Sunday, January 21, 2018

Christmas 2017 & New Years

Ok, I am so far behind, and trying to catch up, but our Christmas and New Years, and the week in between, were really wonderful.

We got a head start on our holiday by leaving our house at 5:10 am to drive up to Maine to avoid a predicted snow storm. Turns out that it is an excellent time to drive- there was no traffic and we made it up to Maine by 11:45 even after 2 stops. It was really snowing when we got there, and I took a nap and woke up to snow swirling outside, which made me feel like it was truly holiday vacation.

That evening, we celebrated Eric's brother's 40th birthday (a couple of weeks early) with a party at his house, with many of Eric's cousins and their children. Our kids went off and played without complaint, until Charlotte pooped out around 8:00 and asked to go home and go to sleep.

The following day we didn't do much at all until the afternoon, when we went out to the movies- Eric, his dad, Asher, and our nephew Kiptyn went to see Star Wars; and Charlotte and I went with Eric's mom, our sister-in-law, and nieces to see Pitch Perfect 3. Charlotte loved getting to go to a grown-up movie, and laughed at the jokes even if she had no idea what they were talking about.

On Christmas Eve, knowing we wouldn't get out of the house on Christmas Day, Eric and I took the kids to Portland to the art museum. They wanted to go to the children's museum, but it was closed, and the art museum was a reasonable size, and the kids actually seemed to enjoy it.
Portland from the museum
 After the museum, we went to lunch at the same Thai restaurant we had visited last year.  Everyone enjoyed their lunch and there wasn't a speck of food left when we were done. After a couple of errands we went back to Sanford and the kids (and Eric!) napped and I went for a jog while I still could.
My jogging route. I managed not to slip on the ice and die
 Then it was time to get ready for the annual Christmas Eve party. Ooh we look forward to it every year, Eric's dad's family is silly, and the kids love the visit from Santa. This year, Eric and I decided to wear inappropriate Christmas sweatshirts.  Eric's mom loved them and wished she had one, too, so perhaps we are starting a new tradition.
One small problem with the profanity on my shirt- 2 of my children know how to read, and the 3rd wanted to know what it said. I left out the first word, but she could tell I was leaving out a word when I told her. Asher courteously said, "I know what it says, but I'm not going to tell you, Charlotte." Benjamin said, loudly, "Bitch? What does bitch mean?" and Charlotte, victorious at her discovery, began yelling, "Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!" Since we are all mature adults, we just cracked up and half-heartedly told her not to say that word.  She knew it was getting a reaction out of us, so she continued to say it the rest of the night, to everyone's delight.

After a long round of "bitch! better have my cookies!" out of Charlotte.
Our other moment of inappropriate humor was when Eric's cousin Michelle arrived and said, "Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah!" and Benjamin replied, "and happy endings!" A long silence descended and I was given the blame for that one!
With Santa.

Asher was a helpful elf to Santa this year.

Santa selfie
There was a packed house at Eric's grandparents', and we laughed all night long until our sides hurt.  We were there until close to 10 pm, and the kids loved every minute of it and had to be dragged out.

We told them not to wake us up before 7 am on Christmas morning, and they listened!  It was still too early for me, since we had been up late putting out gifts, but a big cup of coffee helped.  We started with stockings.

In their Christmas pajamas
Then we had a big breakfast and adjourned to open up the rest of our gifts by the tree.  The kids got lots of nice stuff- all credit here goes to Eric's mom, because I don't buy the kids a single Christmas gift. They are spoiled rotten. All 3 of the kids seemed to love what they received, and spent the rest of the day playing with their new toys.
In her princess gown, examining her new Calico Critters set
With some of her haul
We ended Christmas with a big Christmas dinner and all their cousins came over.  All 9 of the cousins seem to get along well, and my two boys seem to be developing a stronger relationship with their two older boy cousins- they are discovering more things they have in common and can talk about.

We ended up leaving the day after Christmas.  On our way home, we stopped at my friend Jenny's house in Amherst for dinner. I don't get to see her enough, but every time we are together it is as if no time has passed at all.  After a lovely dinner, I drove the family the rest of the way home.  We made excellent time on our way home and arrived around 11:30.

