Friday, March 10, 2017

Let's Talk About Sex

What began as innocuous joking about sex has reached a crescendo.

Our first funny moment came a couple of weeks ago.  Eric was rubbing my shoulders and neck at dinner (my parents were over), and Asher asked what he was doing. I told him that my neck and shoulders were sore, and Daddy was massaging them to help them feel better. Asher asked, "do you want me to go upstairs and get that massager you keep in your nightstand?!?"

Cue long silence as my mom looks away, and Eric and I look at each other, wondering, "what could he possibly have found...?" We don't have any incriminating evidence, and Eric then awkwardly explained, "No, it's really a massager, with little plastic feet!"  The moment passed with no further comment.

Last week, I was talking to Charlotte in the car about what she would like for me to share with her class next week when she is "Child of the Week." I told her, "The other parents have come in to talk about something they know a lot about, or their hobbies."  She didn't say a word, but from the 3rd row of the van, Benjamin piped up, "You could tell them about sex!" While it is true that it is my job to educate people about sex, I told him that it wouldn't be appropriate for me to talk to Charlotte's class about sex, and that I would leave the job of sex education to their parents.

And, as we climb to our peak, yesterday I was cooking in the kitchen and Asher was in the family room. He asked, out of nowhere, "Mommy, do you kiss Daddy's penis when you make sex?"  Ummm, what? I answered him factually (when you use your mouth it's called oral sex), and asked where this had come up. Silence. Then, from Benjamin in the living room, "We read about it in a book we found in your night stand!" Apparently, while searching for the iPad (which I'd hidden on top of the refrigerator), they found a little book entitled "Sex Secrets" in my nightstand, and had used their improved reading skills to learn all about sex and the variety of activities one might engage in.

I proceeded to have a factual conversation about sex, and told Asher he didn't need to hide reading about sex, and that he could always ask me questions. I then emphasized that while I was happy to talk about sex in our house, he shouldn't discuss it with his friends or show the book to other people.  I then patted myself on the back for handling the situation with aplomb, and for normalizing sex and not making Asher feel ashamed for being curious.

I continued to feel good about myself all morning.  "Ha!" I thought. "Finally, an aspect of parenting where I have actual education!"

And then, the climax.  I left work around 12:30 and checked my email at a red light. I had one titled "Book" from his teacher.  "Wow," I thought, "she is really prompt about getting me reading suggestions for Asher!" (I had asked for some at our parent-teacher conference the day before.)

The text of the email had nothing to do with reading suggestions, though.  Asher had brought "Sex Secrets" to school, and proceeded to show his classmates page 71 (oral sex), and enlighten them as to the differences between oral sex and regular sex.  His teacher wanted to let me know, and asked that I not send him with the book again.

Total panic.  What kind of parent am I? Who did he tell? How much did he say?  I dashed off a reply to his teacher and let her know we could talk on the phone if she preferred.

Luckily for me, she was available to meet that afternoon, because the kids were at home after a half day.  My dear son had thrown me under the bus, told his teacher I GAVE him the book, and then told him he could bring it to school to read at dismissal time.  Also lucky for me, she seemed to have a good attitude about the situation, and laughed about it as she told me.  It seems as though the dissemination of information was fairly contained- the one classmate he was talking the most to seemed to be ignoring him altogether.  Asher's teacher said she had never seen him so excited or enthusiastic about anything.

He really is my son. I remember 30 years ago when I used to read the one line in my book about babies being born where it said, "your father put his penis in your mother's vagina." I remember being excited to tell everyone the big secret.  It was one of my great motivations for becoming a sex therapist.

Tonight we told Asher that there were consequences- he took that book to school even after I had explicitly told him the book and conversations about sex were private. And then he lied to his teacher and said I had given the book to him!  His consequence was no dessert tonight, and he has to give us $5 from his piggy bank for us to send on to Planned Parenthood so that other people can be educated about sex, too. And after he asked me tonight, "does Daddy stand up while you bend over to have sex?" I am pretty sure we are burning that book.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Recent adventures

Since my return from Paris, we have had some new adventures.  Although my working more means fewer hours at home, it also means we have some more income to go on adventures.  All 3 kids are getting so independent and easy that things don't require too much advance planning, and I know they will be adaptable even if things don't go smoothly when we get somewhere.

