Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Well, that's over

There was shopping, baking, wrapping, snow, partying, and playing.  The week before Christmas, I went across the street to a friends' Wrapping Party, which is a fun way to get some wrapping done.  I made cookies for a cookie swap at work, and then took the assorted cookies to the Clapps' Christmas Eve party.  We made a Gingerbread house that didn't turn out too great, but the cookies tasted good.  We opened presents at home on Xmas morning, and then drove to Maine for the day, where we ate a big lunch and opened more presents.  The next 3 days we spent hanging around, relaxing, and playing with our new toys.  The Hyperdash game is fun, and Troy likes the spelling game "What's Gnu".  Teddy likes his CD player and his sock monkey.  They both look super cute in their new PJs and white, fluffy robes.  

But Troy said it best: "the best thing about Christmas isn't the presents; the best thing is spending time with my family!"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Photo of the Day



FIRST SNOW, DECEMBER 2008

Oma's Story

My  mother is now mostly known as Oma, the German word for Grandma.  Here is a bit of her story.  I hope there will be more to come.

Oma was born in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1941, the youngest of three children. I get the sense that she admired her older brother and sister, but also that she enjoyed the indulgent attention she received as the baby of the family. At a time when little German girls wore knee socks and flowered dresses with matching aprons, Oma preferred Lederhosen. She exasperated her mother by balancing on the high wall that separated their courtyard from the schoolyard next door, and shocked her aunts by whistling "like a boy."

Heidelberg is an ancient city built of red sandstone nestled in the crook where the vast, flat stretches of the Rhine River valley meet the thickly forested hills of the Odenwald. Roads that were first cleared by the Romans are still in use today, and a medieval stone castle stands on the side of a hill overlooking the city (photo). The house where Oma grew up, on the Fahrtgasse, was a stone building on a narrow street in the center of the town (kind of like this one).  Ingrid's father, Paul, was a cobbler, and his shop was on the ground floor, facing the street. A sally-port led to the small courtyard in the back of the shop, surrounded on three sides by houses and on the fourth by the wall of the schoolyard next door.  A staircase led from the courtyard with its small, raised garden area, to the second floor apartment.  The residents had to leave the apartment and cross an exterior balcony to reach the tiny bathroom with its pull-chain, raised-tank toilet.

It's fitting, in a way, that the house on the Fahrtgasse was eventually torn down to make way for a municipal swimming pool because water and swimming weave through the story of Oma's childhood.  In those days, the Neckar river, which cuts a sharp valley through the Odenwald and also cuts through the city of Heidelberg, was an integral part of life in the city, a major conduit of commerce and a source of livelihood, recreation, and danger -- the high-water marks of the Neckar are still visible on the oldest buildings.  As a child, Oma followed the older children down the street to swim in the Neckar.  Her older brother, Klaus, would swim with her on his back.  When she was five, she swam across the Neckar by herself the first time.  The Neckar is as wide as a football field is long, and deep and swift enough to carry barges laden with timber.  Later, she joined in the games of daring the children played: grabbing the side of a low-lying barge to get towed upstream, swimming under a barge, underwater from one side to the other, or climbing over the high railing of the bridge to jump the 20 feet or so into the river. 

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

Monday, December 8, 2008

First snow

The boys went to get a tree on Saturday.  I was hesitating to put it up, because our living room is so small.  Now that it's up, it looks nice a cozy, though.  


We woke up on Sunday morning to the first snow fall.  It was the really pretty kind that sticks to all the branches of the trees.  Annakin and Luke put on their boots and coats over their pajamas and went outside to play (it was just after 7 in the morning).  I stood in the doorway in my slippers and shushed them when they got too loud so they wouldn't wake the neighbors.  Then we had hot chocolate and Lebkuchen for breakfast.  It fun to spoil them sometimes!




Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thanksgiving

How was your Thanksgiving?  Ours was pleasant and relaxing -- definitely the effect of going to someone else's house for the holiday.  Some people say Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday, and I can understand that.  It hides in the shadow of its splendidly shining older siblings, Christmas and Hanukkah, just as warm if not as glamorous.  It has the good food, but without the shopping, consumerism and stress.  
For the past several years, we have been invited to my sister, K's.  For those of you who don't know us in real life (IRL), my sister and I married two brothers.  I highly recommend marrying your sister's husband's brother, for a couple of reasons: first, when you complain about your in-laws to your sister, she REALLY can sympathize.  JUST KIDDING, in-laws!!  Seriously, it's great to go to my sister's for Thanksgiving and have my husband's family there.  Even better is spending Christmas with my husband's family, and having my sister there, too.  

So, as has become the tradition, we picked up C's sister, Samantha, and drove down to K and J's.  The drive is always more fun with Sammy Jo along.  I'll be disappointed if she ever makes good on the threat to get a driver's license.  When we arrived, around noon, Annakin and Luke disappeared with their four cousins, and reappeared only occasionally (*big, relaxed sigh*). Grampa and Tracy arrived a little while later, in time to break open the wine and help prepare the meal.  We had a late lunch, with all the trimmings (other than Samantha's Tofurkey, accidentally left home alone).  Then, Samantha and I took most of the kids and three of the dogs for a walk to the beach.

We got back in time for dessert in front of the fireplace. C made his sought-after chocolate chip cookies from his secret recipe (here's a hint: it's on the back of the chocolate chip bag), and K made a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie.  Completely stuffed, we put the boys in their pjs, and headed back home. I always regret having to leave, but it sure feels good to collapse into my own bed to sleep!

