Ballet in the Garden

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I can’t resist posting some of the photos from when the Boston Ballet recreated a photo from the 1970s. Certainly it was a publicity vie for their upcoming Swan Lake, but I will gladly take any and all marketing of this type! They stripped one boat of the benches and had one of the captains (the swan boats are pedaled, by foot, around the pond) slowly loop the pond twice. There were many people intentionally there to see it, but there were just as many who wandered and stopped in their tracks. Thankfully for the short people among us, it was not crowded at all.

In a rare moment of veteran-savvy-mom, I had no expectations, told Lux almost nothing about it ahead of time, and got there a few minutes early.

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The white tutus against the green drapey trees, the quiet motor-less touring of the boat, the lack of signs, chitchat, and branding and the fact that it was free and open for all–MAGICAL.

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notes on weaning, eating young

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What to say about feeding your young before they can masticate for themselves with chomp and gusto? What’s on the line for you, after all? The grace with which you approach meal times. The economy you manage in your pantry. The pleasure you might once have taken in a tidy kitchen. The belief you like to hold that your children are growing well, taking part, and developing a food fervor that will someday match your own.

Joan is not buying the whole milk theory. I always forget this is what hovers behind weaning–first wean, then find out they want you to serve what feels like gallons of whole milk to supplement the calories. Sniff sniff what’s this? says the baby. Cow’s milk? No thank you.

Lux is digging the baby oatmeal even more than Joan. So I find myself offering vitamin-enriched-gruel at all hours of the day, some kind of grey-hued comfort food. She’s even started asking that I not “mix it up.” So she can see “all the parts.” Thus I give her a bowl of the parts, parts being: powder, gruel, watery gruel. It’s like–would you like oatmeal with bananas, heavy cream and a dash of maple syrup, or watery gruel? Watery gruel please! Thank you.

In moments of desperation with a grouchy baby I pull out thick plastic bags of frozen blueberries or peas. I put these frozen pebbles in front of her and she grasps at them eagerly, munching through them and smearing bright blue on the table, the chair, her pants, my hair, and under our nails.

We go out for texmex. Joan sucks salt off the chips and then drops them to the floor, observing their fall from on high, like a benevolent god watching the progress of Spring across the earth. I dip into the bowl of guacamole and scoop spoonful after spoonful into her mouth. Joe taps his finger on a straw and traps droplets of Lux’s lemonade, then releases them in her mouth to buy us leisure time. This second child gets whatever she wants really.

I review my standbys almost daily, mulling in front of the refrigerator: lumps of sticky rice, spoonfuls of greek yogurt, shreds of steak, nubby piles of scrambled eggs, whole avocados, brocolli roasted till soft, thick peach slices, pink flecked strawberry puffs, mushy sweet potato bits, ground up meaty spaghetti sauce. I think I’ve got the options nailed this time around, but it’s the elemental stuff that’s much harder for me now: sit down with them. wait for them to open their mouths. if they don’t like something, don’t offer it again for awhile. respect your fellow diner. look at them as you feed them.

Joe invented a handy trick that always makes me think of a mama bird: take an apple, bite off a big chunk. Pluck the piece from your mouth and hand to any interested child in the vicinity, which is always both of them. Repeat at three minute intervals.

We break a raspberry popsicle into a bowl and let Joan pluck out the pieces. Lux and I made them, but I don’t remember how much sugar we put in. I briefly pretend to divide the tablespoon per ounce amount, like the back of a cereal box. Joan eats the whole thing with a shocked look on her face. Not from the sugar, I’m certain, but from the sensation of plinking tart, hot pink ice onto her tongue.

Brave are we warriors who strive forward into the smears, splats, whacks, and oacks (that last one is for all you Make Way for Ducklings readers).

Just for reference, I wrote the rather carefree Pintos with Lux when Lux was fourteen months old. She didn’t seem interested in food for a long time, so I didn’t bother with it until she was twelve months, much to the consternation of her pediatrician. Turned out fine and was much easier than early-introduction, in hindsight. 

Inman on Friday

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Joe and I slipped out for a date on Friday night to Inman Square in Cambridge. That place is just full of good restaurants, but I rarely make it over there because it’s an awkwardly long walk from the T. Ever-so fortuitously, Blacklane offered us the chance to try a ride with one of their chauffeur cars. (Blacklane is an international company that offers black car service in Boston and all over the world.) I scheduled it several days before, alongside our sleep sitter, so all we had to do walk outside when they texted me that the driver had arrived, and be whisked away in a rather glamorous ride. What a treat! We met first at City Girl Cafe, which was the coziest. A place to order a big bowl of freshly made pasta and share a bottle of wine. I particularly loved that they only had three bottles of red wine on the menu. No endless deliberation needed and you knew each one was going to be delicious.

