11.15.2014

Halloween 2014

Halloween this year was a big milestone at our house, because Cooper had an opinion on his costume for the first time. He loves The Wizard of Oz, so I was gunning hard for that to be our family theme. Coop could be the tin man, Madeline the lion, Matt the scarecrow, I would be Dorothy and off to see the wizard we'd go (or, in our case, off to trick or treat).

Coop wasn't having it.

A recent crocodile obsession brought him quickly to a love for the song "Never Smile at a Crocodile," which led to love for Peter Pan. He wanted to be Peter Pan for Halloween--no question about it--and really I was pretty happy with that choice too.

Peter & Tink, Wendy & Captain Hook. Matt gets the credit for his own costume.


I have a thing for homemade Halloween costumes. They're just cuter. I know there's no way I'll be able to make homemade costumes every year, but this year I had the time and we went for it.

[^^I'm not a seamstress but I got lucky with this one and it was mostly smooth sailing.]

October 1 was rainy and gray, perfect for a trip to the fabric store where we haphazardly grabbed anything we thought we might need. Of the various things I did in the costume-making process, I am most proud of the fact that with only a very fuzzy costume vision in mind (I was armed with google images of the cartoon Peter and Tink on my phone), I somehow managed to get everything I needed, and nothing to spare, in about 30 minutes with two "helpful" kids and very little fabric store experience to my name. It's probably the most successful shopping we've ever done.


And so, Peter and Tink visited Boston.

Tinkerbell wouldn't wear her wings when Halloween night rolled around, but Tink always did have some sass, so I'm pretty sure it was just Madeline getting into character.


The Beacon Hill experience was magical as usual, and just barely warm enough that we didn't need coats over our costumes, as long as we wore a layer or two underneath them. 

         

What would Halloween be without a stop at Starbucks for water and hot cocoa before heading home? The kids enjoyed entertaining passers-by through the window while waiting for our refreshments. 


         

After the kids were in bed Matt and I watched Hook. 

We've been enjoying lots of games of pretend revolving around Peter Pan since Halloween. I hope to always remember how Cooper as Peter Pan interacts with Madeline as Tinkerbell. "Tink, come on Tink!" Then he turns to me and says, "She has lots of pixie dust, Mom…I mean, Abby." (Because Peter doesn't have a mother.)

A few other things I'd like to remember:

He can sing all of "Never Smile at a Crocodile" and "You Can Fly"--even the spoken parts.

He loves pretending to be Hook almost as much as he loves pretending to be Peter, but his favorite is having someone else pretend to be Hook, so that he can chase that person with the Tick Tock Croc. (We have many crocodiles in our home, ranging from an authentic "Tick Tock Croc" from Disney World to a garlic press and a can opener.)

He is extra excited about Christmas because he's spent so much time singing, "Think of Christmas think of snow, think of sleigh bells off you go, like reindeer in the sky!" (Except sometimes he says, "Like Wendy in the sky…").

He always calls me Abby and Madeline Tinkerbell when he is pretending to be Peter Pan "just visiting Boston."

[^^The day before Halloween we went trick-or-treating at Fenway Park, right out on the baseball diamond! It was a pretty fun experience, even if only one of us felt like wearing a costume.]

I went to his preschool parent/teacher conference and they gave me a progress report on skills he is developing. In the column "Engages in dramatic play and will act out simple stories," they marked the "Not yet" box. Which was just about the most curious thing I've ever seen.

 In fact, Peter joined us at the park just yesterday. 


"All you need is faith and trust, and a little bit of pixie dust…"

[P.S. A bonus picture of us on November 1 at a murder mystery dinner with friends]
               


9.22.2014

On not moving and life in the city

We almost moved to Manhattan this summer. We were pretty much set on going, and very excited (and only slightly terrified) to do it. 

New York was the first place Matt and I ever went together when we were dating. We started out together in Utah, and when the semester ended we both moved [separately but happy to both be going] to Washington, D.C. We were just getting our feet wet being a couple outside of our college bubble and away from our college friends in a new city.  