The weekend I returned- President's Weekend- Eric and I, with my dad, took the kids to Morris Arboretum.  The kids had been, but Eric and I never had. We brought a picnic lunch, and after we ate, Eric and I lay on the blanket in the sun while the kids ran around like little loons and my dad watched them.
Happily ignoring our children
 On Sunday, Charlotte had a birthday party, and I took the boys into Chinatown to go out for dim sum.  I sold them on dumplings, but they pretty willingly tried a number of new foods, and even liked them.  Asher liked steamed buns filled with an egg custard, and Benjamin liked a ground pork mixture steamed in a soy wrapper.  We brought home leftovers for Eric and the kids and I ate them before Eric could get to them.
Looking cool in Chinatown
On the way into town, we had a conversation about people of different colors and ethnicities, and how the color of a person's skin doesn't mean anything about what is on the inside.  We got into Chinatown, and Asher immediately said, "Why are there so many Chinese people here?!?"

The next day, Monday, I took the kids to the circus.  We've never been, and in my memory, I don't even like the circus, but knowing that it was our last chance to go, I felt it was mandatory to take my children.  I packed us all lunch (no $10 hot dogs for me, thank you), and we went to 5 Below to stock up on candy so that the kids wouldn't ask me to buy cotton candy at the arena.  We got a great parking spot, the kids were in happy moods, and we loved the whole thing.  Benjamin sat on my left and narrated the circus to me, Charlotte sat on my lap, and Asher sat on my right at the edge of his seat the whole time. The circus was significantly better than I remembered- in large part because they seem to have minimized the clowns and maximized things like aerial gymnastics.

Last weekend was fairly quiet- the weather on Saturday was spring-like and then Sunday we were back to winter.  Charlotte got a donation of "accessories" from our friends, and dressed beautifully.
Once she put my shoes on she was "ready for work." She told me she was "going to talk to my clients."
 This weekend, I went with my parents and all 3 kids up to New York City. On the recommendation of a friend, we went to see an exhibit on the Rolling Stones.  It was on W. 12th St in the Village, and as we pulled up, a car pulled out and we got a parking space right in front! It was just like in the movies, where they never seem to spend 30 minutes driving in circles looking for a parking spot.
The exhibit was a little crowded, and the kids weren't overwhelmingly patient, but it was fun. Asher's interest got piqued, and he has been asking Alexa to play Rolling Stones music ever since.

Asher watching the introductory videos 
Charlotte loved sticking out her tongue
After we had lunch, my friend Amanda came down to visit us, and we happened upon Magnolia Bakery. With no line (maybe the "feels like 19 degrees" windchill kept them away?).  I got the kids cupcakes as a treat!
A handsome young man inside a store I haven't visited since I was a young woman
 Then we rushed home because we were freezing! Today, after Hebrew school, we went to a carnival that was thrown to celebrate my co-worker's daughter finishing treatment for leukemia. Prior to our departure for the party, Benjamin walked in the kitchen and told me, "my life couldn't get any worse!"  First of all- this is karma biting me in the ass because I was always a melodramatic child. Second of all- I took him aside to look him in the eye and say this to him- we were about to go to a party for someone who had cancer. There might be other kids there who also have cancer, and might be really sick. Trust me, Benjamin, your life could get MUCH worse. Time to be thankful for everything that he has, including his health.  I also told him that if he has a need that I am not meeting, I'm happy to hear about it and hopefully make things better. But get some perspective.

