a simple, special easter

a simple, special easter

My hope for Easter this year was that it would be simple but special. Simple because I didn’t have it in me to go all out, and special because, well, it is a special day.

We did go Easter egg hunting the day before, and you wouldn’t believe it but WE CAUGHT THE EASTER BUNNY. And he’s just as cute as you would imagine, though slightly less furry. Also, he only has two teeth and they are on the bottom, not the top like you would expect.

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For our Easter feast, I made challah bread and baked some salmon. The challah bread had honey and the salmon is fish. It was an attempt to connect our “simple” meal to Christ—“of the fish and honeycomb he did truly eat.”

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We planned to go on a walk after dinner, but we put Felix in charge of forging the path, so we spent a few minutes trying NOT to wander into the street before Elsa stole the show by running, tripping, and scraping both her knees. We got her patched up and determined to forge ahead with our plan, but Elsa was just as determined to not walk and to loudly protest. Her brothers tried to help her out as much as possible, but by the time we got almost halfway around the block, we realized it was a bust and went back home.

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And so we read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows while sitting on the balcony instead. It actually tied in quite nicely because Voldemort is so scared of death and so we got to talk about why that is and why we don’t have to be scared of death.

Small and simple. Simple and special.

10 years of Simon

10 years of Simon

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It hardly seems possible because, you know, I’m practically still in high school, but Simon turned 10. We’ve been parents for a decade. He’s been teach us for that many years. It doesn’t make any sense to me, and yet I can’t argue with the math, nor with the evidence that my butterball of a baby is old enough to help out quite a bit with my other (less buttery) butterball of a baby.

We talked about what 10 year olds can do and decided that they could probably ride their bikes to the library by themselves (a little over half a mile). They could probably go to the grocery store to buy a few things (on our same block). They could be left home alone for over an hour. And they can be left in charge of 1-year-old brothers for . . . not very long. They can also, with supervision, make ice cream. (Though, sadly enough, they haven’t really done it yet.)

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And while all of those things could happen, the only big change we’ve made so far is to let him use real dishes, instead of the plastic IKEA kidsware. Haha. It’s a silly thing, but we wanted him to feel and see that he is growing up, and that we notice it too.

I would love to write a novel about all of the wonderful things Simon is and does, but I don’t think that could really do justice to the boy and what he means to our family. Even if he has started rolling his eyes at me occasionally and being embarrassed by our family. Sigh. They really do grow up so fast.

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Oliver’s special day

Oliver’s special day

We are all about encouraging/bribing our kids to make goals and work toward them. They each have a reading goal and Oliver (of all children) reached his first. Not that I’m surprised! But maybe he is just not usually the first one to do anything, ever.

But he reached his reading goal and he got to pick something fun to do with me and Micah. It turns out that our 7-year-olds idea of a good time is to ride his bike from Brooklyn to Manhattan and then to see a foreign film with subtitles.

(Or maybe he just wanted to see a movie and the one that worked best with our schedule happened to be a foreign film with subtitles—and not, say, Lego Batman.)

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So Oliver and I rode together from our place, across the Williamsburg bridge, to the little theatre on the Lower East Side, and Micah met us there after dropping Simon off at his friend’s house. (We had a sitter for Elsa and Felix, obviously.) Oliver got a bag of gummy bears to munch on during the movie, and we all enjoyed “Your Name,” a Japanese anime film that I HIGHLY recommend. Oliver said that he really liked it and that he mostly followed it even if he couldn’t quite read the subtitles fast enough all the time.

(I would also say, the plot is pretty cerebral and is so complex that it feels like it could fall apart at any moment, but it doesn’t and so it feels magical.)

And then we rode home and got pizza for everyone, because Oliver wanted to do that too. He’s nice like that. And a good reader. And rider. And sport.

Love that kid.

spring breakin’ 2017

spring breakin’ 2017

In my wildest dreams, we would hop in a/our car the minute the kids got out of school and drive up to a/our lake house to spend the week and a half of spring break.

