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

myrtle_street_events

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.

Homeschool Blogs I’m Enjoying

creativity

I’ve really been loving the blogs of homeschooling moms lately. Reading about their habits, goals, daily struggles: they’ve really got my number these days and it’s an enriching blessing to follow along from afar.

Oddly I’m not a big fan of homeschool via instagram. It’s confusing, these brief shots captioned “science today” with horses in the background, or crayoned leaf drawings scattered across a woodhewn table in the woods. It’s not fair or realistic to the time spent or the work behind the image.

(Exception here for Ms. Annapolis who has such an encouraging instagram account for me, homeschool and all!)

When my mom was homeschooling us I remember overhearing her answering questions that began with “oh I could never….” or “but do you have a teaching degree?”or “I’m not smart enough to teach my children.” The simple narrative of blogging moms can really demystify the process, the work, the ebbs and flow. I’m sure my mom would have pointed overwhelmed moms to favorite bloggers back in the day. Blogs can be really encouraging and revealing.

Whereas, I feel, multiple shots of children feeding their pet hens or counting river rocks can actually make it more mystical and unattainable to your average mom. I don’t mean this as a slight to anyone creative’s work on social media.  I simply mean to say that it can be really helpful to get a rich in-depth perspective.

Soule Mama has always been a source of tranquility and nature-delight. She is careful to make time for her own creative endeavors and is always challenging herself with new projects. I love that.

City Kids Homeschool, a mom who blogs from over in Cambridge. She’s more of a homeschool agitator, standing up for homeschooling and often frequently addressing recent articles or topics in the news. It can be a bit aggressive but I enjoy reading someone who really believes in what she’s doing. She’s a great local resource for me.

My friend Deanna, a former teacher, just started homeschooling her boys and she does such a nice job of portraying their every day and her own excitement for the work. Plus she shares ideas for PreK fun.

I can’t keep up with Mrs. Darcy, she posts so much, but I like to sit down and read her blog a bit like a Sunday paper, clicking around and reading multiple articles all in one session. She loves to read and has an amazing vision for her children’s education.

Any recommendations for me?

It’s useful to note that all of these moms who manage to blog highlight again and again the importance of good help to their process–sitters they love, husbands with flexible hours, grandmas who live nearby.

things lost

The melancholy passage of the years tends to change our values as we age, and the awesome backflips of 13 don’t hold the magic they once did; not when compared to the image of a loved one who has since gone absent, say. If I’d had a smartphone with a video camera back in my early adolescence, I doubt that I would have trained it on the things that matter to me now, like the sight of my mother reading in her blue armchair, underlining passages from Proust.

 

I’m still thinking about this quote buried within a mostly anti-technology essay by Walter Kirn from a few weeks ago. I didn’t find most of the essay interesting, or perhaps I just didn’t want to hear it. But since I just finished putting together a book of photos from our little family’s last year, I can’t help but wonder how many times I took the pretty photo, instead of the one that will mean something to me in the future.

We were about

flower_2

We were about to head out of the city for the day when it occurred to me that the city is in a brief flurrying state of blooming so we should stay and look around.

It’s so good that it’s hard to look. The bright soft petals will last as long as steam off hot soup.

flower_3

Last night Joe and I had an extra 40 minutes of babysitter time after an event and we took it. We went to Marliave for hot fries and cold drinks. We sipped our drinks and shared the salty fries and talked about do-good dreams, the things we’d fix if we were mayor for a day. You should always keep these dreams in mind because someone might ask you to be mayor for a day, and then you’ll be ready.

I would tell you what my dream is but I need to do a little research before I say something and make a fool out of myself.

Do you have any mayoral dreams?

We have been to Marliave so many times for drinks and fries over the years; and oysters too, before they curbed their dollar oyster habit. It’s just the perfect place for that kind of thing–white tablecloths, glossy black trim, dim lights and big laminated menus. A very mixed crowd there and they never judge you for how little you order.

flower_1charles river bistro

On Saturday I met with the owner of the Charles River Bistro, a restaurant that is improbably and dreamily located on the Esplanade. The Esplanade is a green park that runs the length of the Charles River alongside Back Bay. It has three pedestrian access bridges and hundreds of daily bikers and runners. This dream space for a restaurant has been poorly and sparsely operated for 25 years and finally, it has proper management and is now open every day into the evenings–9pm on summer nights.

I met with him, I thought, to give him some advice. Turns out he’s doing absolutely everything right. He has jazz brunches and free music lessons, pre-fixe dinners with tablecloths, and brightly strung lights you can see along the river.

And yet I didn’t eat there once last summer. I never heard about it from a friend. Still so few locals know that what used to be rather grim building is now a thriving restaurant.

So I’ve got a new dinner place on my summer bucket list and, before I go pointing fingers at any mayors, a good reminder of how often solid hard work goes unnoticed.

over it

 

 

 

Miso kale dressing

zingy kale salad

Even though I’m proud of the boring (and scary?) fact that we have survived 10+ days on one grocery trip, I have been so excited to get more kale in the fridge so I could eat this salad again. So zingy and sweet with miso humming along underneath—it has my favorite flavors! I discovered this recipe from Tim at Lottie + Doof, who wrote about for kale chips.

When I was in the process of making the kale chips, I fell in love with the dressing on the fresh kale. So I skipped the chips part the next few times. Sold. Winner. Dinner.

Even though this looks a little bit like a “massaged kale ” recipe, the type where you rub the dressing into the salad and it tastes better every day from then on, I actually think this tastes best in the first 4-12 hours. I didn’t love it as much 24 hours later.

Sesame Miso Kale Dressing ( from A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones.)