At the carnival, my co-worker had gone all out, and the kids indulged in every piece of sugary sweet there. There was face-painting, carnival games, and inflatables. Certain almost-37-year-old parents may or may not have raced up the inflatable, almost trampling their daughter in the process. Not naming any names.
Benjamin with a cotton candy cone nose
This evening, we had a quiet evening at home, but Charlotte was shockingly kind and cooperative.  She stayed in with me while the boys went to the playground with Papa Nick and she peeled the carrots for dinner (plus a bonus carrot for snack), and then stirred the risotto. I have found the solution to the problem of risotto needing to be stirred- have your 4 year-old do it!
She has a beautiful unicorn on her forehead from the carnival
As we were cooking together, and talking, I was thinking about how it was a moment I would have dreamed about- at home, in the kitchen, with my own daughter keeping me company (I also want to say that I would be just as happy with a son in the kitchen, and I have had those moments, but Charlotte has been particularly prickly and disagreeable lately, so the contrast is striking). She then said, "Mommy, I am SO HAPPY to be cooking in the kitchen with you! I really like it when we do this together!"  All of these adventures have helped me to appreciate what good company my children are. I see the people they are becoming, and I'd choose them as a friend.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Paris & London 2017

Our first day. Selfie on the balcony
I'm back from my 2017 girls' trip (and a long blogging hiatus)!

This year we again went to Paris, with 2 days in London.  The timing was perfect- we escaped from another (predicted) snow storm and the doldrums of February.  I also needed to get away- the political news since January 20 has sent me in a downward spiral of depression, and getting away from constant internet access helped me get back into living again.

My mom and I left Philadelphia on Wednesday, February 8- we were scheduled to leave the 9th, but predicted snow had us leaving a day early. Of course I had to cancel all the clients I had scheduled, but we got out ahead of any trouble.  We each had 4 seats to ourselves, and we each managed not to sleep at all.  I am the WORST sleeper on planes.

We got to Paris on a cloudy Thursday morning.  After our adventure last year with the crazy taxi driver who my mom was convinced wanted to kill us, we decided to take the train into the city.  Everything was fine until the train just stopped moving.  They made various announcements about why, but of course I couldn't understand, and we just sat on the tracks, tired and hungry. We had a good laugh about how we were convinced we would get it right by taking the train but were wrong yet again.
Mandatory picture of the view of the Pompidou Center
At the apartment we tried to nap, but had no luck, so we went out shopping.  The shopping this year wasn't as good as the prior year, probably because we were later in the sales, and we didn't find anything.  We walked around the neighborhood before going to dinner and then home to collapse.
Probably the best coffee we had
Friday had some pretty yucky weather- in the morning it was just cold, and in the afternoon we had a mix of rain and snow.  We spent the morning at a new market my mom had found out about.  We found all kinds of food that was a much better price than the market my mom usually goes to, and a little coffee shop with delicious coffees. Then we carted all of our food to a tiny hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant for lunch, which was delicious! We went back to the apartment to put the food away, and had trouble getting going again when it started to snow.  I did an exercise video on the floor of the living room while my mom sat on the couch and watched and made fun of me.  Then we finally went out again in time for dinner at Le Cerisaie- it was traditional French food, warm and delicious.

We got up early on Saturday morning to catch the Eurostar to London.  It was an easy process, and we got settled on the train without a problem.  Until, 2 minutes into the journey, a little boy sitting across the aisle from us started throwing up. I have a major vomit phobia and so we packed up and left our seats. The first seats I found were in first class, but since no one seemed to be checking tickets, we thought that would be ok. And it was, until they checked tickets. Fortunately we weren't charged extra, but had to flee to find other seats, preferably not anywhere near a vomiting passenger.

In London, we found our hotel- my mom had booked a room with bunk beds! What an ingenious idea for two adults who aren't romantically involved. We each had our own bed and some space to ourselves.  I took the top bunk.  The only down side was that every time my mom went to pick something up off her bed, she bumped her head on the bunk!  It became comical.

