Category Archives: parenting

Talking to Kids About Real Things (Gonna Be a Long 4 Years)

UPDATE: THIS JUST IN: http://www.theverge.com/2017/1/28/14427086/federal-court-halts-trumps-immigration-ban

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We were watching “The Wide Window” in “A Series of Unfortunate Events” when my phone buzzed.

Do you have the kids now?

-Yep.

I’m probably going to Logan. 

Earlier in the evening I’d shared, on Facebook, a compiled lists of protests around the country due to (this time) the new president’s new executive order banning people from entering the U.S. from certain countries. While some of them were in flight.

Yeah, this is horrifying on so many levels.

I responded to my text, quietly: -I would but have very tired slightly sick kids. Thank you for going!! 

Also, I don’t take my kids to protests in the middle of bedtime. We’re chasing a very delicate equilibrium these days and I try to keep the status quo as much as possible. The new custody schedule helps a ton, and I think Friday evening karate does, too. Yes, I know we’re privileged, and privileged enough to try to maintain order and a schedule and routine. I know.

I wished her luck and returned to watching the show with the kids, the younger one snuggled against me.

Twenty minutes later, when the show had ended and I was reading to the kids (George, about a boy who understands she’s really a girl and has a hard time telling anyone but really wants to play Charlotte in the school performance of “Charlotte’s Web”–an excellent book, and so well done, and the kids totally get it and it’s not a big deal to them, and I love that this book exists and hate that it is so out of the norm), my phone buzzed again. Another local friend.

“Mom, stop texting,” my older son grumbled.

“I need to check it. I can explain why,” I said.

The second friend was texting to see if I’d join her at the protest in Boston tomorrow. I checked her text because I knew it would be protest-related and wanted to know if I should connect her with the first friend, so they could carpool to Logan if need be.

“So,” I started, “the Statue of Liberty has a poem on it by a woman named Emma Lazarus, saying, ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.’

“This country became a refuge for so many people seeking shelter and peace and a better life.* The United States welcomes all. Or, did. But our new President has signed something called an ‘executive order,’ an official decree, stating that people from certain countries — all of them predominantly Muslim countries — cannot come to the United States anymore.

“Some of the people were on planes at the time that he signed it, so when they landed here they couldn’t go to to where they were going, and they couldn’t be put back on a plane to go back to where they came from. They were sent to detention centers to talk with immigration lawyers about what they could do.**”

“Wait, why couldn’t they just be put on planes to go back?”

“Great question. For some people, it’s not safe to return to where they came from. They came here seeking a safe place. For others, there’s no reason to return. Maybe they were just on a trip. In any case, who would pay for the flight? So they are sent to detention centers.

“So people are protesting this around the country tonight, at different airports, and they are also marching tomorrow to protest. So I was checking my texts to see if S—‘s mom is going to Logan tonight, like J—- is, to see if maybe they can carpool. But S—-‘s mom is going to the march tomorrow in Boston. Want me to read a few more pages?”

And then poor George had to deal with her teacher refusing to take her Charlotte audition seriously. Ugh.

And then the kids conked out the way very tired children do, especially when they’re fed and safe and warm and secure. Sorry to lay it on thick. It’s been a long week, the first week of a long four years. We’ll be stopping by the Boston protest tomorrow, all three of us.

*For real, we talked about Europeans invading the U.S. and taking the land away from Native Americans and killing most of them and forcing the rest to live in crappy “reservations” just a few days ago, so I skipped that part.

**Admittedly a little heavy for bedtime. But I’m not going to shield my children from their president’s actions for the next four years. I cannot. It’s impossible and stupid to try. Instead: Hey kids, here’s what your president is up to. We’re so, so sorry, and it hurts so many people. 

Yeah. Stuff Is Hard.

My old pal and running partner Sasha used to say that you can only do three things well. At the time, we both had small children and were training a lot for races. Her three things were running, writing, and parenting. Mine were….running, parenting, cooking, working, knitting….I might have been trying to do too many things, actually. I’m like that. It doesn’t mean I’m doing them well. It just means I “never have time” and I have too much going on.

I’ll be honest: I am having a hard time lately. Obviously, I cannot say too much here. But that is the truth.

