Sunday, September 30, 2007

She said I think I'll go to Boston

Tickets to the game: $40 face value (obviously higher if you buy from a third party)

Parking so you don't have to walk 5 miles to the park: $30

Baseball glove to catch a fly ball: $15

Camera to take pictures that will make friends jealous: $100

Cash to yield an overpriced beer, hot dog and soda: $45

A beautiful Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park with my husband, mom and dad: Priceless

If you need me today, sorry... I'll be at the game! Go Sox!

- Jane

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sukkot: The Festival of Booths

Have you seen some strange booth-like shacks in people's backyards and driveways in the past few days? Seen people having lunch and dinner in these little shacks? Entertaining their friends and family with big dinners and then singing until late into the night? Want to know what these people are doing, and why the little shacks appear and then disappear a few days later?

This is the festival of Sukkot, literally translated as the festival of booths. It is a period when your Jewish neighbors fullful the mitzvah of building and then 'living' in the sukkah for 8 days. In modern times, most people don't actually live in the sukkah anymore, but they do eat in them, and occasionally sleep in them.

When I was a child, nobody had a sukkah that we knew, and we grew up in a very observant Jewish community. To fulfil the mitzvah you ate in the synagogue's sukkah but building and decorating your own backyard sukkah wasn't done. Or if it was, it wasn't common. But that changed in the past 20 or so years. Every year more and more Jewish families purchase or build a sukkah, until these days when it's common to see them sprout up all over our town during sukkot. In fact, one of the things we like to do as a family is drive around the Centre and check out all the different sukkahs that are up, especially those in driveways. There's one in town that has an actual door and windows in it. Tres fancy!

The lumberyard/handware store nearby actually sells sukkah kits every year. Our first family sukkah was one of these, but we only used it for about 3 years and then we graduated to the extreme sukkah, which is easy to put up, works well in rain and cold weather to block the wind, and is very easy to decorate. It is a canvas sukkah, hung on steel poles that screw together easily. It takes about an hour to put up, and about 3 hours to decorate!

The sukkah is supposed to have at least 3 sides, and the roof is made of living material like branches, palm fronds, or bamboo mats. You must be able to see through the roof. The rest of the materials can range from wood to plastic to canvas. Ours is the canvas one seen throughout this post. We like it because it's easy to assemble and warm! On these cold New England nights, you want a sukkah that will protect you from the wind and possibly from rain. The canvas sukkah does both admirably.

This is the Jewish family's time to get down and funky and decorate the sukkah with hanging fruits, fancy lights, cards and pictures, etc. Most have a folding table and chairs that people squish around. In our sukkah we use a fall theme with silk leaves and lots of little fairy lights, fancy fruits we purchase left over after that OTHER holiday where people decorate to the utmost, and lots of fall type decorations. Every year we get a few more things as other stuff breaks or disintegrates from being outside in questionable weather.

When my kids were little, they used to look so forward to sleeping in the sukkah. Now, not so much. It's cold here at night, and they're older and complain about sleeping on the ground, blah blah blah. That's OK. I don't sleep in it either.

But when they were little, and we lived in California, there was nothing more exciting than camping out in the sukkah! Weren't they cute?

Friday, September 28, 2007

You want how many?

I love big families. I love the constant noise and fuss. I love sitting around the table with a huge family eating dinner. I love seeing all the stockings hanging. I love the fighting and laughing and playing. I love it all.

I’m one of 4 kids in my family.

I have 3 kids of my own (so far!).

My cousin has 4 kids.

And (ironically enough) all of my close girlfriends want 3-4 children. At least for the time-being.

But for some reason, my Nana thinks I should stop (and be very happy and content) with 3.

As if it would be a complete personal insult to her if I had a 4th baby. (OK, I’m exaggerating a bit here, but it’s still in the arena of truth!)

On Tuesday evening, Nana called to wish my oldest son William a Happy 3rd Birthday. They had the best conversation a 3 year-old could have with an 88 (“and a half,” I know she would add) year-old. I heard a lot of “uh-huh”… and “greats”… and then the finale, “Are you coming to my party, Nana?” (That is, after all, most important to a 3-year-old.)

Then I got on the phone with Nana. I was in the middle of telling her how blown away I am as to how fast the 3 years went by… and where did the time go… when I was cut-off with the –

“I hope you’re done with 3!”

Okay… insert my smiling face here and understand whole-heartedly that my Nana loves me and is truly looking out for my best interests. BUT, she does know that I want (at the very least) one more baby.

There are limited responses (that are PG-rated) that you can come back to with a remark like this. And there are certain factors that I must keep in mind:

1. She’s concerned about the expense of many children.
2. She’s thinking about my well-being
3. **She’s 88 (and a half!) years old and I have to be nice.
4. **She has 3 boys and she wants me to be just like her.

But it got me thinking. Regardless if I have 4, 5, 6 or 100 kids, I’m the one (along with my husband… I’ll throw him a bone here too) who will be carrying the baby for 9 months.

I’m the one who will be getting up throughout the night for feedings. I’m the one who will be carting around diapers and wipes and binkies and toys and books. I’m the one whose car will be dirty with crumbs, crayons, poopy diapers, dirt and all the stuff that goes along with kids and cars.

I’m the one who will be crying in the parking lot of school on first days of school.

I’m the one, Nana. (OK, along with my husband, except for the carrying of the babies, crying in the parking lot, cleaning the car.)

OK? I’m the one!

Not anyone else.

It drives me crazy when I get the comments regarding how many kids one should have or chooses to have.

And this brings to mind my favorite comment of all from my friends with one child: “I know I have one child, but he/she has the personality and energy of 10!”

Really? And you know that because… ??

So to the adorable and well-meaning Nanas of the world. To my girlfriends who stare at me with wide eyes and jaws to the ground when I say I’m ready for a 4th…

I have always wanted a large family. I think I can handle it. I hope I can. It’s just something I want for my life and for my children. I know it will be a lot of work. I know it will be an expense. (And no, I’m not even thinking of college yet.)

My husband and I have considered all of the angles… and at the end of the day, we still want 45 kids. Kidding, of course. I mean 4 or 5.

Okay ladies, I can get off my soap box now.

And Nana, I love you more than anything! I promise I’ll do fine.

- Audrey

Ask the Tech Gurus

It's not every day that brilliant, world-renowned tech gurus like Craig Newmark (founder of craigslist), Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia), danah boyd (expert on online social networks like Blogger and myspace, to name just two), and Jonathan Zittrain (Technologist, Oxford Professor, Lawyer, and all-around genius) stop by to chat.

On Wednesday, October 3rd in Hartford, CT, that's exactly what they plan to do as featured panelists of The Connecticut Forum's program entitled The Tech Revolution.

These "forums" are unique. Envision a handful of really accomplished people and celebrities - authors, politicians, actors, scholars, journalists - sitting together on a stage and engaging in unscripted talk about stuff. Think: Gloria Steinem and William F. Buckley, Jr. sharing their perspectives and wisdom; or Al Franken and Ann Coulter talking politics (yee-ikes!); or Katherine Graham and Norman Schwarzkopf discussing leadership. Kurt Vonnegut's been a panelist. So have the likes of Mo Rocca, Thomas Friedman, Billie Jean King, Elie Wiesel, Jacques Pepin (oui!), Spike Lee, and on and on.

It's a very cool thing, particularly because audience members have the opportunity to jot down questions - any questions - for the panelists, and during the second half of the program, the panelists answer them.

As a New England bloggah and a volunteer for The Connecticut Forum, I might have the opportunity to ask a question of the tech gurus.

Aside from something like, "Uh, what's it like to be so smart?" I'm trying to come up with a good question. Personally, I have real concerns about identity and security online. Lots of my blogging pals post photos of themselves and their families. I wonder if the risk of doing so is real or imagined (e.g., a false fear based on a generational distrust of technology).