Our first day in London was a great deal of wandering. After finding a nice Korean place for lunch, we decided to walk to the Victoria & Albert Museum.  We turned left out of the restaurant and began our walk.  After over half a mile, and approximately 5 or 6 ambulances roaring by, we noticed we weren't getting closer to what seemed like a touristy part of town.  In fact, there were some subsidized housing units right across the road... We stopped to look at the map and what do you know, we had wandered almost out of town!  So we hopped on a bus.  As we got to the V&A stop, my mom took one look at the line winding around the museum and said, "forget it! We are going to Harrod's!"  We spent the rest of the day going in and out of shops, but without any real sales, we weren't motivated to buy.  We went back to the hotel for some wine, cheese, and crackers before dinner.
Eric is a Dr Who fan
Dinner that night was at the fanciest Indian restaurant I have ever visited.  White table cloths, chandeliers, a piano...  We had unbelievably delicious Indian food and planned out our next day in town.  After dinner we walked back to our hotel again.  One thing that struck me about London is how cute it is- the streets wind around and are filled with town houses, there are blocks that are nothing but a gated park. I wish I had taken more pictures of it while we were there, but the weather was so miserable that we just hurried from one place to the next.
Not adequate at capturing the cuteness
The following day we went back to the V&A at opening, with tickets for an exhibit called "you say you want a revolution? 1966-1970." I think my mom was skeptical about buying tickets to it, but it was truly an engrossing exhibit, all about music, fashion, and the politics of the time.  Both my mom (who was a teenager during that time) and I felt a great nostalgia for it.  I have always wished I had been at Woodstock in 1969, but the older I get, the less appealing a weekend in the mud actually seems.

After our 2 hours there, we stopped for a light lunch and retrieved our bags from the hotel. We planned to go to the Transit Museum, but my mom decided she didn't want to pay for the tickets, so we walked around Covent Garden for a while, then decided to pass time at a bookstore before going to Fortnum and Mason for tea.
At Fortnum & Mason with delicacies behind me
Tea was wonderful- they delivered a ton of food to our table, but I wasn't daunted- I was going to eat it all!  And I did.  Tea sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, desserts, and then more desserts!  From there we went back to the train station to catch the last train to Paris.

Monday morning, my sister arrived at the apartment just as I was waking up. We had breakfast, and then she decided to take a nap while my mom and I went and got our hair cut.  After that, we all went out for lunch, and more walking and shopping.  That night, we cooked dinner at the apartment and had a quiet evening in.
We love Scottish Folds. In case you can't tell, Elana is a cat, too.
On Tuesday, the day began with lousy weather.  We did MORE SHOPPING (when I say shopping, this is walking down the street and going in and out of stores. It doesn't actually mean buying things.  There were things I was looking for and didn't necessarily find, but had to look), then met a friend of my mom's for lunch.  After a long and chatty lunch, we wandered over to the Seine, and my sister and I walked up and down by the river while my mom went home to take a nap.  The weather cleared and it was a beautiful afternoon.
That evening, my cousins Henri and Charlotte came over for dinner at our apartment.  We had good food, good conversation, and good wine.  Henri is engaged and plans to marry at a castle in France in 2018- we decided we will take the kids for a week!  We are excited- for Henri and for the kids' first international trip.

Wednesday was my last day in Paris. We decided it was finally time for some culture, so we went to see an exhibit of Frédéric Bazille at the Musée d'Orsay.  When we emerged from the museum, the weather was beautiful! We went to get some lunch, and then walked over to the Canal St Martin to wander some more.  We stopped to sit in a park and enjoy the sun- the grass had signs all over it saying the grass was "en repose" for the winter and please don't walk on it, but everyone was spread out all over the place.

From there we walked home past a bakery with a line down the block, and then, just when we were determined to be home, I saw the purse of my dreams in the window of a store.  Then we went in, and we all had to buy bags!  I love my bag- it is exactly what I wanted and was "bon marché," which is French for a good deal.
Canal St Martin
The enormous bakery line. No sugar-free, gluten-free here!
That night we had dinner at a place called Fulgurances, which has a rotation of visiting up-and-coming chefs. It was a 5-course tasting menu, and everything was delicious!  My sister's friend Jeff had taken the train in from Geneva so it was 4 of us at dinner.  After our large meal, we walked home, and then it was time to pack (Yes, at 11 pm when I had to be up to leave at 7!).

