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Year: 2015

simon rides to school

simon rides to school

Several weeks ago as Micah was taking the boys to school, they ran into a friend from Simon’s class who was also biking to school with his mom and sister. Only he was on his own bike. Simon’s eyes got wide and he said, “Can I do that?” (His friend only lives 2-3 miles from the school, compared with 5 for us.)

Well, we knew he probably could. He can ride 5 miles pretty easily, as he did it many times over the summer while I ran around the park. The bigger question was how long would it take? Because he is young enough to ride on the sidewalk still (and will be for several years) we weren’t too worried about traffic. We thought that the weather would make it a moot point until spring, and that then the baby would make it equally difficult/impractical for him to ride to school (or, more accurately, home from school since I won’t be able to take the baby on the bike until he is a year old). But since got up to nearly 70 degrees this week, we let him make a test run.

He and Micah headed out Saturday afternoon while I took Oliver and Elsa on a bike ride/run around the block. About an hour later Micah let me know that they made it safe and sound and were getting a celebratory slice of pizza. It took Simon about 50 minutes to ride, which is about the same amount of time it takes on the train, but it’s $2.75 cheaper.

I don’t know if it’s something we’ll really be able to do this winter . . . or any time soon, really, but it’s good to know he can. Because as much as I love the idea of putting 4 kids on the bike . . . I don’t really love the idea of pedaling up the bridge with 4 kids on the bike.

So thanks, Simon, for that.

scenes from the season 2015

scenes from the season 2015

Best Christmas Ever. Maybe it’s because it’s been unseasonably warm. Maybe it’s because we’re getting into our groove. Maybe it’s because we really worked to make giving fun. But whatever it was, this Christmas was . . . really great. Which is not to say we didn’t have our stressful moments, our late nights, our plans gone wrong and the like, but in the end it all came together like a perfect performance after some worrying dress rehearsals.

We tried to give the kids some extra opportunities to be involved in giving, which was where things mostly went wrong. Or if not wrong, at least not smoothly. After school one day I took them up to the main post office on 8th Ave and 31st. (“This doesn’t look like a post office! It looks more like the White House!” Simon said.) We signed up to participate in Operation Santa, where the post office lets you read some “undeliverable mail” to Santa and then pick one or two or ten letters to respond to—meaning purchase gifts and have them delivered. We read 10 letters, some of which were written by parents, some by kids, and settled on one from a 5-year-old who wanted a blue bike with training wheels. We thought it would be easy to just get one gift and we could have it taken care of in one night. Not so. We ended up having to order a bike from a store, and by the time it got delivered to them, it was Dec. 23rd. So Merry Christmas to that little boy . . . next week. But we’re hoping the kids benefitted from it anyway.

Our other big endeavor was to have the kids make gifts for each other. We brainstormed at the beginning of December, but didn’t get around to helping them make the gifts until . . . Dec. 23rd. But they worked hard, Micah and I helped out, and the kids were both really proud of how they turned out and really excited to see their siblings open their gifts. So that was a win.

The last experiment we tried was an idea stolen from a friend: do something for someone else Christmas morning, before opening gifts. We decided to take some scones over to the local firehouse. The kids helped make the scones the day before and we baked them up Christmas morning. I was surprised that there was no griping about having to wait to open gifts or to get all dressed to go out. And, in fact, we sang Christmas carols during the 10 minute walk over there. But then . . . no one was there. The truck and all the firefighters were gone. We stepped back to try to figure out what to do and just then the truck came around the corner and pulled into the firehouse. Christmas miracle. We gave the very tired looking firefighters the goods and wished them a Merry Christmas and sang carols all the way home.

I don’t know if that little activity had anything to do with it, but I like to think that maybe doing something for someone else primed the kids to be a little less focused on themselves through the gift-opening portion of the day. Micah and I had thought about which gifts might be the ones to cause tears of jealousy and cries of unfairness, but it wasn’t until we were getting dinner ready that we realized that there had been no tears at all. Everyone was happy. Even at the end, when Simon still had 3 gifts to open and the other two had none, they were all just excited for him to open them and see what he got. Three cheers for that.

We hope your Christmas was half as good, because if it was, it was undoubtedly a very Merry Christmas indeed.

the end of the quilts

the end of the quilts

A few weeks of sporadic work and suddenly Elsa’s quilt is finished. I am too close to the situation to know if I really like it or not, but she does and that is what matters, right? Now she just needs a bed big enough to put it on. (I think that might happen in the next year or so with the big bedroom remodel we have planned . . . picture lofted beds everywhere!)