I hope you all enjoyed good company and good food, too.  Love always.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Regrets

I have a confession:  I got a puppy from a pet store. No, not recently (I just gave everyone in my family a heart attack -- sorry). It was 1992, and I was young and stupid. I dragged C into a pet store with me after an afternoon at the mall, "just to look," and I fell in love with a Boston Terrier puppy. We left that evening, but after hours of badgering, C gave in and agreed to getting the puppy.  We went back the next day. It was November 1st, a beautiful fall New England day. I was wearing a multi-colored, plaid, wool shirt from the Gap. We walked home from the pet store, and when we got to the bridge, I carried Max in the crook of my arm.

I never regretted getting Max (as you can probably tell from the fact that I remember everything about that day, including what I was wearing).  I do, however, regret giving money to the pet store industry.  Pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills that crank out dogs like sausages, and treat the "breeders" like machines -- think chicken farm with dogs piled in cages instead of birds. Then, the pet stores keep the puppies isolated in cages during their critical socialization period, teaching them to go to the bathroom where they sleep, and otherwise creating dogs that make poor family pets, while millions of healthy dogs are abandoned and euthanized at shelters every year.  

Max turned out to be a great dog, but we were lucky. Don't do what I did. If you're going to get a dog, go to the shelter or a reputable breeder.  Sorry for the preaching.  I guess I needed to get that off my chest.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Christmas in Germany


Every year around this time I start thinking about Christmas in Germany.  In Germany, our Christmas tree was always small, with short needles and plenty of space between the branches to hang the decorations.  Every year it was decorated with clear, glass balls that were tied to the branches with little bits of red ribbons. Most of the ornaments were stars woven out of stiff, gold-colored straw, or tiny wooden figures painted with glossy paint.  My favorites, though were the tiny angels made out of a little wooden ball for a head and a ring of fluffy white feathers forming a gown.  There were strings of white lights, but on Christmas eve the sparkle was provided by dozens of little red candles clipped to the branches with pewter clips shaped like pinecones. 

The first weekend in December, Oma would bake an assortment of cookies -- sugar cookies cut into shapes and glazed with egg or sprinkled with powdered sugar, vanilla and chocolate spirals, meringues, almond cookies and (an addition picked up in the States) Pecan Tassies. Every sunday we would celebrate the Advent by lighting a candle and having "Kaffee und Kuchen," the German version of Tea.  

The weeks before Christmas also brought the Christmas Market to town.  Despite the cold and usually dreary weather, everyone would visit the old center of town to shop at the stalls selling handcrafts, knick knacks, and Lebkuchen, and to drink hot spiced wine.  

It became the tradition to have fondue for dinner on Christmas eve.  After dinner we would sing carols before finally diving into the pile of gifts, a happy confusion of searching for presents, ripping paper and exclamations of surprise and thanks.  

What a change when I first began spending Christmas with C's family.  There, the tree is as tall as the ceiling, plump and bushy.  It is covered with a layer of sparkling painted glass ornaments, tinsel, lights, and lovingly-preserved kids crafts.  Lights twinkle around the whole house, inside and out, lighting up Christmas pictures, dishes, towels and figures in every nook and cranny.  In the kitchen C's mom would be dressed in a Christmas sweater, wearing tiny, tinkling sleigh bells for earrings, cooking dinner or dessert.  Christmas eve, after the kids were in bed or gone home, would be spent drinking wine, decorating the tree and wrapping presents, late into the night.  

To the dismay of the little ones, this would delay breakfast and consequently the Opening of Presents in the morning.  No running down the stairs and ripping open presents, here.  First, everyone would assemble in the living room (not an easy feat in itself) and one person was designated "Santa" (usually C or his brother).  "Santa" would pick a gift from the mountain of presents bulging under the tree, read the tag ("To Gramma, from C") and hand the gift to the recipient.  Everyone watched the unwrapping, and when all admirations and thanks were expressed, the next gift was announced. As you can imagine, this process could take many hours, and the Opening of Presents often had to be interrupted for lunch, and sometimes even for dinner.  Sometimes, when the mountain of presents began to seem a little thin, Gramma or Grampa would disappear, only to return with more bags or "big presents", too big to be wrapped.  

Christmas with C's family was always fun, warm and comfortable, but I often missed my own family traditions.  At first, Christmas didn't seem quite right without the candles and the Christmas market and cookies.  I felt like I was missing something, but I didn't realize that I was gaining something, too.  I don't know when, exactly, but at some point, the H family tradition became my traditions, too.  Suddenly, I didn't want a Christmas without the "Santa" and the endless, one-at-a-time, unwrapping.  And yet, I still missed the German cookies and Advent wreaths and candles. 

It's only now, with two little boys to focus things, that I'm starting to let go of that It Has To Be The Way That It Always Was mentality.  Now I see that the meaningful things that we do are becoming our traditions -- baking a gingerbread house, cutting a tree, Christmas eve party at the Clapps, Christmas day in Maine.  I want to give the boys happy memories; I just hope they don't spend too much time trying to recreate The Way It Always Was someday.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Christina

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The First Joke, Ever

(First, an informational note: I'm tired of using T1 and T2 for the boys.  It seems so impersonal; plus it's awkward to always have to type numbers.   I still want to keep some anonymity on the 'web, though, so I'm going to go for Anakin and Luke, their favorite Star Wars characters instead.  OK?  OK.)

Anyway, Anakin made up his first real joke tonight.  Pippa was licking his face which he loves.  "She's a lick-er!"  he said, giggling.  Then, turning to me, he said,  "Maybe she went to the . . . Licker store!"  *silly grin*

(And no comments, please, about why the phrase "liquor store" is on the tip of my 5-year-old's tongue.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Coincidence? I think not

T2 went for his three-year check-up yesterday.  He was:

Three years and three months old;
Three feet and three inches tall; and 
Thirty-three pounds.