The rest of the week was calm and quiet. My sister visited for a day and I hired a babysitter to stay with the kids while Elana and I went for a run and to shop.  I took Charlotte and Asher to a museum one afternoon while Benjamin had a play date, I worked for 3 hours one morning, but mostly we hung around the house in our pajamas and decided it was too cold outside.

We hosted our annual New Years Eve gathering, which is fun and easy. The older the kids get, the later our friends stay, but I still managed to get in bed before midnight, which is my goal.
With 2 of my friends

Party girl
On New Years Day, we had tickets to Disney on Ice, which interfered with our annual tradition of going to Ikea. Disney on Ice was way better this year, mostly because it featured strong women instead of Pinocchio.  And seriously, I still want to cry when I hear "Let It Go." Eric thinks I'm crazy.
We fit in our tradition of Ikea after the show and picked out a mattress and boxspring for Charlotte, who has moved into a bigger room (formerly known as "Eric's office") and got a big girl bed. She loves her new room, and has somehow managed to multiply her toys and junk to fill up every corner.

On January 2 I went back to work, on January 3 the boys went back to school, and on January 4 and 5... snow days! 2018 has gotten off to a slow start at school, but hopefully we can have a full 5-day week soon.  I have enjoyed our extra time together (mostly), but not my loss of income. Now that the holidays are over, I have decided that I have to take a vacation somewhere warm and sunny in order to make it through to spring- there is still a lot of winter ahead!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Charlotte Eve: 5 years old

My littlest one is 5! We are well and truly past any baby stage in this house. And this girl is 5 going on 15.

Charlotte is, as always, amazing. She is strong, smart, and witty.  She has a mind like a steel trap, and holds on to memories and information both inside and outside of school.  She is continuing to grow, at her 5 year well-visit she was:
Height: 42.25" (47 %ile)
Weight: 42 lbs (66 %ile)

Charlotte has a zest for life, and an eagerness and excitement around new things and thrilling experiences. She is swimming, diving, and riding a bike with no training wheels. She is strong, brave, and independent. She loves thrill rides at the amusement park (as long as they aren't as thrilling as Guardians of the Galaxy) and will ride them over and over, as long as she is allowed.  She has always tried things earlier than her peers (i.e. walking, makeup), and that continues. She likes to keep up with her brothers- mainly Asher, who shares many of her interests.

She loves to do arts and crafts of any kind. She colors in coloring books, does craft kits, paints, makes jewelry, and enjoys helping out in the kitchen.  She draws adorable pictures, mainly of our family, or cats.  Charlotte loves anything cat-related, and probably half of her clothing has cats on it.  She also carries around a small family of cats everywhere she goes.
Posing at the doctor's office at her 5 year well-visit
 Charlotte is loving her kindergarten class at her preschool.  She knows all her letters and numbers, and has for some time, and is now working on reading. She knows a lot of sight words, and can work with me to sound out many others. If she wanted to read, she would be fully reading, but she gets easily frustrated at the prospect of sounding things out so I don't push, but I do encourage.  Socially, she is quite adept. Just like last year, her friends gather around her to hug her goodbye at the end of every day, and they all beg for play dates.
We have eliminated after school activities for Charlotte this year, mostly because I just didn't get my act together to sign her up for anything, but also because there are fewer hours for activities now that she is in school 5 full days a week. She has asked for dance, gymnastics, and now drama, so hopefully we can narrow it down sometime soon. 

Charlotte also adores watching horrible videos on YouTube. She is partial to "DIY life hacks" or some variation thereof, as well as the strange videos of adults opening and playing with toys (creepy, in my opinion). She has actually offered a few life hacks gathered from YouTube that have been helpful, like using a rubber band on my baking soda box to level off teaspoons while baking. Like I said, mind like a steel trap.

Her eating habits haven't really changed. She is mostly vegetarian in her diet, and prefers fruits over vegetables. She will eat eggs, yogurt, hummus, carbs of all kinds, and desserts of all kinds. We recently moved her into a new room (bigger, with a big bed) and Eric discovered many hidden candy wrappers in Charlotte's room- she is a little sneaky!  Some meals Charlotte will eat nothing at all, and at others she will have several courses. We mostly let her do her thing; she is never lacking for energy and is growing well.