A big part of it, I’m sure, is the damn election. As for probably every other woman out there, it’s triggering rage at the lifetime of sexism, minor assaults, etc. No need to belabor this point. At all.

And divorce. It’s hard. I’ll just leave it at that.

The cat I lost custody of* went missing for several days (one of which was cold, rainy, windy, stormy). Thankfully, she’s been found, and in other happy news, my landlord said I can get a cat, so the boys and I will start looking around for a kitty for our home. So that is very happy news.

Here’s what I’m doing:

  1. Parenting, trying to help my kids be happy and healthy and thriving during this big transition in their lives.
  2. Working (and I have an extra client right now, one I want to impress, of course, but it means the current couple of weeks are kind of a strain on me).
  3. Training for an ultramarathon (go ahead and say, “WTF are you thinking?”).
  4. Socializing and trying to recover myself and my interests (climbing, mountain biking, baking, etc.).
  5. Finishing unpacking and setting up this apartment (actually, screw that; I’m hopefully here only 10 more months and I don’t want to put much more money into this apartment or unpack anything else; we still need some rugs and some storage items, but I’m not doing much else).
  6. Figuring out what happens next regarding the divorce, where we’ll all live next year, future employment, and so on.

That is a lot. 

Honestly, fitness has fallen right out the window. I’m not going to the gym. I’m barely running. I should be doing multi-hour runs at this point. Instead, I’m trying to get sleep or get extra work-time in when I can.

And sometimes, like tonight, I just need to spend some time baking and vacuuming and then curled up on the couch watching old episodes of “House.”

So if, by Sasha’s rules, I had to pick three, it would be parenting, working, self-care/sleep. Some of that self-care involves time with friends; some of it involves baking; some of it involves time on Facebook, and I am not ashamed of that. Some days Facebook provides my only social interaction, since I work from home. Don’t judge.

Anyway. Lately things feel hard. Maybe I’m doing too much. The ultra training, much as I hate to say it, has to go. I just don’t have the time or energy for it right now, and it’s not where I should be putting my energy, and it’s becoming a stressor instead of something to look forward to. I hate to let go of it. But I need to take care of myself and conserve energy (physical and mental) right now.

So that’s where I’m at. Feel free to give me an unsolicited hug. Or ask how I am. Or tell me a joke.

*because when I found this apartment, it was “No pets allowed,” so C took the cat when we all moved in August. But now I can have a cat, YAY THANK GOD.

Five Nights/Six Days

My babies left tonight. I dropped them off on a chilly soccer field as it was growing dark. I hugged and kissed them goodbye on the way there, because I’m aware of what’s socially acceptable for these boys. And after I waved goodbye, the older one ran after me for a final hug.

We’ve had six days and five nights of bliss together. Normally our schedule is 2-2-3, meaning two nights with me, two with their father, three with me (including a weekend), then it switches: two nights with him, two with me, three with him (including a weekend).

It’s a lot of going back and forth. And it’s hard. And it’s hard to keep track, sometimes — “Whose night is it tonight, Mama?”

But this long stretch? It was gorgeous. Relaxed. The three of us were calm and happy. There were none of the usual transition challenges, no anger, no tough behavior, no fighting between the boys that didn’t also involve a lot of laughter. We all just settled in happily for our extra days together, and it’s been beautiful.

There were two days of school, of course (today was a holiday — Happy New Year!). And they got to choose what we had for dinner (“Sloppy joes!”, declared one, but the other wanted a burger, but since both involve ground beef and buns, everyone got what they asked for). They did their homework. We had hilarious drawing sessions. They made a new neighborhood friend and spent hours outside with him (and other kids). We ordered pizza in the next town and wandered around in the rain waiting for our dinner to be ready. We finally had our first movie night in this new apartment.

We bought pumpkins and made lunches together and went to the trampoline park with friends. We spent a few hours in the woods, hiking and climbing around and listening to a red-tailed hawk screaming in the distance. We lounged around together on the couch, all in a pile, laughing and sometimes reading. Some mornings I woke up to find both or just one in my bed, snuggled against me. Other mornings, I woke alone, finding they’d stayed in their own beds all night, warm and snug.

They’re gone now, at their father’s for the next two nights. Their room is dark and empty, and the apartment is quiet. I kept up on the dishes like a pro for the past many days, but now that the boys are gone I’ve already fallen into a kind of ennui and the sink is already piled up. I don’t care. I’ll have the place clean and tidy before they return.

