Colorful capsule meals

Much love to this new area startup (dad-up)  that offers weekly delivery of chopped and colorful meals for kids. They gifted me a free trial and I ordered these for the six and four-year-old, but of course the toddler was the most delighted to take part! Each capsule contains a perfectly chopped fresh fruit, vegetable, and protein. They work as lunches (likely supplemented with a cheeses stick and a fun sweet), an after school playground snack, or quick dinners for those nights when you have a babysitter and just want to sit down with them for a few minutes while your kids eat.

Nomsly

Like all of the prepared meals services (Blue Apron, Plated, Purple Carrot), the packaging is the primary issue I wrestle with. It’s all technically recyclable, but it remains more than I would create with a trip to the grocery and a cutting board at home. I like that Nomsly offers you the change to accrue four of their refrigerated liners and ship them back to them for reuse.

Their online ordering system is delightfully simple and straight forward. It’s very easy to pause certain weeks, and schedule other ones–no minimum demanded–which is fantastic. They offer enough options for each week to make it easy to avoid items you know your kids won’t love. I was particularly impressed that they included unconventional raw veggies like kohlrabi, edamame, and jicama.

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Annnd a referral code for anyone in Boston, Eastern Massachusetts or New Hampshire who would like to try it: 3FREE4EWD for three free meals, at Nomsly.com.

she’s going

Days and days of jungle humidity ninety-degrees here. Summery groceries: 1/ lemonade 2/ melon, tomatoes 3/ cold chicken, roasted in batches in the morning 4/ good cheese.

Unfairly to you my friend reader, I have gone from talking about homeschooling here to talking about the fact that big fish (Should I start using pseudonyms for the girls? They’re getting old for this, aren’t they.) is going to school.

The first thing that happened: back in March, I called the appropriate public school number on the appropriate day and they muttered over the phone to me that we got into the school we hoped to, but had always assumed we wouldn’t. Several of our neighborhood friends did not get spots, so believe me when I say we really didn’t think it would happen.

Then we started engaging with the school: a five day, 8:15-3pm program (those hours! heart stop). The meet-the-parents events, the meet-the-principal, visit the playground, etc. Then Lux started counting the days until kindergarten, and began telling me, every morning, how many days remain.

It started to feel like a great experiment, if not a great idea.

Maybe because homeschooling has always been an assumption for me, it was an interesting twist to consider public kindergarten instead. Underneath my curiosity about the program there was the shift at home too. Lux has been home with me every day for the past five years; it feels like I’ve watched in near slow motion as she changed from a quiet being who wanted to be only with me and resented intrusions to a girl who loved activities and became drawn to big groups with leaders.

It’s exciting to think how much she might enjoy the structure of school.

I ordered $300 of crisp, warm, adorable navy and white uniform clothing for the year. With the discount that Land End’s seems to circulate every other week or so, it was actually $200, but I’m putting it in the books as $300. 

Like a farmer muttering “Lord willing” over his crops, I’m remain internally watchful of it not working. My friends have warned me that there will be at least four weeks of exhaustion and adjustment. I get that, and I’ve got plans for our post-school afternoon relax and destress sessions, namely: begin with cookies and end with yoga stretches.

But the changes I’m watching for, that I would view not just as difficulties but as deal-breakers are: 1/ whether she became a poor playmate/partner to her sisters at home. 2/ if she became less curious in engaging new ideas than she is now. 3/ whether she becomes a shell of herself for the time she is with us—tired out, cranky, a slumped pile of oreo crumbs and uncombed hair awaiting the next morning’s challenge to begin again.

And perhaps most inconceivable, to me—if it was November, and she was asking not to go to school the next day, every day that week, we would be done.

And yet, I remain expectant l for it to be totally delightful. I think she’s going to find a gang of friends immediately. I think she’s going to love seeing them every day. I think she will laugh a lot. I think she will run victory laps around the playground. I think she will fall in love with her teacher and come home quoting her. I will hear confusing retellings of once factual stories. She will eye me with a worried eyebrow when I mention morning errands that we did without her. She will discover interests that we’ve never even thought to suggest. She will smile benevolently at Joan and the pudgy chocolate chip cookies Joan will offer her from our morning. She will take on school spirit like a new cape to be buttoned around her neck. Alma will keel over with delight when Lux walks back in, as she does now, even though it’s only been five minutes.

When she goes in September, I imagine it feeling like turning off half the lights in the apartment, and then going on with our day.

I hate that when Lux asks about fall habits—will we go apple picking? Will we visit that farm again? I’m thinking mmm…probably not. Joan maybe, but you won’t. But: perhaps Joan’s current three-year-old moody emotional spiral might be buffered with more of my patience to go around? Perhaps Alma will have a real afternoon nap and Joan will enjoy a quiet time again?