("Congratulations, it's a cube!")

Co-inky-dinky?  I don't know, but I feel like I should play all threes in the lottery . . .

Photo of the Day

Note to self: Pay a little more attention when furiously cleaning up kids' toys.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Visiting the Cousins

We had a fun weekend with H and A and the cousins.  T1, T2, and I jumped in the car Saturday and made the 3 hour drive.  T1 got car sick for the first time (just queasy, not actually sick) but felt better after a little stop.  Still made it by lunch time, plenty of time for playing and, when the rain cleared, a walk in the woods to a playground with the 5 kids and 3 dogs.  Then, great Fajitas by A, wine for the mommies, and a movie for the kids.  More playing in the morning, with lots of jumping on the trampoline, another attempt at a walk (little Xavier was tired, but too excited to sit still in the stroller).  After lunch, we headed home for a relaxing Sunday evening at home.  I actually played a board game with T1 and T2: Hi Ho Cherry-O.  Too bad these weekends can't last forever . . . 

Love,
Christina

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Six Things

Six Things My Dad Taught Me (see credits in prior post):

1.  Why the sky is blue.

2.  Why the leaves fall.

3.  A good night's sleep is essential preparation for anything.

4.  Don't take any wooden nickels.

5.  If you're not 5 minutes early, you're late.

6.  Follow the rules.

A faith in science, the ability to think logically, and the tools to succeed in life.  Thanks, Dad!  Plus, when Troy asked me why the sky is blue, I was actually able to explain it to him.  "You 'splained that real good, Dad!"

Love,

Christina

Six Things

(I stole this idea from Suburban Rage's Five Things.)

Six Things My Mother Taught Me:

1.  How to cook

2.  How to sew (my livelihood for a while)

3.  How to have a positive attitude

4.  If you're trying to save money, allow yourself to spend just a little; if you try to deny yourself completely, you're liable not to stick with it.  (Hence the little shopping trip today.)

5.  Eat real, good food in moderation.  (That's not a glaring grammatical error.  I mean food that is good and food that is "real", as in not highly processed.)  Someone wrote a whole book about this, but my mom knew it all along.

6.  Sometimes it's OK to break the rules, just a little bit.  (To be read in conjunction with Dad's Rule # 6, Follow The Rules).

Thanks, Mom!  These are the foundation of health, happiness, income, and a cute new jacket.

Love, Christina

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Photo of the day


My first "baby," Max, at about 11 years old, in October 2003. The perfect dog! (Sorry Pippa, you're energetic, fun, eager to please, and definitely irreplaceable, but there are big shoes to fill.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I am Placid

I've been practicing being placid the past couple of days.  Last night as I was on the train on the way home, our conductor Tom (remember, I ride the same train, same car, every night, so I know him) announced that there had been an accident in the Salem tunnel.  We were stopped in the middle of the marsh between Chelsea and Lynn, where we sat for about half an hour.  I listened to my ipod and worked on some writing ("Cool!  More time to work on a blog topic!") Eventually we pulled into Lynn station so we could get off the train and get on shuttle busses to Salem.  Hundreds of us stood outside for almost another half an hour, waiting for a bus. ("At least C is home with the kids, so I don't have to worry about hurrying home.  I'll let the others get on first.")  Finally, we piled onto a bus and started winding our way through Lynn, Swampscott, Salem and on to Beverly.  I listened to my ipod and looked out the window, enjoying seeing the roast beef joints and physical therapy storefronts of Lynn, comparing them to the quaint pubs and bakeries of Salem.  ("I haven't seen sights like this in a while.  I should come back and take some pictures!")

We finally got out at Beverly Depot, and walked over to an empty train parked there.  The conductor wasn't sure whether the train would be heading outbound (home), or inbound.  We stood around on the platform and waited . . .   No one seemed to know what was going on.  I called Kathleen and talked for a while . . .  No, this train would be heading inbound, we should go back to the other track to catch an outbound train.  We waited some more . . .  There was some rumbling in the crowd . . .  I called Heidi ("I got a chance to talk to my sisters without interruptions!") Finally, the outbound train arrived, and the conductors announced it was bound for Rockport.  Half of the waiting crowd yelled "Yay!" and climbed aboard.  The other half moaned, and kept on waiting (me included).

At this point it was three hours after I had left North Station on my normally-45-minute ride home.  Finally, another outbound train arrived.  I knew right away it was my train because . . . conductor Tom opened the door and stepped out!  This was the very same train I had debarked about  two hours earlier!! I sat back down in the very same seat I had been warming while in the marsh.  In the time it took for them to get everyone off the trains, into shuttle busses, through three towns and cooled off on the platform, they had cleared the tunnel and let the trains through.  Tom shook his head as we got on; I chuckled and sat down and looked out the window because: I was placid.

How could I be so placid?  One of the phone calls I made explains why.  Heidi and I decided that we kind of miss being bored.  With jobs and kids and pets and spouses and everything else, there is definitely no time to get bored.  "Remember when we used to get bored?"  She asked.  "Oh, yes! Wasn't it great?  Some day I want to be bored again.  Have enough time to do all the things I want to do, until I run out of stuff and get bored.  *sigh* I remember being bored."  She told me about her friend with two young kids who did a catering job recently.  They wanted someone to just stand behind the buffet table and keep an eye on it.  The other waitresses were confused why they would be asked to just stand there, but Heidi's friend happily volunteered -- just stand there and do nothing, talk to nobody? No deadline?  No runny noses or why's?  Ahhhh, thank you!  It's like a little vacation!  I'll pay you so I just stand here by myself kind of half-smiling!
These days, I actually relish the opportunity to be completely still.  No I-have-to's or I-really-should-be's.  Mind you, it was hard to let it all go, but once I did, I was . . . placid.