The big girl still loves her stuffed animals. Gray Kitty and Black-and-White Kitty are her favorites, and Gray Kitty is looking even more gray and even more saggy.  She also has an assortment of Beanie Boos and other animals who get arranged around her bed and pillows each night before she goes to sleep.

Charlotte has stopped being a small sociopath and has shown indications that she is capable of empathy!  She has started noticing how other people feel and attending to their tone of voice. She is often sweet and loving, and still allows herself to be snuggled and kissed. She has her moments of being emotional and unreasonable and whiny, but in general she is good-natured and a pleasure to be around. 

I know it has been 5 years, but I continue to be astonished that she is my daughter. She is growing into a friend, a companion whose company I genuinely enjoy. I have, so far, the relationship I always dreamed I would have with a daughter of my own.  How lucky we all are to have her in our lives.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Happy Hanukkah!

Winter has arrived. Although I am Jewish, I am only too happy to celebrate the holiday season in any way possible.  As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I start my holiday shopping, wrapping, and baking. I have been watching as many cheesy Christmas movies as I can on Netflix (Ooh they are trite but so pleasurable...). I am playing Christmas music on Pandora and in the car, and Eric can't understand how a Jew can be so into Christmas, but I am.

I don't even mind that it has snowed 3 times in 1 week. We are maximizing our winter fun with sledding, ice skating, hot cocoa, and outdoor play.  In between all of our outdoor activities, I have managed to order, address and send all our holiday cards; visit Asher's class to make holiday cards for the homeless; visit Benjamin's class to talk about Hanukkah; wrap every gift I purchased; bake 3 kinds of cookies, 1 cake, and banana bread; and eat latkes 3 nights in a row. Whew!
Sledding with my boys
Snow angel
The snowflakes were picture-perfect
Charlotte eating snow
After Snow #1 we went to our friends' house for dinner. While the lasagna was baking, we sent the kids outside to play in the snow, and they played for an entire hour!

The following day we took the kids to see the Christmas trains at the Morris Arboretum. I think I was he most interested of anyone- they had miniatures of famous Philadelphia buildings, and after the storm, they were covered in snow and looked perfectly picturesque.
Charlotte looking at the trains
The following weekend, after I organized and ran the bake sale at Charlotte's school on Friday, we had latkes and dinner with my parents and aunt and uncle and exchanged gifts. Then, on Saturday, we took the kids into the city to visit the Christmas village and go ice skating.  We ate all kinds of warm and gooey carbs in the village to prepare for the work of ice skating.

Charlotte has City Hall spouting out her head

Glass ornaments at the ornament stall
Eric was quite skeptical about ice skating, but the kids were all excited.  Benjamin took right to it and started skate-stomping around the rink. He was brave, and proud of himself.  It was wonderful to see him feeling confident, since he has seemed more quiet in the past year or so.  Eric and I have good balance, but we were pretty sore the following day!
Charlotte is mad that I wouldn't pay $10 for penguin she could push around the rink
At City Hall
We drove home from skating to meet our friends at the bowling alley. Charlotte used the guide ramp, but bowled over 100, all by herself! Charlotte had wanted bowling with friends as a little pre-birthday celebration, since her party won't be for another few weeks.  After bowling we had dinner at our friends' house, and the kids exchanged gifts after we lit the menorah.
Happy Hanukkah!
On Sunday we had one more party to attend- the cantor at our synagogue lives nearby and his daughter is in class with Asher; he invited us to a Hanukkah party at his house.  As we were getting ready to go, Santa came down the street on a fire truck, handing out candy canes. We have lived on this street for 11 years and this was the first time we actually got to see him! Our neighbors were with us, exchanging cards and holiday goodies.
The packed full weekend led into a short and busy pre-holiday week, which I will have to write about in other posts- both Charlotte's 5th birthday and Christmas. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thanksgiving weekend 2017

We had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend, where we enjoyed the usual traditions- family and food.