A few weeks later we hopped on a bus from Chinatown in D.C. and rode four hours north to what was supposed to be Chinatown in New York City, for Memorial Day weekend. The bust driver ended up dropping us late at night in who-knows-where, Manhattan, but it didn't matter because Matt and I grabbed hands, found our way to the friend's apartment where we were staying, and basically didn't let go for the rest of the weekend. 

It was the first time we'd spent several days together, and we both admitted later that it was pretty exciting that we hadn't gotten sick of each other.

Later, as we got engaged and then married, New York became one of "our" places. Matt was there at Christmas time just after he ordered my engagement ring. I have always had this image in my head of him walking along, Ray's pizza in hand, with big, Christmastime-in-the-city snowflakes falling down, feeling the dizzy, surreal excitement that must come after purchasing an engagement ring.  

We had always talked about how cool it would be to live there, but never thought it would happen. Until we thought it would. So much so that we visited several times, and I spent five hours one day in July scoping out apartments with  a realtor and our two kids in tow. I found two beautiful, small, sickeningly expensive, but perfectly situated apartments on the Upper West Side, and all we needed to do was pull the trigger.

And then Matt came home from work one day and said, "I think we need to stay in Boston after all." Which I wouldn't have guessed would rock my world so much, but I cried for two weeks. 

I agreed with him that because of a few evolving factors, it made more sense to stay put, but we thought about going anyway just because we wanted to.  I wanted an adventure. A change, a challenge, something to stir things up before we buy a house in the suburbs and a bigger car. (In New York we would have had no car at all!)

But this is not to say that Boston city life isn't an adventure, or a challenge. I've said it a million times, Boston is the most charming city, and it has all of New England surrounding it to make it look even better.

In some ways I thought life in New York would be easier. We could have an elevator building! We could even have a doorman! In Boston elevators are very hard to come by, and doormen almost unheard of. 

In our current apartment we climb one flight of outdoor steps and one flight of indoor steps to get up to our apartment. We keep the stroller in the car parked on our street (assuming a parking spot is available, which it usually is during the day and usually isn't at night). Matt walks to work, I walk to the gym, we all walk to the grocery store, various playgrounds, and dinner on a regular basis. We probably use the car three times a week, including to church on Sundays, and more in the summer and fall when we have to visit as many beaches and apple orchards as possible.

Which is when I start to think that Boston might actually be the best place in the country to live anyway. Because on any given summer day, I can be at one of many beaches like these within an hour (and some within 15 minutes) (and I don't have to take a train to get there):
^^A Cape Cod playdate

Or we can go apple (or berry or pumpkin or flower) picking, feed the farm animals, and get some warm apple cider doughnuts at various orchards scattered outside of the city on whim:

On normal days my routine now with two kids is very much what it has been since we moved here more than three years ago. We go on lots of walks, find various parks, hit the grocery store and the gym all in a loop on foot. Now it involves less popping into shops I want to visit and more popping into the train station and riding the glass elevator for Cooper, but we love our neighborhood and our little city-life routine. 



It sounds cliche, but the playground down the street really is our backyard. And if we want to dance in puddles in the rain in our front yard, we're in the middle of a city street. (Thankfully it's a pretty quiet one!)


This means that on warm days, my kids are sometimes barefoot (or shirless?) at the park. We take off the shoes to go in the sandbox and put them back on for the walk home (most of the time). 


We learn about gardening from pots on our back patio, and take baths in the wading pool there too on summer nights. 


^^There's a large playground just beyond them, but these two snuck behind the bushes to use the cellar door as a slide instead.

Every day I get frustrated with something about our life here. Getting out the door down two flights of stairs and into the stroller or the car, which sometimes involves walking a block or two to the car, then unloading the stroller and setting it up, all without losing two busy children.


Or getting home again with a stroller full of groceries. Getting the kids and groceries up two flights of stairs, and through three doors, then running back down to fold the stroller back up and return it to the car. 

And the kids' playroom is also our living room and family room and dining room, because between two cribs, a rocking chair and a dresser, there truly isn't any room left to play in the nursery.


^^One time Matt saw Gisele out with her kids doing the city-mom thing too. Our boys even have the same scooter! But she has a garage with her apartment, so it's not quite the same.;)

But then I also have moments when the city feels so magical, like when there's a movie being filmed down the street, or when we have a babysitter come over and don't even have to get in the car to go on a date.


