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Preview: Tree Huggers in the Concrete Jungle

Tree Huggers in the Concrete Jungle

Updated: 2017-06-06T02:04:30.623-04:00


And...we're off!


Well, not quite yet.  But in about 3 1/2 hours.  Is it worth it to go to bed for 3 1/2 hours?  Darn those early flights out of Newark.   
I'm so excited to be headed toward the Pacific NW again.  For so many reasons.  I love Manhattan, but I've got to get out of here every once in a while.  We miss our peeps!  There is something about people from the NW--they are grounded and nice and easygoing in a way that New Yorkers are just not.  The competitiveness in many people here can be exhausting to me.  I love the way people from the NW do food and recreation in particular.  So many gardens, and if not that, then U-Pick and if not that then CSAs.  As for recreation--it's just more accessible and easier to get to and there aren't hordes of people also doing the same thing at the same time.  I love the way it cools down at night, even on a really hot day.
It surprised us how much we missed Brett during Father's Day.  So that will be nice too, meeting up with him tomorrow.  He's been traipsing around Seattle with an elementary school friend of his for the past two days.  
Wish for fishing luck for my dad--while my mom drives to Seattle to pick us up, my dad is supposed to be catching some salmon for our dinner.  Yum!

At the baseball game


Hi everyone on the internet!We are getting ready to come west for most of the summer.  We leave in about 3 weeks, and we're feeling pretty busy around here.  Kids are finishing up their school year things--classes are ending, most with some sort of recital or class party at the end.  I'm also coming up on my renewal for my engineering license, so I've been cramming my 30 professional development hours.  Trying to do it on the cheap, and of course I waited until there was barely enough time.  Some of what I've been using is boring and dull, but I've found myself having a lot of fun with some of it.  Like trying to solve big complicated math problems on a quiz--I'm kind of a nerd that way.  :)Brett's away this weekend, hiking an 80-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, and we have dear Portland friends visiting until Wednesday.  They just got here tonight, and we only really had the getting ready to go to bed time together so far.  But I'm already glad they are here, because it motivated us to go through shelves and piles and clean and organize a bunch of stuff.  I love it when I make time to do that.  Our place feels so much lighter and tidier.  Two of my kids have had colds this week, and I refuse to believe it's because we watched that damned Yankees game in the rain on Monday.    It's getting pretty warm, the fountains were turned on in the park we were in on Friday--oh my, you should have seen the sheer joy on the faces of the 4 boys I had with me at the time--took me right back to when you're a kid and you have that first inkling that summer is really on it's way.  They stripped down pretty quickly (except for one who ran through completely clothed--you should have seen the wet and sandy mess he was when I handed him over to his mom), and it was a fabulous kick off to the holiday weekend.Here are some pictures from Jonah's baseball game last week.We love going to Jonah's baseball games this season.  First of all the games are at a lovely section of Riverside Park--we know a lot of people by now both on our team and the ones we play.  Simon has a friend there he usually plays with in the sand and rocks, and sometimes Maya has one too.  This is the first Kid-Pitch season, and it's so exciting to watch the little guys throw their own pitches.  They look so grown up!  All of Jonah's games are at 8:30 in the morning, and it has been already tank top weather that early the past few games.  Funny thing about New York City--the more you do, the more it feels like a small town.  I love that we walk so much and run into people we know.  We've been in a groove the past few months--it feels like a great balance with activities and home time, while everyone gets to do things on their own that they love to do.  [...]

This is how Simon counts:



Conversation Between Brothers


Jonah: Simon, could you please hibernate for THREE years?
Simon: OK!
Jonah: Do you know what "hibernate" means?
Simon: No...
Jonah: It means to go to sleep and not say anything for THREE years. Do you think you could do that?
Simon: No, Jonah! I don't want to stop saying anything. I'm talking.

Playing Grown-Up for the Evening


We just went to see a show at the Allen Room tonight. Oh my was it ever amazing. Chris Thile, formerly of Nickel Creek, and his new friend Michael Daves. Check them out here. This doesn't really do justice to the fact that Thile is a virtuoso on mandolin with a voice like an angel, entirely comfortable playing classical when the mood strikes (see the Goat Rodeo Sessions with Yo-Yo Ma), but in Daves he seems to have found someone who can keep up with him energetically. As an aside, I just discovered tonight that he was homeschooled.What a stunning place to see a performance. It was misty and moody in New York today, so it actually looked just like that picture. True, we don't go out a whole lot these days, unless there is at least one kid along, so our grown-up evenings are rare, and to be honest we aren't all that discerning. We've spent many, many years having young kids at home and having to accommodate for them in one way or another. I wouldn't have it any other way, but still, it is refreshing to remember the things you loved before they were edged off center stage by the kids you love even more.One of the things that Brett and I have always enjoyed doing together is seeing live music. Our tastes have evolved over the years, but I can still remember seeing George Michael when I was in high school and my little heart going pitter patter over the sheer excitement of the crowd, the volume, the utter coolness of it all. Then there was The Grateful Dead in college, and the whole summer/festival camping/road trip thing. We would pinch our pennies and venture out to The Gorge whenever possible, and those are some of the funnest weekends I've ever had. When Bono was walking toward me on a catwalk in about 1993 in British Columbia I nearly peed on myself, and seeing David Crosby in a small bar in Santa Fe shortly after being married is something we still talk about. We were perhaps starry eyed over the fact that we had finally gotten married the week before and I think we actually wrote a note to David (no doubt professing his sheer awesomeness) and asked a waiter to deliver it to him personally. Next came a bluegrass phase, sort of triggered by my parents. I guess we haven't really grown out of that one, and if we were anywhere near Seattle, we'd still be regulars at Wintergrass. If you live near there and haven't gone, you should go--it is a wonderful festival. We still sometimes enter the lottery for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, but so far we haven't been chosen. We had a brief hippie music renaissance just before leaving Portland where we somehow found it vitally important that our wee ones spend as much time as possible dancing barefoot in the dirt with hula hoops at any outdoor music event we could find within a days' drive. Maya particularly took to the little girls with names like Oceania and the craft booths (where she could be unsupervised with the glue and glitter), and Jonah, who was like a beached whale as a baby, really appreciated being precariously perched on our Mexican Blanket on a slight hill so he could actually roll himself over on occasion. You should have seen us being waved through the traffic lines at a Yonder Mountain String Band show--we thought it was our lucky day, but turns out it was just our license plate, something like YMSB 455--everyone thought we were with the band. Since in New York, we've been to a weekend folk festival upstate that included one of my favorites, Dar Williams (who I later found out had lived in our building just before we moved into it), we've been to The Apollo Theater to see our kids' violin teacher, who won Amateur Night there last summer. We've been to Radio City Music Hall and The Beacon Theater and Madison Square Garden and free summer shows in Battery Park City and Central Park...But tonight made me realize how much we haven't really been keeping up with the music world. We've stopped paying attention to who is collaborating wit[...]

