Friday, September 23, 2016

Charlotte's 1st day of school + end of summer

Excited to go to school. Picked out her own outfit!
 Charlotte had her first day of school on Tuesday the 13th. She is in Miss Tammy's 4 year-old class with many of her friends from the year before. We went to the open house the Friday before and she knew what was coming.  That morning, she cheered and ran to her brothers and said, "I'm going to school today!" She happily dressed herself in her pretty outfit, posed for photos, and then got in the car. Her school is about .5 miles away. As we drove, she got quiet and then said, "I'm worried.  What if no one in my class is happy to see me?" She kept feeling worried the rest of the way, and then cried when we got there. Oh, no! The first time she has cried on the first day of school.

My sad, sweet pumpkin
Fortunately, she was fine by the time Eric picked her up at noon. She told him, "I was sad for a little, and maybe I even cried, but then I decided not to be sad anymore, and I had a great day!"  Smart girl! She has been happy there every day since.

In my usual make-summer-last-until-I-can't-pretend-anymore way, we have been doing as much as we can outside, even swimming, until we can't.

First, we went apple-picking on a 90 degree day.  The Honeycrisps were ready and I didn't want to miss them!
Hot, sweaty, and squinting into the sun
 Then, swimming- the last day for swimming at the JCC pool, and swimming at Jane and Ed's until the pool is too cold to be comfortable.  All 3 kids just love to swim, and they are all getting good at it.  I will really miss our swim outings this winter!
Lunchtime swim at Jane & Ed's

Last weekend I took Asher and Charlotte to Sesame Place for the last day of water rides.  They are both equally adventurous and we got to do a lot of rides twice.  Charlotte adores Asher, and he adores her.
Love bugs
Happy roller-coaster lovebugs
 In the past few weeks, Charlotte has developed all kinds of new skills. One- she can now pump her legs and swing herself on the swings without any help. On the one hand, I am thrilled at her strength and independence. On the other hand, the baby swing has come down from our swing set, and won't go back up.
Swinging all by herself
She has also suddenly begun coloring and drawing in a much more advanced way. Even a couple of months ago, all her drawings were what we called, "scribble scrabble." Then on Monday, this:
A drawing of Mommy
and coloring in the lines, with great pride at her attention to detail. My baby, growing up too fast, as usual.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

First Grade

One week ago, the boys started first grade.  They are at the same school that they attended last year, but instead of going half-days each day, they now go from 9-3:30 each day.  They eat lunch at school, and have the option to buy lunch at the cafeteria if they would like.

We wait all summer to hear who their teachers are- the school doesn't send emails until 5 pm on Friday the weekend before Labor Day.  All day long, I anxiously anticipated the email. 5 pm came, I checked my email, and only one email- no teacher for Benjamin! I panicked, because at 5 on Friday, there isn't anyone to ask.  Meanwhile, I was receiving nonstop texts from friends wanting to know which teachers the boys have to see if the boys will be with any of their friends.  I emailed the principal, assuming that I would hear back from him on Monday morning, but to my surprise, he emailed me about an hour later and said that the email system had a glitch and only sent one email per family.

Asher's teacher this year is Mrs. Radbill, and Benjamin has Mrs. Lord.  I heard from another mom that they are the two "best" teachers in the 1st grade, whatever that means. I hope they are kind, patient, and loving. And I hope my boys continue to love learning and being with their friends.  Asher seems to like his teacher a lot because she is pretty. She has long, bleached blonde hair, is super skinny, and wears clothing that shows off her excellent body (not inappropriate, but it is clear she is in great shape!). My son is a lookist already.  I haven't met Mrs. Lord yet, but haven't heard a word of complaint from Benjamin.

The boys also started Hebrew school on Sunday. This did not meet with rave reviews- they came home with "Ask me where God lives" on a sticker (Eric was thrilled, since he is an atheist). I asked them about it, and Asher answered, "We read a book, and God lives everywhere," and Benjamin said, "GOD LIVES NOWHERE."