Keyboard broke

Can/'ty bloighl, kerypboiardf broiker.,  Watyer spilked oin/ it.,

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Weekend Over!


Halloween in the suburbs is basically a candy swap. C and the boys were gone for almost two hours, collecting candy, while I stayed home waiting for trick-or-treaters. Unfortunately, our street is pretty dark, and barely anyone came by, so we collected more candy than we gave out. We let the boys binge for a few minutes when they got home, and yesterday and today they actually didn't really ask for any candy.

T1's friend, Luke, and his mom stopped by, because they had been at a party nearby. He and Luke were so happy to see each other, we got together again on Saturday. We took Luke with us for a walk at Wingaersheek beach, and then they stayed for dinner. It was nice to have drop-in visitors like that, because I didn't have the stress of getting ready ahead of time.

Today I ran a few errands, and worked on the cushion covers I'm making for the wrought iron patio sofa. I know it seems weird to be working on them now, when we won't be able to use them until Spring, but I want to push myself to get them done, so they'll be ready when the weather gets nice (and I won't want to stay inside sewing any more). I also found some cool paper on sale at the craft store, and made T1 work on a project with me. I can't tell, because they may end up in some of your stockings!!

The boys are in bed now, but they had some super crankies there for a while -- sheesh! I wonder if it's the time change? Anyway, another weekend is over, and I didn't get a chance to call anyone. Hope you're all well. We miss you. Love,

Christina

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

I had a busy week at work, but was able to catch the early train home tonight.  Just us Friday afternoon commuters and a whole herd of ghouls, goblins, and witches on their way to Salem to go Trick-or-treating (yeah, right).  When I got home, we gobbled down a slice of pizza and got our own goblins ready.  They've been gone almost an hour already collecting candy, while our giant bowl of candy sits here with not one visitor (we're going to have so much candy).

I don't have the photos of their costumes, yet (the battery in the camera died), but in the spirit of Halloween, here are some of my face-painting masterpieces.

(By the way, this post (here) made me laugh so hard, by eyes were watering.  Warning, it's gross-funny.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Too much time alone with my thoughts today

I had to drive to Worcester and back for a deposition today.  Driving long distances in the car is always good for thinking deep thoughts.  I had two today:

1.  Is the smiley face is going to become the first new punctuation mark since the Middle Ages?  On the one hand, it conveys something that the other punctuation marks can't (like, I'm being ironic, or trying to be funny).  On the other hand, if I need to use a smiley face to tell the person I'm writing to that he or she shouldn't take what I just said seriously, I'd rather say it better so it's clear, or not say it at all.  I'm reminded that in primate body language (that includes human body language), the baring of teeth (smiling) can be a sign of submission: "I'm not a threat to you". Does it mean something that few if any men use smiley faces in their writing? :)

2.  Is "strategery" is going to insinuate itself into American English? I heard two people use the word in conversation this week.  They prefaced it with something like, "As George Bush would say, 'strategery' . . ."  But it's a catchy word ("strategery"), and if people keep saying that, it's going to become like "The Three R's", or "ginormous", words/phrases that people use as a joke so often that they go beyond cliche and start to actually mean something.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Magic Words

I started reading Harry Potter to T1.  I'm so happy -- I love Dr. Seuss, but it's hard to maintain your enthusiasm the 793rd time reading it.  Troy seems to like it, and it made for a funny exchange this morning:

C: (to me) I think T1 likes Harry Potter; he made a wand and he's been walking around all morning saying that spell you were reading about last night.

C: (to T1) (who was in the bathroom) Troy, what's that spell you've been saying?

T1: What?

C: What is that magic spell?

T1: What?

C: What are the magic words?!

T2 (chimes in from the bathroom, in his high-pitched voice): "Thank you!"

(Please note that T2 was in the same half-bath as T1, for some unexplained reason, other than he seems to be tethered to his big brother these days.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Photo of the Day

This was Angel, the Boxer we adopted last year. Unfortunately, her seizures (which we knew she had when we adopted her) became worse shortly after we got her, and she only lived for a few months.  She was a sweet dog, and the boys adored her.  I was hopeful that we could give her a nice life for the last years of her life.  Even though it only turned out to be a few months, I'm think she enjoyed it while she was here . . .

We got her from a great rescue group, called Second Chance Boxer Rescue (here).

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Some silliness, loosely based on history

I first met my husband's family 17 years ago.  They were suspicious of me at first, I just know it. Or maybe I was just nervous and self-conscious about meeting my boyfriend's family.  Would they like me?  Would they accept me into the family?  When I met my husband's older sister and her kids Amber and Noah, though, I knew my acceptance was sealed, because . . . Amber and I had the SAME FAVORITES!

Amber is in her 20's now and cute as the VW bug she drives.  She was already cute as a button when I first met her, even though as a 6-year-old she was free to interrogate me in a way the adults didn't dare:

Amber (six years old):  What's your favorite color?

Me (perched nervously on edge of sofa): Purple.

Amber: gasp That MY favorite color too!!!

What's your favorite animal?

Me: I like horses.

Amber: bigger gasp THAT'S MY FAVORITE ANIMAL, TOO!!!  (Beaming)

Mom, guess what?  (Runs to tell family the breaking news)

Me (leaning back): Oh yeah. I am totally in, now. 

Thanks Amber!  