On Thursday I got to the airport no problem, then turned in our detaxe forms.  Heaven knows if we will actually get our money back, but it is worth a try. I won't hold my breath. Anyway, then on to get my boarding pass and check my bag- but the kiosk said, in big red letters, SEE A TICKET AGENT, THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH YOUR RESERVATION.  After much standing around and waiting, the first agent who helped me got a very odd look on her face and told me I had to go see someone else.  I then waited some more, and then the someone else started tapping on her computer, and again her face didn't convey good news.  "Hold on," she said, "I have to call the US to try to get you a ticket."  Then she was placed on hold with the US after telling them, "the flight closes in 15 minutes!"  I knew I could spend another day in Paris, but I kind of wanted to get home to my family.  Then Eric started texting me- but it was 3:30 am in the US.  Why was he up? Benjamin had woken up and vomited all over our upstairs hallway.  Well, maybe I didn't want to get home so badly after all...

At the last minute, I was issued a ticket, given a priority pass through security, and made my way to the plane.  I had 4 seats to myself again (love it), and as soon as we took off, I lay down to sleep.  Unlike on my way over, I had no trouble sleeping and slept through the entire movie "You've Got Mail."  I watched La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, and started watching a TV show that is available on Netflix in Europe but not the US.  It was a pleasant, quiet flight.

Asher and Eric picked me up at the airport, and I was so happy to see them!  I came home and got right into the swing of things- I went for a run, picked up Charlotte from school, went grocery shopping, cooked dinner, and stayed up till 10 pm without feeling at all tired.  It felt good to be home.

While I was gone, Eric's mom came to help with the kids. And she painted our dining room, and she and Eric put a powder room in our basement!  The house was spotlessly clean when I returned. Eric is sad because I don't maintain the house nearly as well.

Going away in and of itself was a treat, but the benefits continued after I got home.  I missed Eric, and had much more gratitude for all he does.  It was also nice to take a break from work. And it didn't hurt that when I got back, we had a weekend of spring-like weather, which really shakes up my winter depression.  Now it is back to real life- plenty of time spent working, trying to keep up with cleaning, laundry, cooking. And time to start planning my next getaway!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

While Eric was away...

Here are the emails I sent Eric while he was away. Yes, it was 2 months ago, but I said I would post them, so I will. I haven't been writing here much because I have been spending my evenings obsessing over the state of our nation. I went to DC on Saturday of last weekend to join the Women's March on Washington. I guess that is another post, although I don't see this blog as a political platform, the current state of affairs has invaded many areas of my life.

So here are the emails:

November 27

Hi honey,
I thought I would write you about our day. This morning I showered all the kids, finished wrapping gifts for our Angel Tree angel, packed lunches, and we went to the zoo. The kids seem to prefer playing in the Treehouse to any of the animals. I prefer the animals. There were plenty of tantrums- Charlotte wanted to wear sandals, didn't want to wear a coat because it would cover up her dress, didn't want to sit next to Benjamin at lunch, didn't want to be near a turkey sandwich... I lost her in the primate house for a while, we had a few moments of panic but found her hanging from a gorilla sign. Then I had to carry her out of the zoo.

We stopped at Character Development in Narberth for a gift for Leo, which is where Benjamin had a breakdown over not getting anything. 

The boys played with Luca for an hour after we got back and I took care of stuff at home until the boys had to leave for Leo's birthday party and I had to leave for work. My dad took Charlotte to Ikea while they were at the party and fed her ice cream, and then she got a cupcake when she picked the boys up from the party. I was at home making fried rice... which I ate all by myself because no one else was hungry. Then I made rice pudding from the leftover rice. Charlotte threw various tantrums and asked for yet another dessert. They kids taped leftover scraps of wrapping paper all over their stuffed animals and pretended they were getting new presents. Bedtime was relatively uneventful. Asher is being a super wonderful big brother and gives Charlotte a hug and kiss after she is in bed each night.

We miss you! One day down, 5.5 more to go!

Love you!
In the Treehouse at the zoo. Unchanged since 1987.
Posing with the fake tiger
November 28
Cut up my credit cards

OMG honey, the hunt for a deal has grabbed me. Cut up my cards. Delete my cookies. We are going to cry when our credit card bill arrives- I can't even stand to think about it!  