For now, I just listen to the crickets outside, all of my apartment dark except for the kitchen, and feel so, so glad my boys and I had a long stretch of time together. We all needed it.

 

Back on the (Running) Horse

I’ve become a total slacker, not running, barely going to yoga or weekly (just weekly!!) boot camp. Except for the magical Loon race, I really haven’t been running.

It’s a mix of being unmotivated, lazy, and rather taken over by the apartment hunt (nothing yet). Plus, the heat! I am personally responsible, however, for ending our heat wave in the Northeast, and you’re welcome. How did I do it? I singlehandedly lugged home a borrowed air conditioner, hauled it in, and installed it in the kids’ room, all on my own, without crushing my feet, cutting a finger, or dropping it out the window. I am a total rockstar. And that feat literally broke the heat wave, overnight.

I clearly have superpowers.

But anyway. I can’t run in the heat. Not like I’m a wimp, but I had a heatstrokey experience a few years ago (heat exhaustion, heat-related illness, what have you, I don’t know the proper term — let me just say it was Rather Bad), and since then I tolerate heat/humidity even less well than I did before, and so a recent afternoon running-in-the-heat attempt turned into a mere two-miler that left me beet red, dry-skinned, superhot, and feeling chilled. Yeah. I don’t sweat well. So. I officially give up trying to work out when it’s hot and humid.

While I’d made my peace with becoming one with my chair/sofa, I also know that I need goals. And my planned September 50-miler can’t happen, because I haven’t been running. Time to get off my ass and do something about this before I melt into a sad puddle of endorphin-less squish.

Oh, I love the endorphins.

Plus, with so many things in my life up in the air right now, I need something regular to count on and to do for myself that’s positive. Also, I “met” this woman while training for my ultra last December (we only met online, ran the race near each other [me somewhere behind her], and still haven’t met in person), and she’s very inspiring. She’s been training hard, recently won a 50K, and posts all her training online. I love following it (she’s also a vegan and posts pics of her meals — also inspiring). And it has inspired me to get off my ass and get back out there.

So I finally downloaded a marathon training plan, pinned it to my wall, and am sticking to it. I downloaded some new tunes to my iPod (a healthy mix of Sia and Highly Suspect, if you must know) and knocked out five miles today. Alone. Happily, even. With some box jumps on a big rock near the end of the run.

Race plan:

  • July: Mudderella (5-mile mud/obstacle race, pure fun)
  • September: Trail half marathon, followed two weeks later by a road half marathon
  • December: Trail ultra (yes, will use the marathon plan to get my mileage up and then build up from there)

 

It's just an intermediate training plan, but i's a good way to get my mileage back up.

It’s just an intermediate training plan, but i’s a good way to get my mileage back up.

Seriously, the new songs helped a lot. I haven’t updated my playlist in four years. Ugh. No wonder I don’t want to run!

And the half marathons on the training plan sync perfectly with a local half on a weekend I don’t have the kids (win-win!). However, I’m not sure how I will manage my weekend runs when they’re here. Make them bike alongside? For 14 or 20 miles?? Remains to be seen. I might have some 4 a.m. weekday runs in my future. We’ll see. I will definitely have to tweak the training based on when I have the kids, but I’ll get it all done and mark it all off as I go.

Plus, right above this training plan on the corkboard is this delightful drawing by Ben, which I love so much:

img_8643.jpg

 

I think he was four when he drew it, and while it looks as though Max might be about to take a swig, if I recall correctly he’s poised to throw something at Ben, according to the artist — who might be holding a self-defense rock in the drawing, come to think of it. Sweet, sweet children (no, seriously, they are — JUST THIS WEEK they started playing board games together, checkers mostly, and this morning Max was teaching Ben to play chess! You have no idea how much pure joy this brings me).

What are you training for? Who or what inspires you? How do you get off your butt when you’re becoming one with your chair?

More About Guns: Daniel Boone

My second-grader has to write a book report, about a biography.

First of all, the kid just got into reading about two months ago, and now he loves to read, so I am not that happy that it has been made into a chore. How was it made into a chore? He was to take notes on sticky notes of all important events while he read, then transfer these to a notes chart. He now has to make a timeline of the person’s life and prepare a presentation for his class for next Monday.

