Books and Lunch

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My favorite day this weekend was when it was a breezy 70 degrees instead of our lately-so-typical-90 and we drove to Concord. Since we decided not to travel for the holiday weekend, I announced that we could all treat ourselves to new books. Last time we were at the Concord Bookshop we were buying books as a gift for a young friend of ours, and I had rushed them out murmuring “maybe next time.” So now was next time.

If you go, you can always get a very nice drink at the lovely Haute Coffee next door. If it had been just a touch more Autumn-feeling we would have wandered the graveyard across the street as well; the faded type and nearly toppled slate markers always make for great conversation with the girls.

Or you can hop back in your car and drive the odd ten minutes over to West Concord to Nashoba Bakery. You may have seen their breads around Boston, they sell to over 200 wholesale accounts. They have a cafe attached to this, their original bakery location, tucked back in an odd, barely-marked parking lot. Delicious sandwiches and cookies, fill your-own-coffee, and on weekends before 1pm: slow rise waffles with toppings. Perhaps the real attraction is the picnic tables that line the back porch and yard, overlooking merry Nashoba Creek. A lovely bridge spans the dwindling water, leading to a parking lot, safe and enclosed so the girls could run back and forth across.

photos from lately

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1. Moon postcard from our hotel in Marfa, TX.

2. 1pm nap is still so important for this two year old.

3. My friend Johanna gave me some lovely washi tapes. It’s such a fun supply.

4. After I took this photo I noticed the clever thumbprint placement of FRANCE.

5. Portrait of a coldbrew popsicle at naptime.

6. Giant silver UX balloons brought home after a Wistia party, to the girls’ daylong delight.

7. Whole Foods dough with plenty of food-processor-shredded mozzarella.

8. Sorted supplies.

9. Dress-up bin, in a new spot, getting lots of attention.

10. Pastels are a special treat reserved for supervised time. Love their bright blending possibility.

It’s a…

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I keep forgetting to mention! It’s a girl. We found out two weeks ago (at 20 weeks, the day before this photo was taken). Good thing I’ve saved everything. And you know what? This makes me really happy that I bought nicer things for the girls here and there, like Hunter rain boots and good winter jackets. Cause I loved them once, loved em twice, and now I get to love them a third time. So you should go push BUY on whatever you have sitting in your zappos cart right now.

I DID want them to say it was a boy, I admit. Because: sons. They seem like a good thing. They contain within themselves less feral mother-daughter drama; like say a dog compared to a cat. They seem blindly loyal, like a hometown sports fan. And also: brothers. They don’t seem like a good thing for a bit of your life, and then: they’re the best. And you realize how much you learned from them all along….obviously there’s many things I could say in favor of the gender that makes up half our human race. Anyway.

But now that I know it’s a girl, in the sense that the girl already exists and it’s no longer anyone’s guess, I’m very happy.

We’re pretty into our spider-catching duplo architects. Our bunny lovers who usually prefer to “roar like a t-rex.” Our dance-adoring pink appreciators who could pick a good twirly dress out of a deep six rack of boxy shirts. Our rain-walk loving, silly screaming, someday-dreaming, fresh white paper hogs who have scribbled every last crayon down to its tattered stub and spend afternoons “just painting with black today.” We can’t wait.

food and family photo from happy Maine by our friend Jared.

teaching gratefulness

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In between forgetting to slather on sunscreen and forgetting to comb anyone’s hair, I can’t get this thought out of my head—how do you teach gratefulness?

I’m not expecting them to grab the spray bottle every morning and clean the floors but the four year old also doesn’t have any specific daily tasks assigned to her. More often it is a request to “run and grab your water bottle for me” or “help Joan move the chair over here” which she does very willingly.

I also ask Joan, the two-year old, to pick up things or put something back after she drags it out. Usually she frowns at me and says, “nocan’t.” “Why can’t you?” “Still reading,” said while she stares vacantly off at a wall. “Mama do it.” 

Her young knack of disregard, the blithe ease with which she shrugs off my request makes me half-smile for a second and then feel overwhelmed with annoyance.

Sample day of the girls’ last week: wake up, eat breakfast, and a friend comes over. Pull out all the dress-up stuff, play dress-up changing clothes every 15 minutes for a couple hours. Share mini-ice cream cones. Have lunch, share another mini-ice cream cone. Make art in the art room with washi tape and pastels. Have a quiet time where Joan naps and Lux gets to watch her favorite 25 minutes of Octonauts. Wake up, help mom make chocolate covered strawberries for a friend, snacking all the while. Play in the living room alternating their fighting/sharing/loving/complaining song-and-dance while mom makes more food and does all the dishes. Mom packs a picnic and head outside for the last couple hours of the day, armed with food, balls, and a picnic blanket. Come home, read stories, go to bed.