Benjamin hasn't seemed particularly pleased with 1st grade- he hates having homework every night, even though it takes him a total of 2 minutes to do, he hates being told what to do, and he says he isn't good at anything. He has enjoyed buying lunch, though.  I feel heartbroken when I think about his unhappiness, and I hope that it is temporary, and an adjustment to the new schedule and rules. He is so sweet and so smart, and for the past week he's been nothing but angry.

I miss the boys when they are at school- for the first time, they're in school from 9-3:30, no lunches together, no afternoon play dates. It feels like a long stretch of a day without them.  I love my time with Charlotte, but I miss those big boys.
With our neighbors after school

Monday, September 5, 2016

Cape Cod 2016

We are back from our trip, and ready (or as ready as we're going to be) for the boys to start 1st grade.

We had another wonderful trip, another vacation that left me sad it's over and eager for next year.  We started our trip by driving up to Eric's parents' on Thursday night. I am always excited for vacation to start, and want to get out of town as soon as possible! So we took off at the first possible moment and went to Maine.  Our last trip to Maine was easy- this one, not so much. Although we left 1.5 hours earlier than we had on our last trip up, we arrived at the same time. I drive Eric nuts because I constantly check Google maps for detours and ways to save time, no matter how convoluted the route.

Friday we just took it easy at Eric's parents' house- we had planned to go to the beach, but it rained in the morning so we changed our plans. We went in the pool, their cousins came for lunch, and then we packed up a picnic dinner and went to the beach for dinner.
Memere puts a braid in Charlotte's hair 
Benjamin asked me to take his picture 
Charlotte pretending to sleep 
Asher & me
Benjamin asked me to take his picture again
After dinner and playing on the beach, we made an important stop at Uncle Ryan's ice cream shop. We picked up 5 quarts to take to the Cape because we like it better than anything we get there.

We couldn't decide what time we would leave for the Cape on Saturday, but when we woke up, the kids were begging to get to the Cape as soon as possible, so we packed up and left. There was more traffic, but we made it in time for a late lunch by the bay. Then, since my parents and sister (and her boyfriend) were not going to arrive until about 6, we went to the beach and got in the ocean!
Finally made it to our favorite place! 
One of my other favorite places...
 We didn't really get in a rhythm the same way we have other years- the weather was inconsistent, and so were the kids' (especially Charlotte's) moods.  We did go to the beach, and the first couple of days had good waves there. We also went to the pond, of course. Benjamin spent almost all his time at the pond building a series of canals that he checked on and improved everyday we were there.

We continued with many traditions- a lobster dinner by the bay, a grown-up's night out at a nicer restaurant, ice cream whenever we could, and Papa Nick going out for donuts and newspapers with his grandchildren.
Attempt at a family picture. This one won't be going on our holiday card.
 We also did some new things- at their request, I took Asher and Charlotte on a whale watch from Provincetown.  Memorial Day weekend, we saw an IMAX movie about whales, and Charlotte has been talking about them ever since, so out we went.  The weather was gorgeous and the sailing was smooth.
Asher and mommy
Charlotte and mommy
I guess it was kind of sunny...
And, good news! Lots of whales. First finback whales, and then humpback whales.  Charlotte was so enthusiastic, with lots of oohs and ahhs of excitement.  I love seeing the kids get excited and see the world in a new way.
Whale's tail

Whale spotting

Benjamin at ice cream
One evening, my parents took us all to see a kids' play- Puss in Boots, part II.  As I told my sister, the plot was convoluted and hard to follow, but the kids enjoyed it and laughed throughout.  I think the grownups enjoyed it, too! We might have started a new tradition.
Before the play
 On Thursday, it rained. When the weather forecast that earlier in the week, I scheduled back-to-school haircuts for the boys in the morning. We went from there to the Cape Cod potato chip factory, where the tour is free, but ends in a room full of potato chips and popcorn, so ended up costing us a little more.
After the tour. No pictures inside.
 It rained all day Thursday. I know I sound like a spoiled brat, but I hate when it rains on beach vacation!

