lux coming out of quiet time to have one-on-one attention with this young lady.

The babysitters have proved to me that they can totally handle getting the girls outside for trips to the park (this, even when our elevator was broken for all of August and we live on the 5th floor). And this, even despite the fact that I didn’t thoroughly brief her on the stroller’s peculiar buttons and it collapsed on her when she was simply trying to extend the handlebar. Nice one, Rachael.

And for me! It’s been really, really nice. I have a ban on doing errands during that time. I go straight to a little private library up the street from us (the athenaeum for you locals, the best annual membership you’ll ever do) which has one floor of dead silence and big sunny windows. Actually, I first go directly to a coffee shop and order something, anything really, to boot up my writing spirits, and then I go to the library. I tip-tap furiously in the silent room for two hours (given walking time back and forth, it’s about that) and then head home. I arrive at 5pm, having hopefully prepped dinner in some way earlier in the day, and settle on the floor with the girls, relaxed and reminded how cuddly and curious they are. The day is almost over and we can enjoy the fact that Joe is to arrive in just an hour and half or so.

thehelp

I also experimented with early morning care this summer. I signed Lux up for two weeks of “summer camp” which began at 8:30am and let out around noon. It was not that relaxing. Getting her dressed and out the door was such a stress on my morning. Joan still took a morning nap at that point, so I did get two uninterrupted hours, in addition to quiet time later that day. But, as those of you who do this regularly know, they are still on your mind that entire time (I mean, obviously right? Should have seen that coming). Did I put enough sunscreen on? Did she get enough sleep last night? Were those shoes comfortable? Did that girl next to her have a hacking cough? And on and on. One time I called in to say Lux wasn’t up to coming in that day and was asked “Oh does she have hand foot and mouth?” Um no, is that going around? “Yes.” Oh great.

Then I would get her home, and she’s worn out from all the socialization, the going-with-the-flowing that one does when traveling in groups, and she was totally tuckered. Again, another obvious thing, but not something I had factored into the rest of our day. It was like she just got home from work and didn’t know how to decompress. Out of nowhere she would say stuff like “I don’t like her” about Joan, something she had never said in her life. Or like, start kicking her. I felt out of control with the forces that were influencing her. I was also surprised to find that the things she was doing at school were the same as at home: play with toys and books, have a snack, play outside, have lunch, make a craft, get glitter glue everywhere. It’s not rocket science after all. I guess I was caught off guard by that realization but I was also buoyed by it: we do those things too! This is a regular preschool right here, albeit a disorganized and unreliable one that is fresh out of unbroken crayons.

MY GOODNESS I am not typing all this out to make those of you who have something that is working for you begin to doubt it. Please NO. Just a follow up to that drama and a reflection for myself, the grass is greener over at that preschool, they are still the loves of your life and worm their way into every spare tunnel in your head no matter where they are physically, and so on.

To sum: working with a limited budget, I learned that having a sitter who could come to my house and play with both girls and develop a relationship with them together, and come over even when they were sick, is the best fit for my situation. And I learned that three hours a week, though tiny, has a quite an effect.

to commenters: I apologize that comments were broken for a couple weeks! I did SEE your comments, but they did not appear here. All is well again and we are back up and running with Disqus. Thanks for your patience.