I would have thought that by quilt #3 I would feel like I was slightly more than amateur at this, and that the quality would have improved significantly. I would have been wrong. The only thing that I feel I got better at was the binding, which is something, I guess. Though maybe the problem was that I tried 3 different quilting techniques (stitching in the ditch, straight lines, and wavy lines) and while they all worked, the one I was most pleased with was the straight lines, which was on Oliver’s quilt. Maybe next quilt I will actually follow a real-live pattern rather than just looking at a finished quilt and pretending I know what I’m doing . . .  .

So for those who are wondering my step by step process it was something like this:

Step 1: Spend 2 months pondering possible patterns. Then realize that I’ve actually never done this before and pick something simple and straightforward.

Step 2: Take Micah or a friend fabric shopping. If not for their expert eye and decisiveness, I would have spent the next 2 months pondering possible fabric combinations.

Step 3: Buy a new rotary blade and realize that I can cut an entire quilt worth of fabric in less time than it takes me to watch 2 episodes of Gilmore Girls, which is both encouraging and slightly disappointing since I would have loved an excuse to watch Gilmore Girls all day.

Step 4: Binge-listen to podcasts as I sat at my machine sewing quilt blocks together. It would have been more Gilmore Girls, but the machine was too loud and I needed my earbuds in.

Step 5: Move all the furniture in our living room . . . which, come to think of it, is only a couch . . . so I can lay out all the quilt blocks and pretend to “arrange” them so they look good. Take a photo and then stack the blocks in rows so I can remember what it is supposed to look like.

Step 6: Put the earbuds back in and stitch all the blocks into rows.

Step 7: Layout the rows and see all the places where my arranging was not as good as I had hoped. Rearrange again.

Step 8: Sew all the rows together. Congrats,the quilt top is done.

Step 9: Take the backing material, cut it in half, spend far too long trying to make the two edges match up so it looks like one big piece, sew it together, and realize that it hardly matters anyway.

Step 10: Make the quilt sandwich: backing, batting quilt top on top. Enlist husband and children to help pull each layer tight. Use a million safety pins to pin the layers together. Turn it over and see how many wrinkles are in the quilt back. Ignore them.

Step 11: Quilt. Marvel at how often the bobbin runs out, and at how long it takes me to realize the bobbin has run out.

Step 12: Clip a million threads, cut the batting and backing to be the same size as the top.

Step 13: Bind. Turn a blind eye to the many places the stitching overlaps on the front of the binding, rationalizing that the 8- or 6- or 3-year-old isn’t going to notice or care.

Step 14: Write a little note to the quilt’s new owner telling them that this thing is full of meaning and significance, then notice how, now that there is nothing to anticipate, there is nothing special about it any more.

halloween 2015: we’re so bugged

halloween 2015: we’re so bugged

This is how we do Halloween: someone picks a costume idea. Everyone else comes up with something related. That’s how we got our magical act 2 years ago and the mythical creatures from last year. And this year it was Oliver’s fascination with pillbugs that brought us to where we ended up on Halloween this year—a place with lots of extra legs.

Once again, Micah worked magic with found resources (for the most part—though we did “splurge” on the lights for our firefly) and we were all bugged out and ready to go by 5:00 on Halloween night. Well, everyone except Micah. We decided that since he was the bug master, he was probably an entomologist, and we all know that entomologists look just like everyone else.

But the bugs pretty much killed it on the streets of Brooklyn this year. The pillbug was an especial favorite of many passersby, though I will say that it was super handy to have a firefly leading the way—”Follow Simon’s light!” And the ladybug was quite the lady as well, practically yelling her thanks to everyone who put a candy in her bucket. She also pulled each candy back out of her bucket to show her parents what she had been given for probably the first dozen or so houses. Adorbs.

Oliver said that if we got enough candy to fill up the big jar, we should celebrate by each eating a piece. Boy after my own heart. I’m happy to report we made the goal—and we are looking forward to later this week (when we’re slightly less sugared-out) to make our annual Halloween stash milkshake. (Sometimes, and I just have to say it, I think we have the best traditions.)

oliver knows what he likes

oliver knows what he likes

It started with our hike up to Elephant Rock when we were in Utah last summer. I think we may have noticed pillbugs before then, but it was during the hike that Oliver decided that pillbugs were his thing. He picked up so so many, and counted as many as he could. (His efforts were somewhat thwarted by the enormous colony we found near a fallen tree at a bend in the trail.)

And while it’s not like he’s constantly talking about pillbugs, they’ve clearly been on his mind. I know this because 1. He requested a bug theme for his birthday this year. 2. (SPOILER ALERT!) He requested a pillbug costume for an upcoming holiday. 3. He requested rainbow pillbugs on top of his cake, along with crushed up cookies to look like dirt. He had a very clear vision here. I even asked if he’d like a roll-cake, to look like a log, but that was a no-go. It must be a two-layer round cake.