Friday started sunny, and we went to the beach. The waves were too rough for us to swim, but we played in the sand for a while, until we noticed a little unrest on the beach. A plane kept circling overhead, and a boat appeared in the ocean and hovered close to shore.
The plane circling around
Then it became clear- SHARK!  A shark had been spotted close to shore.  We all dashed down the beach to see if we could spot it (we couldn't), but that sealed the deal- no swim in the ocean for us.

We went kayaking- the kids loved it and I discovered that my arms are not so strong.  Although it isn't part of our usual routine, I would do it again!

We went to ice cream one afternoon, and over the course of our snack, everyone swapped food with everyone else.  We all got a little taste of everything.
Swapping snacks 
The kids all pretended to be various forms of cats- kitties, tigers, and lions. Charlotte is roaring.
Asher and Charlotte snuggling together. They have a close bond.
At the end of the visit, Asher was ready to go home. I think he is anxious about his first day of school (or am I projecting?).  I could have stayed forever.  My sister and I had a great time laughing hysterically over everything and nothing, we ate lots of good food, read books, drank coffee, and got exercise.

Now we are home, and real life starts again. When we got home, I noticed leaves on our patio, and the air has a chill.  Fall is coming, whether I like it or not!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Summer Olympics

I am sleep deprived. Why do they always have to put gymnastics on so late? In a twist of fate, our TiVo has decided to be as obedient as Charlotte, which means that at exactly the moment where Simone Biles is about to do her vault, it goes black and restarts the system. It turns out that when the TiVo system resets, it also stops recording whatever I asked it to record.  I have attempted to circumvent this problem by watching the live streaming from the NBC website, but apparently the NBC website is in cahoots with my TiVo, because every time the excitement is about to begin, it freezes up completely.

I love the Olympics.  I feel like my Grandma Sonia, who would repeat endlessly whatever inane comment came to mind at the moment while she watched TV.  For me, I cannot stop saying, "These people are incredible! I can't believe these bodies! This is unbelievable!" Every night.  Strangely, Eric has been spending a lot of time in the basement, away from the Olympics and me.

In addition to the continual astonishment, the Olympics are a way for me to measure time in 4 year increments.  4 years ago, I watched the summer Olympics with a fetal Charlotte swimming and flipping inside of me.  This summer, I get to watch the Olympics with my daughter on my lap, oohing and ahhing over the gymnastics just like I am.

As we watched, I commented to Charlotte that 4 years ago, she had been inside my uterus while I watched the Olympics.  After a quiet moment, she asked, "How did I get out of your uterus?"  I said, "Through my vagina."  After another quiet, longer moment, she said, "I don't think I want to have any babies."  I told her she has plenty of time to think about it, and that I kind of hope she will change her mind because I really want to be a grandma, but that ultimately, it will be her choice.

The kids are all watching with me, when they can- it is a special treat for good listeners to stay up late and watch Olympics with mommy.  They ask me would I be proud of them if they went to the Olympics- of course!

Charlotte thinks she can do half the things the gymnasts can do, but when she gets up to try them, she finds out she can't.  I told her- "Practice, practice, practice!" and then I see her try her skills and hear her say to herself, "practice, practice, practice!" She's signed up for gymnastics for the fall, and I keep asking her if she is going to be the next Simone Biles- she says yes. So look out for Charlotte in 2028 or 2032!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Cat Party

The kids came home from camp singing this catchy and completely annoying song, "Pop See Ko."  Of course I needed to educate myself about the song, so looked it up on YouTube, began to watch, and went down the rabbit hole. Linked to that video of two very strange-looking men dancing very badly to a nonsense song were more videos of the two very strange-looking men dancing very badly to other nonsense songs. These include "Milkshake," "Rollercoaster," and most importantly for us, "Cat Party."

First, let me say that I am a HUGE fan of bad dancing. Nothing makes me happier than bad dancing.  I LOVE to dance badly, even to nonsense songs.

