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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hanukkah 2009

This has been one busy but wonderful Hanukkah.

I was really looking forward to it this year. We don't buy a lot of toys for the kids during the rest of the year, so Hannah began making requests in September, and I felt so fortunate to be able to get her so many of the things she wanted. But the big cause for excitement was Max. At this age, Hannah attended a family daycare, so Hanukkah wasn't such a big deal with her. But with Max attending the JCC, he had the holiday down. We'd been hearing about candles, dreidels, latkes and Chanukiahs for weeks, so he was ready to go.

We had some wonderful events during the last eight days. The first night of Hanukkah was Shabbat as well, so we got to enjoy celebrating both simultaneously. We opened the Wii Fit, and (mostly) Hannah's been enjoying that. Saturday night Marc and I attended a holiday party at our friends Darci and Ben's house, and we had a great time there. On Sunday I finally got to meet my friends Allison and Mark's new baby, Micah, who was just adorable (and loves being bounced around). Sunday night brought Julie and Mike over for our 3rd annual Hanukkah celebration with latkes and more time with the Wii. On Tuesday night Marc took the kids to the Temple Emanuel Hanukkah party while I attended a party for work. Wednesday night Marc and the kids also made a stop at the JCC ELC Hanukkah party. Thursday was our last night to celebrate at home, after Hannah enjoyed an after school play date, and Max was a bit upset when he woke the next morning and saw there were no more presents to open. Friday night we traveled to Hartford to spend the last night of Hanukkah with Marc's parents, and then Saturday morning we had a mini-family party with Rachel, Jon and the twins, and Aunt Melinda, scaled down because of the impending snow storm. Hopefully we'll get to see everyone else when we try to reconvene the party next weekend. We definitely crammed a lot in.

It may be a bit gratuitous, but I'm going to list what we got for the kids this year. We really put a lot of thought into what we chose for them, and I think it was our most successful flurry of presents yet. We bought almost all of it online this year, and if I was really motivated, I'd put in links for everything, but this will have to do (it doesn't total to eight since Julie and Mike were one night, and the Stobers another night). Hannah got American Girl doll bunk beds, Bendaroos, a color-your-own messenger bag, a candy jewelry maker, the Littlest Pet Shop game for Wii, and a really girly kipah. Max got a stuffed Torah, new letter magnets, wooden blocks and a wooden helicopter, and two sweaters, one with a train and the other with a Jeep. Marc's present is this new sign for our kitchen, reminding us of a great trip we took to New Orleans in 2001 (and documenting the most requested items in our kitchen, coffee and milk). I received a new scarf to go with my new winter coat.

So today we'll be sitting home and admiring the snow. Marc will finally get to try out our new snow blower. I'm only working three days this week, and will be taking a bit of time off to spend Hannah's first winter break with her. We've got a lot planned for the coming weeks as well, so stay tuned!

A few images to leave you with...





Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Not-Your-Average Morning

Today had the kind of morning that while still in the midst of it causes me to stop and think "I can't believe I'm doing this."

There was only supposed to be one wrinkle in the day: Max's classroom Hanukkah party. Since I'm at the JCC so infrequently, I said I'd attend it. No big deal.

Then Marc scheduled an appointment to finally get his seasonal flu shot at 8:45 this morning. But again, no big deal. I had Max, Hannah would be off to school by then, Marc's time was his to use to his liking (if you include getting flu shots on your "liking" list).

Yesterday we woke up to the local weather girl harping about a bad storm to be hitting during prime commuting time this morning. I tried to reassure myself in various ways: if it's that bad, school will be called off or delayed; the forecasters will be wrong; how bad can it possibly be?

Well, it was pretty bad. Down right awful by my "I hate to drive, especially in the snow, with my children in the car" standards.

And wouldn't you know it, that after waiting at the stop for 30 minutes, the Hannah's school bus didn't show? And Marc had to leave to make his appointment?

So I piled both kids in the car and drove Hannah to school. Down a narrow, not well-plowed street. With Max kicking my seat and screaming (because I'd told them to be quiet). And almost hitting a parked car. We all had to get out, walk a block and take Hannah in to school and tell the office she'd arrived safely. And Max and I walked out just in time to see the kids getting off her bus.