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Inertia Pays Off

Dear Friends,

Tonight I'm going to the Women's Bar Association's annual dinner. I like to go because there's always a good speaker, and being in a room with hundreds of women attorneys always make me feel like my job is more than just a job -- that it's a career and a community of people with similar interests and goals. It reminds me of the importance of what we, collectively, do, and even though I'm just a cog in a little wheel, the legal system as a whole helps society function. It's also nice to see that there are lots of nice, friendly people out there who like their jobs and like to help others.

When I first started going, it felt really awkward, because I was trying to "network", but I didn't know anybody. It's really hard to strike up a conversation, even if you're in a room with 600 people! I'm excited tonight, though, because I've been involved in the organization long enough, that I'm sure to run into people I know. Also, another woman and I arranged to sit together, and we're going to be sitting with the New Lawyers, so there will be others there who are more nervous than me! That's one benefit of getting old, I guess: I get the benefits of having been around longer. Inertia pays off!



Love,

Christina

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Disco dancing and jack-o-lanterns

Hello everyone,

On Saturday we went to two birthday parties.  T1 and I had fun at
 his friend's sixth birthday party, with parachute games, cake and ice cream.  That night all got to go for a friend's 40th birthday at the Bowl-O-Mat, with a disco ball, black light, 80's music and pizza:


The kids loved it, from the bowling to the disco dancing, to the pizza.  We took it easy on Sunday, though.  We all have a cold, and were feeling a little cranky.  We did manage to carve some pumpkins and go for a walk, and found a boat for Opa:

Happy sailing.

Christina

Monday, October 20, 2008

How's That For Superpowers? Award


And the award goes to:

My sister, K, whose stove has been broken for a week, and who has been cooking meals for her family of six on a conga line of small appliances: a two-burner hot plate, an electric griddle, a crockpot, a microwave, and a toaster oven. But that's not what the award is for. Oh, no. The award is because yesterday she made traditional German "Rouladen" (see here) with mashed potatoes and gravy. I can barely do that on a real stove!


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Crime in a small town

Dear Friends, Family and Visitors,

We live in a small New England town that I will call SoHa.  We feel privileged to live here, where the streets are clean, the houses have picket fences, and the parks have stone walls and manicured baseball fields. The majority of our neighbors are even more "privileged" than we are, from the latest SUVs, to nannys, to second homes.  

A few weeks ago, C took T1 and T2 to the park. T1 and T2 rode their scooters, as they've been doing since they got them this summer, gleefully zipping down the sidewalks of SoHa, keeping up their constant stream of chatter.  When they got to the park, they dropped their scooters at the edge of the grass and ran to the playground. C briefly noticed some teenagers using foul language and messing around on the war memorial, but he quickly turned his attention back to pushing T1 and T2 on the swings. A while later, when they were ready to leave, the scooters were gone. A man nearby told C he had seen the two teenage boys ride off on them.  One of the boys had longish blond hair sticking out from under a baseball cap.

One of the scooters turned up back at the park about a week later (thank you, Charlie, T1's friend, who spotted it and would not rest until it was returned!)  The other appears to be gone forever. About a week after they were stolen, I saw a teenager with longish blond hair sticking out from under his baseball cap, hanging around the shopping center, riding what looked like T1's scooter. Before I could decide what to do, he was gone. 

T1 and T2 were disappointed when they're scooters were taken, but not distraught. C and I were more upset than they were. The scooter could be replaced, but should we take some action so that the teenager wouldn't just get away with stealing a little kid's scooter?  We struggled with whether to report the incident to the police.  

I tried not to judge the boy and his parents, whoever they were.  I know teenagers do foolish things, but I couldn't help wondering, what kind of kid would steal something in plain view of adults like that?  Is he so spoiled that he thinks he can instantly have anything he wants?  Or have his parents failed to instill the most basic values in him?  Or are there kids who do bad things, despite their parents' best efforts? As the parent of two young boys, that was the most disturbing thought for me, that a parent can do his or her best, and the kid could fail to learn right from wrong.

In the end we did go to the police.  We went to the police, not because we thought the boy was bad or because we wanted retribution. We went to the police because he is the son of one of our neighbors, even if we don't know them, and we thought they would want to know what their son had done.  Some day our boys will be teenagers messing around in the park, and I hope that our neighbors will be our eye and ears, helping us to ensure that they never learn the lesson that they can steal something without consequences.  I hope for the best for that boy; I hope the police catch him.

Love,
Christina


Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Photo of the day

This is T2, who is three years and two months.
If you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up,
he says "a daddy."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Photo of the day

Can you believe it?  
I baked this bread by myself!  
I just had to take a picture of it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

WMWASAHH's Unite!

Dear family, friends and visitors,

There is something they don't tell you about being a WMWASAHH (Working Mom With A Stay At Home Husband).  I've only been a WMWASAA* for two months, but I've already become a female chauvinist.  It begins almost immediately,  First, you find yourself coming home from work like a 1950's-style dad in panty hose, dropping your bag at the door, patting the kids on the head, and leaning over the stove to kiss your husband on the cheek while checking out what's for dinner.  It seems like fun until, over the next few weeks, those pesky thoughts start creeping into your head as you walk in the door -- They're watching TV again?  I thought the house would be cleaner now that he's at home all day, not messier! WHAT WAS HE DOING ALL DAY? -- even though just a short while ago it was YOU (me) who, after an exhausting day spent alternating between playing with the kids and battling with them over basic things like not strangling each other, would become immune to the chaos of objects on the floor and plop them in front of the television so you could frantically fix dinner.  