The Problem With Kids Who Read


OK, am I the only one who finds the habit of kids reading all day annoying? When we aren't out of our apartment, the kids are pretty much reading. And reading. And reading some more. They answer questions like this:
"Uh huuuuuuuuh"
They answer requests to do something like this:
"In a minute"
And they are boring and immobile and they don't want me to turn the light out at night and they carry their big books with them everywhere and they aren't really participating in...stuff. If I have any brilliant (if I do say so myself) ideas about what we should do, they have to wait until the end of a page, a chapter, a book.
Jonah is mostly reading the Warriors series. There are about 40 books in it, and he is maybe on number 15. He loves them. The books are about feral cats--they live in clans and they have all sorts of adventures and fights with rival clans.
Maya is reading Gone, The Swiss Family Robinson, and A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.
Out loud at night I read to them too--just finished in the last week The Fellowship of the Ring and The Curse of the Pharaoh, and I guess we're still in the middle of The Yearling, The Bible and Caesar's Gallic War. Jonah inherited my head-hits-the-pillow-and-I'm-asleep thing, so he's been falling asleep in the middle of a chapter and we have to update him on the characters' progress the next night.
A series that he likes is like a Crack (sorry, do you capitalize drug names or is that only in German?) trail to Jonah...he can't really see anything but the trail he's following. Good in some ways, bad in others. He keeps giving updates about how many pages he has left too, so I guess it's not just Reading, but Reading AND Math to him?
They are only only copying us, I suppose--Brett is nearly done with War and Peace, and I'm in the middle of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn right now. We read a lot. We all have our own book clubs and reading is just something that is important to us all.
I suppose I'm happy that they are reading a lot, and it isn't that there are things I wish they were doing instead of reading (the dishes? playing with Simon? making lunch for me since I'm so busy...reading?), I guess it just feels like the end of an era. An era of playing and dress up for all-day-long imaginative games and making things out of the contents of the recycle bin. Sigh. If I tell them I'm sad they are getting so big they might just roll their eyes...but maybe one of them will come over and give me a hug...just as soon as they finish their chapter.

Great Grandpa Ken


(image) Brett's grandfather passed away last week...and we've all been thinking about him a lot. He was 96 years old, and was starting to be pretty uncomfortable--everything was getting difficult for him--eating, breathing, getting around. He was a photographer, gardener, singer, swimmer (almost went to the Olympics), and a maker of tools. For much of his life he was vegetarian, and he used homeopathy and liked to look at the stars. He was active in a Theosophy group that met for years and years. There was no funeral--His family was not huge, and he's outlived most of his friends. The plan is to scatter his ashes near Cannon Beach, along the Oregon Coast.
I saw Ken on our last trip to the NW, just less than a year ago--the picture above is on that trip, as we waited for breakfast at a Portland pancake hot spot. Elly is Ken's wife of 15 or so years...and there are Maya and Jonah looking on.
We miss him!
It isn't that we talked to him a lot, and the most we saw him in recent years was once a year when we visited the NW. But Ken and Elly made a real impact on our kids--they always remembered the kids' birthdays with sweet cards, decorations, money and little treasures. Even from a distance, they have managed to stay up to date with what the kids are into and the things that are important to them. In fact, of all our relatives, one thing that stands out to me with Ken and Elly is that they have always had an ability to really see you. As in, who you are right now, what is interesting, and what is good about you, without having an agenda for you. It is as if we are unfolding into something, and they just wanted to be there to see our incredible progress in life. A nice perspective, really.
My heart goes out to Elly right now, who is probably slogging through the details...not only missing her mate but without the anchor that has secured and defined her days for a long time. She has been a brilliant partner to him--he was pretty lucky to have someone so devoted and kind as his companion. But I've noticed that these things usually aren't unreciprocated, and I think there is probably a big hole in her life now where he used to be.
Hugs to you Elly, from us all!

Signed Contract!


I guess we are buying an apartment!

I think I'll let myself start getting excited now.