And the school itself, Joe characterizes it like Sesame Street—solid and urban, but soft around the edges. Worn-in bricks, stately fence, 70s tile cafeteria, the tricycles lined up in the hallway ready to race out into the playground. Amazing teachers, devoted parents, incredible principal. Who wouldn’t want to help their daughter engage with their city on that level?

invite the kids!

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Last week I wanted to hear Lucy Keating speak at the athenaeum, a library and event spot up the street from me. Lucy wrote dreamology a fantastic and fun young adult novel set in Boston. I loved the writing and admire Lucy for writing such a lighthearted and inventive novel. The event was at noon, so I needed to make a plan for all the three of the girls to attend with me.

The situation reminded me of one my favorite kids-tag-along hacks that I learned from my friend Ashley. Ashley brings her daughter to ballets, plays, and events of all sorts. She buys special candy treats, and then, puts the candy into new bags. The plastic that candy is packaged in is quite possibly the noisiest thing on earth, times ten if you’re in a silent symphony hall. But if you decant the candy into new disguised bags, like the girls are holding above, not only will your children be able to eat silently, but also only a few people will even notice you are bribing them! Win win.

The talk was a real treat for me. And I loved the chance for Lux to see a young woman (Lucy is my age) author up front, talking about her writing process. Lux picked up phrases here and there and would look over at me and smile in recognition. Joan and Alma were rather oblivious but happy to not be at left at home anyway.

Do you have any favorite tips that makes it easier for kids to join adult events?

the first hot weekend

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I found a drawer for the sunscreen, sun hats, sunglasses, sun shirts, and the bright bathing suits that pile together like fresh picked wildflowers. I can’t wait to use it every day.

sweaty hikeshut

We all have sandals but I’ll probably order another round just to be safe. Sandals are the ninety-nine problems shoes, in my experience. It would be better if we could apply a seasonal permanent sole to the children’s feet. Easily removed with mineral oil, come autumn. Young corked, or maybe, rubberized feet would be a small price to pay not worry once about the buckles, the velcro, the pinched toe, the rubbed heel, the way they slide a bit when they’re wet, the way they don’t fit now but will in July, the way one falls off under the restaurant chair and both fall off in the car.

But of course I would never go for this because, aside from feeling squeamish about plastic adhesive surgery on the very young, the truth is I love all their sandals. I love how they show the toes, love how their texture is faintly squishy, love how they cut around their ankles so prettily, love how once discarded, in the sand, they look like oval lollipops.

hikers

This weekend we went hiking, a hobby that has unexpectedly become an interest of ours, though ideally not launched on a day, like Saturday, forecasted to be ninety degrees. My friend suggested the Blue Hills, a convenient half hour drive. The Blue Hills website is what really wooed me–the old fashioned list layout, with photos!–was ideal for finding the hike we wanted. After a sweaty thirty minute hike, blessedly circular, we picnicked on sparse provisions that I had thrown together before we left and then searched for a place to put our feet in water. Only a seven minutes away was Houghton’s Pond, clearly no secret as approximately two hundred other people had already thought to visit that day. There were small grassy hills with shade, a playground, a large bathroom facility, and parking.

The pond itself was fresh water, lukewarm and sandy-dirty. The girls got in with just their underwear (bathing suits having been ignored in their new drawer-home) but it felt wonderful and from there we could walk to a small snack shop for syrupy slushies.

gazebo light

 

Tea at the Boston Public Library

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Joe’s parents came to town last weekend and then my mom came shortly after. It was so wonderful to have all that love for the girls around! Plus, Joe and I enjoy planning these short visits and filling them with all the good things as best we can manage. For Joe’s family we spent a morning at the Museum of Fine Arts to see the amazing Megacities show (I picked up a library pass beforehand to offset the cost a bit). From the museum we drove to the greenway and went to the Public Market and picked up a few bags of the amazing roasted nuts from Q’s nuts for snacking, plus some very ripe, very cheap fruit from the outside Haymarket weekend vendors. The girls played on the greenway benches and grass till dinner time when we ordered lobster rolls from Pauli’s to eat outside. The next day Joe and I took his brother Ross for an evening at the wonderfully funky Hojoko, followed by shakes outside at Tasty Burger. And on Sunday after Alma’s baptism, we spent the morning in the Public Garden with Swan Boats, finally seeking drinks and hot chocolates in the Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons when we got too cold.

My mom comes to visit more frequently, so I often use that grandmotherly babysitting time to do things like get a haircut, go to a pediatrician appointment with just one child, return clothes and try on clothes in the actual store, get lunch with a friend, or go out to dinner with girlfriends. What I just typed up is basically my complete personal hit list of wonder!