Which sent Max further spiraling into tantrum mode. He wanted to ride on the bus, and I was the most horrible Mommy ever for not letting him. As I carried him to the car, he pounded on my (thankfully hooded) head. His poor hands, since I hadn't brought him gloves, were bright red with cold and wet and fierceness of tantrum by the time we reached our car. He continued to SCREAM as we drove to his school, for a time stuck in traffic due to a downed tree branch in the road.

Finally we made it to the party. Max seemed shocked by the sudden transition and a bit overwhelmed by all the people in the room. I snuck out at 10 - I have no idea how he may have reacted when he figured out I was gone. Somehow I got the car back home, pulled out my umbrella and walked to the T. Thankfully fewer people were driving around at this point, so only three cars splashed me on the side of the road. For once a Green Line employee saw that I was coming, took pity on me and held the train for 30 seconds as I made my way to the door. Phew. I don't think I've ever been so happy just to sit on the train.

So that's my contribution on how one morning can go from slightly complicated to completely insane in four moves - class party, doctor's appointment, snow storm, delayed bus.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Stuff

The last few weeks have gone by very quickly, filled with lots of "stuff." We've had playdates, doctor's appointments, hair cuts, and all the usual errands. Here are some of the highlights:

- Hannah went on her first elementary school field trip to the Jackson Homestead, and is still talking about it, weeks later. She also attended her first kindergarten birthday party, but thankfully it's not the crush of parties that summed up the preschool years.
- Max had his first playdate with a friend from the JCC. We knew they were a bit young for this, but they seemed to enjoy having each other around (even though Max got hit on the head repeatedly, despite being much bigger than the other boy!).
- We did our annual pilgrimage (HA!) to Solon for Thanksgiving. This year's drive was our best ever - the kids held up so well, with less whining than we'd probably have experienced had we just been at home. They also got to ride a carousel on both legs of the trip at two malls in NY. Thanksgiving itself was wonderful, with Grandma Susan and Grandpa Hal, Uncle Ryan and his girlfriend Allison, Allison's parents Barb and Jim, and my Aunt Debbie. It was wonderful getting to spend time with everyone, and special thanks to Ryan for bringing along his Wii. Hannah and Grandma Susan both really enjoyed bowling with it, and it was fun to watch. Even Max got in the act by cheering for everyone. Max also really loved Grandma Susan's doggies, and he's now telling every dog he hears "quiet doggies!" Thanks for having us, Mom and Dad, and thanks for all the early Hanukkah presents too!
- The week we got back was pretty chaotic. Work was suddenly very busy, and the kids weren't on the top of their games. Hannah took a tumble off the balance beam in PE and hurt her ankle. The following morning I took her over to Newton-Wellesley Hospital and she got her first set of x-rays and a first ride in a wheelchair (but thankfully, she's fine and fully recovered). Max is letting us know that he's turning two any day now with all new tantrum abilities, and he's had a few good falls resulting in a bruise on his face and a bloody nose while at daycare. But his vocabulary is exploding, and he's recently picked up "latke" "dreidel" and "kiah!" (Chanukiah). I also went to my own doctor as well as physical therapy, so needless to say we were ready for a quieter weekend. Thank goodness that it was!
- Well, quiet except for really getting into the swing of the upcoming Hanukkah and birthday-double-header season. We (mostly) finished shopping for our gifts (thanks to Fillis and John for watching the kids yesterday!), sent out an Evite for Max's birthday brunch, ordered our New Year's cards and are organizing Hannah's party as well. We did the vast majority of our present shopping online this year, so our house has seen a parade of cardboard boxes. I need to start getting things wrapped up - can't believe Hanukkah starts on Friday night!

So that's the big update with us. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying this busy season too!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sick, but not Swined

As I mentioned in the Halloween post, I've been sick. I spent most of last week resting and working from home, which I probably wouldn't have done in other years. I would have dragged my coughing self in to work and not gotten better for weeks. While I'm still coughing now, it's definitely less of an issue than it could have been. Who knew that resting thing had some truth to it?

But now, Hannah and Marc have been sick. Hannah's had a fever ranging between 100 and 103, but other than that, no major symptoms. Marc doesn't have a fever, but just generally feels lousy. So no swine flu here, but we're taking the necessary precautions to keep it at bay, and that's meaning lots of time on the couch.