There is still a ways to go--financing is difficult at the moment--not just for us personally, but the lender has to sign off on the building. Which would probably be easier if the deli on the corner (the only retail tenant) were not shut down for selling illegal cigarettes. Ugh. It has been closed for 2 days--and talk on the street is that they were selling cigarettes with lower taxes than what is allowed in NYC. Like Philadelphia cigarettes or something? What's so funny is that literally was the TALK ON THE STREET. I think they owe a fine of $5,000, and they won't be allowed to reopen until they pay it. What struck me was the attitude of the people on the street, who feel like the NYPD is entirely unfair to enforce a rule such as this, and that it would be excessively inconvenient for people who live here to have to walk to another corner to buy their drinks, chips, sandwiches, and, well, cigarettes. In a moment of gracious magnanimity they also mentioned that it is unfair to close down someone's business when it affects their income...

So, if all goes well, we close in the middle of September, and have what looks at this point to be the easiest move of our lives--carry things literally across the street and up one floor.

Summer Slowdown


It's WAY too hot and humid here in the summer. Seriously. It makes everyone grumpy and sticky and lethargic. Our apartment is under-air conditioned--mostly because of the way the windows and the beds are configured. Nobody sleeps with even a sheet on for almost three months in our house. The sound of air conditioners by the end of the evening makes me agitated, but it is, of course, preferable to the feeling of thighs stuck together with sweat.
And can we just talk about the subway platforms? It is unbelievable. You think it's hot above ground? Just walk down those steps...A sauna has got nothing on a NYC subway platform in July. You hope your train is air conditioned, and most are, but every once in a while? The air conditioning is not working, and however hot you felt before stepping into the car? Well, too bad you didn't stay there because now it's worse. Now there are a whole bunch of human bodies a couple inches from your own. The other day I got on a subway car and this guy yells out: "Togetherness!" It was pretty funny...
The other problem with the heat/humidity is that it takes away all my enthusiasm for using anything heat producing, like the stove, or dryer. I totally don't feel like cooking.
Portland, Oregon? Your HIGH temperature is our LOW a couple of days this coming week. Just think about that for a minute. When you hit 73 degrees in the middle of the day and you can take off your jacket for a few minutes? That is as cold as it gets in the middle of the night sometimes around here. It isn't pretty.
We've had a very mellow week. I've taken the kids out to go rollerblading a couple of times. They are getting OK stable. But the sweating and the lethargy? It almost makes me just want to go see a matinee movie in an over air conditioned theater every day of the summer and call it good in terms of summer enrichment opportunities. Honestly, the way our family looks at it, summer is a time to catch up financially from all the over spending we do on the kids during the school year. We've been very much enjoying having big stretches of time with nothing planned. The kids are reading like crazy, we're doing some art projects and finishing some things up from the school year.
We're also hoping that we are buying an apartment across the street. We meet Monday to sign the contract. But I'm nervous--it is being shown again this Sunday to someone looking at it for the third time. If they make an all cash offer or offer much more than what we have negotiated, I think we've lost it. Keep your fingers crossed for us!



Forgot to tell you that we got to meet the B-52's, Maya and I. Our friend Sterling Campbell is their drummer and he invited a bunch of friends to come to the sound check for their NYC show last month. It was super cool. We got to watch them setting up, they played several sounds and chatted with us. Simon was there too, he fell asleep in his stroller and we shoved wax earplugs in his ears because it was very loud. This is from later that night at the real show.

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Full disclosure


Scene: Return flight back to NYC from Ft. Lauderdale.We packed in a rush because we had decided to squeeze in a trip to the beach, and a quick swim in the pool. We took the hotel bus to the airport. It had started to rain, but only after we were under airport roofs. Our flight was delayed due to weather. No problem--we hadn't really eaten lunch, so we scarfed some huge hamburgers and fries at our gate. The flight was very full, and running late so they started asking for volunteers to check their bags (for free), and I decided to check all our main bags--they were all carry-on size, but it made it much easier for us to get in and out of the plane since Simon can't totally manage his by himself.We finally get onto the plane, full and happy, and the kids discover that yet again everyone has personal video monitors and a nice selection of free movies. (Simon-Cars, Jonah-Meet the Robinsons, Maya-The Tooth Fairy, Kristin-The Bourne Identity). Life was good. Until Simon gave me The Look.This child of mine doesn't like to poop. Here is a conversation he had with his pediatrician 6 months ago:Simon: I no go poop ever!Dr.: If you don't go poop, you will die. Everyone poops.Simon: I no care. I no go poop!The Dr. then proceeded to give me (instead of the prescription laxative I was asking for, a copy of the book Your Difficult Child)Sigh.It is a long story, with lots of stomach churning details. We've been down this road before, with child #1, and I thought I had things figured out, but alas, Simon's ability to withhold is pretty impressive. He's been using the toilet for about 6 months now, but we are limping along with the poop thing. It has been better lately, but it is definitely an issue.But as soon as the plane took off, it became clear that he had to go. I quickly counted back and realized that it had been a couple of days since he'd gone #2. Remembering the success of the last one, I felt optimistic--I had caught him about to crouch in a corner and whisked him onto a toilet where I was rewarded with the biggest, longest poop that has ever come out of the body of a 3-year old. Here's what he does though. When he needs to go, he holds it with all his might. In general, the feeling of needing to go comes in waves--he can hold it several times, but when it's been a couple of days...well, there starts to be a lot of pressure backing up that bad boy, and eventually he just can't keep it all in.So this is the situation I found myself in as our airplane took to the air. I took this child to the airplane bathroom at least 5 times during the flight. I squeezed both of us into the tiny cubicle. I took off his shorts, his underwear, his shoes and socks so he could straddle the toilet seat in typical toddler fashion. He would sit there for 27 seconds and say "I no need to go. I just peetending." I would bend over, my behind bumping into the pocket door, and painstakingly re-dress him, hoping there was enough fresh air in this enclosed space to keep me from passing out from the stifling closeness. Luckily we were in the aisle seats and only a few rows from the bathroom. I resented having to pause my movie, but truth be told, I had never counted on being able to watch a whole movie myself on a flight with a 3 year old, so it wasn't bothering me so much. Then I hear:"Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to begin our descent into the New York area..."I told Simon he couldn't go to the bathroom again until we got to the airport."Oh tay Mama. I watch my booty" (Booty=movie).And then. He dumped an enormous load in his pants. Right as we started to head down, our tray tables in the upright position. We couldn't get out of our seats. So he had to sit in it for about 20 painful minutes. As soon as the plane reached the gate, I hauled him int[...]