Second, we LOVE cats.  Charlotte and I have a whole routine where we pretend to be cats. We own two live cats. And Charlotte collects stuffed animal cats, including her best friends White Kitty and Black-and-White Kitty.

Last night, right before bedtime, we watched "Cat Party."  The two strange men talk to pictures of cat heads (the cats are wearing party hats) with made up funny names (Esmerelda, Boris) and ask them about a cat party.  Then the chorus goes, "We are going to have a cat party. We're gonna have a cat paaaarty. We are gonna have a cat party, so bring your cat and something to share!"  I'm not joking, that is it.

About an hour and a half after bedtime last night, Asher woke up crying and said, "I wanna have a cat party! A cat party!" I assured him we would talk about it in the morning, and put him back in bed.  Two minutes later he was up again, crying that he "didn't like the cat game!" Again, I put him back in bed and said we would talk in the morning.

This morning at breakfast, Asher had no recollection of what had happened, but we all shared a good laugh, and then began to discuss our Cat Party.  First, the guest list:
Trouble, Peanut (our cats)
Max, Ian (my parents' cats)
Minky (my sister's cat)
Thor (the neighbor's cat)
The two kittens my sister picked up by the side of the road in West Virginia and who are now living somewhere nearby
NOT Muffin (my aunt and uncle's cat)
NOT Mean Kitty (aka Sophie, Eric's parents' cat)

Throughout the day, the conversation continued.  The kids decided that the cats at the party should definitely also wear hats like the cats in the video.

Next, the menu:
Cat food from a can
Mouse popsicles
Chicken liver ice cream

What the kids don't know is that Eric and I offered to foster two kittens, starting tomorrow.  So there might really be a Cat Party at our house.  I will keep you posted.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer Travel

I do love to travel, and it seems summer is the best time for it. There are few things I look forward to as much as packing the van full to the brim, piling in the family, and setting off for an adventure.  Eric and I sit up front and talk for hours, or listen to podcasts, or music, or just drive while the other one sleeps. The kids are accustomed to car trips and know what to do, whether it is bringing books, watching movies on the DVD player, or looking out the window.  It is especially wonderful when they are asleep, though.

So far this summer, Eric and I have taken 2 plane trips- one to Galveston, TX for my friend Kelly's wedding, and one to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a conference.  Two trips a month apart is a pretty big deal for us, considering we went years without travel together.
Hazy morning sun over the Seawall in Galveston
It completely changes the dynamic to be away from the kids- we do what we want, when we want. We talk a lot to grownups, and we try to sleep late but don't always succeed.  I find that when we travel just the two of us, I get very anxious. I am anxious leading up to the trip, trying to make sure that I arrange everything the kids might need while we are gone.  While we were in Galveston, Eric's parents stayed at our place, and I had to make sure they had addresses for everything since they're not as familiar with our area. Then I stress about travel. Then I feel sad that we aren't with the kids.  Why can't I just let myself relax?

On our second trip away, to Puerto Rico, I actually did relax, and we had such a great time. We were in San Juan for a conference I attended, and I spent 2 days in seminars and at lunches, but we had plenty of time to relax and socialize. We got so distracted by enjoying ourselves one day that we forgot to call the kids!  Somehow we all survived.
Practicing our relaxation skills by the pool
On one of our fun days, Eric and I walked into Old San Juan from our hotel (2 miles). It was really hot and humid and I got completely soaked with sweat! But, it was exercise.
In Old San Juan 
The view from Castillo San Cristobal 
Selfie at San Cristobal
The cafe where we had coffee and I had Mallorca bread with guava butter that I still dream about
One day, while I was in the conference, Eric rented a bike and rode around town by himself.
 We socialized with old classmates and colleagues of mine, went out to dinner, had drinks at the swim up bar, went in the hot tub... It was amazing. The whole thing felt like a dream!