I think blog/word-of-mouth marketing is a timely and interesting topic. At the recent BlogHer conference in Chicago, the presence of corporate sponsors eager to understand and subsequently woo the various blogging communities - and parenting bloggers in particular - with money and free stuff, did not go unnoticed. I'd be interested to hear what the panelists have to say about where this trend is heading.

Fellow bloggers and interested readers, what would you like to ask? I will compile the resulting questions you suggest and post them HERE next week. I'll even throw in a little prize for the winning submission. (A PRIZE!!! Yippee!)

Thanks for your help!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Shocker: A New Englander, Complaining About The Weather!

(As I was writing this, I was also, surprise, surprise, watching the Red Sox playing the Twins. Bottom of the 8th, 2 outs, 2 men on, Sox down by one and it is pouring rain. Not one single person has left Fenway Park. That, my friends, is dedication. That is a true fan.)

(Edited to add: Dammit!! Youk struck out to lose the game. Fuckfuckfuckfuckityfuckfuck.)

I know a couple of my fellow Mamas have posted stuff about this already, but I haven't and since I love to piss and moan, well, by god, I'm gonna do it.

It's September 27th. It was ninety-freaking-five degrees today. Ninety five. Right now? At nearly 10 p.m.? It's 75. What the hell? Doods, it's almost October. It's fall ball. It's leaves. It's pumpkins and apple picking and corn sheaves, dammit! It's not 85% humidity and me sweating thru my clothes before 9 in the freakin' morning.

Where's my cool, breezy days? Where's my crisp nights? How come I haven't broken out the ancient Roots sweatshirt and beat up L.L Bean barn coat? Huh? Huh??

Fall needs to get her act together and get here. I've had it up to my eyeballs with the heat and the humidity and the stickiness and the lethargy. It's the end of September, for cryin' out loud.

Less of this.

More of this.

Window Shopping

"Would you ever consider moving?"

Fairly Odd Father (otherwise known as my husband) asked the question casually, having just returned from a week-long conference in North Carolina ("really nice weather!", "the people are so friendly!").

I paused before answering in the most passive-aggressive manner possible, saying, "Only if it is for a year, and we don't have to sell the house".

In other words, "nononononononononono!"

I love this little corner of the world we have carved out for ourselves. Our house is neither grand, nor brand new, nor all that unique (colonials being a dime a dozen in New England). But we are surrounded by trees and have the kind of neighbors that make you banish the thought of a fence.

But, even more than our home or neighbors, I feel at home in New England. As autumn starts dipping its toe into our state, I get that familiar feeling of anticipation over the show of colors that will soon be everywhere. Leaves will fall so we can crunch them under our shoes. Apples will ripen so that we can eat them right off the tree. The nights will get cooler so that we can sleep with an extra blanket on the bed.

And, then, with any luck, we'll get snow. I'm not sure why I get so excited about snow, but school cancellations are thrilling to me. I hop on the computer to check the cancellation list like a 15-year-old; this practice is made more peculiar when you realize that I am neither 15, nor in school; in fact, we homeschool so are not affected by the weather.

Fairly Odd Father pointed out that North Carolina has four seasons. . .sort of. Well, no snow, he admitted. To which I said, "and that is good because ? ? ?"

(I'm fickle, though. By February, I'm done with the snow; by May, I'm done with rain; by August, I'm done with humidity; and by November, I'm done with all those leaves in our yard).

Name a place and I can tell you why I wouldn't want to leave here for there.

Friends new to Southern California gushed, "we're finding that it's as nice here as everyone says it is!" But, the lack of rain (less than an inch in the first half of the year) unnerves me, and there is that lack of snow to liven things up.

Other friends are in Kansas, and I have spent many fun days in Chicago; both may be lovely places to live, but I would need to be flown out to an ocean every few months. Plus, I once lived in the tornado belt and heard that siren enough for a lifetime.

After visiting Portland, Oregon, I thought it came pretty close to an ideal place to live, but it is r-e-a-l-l-y far from my mom and my sister's family, and it seems to rain an awful lot. Love snow, don't love rain.

I've also visited Austin, Seattle, Colorado ski country, San Diego, Washington DC, various parts of Florida and Arizona, New Orleans, New York City, the Jersey Shore, parts of Pennsylvania, Costa Rica, the coasts of Canada, and a bit of Europe. In every place, I see something that helps me to understand why someone would want to live there---either it is lovely weather, great culture, fun people or beautiful scenery (or any combination of these).

But, I keep coming back to my home in Eastern Massachusetts, a place with its own version of 'lovely weather', plenty of culture and history, people I love, and scenery that can stop me in my tracks.

Fairly Odd Father and I have agreed, though, that we would consider moving to a new state if the opportunity arose.

What could get me to leave my town, my state? Why, it could only be the land of Ben & Jerry's, maple syrup, Burlington, snow and rolling hills: Vermont. For Vermont, I'd risk it all.

Harvard (but not the University)

What can I say, I'm a glutton for punishment. My sister and I ran a 10-mile road race this past weekend in Harvard, MA. (We actually drove right by the road that leads to the Nashoba Valley Winery--a NE Mamas meetup site a few weeks ago.)

The race started and ended at the Fruitlands Museum. The autumn views were breathtaking and I certainly would have enjoyed them much more had I not been too nervous to run, and then afterwards, too exhausted to notice!

"One of the first outdoor museums in America, at Fruitlands visitors discover the stories, experiments and ideals of the Alcotts, Shakers, utopians, artists and Native peoples. Fruitlands four galleries, singular collections, over 200 pastoral acres, trails and vistas stir the imagination."

Fruitlands offers 3.2 miles of walking trails, along with a restaurant and galleries. It also hosts school groups for field trips. So check out all they have to offer!

And yeah, the race. I described it in detail on my blog over here, but let me just reiterate:

Hey wait. I thought this was the Apple Harvest Ramble. Sure looks like Sausage Fest to me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I fully admit that I am a bit of an outlier here, as my blogging tendencies don't tend to run in the mommy realm. I blog, and I'm a mom - but often the twain do not meet. That said, I feel that here I can let my mommy flag fly - and so I shall.

In a similar vein, I work, and I'm a mom. I don't often think of myself as a "working mom" because I tend to feel like when I am at work, I'm a worker. When I'm home, I'm a mom. Compartmentalizing? I think so.

Often I am asked why I work. The short answer? I love work. I have worked for a long time, I've built a pretty substantial career and I've gone far - much further than I would have imagined and I've blazed a pretty significant career path. I jumped off the path for about a year, and now that I'm back on it, I'm thrilled. I'm lucky, though, in that I can work from home and strike a decent balance. I digress, though, from the point of my story.

All summer long, I have been toiling away on an enormous project at work - with an eye towards presenting this project to our entire staff. To make a long story short, last week I gave this presentation - complete with a 100-page handbook that I had written, 4 hour professional development presentation that I had developed, multi-faceted power point that I had crafted, you get the picture. Driving home, I felt this huge sense of relief - and accomplishment. Months of hard work culminating in an extraordinarily well-received day-long event run by me. My boss was thrilled.

I was thrilled. I am a worker! I love work!

Driving along, feeling fantastic, I pulled into my daughter's school parking lot. I walked through her classroom, signed her out and gathered her sweater and often-abandoned hair ribbon. I walked out onto the playground and spotted my little doll.

She screeched with glee and came barreling into my outstretched arms, snuggling into my shoulder. Mama.

That one moment eclipsed the highest work high I had felt in a long time.

I was thrilled. I am a mama. And that? Trumps work every time.

Apple Picking Field Trips

Growing up right outside Chicago, I can count on one hand the number of times I went apple picking. There was one time I went as part of a father-daughter group called Indian Princesses when I was in first grade. Every year the swim team would go when I was in high school. That brings it to about five times total. All five of these times were really fun, but the apple orchard was nowhere near where I lived.