Ft. Lauderdale in pictures


Simon loved the beach!But not as much as Maya and Jonah.This is the view of the pool from our 10th floor hotel room.This is what the hotel looked like from the inside.Simon didn't like that he had to wait for me to go in the water--here he is wistfully watching the two heads of his siblings while he is stuck on the sand. We discovered that if we went to the beach in the evening the temperatures were just perfect. And no pesky sun to worry about. One day we spent a long time building a huge sandcastle fortress.Happily, we ran into my old college friend Jill and her kids, same ages as my first two. The four big kids had a lot of fun together! We visited each others' hotel pools, spent time at the beach and one day went to the science museum together. Too bad we live on opposite coasts...Maya snapped this of me while I was struggling to get dressed on the beach under a towel. Happy boy--he had so much fun. Our trip to Florida was a last minute decision. Mostly because we had just gotten back from a road trip down to Atlanta, where we had gone because I, in particular was feeling a burning desire to get out of NYC for a bit, and Brett was wanting to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail. So I talked him into starting at the beginning. We took two days to drive down and two to drive back up, and in the middle Brett hiked 70 miles. Over only THREE days. Crazy! But super fun to have a goal like that, to hike the entire 2181 miles. He's done most of the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York sections...and now most of Georgia too. While he was hiking, the kids and I went to Stone Mountain, and explored downtown Atlanta. We had only been back a couple days when Brett found out he was scheduled to dive in Ft. Lauderdale less than a week later. So we mobilized again. I'm so glad we went too--it was a lot of work for Brett though--he dove every day for two weeks and he's been dog tired ever since we got home. The logistics of diving for work are tremendous, and he had NY work to tend to in the evenings, so it was a hard trip for him. One of his co-workers went to the hospital with an ear infection (from diving), and they spent the last night we were there packing up the boat and gear in the pouring rain.There are still things we haven't finished unpacking, and I must somehow manage to get the last bit of schoolwork done that we left hanging before we left. Jonah had to miss his last baseball and soccer games, Maya her last art class. But now the schedule is relatively free except for visiting friends and loosely scheduled playdates. I think it will all slowly get done.[...]

Florida Flashback


OK, so I searched through my blog archives because I was curious about our last trip to Ft. Lauderdale. I had forgotten that we spent Halloween here!
November 2007
I can't believe how much the kids have grown. Wow.
This was a huge trip down memory lane for me--first of all, that I had driven all the way here with my dog. Oh how I miss him! Then there is the fact that I was newly pregnant with Simon. The post I linked above is the last one from our Ft. Lauderdale trip, there are several, if you click on "older post" it will take you back in time. It was hurricane season last time, and the beach/waves were very different from what we are seeing this week.

Postcard from Ft. Lauderdale


It's been SO long.
But I'm still here.
There are many drafts of new posts in my "Dashboard"...and somehow they never get finished.
Life is rich and good, and I only wish there was a Pause button I could push now and then to catch up with myself. Alas, there is not, and I find myself 40 years old, as of yesterday. This milestone doesn't feel all that significant, to me, despite it's reputation. Maybe it will hit me later? What feels more shocking is that we've just completed our 6th year of homeschooling, and that Simon turned 3 a few weeks ago. Or how about that we've been in New York for over 4 years? Not sure why, but those numbers seem to pack more of a wallop with regards to the passage of time.
I'm writing from the balcony of our 10th floor hotel room in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I'm looking down on the tops of palm trees and listening to the sounds of the koi pond waterfall and late night traffic on 17th Street. The hot and humid tropical air is finally pleasant, this late, as opposed to crushing during the day unless you are submerged in the Atlantic Ocean or the pool.
We're here tagging along with Brett's work project for Port Everglades. It's a strange existence--I'd forgotten, since it's been a while. Most of his work now is for the New York Port Authority and he rarely travels. But this brings back memories of all those months we spent traveling with him when we first moved back East. It doesn't exactly feel like a vacation, since one of us is working crazy long hours. The kids and I try to take full advantage of exploring and experiencing, and we can usually have a late dinner as a family at the end of the day. We've been here before, although I can't really remember how long it was, but we keep stumbling upon things we remember from last time.
We are buying an apartment. Well, in NYC you don't say that at this stage, you say "we have an accepted offer". We know from one that fell through a few months ago that there are so many ways this can fall apart. I'll report more on that soon, when I know a bit more.
The school year is ending, and so is my 2 year term serving on our homeschooling council. I feel like I've let a lot of things slide this year--our structure and discipline has really gone downhill. Mostly due to Curious George. It's amazing what a mischievous and chatty little monkey can do to order and peacefulness. Sigh. I'm hoping now he's three that the fall might be a little different?
I think the mosquitoes have found me...I'm heading back inside.