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My mom and I started a tradition of going out to tea and this time I remembered to make a reservation at the BPL Courtyard Restaurant. I thought the food was delicious, really, and the staff was very accommodating and kind with the girls. Alma fell asleep in the stroller right before we went in, which always feels like such a lucky break!

It runs $35 each, we ordered three teas total, and made it our lunch-dinner for the day.

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The girls know all about sugar cubes because I like them in my afternoon coffee, so this jar provided immediate distraction when we sat down. They do offer high chairs or booster seats, but the girls preferred the wide armchairs.

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When the food came Joan made a point to inspect everything on the trays and pick out her favorites–which turned out to be one of nearly everything. Actually it’s a little silly that I order these grand teas–I’m really obsessed with scones and that’s all I eat, especially with the devonshire cream and jam.

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The tea is served in the BPL Courtyard restaurant Wednesday-Saturday, a spot that feels hidden and quiet from chaotic Copley Square. If anyone gets overtired or overwhelmed, you can always step back out into the sunlit courtyard. And absolutely you should head upstairs to the children’s library after your meal! We got there just in time for a story hour and craft.

tea_skeptics^^This was before they saw those tea trays. And the sugar jar.

 

October snaps

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I have not had one daytime sitter for several weeks, thus no posts lately. (Tempted to delete that, because who cares, but it’s important to keep it real for those of you who never get breaks and wonder how you feel so brain dead!) Half of me thinks find a new sitter immediately! And half of me just doesn’t mind. I mind in context of “other things I want to get done” but I don’t mind when I look back on my day with them.

September finished up summer for us–a few more beach days, last ice cream adventures and outdoor picnics–and now October: “the golden hour of the clock of the year,” as I heard it beautifully described in this poem the other day.

We have begun a few school-like activities. I still hesitate to use “homeschool” as she’s only 4, but sometimes it is just easier to label things, isn’t it?

We have a math-games class, her same ballet class (with *all* 4-year-olds now–apparently a game changer for the attention span of the group), and a wood shop class, which I look forward to finding out if it works at all. She may reject it. It’s a big deal to me that Lux likes the classes and looks forward to them. I’m pretty wimpy about pushing things she doesn’t like and I would drop out if she wasn’t enthusiastic. Fortunately she loves everything so far.

These classes are funny because they are drop off, so you only get the review you get. It’s like ordering take-out and instead of eating it, reading a yelp review of it. Last year, the only review Lux solemnly gave me after her first ballet class was, “We didn’t do any twirling at all.”

Something we do labeled distinctly with homeschool is the Friday program at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The kids troop around to see few pieces of art and then make a wonderful craft loosely based on what they discussed. The architecture of that building makes my mood soar, and I get to stare at the paintings for as long as they do, which is lovely.

I took a drive to the cheap area grocery store to stock up on pantry supplies and came upon a tub of non-hydrogenated shortening. It was complete news to me that this product exists! Aside from allowing some of us to dive back into recipes of our grandmother’s that have shortening in them, after reading Amazon reviews, I’ve learned it allows people with dairy allergies to bake well again. Pie crusts which I make with butter, for example, can be very successfully made with shortening.

So anyway I bought it and made several batches of chewy fragrant ginger snaps over the last week. I only had blackstrap molasses in the house (bought in a brave nutritional attempt to fix my constant iron anemia. Found in my pantry unopened, of course.) Using the unsulphered blackstrap instead of “baking” molasses definitely makes it taste more molassas-y, but all batches have been eaten with gusto by Joe and the girls nonetheless.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but in the final step before the oven, kids love to be the ones to roll the balls of dough in the granulated sugar.

Grandma Agnes’ Ginger Snaps

3/4 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

2 t baking soda

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix ingredients in order given and chill. I mixed with a spoon, and then my hands, with great results. I wrapped mine up in saran wrap and chilled for about 40 minutes. Shape into 1 inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar and place on a greased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

 

apartment tour

Emily just did the loveliest post about our apartment on Apartment Therapy. There’s nothing quite like seeing your space through someone else’s eyes—I just love it! Lux joyfully followed Emily and her husband Max around when they were here, and managed to get into about half the photos. : )

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It’s a pertinent post for these days because it feels like everyone has been asking since I got pregnant: are you moving? We are not, or at least not for a year or two. The baby will be in our room for six months or so, and then might move into the closet like Joan did, and then into the girls’ room. Joan can move under the new bunk bed and baby can take over Joan’s crib. It feels so distant to remember our old place, when Lux was in our room for her first year and a half.

With even just a little bit of nesting that I’ve done, I’m already finding corners we can rework and make more livable and comfortable, and storage that can be done better.

The girls’ clothing storage, as seen below, is probably not going anywhere though and is in fact, accumulating with time!

