Monday, February 1, 2016

I went to Paris...

This year's annual girls' trip took us to Paris.  Meema was on her way to Asia anyway, so she just made an extended layover in Paris and flew me over with her.  We were scheduled to fly out on Saturday, January 23rd, but that week, the weather reports became dire, and we changed our departure to Thursday the 21st.  I had a full week in Paris, and it just flew by.  I missed my husband and my babies, but they survived just fine without me, and things have returned to normal immediately upon my return.

My sister joined us as well, and the three of us had a wonderful time.  We share vacation priorities: 1) eat 2) shop.  It was the season of sales in Paris, so we scored many great deals- and hurray for the strong dollar!

Thursday the 21st:
Bright eyed and bushy tailed when we got on the plane, before I slept 0 minutes on our "overnight" flight
 Friday the 22nd we took naps and then went shopping in the afternoon/evening.  We got some great deals at the department store closest to the house, then went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant (don't we all want Italian when we go to Paris?) and drank wine.

Saturday the 23rd:
As the snow began at home, we walked the streets of Paris toward the Bon Marche department store.  We stopped for lunch at Avant Comptoir:
There was pork on the menu and as well as the wall. 
More wine! We are French, wine at lunch.
My sister and I walked home, and stopped for pictures on what was once the bridge with all the locks. No more locks.

 We had a quiet dinner at home, and as I was turning out the lights to go to bed, I noticed the view from our balcony:
 On Sunday we went to the market at Richard Le Noir- my mom's favorite Paris ritual.  We had to pace the market before buying anything, but then got cold and impatient and ended up buying some things willy-nilly, which was not the plan.  My feet were frozen (I had worn flats and we were on cold cement) so we had to rush home to defrost before going out again later.
Fish so fresh it doesn't smell fishy 

 I took a picture of this at a café:
Big warning that "smoking kills" on an empty pack of cigarettes. The French don't seem to care.
That night we had dinner at a restaurant on the Ile St Louis, and the city looked beautiful both coming and going.
The Seine, with Notre Dame in the background 
On the Ile, with an almost-full moon overhead

Elana and Mom by the Seine
 Monday was our one and only sunny day (although I can't really complain, the weather was mild and we were able to be outside comfortably the whole visit, aside from our market trip).
View from the apartment
Café time- more coffee! 
We went to see the special exhibits at the Pompidou Center- Wifred Lam and Anself Kiefer. The Kiefer exhibit was dreadfully dark and depressing. Both Elana and my mom came out the door saying, "Now there is someone who really needs therapy!"
At the top of the Pompidou Center

We left the Pompidou Center to have lunch- crepes!- and do some more shopping. I got watches for the boys that are on slap bands, they are in love with them and Asher said it is the best gift he ever got. Then Elana and I went back to the Pompidou to see some of their regular exhibits.  That night we hosted our cousins Charlotte and Henri and Henri's girlfriend for dinner.  Fanny doesn't speak English and I don't speak great French, but we made it work and had a great time.

On Tuesday we kind of wandered out and around.  We had a disastrous time trying to get lunch, we couldn't find a café or restaurant anywhere that had food we wanted to eat, and when we did find one, they had nowhere to seat us. We ended up at a mediocre and overpriced place where the waitress ignored us and it took over 30 minutes to get 2 salads (that included only uncooked ingredients). We became hysterical with hunger and impatience and were laughing, which surely made us even more unwelcome.  

At the end of the day, we went to the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, but their regular collection of art nouveau was closed, so that was depressing. Not a great visit in terms of culture, I have to say!  After the museum we walked through the Tuileries and up to the Louvre before finding a wine bar to rest our feet before dinner.
a panaromic I took of the Tuileries
Sunset from the apartment
 On Thursday, my last day in Paris, we visited the Jewish museum, and then went toward Montmartre to shop with cousin Charlotte.
Elana and Charlotte. After my mom spilled my latte all over Charlotte's new suede boots.
View uphill with Sacre Coeur in the distance
I was ultimately unsuccessful in my search for a "manteau," a winter coat that isn't puffy down and that might give me a more sophisticated look.  But we wandered a new neighborhood and enjoyed Charlotte's company.  We remarked on how many stores there are in Paris that sell a little of everything, none of it useful.  