Are things getting too idyllic? Am I a flourishing event planner with a preschool speciality–a flare for the lighthearted and festive? This is not an exceptional day in the life of the Ringenberg girls. I could pull from any other day of that week and list the pleasures—activity, food, activity, game.

As a stay-at-home mom in the city equipped with modern conveniences in my home, I am free to do this stuff with them. If we do laundry on the weekends, I clean for roughly thirty minutes of every day, and I cook for maybe an hour (but that’s by-myself-time in a good way). Are there so few demands on my schedule that I’m turning their daily lives into some kind of bucolic Disneyland? (Bucolic is the very word doesn’t apply though. They are not running in the fields picking wildflowers and chasing cow tails. They are gently fingering flowers grown in window boxes hanging over the sidewalk, reminded to touch, but not pick.)

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But no matter how idyllic, I still have a four-year old who complains to me about her day. She asks “But mom, why can’t we go on the merry go round again?” “Why no lemonade/candy/ice cream today?” It must seem to her that we could do anything, if only I would just set my mind to it. And largely my explanations aren’t logical, they must seem almost whimsical to her—we aren’t having ice cream because we’re having dessert tonight. We don’t buy lemonade every day, only some days.

Isn’t her approach a little of what we encourage in Americans, especially American consumers? Ask for more, see what else you can get, fight for what you deserve–a refund in full, receipt be damned. I wonder how many times a day I model those values to the girls instead of Christian ones: love all, the last shall be first, put others before yourself, come humbly before God.

A few days ago, while washing dishes, I examined the contents of the sink and realized I could probably teach Lux to wash the morning load with a few tries. Later, when Joan was napping, I heralded it with trumpets as a new project and Lux took it on cheerfully. The floor was doused with soapy water and it took twenty more minutes than it would have taken me, but it was entirely successful.

But then I haven’t remembered to follow up and ask her to do it agin in the days since.

I dug out the letters my mom wrote to me on my birthday each year (I know! another post for another time), and found the one from when I turned four. She writes that my older brother and I were talking turns emptying the dishwasher and setting the table at that point. I was the second born so she had more time to figure it out, just as Joan has more expected of her than Lux did. (Mostly socially though—she’s expected to apologize, to share, to take turns. Things I didn’t ask of Lux at two.)

But gratefulness is such an undercurrent in a personal ocean. Its presence is so easily overpowered by the waves of needs and wants that lap steadily. It’s hard to feel its tug, even harder to distill it, and show it to another.

 

Orzo pasta salad

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Here’s a pasta salad I just love. I make it for moms with new babies (to go with a bag of marinated steak, and cake), and I always make two batches so we can have some at home. Something about using turmeric to dye the orzo makes it taste more exotic, and the triple salty punch of feta, olives, and capers is divine. You can eat bowls of this, by yourself, for several days.

It doesn’t exactly double well, better to have two separate bowls going as you chop things up.

Orzo and Feta with Lemon-Caper Dressing and Kalamata Olives from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 pound orzo

 

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup finely minced fresh parsley (this part takes forever but it’s worth it)

1/8 cup fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon capers, drained

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 cup pitted, roughly chopped Kalamata olives

1 cup crumble feta cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the turmeric, and then add the orzo. Cook according to directions for al dente. Drain the orzo, rinse it in cold water. Set aside.

In a bowl large enough to hold the orzo, make a dressing by blending the olive oil, pepper, salt, parsley, lemon juice, capers, and sugar. Add the cooked orzo to the dressing, and combine. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and olives. Carefully toss in the feta cheese, mixing lightly, so the feta stays in nice pieces.