Last year I was pretty surprised when I got a flier from my son's preschool saying that the class would be going on an apple picking field trip. It was like getting a note saying they were going on a field trip to milk cows. I was surprised and intrigued. I immediately signed up to chaperone. I also learned that these types of field trips are pretty common. My older son and I really enjoyed it. After picking apples and a pumpkin, we had doughnuts and apple cider. Of course I had made the mistake of telling my son about the doughnuts before we got there, so not only did he start whining for one before grabbing the first apple, but he nearly caused a mass uprising when the other kids "fed" off of his demand for a doughnut. He was less familiar with cider at the time, and he got it confused with a common New England pest.

Tomorrow we will be going on another apple picking field trip. I had learned my lesson from last year. This time I would do it right. I was committed to not mentioning anything about the doughnuts and cider. So what did my son say when I reminded him that we are going apple picking tomorrow? "Doughnuts, Mommy! And spider!"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Autumn is Coming

I can't believe how fast the leaves are changing color. In fact, many are falling to the ground now, and it just became "Autumn" although it has felt more like summer as of late.

Autumn. I like that word a lot better than Fall. Yes, Autumn. It is my favorite season of the 4 we experience here in New England.

beautiful colors - from the leaves to clothes to food - things look so rich and vibrant.

mums - I enjoy decorating my porch with these pretty fall plants, along with checking out others at homes and stores.

pumpkins - to carve, to bake with. It's all goodness!

sweater weather - I do love to walk barefoot normally, regardless of the season, but I do love to wear my cozy sweaters!

apple picking - there is nothing like going to an orchard and picking and eating apples right off of the tree. Brings me right back to childhood memories, as well.

crisp, misty mornings and cool evenings - where you can see your breath

the fallen leaves - swishing and kicking through them

baking - ah, it's time to bake muffins, pies and all sorts of delicious treats

the smells of the season - candles, baked goods, fireplaces

sounds - not only do leaves make a great sound; acorns falling from the trees behind my house tell me autumn is here

comfort food - not only from baking, but the soups, chilis & chowders fill my soul

the holiday season - once autumn arrives, the holidays come fast and furious. Shopping, decorating, eating, drinking,

football season - this means hanging out with my in-laws more often, which is a good thing most of the time! We like to hang out together on many Sundays

kids snuggling up - it's a time to get real close and cozy with your loved ones

And let's not forget cuddling up with a blanket in front of my fireplace! Nothing like a nap there, when I can find the time!

Enjoy this Autumn season, whenever it really gets here in full bloom - it goes by so fast!

Fall in Maine, no wait, summer is still kicking...Sorta

Today my thermometer read 87 F. In Maine. And its almost October.

Our trees look like this:
As for us, well, we looked like this:

Don't get me wrong, I love that the glorious days of summer seem to be popping up once a week, but all the New Englanders out there know what it means. We are in for it this winter. I give it a month, month and a half tops, before the ski resorts open.
Think I'm kidding? Remember April 3rd, folks? Uh huh. Thats what I thought!


The Boss likes to ogle the lobster tank every time we pass the seafood section of the supermarket. I am nothing if not accommodating. I halt the sticky, bent wheels of a cart that is, without fail, totally gimpy, and we stare into the moving mountains of crustaceans.

"Silly lobsters!" The Boss likes to say as one or two scamper over each other while the rest just lay there.

"Hmmmm..." I like to say as I spot the dead one.

I look around for the fish guy. I find him behind the counter in his gutsy white coat. We have his attention. Perhaps, in a wave of delusion, the thought crossed his mind that we were there to buy something. I set him straight, innocently.

"If the lobster is upside down, does that mean it's dead?" I inquire.

"Usually," he says.

As he opens the tank from the back to hasten the journey of the most recently departed, I watch The Boss's eyes. They take in everything. I'm not so sure about how much they process. It's a confounding unknown. I begin to wonder why I even pointed out that the little guy was D-E-A-D.

We continue to gaze upon the tank's remaining inhabitants in all their hard shelled lethargy. My forehead is creased. The Boss's is smooth and unlined. I am a relatively new mom, but I already know that every moment is a teaching moment. What I don't know is how to conceptualize, for a two year old, a single upside-down lobster amidst the cramped phalanx of its prone brethren.

I doubt there's much of an explanation I can give her, so I just shrug. We set off again. The wheels on the cart bump round and round.

"Goodbye, lobsters," The Boss waves.

My shrug heaves into a sigh of relief. I wave along with her. She knows what she needs to know, for now.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Claw Machine

There's a restaurant in my parents' town that has one of those good for nothin' claw machines.

You know what I'm talking about. They're in movie theaters, arcades and some restaurants for children (ha!) to try to win a cheap stuffed animal by grabbing it with a four-pronged stainless steel contraption.

All in 20 seconds or less.

And my two little nephews William and Alex always insist on throwing away money want to play with the "claw toy" whenever we go to this restaurant.

As much as I want to say, "Children, the claws are made of a smooth metal which makes the surface quite slippery. Additionally, the managers who operate these machines often pack the animals tightly so that if a perfect claw drop achieves a good grip point on an object, it will easily slide off. Also, some people believe these managers grease the claws to make the toys slide off"... there is really little to be gained in attempting to explain this to two toddlers intent on playing.

So, as most aunties probably would, I always humor them and allow them to lose try to win.

Last night was no exception. William went first. I tried to help him out as best I could with the controller while my husband shouted instructions from the side of the machine. "To the left! No, go right just an inch!"

But as soon as I got a good position on the claw and pressed the release button to go for a stuffed animal, he got too excited and jerked the controller.

Buzz, went the machine. No luck.

Then it was Alex's turn. Again, my husband was the coach as I tried to get the claw in the perfect position before I told Alex to press the release button.

Of course, given that he is only two and doesn't exactly understand claw machine technique, before I had given him the green light, Alex had pressed the button and the claw was on its way down.

But lo and behold, on the way back up the claw was holding on (albeit very loosely) to a purple stuffed bear.

As the claw made its way back to its starting position, it jerked and swayed violently back and forth. I was sure it would drop the bear back into the mountain of cheap toys.

We all held our breath. And to our collective surprise, the claw made it back with the bear in tow.

My husband and I slapped each other high-five, so excited that we had done it. We had won a toy from the claw machine!

Alex jumped with elation, his eyes wide and joyful. "BEAR!" he screamed as I gave him his new toy.

Then I turned to William. There was no joy in his expression. He turned to Alex, who was gazing at his purple bear as if it were gold, and grabbed it from his grip.

"Alex, that belongs to me."

Oh boy.

As they stood there, arguing in toddler talk as to who was the rightful owner of the 10-cent bear that I had just given blood, sweat and $1.00 to win, I wondered...

Is it better to have won a toy from a claw machine and lost it, or to never have won at all?

- Jane

A very serious topic - helping your child cope with death

A girl from Belmont, MA died on the soccer field where she was playing on Saturday. She ran off the field and into her father's arms... where she collapsed. She never regained consciousness. Her name was Maeve. She was only six years old.

My heart goes out to her parents. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose a child at such a young age, preexisting condition or not. The grief must be crushing but an adult has the emotional and intellectual capacity to deal with death. A six year old doesn't.

This morning all of Maeve's first grade classmates should be returning to school but instead I believe they'll be attending grief counseling. But how do you explain death to a six year old, an age group that experts believe is too young to understand the concept, or any age for that matter?

I know it's not very easy to explain death to any child, especially to those so young. My own daughter has, unfortunately, attended three separate funerals with me in just two and a half short years of life but I've escaped the really tough questions because she usually forgets them soon after she's asked. But there will come a day in my life, and yours if it hasn't happened already, when I'll have to try to explain what happens to our loved ones when they die. I am not looking forward to that day at all.

I'm no counselor, and I'm certainly not an expert, so I was wondering how I as a parent could find information on helping my child understand death. Thankfully there are resources easily found on the internet that can help. One site I found particularly helpful was the Hospice Foundation of America. Another web page that offered important information for helping kids deal with death was this one on the Kids Health website. There are many more sites out there, you just need to know how to use a web browser and you'll be inundated with information on helping explain death to children. Most offer the same tips, such as avoiding euphemisms like "gone to sleep" or "losing a loved one", because children around six years old think very literally and they might believe that their friend or relative has, in fact, gone to sleep and will wake up soon. Or worse, they themselves might be afraid to fall asleep because the child might be afraid they won't wake up.