There's been a lot of discussion on whether or not to get the swine flu vaccine, if it's available in your area. Hannah and Max both got the vaccine, and Max was able to get a preservative-free version because he's under 3, thanks to some quick action on our part when they became briefly available at our pediatrician's office. This article from the NY Times is a very straight-forward look at the motivations for why we chose to get the vaccine (I particularly liked the part about considering what else your children put up their noses!). But whether you got the shot or not, I hope you're feeling well during the start of this season of sick days.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween 2009




Halloween seemed to be a bigger deal this year, now that Hannah's in public school and celebrating has become mandatory. It started on Friday morning with a kindergarten costume parade and class by class performance. Hannah's class read a poem called "Five Little Pumpkins" which was very cute, but very serious in comparison to another class's attempt at the "Thriller" dance. Then that evening Hannah and I headed back to school for the PTO-organized school party. All the little girls shrieked and hugged each other like it had been weeks since they'd seen each other, not hours. I swear Hannah is really a seventh-grader in disguise. The dance music in the school gym took me right back to Friday night dances at Solon's Arthur Road Middle School (or, at least, it was a middle school then, if not now).

On the official day of Halloween I put the kids in their costumes and we walked over to the Newton Highlands Village trick-or-treating (gotta say it again, I love the village). Max stayed in his stroller as Hannah went from store to store collecting her loot. She got enough candy that she agreed to skip going from house to house later that evening, which was really good because I was starting to feel a cold coming over me, which hasn't let up since then.

So all in all a good, fun holiday. I think this may be Hannah's last year as a princess - she was talking about doing something scarier next year, maybe making her own costume. Next year I'll try to give Max a little more input, instead of dressing him in a too-big costume one year, following it up by him wearing it a bit small the next year. Now I've just gotta stop myself from eating the leftover Twizzlers.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Not Much Is New Here

This post is going to be very similar to the emails I send my mom and brother Ryan every weekday morning: Not much is new here.

Things really have gotten quieter since the chagim ended. We've had a couple of extra events to attend at our synagogue, including an introduction to the library and open house programs for Hannah, as well as a Sisterhood event I attended where I had a genuinely good time making fun of shoes with Stephanie and Jenny. We had a fun dinner at our house with Tarr family - their girls have grown so much, and our kids seem to really love them - and a fun playdate with the Hebert family. Anais and Max are both just a couple months older than Hannah and our Max, and I love catching up and comparing their progress with Rana.

But we've also had some good downtime as well - taking Hannah to buy new shoes, spending a whole rainy Sunday at home with Max, Marc and Hannah catching a movie. The downtime is really necessary. Hannah's getting so tired out by school, and Max is so close to two that the terribleness is already raging, causing lots of cranky "I can't tell you what I want!" moments from him.

This weekend will be pretty full though - lots of Halloween activities and a visit with Rachel, Jon, Nate and Evie. And Thanksgiving will be here soon enough - I'm getting really excited for our drive out to Ohio!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's My Birthday

And I really don't have much to say beyond that, but I felt like I should post something, you know?

32 isn't very momentous, though I wonder if I'll ever get over the feeling that I'm usually the youngest person in the room. Marc keeps telling me it's just not true, and I rationally know that it's not always true, but I guess my self-perception needs to catch up a bit.

Hannah had a teary episode over not really having a gift for me, and Marc laughed that I gave a very "mommy" response saying something like all I need is to know that she loves me. This morning, when Max saw fit to wake us up at 5 am, Marc told him it's my birthday. Max enthusiastically replied "CAKE!" At least someone's excited!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chagim Come and Gone

The last of the holidays has ended, and I personally couldn't be more relieved. But more on that in a moment.

Last weekend was Simchat Torah. Before those festivities began, we decided to try out the Topsfield Fair, the oldest agricultural fair in the country. We got there early and had great luck with the satellite parking. Hannah enjoyed some of the rides, and Marc got a new vegetable peeler, but really, I think we're not fair people. Or at least we're not fair people right now, with a toddler in tow, a bad back, and lots of food issues to manage. Plus it was crowded and chilly, and difficult to see any animals. But we went, and now we know.