The birthday child’s wish is my command, of course, so I spent a bit of time on Wednesday cutting up starburst and rolling them into rainbow colored pillbugs. I crushed up some joe-joes in a bag (Simon later reminded me that it looks a lot more like dirt if you put them in the blender . . . .) and we made ourselves a dirt-and-pillbug covered birthday cake. Delish.

I don’t always/ever know what goes on in that kid’s head, but it’s fun to get a glimpse every now and then.

Oh, and another fun fact about dear sweet Oliver: he likes girls. And only girls. When I asked who he wanted to invite to his birthday party, he gave me a list of names that I was pretty sure were all girls. So I asked him, and he confirmed my suspicion. No boys. And when I asked if he wanted to invite any boys, he didn’t even have to think about it: NO. In fact, he has, on more than one occasion let me know that he doesn’t really care to play with boys. And that is how we ended up with nearly a dozen little girls at our bug birthday party. (Even the siblings of the girls who were invited were all girls—except for the 2-week-old newborn boy.)

Note about the party: several parents stuck around for the festivities and having a party at home seemed to be a bit of a revelation to them. They were impressed by how fun the party games were (some of which we made up on the spot—actually, Simon took charge and made up a game when the original plan suddenly seemed like a very bad idea) and by how “homey” it all felt. We take great pains to resist the urge to keep up with the Joneses here in NYC, and it was nice to hear that our efforts have some redeeming qualities.

rock’n’roll’n’run’n’stuff

rock’n’roll’n’run’n’stuff

It’s always fun to have a race to run and to have an excuse to not try very hard. At the very least, it means I don’t stress so much about the result. Sure, I put in the training, but I’m actually not too concerned about my performance.* That doesn’t happen to me very often, but it did happen this past weekend, when Micah and I ran the Rock and Roll Half Marathon.

The start line was just a few blocks from our house, and because we didn’t need to stress about travel or anything, we may have been a little cavalier in our approach to the half marathon. After all, it was mostly through our home turf. Nothing new to be discovered. I’m not sure we would have been so relaxed if we’d realized how long the line to get through security would be . . . but we made it through, and made it to the start line just as the race was scheduled to begin . . . and then stood and waited nearly half an hour before the race actually did begin.

But it did start, and we were off. I was fully intending to take it easy, not push myself too hard, blah blah blah, but Micah decided to run with me. He claimed he would let me set the pace, but I was mostly trying to keep up with him the whole race. (His defense: “Well, you kept staying up with me.”) But I felt good. Better than I had felt during most of my training runs. So I let it be. We kept a pretty brisk pace up until mile 9, which is when I spoke a bit more firmly to Micah and suggested we take it down a notch.

Now, I’m not sure we actually intended to do that, but here’s the thing: we ran nearly the whole race next to a Macho Man impersonator. Cowboy hat, star glasses, short shorts, gruff voice, demanding a Slim Jim at all the aid stations . . . the whole bit. And we enjoyed every step of it. So I’m not sure we really intentionally slowed down, or if at that point we were just trying to match Macho Man’s pace. We finished just behind him and thanked him profusely for making the race much more enjoyable than it could have been (especially considering THERE WERE NO BANDS along the course—which I thought was the Rock and Roll franchises thing?).

We came in at 1:43. This is several minutes off our best half. But it was not as slow as the half we ran in 20 degree weather back in January 2014. It was quicker than I intended, and yet not so quick that I felt that I was being stupid. So I guess we could say that it was a win all around. At least for me. I can’t speak for Micah who seemed to have plenty left in the tank at the end and who is lucky I didn’t clock him on the walk home as he was talking about what a short course that seemed like for 13.1 miles, and didn’t it go by fast . . . ? (I’m certainly glad he pulled me along, as he always does, but I would like to see what he can do without me trying to keep up.)

 

*my excuse for not trying too hard is that I am pregnant. I’m currently about 4 months or 18 weeks along—and still feeling sick and tired most of the time.

growing some runners

growing some runners

A couple of days before this year’s Miles for Midwives 5K, Oliver suggested that maybe he run home from school the next day. You know, to practice for the race. He and Simon had committed to running it a few weeks earlier and it is true that although we signed them up, we did nothing else to prepare them to run the race.

But they did it anyway. Simon decided that this year (his 2nd year running the race), he wanted to run the whole thing. No walk breaks. And Oliver just wanted to finish. Micah and I went back and forth on who would actually compete this year, and who would push the stroller, but in the end we decided to focus on the boys. Micah paced Simon to the finish, and I ran with Oliver and Elsa (who cheered us on from the stroller).

It was a cold morning, but we were very grateful that it wasn’t raining like it was last year. We dressed the kids as warmly as we dared and let Elsa take half her stuffed animal collection to appease her for not getting to run with everyone else.

