Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Timing is All

If you had seen me a few years back (okay, like 12) you'd probably have seen me with my friend C. Generously blessed with a beautiful smile, enviable cheekbones and an inherent sense of style, C was my sidekick in my single days. Together we went to clubs that are no longer in business, drank way too many things with the cute suffix -tini (flirtini! apple-tini!) and frolicked along the Boston sidewalks, waiting for our princes to come. More than a decade later, our tastes have changed in some ways, but not the important ones. True, marriage and children have made us more mature than material, but getting together still feels fun and light. Last week, we finally cleared some time to get together at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum http://www.decordova.org last week. Even though the weather and the littles schedules made our visit together a short one, it was wonderful to see each other. It was like no time had passed at all, which is the best kind of friendship, don't you think? In any case, I felt rejuvenated by seeing my dear friend, and though I could have talked to her all day, our small visit gave me a large dose of happy.

However, my daughter, like her grandmother, has the "more is more" philosophy when it comes to playdates. For example, last Friday, my parents and I took the Em and John to Chuck E. Cheese, which I usually don't enjoy. The food is usually mediocre, the noise level is unparalleled, and I have to spend a fortune to come home with a "prize" that usually breaks or gets lost immediately. But Em loves it. Anyway, our visit last week was surprisingly fun; the menu included a salad bar, John was happily noshing away on pizza crust, and Em played games, won a zillion tickets, and earned a licorice stick. A few hours later, full and happy, we headed home.

Whew, Game over, I thought while driving.
"Mommy?" Em perked up.
"What's up, pal?"
"Where are we going now?"
Going? Is she serious? I'm going to pass out. "We're going home now, Em. Aren't you tired?"
"Well, after we left Chuck E. Cheese, the fun kind of deflated out of the day."

I had to smile; not only did her use of the word "deflated" crack me up, but I realized she is at that wonderful point of childhood, where everything is magical and exciting. The romantic in me loves her desire for adventure and zest for more, while the realist in me wants to get home, wash her hands twelve times and feed her vegetables.

So I remind myself of the childhood memories I have, of the fun times that seemed like they lasted for hours. Maybe they were only moments. But when I look back on them, I get that same rejuvenated feeling. That same rush. And I smile.

Summer sighting: I actually shot baskets cleanly through the hoop. The things we do for love (and tickets at Chuck E. Cheese.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


In my adult life, I've been moved by the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, so much so that I've given one of my children his surname. I wanted my beloved child to have that powerful yet reserved strength as a piece of their identity, and feel as confident and sure as the writer himself did. (Of course this American Literature teacher also had a moment of remorse when I looked at the six-pound wee babe to whom I'd bequeathed this singular, yet daunting name. Said child has certainly lived up to it. But I digress.) Emerson is a master of words, and one of his most famous and impressive writings is his essay Self-Reliance, which I love, and which I'll circle back to in a moment. 

Anyway, my husband and I returned from an idyllic vacation a few weeks ago to a small host of craziness, including, but not limited to the following: 

  • a failed central air system most likely caused by the external compressor being hit by lightening
  • a failing set of appliances, including the dishwasher and stove
  • a painstakingly-researched big screen tv that not only flickered and died for seemingly no reason, but which will also take six to eight weeks to repair

Did I mention that all of this happened during a six-day heatwave
No AC. No TV. No patience.

We had just come back from this decadent vacation where so much was wonderful and fun, and the re-entry to regular life seemed cruel, not to mention financially dreadful. Though my husband's suggestion of attempting the remainder of the summer AC-free was appealing to my wallet, it was tough on my psyche. I don't fare well in the heat, and while I may have waved a delicately embroidered handkerchief while I glistened in the sun under a parasol in a past life, in this one, the heat makes me feel faint, sleepy and triggers my asthma. In a word: Unfun.

I felt so helpless and upset. I complained about it to my friends, family, and anyone who would listen. What I came to realize was that it was time to take a page from my favorite writer (in every sense) and step up. Yes, the above things were certainly annoying and undeserved. But at the end of the day, there are two little people who rely on me. And as much as I can rant and snark about what's going on, my daughter still needs a clean soccer shirt for her lesson tomorrow, my son still needs his jelly sandwich cut up into little squares, and I still need to kiss and hug them to get back to where I need to be. 