 

 

 

Third pregnancy is

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Third pregnancy, first trimester is: I wake up feeling nauseous and it stays with me. I’m feeling so tired and overwhelmed by the girls. I feel like Lux must be bored with me all day, and has nothing to look forward to every day. I hate making food. The smells in the kitchen gross me out. The trash and the fridge both smell awful from a distance. I feel so tired at night that I’m sad. I’m so tired that I feel darkly about how the day has gone. Joan wakes up so grouchy that it immediately discourages me when I encounter her. I feel surrounded by women who are making things and creating; and I’m just making a baby. And feeling sick the whole time of it. And that’s how the sentence rings in my head: just making a baby.

but then, finally, second trimester:

Third pregnancy is your midwife telling you to just skip the next appointment.

is feeling a little dismal about the lack of attention you’ve given your body in between babies. Like it’s the closet that didn’t get sprucing last spring. Like it’s the shoes that are cracking when you really need them. They’re still yours, but you think maybe you could have treated them better.

is your friends who “are done” joyfully trying to give you everything and anything baby-themed in their homes.

is not thinking about being pregnant once all day, and then thrilling at a tiny kick.

is being happier about how your oldest reacts to the news than anyone or anything else.

is knowing more women who are fighting infertility than you’ve ever known. Feeling like the one with a sandwich in a room of hunger. Wishing you could share. Wishing you could fix it. Wishing pregnancy was infectious via hugs.

is wondering how soon I should ask our beloved sitter how she feels about three.

is grinning when you get an email from your doula because it’s the only thing you’ve done for this one of your kids in weeks.

is your four-year-old, at a dinner party, loudly whispering “your belly looks really big” at 16 weeks.

Third pregnancy is laughing at how clueless you feel about how much your life will change soon. And how it doesn’t matter.

photo by Lux
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Favorites

joe_and_luxThis photo by our friend Jared. You see photos like these and you remember–oh yeah, phones have nothing on nice cameras.

Popsicle week!

the girls are loving: Kiki’s Messaging Service (1989) Hooray for the discovery of another wonderful anime movie from Studio Ghibli. We love the lively spirit of the young girl characters in Our Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Ponyo, and Kiki’s got the same mix of honor and adventure. She’s a current top contender for Lux’s halloween outfit.

For our next movie day I’ve got my eye on Song of the Sea. Has anyone watched it with their young ones?

Can I wear this to Costco? a pinterest board by Grace that I just discovered.

Bloom Naturals salt scrub: the girls are obsessed with taking “just a pinch” of this at the end of their baths. It makes them smell delicious and rubs off dead skin as well. Wildly all-natural and a great price. I also use her bug spray on all of us in the evenings because we get nighttime mosquitos (does such a thing exist?? We’ve got them.) and I don’t have to worry about crazy chemicals being on our skin overnight.

10 Lessons from Tibor Kalman: I really loved reading this. I’ve been curious about Maira Kalman’s deceased husband Tibor and their relationship for a long time.

Speaking of creative couples, Lux is really into the TV show Octonauts and I am just loving the fact that it was created by a husband-wife duo that live in Canada. They are incredibly talented! Here’s a overview/interview of Meomi Studio.

Joanie’s wedding photos

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For those of you who asked for more photos of my little sister’s dreamy wedding last March, there are lots up at the blog greenweddingshoes. They remind me that standing on the stage under those green ivy balloons felt like getting lost in the prettiest sky-jungle!

Every month or so I find myself wishing we could relive that week. The family-celebration endorphins were super charged! But then I chat with my contentedly newlywed sister, with her frozen Trader Joe’s dinners and their frequent nights out on the town with friends or spontaneous movie dates seeing the absolutely hippest movie that I haven’t even heard of,  and it makes me so happy.

(and…perk of a big family, we’re already looking forward to my little brother Wilson’s Alabama wedding next summer!)

vibiana walking group joans crown girls bridesmaids family(me reminding Lux that the people with big cameras are in charge and to do what they say. Flower girl territory. )joanandcale joanbea family

photos by Luke and Katherine Griffin from Max and Friends

Lux’s camera

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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. 

 

Berkshires Family Itinerary

The Berkshires is a general term applied to the hills and valleys running along the western edge of Massachusetts. They are oddly sophisticated with grand old hotels and great mansions like Edith Wharton’s The Mount. There are swimming holes, orchards, museums, and lots of long beautiful country roads that smell like damp woods and the rushing wind. Joe and I had been wishing for a couple days there with the girls for a long time, and finally things fell into place.

We drove out from Boston Thursday evening arriving at the Porches Inn, the hotel across the street from Mass MOCA around 9pm. Weekday nights run about $80 cheaper than weekend nights at Porches ($300 total). We had requested a pack n play and a pullout couch for our room–both were already set up as beds for the girls–lovely! It was pouring rain and pitch dark but we decided to show the girls the hot tub anyway. The four of us sat in there with our hair getting soaking wet from the rain, and it felt like such a family memory, I loved it.
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