Are we the only ones that have to have a special computer file to hold our passwords? Tonight, we finished our taxes. Yay us, and yay to the nice refund that we'll be getting. I know, we should be trying to make it so we get that money throughout the year, but we LOVE getting a refund. We can't shake the feeling that New York has some tricks up it's sleeve. You should see all the extra pages of questions that Turbo Tax has to ask us since we live in New York.
Anyways, back to passwords. So, we have a standard password. It works most of the time. Every once in a while a new website will require that the password must start with a number instead of a letter, or that the first letter be capitalized, or that it be a certain number of digits long. Worse yet, is the "Security Questions". Consider:
First job? (Brett's first job, or Kristin's first job? First real job? Babysitting?)
Oldest sibling? (Mine or his?)
Where did you got married? (Bainbridge Island? Poulsbo? Kiana Lodge?)
High School Mascot? (With school name first? Mine or his?)
What do you do about these? It isn't a problem until you are trying to log into, say a college savings account for your kids to enter onto a tax form. You need it RIGHT NOW, and the darn password doesn't seem to be working. Is it case sensitive? Sometimes the program kindly offers to email it to you...but alas, somehow old email addresses get into the picture and that doesn't always work either.
We've always kept a huge spreadsheet (Brett's specialty) that has all this information. The spreadsheet is really, really scary, and I try to avoid it at all costs. And it doesn't really help with the new Security Questions that most sites seem to prefer. A new problem, now that both my kids have email addresses and blogs is that when I go log onto mine, if I'm not careful, I find I'm already logged into one of their sites.
Aargh. If it's any consolation, I find notebook pages already with my kids' passwords on them--some games require passwords, and they have to have codes to play with a friend, plus their email accounts which are new enough that they don't always remember them. I suspect they will have way more passwords to remember in their lifetime than we ever have.
Good luck getting your taxes finished everyone, especially Monica, who never even starts hers until the week of April 15.



I'm so saddened to hear that Jean Liedloff passed away last week. I first read her book when pregnant with Maya, and I have to say, it is probably the book that changed the direction of my life more than any I've ever read. Not in an outward, obvious way, but in a secret, joy-seeking way. For years I was hooked on the The Continuum Concept list serve--I've never had a community quite like that--and it was made up of about 700 people who lived all over the world. In any case, I'm glad she was here and grateful for the contributions she made to the planet.

The Circus


No, that's not the circus we went to, but the circus that is our existence. In a good way, but, well, you know. Today's inspiration to post comes from my conversation with my sister, who is getting ready to bring home 3 children that she is adopting from Ethiopia. If you haven't already, check out her blog here. Right now there are photos about her kitchen that she is remodeling, but her beautiful blog is mostly about her journey along the adoption process.So, my sister and I have lived very different lives for the past twelve years--from my perspective, hers has seemed exciting, worldly and professional. She has lived in three different states, remodeled several homes, worked and traveled and created lovely things (she is a graphic designer). I'm not sure what my life has looked like from her view, but I must admit that sometimes I'm sure it doesn't look all that sexy.To illustrate that point, let me go back a few years to when a college friend of mine was visiting and she noticed Jonah's duvet cover...She: "Kristin!"Me: "What?"She: "Isn't that the duvet cover you used in college?"Me: "Ummmm, yeah?"She: (opens eyes really wide and makes a nondescript grunting sound)Me: (fingering the huge rip and tugging on the bottom to get it to cover the comforter underneath--I had never gotten around to putting buttons on it, so it was open at the bottom)Perhaps this doesn't mean much to you, but it was the first time I had noticed that my childrens' rooms were the only ones that weren't "decorated" specifically for them. I lived in the suburbs for most of my married life (except for the 5 months that I was traveling around the world by bicycle and didn't have an address). OK, I take that back, there was one point, when Maya was a baby that she had painted walls. They were only painted because my sister was visiting and she helped me paint them. I guess things matched, I had several friends who worked for Pottery Barn at the time and I bought a lot of cute fixtures and shelves...but that lasted only a couple of years, until we moved and nothing was ever painted or matched again.I visited my sister when I flew with the kids to the west coast. Her house is stunning. Seriously. Really, really lovely. And now even more so with this beautiful kitchen. The room I stayed in was simple and spare, crisp white bed linens and nice fixtures, and her usual good taste. She mentioned getting new linens for the boys' beds, and that is what made me think about this whole post. I was just comparing her buying new linens to replace beautiful ones to my own (disinterest? lack of money? horrible sense of style?) procrastination of 15 years in such a matter.Sigh.Sometimes it feels that we live like college students. Our things have slowly been worn out by use, and our belongings now are disproportionately childrens' things. Books, art supplies, craft kits, lots and lots of games and puzzles, bean bags, little cars, dolls and sports gear. We are outnumbered by the little people, and while it is satisfying and fun, it is sometimes a circus.Tonight I was trying to help Maya with a science project--she is researching diapers to learn about the materials that make them up, and she has to do a presentation tomorrow to her science class. She has been cutting up a pack of newborn diapers and there are piles of absorbent gel, diaper fluff and layers of fabric lying around. Simon was alternately eating sugar from a bowl on the counter and then rubbing lip balms over his cheeks and chin, and Jonah was belting out Annie songs and pretending to hit himself on the head and falling over to make Simon laugh. [...]