In my wildest reality, we spent the break playing games in the morning and going to parks in the afternoon.*

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And now that I write that down, I think we did just about exactly what we would have done at our theoretical lake house as we did at our little apartment, only at the lake house we wouldn’t have even made it as far as a park. We would have just played in/by the lake all day.

So I guess we did alright, even if it was nothing exotic. The kids were happy. I was happy. (Micah, who had to go to work every day, was less happy to miss out on all the “fun.”)

Best/worst of all, the days flew by and we never felt like we were going crazy with boredom nor that we were having so much fun that we were loathe to go back to school.

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I’d rank it a solid 7/10 and do it again next year if we have to.

*We hit the nature playground at Prospect Park, Coney Island beach, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Central Library (you can say that’s not a park, but think about what bookworms my kids are), Mount Prospect Park, Long Meadow in Prospect Park, and Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

back on the bike

back on the bike

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I’ve been nervously anticipating Felix’s birthday for several months knowing that we could then get back on the bike and ride around like we like to do. Only now, there are 5 of us to fit on there. Hence the nervousness.

We had a nice day this week and I decided somewhat last minute to just go for it. I didn’t want to think too much about it, so I just rode the bike in and hoped I’d be able to get us home without too much trouble.

I told the kids we might have to get off the bike and walk up the bridge if I couldn’t pedal us up. And I warned them that if we did make it to the top on the bike, there would be a photo op. We had to buckle the boys’ backpacks to the bike (they usually wear them) because the cargo hold was a little cramped with 3 kids back there. But other than that: smooth sailing.

I won’t say I wasn’t huffing and puffing up the bridge, but I credit that partially to the 2+months of no running (stress fracture) and the loss of some of my lung capacity. It really wasn’t as hard as I anticipated, and while it took us just under an hour to get home, that wasn’t too far from what we did before Felix was born.

Of course, the good weather didn’t hold so our triumphant return to the bike was short-lived. But when it returns, we’ll be ready to ride all over it.

a year of Felix

a year of Felix

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All of a sudden, Felix is one. And all of a sudden, he’s acting like it. Meaning: falling and hitting his head every day, using almost-sort-of-words (mostly “DA!” and maybe, “Mamama!” and possibly, “Nana” —banana), doing that walk with his hands in the air, poking pictures in books, and throwing blocks and balls. Those things.

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He also crawl-sprints for the door every time someone opens it, loves to be outside, and can’t get a decent nap or night’s sleep to save anyone’s sanity. But at least he puts himself to sleep.

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His actual birthday was . . . kind of the worst. He fell and hit his head first thing (big bruise on his forehead), then got two shots at the doctor’s office and had to get his finger pricked twice to verify that he does indeed have anemia (just like his siblings), and he is losing ground in the growing game, having fallen a couple of percentiles in both weight and height to put him even farther down in the “pretty scrawny” category. But at least his head is decently big.

Despite all that, the most traumatizing thing at the doctor’s office was the exam table. He totally freaked out about that. I assume it was the paper they line the thing with.

Oh, and it snowed. And he had a fever. (Just a small one.)

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I had hoped to take him out for ice cream but it was cold and he was tired. It just didn’t seem right. So we put that plan on hold and tried to get him to open his gifts before plopping him in his bed and letting him sleep.

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The next day was his party and while he was still very clingy and tired, he was not feverish or cranky, so we went ahead with his birthday party. We just had a bunch friends over and had a “block party:” block shaped cakes, jello blocks, blocks of cheese . . . because Felix likes blocks. Or throwing them and knocking them down. And putting them back in the drawer occasionally.

He was such a champ about the whole thing. As long as he was being held he was happy, and we were happy to hold him so it all worked out fine. His siblings helped him blow out his candle and he was very gracious about staying awake for his guests.