Here's another website I found interesting - the page on written after Fred Rogers died.

There are, of course, books you can purchase or check out at your local library as well. Like this one, for kids. Or this one, to help parents learn to teach their children about death.

Like I mentioned before, I'm no expert. I'm better at teaching people how to deal with the death of their dog or cat. And these links are just a few places to start. How do you handle the topic of death with your kids?

Music Together Apart



Caw! Caw! Caw!

At the narrow edge of the Guatemalan rug, the thin, curly-haired, red-headed, previously demure woman opens and closes her hands at us, cawing, open-mouthed and open-palmed, we will soon discover, like a crow.

Prior to her birdlike outburst she had welcomed us, business-like, as we entered the dance studio one by one with our kids in tow. “You must be Georgia,” she says to my daughter in her car seat, “which makes you Tricia,” offering me a name tag with just Georgia’s name typed across it. It dawns on me that she’s deduced who we are because Georgia has Down syndrome. I don’t do anything with that information really, but I tuck it in my pocket.

Cawing now for what seems like an uncomfortable number of minutes, our leader takes out a pitch pipe, and for a moment I think we might have bitten off more than we can chew—or sing, rather. When she finally begins singing, the rest of us, mostly moms, but a couple token fathers with our children in our laps or between our knees, or, in the case of siblings, both between knees and hanging off shoulders, shyly hum along as we piece out the song. We do our part for the call and answer bits. Rock our hips and shoulders. Bang on the floors, clap our hands. Help our kids to clap theirs. Dutiful.

We generally stick to the age-old themes: moo-cows and butterflies, a couple numbers about the Earth and trees, rocket ships and fire engines. At various points we stand and then we sit again. We wave colorful scarves above our heads and twirl them low down at our feet. Our singing corresponds with the motions. We sing “high high high as we touch the sky and low low low as we touch our toes.”

For a song about choo-choo trains, the kids play various instruments, our intrepid, pitch-perfect, leader collecting “All mouthy ones” in a separate basket when we are done. It takes me a moment to realize she means the ones the babies have been gumming. All of ours go in the gummy basket.

There are approximately 13 children and, thanks to the “Hello Song”, and, of course the name tags, I know all their names. I am terrible with names. I do not know a single one of the parent’s names. Despite their children pawing Georgia’s head. Despite my bopping around with a big goofy grin on my face for their pleasure.

We parents hardly even make eye contact with one another while the class is in session. We sing, in varying degrees of enthusiasm and pitch, and kiss the tops of our kids’ heads. We dance in circles to the left and circles to the right. We pick up each other's children when they fall and get their scarves down for them when they get caught on errant windowsills. Some of us even hold hands after the lullaby song, at the insistence of some of the older children while we are singing our goodbye song.

It is not until the final strains, “Goodbye everybody, hope to see you again…” are gobbled up by the acoustics of the dance studio and we are all standing, adjusting jackets, and buckling car seats, preparing bottles, perhaps goaded by the otherwise silent space we are occupying near the coat rack that the small talk pitter patters on cautious feet.

“You live near the general store? I actually live upstairs. She’s 9-months. We just moved here this spring. Thank you. She looks like her father. And how old is he? He’s adorable. She really seems to enjoy the music…”

And so on—

When just as quickly as it’s started we are jacketed and buckled and bottled. Heading out to our cars. Saying our “See you next weeks”. A procession of Subarus—this is Vermont--some of us follow one another home to our same neighborhood. Quiet. Pitch perfect. Or not. Until next week. Another attempt. At music together

Sunday, September 23, 2007

It's later than you think

The least expected moments in our lives are often the ones that create the greatest impact.

I had one such moment yesterday.

At first, it seemed like such an ordinary thought. "I wonder what time it is."

Ah, there's a clock.

But it was more than a clock. It was a reminder, a recollection of sorts... yes, possibly even a nudge from the angels who have gone before me.

There on the clock, in plain English (and in the symbols of another language, and another culture), were the words, "Enjoy life, it is later than you think."

Hey, I just wanted to know the time.

But the clock brought pause. And in that pause, the hustle and bustle of a day at Story Land in Glen, NH with my seven grandchildren brought even greater joy than I could have imagined.

The clock was telling me more than the time. The clock was guiding me, directing me... even enlightening me on my most glorious journey of grandparenthood.

I looked around to see three of my grandsons intently studying the inside of a make-believe wishing well.

"I wonder what's down there," asked Andrew, who at nearly five is the oldest and wisest of the five boys.

"What IS down there, Andrew?" asked William and Jake, both three, and awed by the experience of their older cousin.

Oh, my beautiful little guys, there are dreams and hopes and joys and discoveries and adventures in that wishing well. Wish for all of them. They will come true.

And there were my two granddaughters, Taylor and Maddie, both six and still unaware of their breathtaking beauty and totally non-self-conscious of being with parents, aunties and uncles, and grandparents. Boys? No disillusionment here.

"AARRHH," they exclaim, pirates one and all. We can navigate this ship like the best of 'em.

The clock in the clock tower whispered to me to help keep the lives of these darlings filled with patterns and designs of adventure and enterprise.

And my little baby-boys. Alexander, who at two likes to hang with Pop-up one moment, ride a rooster another moment, and leisurely enjoy a Sno-Kone the next. And Benjamin, who at five months enjoys each gift of each moment.

Perhaps it is the truest and most magical gift of childhood that "time" does indeed stand still, even as the clock in the clock tower sweeps moments away.

And perhaps adults need subtle reminders once and again that "time" will stand still for us... if we are tuned into the poetry of children, and the extraordinary universe of children, where time simply ripens all things.

Ah, it is never too late to enjoy yourself.

Now is the perfect time.

- Sharon

One Fried Mommy, Comin’ Right Up!

I’ve spent the last week with a miserable cold. Deaf from the congestion in my ears, exhausted and phlegmy, I’ve struggled to make it through each day gracefully and have failed utterly. This week has been challenging, and I found myself wishing the kids weren’t feeling quite so well themselves so I’d get a break.

It’s a question that returns with fall each year in my house: is it better to have sick children and be well or have well children and be sick yourself? Of course you don’t want your children to suffer – you would do anything to spare them the misery of a rotten head cold. Right? Riiiiight?

This week? Not so much. I know, I know – I’m a bad mommy. It was painfully hard to pull together enough energy to deal with the routine squabbles and daily tasks when all I wanted was to crawl back into bed. I was so grateful to load my son onto the school bus each afternoon so I could go back to sleep.

By my reckoning, school started a mere 3 weeks ago. If I am doomed to spend one of every three weeks sick this winter, can someone just shoot me now?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

How Old Are You Now?

Lately I find that I have to pause and think when someone asks me the dreaded (and tacky?) question, " old are you?".

I had always assumed that this subject was off limits in casual conversation. Right up there with politics and religion.

Apparently I was wrong.

Since we moved to our new house, countless (ok, maybe not really countless, but many) new neighbors have inquired about my age. The first time it happened I was not only taken aback by the actual question, but also by how to answer it. Because the first number that comes to mind is always 27.

Unfortunately, I am not 27.

Yet it takes some degree of restraint to not blurt out this knee jerk response. Instead I pause, do some quick math, and slowly respond with a "36" as I shake my head in disbelief.

I believe everyone has a mental age and a physical age. And wouldn't it be nice if we were allowed to go by our mental age when faced with the 'how old are you' question? Because that number seems to be more accurate. More sensible.

Who cares what the calendar says. What age do you feel? Older? Younger? Right on target?