I also noticed several diners eating alone at City Girl, which to me is a sign of the reassuring and relaxed hospitality of the place.

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Then we walked down to Puritan & Co. The ladies of our foursome split a berry tart with vanilla flecked whipped cream and the men ordered matching whiskey cocktails (unplanned, supposedly). Because of the spacing of the tables you could tell that even when busy, the restaurant would allow for conversation and elbow room, two things that are getting harder to come by at newer spots in Boston.

I am rescheduling all our play date plans this week because it’s supposed to be HOT. One last foray into the sweaty 80s, and just before all the city pools close. Lucky us.

nods, bows

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Aside from under the kitchen table sweeping up black beans, here are some places I’ve been lately:

I answered a few revealing questions for the “our favorite moms who blog” feature over at Iviebaby (most stylish crib sheets in the land).

I wrote a Literary City Guide to Boston: a guide with a bookish flair (my favorite kind!). All her guides are fabulous, I love her style.

I created what I believe to be the most pleasant clickable way to plan travel–Ideal Itinerary boards on Pinterest for Bridget. The combo of foursquare images + map backdrop + pinterest organization = dynamite….in my oh so humble opinion.

Back in March I wrote up a dream for my children someday for Nina’s sweet blog Wee Mountains.

These aren’t really interviews but I’m FOREVER grateful to all of you hard working bloggers who link to me now and again, and again. It means a lot, despite near-radio silence on my end. I just want to write all these down here for a minute:

Fern and Flora

The Home Book

Cedars and Tiny Flowers

The Rhodes Log

Olive Juice Okay

The Scribble Pad

Your Fonder Heart

The wonderful world of veena

Mama Tonic

Tulips and Flight Suits 

Josh and J

 

Making Friends

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Making friends with other new moms is very important to a life well lived with children. It gets easier to meet fellow soldiers as your kids age, which is unfair because you need new mom friends the most in the first year. The months before the baby can interact and respond to you can be isolating, thus you need backup. 

It’s also REALLY nice to have friends with babies at the exact same age, as everything changes in three week increments with infants. If you are very fortunate, you might meet people before you have the baby, and then you can exchange kind, commiserate emails at the hospital and desperate texts re: diaper cream brand and pesky doctor appointments.
However, I think it is hard to meet people ahead of time because you’re distracted in that certain pregnancy-distracted way. Or at least I was.

Here are my steps to building your new tribe of friends, follow them to the letter:

1/ Identify baby-hangout spots in the area a sidewalk everyone walks with strollers in the morning, parks with baby swings, libraries with song circles, a pool with infant swimming lessons, churches with nurseries during the service, coffee shops….It’s not well publicized but all “baby activity classes” actually just exist for parents to meet each other. But just attending the event isn’t enough, you also have to…..

2/ Be more outgoing than you’ve ever been before Size up anyone with babies around the same age, and sit down next to them. Stop by their blanket in the park and laugh that you both seem to be on the same schedule, geez  I wonder why… Turn around in line and begin to chat up the fatigued caffeine-seeking compadre. Pick from any number of the million current similarities in your life and strike up a conversation. Don’t be afraid to act interested and eager because you are. People like interested and eager friends, so this is a handy attribute you can already claim.

3/ PROCURE CELL PHONE NUMBER FROM THE CONTACT 
The most important step! Never walk away from a pleasant exchange with a new mom without a way to contact her. You could easily not run into them again for several weeks and you’ve already established that they are: 1/ breathing 2/have a baby 3/speak the same language as you. Text them on the spot with your name and your baby’s name.
Do it like so:
 “Hey, let me grab your number so I can text you next time I’m headed this way.”
“Let’s trade numbers just in case we want to walk and get coffee sometime?”
“Hey, what’s your email, I’ll just email you right now so we have it.”

In some ways email is better than a cell phone number because it’s a little easier to stay organized on email, and write each other notes. If you ask for an email, you usually end up getting your new friend’s full name too, which is convenient.
If you want to casually mention I’m @______ on Instagram, well, all the better in my opinion. But I’m a big fan of social media, and I totally get it if you want to keep your child off the internet, as they say.