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I’ve been wanting to post a photo of Lux’s bunk bed that she conveniently asked for for her 4th birthday. Joe found it on craigslist. It’s vintage IKEA and took him about four uninterrupted hours to put together…it’s so vintage that none of the screws were streamlined or matched at all.

Our main goal was to find a bunkbed design that let in as much light as possible–which was surprisingly hard to find. We’re so happy with this one. Joe made the romantic roof from the old detachable side of Lux’s crib! (Her IKEA sniglar crib bed, same model as Joan’s, had really taken a beating and had to be retired completely.)

toys

Minor, but I’m very into the results that come from the magna-tiles and duplos being the only accessible toys outside of their room. They are constantly playing with them and building-chaos is one of the few types of chaos that makes my heart happy. If you decide to order magna-tiles, I recommend splurging for a lot, like the 100 piece set. We’re planning on ordering more soon, just to keep up with the range of structures they both like to build.

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The pinboard wall has solved all our art storage needs. I love it so much. You can find some of the construction details on the apartment therapy post. At the time, it seemed crazy to me to splurge for custom-milled wood, but it was totally worth it because it’s so pretty and it’s the biggest thing in the room! (I was initially pinboard-inspired by this home tour on Cup of Jo.)

I find that as long as I clean off their art table every evening (and yes, ruthlessly throw away the ten sheets of paper they filled that day), it’s one of the first places they head to every morning.

Joan_art

I tried not to fuss and perfect too much before Emily came over to photograph–I hope this comes across as a realistic tour, with our “lived-in minimalism” as Joe sagely put it.

Anyway, head over to the post to see the whole thing! Thank you Emily!

all photos by Emily Billings for apartment therapy. 

Lux’s camera

lux

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.

Lux uses a Canon Powershot SD880, available used for around $50. 

 

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.

revere_beach

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.

Ballerina on parade

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Here’s a day from December we are still talking about. My mom was in town to visit us and see the holiday lights. Before she arrived I reserved tickets for the Sugar Plum Fairy Tea at the Ritz Carlton in Boston (they sell out every year about two weeks ahead of time). After the tea Lux and I took the train to Cambridge to see the Jose Mateo Nutcracker with friends of ours.

US Angels had recently sent Lux a ballerina dress. We saved it for the occasion and she wore it proudly and grandly all day. The dress is such a beauty–it has two tiers of tulle, a line of cloth-covered buttons down the back and comes with a ribbon belt for cinching.

Of course one bunny was invited to come along as well.

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There are a few holiday teas around Boston for families looking for festive occasions–the Ritz Carlton tea was beautifully done. The Nutcracker theme was a total dream come true for Lux; at this point I think we’ve played the Nutcracker orchestra performance on our tape player over 100 times, easily. There was even a young ballerina performer from the Boston Ballet Nutcracker there for photos. Lux watched her with awe and went up for a photo three times (contrast that with her Santa experience where she wouldn’t get within ten feet of the guy).

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The food was so charming and elegant: things like cucumber sandwiches made to look like Christmas trees, tiny circles of salmon on toast, peanut butter and jellies carefully sliced and stacked, and (my favorite) tomato, mozzerella, and pesto ciabattas. A bowl of marshmallows sat ready for scooping next to the hot chocolate alongside chocolate-covered-strawberries, red velvet cupcakes and trays of scones. They had stacks of gingerbread cookies for the kids to decorate, plastic tiaras and crowns ready for pretend play and glass containers full of pink and purple glittering star wands for the taking.

You can imagine why Lux is still asking if we are going again next year!

The Ritz had also three craft opportunities set-up for kids to make ornaments for local shelter’s holiday trees in partnership with the organization Catching Joy. I loved the moment when Lux realized she was not keeping the crafts. She stopped and looked dismayed, then looked around and saw everyone crafting away anyway, and jumped back in.

After frolicking, snacking and several hot chocolate refills, we gave one last longing look at the professional ballerina, and we headed to the T to meet our friends Johanna and her daughter, Haruka.

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The Jose Mateo ballet program is housed in a beautiful church just outside of Harvard Square. Their theatre is the old sanctuary of the church, an intimate and friendly space. To my eye there is no bad seat in the house. For the 2pm performance that Saturday the whole place was full of children! Both my friend Johanna and I had brought silent snacks for placating the girls if they got antsy, but as soon as I saw all the kids, I realized we didn’t need to worry. Even so it was silent audience for most of the performance. It was such a treat to sit through the whole thing, and really nice to have it be more affordable. Some day I would like to take Lux to the Boston Ballet performance, but for now it’s perfect to see it on a slightly smaller scale.

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All in all, it was a day I want to do every year (and next year, Joan will be invited…I think!). Certainly it ran more expensive than what we’d spend on kiddo-fun in a typical month, much less one day! But still, it was the perfect time of year to take advantage of such fun opportunities.