My mental age is clearly 27.
I am single. Living alone in a city apartment for the first time. Driving a new car. Enjoying cocktails after work. Staying out late and not feeling it the next day (amazing how our bodies change). I have money to blow on lattes and beer and clothes. I have an amazing boyfriend (who will later become my husband) and we have a close circle of friends. I have responsibilities, but not too many. I am comfortable here.

My physical age is 36.
I have been married for 8 years. I live in a 4 bedroom home in a quiet neighborhood. I have 2 kids. I stay at home with them. We watch our money. We save for retirement and college funds. We invest. We eat most meals at home. Going out involves the hassle of finding (and paying for) a babysitter. I have responsibilities. A lot of them. I'm happy. And if it weren't for the furrows on my brow, I'd swear I was still in my twenties.

When someone asks me how old I am all of these discrepancies race through my head. I experience a Talking Heads 'well, how did I get here' moment. Damn, I don't even feel like I hit my 30's yet, but here I am. Where did the time go?

I may be a mom of two, but inside is a 27 year old who hasn't spent one second worrying about wrinkles...

What's your mental age?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tree Peeping (of a sort)

My family is an old one..we are descendants of some of the first families of New England. My parents claim they can trace back our ancestry to William Bradford on one side, and William Brewster on the other. There is a sea captain (by marriage) on my Dad's side, and some speculation that there were some interracial marriages early on into the Wampanoag tribe. On my Mom's side, we can only trace her father's family back to a certain point. As the Penobscot (and many other peoples) sometimes did to survive in the 1800's, they pretended they were white. Tribal records only go back so far, and when forces of society made it seem necessary for members to change their names to sound more English, the family trees were broken, and we were left with a mysterious past.

There are missing roots of our tree that probably lead deep into the lives of a people who were here thousands of years before my ancestors Bill and Bill decided to kiss the Netherlands goodbye and grace the New World with their particular brand of intolerance. And they were here long before the silversmith who was my great great grandfather on my Dad's side decided to move shop to New England sometime in the 19th century.

As a result of all this hidden family, sometimes we come upon unexpected moments when we see a resemblance too close to be just chance. While traveling up in Maine during our honeymoon years ago, Dr. Science and I visited Indian Island, in Old Town, Maine. A reservation on a tiny island in the middle of the Penobscot River with a population of a little over 400 people, I was depressed at the thought that this people who had once roamed so freely through the wilds of New England and Canada were now just as confined as the rest of us to land, house and money (or lack of it). Once caretakers of the earth, now caretakers of their history, and their children who continue to learn the songs, the dances, the language, and the skills of their ancestors.

The Penobscot Nation Museum is a small building that reminded me of camp lodges I had visited as a child. Dr. Science and I wandered in to a dim interior, kept darker to preserve the old photographs, and the beautiful works of art we found within. At some point in time growing up, I'd heard somewhere that there is no “Native American” word for art. That beauty and utility were almost synonymous, and that there should never be one without the other. All art could be utilized, and all utensils were art. I've no idea if this is true, but I love the concept.

I've also heard that taking a photo of a person is akin to taking their soul. To look at some of the old pictures, I could easily believe it. There were so many faces, elders with elaborate tribal vests covered with double curve designs, young children in traditional dress leaning against Penobscot bows, school children stiff and silent in itchy looking clothes, and face suddenly arrested my attention. I stood staring through the glass at a small black and white head-shot. It was an image from the 1920's, a young girl, in three quarter view, gazing at the camera with a quiet, inscrutable smile. I couldn't speak for a moment. Because it was my mother I saw, staring up at me.

Of course, it couldn't have been her, and it wasn't. Joe Neptune, the wonderful curator who spent literally hours talking with us about the museum, life on the island and in Old Town, and the history of the surname “Neptune”, said the picture was of Mary Alice Nelson, aka Molly Spotted Elk, an entertainer from the 1920's and 30's.

She had 13 siblings, so perhaps a connection to the family isn't a far-fetched as one might believe, but it isn't necessarily something I need to pursue. It was the moment that was the gift...the surprise of seeing my mother, and myself in that glass case, hiding somewhere behind the eyes of a woman we never knew, who lived a life we can only dream of. Her extraordinary life.

But it is as if that blood still flows in our veins, because behind my mother's deceptively quiet countenance lies another extraordinary life, who has shown me how to see the extraordinary in the ordinary as well...the art in the utensil, the beauty in the banal. And for that one can't be buried in the past...just intensely, immediately present.

I think I need to get out more

I have a friend coming here today from New York for a weekend visit.

She has never been to Rhode Island. It's my chance to play tour guide, show off my surroundings.

And I am at a loss.

I mean, when I want to do something fun and different, I go somewhere. Someplace, well... different.

So now that my place is someplace different for someone else, I feel like a total disappointment to my little state.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you don't participate in the activities that are close to you simply because they are so readily available?

I had a friend in college who lived on the Cape, but had never been to Martha's Vineyard. Meanwhile, I went there with my family every summer.

Then again, I had never been to Block Island until two years ago, even though it is much closer and easier for me to get to than the islands off the Cape.

And then there's a super swanky restaurant that everyone raves about right down the street from my house. Steve and I have been meaning to try it since we moved to our city - three years ago. But Steve's sister, who lives an hour away, has made three trips there in that same span of time.

So now my friend will be arriving soon, and I feel dreadfully ill-equipped to show her around my native state.

I think it's time to hit Borders down the street (now there's a place I know front to back) for some guide books.

- Jane

P.S. I think you fellow New England Mamas, of all people, will enjoy our pick today on Pinks & Blues. Especially if you think R's ah fah losahs.

Baking in the Sun

Today it will be 85 degrees and sunny in Connecticut.

My children went to school wearing shorts, and my hanging baskets of weeping petunias boast new fuchsia blooms.

Local fruit orchards are bursting with apples, peaches, pears, and plums, and it seems almost criminal not to retire to the kitchen and bake them into pies.

I had every intention of doing just that. Armed with overflowing bags of farm-fresh fruit, I planned to storm my kitchen with a paring knife and get to down to business. Oh, it wouldn't have been pretty with all the peelings and pits strewn about, but the aromas would have made up for all that.

Now that's one attractive pie.

My house would smell like a slice of warm apple pie. Or a bowl of peach cobbler with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on the side. Or irresistibly sweet apple crisp.

Alas, fruit flies buzz around my ripening fruit like vultures circling the dead and dying. I've had to discard entire bowls of moldy peaches and plums, and the apples I proudly displayed on my kitchen table now bear curious little brown pock marks.

Oh autumn you tantalizing tease, for the sake of my fruit and prematurely carved pumpkins throughout the land, come back to us.

Until then, we'll be baking in the sun.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


My oldest son will officially be ready for preschool next fall. He currently goes to a toddler program and I'm pretty happy with it - except for the fact that he has to go for six hours a day. That means that I'm paying for him to nap there when he could easily nap at home for free. I tried to see if the center had any flexibility on that six-hour minimum - like could he attend for four instead?

"Sure. You can pick him up whenever you like. But we have to charge you for the full six hours."

I'm also free to set a pile of money on fire every month, but I'm not about to do that either. So I foolishly thought we'd just send him somewhere else. How hard can it be to find a preschool? My requirements are pretty simple:

1. It must be safe
2. It must be clean
3. It must be a happy enviroment - smiling teachers, happy kids
4. It has to be within a 15 minute drive from home (why add more stress to my life?)

I'm happy to drop him off at any school that meets those basic requirements so that he can glue leaves to construction paper and kick balls in the playground to his heart's content (as far as I can tell this is the bulk of his school day - save for snack time - snack time is HUGE at his school).

So I start calling and visiting the local schools, checking to see if they had any room for my son. Surprise! They're all full! And the waitlist? Full as well! Did you know that you have to apply at least a year in advance in order to get into PRESCHOOL?

Let's take a minute here for a reality check: My applications to graduate school were due in January and by April I was looking for an off-campus apartment. It takes 3 months to get into business school, but it takes 13 months to get into PRESCHOOL.

My mind. It is boggled.