Well. First he brought home a book about some soccer star, but the reading level was way above him, so I gently suggested something else, even a different book about the same guy. Then Max suggested George Washington.

I swear I was supportive of this. But at the library, I found a book about Daniel Boone at his reading level. I know George Washington is a fantastic historical figure, but Daniel Boone is pretty damn interesting, too. Max liked the idea.

And loved the book. He came out of his room the first day: “Mom! Did you know that when Daniel Boone was only 13 he could build a cabin with his bare hands and trap animals? And he helped the needy by giving extra furs to poor people?”

That’s my boy. But then we forgot about the sticky note thing (I thought he knew, so I didn’t mention it), so when he was several chapters in he had to go back and do all the sticky notes, which annoyed him, since he can’t exactly just skim the pages just yet, so I helped with that, and then he was on his way for the rest of the book, doing his own sticky notes and then making the notes chart.

All kinds of cool things happened to Daniel Boone: when he was a kid he went missing, and when a search party found him two days later he was calmly cooking his (hunted) dinner over a fire he’d built; he sold enough furs to buy his family a lot of land; his daughter was kidnapped by Indians (the book is obviously a little old, and I explained to Max the difference between Indians and Native Americans and why Native Americans here used to be called Indians), and Daniel saved her; and then in a war he got shot in the ankle; and one time he rode a horse so fast and too far and it died. Max was so into this book and this guy (and me too, frankly).

The teacher sent home some examples of creative timelines: a keyboard for George Gershwin, for example, and a cherry tree for (yawn) George Washington. So what is a key fact about Daniel Boone, the frontiersman? He learned to hunt at an early age and was such a sharpshooter that as a youth, people joked he could shoot a tick off a bear’s nose from 300 feet, so his rifle got nicknamed “Tick Licker.”

So if you’re going to make a creative timeline about Daniel Boone, do you draw a trap? A pelt? A log cabin? Or a rifle? (Probably a Kentucky long rifle, because yes, I looked into it, since I have been asked to draw the thing.)

Yeah. So my child will be bringing a big paper rifle into school on Monday, with 17 fascinating events from Daniel Boone’s life marked on it. And I fully support this.

What do you think? Good idea, because my son is really engaged with this book? Bad idea, because we are really jumpy about guns and schools right now? Tell me in the comments!

Creating A Star Chart for Kids

We’ve needed a star chart for a long time. “Just find clip art!” someone (a teacher? therapist?) told us brightly. “Just make one!”

For tired and overwhelmed (and hey, design-challenged) parents, “just finding clip art” can be a daunting task. What clip art? Where do I find it? What do I need to put on the chart? Also, our brief experience with a potty training chart hadn’t been encouraging (not the chart’s fault).

This has, of course, come up again in a recent meeting. Last year the preschool had a neat chart they’d put together. They wouldn’t give us a copy, despite all the meetings and tuition payments and looks of defeat on our faces. Nope, we had to come up with our own.

Fast-forward a year, and we’re told the teacher might share a “home-school chart.” I started to think, again, about all the times we could use a star chart. The morning hell. The after-school routine. Bedtime bedlam. General behavior, table manners, the few small chores they have. WHERE DO WE START?? We also don’t want to have charts everywhere like some kind of maniacal control freaks. Just one small chart to start, please … but one that really meets our needs.

I hit the Internet harder than ever. And found the solution. It’s a site called GoMommyGo.com and frankly it’s kind of a noisy site. But it is extremely useful. You can either download one of the pre-made charts on the site or give the site your email (that’s right — that is all you have to do) and download your own customizable chart. Yes. For FREE you get a word document with a chart format AND a ton of clip art, organized into topics, that you might need. Everything for the morning routine! For after school! Chores! Bedtime! Prayers, washing windows, feeding the cat –you name it, there’s clip art here for you to use!

The chart we downloaded has five rows. That’s good. That’s all a kid can handle sometimes. We settled on a morning routine chart, since 1) mornings are a really hard right now and 2) if we start the day well, maybe the rest will be better?