Last tip, then go get ‘em!
If you meet a mom from your area who is a little bit ahead of you, baby’s age-wise, ask her what her favorite class or activity is in the area, and ask her if there is a local mom’s email or listserv group to join.

drawing of me and the girls by Joe

backyard surprise party

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Last week a few friends threw a surprise party for our friend Birgit. It was such a treat to plan a summer party for a good friend, anticipating the surprise and writing clandestine emails behind the scenes. The evening was all about enjoying the love for one another in the air.

My friend Megan’s decorating was a testimony to the power of a few twinkle light strands and helium balloons. That, and the wonder of a warm summer night in a tiny backyard framed with towering evergreen bushes.

We bought far too much alcohol and there was plenty of food and old friends that went to grad school with Joe but now live in different cities. We put Joan to bed almost immediately, in a pack n play in our friend’s front bedroom, but Lux and her pal Haruka played the party until 10pm. It’s fun to have them at an age where they don’t turn into pumpkins at 7pm.

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My contribution was a quadrupled recipe of the basil strawberry shortcakes from Bon Appetit. They were really, really good. The biscuit recipe is a great one. Biscuits are only ever good when made with heavy cream and then, they are amazing. The recipe has you mix creme fraiche into the whipping cream. I bought too many cartons, so Lux has spent the week dipping her pretzels into our extra creme fraiche. Joan has had many spoonful as well, because the girl is ever-underweight and we’re just trying to keep up!

Up North

A few things I love from our time in the Traverse City area earlier this month. In the summer in Michigan everyone talks about going “up north” for vacation, even if it’s just a 30 minute or so drive north. I love possibilities in that phrase. Traverse City is a quick flight from Detroit, so it’s really quite easy for us to fly in from Boston. My parents have rented the same house for 17 years, so though it doesn’t feel like home, it does feel nostalgic and comfortable. I’m taking the girls back next week for just a little bit more vacation, lucky us!

gl1glen_havengltacosRoadside tacos, recommended by this fanatstic guide to the area on Megan Gilger’s blog.glboat_museumglpineconePine trees grow through the center of this ice cream spot.glevening

When Lux was four weeks old, we flew to Michigan as usual for my family’s vacation. There was some weird complication with my c-section healing up and the doctors told me I couldn’t swim to avoid further infection. Immediately it was the only thing I wanted to do. I could imagine the cold water enclosing around me as I dove down, my feet flipping halfway out of the water like dolphin fins. Being denied that freedom just that one time has made me so grateful for the opportunity to jump in ever since.

glen lakeglchocolatemy mom’s chocolate sauce on the stovetop in the eveningsglcake glcolorsglmorningsearly mornings with Joan, vastly improved by good coffeeglmixedMy brother and I went to see Chef at the Traverse City’s State Theatre on Free Popcorn Wednesdays. A cute foodie movie in a beautiful theatre, lovingly restored and volunteer-run!glpizzagldrinksThere are wonderfully casual wineries in the area to visit and more vineyards are being planted all the time (somewhat replacing the cherry tree orchards).glcherriesMy dad is obsessed with the ‘pizza bread’ from this market.glthefourth

 

 

the play mat

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Here’s an easy Montessori hack, no purchase necessary: the play mat. I’d read about this idea–a small rug or mat that the child knows is their go-to space for all toys and projects. It supposedly can inspire ownership of space, tidiness, and project completion. But with just the three of us kicking around, it seemed a bit restrictive to demand Lux use a mat constantly, and ultimately an unnecessary extra purchase.

Enter, troubled waters: Even though Lux stopped napping around 2.5 years, I quickly realized that we still needed an hour break in the afternoon. She was often refreshed after the hour, most of which she spent talking to herself and play acting. We pressed on with “quiet time” with some difficulty. Joan naps in the girls’ room which leaves our room for Lux, and I could tell she felt like a misfit in the space there. (I asked for ideas here, and you all gave some great ones!) Despite my enticing books-on-tapes and quiet-time-only library books, she resisted it and we quickly found ourselves arguing over it every day.

Enter, a solution: a crisp blanket like this quilt, freshly laid out in front of a table papered and set with colored pencils. This has been successfully designated as Lux’s “work station.” The official labeling and the act of setting it up every afternoon has helped ease her into quiet time! hoorah. I make a point to clean it up directly afterwards, and at other times in the day she will ask for “her work space.” So I think we’ll try rolling this thing out on demand next. Any of you using this technique?