I had my final dinner at Les Enfants Rouge, which got very hot and crowded. After we left I took this picture, and you can see the windows are all steamed up.
Friday morning I flew home by myself.  I had an obstacle-free journey and watched 3 movies on the plane, in addition to napping.  As soon as I got home, it was back to real life- I worked, went for a run, and we had dinner with friends.  It almost feels like it all never happened!  I can't wait to see where our next girls' trip takes us.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A special visit from Memere

Today Eric's mom left after a week-long visit.  Her visit was my Christmas present- when she was asking me what I wanted for Christmas, I told her I didn't want her to buy me anything, I don't need any more "stuff," but what I really wanted was her time and her organized brain to help me clean and organize my house.  She spent a week here and gave me a priceless Christmas present!

In her week here, she:

  • Painted our family room and kitchen (with Eric's help).  This included all our trim work and the 3 doors we had installed when our kitchen was renovated 2 years ago. For 2 years I had unpainted trim and doors and I just stopped noticing it.
  • Painted a wall of our living room.
  • Rearranged our living room and dining room furniture to be functional and more attractive.
  • Selected places to hang our art, and then hung some of it.
  • Went with me to Homegoods and made me choose a duvet cover and pillow to decorate my room. I haven't purchased or received a new duvet cover since Eric and I married almost 10 years ago.  I also bought a picture to hang in Charlotte's room, which hasn't had a single thing hung in there for the entirety of her life.  Then she hung the picture while I went to work.
  • Decorated the boys' room, including buying comforter and sheet sets. In the 3 years we have lived here, I have hung nothing on their walls. In the 18 months since they have been sleeping in their bunk bed, I never bought them a comforter.  Now they have a decorated room that looks and feels much more like home.
  • Organized Charlotte's and the boys' drawers; pulled the baby items I had been hiding in the back of the boys' closet out and made me deal with them.
  • Pulled all the random toiletries I had been piling in my bathroom out and made me sort them, then put the ones I kept back in the bathroom in an organized way.
  • Re-organized my pantry.
  • Moved our appliances in the kitchen so our counters look clearer and we have more usable counter space.
  • Hung blinds and valances.
  • Decluttered all our surfaces.
  • Did at least 7 loads of laundry.
  • Swept and vacuumed. Eric joked that our cleaning lady will have nothing to do when she comes on Tuesday!
  • Made lasagna while I worked all day.
  • Babysat the kids while Eric and I went out to dinner with friends.
I am willing to bet that she did more than that and that I'm leaving some things out, but I think that list gives a good idea of how helpful she was.  The week flew by (at least it did for me, she may have been counting the minutes to getting home and getting some rest) and we were all sad to see her go today.

There were tears when we dropped her at the airport, and tonight when I tucked Asher into bed he said, "Mommy, I want something." I said, "what do you want?" and he said, "I want Memere back."  The kids loved having all the time with and attention from Memere, and it made a difference to have another adult in the house.

Now that Memere is retired, I have many ideas as to how she can spend her time. I told her she has to come back again so we can have a trip just to play, with days in the city and seeing a show, a trip out to Lancaster, and leisure time.  I also suggested that they join us for the weekend when we go to DC to celebrate the boys' birthday.  It did make me wish that Eric's parents lived closer to us so that the kids could spend more time with them- it is hard when we are far away and it takes so long to get from one place to another.  

I got the best Christmas gift ever, and I am enjoying my clean, grown-up looking house. It is finally beginning to feel like a home, and not just a place where we are stashing our belongings.  We still have a few more things to do, but when the sun is shining again, I will take some pictures of her hard work and post them.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Benjamin


We are in the midst of a decorative overhaul here- courtesy of Eric's mom. She flew down from Maine and is spending the week helping me purge my collected garbage, clean, and decorate. Three years in this house and I haven't decorated anything at all, so sometime soon we will have a house that vaguely resembles a grown-up's, and not a college kid's.

This post, though, is about my sweet boy Benjamin.  I am just so impressed with him and his interest in trying new things, and adapting... while still being his out-to-lunch self.