That evening we went to synagogue for Hannah's Kabbalat Panim, or consecration ceremony as we called it growing up. Fillis and John joined us for dinner first, and Julie met us at synagogue. The ceremony was cute - Hannah looked so proud saying the Shema with her classmates - and seeing her receive the small Torah was very moving. I whispered to her how proud I was, and snuck in a little "I hope that someday your kids will do something like this." I think that may have been the basis for a long conversation Marc and I had with her later that evening, which covered everything from the story of creation to how babies are made to who you should make them with. It was a nice night, and we all had fun dancing during the hakafot. Max really liked waving the flags, and thankfully no one lost an eye.

Sunday we went back to synagogue for more hakafot, and then later that day we had a really nice time having dinner with the Hicks family. They'd also just been to the fair, so it was fun to compare notes, and good to get to know them all better!

But now the chagim are over, and I couldn't be more relieved. It was nice that everything fell on a weekend this year - usually I miss out on some of it since it'll fall on a week day. But it was exhausting to have every weekend taken up by lots of events to attend. I've enjoyed celebrating, but I need time to get the laundry done and go through the mail, and maybe to watch some Oprah. So while we've still got lots scheduled on the calendar in the next few weeks, we're definitely going to schedule in some time to relax too. Hope you all enjoyed the last few weeks!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sukkot

After getting the sukkah built with our wonderful helpers, and a crazy week with some unexpected turns (the biggest being getting a new roof on the house), we somehow got it all together and had a nice Shabbat dinner in our decorated sukkah. Marc and I marveled that it even happened, given the lack of a weekend between Yom Kippur and the start of Sukkot. Just crazy.

And beyond that, we threw a party the next day. This year we invited a bunch of our friends from the Tot Shabbat crew at our synagogue, and it was wonderful to finally have an excuse to invite everyone over. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate, but we did get about an hour's break in the rain so that everyone could spend a bit of time in the sukkah, and the kids enjoyed climbing all over the swingset. It was a fun afternoon, and best of all, not much in leftovers.

We also spent some time in the Gonzalez's sukkah on Sunday, and have tried to eat dinner in ours all week too. Tonight for the final meal we're having Julie and Mike come join us. It's been a very hectic holiday, but it's nice to blend this observance in with everything else we've had going on!

Just one weekend of holidays left - Simchat Torah. It should be a good one!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Everywhere!

Just like the start of yesterday's post, if you know me well, you know I can't stand disorganization and clutter. I HAVE to clean the dishes, put away errant toys, and hang up the jackets or I have a very hard time relaxing. Just keeping up with the day-to-day in our household can feel like trying to hold back the tide - nearly impossible. But when the house is neat (not spotlessly clean, just neat) and the laundry is done, I can actually feel the weight removed from my shoulders.

Unfortunately, for all the time spent sweeping back the fray, there isn't a ton of time left for the bigger projects out there. You know what I mean - cleaning the refrigerator, sorting out too small/wrong season clothes, or in today's case, cleaning out our back porch. We have a small room out the back door of our kitchen that isn't very livable, and thus becomes a dumping ground for all sorts of things. For last year's sukkah party, we cleaned it up and hid a section of the room behind a tarp to conceal all of the things we just didn't have room to put someplace else.

Well, it's been a year, and we just went behind that tarp for the first time this week! I guess there isn't much there that we actually need...at all. But, given time constraints, there's no way we can get through all of it right now. So I got up extra early today (also known as "when Max was still sleeping so as not to disrupt me") and straightened it up, and re-concealing the area again. Marc and I have made a goal of cleaning the space up before next Sukkot, and I'm sure if we can do it bit by bit we'll get it done.

But I do need to swap out the kid's summer clothes...and the refrigerator is pretty yucky from an exploding can of soda...Sigh.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Little Help From My Friends

Anyone who knows me well knows that I hate asking for help. I don't know why, but I've always tried to be an independent person, and try to do everything I can on my own. But last night's sukkah building experience proved to me that sometimes it really is easier to get by with a little help from our friends. Marc put out a call for volunteers on Twitter and facebook, and our friends the Kahns and new friend and neighbor Josh came to our aid. The three guys had the sukkah assembled within 45 minutes. It most certainly would have taken hours, in the dark, under the flood lights, for Marc and I to have done it on our own. I am really grateful that they could come to our aid.