We've decided to put off moving to the suburbs for at least another year or two, because right now the benefits outweigh the inconveniences of a tiny apartment and a few extra stairs. If the schools were better, I'd be tempted to stay forever.

Isn't it interesting how life can be wonderful and childhoods can be magical in so many different situations? Matt grew up minutes from Disneyland and the beach in Southern California with a pool and plenty of fruit trees. I grew up in a beautiful and vibrant, but rather small, college town in Iowa with an acre of yard and a forest behind it. And our kids are spending their first years in a tiny apartment on the East Coast. So many people and so many different places and ways to live our lives, and yet we all find a way to learn what we need to know, experience similar feelings of joy, and fear, and exhilaration and hope. Sometimes I think it would be just as lovely to live just about anywhere, in its own way. I hope I'm right.

8.27.2014

Lake Winnipesaukee

When I was in high school, every summer was a free-for-all at the "res," or reservoir, in the college town where I grew up in Iowa. I'd roll out of bed in the morning, drive ten minutes to the pool where I taught swimming lessons for a few hours, and then book it to the res as quickly as I could to meet my friends on the boat. I now cringe whenever I think of how fast I'd speed down those back, winding roads that led up, up over the top of the reservoir and down to the dock.

When we were younger it was my girl friends and a dad, but later on it was usually a 3:5 girl-to-guy ratio, which suited us well too.:) My friend Laura would bring scotcharoos, and we would alternate tubing and laying in the sun all afternoon as we sped around keeping one eye out for other friends who were also on the water. 

Then we'd head home, shower and change, and meet back up at night, sometimes with whoever our current crushes were, but often with that same boating crew. It's amazing how those Iowa summers were so magical back then. Plenty to do, plenty of excitement, and the camaraderie of a city small enough that you felt like you knew a good portion of it (even though, really, you didn't). I know I'll never live there again, but I'm so glad it's where I grew up. 

All that to say, I love the feeling of jumping off the back of a boat into some cool, fresh water in the summertime. We've had the chance to spend several weekends this summer at Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. We think that place is a little slice of heaven on earth, and are so grateful to friends who have given us the chance to spend some time there over the years.

Here come the photos!


Waving hello from the swim dock. I think we were all a little surprised when I was the first one to jump into the water. We spent the morning cheering on friends in a triathlon in town, and after watching every one of those swimmers dive into the lake earlier, I couldn't wait another second. 


Cooper showing Madeline the ropes. I always wanted to have a boy first so that the rest of my children would have a big brother. It's definitely not always a love fest, but this picture makes me love what we have going on around here.


Daddy-kids Saturday boat snugs.


A little dribble practice in between boat rides.


Our first family tube ride. (Minus Madeline, who was napping.) I'll be honest, we had to drag a nervous, crying Cooper onto the tube, but if you zoom in on that picture I think you'll see that we got a smile out of him! 


And of course he was all smiles about reuniting with his best girl friend, who moved to California last summer. We sure love that lady. 


The quality of this picture is terrible, but I had to include our morning golf cart ride selfie with Madeline.


Watching Daddy ski.


Enjoying gingerbread cookies from the Yum Yum shop--our favorite.


And one more photo of the back of Coop's head, and his look-alike buddy too.

Until next time, we'll be dreaming of life on a lake.

7.28.2014

Summer days and summer dates

The other day Cooper told me, "I'm almost sixteen, Momma." 

"No way! You're never going to be sixteen. You're going to stay my little boy forever." 

"Nooo, I am going to be sixteen. But don't worry, Mom, I'll still have the same name. And I'll still be the same boy."

What do I do with that? The way time has been moving lately, I believe it. He is almost sixteen. And I sure hope that when that sixteenth birthday rolls around he is still the same boy, because he's my very favorite.