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It may not have been the best birthday he’s ever had (though maybe it was! I’ve heard being born can be quite traumatic!) but at least we got to celebrate this sweet young thing. He certainly is worth celebrating.

brooklyn tarts

brooklyn tarts

In seeking to legitimize and professionalize my hobbies, as I am wont to do, I inadvertently helped create a cross country pie baking club.

It happens.

We are called the Brooklyn Tarts, because the idea originated with 3 women who know each other from Brooklyn. We then added 3 more from Brooklyn, and a couple more from the new homes some of the ladies now live in. All told, we have members in Brooklyn, Arkansas, Utah, Washington, and California.

Each month one of us is in charge of picking a pie that we all bake. Then we bake it and review it, sharing tips and tricks. January was my month to pick. I chose a savory supper pie from The Hoosier Mama Pie Book I got for my birthday. It was a very involved pie (I did it in several pieces over a week), but it was well worth the time spent.

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Februrary’s pie was a pear cardamom pie with almond crust. I anticipated it going wrong at various parts, but it also surpassed my expectations.

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Believe it or not, these pies also turned out to be the most photographable pies I’ve made yet. Or maybe I’m just learning something about lighting. Either way, they do taste as good as they look, if not better.

urban v. rural

urban v. rural

Oliver’s class is working on their community study, learning about urban and suburban and rural communities. After my Grandpa died last month and Ms. Plummer, Oliver’s teacher, asked me to let her know if there was something she could do, I was determined to take her up on the offer and find a way for Oliver to learn more about his Great Grandpa, and the community study seemed like a good in.

So we worked together to find some ways urban and rural communities are similar, and some ways they are different. The hope was that Oliver would be able to see how he and Great Grandpa were alike in a lot of ways, and for him to imagine Great Grandpa as more than the man in the pictures or the person whose funeral we went to.

I was surprised at how excited Oliver was for the the project. I was anticipating doing most of the work, but Oliver really took ownership of it—especially when we got to the classroom. (Elsa was an amazing silent assistant and Felix did us all a favor by letting Ms. Plummer hold him the entire time without so much as a peep.)

Some of the things we talked about were that people in rural communities often work outside—no matter the weather, while people in urban communities often work inside.

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We talked about how both urban and rural communities have beautiful views. (Which, Ms. Plummer pointed out, is an opinion question and went right along with their unit on persuasive writing and using evidence to back up your points.)

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We also talked about how people in rural and urban communities need to be creative and resourceful—like using a dog to pull your wagon if it’s a far distance, or like building a playground in your bedroom.

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But my favorite was this comparison right here:

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There are people in both urban and rural communities who will try to fit as many kids on a horse or bike as they can. :)

valentine’s day is CANCELLED

valentine’s day is CANCELLED

Next year, anyway. Or it should be, based on the behavior of certain members of our family this last Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s were given, Valentine’s were lost, siblings were blamed, siblings needed to be PUNISHED. Profuse apologies were offered. Apologies were ignored in the repeated demand for PUNISHMENT. And the lesson of the day was forgiveness. Which, I suppose, is as good a lesson as any. And I suppose Valentine’s is as good a day as any to learn that lesson.

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But if it hadn’t been for that unfortunate incident, and the continued crying, complaining, and whining, I  would have said this was one of our more successful Valentine’s in one particular way: we are getting very good at coming up with quick and easy Valentine’s that are homemade and not too cutesy, which is exactly where I like to aim my cupid’s arrow.

I made a sheet pan of strawberry flavored marshmallows, cut them into hearts shapes, and slipped them into little bags. The boys added tags with their names on them and we were done. Actually, we had to take some of the scraps and make chocolate covered marshmallows to get the right number, but again, super easy.

Actually, now that I know we can whip up some passable Valentine’s Day treats with not so much effort, maybe I won’t cancel it next year. Forgive and forget, right? Or maybe I would have forgotten anyway, so I may as well forgive while it’s still on my mind.