I'm also trying to leave more comments on the blogs that I read, particularly the blogs of my fellow moms out there. I really enjoy these little windows into the lives others lead. For me, putting these experiences into writing is cathartic, but it also helps me feel a little more connected to the outside world. I like being able to read and digest things on my own, but I've recently realized that the comment section really enhances both the writer's and the reader's experience, and is a way I can support friends both near and far. If you've got a blog or know of a good one to share, let me know!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Catching Up

Apologies for the radio silence over the past two weeks. I was on a roll for a while, but then life started getting the better of me, and I haven't felt much like writing.

Our synagogue BBQ went really well this year, and I'm very pleased with the changes I made to improve it this year. Having two balloon twisters was great, and as Hannah said, the craft project was a hit. Other than a little rain and a giant swarm of bugs, the event was great.

Unfortunately, though, my back/leg pain returned with a vengeance last week and I ended up getting another fun treatment. I'm very frustrated by being in pain - it colors everything I think, see, and do.

We had a nice Rosh Hashanah, with wonderful meals prepared by Marc and a quick trip to see everyone in Hartford. I didn't get to spend much time at services this year, but it still felt like a new beginning in some ways. If you celebrated, I hope it was the start to a sweet new year.

This week was incredibly busy, with Max's open house Monday, Hannah's language club introductory meeting Tuesday and then her kindergarten open house on Wednesday. Max also had the biggest injury of his life so far, banging up two of his fingers on the playground at school (but as a bonus, he learned to say "finger" and "sick"). Hannah also started a karate class at school that we found out about less than 24 hours before it began. So it's been an overwhelming week, and I don't really see us slowing down for quite a while.

Tomorrow I'm hoping for a nice day for the four of us to visit a farm and do some apple-picking. This type of event usually doesn't live up to my visions for it, but I feel compelled to try. We really need a day to do something fun together (or at least I need it!). So much has been happening so quickly, that I need some time to slow down and relax a bit.

Friday, September 11, 2009

On 9/11

On 9/11 I am 23 years old again. I sit in an avocado green half-height cubicle farm with even less privacy than I have today. I wear only an engagement ring. I am at work early, of course, because there are no children to feed and dress and get to school. I plan a joke with colleagues to ignore another co-worker soon leaving our firm.

On 9/11 I see a co-worker I would rather forget but now never will. I run to a television, refresh and refresh boston.com. I see Yahoo! Mail from Julie, "i just saw the second plane crash."

On 9/11 I crowd with others (hundreds of people?) in Bain & Co's 7Z conference room and watch in horror as a wall-sized screen shows the first tower crash.

On 9/11 I am yelled at by strangers for using my cell phone, trying to locate Marc, as I walk home to our apartment, too scared to take the subway. Marc has left his office in the Federal Reserve building, near the airport, but stops to run an errand along the way. I'm not sure I've ever forgiven him for that.

On 9/11 my mother offers to house and help any co-workers who may have been traveling in her area (none are, but I still remember the impulse to help any one in any way).

On 9/12, the next day, I go back to work, and out to pick-up lunch with co-workers. We cannot get back in the office, as it is attached to the Westin Hotel, where the hijackers may have stayed. I set my voicemail saying I am out of the office so that my fund's custodian in Texas can reach me at home.

On 9/11, regardless of the year, I have a hard time thinking of anything but these events. I was very fortunate not to personally know someone who perished that day, but we were all affected. There is a before, and there is an after.

On 9/11, where and who were you?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Kindergartner

Hannah, Hannah-belle, Hannie-Princess, Han, Bee, My Life, My Love,

I am so proud of you, and so happy that I'm your mommy.

From this:



To this:



And every silly smile, funny moment and amazing experience in between. Good luck in Kindergarten. I love you.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Make Way for the Stober Kids

I'm home with the kids by myself today, Labor Day, and my leg wasn't feeling great this morning, so I wasn't sure how to spend the day. Marc sent me a note about a rally for healthcare reform happening this morning at Boston Common, and while I didn't think the kids would enjoy it much, it did give me the idea to take the kids into Boston anyway.