I made and printed the chart (had already bought shiny star stickers at Staples, but you can probably get them at any drugstore or office supply store). Then we went over it with the kids. If you do something (get dressed, brush teeth) after being told only once, you get a star (you get two stars if you do it without being told). If you get ALL your stars in a day, you can have iPad time or some other child-suggested-in-advance treat after school. If you get all your stars in a week, you can have —

— “A HAMSTER!!!!!” Ben shouted.

Aw jeez no. He’d stopped mentioning it months ago but I guess he still wants one. Ugh.

“Uh, we were thinking some other kind of special treat, like an ice cream party at home, or going out for slushies, or going to see a movie,” I suggested.

“Yeah, a hamster might be after three months of all your stars,” said C.

“No, a week!” said Ben.

“Maybe three weeks,” I said.

[NOTE: SORT THIS STUFF OUT WITH YOUR SPOUSE BEFORE YOU INTRODUCE THE STAR CHART TO YOUR KIDS. Also, don’t forget that if you turned on the boiler fill valve before you started a load of laundry, make sure you TURN IT OFF before you forget all about it and come back upstairs to go over the star chart with your family, unless you really love wasting water, flooding your basement, and hauling buckets of water to drain the boiler. Trust me on this. Also, our boiler turned out to be fine — as our neighbor said, noticing me pouring five-gallon buckets of water on the lawn in the dark, “it’s like an enema for your boiler.” Yes.]

First day, Max tried hard to do everything without being told, which is pretty normal for him. Ben, on the other hand, thought he should get a star for “get dressed” even though C dressed him after we’d spent 25 minutes trying to get him out of bed, because … well, I’m not sure why he thought he should get a star for that, honestly. I still don’t.

The next day went better, as did the day after that. And tonight before bed they reminded me to print a new chart for tomorrow.

Wow. So easy. The chart, and getting them to follow it. Maybe we should also introduce a bedtime chart. The site makes it very easy to make one.

So if you think you need a star chart and don’t know where to start, try gomommygo.com (and ignore the site noise). It’s so helpful!

 

Today Is My Birthday

Today is my birthday. I’m 43 years old.

In a former life (or alternate universe), I’d take a break from my amazing and fulfilling job and go to yoga, then out for a really good lunch (sushi, or that new ramen shop, or oooooh maybe to a Korean place), then dinner would involve lots of laughter, a platter of nachos (with a Bruins game on in the background, maybe), and a really good cake, all while reflecting on the upcoming fabulous year.

However, I am unemployed, the kids have a half-day of school (alas, no time for lunch out), and Max’s final piano lesson/recital is tonight, smack in the middle of the time we’d be having cake and such, meaning we have to postpone my birthday cake until tomorrow. And I’m fine with all of that, because I am already having an awesome day.

I woke up too early, a little hungry, with my warm snuggly teddy bear—I mean, my son Ben—by my side. He likes to climb into bed with me in the middle of the night, because he gets cold (and, um, in the summer, too, because he gets….warm?). I was going to get up soon, anyway, to work out in the frozen field next to my house, so I decided, after an hour of lying awake in bed listening to Ben and my husband breathe, that I should just get up.

The workout is from some fitness website I came across while looking for a “figure skating workout.” I recently took up skating again (if hitting the rink a few times and then spending an afternoon on a nearby frozen pond counts as “took up skating again”), and I was actually looking for (don’t laugh) YouTube videos to teach me how to do some to of the spins and jumps I could do as a kid.

Instead, I found this excellent full-body workout, which naturally I printed out, laminated, and brought to the field at dawn the other day, where I met my friend for our morning routine. This workout is a good one: I know, because by last night I hurt a lot (yeah, that is how I measure a good workout). My upper body and core really took a beating, which is great, so this morning we’re meeting at 6 a.m. to do it again (but not the single-leg rotating hops, because I am not an idiot. I’m not going to risk blowing a meniscus doing single-leg rotating hops in an uneven frozen field, for chrissake).

Also as part of today’s plan I’m going to make kimchee, because I like kimchee and haven’t made any in awhile.

Since I am still ragingly unemployed, I’ll probably also finish my holiday cards (what? It’s never too late to get mail from me, right?).

The kids have a half day today (thanks, school!), so I’m picking them up midday and taking them (and hopefully some of their friends) to the town pond for an afternoon of skating. I’ll feed the kids an early dinner, take them to the recital (where C will meet us), and then C and I will eat a late dinner while watching Louis C.K., and we’ll have birthday cake tomorrow instead.