Being a WMWASAHH seems to magnify your worst traits, turning you into a female chauvinist without you realizing it, like the goo that turns Spider Man into Venom.  (Yes, it's true; since giving birth to two boys, all my cultural references are to comic book heroes.)  When I started this blog, it was going to be about the qualities it takes to be a stay-at-home dad.  Only it quickly began to sound like those books that used to instruct women how to be good wives.  I was trying to praise my husband when I said "He's always been interested in fashion and clothes, so he's careful with the laundry and can pick out outfits for the boys."  Huh!?!  That's a compliment?  Suddenly, I realized I was uttering the feeble praise of a closet chauvinist.  What would he say about me?  That I'm a very involved working mom, because I read to the boys every night? Somehow, the (im)balance between us didn't change, we just traded roles. This is a very uncomfortable position for me to find myself in, after years of examining the women lawyers' attempts to find work-life balance, and demanding equal commitment to home and family from men.
  
In my defense, though, C isn't a SAHD because of stereotyping or because his abilities are undervalued.  He is a SAHD and I'm a WMWASAHH exactly because we are equal partners -- we are equal, so we are each able to throw off gender stereotypes and do what we together decided is best for our family.  I'm working on reforming my female chauvinistic ways, and I think we're going to do all right.

Love, Christina

*For now, pronounce it WUM-wa-sah.  Some day, when us WMWASAHH's are fully represented in society, someone will come up with a better acronym, at least one you can make into an easy-to-pronounce nickname like the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (you're surprised I know what HIPAA stands for? You don't even know the amount of useless information I have stored in brain; now if only I could remember my wedding anniversary). 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Halibut Point State Park


Just a note: Hi everyone!  Today the whole family went to Cape Ann, for a walk through Halibut Point State Park, and a picnic down by the water.  It was another one of those amazing fall days in New England, and one of those days when everything just worked and everyone was happy.  I think we've made it through the Terrible Twos (which I think should be called the Terrible 1 1/2 to 3 1/2's!!) Yours Truly . . .

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Photo of the day















We had a great day, hope you did, too!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Photo of the day

Five Years Ago Today (T1 and Scary-Cat, from Auntie S.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Photo of the day

Memories

I was trying to think of my earliest memory, but I can't seem remember back very far.  I think I have a vague memory of a visit to Germany, to my grandmother's house, the house where my mother grew up.  I remember the hard dampness of the city, the smell of smoked meats coming out of a butcher shop, and the coldness of the bathroom that had no heat and one of those tanks high up with a chain to flush it.

Another early memory is of laughing with my family around the dinner table.  My sisters, K and H must have been about 1 and 2, because H was still in a high chair, but K was a toddler.  H was flinging her spaghetti noodles around, and managed to stick one to the wall.  K, finished with the food on her plate, got up from the table and, as she left the room, nonchalantly peeled the noodle off the wall and ate it.  My parents and I thought this was extraordinarily funny, and we all laughed.  What a strange thing to remember for 35 years!

What's your earliest memory?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Thought you might like to know

I stumbled on these a few years ago, and keep going back to them. If you're looking for something to do on the Web with your infant or toddler, try out Kneebouncers. You play the games by hitting any key on the keyboard (so easy, an adult can do it).

For older kids, (and adults who still have some hand-eye coordination left), try the beautifully-designed Orisinal: Morning Sunshine Games by Ferry Halim.



The illustrations and subjects are sweet, and many of them don't involve hitting or shooting. (The ones that do seem innocent and are not bloody or gory.) I like the ladybug one ("Bugs"), but apparently the bee game is the most popular. A bonus: the music is tinkly and calming -- no blasters, driving beats, electric guitars, or other noisy-noise, to drive everyone else in the room kookamunga. I would let T1 and T2 play them, if I could get my fingers untangled from trying them myself :)

Thought you might like to know . . .

Love,
Christina

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Costume Contest Loser

Just a Note:

Our friend RC makes the best, most elaborate Halloween costumes for his son.  He's made The Wrong Trousers from Wallace and Grommit, Mr. Crab from Spongebob, and Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars.  Every year, when I see The Costume, the competitive streak in me thinks I could do that!  Only I don't actually have time to sew a giant crab out of red vinyl (by hand).  Also, T1 and T2 have already gone through the purchased costumes we have and decided on the skeleton and Spider Man for this Halloween.  C doesn't really enjoy dressing up in costumes (isn't that odd?), so the only one left is Pippa.  In my fit of industry this weekend (see earlier post) I also whipped up a costume for the dog.  Here is my entry into the Make A Better Costume Than RC Contest:



SUPER PIPPA!  Can you top that one?

Monday, October 6, 2008

This Should Be The Start of the Year

Dear Friends,

This time of year always reminds me of my first several years in the City.  The sight of the afternoon sun glowing on the red brick buildings against the deep blue sky always brings me back to those days.  The students brought a busy-ness to the city, and you couldn't help but feel industrious and the urge to get organized.  

Summertime is fun and easy, but there's nothing a like a chilly fall morning for cuddling in bed, a bright, cool day for dressing up in the latest fashions instead of shorts and t-shirts or for running through piles of rustling leaves, or a dreary Sunday afternoon for trying out new recipes.  

Now that I'm back to working five days a week instead of four, I have to cram all this industriousness into two days.  With C taking care of the day-to-day household, though, I'm having fun working on projects.  I went through the baby stuff in the basement.  The toddler clothes are going to baby cousin X.  The infant clothes are going to H's friend who is soon to have a boy.  I kept ONE box of infant clothes (how could I bear to give away the first fifty-seven outfits I bought for T1, or the one I bought for T2?)(please note that I take more pictures of T2, so they will feel equally neglected when they're older :)).  The bigger things, like playpens and highchairs are on Craigslist -- clean out the basement and make some pocket money!

I am in the middle of rearranging the garden, too.  This always sounds easier when Oma says it.  Just plant it there and if it doesn't do well, you can move it.  After 8 hours of manual labor a few weeks ago, I lost steam, so the yard is a patchwork of grass, dirt areas, and odd flower beds.  