Charlotte in her cultural appropriation gear from school
5 mile Turkey Trot: our annual tradition 
end of the trot, with the Mann Music Center in the background

 Thursday evening:
cousins, and nuts and pie in the foreground
the ladies
selfie by the fire
The men's side
Beginning our game of Taboo. My mom couldn't even talk when it was her turn.
Benjamin on our hike 
Late fall in the woods
We spent as much time as we could with family- my sister, cousins from Massachusetts and DC. We stayed out of the stores and went outside instead.  

We found time to relax as well as play.

Asher told Thanksgiving jokes at the table, and we remembered the things for which we are thankful.

In my annual ritual of gratitude, I am thankful for:

My three perfectly healthy children and their helpful and loving father. They continue to bring me joy each day. I miss them when I'm at work and still can't give them enough hugs and kisses in day.

My own good health- that I wake up each morning with no aches and pains, ready to take on the day.

Our warm, welcoming, messy home. I love that we bring in friends all the time, and that our house is a place for gathering and fun.

My parents, Eric's parents, and my aunt Jane and uncle Ed, who love our kids and spoil them rotten. Our kids can't doubt that they are loved.

Our good jobs, which continue to enable us to live a comfortable and easy life. We have a roof over our heads, cars to drive, and more than enough food to eat. Plus extra for fun!

The wonderful year we had, with the kids' first plane trip and our amazing time in California.

Our refrigerator is still overflowing, and I'm on to wrapping gifts, choosing cookie recipes, and planning Charlotte's birthday.  This is a busy and thrilling time of year!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

2nd grade conferences

Eric and I attended conferences with the boys' teachers on Friday.

First we met with Benjamin's teacher.  We have been in regular contact with her- Benjamin's adjustment to 2nd grade was somewhat better than his adjustment to 1st, but we have come upon several recurring problems: Benjamin's social skills are lacking; Benjamin has trouble paying attention in class; Benjamin's effort in his schoolwork is inconsistent.  The good news is that he is academically ahead of the game- he is on par with, or ahead of, his peers in every area. His reading and writing are excellent, and the teacher thinks he is very bright. His trouble with attention and focus are holding him back. 

We are in the process of having him evaluated by the school psychologist. My guess is that he meets criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD, but we will wait to find out. As much as I hate the idea of "labeling," it will give us some guidelines for how to address the struggles we are having. We're fortunate this year that his teacher is patient, kind, and consistent. She has been hugely supportive as we navigate the process.  I have struggled myself with all of this, wondering what I could have done differently for us to get a different outcome; normalizing what is happening by saying that all 7 year-old boys are kind of like this; minimizing my fears and then moments later exaggerating them (it doesn't take much for me to get to a point where this diagnosis will doom him forever).  The team at school who I met with, which was the counselor, achievement team head, psychologist, and speech and language therapist, all have the same goal: for Benjamin to love school, love learning, and be happy. In the end, that sweet boy is still my son, and I love and adore him, and only want him to be happy.  I am hopeful we are on that path.

Asher's teacher had many wonderful things to say about him: he is a good and quick learner, shows consistent effort in his work, has neat handwriting, and is a good citizen in the class. The only negative he had was that sometimes Asher overshares and doesn't know when to stop talking. I cannot imagine where he gets that trait from...

Asher's teacher also told us that Asher has some excellent leadership qualities and might be a natural leader.  How wonderful to hear! Later Eric says, "Gee, that sure was a nice way to tell us our son is bossy."  Hopefully Asher can use his charm and social prowess to turn "bossy" into "leader."

Overall, I left the conferences feeling elated at how the boys are doing. I am thrilled that they are successful 2nd graders, and love that they still love learning.  I hope it continues for a lifetime.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Fall fun & Halloween 2017

We kept Halloween to 2 weekends + the actual day this year.

First, a trip to DC for Boo at the Zoo- at the National Zoo! And a Sunday trip to Cox Farms with our friends.

We went to DC on a Saturday, and it was quite warm and sunny.  After lunch with my cousin, her husband, and their baby, we drove over to the Lincoln Memorial, which I have actually never visited. I visited the Washington Monument several times as a kid, but never Lincoln. 