This morning, he had a hard time getting ready for school- 10 minutes after I asked him to get dressed, he was sitting in his underwear, and when I asked him to GET DRESSED, he started to take his underwear off!  Then we were running late and I asked him to get on his coat and shoes- which he did, but forgot his backpack.  I was so out to lunch that I didn't even notice he didn't have it when I walked him to school, and he and I were both surprised when he came home from school without a backpack. What a pair we make!

Today Benjamin had his first day of basketball at the JCC.  Originally, Asher had asked to play basketball this winter.  As sign-up time near, Asher changed his mind- but Benjamin said he still wanted to do it.  So today I took Benjamin, by himself, to his first basketball class.  This is the 3rd class he has taken by himself after Asher pooped out. First it was gymnastics, then art, and now basketball. I love that he tries these things by himself, and enjoys them.

Benjamin is also an adventurous eater, and likes to try new and unfamiliar foods.  He likes all kinds of ethnic foods, and Eric and I both get a great deal of pleasure from watching him eat and enjoy food. I told Benjamin I would take him out for a Japanese lunch someday, which he was excited about. I am pretty sure that without his brother and sister's negative influence, he will try and like sushi.
A case of goofball-itis
Benjamin is our consistent and predictable child.  He is empathic and kind, sweet and silly.  He's not reading independently yet, but he loves being read to, and we have spent time together snuggled on the couch reading some good books.  Right now we are in the middle of "Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle" and yet another Magic Treehouse book.

Today I am feeling especially close to, and in love with, my sweet boy. I wanted to take time to write about it so that I will remember these special moments with him.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Christmas 2015

We are back from what felt like a very short visit to Maine for Christmas with Eric's family.  We left on Wednesday evening, the 23rd, and drove up from 6:30 pm until 1:30 am on Christmas Eve. Eric drove the whole way, carefully, in the pouring rain.  I made a big deal out of saying, "Don't wake me in the morning, I'm sleeping in until 10!" But when the clock hit 7:30, I was awake just like any other day.

We had lazy days where the kids stayed in pajamas and played with toys and watched TV. On Christmas Eve, I forced myself to go out and jog 4 miles, and then I came home and took a nap!  Christmas Eve evening we went to Eric's grandparents for dinner and a visit from Santa.
Me with Asher in an elf hat
The kids were pretty excited to see Santa and see what presents he had brought.   Asher had drawn him a picture of Asher and Santa, which he was eager to give.


Charlotte gave Santa a hug

 My sweet children consumed endless amounts of candy while refusing all nutritious food.  And of course we let them eat it.  Then we went home for a late bedtime and to wait for Santa's big visit.

On Christmas morning, the kids opened their stockings and the gifts from Eric's grandparents.  They each got a Beanie baby which they loved, and carted around from that moment on. Asher got a cat named "Freckles," Benjamin a panda named "Bamboo," and Charlotte a cat that she calls "Becca Kitty," but also calls a "he." I am both honored to be her toy's namesake and worried that she thinks I am a boy.
Look of excitement over the Beanie baby 

Mommy, Benjamin, Bamboo
We then cooked a big breakfast, and then the kids played some more. Eventually we made it out to a playground, because it was almost 60 degrees and sunny. On Christmas Day. In Maine. So there we were, playing outside at the playground with no coats on!

 After that, the kids took good naps to get ready for their cousins' arrival that night.  When they came over, we had a big dinner and then opened the gifts Eric's parents had bought. Each kid had 7 wrapped gifts, and they opened them one at a time and we all took a moment to see what people were opening.  My poor mother-in-law has 9 grandchildren she buys for!

Eric's brother and his wife have 6 kids, the youngest is just 1 month old.  I got the special treat of holding her- and I can tell you that my desire to have another baby has not gone away. In the moments where I want to sit on my kids just to make them do what I want, I think maybe another wouldn't be such a great idea. But holding a tiny, warm newborn baby against my chest and listening to her breathe... I want my own!