Otherwise today was an ok day- I spent hours cleaning but the house still looks like a tornado hit it. My mom helpfully agreed with that. I made a super yummy dinner that only Benjamin ate- chicken thighs with a cider/mustard/cream sauce, roasted broccoli, carrots, and my mom brought a salad. I also made a pot roast to have later in the week so there would be food in the fridge.

I went to work and made the $100 I spent at Land's End. Well, I only spent $45 at Land's End because I ordered $55 of stockings for the kids and your mom said she would pay me back. But I got the boys boots for a steal!

I think that is about it. During the day I thought of lots of things to tell you, but now I don't remember.  We miss you, Asher seems kind of down and Benjamin is quiet. When we got home from running errands today, Charlotte ran up the walk and said, "Maybe Daddy is home!" We are all thinking of you.

Love you tons!
Charlotte posing with the cat we were fostering
We went to Bed Bath & Beyond and she sampled ALL the blushes
Then that night she used pastels as eyeshadow
November 29
It looked like your day was much more fun than mine! It poured all day long here. I took the kids to school in the morning, and then went to run errands. I went to Aldi and ran into Charlotte's old teacher Miss Ruth, who seemed ready to talk a lot. I spent more time cleaning before I went to work and you still can't tell.

Then I went to work and all day long my clients were late. It was just kind of quiet. People are sad.

I emailed Christine next door about taking a photo of our family- she said maybe sometime this weekend, and she will let me know.  I said, sounds good. I just want one stinking picture for our holiday card. Next year we are getting family photos done and I AM NOT LISTENING TO YOU WHEN YOU SAY WE ARE NOT. I put it in caps so I don't forget. 

I really think that is about it. I barely saw our kids so no cute stories or traumas to report. Asher's tooth is still in, but I am prepared with a $2 bill in case it comes out. There is more laundry, more dishes, but I have Asher buying lunch tomorrow, so one lunch I don't have to make. Only 3 full days left without you!
Benjamin drew this picture at school. It is Christmas Eve at Eric's grandparents
December 1
I will keep this short because I need to go to bed, but we didn't get to talk today! Things are going fine here, for the most part. Benjamin is having trouble sleeping at night, and came in to our room in the middle of the night last night saying his tummy hurt- but it turned out that he just misses you.  I think he is sad when he comes in and you aren't there. Asher had a breakdown at bedtime, but I was at work so my parents handled it. He said he was hungry but he and I had already butted heads over dinner when I asked him to eat his food and he said he was "too full." So I had told my parents no snack, and he was overtired and lost it.  Charlotte is fine.

I had a lot of clients cancel this week... 2 of them rescheduled for next week, so right now my schedule for next week is awful. I guess it is good that it's happening when you are home and less imposing on my parents. 

Tonight Elana came over with Maddie and Noah- she made baked ziti at her house and I baked it here and we ate together. I baked chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  The kids had a great time playing together and made a "secret hideout" under the pull-out couch in your office (which I guess I never put away...).  I think that is about it. I managed to not spend any money today, which is new! I didn't even go to Trader Joe's even though we need some stuff.  Maybe tomorrow!  I hope you had a good day, I am assuming you went to bed early because you didn't respond to my text. I hope you slept well and woke up full of energy! Send our love to your family.
Love you!
Haircuts on Friday afternoon
December 2
I am about to go to bed, and you are about to wake up to fly home to us! 

Tonight my parents came here for dinner. We had pot roast that I had made earlier in the week that was super yummy (plenty leftover) but Charlotte is refusing to eat all meat. Other than you and Benjamin, this house is ready to go vegetarian. She had 3 bowls of spinach instead. My parents left and I did showers and we looked at a few pages of I Spy, although the light in our room is so bad I couldn't see anything. I must be getting old, and that is depressing.

The kids are counting the minutes until you get home. "we get to see Daddy tomorrow" and "he's going to bring kinder eggs!" (that is mostly Charlotte). They can't wait. Neither can I, even if I am going to run out the door the second you walk in. 