Thankfully, none of the preschools I'm considering are on Boston Magazine's list of the "finest preschools" or I'd be in real trouble.

An Open Letter To The Red Sox Organization

Dear Mr. Francona,
A 1.5 game lead? 1.5??? We had 14.5 games on the *spit* Yankees and you've pissed it all away. And listen, I know you want to give Eric Gagne a chance, but for the sake of my blood pressure, could you just not use him when the game is on the line? Don't turn into Grady Little on me.

Thank you.

With much nervousness,
Major Bedhead

Dear Mr. Farrell,
Could you please explain to me how someone of Okijima's caliber can become out of shape during the season? How is that possible? Is he scarfing down Fenway Franks on the side? Channeling Babe Ruth? Could you maybe give him a salad and start him on an exercise program? The way the bullpen is falling apart, we need every last one of those guys to be in top shape. Out of shape just won't cut it.

Yours in confusedness,
Major Bedhead

Dear Theo,
Way to go on the Gagne signing. Brilliant move, getting rid of Kason Gabbard for a guy who now has a 33.0 ERA. I think I could pitch better than him at this point and the only thing I can throw is a conniption fit.

Yours in disgustedness,
Major Bedhead

Dear Manny,
Heal, goddammit. We need you.

Yours in good health,
Major Bedhead

Dear Youk,
Heal, goddammit. We need you.

Yours in good health,
Major Bedhead

Dear Coco,
Heal, goddammit. We need you.

Yours in good health,
Major Bedhead

Dear Red Sox,
Please don't break my heart.

Yours in pessimistic hopefulness,
Major Bedhead

You Love the Red Sox, But Have They Ever Loved You Back?*

2 days ago, Eldest and Middle played at my Sis's house. She delivered them back to the Trenches after feeding them (!) and bathing them (YES!)

Middle paraded into the house, wearing nothing but a Derek Jeter shirt and proclaimed loudly, arms outstretched, "Introducing........the newest Yankees fan!" (he had obviously been well coached.)

Needless to say, my Sis loooooves to f*ck with my Hubby.

Before bedtime, Hubby pulled out all the stops to try to convince Middle (who's 3, keep in mind) to take off that shirt. Nothin' doin'. The more Hubby made a big deal about it, the more adamant Middle was that he was WEARING THAT YANKEES SHIRT.

Right before hopping into bed (battle lost by Hubby--shocker, huh?), Middle walked smack into his bedroom doorknob and bonked his head.

Hubby: "You gotta watch where you're goin', bud."

Me to Hubby: "Yeah, but you're really thinking, serves you right, you little turd, for wearing that shirt, aren't you?"

Hubby: "Yep."

Things are tense here In the Trenches, folks. The Sox blew it again last night and allowed themselves to be swept by the Blue Jays.

This morning, I had two moping guys on my hands--Hubby and Eldest (he wakes up at 6:30am and immediately turns on NESN to catch the highlowlights.)

Eldest: "Mom, they choked it! Papelbon gave up a grand slam in the 8th. Now it's 90 to 88! (wins) I don't wanna talk about it anymore."

Hubby simply shook his head sadly in agreement and trudged away.

*What movie?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Splurge v. Steal

I am nothing if not consumed by beauty products. I am also a sucker for a. pretty packaging and b. what bloggers I like rave about on the internet. So, I thought I'd post my own take on the products I myself love. I posted a similar entry on my personal blog a while back - my favorite splurges as well as my favorite steals. I would love it if you'd post yours too. Because after all, who DOESN'T need one more thing from CVS - or, I submit - from Sephora?

Here's my take:

Splurge: Kerastase Bain Oleo-Relax shampoo and masque (around $30-50), and Lush Big Shampoo ($20) and Veganese conditioner- all of these smell amazing. The Kerastase is kind of flowery-smelling - yet not overpowering, and the Big smells kind of limey and clean. Big will make your hair shinier than it's ever been. It will also strip your hair of color so there's that. I use it every now and again if I feel like I need a little clarifying or before I get my hair re-colored.
Budget: Dove Intense Moisture Shampoo ($5) Smells great and makes my hair soft and manageable. Well, as much as it can be. You have no idea what it's like to manage this head of hair.

Face Cream
Splurge: Creme de la Mer ($125.00). Yeah, yeah, yeah I know. It's insane, you say, and I agree. However, I was lucky enough to get this handed off to me by my mother who "accidentally bought two" (???) and it lasts FOREVER. An investment, for sure, but I'm 34 years old and I don't have any wrinkles. So, there you go.
Budget: Oil of Olay All Day UV Moisture Cream, SPF 15 ($6.99) I keep this in the bathroom and also on my bureau. It's light and it works. Particularly great post-shower and pre-makeup.

Lip Gloss
Splurge: Nars ($23) Love this one in Stella. Stila ($16-20) Love this one in Blackberry. I would say that the Nars one looks awesome if you have dark hair and light eyes and fair skin like I do. The Stila? I have yet to meet anyone for whom this shade does not look amazing. So flattering and if you ask me, well worth the splurge.
Budget: Revlon SuperLustrous Lipgloss, in Cherries in the Glow ($6). Again, great shade if you're of the dark hair and light eyes persuasion.

*Note - I also have to mention Lancome Juicy Tubes. Spring Fling is one of my favorite shades but I really love them all. They're around $15 or so, super shiny, and taste like candy. I'm a compulsive glosser and I love these.

Eye Shadow
Splurge: Nars cream eyeshadow. I use/have used the shades El Dorado, Corfu and Granada. Great colors and they really last all day long.
Budget: Cover Girl ($3). I like "Snow Blossom" - more of a highlighter than a shadow, put some on your brow bone if you've got a good brow going and in the corners of your eyes and bam! You're awake and you look fabulous.

Splurge: Stella by Stella McCartney for fall/winter ($44/1 oz. purse spray) and my old standby Marc Jacobs (45/1 oz. eau de parfum spray).
Budget: Bath and Body Works Signature Collection Eau de Toilette - I have this in Coconut Lime Verbena and Pink Grapefruit. Now, these retail for $18.50 but I got them for $10 each with an email coupon. I'm not sure I'd pay close to $20 but for $10 they're well worth it. Very light and clean smelling, I carry one or the other around with me in my tote bag.

I also want to mention Clean and Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets. At $4, these are a budget item for sure, but this is the best mattifying product I've ever used. You pull out one of the little blue sheets, sweep over your face, et voila - the shine is gone and your makeup is still all in place. I am SHOCKED at how much oil comes off my face every time I use these.

And now you know how shockingly oily my skin is. Moving right along...

So, there you have it - my take on beauty products both ridiculously expensive and insanely cheap. Let me know if you do this on your own blog so I can come and read it!

Visiting the Big E this Weekend

We go to the Big E every year.

The Big E, or The Eastern States Exposition, is like the world's fair, but geared towards New Englanders. It has rides, food, animals, vendors, entertainment - something for everyone. It's located in West Springfield, Mass, not far from the Connecticut/Massachusetts line.

My first visit was back when I was in high school. I was in the marching band, and we were invited to march in the parade on Connecticut Day, and then we had the rest of the day to enjoy the park. I looked forward to that every year! After high school, I took many years off from the Big E, just because my life was busy, and the Big E was a bit far for me to visit.

Fast forward to living here in Western Connecticut with my husband and kids, and we get up there every year, no matter what. We love the local fairs, but the Big E is worth the ride and the fun. I've walked the grounds very pregnant and pushed strollers through the crowds as well. I typically get a massage from one of the vendors (I LOVED this when I was pregnant) and I eat way too much. My husband and I enjoy the food and the animals. I gotta thing for cows - especially the swiss! I also love the horse shows. The kids love the rides, the petting zoo, the yummy treats and the circus!

And one of the best things is visiting the state houses, called the "Avenue of States." They set up state houses for the 6 New England states in a row, and you can weave in and out of them, checking out vendors from each state, which includes information about each state, favorite foods known to each, and little shops filled with great trinkets. One year we bought a wooden dog food crate that we STILL keep in our kitchen, and we bought our son's first wooden booster seat/desk/rocking horse that he'll be able to keep forever.