I was pleased because the boys know about Lincoln, but they also instantly recognized the steps as the place where Martin Luther King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. 
On our way into the Memorial
Asher took this picture
Selfie. I am in love with Charlotte's lips
Lincoln, looming
We looked at the Gettysburg Address, and I nobly tried to read it to Charlotte. 1/3 of the way through, I started crying and couldn't finish. The kids were astonished, and couldn't understand why I was crying. I tried to explain that I felt sad about the fact that our country still doesn't see people of color as equal, but I don't think they completely understood. Our visit was quite emotional for me, so I appreciated our moments reflecting by the pool.

We returned to the car, where Eric had parked in a place labeled "no stopping, no standing." We piled in and Eric turned the key. And, nothing. Eric had been sitting with the lights on and the air conditioning running but the engine off! We called AAA and the kids and I hopped in an Uber to meet our friends. It was a frenzied few minutes, but we got it together and enjoyed the rest of the night.
Our 5 kids at the zoo. Not a single picture with all 5 looking at the camera
Charlotte and a big, bad wolf
Boo at the Zoo in DC was a great time. They gave out tons of candy, and there were some creative costumes. We didn't get to see the pandas, but if you are a follower on this blog, that is par for the course for me there.

On Sunday, another warm and sunny day, we went to Cox Farms. We are old pros now, and maximized our time there.
Hay ride. Benjamin wouldn't go because there is a fake UFO and he is currently afraid of aliens
 We went on the hay ride, did the corn maze, saw the animals, ate ourselves sick on kettle corn (or maybe that was just me?), and ate apples.

The photo for their album cover
 Eric and I were hot and exhausted after our trip to Cox Farms, and we were so hopeful that the kids would fall asleep on the way home. Instead they stayed awake while we worked our way through 4 hours of traffic.

This past weekend I boldly took 3 kids to Sesame Place on a sunny Saturday. After running 10 miles in the morning. I knew I was crazy to do it, but our season passes end at the end of the year, and I wanted to get every ounce of fun out of them. It really wasn't the best idea- it was a sunny day, with rain predicted on Sunday, and the place was absolutely mobbed. We were hot in the sun, the lines were long, and they weren't giving out as much candy as the last time we went. So we hit up every candy spot, rode the roller coaster 2 times, and went home again.

Guess who was giving me attitude?
Some kind man offered to take this photo
On Sunday night, we had our annual Halloween party at our friends' house. She does a nice job of decorating and we have Halloween-themed food (I made "mummy dogs," which were like pigs in a blanket. Charlotte helped me wrap them, and she was excellent help). We played mummies, and Eric did a thorough job of mummifying Charlotte.
Mummy Charlotte
Finally, Halloween! This year I am a room parent in Asher's class. Also this year, they outlawed food at the school parties. The other room parent and I were tasked with planning a fun, 30 minute, non-food party. We came up with fun things to do, but the kids were all hyped up from their parade and let's face it, Mad Libs is not the same as a cupcake.
Benjamin as Jack Sparrow. I made him a goatee and lined his eyes
Benjamin in the parade. He was quite happy
Asher and our neighbor, who is also his classmate
Asher's back in the parade
After the parade and the parties, I took the boys to meet friends for lunch. We had a very noisy, messy lunch, and then got ready to host dinner at our house. We had our friends come join us for an early dinner, and then we hit the road to trick-or-treat! I really love Halloween, and running into friends and classmates all around the neighborhood. I love where we live, and especially with the boys in the elementary school, we know so many people and it truly feels like a community. 
The group of 8, plus our friend Ken
This year's pumpkin creations. On the left is "Tiggy," made for Benjamin
With friends. I am a cat.
Because I am an excellent mother, I didn't get a single picture of the kids together in their costumes. Oh, well. I would still say it was an overall success, and all 3 of my kids loved trick-or-treating, and have been sifting through and sorting their candy ever since.
Charlotte with an amazing lawn decoration
"Oh my gosh, I didn't get a picture of you guys! Quick, smile!"

Now it is November, 3 weeks until Thanksgiving. We are still having September weather, though, so it is hard to mentally move on. Charlotte is especially struggling- she asked me if Halloween would be this coming Tuesday, too.