Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend 2017

Memorial Day weekend had all the makings of a wonderful holiday weekend. But sometimes reality doesn't live up to expectation.

It was my 15 year college reunion. In some ways, this was tough to swallow, because surely it can't have been that long since I was in college.  I drove up to Rhode Island on Friday via New York City, where I picked up my friend Amanda.  Amanda and I met the first month of our freshman year and have been friends ever since.  We have traveled together, know each other's families, attended each other's weddings, and have rushed to meet each other's children after their births.  So no matter what happened at the reunion, it was wonderful to have that time with an old friend.

Although it was warm and sunny in Philadelphia, by the time we reached Rhode Island it was cold and raining.  We tried to make the most of it, but overall, between the bad weather and the fact that most of our close college friends weren't at reunion, the night was a little bit of a let-down.
Where we spent much of our extracurricular time in college
Ready for our big night out
Friday night ended with Amanda passed out in one bed, and me waiting for a pizza to get delivered while watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  And then me eating the pizza the second it arrived and burning the roof of my mouth!

Saturday morning, Amanda rushed back to NYC because her baby had been sick- I was quite impressed by how well she tolerated being away from him overnight when he was sick for the first time in his short life. After she left, I went for a jog around Providence, running past many of the places I used to live and spend time. Being at Brown was one of the happiest times in my life; I truly had an ideal college experience, where I balanced the freedom of being young and unencumbered with growing independence.  I ran past the hotel where we used to put up the bands that played our summer concerts; past the pizza place where we ordered pizza at 1 am; through the park I ran through with my friend and roommate where she used to challenge me to "feel the burn!" as I tried to follow her uphill; past the house where I lived with 5 friends my senior year; past the building where I sat in a sociology class on the morning of September 11, 2001; past the Main Green of the campus where I spent warm afternoons "studying" on a blanket; past the mall where I shopped with my friends on weekends and spent hours drinking mochas from Nordstrom as we talked; past the hotel where I stayed with my college boyfriend the weekend of his graduation; past the bar where I did tequila shots and flirted with men I didn't know; past the Civic Center where I saw the Foo Fighters open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2000.  The memories of that time are vivid, and I am grateful for every minute of my time there.

After my run, I showered and went to the airport to pick up my sister, who was flying in just to drive down to Philadelphia with me.  The weather had cleared up, and so we went to Newport, and decided to have lunch outside at Castle Hill, where Eric and I got married almost 11 years ago.  We shared delicious food and a cocktail while we sat outside in the sun and watched boats sail through the bay.
Elana at our grown up lunch
a panoramic view from the site where Eric and I said our vows
We then walked off some of our lunch with a walk along the Cliff Walk, looking at the ocean on one side and the historic Newport mansions on the other.  Then I got anxious to get in the car and come home, because it had been too long since I had seen my babies.

On Sunday, the day began quietly, with a leisurely breakfast on the patio, our inaugural trip to the pool at the JCC, and naps for the kids.  Eric's parents had to come to visit while I was away at reunion, and Pat and I went out to buy some groceries while the kids rode their bikes in the parking lot at the school.

This is where the day took a turn for the worse- after Pat and I got back from errands, we found out that Asher had hurt himself while riding his bike.  I won't go into details of the injury, but I was worried. Pat assured me he was fine, but he was clearly in pain, and I didn't like the look of the injury, so at 8 o'clock I called the on-call doctor from the pediatrician's office.  After 2 hours of back and forth with the pediatrician, texting him photos of the injury, his consulting with a specialist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and a phone call with the specialist, the specialist requested that I bring Asher in to be seen.  So at 10:30 at night, Eric woke up Asher and we got in the car.  My mom offered to come with me, and although I was ready to go without her, Asher asked that she come. The 3 of us drove into the city in the pouring rain, and Asher was astonished that people were still out and about so late at night.

We were given excellent treatment at CHOP- we arrived at 11 pm and were walking out by 12:10 am.  Fortunately for us, Asher's injury was deemed insignificant and no intervention was needed, and all the medical professionals came right in and were cheerful and helpful. Asher was brave as could be, but I am still feeling some traumatic effects from the evening. It is a huge hospital, and I couldn't stop thinking of all of the truly sick children in there.  And it was still difficult to see my little guy on the hospital bed, both a brave young man and a scared child with his stuffed animal.  He was nervous about needing stitches, but he kept his sense of humor and talked with my mom and me all night (although with decreasing coherency). I love him so much, and have been especially affectionate with him since his injury and our trip to the hospital.  I don't know how parents survive worse; this was nothing but taxed me emotionally.  Asher seems completely fine, and says his injury doesn't even hurt today.

