We decided to build a castle weeks ago. Our gingerbread structure was for sure going to be a castle. But then the day after I made the dough, when it was just chilling in the fridge, Micah started sketching robots. A family of robots. Our family, as robots. And I suggested maybe we do robots instead?
We liked the idea, but still, the castle. We couldn’t pass it up. So maybe robots would guard it?
We got to work. Made a trip to Dylan’s Candy Bar for supplies (heaven and hell at a single address), and came home to create our masterpiece.
In the end we decided that because robots are naturally antagonistic, they would be the attackers. The hapless gingerbread men would have to defend. And in the end, they seemed to be holding their own, even as the castle began to crumble — not in the hands of the robot army, but in the hands of the little giants (and their parents) who planned this whole thing to begin with.
Another Christmas, another lovely time with the family. I had high hopes that this Christmas would be a time we really made good on serving others and helped the kids feel some joy in giving, rather than merely anticipating opening gifts. It didn’t go exactly as I had hoped, but we did spend a few hours on Christmas Eve delivering gifts before heading to the city. We had hoped to catch a pageant, but missed it and ended up walking through Central Park instead. We hopped a train after that and went caroling at Washington Square Park, then back to our place for hot chocolate. At the end of the day, even though it was wet and rainy and we’d been out all day, we all agreed it was a pretty magical.
And Christmas itself wasn’t all that bad either. It is nice to have just our little family, to have only our own expectations to fulfill, only our own time to spend. And then, our own home to open to friends for dinner.
It may not have turned out as I had originally hoped, but then again, I couldn’t have planned it better.
I used to think 10 years meant that we were old married people, that we would be, you know, settled. Boring, even.
But now that we are here, well, we are not settled. Or settling. We still have so much to pursue and so much we are just discovering.
I’ve heard people talk about getting bored, or knowing their spouse too well or becoming complacent. And even though I do often know what Micah is thinking, and how he will respond, and what his particular quirks are, I am still often surprised by him. And I am happy to find that knowing so well leads to lots of easy laughs and to lots of moments in which we can say something random and have the other say, “That is exactly what I was thinking.”
It actually feels pretty good to get that first decade out of the way. Now that we are past that awkward “getting-to-know-you” phase, we can really enjoy the time we have left.
I’m looking forward to all of it.
Oh December. I lovehate you so. I’m trying to think of one experience inspired by that photos on my phone to sum things up.
There’s this one of the penguin pancakes, which Micah made for the kids after Simon wrote a nice note requesting them for breakfast ASAP, accompanied by the picture from his Ranger Rick magazine. This would demonstrate the parental instinct to make magic happen, no matter the tediousness of the project.
There’s also this photo of Elsa, lying on the floor of our apartment building. She had been my partner in running errands all week and had taken most of her naps in the stroller or on the bike. We had sent packages at the post office that day. (There were more than 20 people in line when we got there, and only two windows open . . . the Christmas miracle was that not only were people not grossed out and rude about the fact that Elsa kept lying on the floor, they were kind and understanding about it. There was for sure a lot of charity happening in that tiny post office.) We had also biked to Costco and picked up LOTS of groceries. Elsa fell asleep within a few blocks of home and slept while I unloaded the bike, got everything into the elevator, unloaded the elevator, and put everything away. I did eventually have to wake her up so we could go get the boys. But, yes. December.
This other photo of Elsa, or rather of her artistically adorned arms, is a good one too. This would be a testimony to the distractibility of her mother. (But then again, she does this all the time, as you would know if you saw how many pairs of her pajamas have sharpie on them. So maybe I can’t blame December for that.)
The photo of our Christmas tree on our bike is classic Heiselt. This is how we roll, people. Micah rode the Firebolt home while I took the kids on the bus. He beat us by a long shot. But we had a great time trying to decide whether or not we should walk to the next bus stop just to keep busy.
Finally, there’s this nice one of Oliver sick in bed while Elsa watches over him. Oliver’s class celebration was earlier that day. All the families were invited to see all their work from their Family study at school. I took him straight home since he had a fever, and both the kids napped while I participated in a conversation on HuffPost Live about stress during the holiday season. It seemed pretty representative of life in December, doing the best you can in the time you have . . . again and again and again.
Having chosen the poem only the day before, and having only practiced it a handful of times, the boys stepped up to the plate and delivered a homerun with their recitation of “The Birds” by Hilaire Belloc at our ward Christmas party. (Grandma Blackhurst would have died of pride, I’m sure.)
They followed up that performance by trying their hands/voices at karaoke. (Yes! Karaoke Christmas party!) I didn’t take a video of Simon, but here’s Oliver giving “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” his best shot. (This is the last little bit of the song.)
If you were hoping for photos of our lavish spread or perfect pies topped with sloppy whipped cream in my Thanksgiving re-cap post, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I was not in charge of Thanksgiving this year, so I basically took a nap and didn’t worry about a thing—even documenting it. (I know! So unlike me!)
