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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

We were about

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

hidden winter

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I hope I always remember this bonkers winter. Walking everywhere with my girls, the stroller completely unable to deal with the curbs, the car buried, the sidewalks nearly impassable. Walking somewhere–usually the library–and then going back outside to walk home, never surprised to see more tufted cold cotton falling from the sky. It was always the loveliest white.

It was our sleeping bear winter. We didn’t go out a lot. I mean, we went out every day, but we didn’t go anywhere or do interesting things. I didn’t really notice. The girls play together now. They danced to the nutcracker suite almost every day. They didn’t melt down before meals. I didn’t have panic attacks if Joe shows up an hour late.

I was always thinking, “one year ago this would have killed me.” I didn’t even join the gym! Goodness what a difference not to have a baby.

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Our energy bill was more expensive this year. We don’t pay for our heat because of the way our building is structured, so we just pay the electric bill for our apartment. Bills were up for all of Massachusetts because they’ve shut down some coal plants and are replacing the power source with natural gas. Seeing this relatively meager bill pop up in my inbox, I would imagine for a moment what we’d done with that energy that we’d siphoned for ourselves. So many nights with the oven at 400, roasting one or two chicken breasts for a simple dinner paired with rice. So many nights of turning on all the lights in the apartment so the girls would feel comfortable using all the rooms, to make me less stir-crazy at 5pm.

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This winter Joan learned to say coco for hot chocolate, mine, sorry, go, why?, and snow.

Snow sounds a lot like no from her mouth, but after she emphatically repeated it 30 times, we would deduce that she wanted a bowlful of snow from outside our window. It wasn’t until mid-March that the snow blocking most of our kitchen and bedroom windows finally melted away. I was so happy to have the light back, but the girls miss their favorite accessible snack.

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All winter Joan liked to play at the sink. She would fill up glasses for each of us and bring them to us. They would spill on the way down from the sink, on the way down from the stool, on the way to us, and right before she’d handed them to us. They would arrive smeared on the edges with whatever else happened to be in the sink, with bits of food floating in them. Her eyes glowed with satisfaction when we would thank her.

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There were people in the same city as me who had a different winter. They had to use their car every day. They only got paid if they made it to work. They counted on a bus that was abruptly cut from the schedule, or was so abbreviated that they had to wait in line to get on it. Their electric bill was inconceivably high, pounds of ice pulled on the edges of their roof and threatened their water lines.

I confess that most of the winter I didn’t think about these folks; how it was going for anyone besides myself. I thought about how fresh the white looked every time snow fell. I muttered a prayer over our car every time I walked past a neighboring car that’d been rilled by a reckless snowplow. I finally read the op-ed Boston’s Winter from Hell with wide eyes. I didn’t change anything after I read it, I guess I just went about more aware of what another storm really meant for the city.

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Every season we finish here I always have a few more things I wish we’d managed. I didn’t take the girls ice skating. We didn’t watch the Christmas lights turn on on the Common. We went Colorado skiing, but not east coast skiing. Because the car was buried, we didn’t go to the MFA at all. Next year, I say to myself. This hint of anticipation, a good chance for a round two, is how I know I want to stay.

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Oh we are winter souls. Tramp tramp. Stomp stomp. Scan skies for giant falling icicles. Dairy consumption in the apartment must be up by 50% because of all the hot chocolate (not hot, not all that chocolatey). I had my first ice fall. Naturally it was when I was all by myself, charging around like the young adult that I am not. I was walking to a movie…slip, smash on the bricks. It really hurt. And then I went to watch a movie about early-onset-alzheimer’s. Still Alice. Julianne Moore had the best clothes!

I’m not going to a movie again until this ballet documentary comes to town (check here to see your local listings). It looks so good. Justin Peck, a 27-year-old choreographer for the New York City Ballet. Man, is life good or what when you can go see a documentary about a ballet choreographer that just follows him around and lets you see what he sees? I love living in the future.

We have a fridge of bountiful groceries after going without for several days following my trip. The girls really didn’t give me a hard time about my leaving for two days, probably because they had such a nice time with Joe and our friend David, who came to help. Joan was so sweet the whole first day I was back. Then, that night, she woke up at least eight times, crying and screaming for me. It was a dark harkening back to the infant days.

It’s totally fair and appropriate for them to act out after I’ve been away, but I always forget that it might come when I’m least suspecting it.

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The girls are good. They seem louder than usual. I’m hearing this from other moms too. Is it just us, or is the weather finally setting in and turning them up a notch?

I am so sleepy today! We already went out for a walk/snow tramp early this morning, now I’m curled up with a blanket and tea on the couch and it feels so good. Ballet begins in an hour. Hmmmm I don’t know if I can get us there.

When you sign up for kiddo classes, naturally you do an equation wherein you divide the cost by the number of classes (rare is the brochure that does this simple arithmetic for you). This due diligence quickly goes to pot when you encounter freezing weather or blizzards or simple human fatigue. Note to self: do not sign-up for classes in late winter. It’s just too absurd getting there and back.

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I feel that it would be nice to tell you that now, at age 3.5+, Lux’s quiet time begins with a timed 35-minute session of ipad time. It always feels right to be upfront about any screen time with one’s audience. Her app options on there are good. She primarily plays Leo’s Pad. I set the timer on the ipad, it goes off, she closes it and puts it away (I’m not sure if she knows she could just press “ok” and keep playing, or if she’s just a very honest gal).

And, you know, even though this is roughly 30x more screen time than we used to allow, I think it’s working. I always evaluate these things on how she acts afterwards and she seems refreshed. She takes a longer quiet time overall, plays, and talks to herself afterward. She feels independent because she can pick which game she wants to play and puts it away herself. Afterwards she likes to tell me what she played and how it went. Usually there are a couple things on the game she didn’t solve that time.

Parenting in the future is complicated; but once again: I’m glad to be here.

 

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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.

 

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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!

Ringenbergs!-23Ringenbergs!-2Ringenbergs!-5Ringenbergs!-39Ringenbergs!-26Ringenbergs!-40Ringenbergs!-54 Ringenbergs!-56Ringenbergs!-55Ringenbergs!-3-2Ringenbergs!-9-2Ringenbergs!-8-2Ringenbergs!-4-2 Ringenbergs!-57Ringenbergs!-13-2Ringenbergs!-21

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.

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.