Today was also a quiet day. We had lunch at our friends' house, and the kids all played together so nicely that the adults could just sit around and talk. And then we hosted more friends at our place in the evening.  After getting the kids in bed, I tried to catch up on chores before I go in to work tomorrow.

It certainly doesn't feel like the beginning of summer, what with our 60 degree and rainy weather, and it was hard to feel like our busy and exhausting weekend was restful.  Better luck next year, I guess!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Asher: 7 years old

Running the 1-miler for his school
He's only been 7 for a month and a half, I'm not THAT late!

Asher is a typical first-born, even if he only beat Benjamin into the world by 12 minutes.  He is mature, helpful, and bossy.  He is an excellent big brother, who wants to take care of his siblings.  He is a conscientious student and hopefully a good friend!
Being a good big brother to his little sister
In the past year, I have really enjoyed my time with Asher as a friend.  We have a lot of interests in common- running, amusement park rides, walks, shopping, and talking.  He always jumps up to go with me on whatever adventure I might be heading out on. He has a never-ending curiosity about the world and how it works; on our walks, we have talked about marriage and divorce, mortgages, insurance, and how to save money.  I adore his sense of humor. Like me, he can find something so silly so funny, and fall to pieces laughing. His laugh is infectious, and I can't help but join in.  I think Eric gets annoyed with us when we get carried away (often at bedtime, which is when I tend to get hysterically laughing myself) because he thinks I'm winding Asher up.  Maybe I am.

He has continued to run, and takes his running series races very seriously.  Together we ran the 1-miler for his school, and just this week he rain the nature trail at Haverford College with me- 2.2 miles. I cannot tell you how much joy it gave me to run with him- he keeps a good pace, and we were talking the whole way.  I am in disbelief at how quickly he has grown from a baby into a friend, a person who I truly enjoy spending time with (and not just because he is my son).  He is so strong and determined, and I am so proud.

After the run, we stopped at Trader Joe's, and he picked out a bouquet of flowers for me, because he had given me a coupon for flowers for Mother's Day.  I loved that he remembered and wanted to follow through. Then, on our way home from the run, we were talking about whether he likes or loves school- he says he likes it, but doesn't love it. He said he would love it if he had more time spent playing and less time spent "learning." I acknowledged that was a fair point. I asked him if he liked or loved running, and he said he loved it.  It does thrill me that we share that love together.
Before the 1 mile race
Running his 1/4 mile race at the Running Series
Asher and I also share a love of amusement park rides.  We went to the local church "fun fair," and he accompanied me on the Ferris Wheel and then a ride that was like hang-gliding.  Eric hates rides, and Benjamin and Charlotte are still scared of them, so it is just the two of us getting our adrenaline fix.  Now that he is over 48", the amusement world is his oyster!
On the Ferris Wheel
Asher has been a fairly diligent student this year.  He seems more preoccupied with following the rules and being social than with academics, but his work is consistent and he is careful with it.  I have had to encourage him to read, but his abilities have grown by leaps and bounds in the past few months.  I bribed him with a book from the Scholastic order from his school and he read every night for a week.  He seems quite competent at math and has no trouble doing his work.

Asher's social skills are quite impressive for a young boy.  He is charming and polite.  Every time he has a play date, the parents report that he is excellent company. One parent said, "Asher is my next husband!" He isn't always charming and polite to his parents, but he knows how to work his charms outside the home.  It is hard to believe that our toddler who received speech therapy is now so articulate.
Asher practicing his meditation at our hotel in DC
His likes and dislikes- he continues to be extremely picky with food.  Over the course of the past year, he has had a few sessions with a psychologist to help him with his fruit phobia- after sitting alone at lunch at camp all summer, I was worried he'd be isolated at school.  He learned some cognitive-behavioral techniques that seemed helpful, and the school year started fine, but in November, a classmate showed Asher a mushy apple at lunchtime and Asher threw up in the cafeteria.  We went back to his therapist for a refresher and he seemed better, but he will still avoid being at the table when we eat fruit at home, and recently lost his mind over a grocery store croissant, so I would say food is still an issue.  He still loves his carbs- bread, cereal, crackers, pretzels, waffles, and desserts- but he eats a variety of non-fruit items as well.  He likes proteins like chicken, turkey, and some beef, and he eats almost every vegetable I cook (although he doesn't like salad). He likes hummus, and has gone back to eating the occasional Polly-O string cheese.  For dinner I make one entree and that is their only option, so he has eaten and enjoyed tofu, vegetarian curry, and various other adventurous foods.  The doctor didn't seem concerned given his consistent growth and overall good health.