I might take the boys out for ice cream this afternoon, though, after skating.

So that’s what’s up for my 43rd birthday, and I am most looking forward to this morning’s workout, an afternoon on the pond, and Max’s recital (in part, I confess, because it means the end of this session of piano lessons, and I believe we all need a little break from it). And tomorrow, kimchee and cake!

What do birthday celebrations look like for you these days? 

 

What Your Mom Did in High School

We went out to dinner last night. We don’t usually, as a family. But we’d had a long fun day of potluck and kickball with friends. Max and Ben were the only kids at the party. As far as I could tell, everyone was generally childless (and unmarried).

No matter. Kind running friends addressed and engaged my children. And then, later, while C and I were in the kitchen with Ben, Max wandered into the now-empty living room (because all parties happen in the kitchen) and when I glanced in to check on him, he was chatting with a previously-seemingly-introverted guy about sports.

Yes. My six-year-old had just struck up a conversation with a grown-up and didn’t need us at all. I kept checking on them, but Max was holding his own and seemed quite confident and comfortable, and the guy was getting used to having a child talk to him and was responding. I mean, they were actually having a dialogue. This is the child who used to need me nearby at all times. I guess he’s gotten quite socially confident (and I am so proud of him).

Then we all headed to a nearby park for the kickball game. Max tossed a Frisbee with C and some other adults until the game got going (and have I mentioned C sometimes take the boys to a nearby pickup Frisbee game, so Max has some skills now?).

After the first inning, Max decided he wanted to pitch for our team, and no one minded. I did mention we were with a bunch of childless adults who probably aren’t used to being around kids, right? He pitched just fine, and he played just fine, and while some people were a little lenient with him, others had no problem tagging him out, and he did not mind at all. He loved every minute of it. (Ben, on the other hand, hadn’t worn proper socks and wanted to play on the playground and not be in the game at all. He kicked once and gave up. Maybe next year!)

max_kickball

So then we went home to warm up and read books until dinnertime, and we decided to go to the Kirkland Tap and Trotter for dinner. I love that place, even though I’ve only been there once. They know food. Yes, I met the chef/owner’s wife in a new-moms class years ago, and she’s wonderful, but I have no vested interest in this place except they know food, source it well, prepare it well, and are brave and confident and curious with it (the chef, Tony Maws, has another restaurant, too, Craigie on Main).

When you enter, there’s a hint of excellent beer in the air, and the scent of smoky pork (this could be due to the entire pig(s) they’d roasted or smoked the previous evening for their New Year’s Eve party, with Facebook photos of the before-oven pig).

It’s a comfortable place, with a big flat screen playing the Rose Bowl game, but the children sensed it was a Restaurant with a capital “R” and put their napkins in their laps as soon as I mentioned it. I didn’t order the grilled salmon head, which I’m dying to try, because I wasn’t in the mood. We tried the grilled oysters, though. I got a burger, which isn’t important except that Kirkland Tap is the only place in the entire world I trust to serve me a medium-rare (more rare than medium) burger.

So the kids are eating and watching the game and the marching bands come out. I tell them about how when I was a kid, I had to be in the high school marching band like my brothers, their uncles. And though their uncles played instruments, I didn’t like the clarinet—the instrument my parents had chosen for me—and I certainly didn’t like the clarinet teacher, so I quit clarinet lessons. But I still had to be in marching band, so I opted to be a majorette—a baton twirler. And, I told them, because I’d chosen it myself, I enjoyed it and was pretty good at it. I could spin the baton, toss it into the air while spinning below it, then catch it mid-spin and continue my routine.

They looked impressed. Then I pointed to the screen. “Look, guys, see the band marching in formation? They have play their instruments while marching backwards at an angle! And oh, here come the majorettes!”

They stared at the Florida University twirlers. Then Max asked, awed, “Did you wear your underwear and a sparkly bra when you were a majorette? Why aren’t they wearing clothes like the rest of the band?” I looked again at the screen. Crikey!

“No, honey,” I tried to explain. “I wore, uh, shorts and a long-sleeved top. But that’s a great question, why they don’t get to wear as much clothing.”