One Saturday morning I washed all the upstairs windows, inside and out, and last Sunday I made banana bread and tried my hand at a regular yeast bread.

All of these projects will likely end up half done, lost in the frenzy of  Thanksgiving and Christmas, and seem like chores that I'm forced to finish up next Spring, but for now I'm enjoying the planning and the energy of Fall.

Love,
Christina 

Learning is fun

Dear friends,

Troy is enjoying Kindergarten, and I'm enjoying watching him learn. Last night we practiced the letters they've learned in school so far: t, f, b, m, n, c and a. He wrote each one of them once, and then he wrote his first words: cat man. Then we giggled for several minutes over the thought of "catman", who is clearly much less cool than Batman. Try saying it; I bet it'll make you laugh. Catman.

Love,
Christina

P.S. Catwoman, now she's cool.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Priceless?

Dear Friends, Family, and Visitors,

We went to the Topsfield Fair today, a real country fair with a Honey Queen, musicians, magicians, prizes for the biggest pumpkin, best carrots, best sheep, etc., and amusement rides.  


T1 liked the roller-coaster (the kids' one, that wiggles, bumps and has one hill.  He's not that brave, yet.) T2 liked the fire trucks and the antique horse-drawn sleigh (just like in his favorites song, jingle bells, which Daddy has to sing to him every night).  

The biggest impression on C and me?  The magic trick of making the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$, fly out of our pockets!  $8 for parking, $24 entrance, $5 for 6 apple cider donuts, $20 for four of us to go on two rides, $2 for the game where you throw a football toward a target and miss, $22.50 for two corn dogs, a hamburger, a sausage and one small soda (I brought drinks for the kids and snacks and peanut butter sandwiches, but you can't go to the fair and not get a corn dog and a sausage).  But you know what was priceless?  Seeing baby pigs sleep.

Friday, October 3, 2008

In A Rut

Dear Friends, Family, and Visitors,

After 6 1/2 years of traveling the same commute, I've fallen into some deep habits. I always sit in the same car, on the left side of the train. The left side is where the sun is -- in the morning, heading south toward the city, and in the afternoon, heading north to SoHa. In the mornings when the sun is shining into the train, I sit with my face turned toward the light and my eyes open, as if to fill a tank inside myself with energy from the sun, to make it through the long day in my windowless office.

I always walk the same path from the train station to the office, too. Lately, I've been passing a lawyer I know from a case, every Monday and Thursday morning, about halfway through my walk. We pass on the same sidewalk, in front of the same building, every time. We nod and say hi and smile politely. That soundless kind of "hi", where you open your mouth and raise your eyebrows, and then close your mouth in tight-lipped smile. Finally, one day he said, "I guess I need a new routine," and we laughed weakly as we passed each other. After that I took a different route a few times.

I know every turn and bump on the train tracks between the city and SoHa. Even if I'm engrossed in reading, I can feel when we're getting close. I don't stand up to get off the train on the way home until we pass that place on the tracks where the two tracks merge into one, making the train lurch once and then rock briefly from side to side as it passes over the junction and causing any passengers who are standing to bump into seats and drop things.

Yes, I'm in a rut, but as I write this, I'm filling up with sunshine on Friday afternoon, on my way home. We just left the station.  The train was full when I got on, so I'm sitting on the right side for a change, looking across the aisle and between the commuters on the other side, at the sun setting outside the windows. I'm heading home to my guys and my dog, with the whole weekend ahead of us. The sun feels good.
I hope you have a tank full of sunshine, ready for the weekend.

Love always,
Christina

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Frat House

Dear Friends and Family,

If you had asked me, when I was pregnant with T1, whether I preferred a girl or a boy, I would have said I didn't care, either was fine with me. Unconsciously, though, I was expecting a girl. We were a family of girls, and I had only minimal contact with little boys growing up. All I knew about raising kids was what our parents did raising the three of us girls. So, when C and I went to the 20-week ultrasound and the doctor said we were definitely having a boy, I was shocked. Shocked that it was going to be a boy, and shocked that I was shocked. Without realizing it, I had a conception of what having a child was going to be like, which was based on gender stereotypes. What am I going to do with a little boy? I thought. Will we play house and do crafts? How do you potty train a boy?

Of course, I now know that little boys are as individual as little girls, with their individual strengths and weaknesses, interests and aversions. Our now-five-year-old T1 is tidy, physically cautious, emotionally intense, and loves words. Our three-year-old T2 is messy, expressive, emotionally resilient, and loves music. Whether its because they are boys or because of cultural influences, they love robots and monsters and aliens and everything slimy, creepy or disgusting. But they also love to help cook and clean, smell pretty flowers, draw, and take care of their stuffed animals. They play baseball, and wrestling and tackle football with Daddy, but I'm proud to say they know "mommies usually drive, because mommies know the way better."

Sometimes, though, I'm still amazed at what my life has become like. This morning I watched with pride as T2 peed in the toilet standing up, and laughed when he ran through the house afterwards, yelling at the top of his lungs to his brother and Daddy, "I went standing up without holding my penis!" I'm so glad we have boys.

Love always,
Christina

Friday, September 26, 2008

For The Love Of Dogs

Dear Family, Friends, and Visitors,

Getting a new puppy has to be one of the most exciting experiences in life. I think I put it fourth, right after falling in love, getting married, and having children. Getting a puppy doesn't have the gravitas of those top three life experiences, but it's not without its own ups and downs, as I found last year when we adopted Pippa.