If you get a chance, check out the Big E, which runs from September 14-30. It may be a little bit of a ride, but it's a great day with the family. And if you have little ones, go during the week, if you can, to avoid the big crowds. Montgomery Gentry, Taylor Hicks & Josh Turner are live onstage, if you are interested. Eat a yummy baked potato, some blueberry pie and some chowder!

And enjoy it all!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Kid Friendly Bed and Breakfast in Freeport Maine

For the past 4 years, my husband and I have made a point of taking a trip to Freeport Maine in September. Our family is out of state, so we do something different every year for the holidays. Thus we don't have many traditions around the holidays. Last year when we realized that we were enjoying our third September trip in a row, we knew we could rightfully call it a tradition.

Our first trip had been planned last minute, so we stayed at a random hotel that was about 15 miles away. Our second year was split between one night in Boothbay to celebrate the wedding of two friends and one night in Freeport devoted to romance and trying to get pregnant. With my older son being babysat at my home by my mother, you can imagine that we were pretty happy staying at bead and breakfast that only allowed "well-behaved kids" which is code for "we really don't want your kids here."

When we prepared for our third trip with a 3 year old and 3 month old (conceived the month after our trip from the prior fall), we somehow didn't think a place for "well-behaved kids" was the best fit. I had remembered when researching Bed and Breakfasts the previous year, seeing one called Maple Hill which advertised that it was not only kid-friendly, but pet friendly too. It was within walking distance from our favorite Freeport attraction, LL Bean. They had a golden retriever as their mascot, and they advertised fresh chocolate chip cookies available from a cookie jar every day. What could be better?

So we stayed there. It was really great! It's run by a very friendly family. They even ran our baby's bottles through the dishwasher for us. The cookies were as good as advertised, and the breakfast was absolutely delicious. They have 3 rooms. We stayed in the Birch Room, which is a 2 room suite with a bed in one room and a pull-out couch (and the pack and play) in the other. The only problem with the space is that the bathroom is behind the pullout couch, so it is difficult to walk directly from the real bedroom to the bathroom. However, both rooms have lockable doors that open into the B&B's living space, so it is pretty easy to go into the boys' room behind the pullout couch and get right into the bathroom. In fact, it takes less time to get to the bathroom than to read this sentence.

Continuing the progression from random hotel, to 2 of us in a B&B, to a family of 4 in a B&B, we brought our golden retriever with us this year. The family definitely made him feel welcome. They also made us feel welcome with him. He was allowed to stay in our room by himself when we went for our traditional lobster dinner and while we shopped at LL Bean. Since they didn't have guests coming into our room the day that we left, they allowed us to keep our dog in our room past the checkout time of 11 so that we could all go out for lunch. I admit that during some of my older son's more behaviorally challenging moments during the weekend, I would have been more than willing to stay in the room and send the dog out to lunch with the rest of the family.

Goin' Camping

The Partner, The Boss, the dog, and I rode over to Rhode Island last night to take a gander at a 1989 27' Gulf Stream Conquest motor home we discovered on Craig's List. After The Boss jumped all over the queen sized bed in the back, after I inspected each and every crack and crevice of closet or cabinet space, and after The Partner took the behemoth for a spin, hands were shaken. Words like "title," "insurance," and "license plates" floated easily through the crisp dusk air. We pledged to return the next day to bring the big baby home.

New England is now our oyster. We already have plans for one or two weekend trips in October and all kinds of dreams for a lakeside site next summer. When I really want to get grandiose, I imagine a cross country trip that a young family will never forget.

Our Gulf Stream's got a pinky-mauve velour interior. There are two seats in the cockpit and a captain's chair behind. At loft level, foam pallets come together to form a queen sized sleeping area. A table and bench convert to a bed next to the refrigerator and across from the sink and stove. There's a shower on one side and a toilet on the other. Behind it all is a traditional queen bed surrounded by narrow but serviceable closets. I can lay back in the 80s grandeur of it all and imagine that Bon Jovi just might have traveled this way.

On the way home, The Partner patted our dog Roxie's head as she nosed her way over the center console of our car and nuzzled him from her spot in the back seat. We had been talking about the placement of car seats in the camper and assorted logistics. "Roxie's going to sit in the shower," The Partner joked.

"Droxie ridin' in the shower!" The Boss sang out. Her voice was a melodic taunt. I wondered if she was evil or just enchanted with the out-of-context image of her dog bouncing around a waterproof stall beneath the shower head as New Hampshire hills flew by.

"Roxie is NOT riding in the shower," I said, running my hand over the dog's smooth forehead. I felt the scar she'd earned the morning she decided to run under a chain link fence in pursuit of the neighbor's cat.

We were silent for awhile as our mind's eyes took us beyond seating arrangements into our own personalized realms. I pictured myself in a lounge chair next to the camper. I had a book in my hand and a lake to my side. The Partner was probably envisioning the race car he'd tow each month to the RallyX events he loves to participate in.

Then we heard The Boss behind us. A maniacal giggle indicated her train of thought had not left the station. "Droxie ridin' in the show-er!"

The dog turned and gave our daughter the hairy eyeball. That long, jagged scar ended right where her pointed gaze began.

Shocking Revelations

The weather is cooling, and it seems as if it's for good (more or less, that is - we are in New England after all). So yesterday's Big Project was packing away most of Sweetie's summer clothes and bringing out her fall/winter stuff.

Luckily for us, Sweetie has inherited about 95% of her wardrobe, since birth, from a friend of mine whose daughter is a few years older than Sweetie. This has been an absolute godsend, as I couldn't imagine having to shell out the moola for an entire new collection of clothing for Sweetie 2-4 times a year. Instead, all I have to do is have hubby haul out of the attic the garbage bags full of fashionable finds. Voila! Nearly-new offerings right at my fingertips!

As I was digging my way out from under the clothes piles yesterday, I kept tossing to the side all the size 6/7 pants that were obviously too big.

Nope. Too long... too long... too long!

Sweetie's not yet 5- years old. She's tall and skinny, but not that tall. So I knew these larger sizes weren't even worth a second glance.

Then I don't know what got into me, but I took one of the longer pairs of sweatpants from the bag and decided that Sweetie should probably try them on.... just to see.... but, still, I knew for sure that I'd only confirm my too long sizing judgment.!.... huh!..... how 'bout that?!.... they actually fit her. A little loose in the waist, but lengthwise - just fine!

Ugh! Back to the drawing board. Bring back the cast aside "too long" options and try them all on her.... they all fit great. Of course.

Where did my baby go?!

Ooh! I know, I know! I know where my baby went! She just went.... inside herself.

See.... Sweetie's body might be growing a mile a minute. But lately she's been regressing in her behavior.

The whining! The fighting! The not listening! The TANTRUMS! Oh, the tantrums! Where in the world is this all coming from?! I mean, for goodness sake. This had better just be a phase, because if this goes on much longer I am going to lose my freakin' mind.

Then I had to go and find this post that the lovely Alice recently wrote. And I just. about. died.

So there's no hope in sight, right? This is not just a "Sweetie Thing"? Obviously this is the way it goes with the nearly-five-year-old-set in general. And I don't like it one bit.

Growing body.... shrinking social/coping skills..... huh.... I thought it would be at least 5 - 8 more years before I had to deal with this.

Monday, September 17, 2007

This land is my land, this land is your land

Yesterday, my husband, daughter and I took a meandering drive down rt. 140, past rolling hillsides and dense woods, before finally getting on rt. 2 to our final destination - the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival in Orange, MA.

This was our second time attending the festival. We believe the abundance of fresh, locally grown garlic and other organic produce is well worth the crowds, as this event has gotten to be quite popular. Especially on a sunny, 65 degree Sunday in September.

The garlic is plentiful and you can find it in everything from freshly baked bread to ice cream. The faces of the people are happy and relaxed and there are local artists selling their wares and demonstration on everything from cooking to renewable energy. Peace, love and garlic. It's cool, man.