"Nothing can bring you peace but yourself." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Other Woman, or Other Mom, Part Deux

A few posts ago, I talked about Other Mom, my new mom pal whose adorable twins gave my kids the most wonderful playdate we'd ever had. Today we decided to tempt fate and go to the zoo together in an attempt at a repeat performance.

It worked.

I don't know exactly how it happens, but it starts with the kids getting along so well. Three children together can pose a challenging dynamic in regular situations, and when two of the three are siblings, let alone twins, you may be in for a twisty ride. But with these kiddos, their chemistry is palpable and their enthusiasm is contagious.

As for the parents, we get along so well, which is pretty terrific, seeing that many playdates involve kids who are only minutely interested in each other while the parents chatter away, or parents who look at each other awkwardly while their kids are tearing up the playground together. But fortunately, we mesh. Other Mom says things that are literally about to come out of my mouth; she is fair and funny, and she holds her kids to high, but not unreasonable standards. We are similar enough that we give the same warnings and expect the same rules about behavior, and eating, et cetera, but we are different enough that I think, "Hm, I'm using that,"when she comes up with a creative way to handle a situation. Similarly, when I see behavior in her children that I see in my own, it gives me perspective. 

Her sweet daughter brings our the best in mine, and her little son was content to push my son's stroller around the entire zoo. After a few moments in front of the misters, her son gave mine a mohawk, with his little waves peaking straight. It was only one of the adorable moments of the day.

After a playdate with this family, I feel happy and validated, while other playdates leave me feeling frazzled and in need of a nap or a nip.

The only downside is that I kind of feel like I am cheating on some of my other mom friends. Just don't tell them, ok? I'll let them down easy. It's not them, it's me.

Summer sighting and fun fact: Koala bears sleep 20 hours a day. I am jealous.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Chronological confusion: I Guess This is Growing Up

Our vacation was spectacular, don't get me wrong. But during our getaway, I started to notice little things about my daughter that made me tilt my head and say, Hmm. My little girl is growing up. Maybe it's because John's inherent roly-poly babyness is so apparent; he's crawling so fast now, he screeches "Da-DAH" with joy when he sees my husband and "Mumumum" when he sees me. His littleness makes her bigness seem bigger, and yet my daughter is only about to turn five. How is this happening?

Most importantly, does this make us grown-ups? I remember asking my mother when she felt like a grown-up. I expected her to answer with something familiar, like, "When I had you," or "When you graduated from college." Her answer: "Any day now." 

She was 40 then. I'm 42 now.

I guess part of my chronological confusion lies in the fact that time seems to be passing in a different way now that I have children. As a teacher, I have always been aware of the preciousness of time: I only have a few months to teach this unit/weeks to finish this book/minutes to grade this paper. In the classroom, I am constantly and consistently keeping an eye on the clock in both a literal and figurative sense. But with my children, it's different. I feel shocked when I see my daughter's skinny ankles peeking out of her favorite fleece pants that were inches too long a few months ago. I am floored when I turn to see my son inching along the couch in a valiant attempt to steal the tv remote.

Sure, I throw almost all their clothing in the dryer (the days of calmly draping my delicates over my shower rod to dry for the day are long gone) but my lack of laundry skills isn't solely responsible for her floods. And yes, I knew John would start to pull up and creep along furniture one day, since his love of anything with buttons has been apparent since he took my calculator off my desk. While nursing. 

In short, I knew they'd start to grown up. I just didn't know it would happen so fast.

I think my children are so special, so wondrous and so incredible - not in the idyllic sense of "Oh, I believe they are perrrrfect," but in the very real sense of being awed by the things they say and do, and the glimpses of the people they will become. When my daughter offers the last bite of ice cream to her brother, when my son reaches his chubby arms to his sister and tries to bite her face (which is his version of kissing), when the two of them literally look for each other and smile even when they were duelling moments ago with the straws from their drinks, I am humbled by the grace they possess. 