About a year after our Boston Terrier, Max, died, I was looking on the internet to see if there were any Boston Terriers that were up for adoption. It was Thursday afternoon, and I told myself that I was just looking, as I had been off and on for a few months, taking a little break from work. I knew we shouldn't get a dog; I knew how much work it is, how much time it takes, and how much money. Then I saw it -- an add for a litter Boston Terrier and Chihuahua mix puppies. The puppies would be eight weeks old and ready to adopt in a week. I emailed the shelter right away and filled out an application. I felt excited, nervous and guilty. Would my husband, "C", agree? Was it the right thing to do? I lay awake that night, planning out walks and crates and housebreaking routines, trying, in turns, to talk myself into it and out of it.

The next day I called my sister, H, but she wasn't home, so I called my other sister, K. K has four kids and two dogs. "Don't do it!" K said. "A puppy is so much work." I called H again. H has three kids, and at that time had one cat, one dog, and two guinea pigs. "Bring it on, I say!" said H. "You can do it all." That's what I wanted to hear.  I can do it all, I thought, filled with excitement.

Later, after talking it over with C, I came to my senses again. I was disappointed, but he was right: it would be too much work; we didn't have enough time as it was; we were both working and the boys were little; it wouldn't be fair to the dog. A week went by, and I assumed the puppies must have been taken. I found time to think about other things. Then, on Saturday morning, the woman from the shelter called and said the puppies were ready to be picked up. My heart jumped, but I told her I had changed my mind, I couldn't take a puppy. She suggested I take two, then they would have each other, but I was firm and said no.

The obsession was back, though, and I kept turning the thoughts over and over in my mind. The Boston Terrier mix puppy was still there, in need of a home, within arm's reach!  The little girl in me pleaded, "I want a puppy!"

I went out to lunch with two friends as I had planned, still obsessing over the thought of a puppy. I asked them what I should do. Michelle said she wouldn't get a dog, it was too much to handle on top of everything else; Emma said she couldn't imagine life without a dog.

Finally, I rebelled (against myself; inside my head). Out of every two people I asked, one said I shouldn't get a dog, and one said I should. What about what I think? I asked myself. A dog had always been part of our family, part of our home. Walking the dog was my exercise. Reading about them and training them were my hobbies. Was I split in half, between work and taking care of kids, with nothing left over of myself just for me? I went home and pleaded my case to C (thank you law school training). Being my best friend, he listened and finally agreed. If it was important to me and I was willing to do everything it took, then I (we) should get the puppy.

My stomach was in knots and my hands were sweating as I called the shelter. They had three puppies left! If I wanted to pick one up that day, though, I had to hurry. It was two o'clock, and it would be over an hour's drive. I was so happy, I couldn't stop smiling, and I felt like I could have run the 70 miles to the shelter. I gathered everything I needed, got in the car, and we were off.  I was ecstatic.  And on top of everything, I was able to take T1, four years old at the time, and share the fun with him.

As expected, there were to be tough times ahead, but for a few days there, this little puppy brought pure happiness to our house.


Love always,
Christina

Feeling Guilty

Dear Friends, Family, and Visitors,

I'm feeling guilty that Troy and Teddy have so many toys.  We try not to spoil them, but like good middle-class Americans, we buy our kids too many things.  

When I think back to presents that I received in my childhood, there are a few that stand out in my mind.  The year I turned 10, we were in the process of moving (again).  We were visiting friends in North  Carolina, on the way to Germany, on the day of my birthday.  It didn't bother me that I wasn't going to have a birthday party, I never liked them anyway.  I was perfectly happy when my mother pulled one gift-wrapped package out of her suitcase.  It was a Superstar Barbie doll, and I loved it.  She had a bright pink satin dress with a feather boa, and she had a diamond ring and earrings that you could stick into holes in her hand and head.  She had matching bright pink, high-heeled shoes, and her arms were permanently bent so she could stand with one hand on her hip and one hand brushing back her long, curly, blond hair.  She was the most beautiful Barbie ever, at least to a 10 year old in 1977.

The year I turned 5, we were traveling on my birthday, too.  That year my parents gave me a ring, a silver band with hearts stamped all the way around.  I still have both of those presents to this day, over thirty years later.  Barbie is in a box in the basement with her friends, Growing-up Skipper, Ken, and the Lone Ranger (that's another story).  I keep the ring in my jewelry box, and I still like wear it sometimes.  It just fits on my little finger. 

I think those memories are what I'm trying to create for Troy and Teddy, in an awkward way.  I'm trying to give them the experience of getting a present so special that they will remember it -- and me -- for the rest of their lives.  Could I do a better job of choosing fewer but more meaningful gifts?  Probably.  Will they love me more because of the presents I give them?  Probably not.  But I forgive myself for trying.

Thanks for the presents, Mom and Dad.

Love always,
Christina

Introduction

Dear family, friends, and visitors,

I started a blog today. I was inspired by my father, who is writing his memoirs, and my friend Sarah, who is a fearless blogger (suburanrage.blogspot.com), to use this medium to write down some of my thoughts and memories and share them with others.

Reading my father's memoirs (pronounced with an exaggerated French accent, as he always does), I realized how interesting a person's memories can be when they are written as well as he writes. And reading Sarah's blog always feels like she's written a letter just to me, the way people used to write letters in the old days, filled with humor, real thoughts and insight into day-to-day life. I wish I could write letters like that, filled with thoughts and shared memories, to every one of my friends and family every week, but of course I can't seem to find the time.

So, I want to bring those two inspirations together, and use this new technology to spur me to take the time write some letters. The letters start here where I stand, at the intersection of work, life, and two families that have come together to span two countries, four states, and four generations. I'd love to have you visit.

Love always,
Christina