At the end of gift opening, one of our nephews got sick and vomited. I did not keep my cool. I am a total vomit-phobe and the idea of my kids getting a stomach bug makes me completely anxious. Beyond anxious. Charlotte was between my nephew and the door and I yelled, "Charlotte! Get out of the way!" and definitely sent her into a panic. Not cool, Mom, not cool.  Then my niece Myah told me that she had been throwing up that morning. Oh, great!  Fortunately we are now 72 hours out from the vomit incident with no problems here, so I am hoping we escaped.

The next day I needed to get out of the house. Eric and his dad planned a woodworking project (new and improved organization coming soon!), so I was on my own. The kids were tired and a little nuts, and I took them to the children's museum in Dover, NH. It is a great little museum, and the kids were at just the right age for a lot of the exhibits and play. We played for a couple of hours, and then went out to lunch, and then came back.
Charlotte driving the submarine 
Benjamin talking on the phone in the pretend post office
We had visited the museum once before, in August 2013, and I took this picture of Charlotte:
Charlotte, 8 months old
On this visit, I took this picture:
She is holding up 3 fingers on each hand because she is now 3 years old
My BABY! She is so big! My mom also commented that we thought she was a cutie then, but now she is even more beautiful.

We went to lunch at a pizza place up the street, it was delicious and we were all starving.
Watching the men make pizza
A man watched me take the above picture and then commented, "Now you have photographic evidence that you are super mom!" I don't think of my taking my 3 kids out as such a feat, but maybe not all parents do it. After more play, we went back to Eric's parents' and tried more naps.  Charlotte was a total pain and managed to keep Benjamin from napping, so they dragged around like zombies the rest of the day.

Eric and his dad went to see Star Wars that night, so I thought the no-naps would work in my favor in getting Charlotte and Benjamin to sleep.  No such luck. Charlotte continued to be a total pain and kept getting out of her pack n play to jump on her brothers in bed. At 9:10, when she was still up, I decided to move her pack n play into the closet that is off of the bedroom Eric and I share (she has slept in there previous visits but had said she wanted to be with her brothers this time). She acted like she had won the lottery, smiling and giggling. As I set up her pack n play in the closet with a refrigerator and shelves full of my mother-in-law's appliances, she clasped her hands and said, "Oooh, I LOVE it! It's SO booot-iful in here!"  Oh my god. That girl. In the meantime, her brothers were happily hauling her crap (blankets, pillow, stuffed animals) into the closet, thrilled to be rid of her. After that, everyone went to sleep, and Pat and I were able to finish watching "Coming to America" in peace.

On Sunday we went up to Freeport to visit my cousins, who took us to their Y, where we went candle-pin bowling and swimming. What a treat! Charlotte ended up getting a pretty good score, even though she could barely throw the ball down the alley and it would just kind of drift.  Then we spent an hour swimming in the warm, indoor pool- such a treat for a cold and rainy day in December!
Asher keeping score
After our busy morning, all of the kids did nap. On Sunday evening we celebrated Charlotte and Chandler's birthdays (Chandler is 1 year and 6 days younger than Charlotte) with pizza and cupcakes. There were more gifts for Charlotte- the little pumpkin is spoiled!
On Monday we went out to breakfast with Eric's parents, and then we had planned to go volunteer at the nursing home in town, but the kids were not in great shape, and Eric was eager to get home.  So off we went, and spent all day in the car.  We got home in time for dinner, where my parents and Jane and Ed met us with a big dinner.

We've now spent all week ignoring our usual schedule and semi-healthy eating habits.  I went to work on Tuesday and enjoyed the break!  Last night we hosted New Years Eve, which was lovely. And the New Year deserves its own post, but this year we had a very merry and joyful Christmas. I don't know how the kids will wait another year for it to come again.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Charlotte Eve: THREE years old!

School picture, cropped to avoid showing her underwear!
Happy 3rd birthday to my joy, my sweetness, my only baby girl!  She is THREE!  I spent some time reminiscing with her about the day she was born, and showed her some pictures of her right after her arrival- I am not sure she has really put it together that it's her.  But it feels like just yesterday, and it is still hard to believe that I will never have another baby.