What sealed my thinking was remembering the new improvements to the Arlington stop on the Green Line. I hadn't been there yet, but it's been totally redone to be wheelchair accessible, which would also mean stroller accessible in our case. The station really is soooo much better, and the elevators worked great. We even had newer trains going there and back, so I never had to lift Max's stroller for our entire outing. This really saved my back, and I'm grateful for that. Now the T just needs to get moving and finish the Copley station already!

Anyway, we went right into the Public Garden and made our way to the Swan Boats. Another Boston thing I've always wanted to do, now off the list! It was a lovely little ride around the lagoon (or whatever body of water that was), and the kids really enjoyed it. Max kept quacking at the ducks. We continued walking around, taking in a magic show, playing on the "Make Way for Ducklings" statues, stopping at the rally for a bit, getting lunch, playing on the playground, and finally getting ice cream before the ride home. I told Hannah that it was our last ice cream of the summer, but she quickly had me assure her that we could still have ice cream sometimes, even if the season for it has ended. :) Of course, we can't stop having it now that Max knows what to ask for - "s'cream!"

So a fun little trip for this last day of summer, and I'm proud of myself for doing it on my own, too!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Bright Horizons Back-Up Solutions to the rescue!

One of the many amazing benefits provided by my employer is access to a Bright Horizons Back-Up daycare center. This is a small but growing segment of the Bright Horizons business, which is to be used when normal daycare or school arrangements are compromised, or on a transitional basis when switching between programs. Some companies require a co-pay (mine does not; again, how awesome are they?!?). Reservations are taken a month in advance, on a first-come, first-served basis. There are some "high demand days" when infant and toddler placement is not guaranteed, but for the most part, our family has been well-accommodated by the program.

Our center is located on the second floor of my building, which couldn't be easier (we usually take the commuter rail on days when the kids come in). They're incredibly well-organized, with cubbies and bins labeled before the kids arrive, and extra labels for sippy cups and strollers. The staff at our center has been mostly the same since Hannah first attended a few years ago, and they remember the kids and always comment on how much they've changed and grown. Mid-day I pick up the kids for a lunch out in the city, which they love. It's a warm, wonderful place, and the kids always seem to have a great time there.

Hannah and Max spent two days there this week as part of our "HELP, THERE'S NO DAYCARE AND NO CAMP AND SCHOOL DOESN'T START FOR WEEKS!" shuffle (both kids had 12 weekdays free at the end of the summer). I'm so grateful to have this service to help us make it through, and hope that more companies make this option available to their juggling employees.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Long Weekend in New Hampshire

We left on a rainy Saturday morning for our long-awaited trip to New Hampshire. Unfortunately the rain continued all day, so we didn't get to dive right in to Storyland as soon as we got to town, and instead had to improvise a bit. We booked a hotel with an indoor pool, which was wonderful, since the kids needed a chance to blow off some steam after being trapped in the car. After a little shopping at the LL Bean outlet, we had dinner at the Red Fox Bar and Grille, which was great. Hannah was entertained by a movie in one room, while Marc took Max to play with toddler toys in another, and I enjoyed a few moments of quiet while waiting for our food to arrive. Hannah and Marc got a chance to see "The Bee Movie" while I put Max to bed back in the hotel.

On Sunday morning we woke up to a lovely, sunny day, and headed for breakfast at Glen Junction. The main attraction here was the constantly revolving model trains, and Max was totally captivated. Thanks to Stephanie for these two restaurant recommendations!

We were at Storyland as soon as it opened, and stayed until nearly closing time. Max enjoyed exploring the areas based on old nursery rhymes, particularly because he was allowed to touch "Peter Pumpkin-Eater's" oven without reproach. The train and car rides were also a big hit, of course. Unfortunately, though, he was totally terrified of a guy in the circus act who couldn't properly use a trampoline. Hannah was so excited to get to ride the bigger kid rides, and loved the roller coaster (riding one time each with Mom and Dad), the water raft ride, the flying fish, and the water chute ride. She loved getting soaked, which in previous years would have caused a meltdown. Hannah also bought a light up fairy with her allowance money, and was so proud to pay at the register on her own. We swam again at the hotel that evening.