But beyond the drum circles and farm animals and wool blankets made on wooden spinning wheels there are booths dedicated to educating the masses on the importance of maintaining open land. In this area land seems to be plentiful, as most people in the state are reluctant to live that far away from any major city, but residents of the surrounding towns feel differently.

They see the farms going bankrupt. They see their children moving away and developers moving in, driving up the housing prices. Slowly, the older woman with the steely gray hair tells me, but it's happening.

I understand where her concern lies, I live in a town that has seen an explosion of growth over the last decade. McMansions and cul-de-sacs are much more profitable than the horse farms that used to dominate the landscape, and town officials have allowed the building to continue in the name of the almighty tax dollar. But there are groups who, like the women at the booth in Orange, are dedicated to the conservation of undeveloped land. They're small but mighty and they're not afraid to stand up for what they believe in.

New England used to be an area of thick forests and in some parts the old trees are still there, thriving. But in parts of our region the influx of home owners looking to live near their technology jobs or take advantage of our first-rate hospitals and colleges and universities, not to mention the natural beauty of our states, has overpowered the landscape.

I'm not an expert on land conservation so it feels wrong to include a bunch of facts and figures with this post. I wouldn't know if they were true anyway. I only know what I see. But I am a concerned resident of this state and this region and I do wonder what's the next step. I can't stop people from moving here and I certainly can't stop a development company from clearing another field to slap up a bunch of condos.


I do know this: I can support the garlic farmer, the organic vegetable farmer, the local chicken farmer where I can get fresh eggs. I can try my hardest to join the local CSA. I can, possibly, join my town's land conservation commission or, at the very least, support their efforts through fund raisers and town meetings.

After that, I don't know. But I'm up for suggestions. It would be a shame to lose this beautiful land we're so lucky to be living on to 3,000 square foot houses with media rooms and four car garages.

You can't always get what you want

“Is there going to be a playground there?”

That was the most pressing question on the way to the Nashoba Valley Winery on Friday. At least to Audrey’s 3-year-old, William.

We were on our way to meet up with four of the New England Mamas and their families for some apple picking and picnicking. Oh yeah, and wine.

I looked at my mom, who was driving. “I told him we were going apple picking with some new friends, but he’s stuck on the playground thing,” she said.

“Well, you’re going to get to play with a lot of kids,” I told him. “You can run around and pick apples with them. It’ll be so much fun!”

That was exciting enough for Audrey’s 2-year-old, Alex, who was sitting in his car seat next to William, munching on a donut. “Apples!” he screamed.

William wasn’t as impressed. “But is there a playground?”

I figured it would just be easiest to keep the possibility open, even though this would mean lying to my nephew.

“There might be a playground, William.”

That was all he needed. From that point on he, too, was excited about the trip.

So we arrived at Nashoba Valley Winery and met up with Mrs. Chicky and Chicky, and Fairly Odd Mother, her husband, mother-in-law and three children. (Of course, we called everyone by their real names at this point.)

We picked our McIntosh and Cortland apples. William and Alex took turns holding the bag as we filled it up with the fruit (and took a few bites here and there).

We took a self-guided tour of the wine shoppe (not to be confused with a plain old "shop"), marveling at the vast selection of tasty wines made from the delicious grapes and other fruits grown right on site.

We set up our little picnic at the tables overlooking the winery’s gorgeous land.

We noshed on yummy breadsticks and delicious Gouda cheese, also from the shoppe (between the three Pinks & Blues Girls, not one of us remembered to actually pack a lunch).

Sarah from In the Trenches of Mommyhood and Alex from Formula Fed and Flexible Parenting soon joined us. Sarah brought her three boyz and Alex brought her two boys.

All of the kids continued to run around and play together as the adults chatted and sipped wine.

When it was time for our little Pinks & Blues party to leave, William decided he was having too much fun playing, and didn’t want to go.

He cried the whole way to the car, even when we told him everyone else was leaving, too (which was yet another lie, since Sarah and Alex had just gotten there. That’s two lies if you’re keeping score).

As we drove away from the winery, William decided to believe the lie resigned himself to the fact that we were going home and sat quietly in the backseat, looking pensively out the car window.

“Didn’t we have fun today!?” I asked him. “We picked apples, played with new friends, ate some delicious cheese and breadsticks…” I waited for him to respond with some other fun events of the day.

He thought for a second. Really pondered.

Then he answered, “Yes, but you said there would be a playground.”

Touche, kid. Touche.

I guess Mick Jagger was right.

In this day and age....

It's hard to imagine not having the comforts of technology we do.

Growing up (not so long ago) we never had a personal computer. I remember using a type writer to type term papers as a freshman, sophomore and even junior in high school. I think it was sometime late in my junior year that we got a computer in my home. But then it was just for typing papers. Sometime in my senior year, we ended up with an Internet connection. But we all used the same email Addy. We just picked our mail and ignored the rest. Still, it wasn't something any of us used on a regular basis.

I got married mid-way through my second year of college and one of the first things Husband and I got was a brand new Gateway. I was purchased after a day of car maintenance / shopping in Natick, Mass. We stopped at the Gateway store and walked out $3,000 poorer (that was back when you couldn't pick up a decent PC for under $800). We called and had Internet hooked up the day after it was delivered to our small condo. Then it was games - lots and lots of games. We had email, but still most of our friends didn't. It was used as a tool for me and Husband to communicate while he was in school.

Finally, technology caught up with most of our family and friends and not a day go by that we don't hear from them. Now, if my blog goes 2-3 days without posting, or pictures/emails don't get sent, I get a call from my Mom "Are you okay, I haven't heard from you in 24 hours. I checked your blog but there's nothing new". Sometimes it frustrates me, but it's nice to know that she still worries about me.

Last winter, Husband spent 4 days in DC with people we've never met. He drove down with 2 of his buddies who he met on some boards we belong to. He shared a room with 3 other guys who he talked to online. They came from California, Illinois, Florida, Colorado, Washington State and many other different locals. Some of these people we now talk to outside of boards- through email, phone and mail correspondence. Some are people who we consider friends.

Last week, Einey and I opened up her first email account. She's six years old and it's kind of weird. We emailed it to three of her friends - 2 buddies from school and her best friend in Virginia. So far, she's gotten 2 emails. One was some pictures from her friend in VA, the other from her best friend in CT. And let me tell you, six year old emails are just funny stuff!

Einey : Houw was the detiset?
Friend: good how are you
Einey: I am good

Now don't get me wrong, she doesn't know her email address so I don't worry about her passing it around. She also doesn't use the Internet unsupervised. She is learning how to check her mail, but still needs my help. I open it up for her and help her as needed. She doesn't know her password, so I know everything she gets.

The other morning, I ran into a mom from my book club and who I saw alot during the summer on our trips to the lake. I asked for her email so I could add her into our book club list. I gave her mine and she was very excited. She only has a few people she contacts through email so for her its a great thing.

In my MOMS Club, there are still 2 members without email. I feel bad because they are often left out of the loop. I personally cannot live without my computer. I check my email accounts numerous times a day, read other people's blogs, visit some boards and help Husband maintain his website. For me, it's an easy way t communicate with people fast. Sharing pictures is simple, just upload and send. That way I don't pay and arm and a leg to mail a ton of pictures, and family members can see the girls often through pictures. I've reconnected with a few cousins in different parts of the country this way.

Last year, I started watching whole programs on the computer. No commercials and I don't have to force myself to stay up 1/2 the night. It's great!

I recently got a MP3 player and let me tell you, it's been great! I no longer have to sift through piles of CD's. I can pick the few songs I like and download them onto the MP3. In the car, I am no longer forced to listen to kids music. I have a list of tracks on my MP3 player that we've deemed "safe" for the kids to hear that are pleasing to Husband and I.

In short, I would go crazy without my daily dose of screen time. It's easier for me to wake up to than coffee!