We went on a date the other night, and for now I'm glad I'm the only girl that gets to say that. Matt and Madeline bonded at Home Depot, while Cooper and I loaded up the jogging stroller and ran to the children's museum. I hadn't run with him in the jogger since before Madeline was born, and homeboy has gained some weight! Not only that, but he's much more into keeping up a conversation. Halfway through the run he asked what I dreamed about last night, and periodically he'd go, "Mom, run faster! You're not going very fast!" 

Running fast while pushing 35 pounds up a hill in a jogging stroller, swerving through crowds, and trying to remember if I had any dreams last night to explain to a three-year-old. I need some more practice at that. We'll have to have another date soon.;)

[I told him I dreamed about New York City, which made for a great few minutes of chatter. Cooper loves New York City, and asks to visit often. A love for manhattan: It's part of our family value system.]


The highlight of the museum that night was the caterpillar display, with so many large caterpillars to watch and touch. 


It was dark when we left, and we grabbed a late dinner of soup and sandwiches next door and sat outside by the water to eat. Eating outside in the dark that night is one of my new favorite memories with Cooper.

And then we rode the T home. You know when you ask someone, "How much do you love me?" and that person throws his arms open as wide as they go and says, "Thiiiiis much!"?  That is what Cooper does when you ask how much he loves the train. It was the perfect topper for the evening. 

The next night I went on a date with my other favorite guy, which also started with a run, and ended with dinner outside in the dark. I may not be original, but it was a really, really good weekend. 

I haven't had any dates lately with my favorite girl, but I did sign Cooper up for preschool this fall, and I'm really looking forward to some one-on-one time with her. Maybe we'll take an art or a music class. Maybe we'll just play at the playground, or go on runs together. I just feel like the world will be ours (at least for two mornings a week). Our days rarely revolve around what will be most fun for just her, and she deserves a little more of that.

The other week she climbed from my bed onto the windowsill, and stood there totally still for a few minutes, foot popped just so, scanning the street.



And my new favorite picture of her is from a beach day a few weeks back:



Here's Cooper the same day:



And both of them chasing the waves.


Life has felt slow since we came back from Utah. We've been laying low, hashing out life decisions, enjoying our little family, and playing in water as much as possible. Last weekend we went to Walden Pond, and then a couple of days later I took the kids back and got ice cream afterward at our favorite nearby ice cream stand. Now I'm contemplating driving back out there tonight just because I want more. Their mint & cookies flavor is that good.


Speaking of ice cream, in between my trip to Iowa and our travel to Utah, was the annual Scooper Bowl at City Hall Plaza. You pay (to charity) to enter, and get all-you-can-eat ice cream from the various ice cream stores in the area that participate. It is really our family's kind of party.


Somewhere in there, we spent a weekend in New Hampshire with friends in the most charming little lake town, which also happens to be one of my favorite places on earth. One of the homes there has an amazing water slide that we're lucky enough to take advantage of occasionally. Matt took this really flattering shot of me mid-jump.;) 


In between all of this, we've had evenings at the park: 


^^We were taking turns giving each other high fives as we slid down.

Plenty of fun with our new wading pool...


We attach the hose to our bathroom sink and run it through the window to our patio to fill the pool. The greatest part about this is that we can adjust the temp, so our kids don't have to deal with freezing-cold hose water like all of those poor kids who have real backyards.;) Sometimes on cooler evenings, we turn it into an all-out hot tub, and I've got to admit, I'm tempted to hop in myself one of these nights.



^^This is a sight we won't be seeing much of anymore because Cooper is potty trained. We even went to the toy store today to pick out his prize. Not that I'm an expert or anything, but waiting until he wanted to do it, at just over three, worked great for us. We've been at it for almost two weeks now, and he's had two accidents, one of which was on the very first day, and both were at home, which made it easy. Also, we never went through a "stay at home all day phase," which was so nice for me. We did a few days where every time we were at home he'd go diaperless, and every time we left he'd wear a diaper. Then when I thought he had the hang of it, we switched to never wearing diapers during the day, but still going out and about and living our lives, and he handled it like a pro.


And, I finally booked myself a hair appointment after almost a year. I like it but it's not nearly as blonde as I want, so I may have to head back in to the salon soon. Afterward, I took a selfie in a hat, but not because I wanted to hide my hair. I just needed an opinion on the hat; you know how it goes.