I hope I can live up to it.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Martha's Vineyard, My Island Home

Though I can proudly call Boston my home, MV has my heart; there is something so special about this Island! When I was student here many years ago (in Northeastern's  MV Summer Workshop) I just fell in love with it. Everything about it was so quaint and lovely, and the ancestral Italian fishermen in my past must have sent me a siren song to love it. It worked. 

So imagine how excited I was to bring my two little ones to the Island for the first time this summer! I planned a trip for all of us that would celebrate both the 4th of July (which tends to be a hectic holiday around here) and my 6th anniversary on July 7. 

On Wednesday the 3rd, we checked into the most fabulous hotel, The Harbor View in Edgartown.  http://www.harbor-view.com (Originally, we were supposed to stay at a little Inn called the Hob Knob - also known as the Hob Snob, as they didn't allow children,forgot to mention that when I booked the place weeks ago, and subsequently asked us to leave. I was livid, but ironically, the manager wrangled us a room at the Harbor View, which was where I wanted to stay all along.) The Harbor View is like an upscale Kellerman's from Dirty Dancing - plenty of activities for the kids, which was perfect. We just fell in love with the place. We had dinner at The Wharf and enjoyed Red, White and Blueberry Ice Cream at Mad Martha's, of course! I bumped into former Austin students Bridget and Shannon Kent while walking in Edgartown, and we capped off the night with a night swim for Emerson - who swam with noodles for the first time!

On Thursday the 4th, we hung out at the hotel all day; after an amazing buffet at Water Street, we visited the Edgartown Lighthouse and took part in all the festivities: stringing star beads for 4th of July necklaces, making ice cream, watching the annual Edgartown parade and trying to secure the best seats for the fireworks. Though the actual fireworks were so hazy because of the mugginess, it was an idyllic day. Em was excited, John fell asleep, and it was a wonderful celebration. I also bumped into Max Gouveia, who I taught at Austin and who works at the hotel.

We took a midnight cab ride over to the Wesley Hotel in Oaks Bluff, which was an perfectly located as it was run down and creepy. We slept on the towels I packed, and vowed never to stay there again. Bye, Wesley Hotel. See ya never!

On Friday the 5th, we checked out the Gingerbread Houses, which Em loved, and had breakfast at Linda Jean's, where we bumped into another student - Miss Molly Waitt, who nannies in OB. Small world. We also took the kids to the Flying Horses Carousel, which was so sweet. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, because the horses, although ancient, still spark excitement in every child and adult. Em was so adorable and streeeetched out to reach for the brass ring, which gave me a Catcher in the Rye flashback. I can't believe how fast she's growing up. We headed back to Edgartown (whew!)  to stay at the Chappy House Cottage at the Kelley House Hotel, a sister Hotel to the Harbor View http://www.kelley-house.com and had an incredible dinner on the roof deck at the Seafood Shanty. I saw Sean and Julianne Lenehan (more Austin grads) and was so proud to learn that Jules was teaching English in Thailand.

On Saturday the 6th, we had a very chill day by the pool. Em and Peter flew her ladybug kite by the lighthouse and went to the beach while John and I relaxed and took a long stroll. Traveling with two little kids means we have to "divide and conquer," especially to keep them both happy. But a nice anniversary dinner at Alchemy was just the ticket. Pete and I did shots to celebrate, which was hilarious. I'm sure the waiter thought we were crazy.

Sunday the 7th was our last day, and we chilled by the pool again before our last lunch at the Atlantic, and did a little shopping, where I finally got my Martha's Vineyard Alex and Ani bracelet. Our taxi driver was so fun - he was also a 7/7/07 groom and drove us out to the East Chop lighthouse where he had his ceremony. Talk about kismet...as if everything on the Island wasn't enchanting enough...

...and I can't wait to go back.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Happy anniversary to the man who proposed to me in the most romantic city in the world. I will always love you, the beautiful family we have created together, and, of course, Paris. 7/7/07