Instead, I thought I would share this little nugget from our Thanksgiving. We celebrated with some friends who moved from Brooklyn about a year ago. Their 7-year-old daughter could not get enough of Elsa. She basically adopted her as her little sister and spent the weekend dressing her up and calling her Queen Elsa. And Elsa ate it up. Never mind that I have to physically force her to get dressed half the time. She was putty in Ellen’s hands and wore whatever “queen” dress Ellen handed her. She put on headbands. She let Ellen braid her hair. And then she “glided” downstairs with her royal pets to show us how majestic she had become.
Priceless. Beautiful. Heartwarming. Lots to be thankful for in that little snippet of life.
Last Sunday morning I got a bunch of e-mails/tweets/facebook messages etc. from someone who worked at “Good Morning Britain.” She wondered if I’d be available to be on the show the next morning . . . at 2am New York time. Same old story: leaving kids home alone, blah blah blah. I checked my schedule and, aside from being the middle of my sleep time, saw no reason not to, so I agreed.
Transportation to and from was arranged, I decided to be smart and go to bed at 8:30 so at least I could pretend I got a full-night’s sleep, and at 1:30am I was in a car on my way to to same studio I went to when I did the Lorraine Show.
And then, at 2:40am, I was on. And it became clear to me that when I spoke to one of the producers on the phone earlier in the afternoon, I did not ask the right questions. Most notably: why is this in the news again?
If I had asked, I would have known that there is a mom who left her 6-year-old home and was cited for it. Now she’s trying to get the citation removed and there is talk of making a law with a minimum age for kids to be left alone. And if I had known that, I might have responded a bit differently.
As it was, I did the best I could. And I think I did genuinely contribute and make a good point or two, but only after I picked up on the reason I was actually there.
So there’s that. I’m still learning. Next time, if there is one, I’ll be smart enough to ask why this is in the news right now.
I haven’t bothered to see if there’s a clip online or not, but feel free to look if you want. It was “Good Morning Britain” on Monday Nov. 10.
Sometimes, the boys have Tuesdays off. Well, twice in a row. Election Day then Veteran’s Day. I kind of botched Election Day, so we decided to go big on Veteran’s Day. I asked the kids what they wanted to do on their day off and Simon had a list of things he wanted to do: See the castle, go through the Ramble, check out the fountain—basically do the grand tour of Central Park’s 2nd quadrant, which he’s learning about in school.
The weather gods smiled on New York City that day and we were blessed with 60 degrees and sunny. Elsa took a nap on the train on the way there, so by the time we got to Turtle Pond, our lunch time picnic spot, we were good to go for the rest of the day.
And go we did.
We rambled through The Ramble.
We took Belvedere Castle.
We soaked in the glory of Bethesda Fountain and all the talents being shared and the people watching to peep.
We scaled Cherry Hill.
And then we went searching for Balto—the last thing on our list.
We found him, of course, and we paid our respects to the bravest dog ever. (I still have a hard time reading the kids’ book we have telling the story of Balto. Tears every time. I’m such a softie.)
I patted myself on the back several times throughout the day for letting the kids lead the way, not rushing them from one place to the next, for just sitting and watching them run and play and be kids (and for joining in when they wanted me to).
But then we were done and we wanted nothing more than to just go home—which is never as easy as it sounds. The maps told us there were 4 restrooms really close to where we were. The maps lied. It took us forever to find one, and by that point we were in a completely different part of the park by a different train line. The natives were restless and I could feel the mutinous spirit growing.
We did make it to our train, however. Just in time to quell the mutiny. We made it home in time to make dinner.
Such was our Mary Poppins day—practically perfect in every way.
This is what I’ve been telling people this year: Every year when Halloween costume time rolls around, Micah and the kids and I have a discussion and we sketch out some Halloween costume ideas. We say, “That sounds cool, let’s do that.” And then we get to work. Micah makes some real sketches. He tells me his plans while I stare at him uncomprehendingly. I ask him what kinds of materials I need to gather. And then, after I sit with it for a few days I say, “This will never work. Micah, it’s all on you.” And I wash my hands of it.
Which is not to say that I actually don’t touch it any more. I still do whatever Micah tells me to do. But I do it blindly, without the belief that these costumes will be any good. Every year I am very suspicious that things will come together and that we’ll have anything worth memorializing come October 31st. And then every year, when the costumes are actually donned and everything is put in its place, I am blown away by Micah’s vision.
This year we settled on “mythical creatures with horns” as our family theme. (It turns out that Micah mostly just wanted to make a bunch of spray-foam-and-paper-mache horns for the thrill/challenge of it.) Simon decided on a faun (like Mr. Tumnus), Oliver requested a purple dragon, and Elsa rolled with the punches and embraced the jackalope we thought would be hilarious/cute/thematically appropriate. Micah wore mythically large ram horns, and I wore a unicorn horn that proved to be especially handy when our faun ran ahead of us while trick-or-treating and used it to find his way home.
As always, Micah and I stayed up way too late several nights putting things together. The faun’s vest was a last minute addition that I thought would keep me up all night but ended up being shockingly simple (mostly because I “junk-sewed” it—no finished edges or ironing) and the perfect thing to finish the costume.
And as always, it was gratifying to hear people on our trick-or-treating route talk about how cool the “horned family” was.
Well played, Mr. Heiselt. Well played.
I wrote more about our Halloween costuming endeavors for Babble, just because I wanted to do something light and fun.