Tomorrow we are going to see the play of A Year with Frog & Toad, and then we are going out for ice cream, and maybe to the Christmas market at City Hall to buy your mom an ornament. Then we will see what time it is and whether there is time for a nap! I tried to get the kids to bed early tonight but Benjamin was up at 8:50 talking nonsense. Like I said, he has trouble sleeping without you here.

My last email to you, since you will be home at bedtime tomorrow! I hope smooth travels and no delays.
Saturday morning- Asher found a camel cricket eating cat vomit in the basement. I went to deal with it and came back upstairs to Benjamin staging a protest 
At Frog & Toad
At Frog & Toad
Ice cream after Frog & Toad
I would say my emails are rather unexciting, but you can see the themes, and they certainly capture the nature of our everyday life. In 2 weeks I am off to Paris with my mom so maybe I will have another set of daily emails to deliver.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Holidays 2016

This year, Hanukkah began on Christmas Eve. We were up in Maine to celebrate Christmas with Eric's family, as we always do, so we had our Hanukkah there and let traditions overlap. 
1st night of Hanukkah before Christmas Eve party
We arrived in Maine around 8 pm on Friday night the 23rd after a looooong ride. We had hoped the kids would nap, but only Asher did. Charlotte stayed awake except for 1 moment where she nodded off, but that was the exact moment that Eric pulled into a gas station and so she woke up. Charlotte kept us company by alternately saying, "Yay! We're almost there!" when we were just north of New York City, and saying, "how much longer? I don't like my car seat! I wanna get out of here!" She constantly asked for snacks. As the day wore on, Eric got increasingly exasperated with her, and his threats to her became increasingly ridiculous. At one point, he said, "If you talk one more time, I am giving a present of yours to charity." That bought him about 3 minutes of silence. At another point, when she asked for more food, he said, "You can't be hungry! If you ask for food, I am NEVER GOING TO FEED YOU AGAIN!" I am a helpful spouse and burst into laughter. In fact, I laughed most of the ride, since it was so over-the-top. I don't think Eric was pleased with me, but he didn't threaten to make me walk.

We went straight to Eric's brother, Ryan, and his wife, Kerisa's, house. They were hosting a party for Eric's mom's family, and there was a lot of food, cousins, and company. We stayed until 10 o'clock, knowing we had nothing to do the next day.

The next day we did just that- nothing. I used the treadmill at Ryan and Kerisa's house in preparation for all the holiday eating, and then the kids took naps and we just hung out until it was time for Hanukkah and then the holiday party. 

Every Christmas Eve we go to a party at Eric's grandparents. There is always too much food, and everyone is always excited to see the kids. We eat, and then we wait for Santa. This year we brought our good camera (ha! I remembered it!) and Asher took some very nice photos- he has a good eye!
The boys with their big cousin Marcus. He was the ringbearer at our wedding 10.5 years ago and every time we see him, someone in Eric's family makes a comment about it.
Charlotte eating her dinner- I think she ate nothing but crackers.

Photo by Asher: Benjamin and mommy

Photo by Asher: Charlotte with cupcake

Dessert #? All they did was sneak treats

This sweet-looking girl is holding a Santa that farts when you squeeze his hand. He was the hit of the evening.
Finally, Santa arrives. Charlotte was beyond excited, and the second he pulled a gift out of his bag, she screamed with glee and rushed up to him- but the gift wasn't for her. He always brings gifts for the kids, and gag gifts for the grown-ups. Santa has a great sense of humor.
Happy girl receives her gift. It was a set of 3 Disney princess dress-ups.

Nope, no chaos here.
Charlotte loved her princess dress-up, and put on all of the accessories at once. I don't think we even came home with all of them, because she lost them in the first 5 minutes. There were clip-on earrings she loved, which makes me think she'll be asking for pierced ears sooner than I had planned for.

The boys were perfectly polite and wonderful, and remembered to say thank you for all their gifts. Benjamin got a beanbag game and Asher got a box full of crafts. 