C jumped in to help. “They’re dancers, and they’re performing with their bodies. So they aren’t as covered up.”

The boys didn’t look convinced. But oh, hey, look, can we get the check, please? Thanks!

How We’re Spending Winter Break

I love the school my kids go to, and the teachers are really wonderful and engaged and caring, and they are kind.

One child’s teacher sent him a letter, which arrived today, thanking us for a gift and asking what he’d done over break: Had he traveled? Been to a museum or the movies? She reminded him to be ready to share his vacation fun with his class when he got back to school.

I immediately, defensively, bristled (NOTE: She’d meant the note to get him thinking about what to share about his winter break, certainly not to make us feel like we hadn’t done enough over break!). We’d done none of those things. Max had mostly wanted to stay home, playing with his little brother, especially after Christmas, when they both had exciting new Legos and other things to explore.

Many families at the school are quite wealthy (not us!). Thus we hear about sailboats and ski houses and spring break in Paris and such. When I drop off my kids in my 14-year-old Honda Civic, I am especially careful not the bump the Range Rovers and BMWs parked on either side. The letter made me think maybe every other family was having a winter break filled with travel and culture.

Then I calmed down and decided to talk this over with the boys. How had we spent our winter break?

What we’ve done so far:

1. We hosted Christmas dinner, for one thing, which involved a fair amount of planning, cleaning, shopping, and prep. My mother had come here for a few days, and my boys got to finally see my childhood Christmas ornaments, some of my mother’s childhood Christmas ornaments, plus use my parents’ wedding china and the family silver for the first time. Plus have everyone come to our house for a holiday meal, for the very first time ever. Big doin’s, indeed.

2. We made and delivered little packages of warm new socks, homemade cookies, and a tiny bit of cash (thanks, Mom!) for the people who live under the bridge. No, really. We live at the edge of town, near the subway, and several people live in the underpass. Of our various holiday charity, this was the one thing the kids got into and could relate to, because they actually see these people every time we go to the subway. Kids without toys? My kids don’t really comprehend that, so our Toys for Tots donations were just confusing to them. Warm things and treats for the people under the bridge? Max was on it.

3. We spent a few days in the woods (not continuously!). We spent a few hours with school friends in a local conservation area, and returned a few days later with friends from our old neighborhood to spend even more time exploring the woods and meadows and enjoying a picnic lunch.

4. We went ice-skating. Both boys now want lessons.

5. We went to the New England Aquarium today, an adventure involving one bus ride; six trains; lunch out; and a return to the aquarium after lunch to see the octopus, the penguin feeding, and the seal training session. Several M&Ms were given as bribes and rewards, and I didn’t totally lose my shit when the little one ran his bare hand the entire length of the handrail on both the Blue Line and the Orange Line….and then touched his hand to his face (why oh why had I left all the hand sanitizer at home??). I told him if he touched one more thing, he’d need to get an extra flu shot (yes, I did say that—and yes, it worked).

6. We saw a movie (Planes 2), but we saw it at home (thanks, Redbox!) because we are movie cheapskates and would rather spend $1 and make our own popcorn (and uncork my own wine, thanks!) (though theater movies are certainly fun, and our local ancient theater is really cool).

What’s left to do before school starts again: 

1. New Year’s Eve family party at the neighbors’, which will be an early, fun, low-key, kid-filled affair.

2. New Year’s Day dodgeball party at my friend’s house, which will be full of young childless single hungover mountaineering people and could be a total blast.

3. ?? Who knows? Will the kids go spend the night at their grandmother’s house? Will we all head north for a day of skiing?

We will know by the time the kids return to school, that’s for sure. But even if we stay here, which Max would probably be very happy to do, we’re enjoying our winter break.

 

 

Why We Don’t Go to Musicals

(From the Department of “Guess Which of My Children Prefers Quiet”)

 

Child: [mentions dressing like Annie]

Mother: Do you mean Annie in your class or some other Annie?

Child: What other Annie is there?

Mother: There’s a musical called “Annie” about a girl named Annie. She’s an orphan, and then she’s adopted by a very rich man.

Child: What does she do then?

Mother: She sings a lot.

Child: Does the man get annoyed?

Mother: Why would he get annoyed?

Child: Because she sings a lot! Wouldn’t that be annoying?