Monday morning was the highlight of the trip for Marc, as we did the drive up Mt. Washington, the tallest mountain in the New England area. The autoroad was completed in 1861, and is truly a marvel even today. We were given a CD to listen to as we drove it, pointing out all there was to see and the history of the area, as well as the "This car climbed Mt. Washington" bumper sticker. The change in the weather as we made our ascent was remarkable. When we reached the summit, it was 14 degrees with the wind chill, with 50 mph winds. It was definitely a mountain top! We were dressed properly though, and Marc took both kids to the summit for a quick picture. It was a great adventure, nothing like the scary thing I had imagined, and I'm really glad we did it.

Both kids were real troopers in the car too. In my opinion, the whining and craziness were at a minimum. We kept Hannah busy with a couple of movies I'd loaded onto my iPod Nano, which worked very well, since we didn't have to listen to it too. Max kept us informed of his surroundings, shouting "bus, truck, and choo-choo" as often as he possibly could. And I made good use of my iPhone, finding a cute diner for lunch on the way there and an ice cream stop on the way back.

Unfortunately, it was all over too soon. While there, we were already discussing our next trip back - to be taken when Max is at least 36" and Hannah is 48". :)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Few Reviews

Due to the lack of childcare in these end of summer weeks, my in-laws generously watched Max and Hannah for a few days so that Marc and I could continue to work and not use all of our vacation time in one shot. The kids have been gone for four days, and it gave us the opportunity to enjoy some more grown-up experiences that are few and far between in our household.

On Sunday we tried The Local, a relatively new restaurant in West Newton. We went for dinner at 5 o'clock before seeing a film, and were seated immediately as there were lots of empty tables. I tend to drink a lot of water, so I was thrilled with the carafe the waitress brought to the table (and completely emptied it before the meal was done). I tried the fried pickles with spicy mayo, which I enjoyed (though Marc said they "tasted like Friendly's" and I totally understood what he meant). I went with the kobe burger and wasn't disappointed. We did notice that there were four highchairs in the place, but I wouldn't bring my kids there. It was a fine meal, and I wouldn't mind going there again.

Afterward we saw the film "Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg!" about actress Gertrude Berg and her radio and early television show by the same name. I wasn't familiar with Mrs. Berg's career, and the story behind it was pretty fascinating. I loved hearing about how neighbors were used in the show to start a new scene, and thought back about so many sitcoms featuring wacky and wild neighbors - all because of her show. Also very interesting to hear about the Black List period. The film is definitely worth adding to your Netflix queue if you can't find it in your local theater.

Monday night Marc and I had dinner at O'Hara's in our own Newton Highlands, which is just a few blocks from our house. We've eaten there quite a few times now, but this was the first time we've tried a pizza there. It was very good, and we may considering picking up pizza from there sometimes, instead of our usual Newton Pizza delivery.

Tuesday night was also a special treat, heading out to Waltham to try Biagio with Julie and Mike. I selected the place because it was still offering Boston Restaurant Week specials (appetizer, entree and dessert for $33.09/person), and the menu was quite extensive, which is rare for Restaurant Week offerings. The meal was very good (despite a very long delay for our dessert to appear), the place was lovely, and it was wonderful to get to toast Julie and Mike on their recent engagement.

We also used this time to FINALLY unpack a bunch of boxes in our living room, rearrange a bit, hang a newly framed map of Newton, and clean out the front hall closet. While I've missed the kids desperately and can't wait to see them tonight, it was wonderful to get some time to relax, do things we enjoy, and get some much-needed projects completed. Thanks to Fillis, John and the other CT family who pitched in this week!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Formative Experience

In 1993, as a freshman in high school, I was very fortunate to attend a convention of the Religious Action Committee in Washington, DC. I had gone as part of a teenage delegation from my synagogue, mostly to earn the religious school credits I needed in what I thought would be the easiest and most fun way. I had never been to DC before, and it was an amazing trip, seeing lots of the local sites while attending numerous lectures.

Senator Ted Kennedy gave one of those talks, as did then Vice President Al Gore, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and many other luminaries of the time. There were discussions of the relationship between the African American and Jewish communities, health care reform, and, in acknowledgment of a rally going on concurrently, gay rights. I have to admit - I was a kid. I knew little to nothing about all of these issues, and this trip was a very formative experience. I will never forget how seeing the rainbow flags and the people carrying them made me feel, and I know that those moments shaped the person I have become.