Today we went to the pediatrician for her 3 year well visit.  She is measuring:
33.6 lbs (75th percentile)
37.5" (about 50th percentile)
The doctor seemed to think that her height was off, since her last height was taken lying down and this height was taken standing.  I'm inclined to agree, since things have definitely gotten shorter on her in the past few months, and she looks thinner to me than she did before.  The doctor said she is perfect, healthy, and thriving.
Birthday girl wore her birthday suit to birthday breakfast
Cupcake at school

My Charlotte continues to be precocious, funny, silly, and sweet.  She has started to call me "Mama" sometimes, which I just love.  She knows her alphabet and recognizes many of the letters. She can count to about 13 and can sometimes count accurately (sometimes things get counted twice, sometimes not at all...).  She knows almost every song she has heard and sings them to me.  The other day we were in the car and Drake's "Hotline Bling" came on the radio and it started, "you used to call me on my..." and she piped up from the back seat: "Cell phone!"
Paw Patrol shirt, Hello Kitty necklace, fairy wings, wand.
She takes dance once a week, and always looks forward to it.  She doesn't dance or sing on command (what 3 year old does), but she is adorable when you catch her doing it.  She loves her kitty cats, and continues to "adopt" more and more cats to sleep with at night.  Charlotte keeps Black-and-white Kitty and White Kitty with her all the time, and now "Charlotte Kitty" (an orange cat she got for Hanukkah) has to come in bed at night, too.  She sucks her thumb when she is in bed, or tired, or feeling shy.  Her love of cats extends to books- she loves the book "Naughty Kitty," and when I had to return it to the library, I bought Charlotte her own copy.  Then she loved the book "Kitten for a Day," which I also had to return to the library.  She loves to watch TV- too much.  She gets obsessed with shoes and will watch them endlessly, and beg me to watch TV "just for a little bit!" We use the TV to bribe, but there are often tantrums when the TV goes off.

Oh, the tantrums.  Charlotte could be worse; she is definitely able to be redirected, or at times amenable if she's given a choice of one thing or another.  But she is definitely strong-willed and opinionated.  I do admire that in her- I don't want a pushover for a daughter.  She is lucky, because she is cute, and people often give her what she wants without a fight.
A rainbow heart cake, at Charlotte's request
My baby who once ate everything I handed her is now picky- she falls somewhere between Benjamin and Asher in pickiness.  She really dislikes most meat, or says she does- she avoids it on her plate, but if we convince her to take a bite she then says, "Yummy!"  She eats eggs, pancakes, French toast, waffles, oatmeal, and cold cereal for breakfast.  She loves fruits and will often ask for fruit for snack or in her lunch.  She loves yogurt, all kinds of cheeses, crackers and pretzels, and hummus.  For lunch she generally prefers a collection of snack foods to a real meal.  And at dinner- pasta, pasta, pasta!  She also likes mashed potatoes, many vegetables, fish sticks, hot dogs, dumplings, and meatballs.  She is easily distracted and will hop up from the table if one of her brothers gets up first, even if she isn't done eating.  And like Asher, she has a great sweet tooth, and loves cookies.

Charlotte is agile, and fast. She runs with great coordination- and loves to race. Every time we want her to do something she seems reluctant to do (go to the potty when she hasn't gone in a while), we tell her we will race her and we will win! Then she gets going. But if we get too far ahead and make it impossible for her to "win," she will throw herself down on the floor and scream, which is the opposite of what we were hoping to achieve.

She has recently started to fight about nap and protest her nap time.  She still really needs her nap, and is a total crab without it, so I'm not eager to have her stop, but fighting her on it is pretty painful.  She sleeps well at nighttime, thank goodness, but I need that break from kids in the afternoon!  Asher still naps predictably, and he is almost 6!

We had a birthday party for her yesterday, which was not the success I had hoped, but I don't want to go into the painful details here. Charlotte said she had fun, which is what I do hope for in the end.  Here are some pictures:



I love my girl, I have loved having another year of fun and happiness with her.  She is sweet and delicious, and I cannot get enough of her. I am excited for what this coming year will hold, and so proud of her.  She is a joy to be around, a charismatic and lovable girl, to whom everyone is drawn.  She is three, and I still cannot believe how lucky I am to have her in my life.  She is the perfect last child, the final piece to the puzzle that makes our family.