  • one bunch kale
  • 1 teaspoon miso paste*
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Chop up your kale as finely as you have time to; bite size pieces is best. Pour all the dressing ingredients in a bottle, screw on the lid, and shake them up. Pour and toss with your hands.

* If you are in Massachusetts, or have a Whole Foods, you might be able to buy the delicious local South River Miso miso.

exposure

sally_mann

I was so astounded by Sally Mann’s essay in the newspaper on Sunday. It seemed to touch on everything important–family, art, modernity, privacy. I loved that it arced back to when she published a book of family photographs in 1992, and then detailed forward to now, revealing so much about her experience. The act of publishing intimate details of one’s family life is dramatically more common now than it was then. But we’re all still wondering whether it’s a good idea, and if not, why?

Much of her experience circles around the simple fact of her children being naked and her photographing them that way. It beamed across the pages to me, as these days I am hard pressed to get the girls to put on more than underwear. I struggle to take photos of them that aren’t too revealing, and it feels over-censored to me, much of the time.

It was about presenting art and love to the world and getting a very mixed response.

And it was so beautifully written. I’m still thinking her writing about photographing her husband:

To be able to take my pictures, I have to look, all the time, at the people and places I care about. And I must do so with both ardor and cool appraisal, with the passions of the eye and the heart, but in that ardent heart there must also be a splinter of ice.

And so it was with fire and ice that Larry and I made these pictures: exploring what it means to grow older, to let sunshine fall voluptuously on a still-pleasing form, to spend quiet winter afternoons together. The studio’s wood stove was insufficient but he had two fingers of bourbon to warm him. No phone, no kids, NPR turned low, the smell of chemicals, the two of us still in love, still at the work of making pictures that we hope will matter.

I’m going to watch this old Art21 documentary (free, streaming online) with Joe tonight and request her new memoir coming out in May.

sally_mann_family_pictures_05

self directed

IMG_5700

Greetings from the planet In Transition. At last I’ve sketched out a map for this murky land, after all we seem to find ourselves here every six months. First comes palpable and nearly omnipresent frustration from your scholar. What worked in the past does not work for them any more, what they used to say yes to, they say no to, how easy they used to be pleased, and now for awhile, they are not pleased at all.

Then comes the actual change: maybe the physical dexterity, maybe the abilities that seem to arrive out of nowhere. Joan had been fighting her diaper for weeks, constantly taking it off, crying when I put it on. I began to dread anytime I had to change her diaper. Finally I pulled out the kid’s potty and started giving her jelly beans if she went pee on it. The allure of the treat and the physical ability fell into place like Mars sighting from the moon. Now I see she’s on some sort of self-directed potty training tract. Simultaneously, she learned to climb out her crib. “I practiced her and showed her how,” was what Lux told me. If I return to the room after putting Joan down for a nap, I find her wandering around instead of sleeping, quietly rearranging toys. The girls have been staying up until 10pm with this new thrill, giggling in each other’s beds, sneaking over to each other whenever we leave the room for more than five minutes. They both use the kid’s potty we keep in their room, trooping out to proudly tell us when they’ve used it. Joe’s and my uninterrupted evenings together seem distant and forgotten.

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And then, after the child has finally settled into their new state and acts as if days have always been such as this and they’re both sleeping and smiling again, then comes your exhaustion. A fresh wave hits right after you’ve bravely mastered the storm, after you’ve wisely let everything fly out the window, let all your habit doors bang open, the bits where you held on and simply tried to steer forward….and now: you’re tired.  But it’s over. And though your normal appears from the fog a bit more slowly than theirs, it will return again soon.

yum lately

red_beans

Red beans & rice with chorizo and a bit of ham. Wish I’d doubled this number. We got to eat it for a couple days, but I could have eaten it for a week!

biscuits

You know your baking powder is old when…your cream biscuits turn out all slumpy like this. They are so irresistible anyway though. Joan eats the dough, Lux helps me cut them out.

almond_date_milk cold_brew

Almond macadamia date milk. I’ll just quote Noelle because she said it so well I thought of her words the whole time: so creamy, with a hint of brown butter from the macadamia nuts, and a caramelized sugar note from the dates.

the getty, with kids

Noelle_and_Iscramble_ramble skirting trolly lilac

I love these photos. When Joe and I are feeling like things are moving along as nicely as water transported via kleenex, we say things are getting scramble-ramble. “This is too scramble ramble” is how it usually sounds. Meaning this is totally cool on many levels but we’re missing it all. Meaning, our situation was not quite what we were hoping for. As soon as we set foot off the tram at the Getty I realized it was huge mistake to have brought grumpy un-napped Joan along with us, but there we were. Three surely she’ll fall asleep in the car/stroller/once we’re walking…later and we were still stuck with the wide awake Bea.

But anyway I knew when we headed to Los Angeles that I wanted to see my internet friend Noelle and meet her son West for the first time, and maybe even her partner (whom she refers to as “le bf” online) if we were extra lucky. It all came true at the Getty and we got to eat lunch together in a beautiful place. It was a pretty different scene conversationally from the last time we met up, but I was so happy to see them nonetheless. Noelle is deep into life with West but when she climbs out for a few minutes here and there, her food blog is my favorite.

Midway through our meal Joan dumped an entire bottle of water on herself, just as Joe had suggested to me she would, just as I had sagely suggested she would not. Noelle lent/gave/thankyousomuch us West’s backup clothes she’d packed for the day and saved everything because that water was cold.

Noelle told me that my How to Make Mom Friends post helped her make one of her best mom friends that she now picnics with weekly. It made me so happy!

It was scramble ramble; it was good.

family picking walking viewing

Note the Getty is actually awesome for kids. Free strollers available at the coat check, a perfectly simple and pleasing kids art room, and obviously: lots of open space.