 One weekend at home, and then it was off to Washington, DC for my cousin Jess's wedding.  There was much to do about who would be attending the wedding- originally I planned to go alone with my parents, then Asher asked to come, then Benjamin asked to come, then it seemed silly for Eric and Charlotte not to come... There was a lot of rearranging of plans, and I rode down on Friday afternoon with my parents and the boys.  It was perfect weather and we got to take a walk in DC before we dropped the boys at my cousin's with a sitter and Elana and I went out to dinner.
3 across in my dad's car. My back was killing me!
Stoop sitting on a summer evening,
 My sister and I got to go for a run on Saturday morning while my parents took the boys to a playground and Eric and Charlotte drove down. We jogged past the White House, but I am a bad selfie taker so you can barely see it behind us.
See it?
Eric and I attended the wedding on Saturday night, and then we all headed back as a family on Sunday, in time for the boys to get to a birthday party at an ice skating rink.

Just a few days after we got home, we packed up the van again and took off for Maine!  This past weekend, I took Charlotte and Asher to New York City for the day, but other than that we have been at home, and we will be here until we end our summer with our trip to Cape Cod.
Asher on the balcony with the Empire State Building behind him. Eric's response was "Don't let him get too close to the edge!"
At a splash park in a bathing suit I bought at Old Navy in NYC. She now thinks she is fancy because she has a bathing suit from New York, even if I could have bought the same one 1 mile away from our house.
In a taxi. Hate that we have no car seats, but comforted by the fact that we go a max of 5 mph.
Me cooling off at the splash park

We are lucky, because the kids are adaptable and get excited about travel just as much as I do.  In DC they slept on air mattresses in my sister's room; in Maine the boys shared a bed and Charlotte slept on an air mattress in the closet.  They sleep well wherever we go, and are always curious to see new things.  I get a thrill out of exposing them to the world and seeing them interact with it.  Their joy is infectious and lets me be a kid again.  They were just as happy to be left at home with their grandparents the weekends we were away, and seem to barely miss us.  I'm sure a great deal of it is their temperament, but I can't help but feel as though Eric and I have done something right to have our three well-attached children.

Summer is half-over, but we've traveled the coast, and enjoyed ourselves here at home.  More summer pictures to come- we have been busy here, too.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Summer trip to Maine

We are back from our trip to visit Eric's parents.  Eric and I couldn't decide on the best time to go- around July 4th when there are many events happening, or in August after the kids are out of camp.  We picked July, since I wouldn't miss much work (I took one day off), and we knew the kids would be happy to go to the 4th of July events in Maine.

Our trip was one of the best yet!  We drove up after I got home from work on Wednesday, leaving our house at 6:30. We had the smoothest drive we've ever had and pulled into the driveway at Eric's parents' house at 1 am. The kids were exhausted from camp and slept almost the whole way, so Eric and I had hours of adult conversation, adult podcasts, and Eric napped. When we got there, the kids went to bed with no problems, and Eric and I jumped in bed ourselves.  We managed to sleep until 9 the next day, and when I got up, Eric's mom asked me where Charlotte was. I thought Charlotte was with her... turned out, Charlotte had slept until 9, too!  She woke up with a smile after all that rest.