Simon does not like winter at all. He doesn't like the snow, he doesn't like to wear his coat. He will wear his gloves and hat once he starts to freeze his little tushie off. He says he might try ice skating once he's three. We did have a cool walk to the Harlem Meer the other day and the geese are starting to come back. They walk very carefully on the frozen ice, spreading their feet way out and sort of ice skating along the surface. This photo was taken on New Year's Eve. Yes, I realize that he has circles under his eyes, and I know he's 2, but he stayed up well past midnight. Party boy! Here is Jonah on the chairlift. He learned to ski this season! We went up 5 times with a big group of kids to Shawnee Mt. in PA. It was great fun and might be a regular part of our winter. Jonah said he was never doing anything more than a "Green" run...but then his ski teacher took him on a "Black" run, and while he wasn't happy about that at all, it improved his skiing tremendously, and now he's comfortably doing "Blues". Maya took to skiing too. Last time we went I didn't see her much of the day--she was with a big group of her girlfriends. The midweek days we go are pretty much empty--no lines, and it is a small mountain, so the kids can just take off on their own. I even got to ski 4 times this year. One nice little surprise was a several day visit from my parents. We had a whirlwind few days with them that was lots of fun--they got to see some of the things the kids are up to, including attending a birthday party in a bed and breakfast in Brooklyn for one of Jonah's friends. This party was like a preview of the teenage years--they have a killer basement with a mirror ball and all sorts of instruments. Those boys were unabashedly dancing their hearts out. It was so sweet. Their hotel was in the Financial District, a few blocks from Brett's office. We spent some time hanging out on the 30th floor in the meeting room on a weekend just enjoying the view of all the activities at the World Trade Center site. We also spent some time in the 'hood, here in our apartment, went out to eat, they saw Memphis and we went to the Brooklyn Museum. Jonah got a special math lesson (I think I remember the same one), and attempted some geocaching while Maya and my mom made a pie. We had a really nice time.[...]

Christmas Photos


The Christmas season is over...and no, we didn't send out a card this year. I can't tell you how much of a failure I feel that I can't get a Christmas card together. We had good intentions--we had a friend of Maya's take photos of us outside at Washington Square Park--right in front of the arch. They would have been great, but, well, it was about 2 degrees that night and windy, and we couldn't get a single photo that wasn't blurry. Sigh. The view above is our living room, Christmas night--the kids all got new bean bag chairs, and the table is piled high with wonderful presents from the West Coast relatives and friends. See our cute little Christmas tree in the corner, on a side table? We bought it in Harlem this year, 3 blocks from home. It was perfect and narrow, and our place has been cozy and festive. Right before Christmas, we went to Great Wolf Lodge. It was a super trip--less than 2 hours from the city, pretty much everyone there was our demographic--families with 3 or 4 kids of wide age ranges. I love waterslides. Seriously. Our big kids are total swimmers now, so the ropes course and water basketball were big favorites, and they have a toddler area plus a not-too-hot hot tub, so it was loads of fun. Here are all of us in front of the big fire place in the lodge. This is as close to a Christmas card you're going to get from the Spositos. Sorry about that. See that sweater that Maya is wearing? Well it used to fit me, and then I accidentally felted it. SO bummed! But at least I still get to see it since it fits her.Here are three happy little people--tired out from waterslides and the neverending Magic Quest that keeps them running all over the lodge with magic wands for hours. I have more to report on too--like Jonah's birthday, which was the day after we got back from PA--10 boys in a 900 sq. ft. apartment--it was loud, chaotic and lots of fun. He thinks he has the best birthday in the whole world. Shhh, don't tell him that he might one day change his mind. Turns out only 1 friend couldn't come due to holiday plans, and 1 more had pinkeye, so didn't come at the last minute. I thought for sure that several more would be busy, but, well, seems everyone was happy to drop off their boys for a few hours while they shopped or prepared for the holidays. So now we have an 8 year old boy on our hands. He's such an energetic joy right now--fun to play games with, developing a true brotherly relationship with Simon and growing into himself, if that makes sense. He loves playing with all his new Lego and Playmobil toys, Nerf guns, remote control vehicles and Nano bugs. I'm not really having the issue that he doesn't play by himself anymore, which is a nice new development. Christmas was mellow, low-key, I think we all had a slight virus--we stayed in for several days in a row after our very extroverted waterslide trip and birthday party. It was nice--games, toys, puzzles, movies--we watched the snow pile up outside and felt cozy and good. Friends in Brooklyn had a party a few days after Christmas and we made the journey, which included a long walk through lots of snow. The kids had a blast playing in their yard--building snow tunnels and slides and having snowball fights. A few days later we had a really nice New Year's Eve party in the W. Village with friends, and lots of good food. Simon likes champagne too, by the way, in addition to wine and beer. And he can stay up past midnight, no problem. Riding the subway home, across Times Square on New Year's Eve at 1 am is an adventure. Packed trains, it feel[...]



I just came from watching Maya perform in The Nutcracker. It was so much fun! She auditioned this fall at the suggestion of her new ballet instructor, who thinks that every ballet student should participate in such a show. They don't cut anyone, it's just a matter of finding the right role. So Maya is an angel, which is a very small role--beginner-ish, for kids age 8-10 or so. She's been rehearsing once a week at a ballet studio that always has a lot going on--we can watch adult classes, or bigger girls en pointe--it's been a pretty fun place to hang out.
In lieu of payment for the experience, I opted to volunteer to help with costumes. I did that for a few hours on Monday night, and all of a sudden I realized what a big production this is. All fall, all I've seen are a couple kids' groups rehearsing. Well the production has an overwhelming cast, full of adult professional dancers. The costumes are beautiful, and many, and I spent most of my time ironing petticoats and chatting with the career costume people about their varied experiences, so different than my own. The costumes come out of storage the week of the performances and need a lot of work by a full time crew to get them ready for the stage.
The backstage scene, where I drop Maya off--well, it's a bustling place. So many choreographers, costume people, dancers, technical people--it's just amazing. I touch up Maya's make-up, send her off with a backpack full of things to do while she waits, hair things in case she needs a re-do, and she's a performer for the evening.
Watching the show--I was thoroughly entertained. The dancers were beautiful--it was a wonderful show. I haven't figured out a way to get photos, but we're working on it.
I'm so grateful that Maya gets this opportunity--to be inspired, to be part of something that is bigger than she is. She's starting small, but in a way that gives her the full experience of what this kind of life must be like. It's a lot of fun.
Brett gets to see tomorrow's show, which will be Maya's last. Then she's going to go on Sunday to see another cast perform, so she'll get to be an audience member too.