Simon and Micah ran a very steady, conversational pace and managed to achieve the goal of running the whole thing. Simon also cut a several minutes off his previous 5K time and PR’ed at about 40 minutes. Oliver had some highlights too. He was more comfortable with the run/walk approach, and did really well with it for the first half of the race. He even ran the entire way up Devastation Pass. But soon after he made it to the top, he said one of his legs was hurting. He was limping a bit, and hardly able to walk, so I put him in the stroller. After about 3/4 of a mile, I kicked him out and he ran the last 1/2 mile or so on his own two legs. So mission accomplished on that front, too.

We’re obviously very proud of our little crew. And while I don’t think I’ll be letting Oliver run home from school any time soon (it’s 5 miles), I do think it may be worth making sure the boys have a chance to “practice” before next year’s race.

quilting

quilting

I’m making quilts for the kids. I just want to. I wanted to learn how to quilt, and in my mind I think that it is something the kids can watch me do and know that I love them. And then they will have something to take with them throughout their lives that will remind them of it. Really cute, I know.

Simon’s quilt came first. He’s the oldest, he’s been waiting the longest. And the perk of getting the first quilt is that . . . he gets the experiment. It’s fine. It looks good. If you don’t look too close. Or maybe if I don’t. But Simon doesn’t notice, and that’s what’s important.

And then I did Oliver’s. He had so much time to anticipate it, watching me make Simon’s. And he loved it. He especially liked the “bears” fabric. He loved it until . . . I brought home the fabric for Elsa’s quilt. And then he saw how many of the fabrics had animals on them. And then he realized that I don’t love him. Not a bit. There are no jellyfish in his quilt. No elephants. Not even any snails. The only animals were those stupid bears. 

So, so much for all the love I put into picking the pattern and the fabric and cutting and sewing and quilting and binding. So much for all that love.

Ha! But I am pretty good at damage control. And all this snafu cost me was the promise of a new pair of pajamas. Homemade. With jellyfish. And possibly elephants. Because nothing says love like jellyfish and elephants.

begin again

begin again

It seemed as though summer was both much longer than I expected and that it was over too soon. Or maybe once it actually was over, it seemed like it was over too soon. Retrospect is like that.

As always, we made a production of the first day of school. Everyone biked in for the festivities. Elsa even wore her best kitty clothes and a backpack for the occasion. We got there early, took pictures, and then . . . waited and waited and waited for things to get going.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Simon is a big kid now and didn’t have to wait in the courtyard for his teacher to come get him. So we said our goodbyes and watched him head up the ramp to find his classroom and his teacher by himself. As a 3rd grader he also wears a uniform now: polo shirt with logo, conservative colored pants that are not jeans.

But after we wished him luck with hugs and waves, we went to find Oliver’s class. Of course all the parents were there, so there were swarms of people. We said hi to the few parents we knew (there are only 4 or 5 kids from his kindergarten class in his new class) and chatted with a few newbies. And then we waited and waited and waited and waited. It just felt like all this build up to drop-off, and then . . . instead of the balloon popping dramatically, it just kind of slowly deflated. His teacher finally came out, and she needed to talk to each parent to discuss the dismissal procedure for the day (parent pickup? bus? after school program?) and we were among the last parents to be questioned. So it seemed like an age before we finally got to watch and wave as little Oliver in his bright orange shirt walked up the ramp with his classmates.

Elsa and I went home to have our own little school (the goal is to have her reading and writing a bit by the end of the year) and to make cookies, of course. Which we devoured with some milk when we got home, as we always do after the first day of school.

And then . . . the celebration was over and it is all work from here on out. :/

launched

launched

I launched my podcast this week. It was a close one. We almost delayed. But then we decided that it was our deadline, what we had was good, we could tinker forever or we could put it out in the world and learn from our audience and our mistakes.

Thankfully, we’ve had a really great response so far. Lots of people saying nice things, sharing the podcast, telling their friends.

 

Valerie, my co-host, and I did a last minute recording session on Tuesday night and Ryan, our audio-editing genius, stayed up late or woke up early or something to get us what turned out to be the final cut. We went back and forth for a little bit on whether or not it really was the final cut, and then we just did it.

I published it as I sat in our relatively quiet apartment (maybe the kids were playing in their bedroom?). There were no fireworks, no handshakes or hugs or backslapping congratulations. It was just me waiting for someone to notice what I’d done. But that takes a while when you are waiting for feedback about a 40 minute podcast. People have to find time to listen. Then they have to actually listen.

After about 2 hours, I got tired of waiting and texted my sisters so they could reassure me that efforts had not fallen on deaf ears. And then the feedback started trickling in. They loved it. Other people loved it. Everyone is excited to hear more.

And suddenly, Valerie and I are realizing how much we still have to do. Newsletter and social media and outreach and responding to our new fans. (If that is actually what they are.)

We are thrilled and excited and relieved . . . and working hard to keep it up.