Even though it was late, Asher had to write a note to Santa before bed. 
"Dear Santa, I hope you like the gingerbread men!"
Waiting for Santa
On Christmas morning, we opened our stockings and then had breakfast together. The boys got a lot of Pokemon cards. We had a funny moment when I opened up a fancy wine bottle opener from Eric's mom. She said, "I bought it off your Amazon wishlist!" I said, "No... I never put this on my wishlist..." And she said, "yes, with a book about bird watching!" Now, most people who know me know that I am afraid of birds, so I started laughing. I said, "You must have chosen a different Rebecca!" And yes, she had purchased from someone else's wishlist.  

We spent the day doing nothing, much, as is tradition. The kids decorated gingerbread houses that Charlotte had received as birthday gifts. The boys slopped frosting and candy all over their house, and Charlotte painstakingly and neatly decorated hers.
Princess decorates a house
Later we got ready for Christmas dinner with Eric's brother's family- they have 6 kids, so no other company needed. Asher had a seriously loose tooth, and he finally let Eric pull it right before dinner.
"All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!"

After dinner, we went to open gifts with all the cousins. It was a storm of wrapping paper and boxes, but Eric's mom had carefully chosen three thoughtful gifts for each one of her grandchildren. Eric got an Amazon Dot and I got a firepit for our back patio- nice stuff that was immediately put into use.  We had dessert and then... the children began to fall apart.  Of course with 9 kids in the house things were pretty wild no matter what else was happening.
Benjamin made up this saying and then wrote it out. We googled to see if he had plagiarized (proud parents don't believe their son could come up with this on his own...) but nope, it's his.
The day after Christmas Eric and I took the kids up to Portland to the children's museum there, and then out to lunch for Thai food.  We had a great day with our little family of 5, and the kids were acting sweet and kind and were great company.

The next day was another quiet day at Eric's parents' house, and then at night, we celebrated Charlotte's 4th birthday and her cousin Chandler's 3rd birthday. We had dinner and then cupcakes and singing Happy Birthday. Charlotte got more presents... and it seemed she began to expect presents everyday! What a disappointment these next few weeks have been.
Yet another birthday celebration
On Wednesday the 28th, we drove home from Maine. Our trip was originally supposed to be 6.5 hours, according to the GPS, but ended up closer to 8 hours. What a loooong day. The next day I offered to take the kids all kind of places- one of the museums where we have a membership, or to see Sing- and they refused all of it.  They stayed home and played with all their new toys and gifts, and then finally, around 2 pm, we went out to the library and took cookies to our librarians.
Quiet day at home
We hosted New Years Eve at our house, as we have for the past few years.  At noon we went to the "ball drop" at the library, where they spill candy on the street. 
Waiting for the ball to drop

Getting hugged by her school friend- the girls in her class are very into hugging
 Last year there was some trouble where not all the kids got candy and the big kids took too much. This year, Charlotte was prepared- she dashed in before almost anyone else and came away with about 10 pieces of candy! She is fearless. I was talking to a couple whose daughter is a couple of months younger than her, and they didn't even let their daughter stand on the ground, much less pile on for candy.  1st child vs 3rd child, I guess.

Our New Years party was fun, but I left my phone upstairs, so got no pictures. We had tons of food, lots of friends, plenty of alcohol, and a fire in our firepit and made smores.  Charlotte and our neighbor Blake danced to the Cha-Cha Slide in dresss-up clothes. Our friends stayed even later than they have in previous years, so we must be at least a little fun!

On New Years Day, we partook of our annual traditional trip to IKEA.  It was eat free if you spend $100, and we had no intention of spending it, but guess what- we ate for free.
I love this beautiful face.

Someone can't stand to be out of the spotlight
The kids were their wild and crazy selves. I think Eric was embarrassed (trying out all the beds? Piling on each other on the floor?) but I had to laugh. I love our wild and crazy family, and how much fun the kids always have with each other.

I know it's mid-January now, but Happy New Year to us, and to all our friends and family.  We have good health and good fortune, and so much more, to be thankful for.  I am dreading the events of this coming week (and the following 4 years), but our little family is thriving and well.