Holiday Sing


(image) This is a busy week around here--It's Maya's Tech Week for Nutcracker. More about that in another post. Tuesday night was their NYU Chorus Concert. It was lovely! Festive and cozy and just wonderful. We've been a part of the chorus for several years now so the kids really know that scene and are comfortable with the show. This was the first year Simon sat with us in the audience for almost the whole thing--he was really great--clapped between groups and watched and listened. Six groups perform in all, so the kids only do a few songs, but it's also really fun to see the other groups sing. That top photo is him in the subway station on the way home.
(image) Jonah is one of the kids in the front holding up a sign for the dreidel song. We were sitting at a really bad angle (so we could make a quick exit with Simon if necessary), so we don't have any great pictures of the whole group. Or Maya, for that matter.
(image) Here are Maya and Jonah after the show--something funky happening with the camera, but at least you see their shiny little faces.

Tummy Bugs


So today I organized a field trip to the Brooklyn Museum. I had maybe 18 people coming and normally would have been the one to collect the money, meet with the docent etc. But when I woke up I couldn't shake the feeling of nausea, and I started making back up plans, like taking Ziploc bags in my pockets in case I felt sick on the subway. Isn't it funny how your mind starts to go there and you don't realize that your train of thought is seriously screwed up, but just seems normal? Or maybe that's just me. I couldn't face making breakfast or lunch, and found myself lying on the living room floor instead of getting us out the door. Brett offered to take the big kids for me--he made lunch and breakfast and took off with them.
The next 6 hours found me in bed, moaning, sleeping and not venturing too far from the bathroom. Yuck. Stomach flu. Brett ended up taking the whole day off--went out later with Simon to pick up the kids and when Simon got up from his stroller nap he started throwing up too. You guys, he is the sweetest sick person ever. We made a nest on the floor and he snuggled up staring into my eyes telling me he felt "yad" (sad). By evening time, Jonah was crying with a stomach ache, Maya was threatening to go hang out on the roof (in 30 something degree weather) just to avoid our germs, and Brett was cheerfully waiting on us, cleaning up, doing laundry and dishes, running to the store for sick food. It says a lot about his current state of work affairs that he was delighted with his "day off". Jonah finally tossed it around 9 pm. And when that kid starts, look out. He also doesn't stand still, and although we had many practice runs earlier in the day, he still does this pacing thing that could be utterly disasterous. Most of it made it into the bathroom, and the three of us are feeling better, and have been able to drink a little and I've even eaten some toast.
What struck me was what a wonderful day of family togetherness this was. That sounds deranged. But it was the first time in a long time that we've all worked together for the same thing, that we were mostly home together, taking care of each other. Although we felt crappy, there was this cohesive teamwork thing that really tied us together--you know, the same feeling when you have a bad vacation or you get lost and scared and it's raining and you surrender to the situation and just do your best, and lo and behold, you come out on the other side with stories to laugh about and a little bit of connection that you don't notice when things are easy and everyone is well.
All the same, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that M and B don't get it, and that the rest of us feel well in the morning.



OK, so Halloween didn't turn out exactly as expected. Like most weekends these days, our weekend was crazy busy. I'm embarrassed to tell you what all it included, let's just say I'm counting down the days until 2 sports of Jonah's are over for the season. That will free up about 7 hours EVERY WEEKEND for one parent and one child in our family. Halloween weekend also involved THREE parties for our kids. And remember when I told you I wasn't sure what we were going to do about Art this term? Well, I figured it out. It's great and free, but it's in Brooklyn. On Saturday. In between about 4 other things. To top off all this regular jazz, I seem to have all these meetings and other things...yikes.So trick or treating time rolled around. I had just gotten back with Maya from her ballet rehearsal. We had 1/2 hour to get ready to go out. I, in case you can't tell, was a Silly Band Collection. I know, instead I just look like an old, lame hippie that sells burritos at Shakedown Street. Hair that's been parted in the middle so long it isn't ever going to do anything else. But I had a ton of Jonah's Silly Bands safety pinned on, in my hair, up and down my arms. Jonah's costume was particularly rad--Roman Gladiator! Maya had super cute purple and black striped tights and boots that you can't see in this photo. Brett was dressed as a doctor--in hospital scrubs with white sneakers and a stethoscope. We were all set. Except for the Toddler Monster Formerly Known As Peanut (TMFKAP). He was asleep. Way too late in the day. Don't worry, he hadn't been roaming around all over the city all day. He had stayed at home with whichever parent was home at the time. But now we needed to go and he was asleep. So we woke him up. You know when you take a nap too late, and get woken up and you are beyond grumpy? His screaming, tantrum rage fit lasted for the entire 1/2 hour that we had left. So three of us sadly left without him, leaving poor Dr. Brett at home with the beast, mostly because my Silly Bands had taken longer to put on than his hospital pants, and we are nothing, us Spositos, if not fair about time management.It was very strange to trick or treat without the 3rd kid. But looking back on it, although TMFKAP had taken to trick or treating a couple weeks ago, in the last week he had refused to wear any sort of costume, and he was really afraid of Halloween decorations. So he holed up at home, watched a movie, while Brett probably drank straight shots to tune out the ear splitting screaming (oh, that would have stopped by the time the movie started). Clever TMFKAP--he just sat there, not doing any work, not having to brave the cold winds and the loud subway, and then when the other kids came home with bags of candy, he just helped himself. Candy, and no effort!To be honest, Halloween is the strangest time of the year here to me. It usually isn't cold yet, or at least it isn't indoors, where most of the trick or treating takes place. In fact if you ever want to be scantily clad in your costume, come here. Even if there's a chill in the air, you can guarantee you'll be sweating on the subway and in the building where you're going. We've done none of the harvest festival type things that I used to love in the NW--pumpkin patches, cider donuts, hay rides, corn mazes. OK, this year Maya and I saw a witch towing 300 lit jack-o-lanterns across the Harlem Meer at dusk. That was cool. But I miss neighborhood trick or tre[...]