Asher likes playing on the iPad, watching TV, and playing outside. He loves to have play dates with friends, and I always encourage him to have friends over after school on the afternoons I am home. He likes to explore new places, and I allow him and Benjamin to roam free while we are at the park.  It makes me a little nervous, but I remember doing it as a child, and the memories of the imaginary worlds I created with my friends are still strong all these years later.
I was suddenly in the mood for squid for dinner...
I do feel, if it wasn't already apparent, that Asher and I have more in common than I do with Benjamin and Charlotte- at least at this point in time.  This doesn't mean that he is my "favorite," because I am passionate about all three of them.  It is just a recognition that their personalities are all different, and at this point, Asher and I are more similar.  This has changed over time- I remember when Charlotte was a newborn I felt that we were in some way almost divinely connected- and I am sure it will continue to change.  But if my description of Asher appears more detailed or of a different quality than my description of Benjamin, that is why.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

7 year well visit

The boys had their well visit a week ago.  Good news- they are well!  Again, we are so fortunate that both boys are continuing to grow and thrive, with no major health concerns.

Asher's measurements:
48" tall (47.9%) (+2.25" from last year)
54 lbs (63.7%) (+6.2 lbs from last year)

Benjamin's measurements:
46.75" tall (26.1%) (+2.25" from last year)
49.6 lbs (41.3%) (+4.8 lbs from last year)

I got those percentiles from the CDC, so the ones the doctor gave me were slightly different, but that is the idea. It is surprising to me every year that their weight percentiles are higher than their height percentiles, because they are some of the skinniest kids we know.  Regardless, they seem to be in excellent health and are growing steadily.

Both boys' vision and hearing checked out fine.  The doctor's only concern was Benjamin's speech- although we are very accustomed to his mispronunciations, they must have stuck out to her.  She suggested we get him evaluated at school and see if he qualifies for therapy there.

I asked about Benjamin's tonsils, because he had strep twice this winter and the other two didn't get it at all (and neither did I!). She said the strep isn't frequent enough to warrant removing his tonsils, and that they looked fine when she examined him.

Other than that, she said we are lucky in our good health, and even though she loves to see us, she is glad we aren't there more often.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Benjamin: 7 years old

One super cool cutie (and Eric isn't so bad, either)
A post to celebrate Benjamin's 7th birthday.  Over this past year, I do think I have watched the boys' personalities emerge even more.  Benjamin is smart as can be. He can do his homework in 30 seconds, and remembers things I didn't know he'd even heard.  He loves to read (he came home from school today and told me he had forgotten to eat his snack because he had his nose "buried in a book"). Now that he is such a competent reader, he says he doesn't want to be read to anymore.  I miss our moments of sitting together, engaged in a book we both love.

While before I have always described Benjamin as easy-going, he has hit more obstacles this year. His first grade class isn't the same amazing group that he had in kindergarten, and while we had heard that his teacher is one of the best, she seems somewhat lackluster.  The year started with mixed reports- Benjamin hated school, hated homework, and had no friends (his reports); and that he was having trouble sitting still and paying attention (his teacher's reports).  At our most recent conference, we were told that he has matured over the year, and is better at paying attention, but he still doesn't love school the way that I wish he would.  He says he is "bored," and I do wonder if he finds the slow pace of his class frustrating. We decided that we will get him tested to see if he qualifies for the gifted & talented program.  Socially he doesn't seem as adept as his brother, or some other 1st graders.  It all seems age-appropriate, but his social skills are not as advanced as his academic skills.
Benjamin doing his 2 lines in the 1st grade musical.
Benjamin loves to draw and write.  I think he is a pretty good artist, and love what he comes up with while he is just hanging out (it usually involves a dragon and a battle of some kind).  He has written some pretty funny notes to us, especially when he is forced into quiet time in the afternoon while Asher naps.
Benjamin's hostage note
Practicing writing some of the new words he is learning at school
He is still my most adventurous eater, and will try sophisticated foods with more frequency than his siblings, but he occasionally will decide that he just doesn't like something before he even tries it.  His favorite food is probably Japanese- he likes cucumber sushi and yaki udon with chicken and vegetables.  He likes meat over vegetables, and fruit over vegetables, and is always happy to eat pasta.
Benjamin with Blankie as a hat. He is like an orangutan with his blanket.
Benjamin likes to play with Legos, but not so much to build them. He likes to collect Pokemon cards, but is known to make many a poor trade and he seems to get swindled often. He still has a particular attachment to his blue blanket (Blankie), which is now almost gray. Unlike his brother and sister, he is not competitive.  Of the three, his most likely to be on his own, whether it is reading or playing on the iPad.  He loves the iPad, and it is a constant battle to keep him off of it and engaged with the rest of life. When presented with the option to go somewhere or do something, he will ask to stay home, in the hopes of spending more time on the iPad. Eric is more inclined to let him play on it than I am, but I often lose track of who is where and doing what, so it happens under my watch all the time, too.