 We spent our first day there taking it easy- I went for a run, we swam in the pool, Asher napped, and then friends and family joined us for swimming and dinner. Eric's mom's best friend has a daughter, Lisa, who is our age, who has a daughter of her own, Kaya, who is 6 weeks younger than Charlotte. They hadn't seen each other since they were 1, but became instant friends and had a great time together.
Taylor with Kaya and Charlotte in the pool 
Kaya and Charlotte after swimming
 On Friday, Eric's mom had bought us tickets to Funtown/Splashtown, an amusement park and water park in Saco, Maine. It was Eric, me, our 3 kids, Pat, and Eric's brother's 3 oldest kids. My niece Taylor couldn't wait for me to go on all the scary rollercoaster rides with her, so I made good on that. We had a great time!  Asher and Kiptyn decided they were brave and went on every ride they could.  It was a joy to get to share the excitement with my big boy!  Charlotte tried the log flume with Taylor and me, and her biggest complaint was that her dress got wet!
On the log flume. I can't look at Charlotte's face without laughing!
After a long morning of riding all the rides at the amusement park, we had some lunch and went over to the water park.  Again, Asher was eager to try everything, and we went on things over and over. Even Charlotte got brave and tried some water slides, with glee.  One slide we had to go on 5 times in a row!  Benjamin was more cautious and tried some smaller, slower rides, but we didn't push him to try anything he wasn't ready to do.
The cousins at the end of the day
Eric and Benjamin on the riding lawn mower
 On Saturday, we had plans for a day trip to White Lake in New Hampshire- all of our family, Eric's parents, and Eric's brother's family (and they have 6 kids!).  We packed our cars and hit the road. When we got there, it was extremely windy, and very cool. Compared to the air, the lake was warm, but I couldn't bring myself to get in.  It was absolutely beautiful there, with green mountains around us and the clear lake at our feet. The sand was soft.  It would have been the absolutely perfect spot if only it had been 10 degrees warmer and a little more sunny.
a panoramic that Eric took
Keeping warm with my cuddle bug
Charlotte playing with Chandler
With Taylor. She is a good 2 inches taller than I am, and she is 12!
Kerisa napping with Baby Serena
We left earlier than we thought we would since we were so cold, and went home in time for me to get in a run before dinner.

On Sunday, Eric and I took our kids to his grandparents' house on the pond, where we had stayed last July. The kids just love it there, fishing off the dock, going out in the canoe, splashing in the water. Next summer we will have to stay there again.  We got to see Eric's grandparents and Aunt Donna, and his cousin Mike and wife Missy.  
Canoe trip
Eric's mom made a big lunch for us that day, and the cousins all came over.  We had a big water balloon fight- the kids loved it!  
Water balloon fight begins
Sunday, July 3 was also our anniversary- 10 years! (I want to make another post about the anniversary).  For the most part, we didn't do anything special to celebrate, but I did pick up a bottle of Prosecco at Walmart, and Eric and I toasted to our anniversary at dinner time, using his parents' toasting glasses from their wedding in 1974.  As we poured the Prosecco and posed for our picture, we heard from the back bathroom,
"Come wipe my tushie!" Charlotte was on the toilet.  We had a good laugh at the way things are 10 years into marriage.  I don't think either one of us would have it any other way.
Asher holding his cousin Serena
We also made an attempt to capture all 9 grandchildren in one photo:
Dawson (4), Chandler (2), Kiptyn (6) holding Serena (7 months), Myah (10) holding Charlotte (3),
Benjamin (6) and Asher (6) on Taylor's (12) lap.  WOW!
 Then, we went to the fireworks in town.  Perfect weather, and we got a spot a fair distance from where thy were set off, but with a good view.  Eric's brother Ryan's ice cream shop had a tent and was dishing up ice cream, so everyone got ice cream while we waited.  The kids enjoyed the show, and the fact that we weren't right next to the explosions helped them tolerate the sound.

How old is she? 
 The following day was the 4th, another day of perfect weather.  We packed up the car and went to the 4th of July parade in town.  The kids got a thrill out of getting candy thrown at them, and they collected huge bags of treats.

Asher with his Pepere and Memere
Asher, Kiptyn, and Pepere
My 3 watching the parade and an antique fire truck
Memere holding Serena 
Waiting for more candy
From the parade, we hit the road. The ride home wasn't nearly as pleasurable as the ride up.  We were rushing home to try to make it to our local fireworks with friends, but what had been a cloudless and warm day in Maine was overcast and rainy at home. We had dinner with my mom, and then put the kids in bed without fireworks. The kids were exhausted from a jam-packed trip of excitement and new experiences.  We've been home almost a week, and they are still telling me that they wish they were back in Maine. I do wish we weren't so far, but it certainly was a treat to go.