Ode to Book Clubs and Boys


I adore book clubs. I mean, really, really LOVE book clubs. Right now in my life, book clubs take 4 forms. The first is my Portland book club of about 12 years. Solid, joyful, deep, comfortable, connecting--I still keep up with what they read, and whenever I am in town I weasel my way into one of those amazing gatherings. The second is Maya's bookclub--for moms and girls. We are going on year 3 right now. It has evolved a bit, but is similarly wonderful. We read the same books, moms and girls, and we have a comfortable groove for discussing things. The third is a NYC mom's book club that I started about a year ago--we meet at a restaurant for dinner or dessert. There is a large group of women invited, and it is a different crowd that shows up every week--ranging from just one other person to 5 or so. It is a refuge, a monthly break from all things children, and an opportunity to be social and explore a new hot spot. Tonight we had our first Boys Book Club. I must admit, I had my doubts--we started at dinner time with pizzas. After polishing off two enormous pies (and then some) the boys (and a few siblings) took off in an elaborate pirate/light saber/magic wand/shrieking/Nerf gun game that made them sound like at least a dozen children. Us moms chatted about schedule/format and other issues, a bit intimidated with how to start. Enter Maya:"Ummm, if you don't start soon, I don't see how you're going to get those boys to stop playing and start talking about books!"Maya. Always tells it like it is. Ahem. We called 'those boys' into the living room--they came tumbling in, screeching to a roly poly halt on the floor around the coffee table. Their faces eager and shining and hopeful and alert. We talked about how reading books is a bit like being a detective, and we have clues to what an author is trying to tell us but we have to figure out why he bothered to tell us anything at all. We mentioned the terms plot, protagonist and the antagonist, and how one drives the action forward and one pushes it back. We talked about how we did, actually, dare to "ruin the story" after all, for those who haven't finished the book--this is showtime--the whole book is up for grabs, and how can we talk about what it means if we can't discuss the whole book? We got into a groove about volunteering a comment without monopolizing or traipsing down the road of a tangent. The book we discussed was Crispin by Avi. Set in the time of serfdom--a dark story about loss and hopelessness that turned into survival and connection in unlikely circumstances and the overall hopefulness of the possibility of social change. There was deception and death and discretion and fighting scenes. A perfect boys' book. I sort of ran this meeting, since I am one of the few moms in our group who has had experience with and passion for book clubs. A lot of the meeting was me trying to lead gently--drawing them out, guiding their wild stories into order and structure. Helping them to focus and follow a productive path. They were tumbling over each other with their words--excited to contribute, eager to DO something with their thoughts about the book. And so I fell in love with them. Not with who they are right now. But with the men they will become. There is something about these boys. their wildness their energy their sense of justice their strength They are hunters and protectors and leaders. Watching boys grow up and learning t[...]

On Playing Games With Simon


Simon is just 2 years and 4 months.
And he's playing games with us!
I don't know what it is, but when my little peeps are big enough to play a game, it feels like such a turning point. That they understand the structure of rules, that we can interact without being a slave to Toddler La-La Land, parallel play or resorting to distraction or teaching or even just spacey co-existence. As I write this, I realize that this says more about my personality than anything else...but that sounds like a post for another day.
So Simon's game of choice is Clifford Bingo. He gets it. He always chooses a card with an "O", since that is his favorite letter. I call out the letters. We play until the entire card is full. Then he says "Bingo!" and dumps the covers back in the box and chooses a new card. I'll say "Who has a....'D'?" and he'll either say "Yeah D!" or maybe "No D" or "Mama D", and he thinks it's really funny if he said he doesn't have it and then I see that he does.
We've tried Candyland. Not quite ready yet. He plays for about seven minutes, then scatters the cards all over the place, or he turns over all the cards to look for the candy pieces.
Having more luck with the Madeleine game, which is similar to Candyland, but instead of cards we use a little bag with colored glass gemstones. They are fun to handle, and he digs that. But he cheats something fierce. If you draw a purple stone, you get to draw a card. So he says "My tuhn!" then pretends to close his eyes, but really he looks in the bag through his squint and selects a purple. Every single time. He acts surprised, as in "Oh look! Poh-pul. I daw card."
I've also tried concentration-type games. There are no synapses firing at all. He sees the cards as obstacles for his cars to run over. Ditto with Hi Ho Cherry-O.
Oh well. For now, I've got Bingo.