Benjamin does seem to have some anxiety around strange/new situations.  After one visit to the planetarium (where he declared it "too loud"), he would panic anytime we would talk about going back. The planetarium is really not that loud, but it seemed like he was somewhat troubled by the existential concepts presented. There have been other situations where he begins to panic and doesn't want to try something new, but often enjoys himself once he gives it a try.

Benjamin is often the odd one out among the siblings- Asher and Charlotte are more likely to play and engage with each other than they are with him. Most of the time this doesn't seem to bother him, but occasionally Charlotte will push him away or be hurtful, and then he comes to me with tears in his eyes. Although he often seems unaffected by what goes on around him, he does seem to be a sensitive person, and is more aware than I usually give him credit for.
After his haircut at the barber shop. I can't get his hair to look nearly as nice. 
I love him like crazy- he still has the sweetest little face, and sometimes, when he frowns a certain way, I can see him exactly as he was as a newborn. I am thrilled and astonished by how bright he is, even if it means we have conversations I'm not ready to have, or I have to shush him when he tries to tell Asher what "the F word" is (Asher said, "is it fart? It's fart, right?").  He still climbs into bed with us in the morning to be snuggled and kissed. Despite the growth and the changes and the new complications 1st grade has brought, he is still my sweet and lovable boy.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Things they have said

Asher: "I am so happy. I'm happy for you, and daddy, and that you make enough money to pay for our house, which is a home, and to do things with us."

Benjamin, when I asked him if he could hear me when I talked to him: "No, I'm deef." The true sign that he is a reader and read deaf as if it rhymed with leaf. English is tough!

Charlotte, when I told her she needed to go use the potty at home because her pants were a little wet and she had started to pee in them. "How do you know that? You don't know everything. You know NOTHING. You're not my mom." and when I said I was her mom, and had in fact watched her emerge from my own body, she said, "You don't know that."

My kids in a nutshell.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

7 years old!

The boys on their birthday. Benjamin is rolling his eyes at me because I requested he look at me and smile.
I am late in posting this, and I am also working on individual posts for each boy, but on March 26, Benjamin & Asher turned 7 years old.  These years have flown by, and yet the little men I now know as my sons are so different from the babies and toddlers they used to be.

We celebrated with a birthday weekend.  On Saturday, March 25, my sister and I took the kids to the mall and she treated them to Build-a-Bear.  This was the boys' birthday dream come true, and she let them each pick an animal- Asher picked a rainbow monster, Benjamin a snow leopard, and Charlotte an Elsa (from Frozen) bear.  They enjoyed the ritual and named their animals- the monster got named Cute (later changed to Cutie), the snow leopard Snowy, and the bear Elsa.  Of my children's many talents, creative naming of animals and pets is not among them.
Benjamin at Build-a-Bear
Then I treated the kids to Panera for lunch, and then we were off to Benjamin's birthday party.  He had it at a gymnastics place about 25 minutes away.  The kids did an hour of gymnastics, and then we had a half hour of snacks and cake. He said he had a great time, and came home and excitedly opened all of his presents.  He then promptly wrote all of his thank you notes!
The cake I made Benjamin. He requested a blue cat with marshmallow eyes.
About to get embarrassed by a room full of singing friends
Our family. 3/5 looking at the camera- that's as good as it gets.
That night we had dinner at my parents' to celebrate my dad's 65th birthday. The children joined us, but they tired of our company and the food within 5 minutes, so we had plenty of time with adult conversation.

Sunday was their birthday.  I made a pan of homemade cinnamon rolls, and then the boys went to Hebrew school- it was pajama dance party day at Hebrew school, and there wasn't a word of protest.
Eric made a movie poster for the show at our house
Sunday afternoon we had Asher's birthday party at our house.  He had asked for a movie in our basement movie theater, and popcorn- easy enough! I didn't take pictures, but we had little cardboard concession boxes and paper bags for the popcorn, and juice for the kids to drink.  They watched Big Hero 6 relatively peacefully, and then came upstairs for cupcakes.  All the parents were very prompt in dropping their kids off and in picking them up.
The little cake I made for Asher. He and his classmates got cupcakes at the party
Asher enjoying his friends singing Happy Birthday to him
For dinner on Sunday, Asher requested risotto, and Benjamin requested macaroni and cheese.  Since it was their birthday, and I couldn't say no, I made both.  It was a very delicious, carb-filled weekend: I baked 2 batches of yellow cake, 1 of chocolate cake, a challah, cinnamon buns, risotto, and macaroni and cheese.  Good thing I also went for a run!

I will post soon about the boys individually.  I am impressed by them everyday- their intellectual and physical capabilities seem to be growing rapidly, and it is a joy to watch.

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.