I am very sad to hear of the death of Senator Kennedy, but it gave me the occasion to think not only of the tremendous good he has done, but also of the amazing experience I got to have (and thanks Mom and Dad for letting me go - twice). Back then, I had no idea that I'd end up in Boston myself, and to have the honor of voting for him. RIP Senator Kennedy, you will be missed.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Camp's Over

This summer has gone by in a blur. The weather had been just awful, with lots of rainy days and unbearably humid ones. But it was Hannah's first real camp experience, and Max's beginning days at the JCC. Here are the highlights.

Hannah attended two camps, T-ville Trails and Kaleidoscope. The former is run by Newton Parks and Rec, the latter by the JCC. T-ville was located at the elementary school that Hannah will be attending, and it was great for her to get the lay of the land. She spent time in the art room, gym, and library, and learned to climb "The Spider" structure on the playground. After 3 weeks there, she spent 4 at the JCC, and got to see her brother there on occasion. She had both swim lessons and free swim, loved the science and art projects, and as predicted, didn't really enjoy the sports at all. She did her first play on a stage, "Mr. Gumpy's Boat" and clearly enjoyed herself and felt very proud. I think she had a great time.

Max has had a more difficult adjustment, but I think he has the routine down now. He's really enjoyed swimming and has brought home some interesting craft projects. It sounds like his best friend is a boy named Avi, since that's the name he shares with us most often. It's so frustrating not to be able to talk to him about his day, but his vocabulary is growing every day. Last night he asked, "what's this?" for the first time, frustrated that he knew the word for teeth, but couldn't remember it. Max had his first turn as Shabbat Helper, and his versions of the prayers and the way he says "Amen!" is totally adorable. He's only had 5 other kids in his class, but that number will grow in the fall. I'm sure he'll be excited to go back.

The kids are both on vacation until September 9th, which is just absurd. They'll first be spending a few days with their grandparents in CT, and then Marc and I are alternating days, with a few at Bright Horizons back-up center at my office thrown in. It'll be a bit exhausting, but we'll get through it. Hopefully we'll have a great time at Storyland - one more week until we go!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Clothing

I don't know why I do this, but I have a habit of thinking at some point during the day, of the kids and what they're wearing today. Maybe it's an irrational thing, but if something happened and I needed to describe them, can I remember what they're wearing? Just now, I couldn't picture Hannah. I kept thinking of yesterday's dress, why can't I figure this out, I know I took it out of the drawer, helped her put it on this morning. Then it dawned on me. Pajama day.

(A side note in case you didn't notice, this is a shorter post. I'm thinking about trying to do more of these, trying to update more frequently than my 1x/month. We'll see how it goes. Maybe I'll get discovered.)

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Quieter Month

July has been so sleepy, by our standards, that I actually had to do some digging to remember what we actually did for one of the weekends this month! I scoured our Google calendar, then the credit card statement, and finally my old facebook statuses until I found details of that lost weekend. Here's what we were up to:

- We spent a few hours at Houghton's Pond in Milton, having a picnic lunch, swimming in the pond, and hiking a bit. It was one of the rare good weather days that we've had this summer. (We hadn't planned this in advance on the calendar, nor used credit for any purchases, so it was almost like it didn't happen...)
- The following weekend Fillis and John came for a visit with the kids, but really it was to watch them so Marc and I could go pick out a new mattress. We quickly settled on one despite our mutual dread about the process, and have been enjoying it since.
- Marc and I also attended a book reading by my favorite writer, Jennifer Weiner, promoting her new book. It was a fun and funny hour, and I'm thrilled to have a personalized copy of her latest.
- Last weekend we went on an adventure in Providence, RI. For a decade, Julie and I have discussed attending WaterFire, an event held during the summers there. Marc and the kids and I first went to the Roger Williams Zoo, then walked along a beach and had a great Italian dinner (thank goodness for GPS, Yelp and smartphones) before meeting up with Julie and Mike for the lighting. I was really, truly excited to go to this, but in the end it was a bit of a letdown. It took so long to get stated, and was so crowded and inconvenient to access with a stroller in tow. I guess there was more to see than we saw, but all six of us left feeling like we'd done enough. Plus, the Providence Place mall where we'd parked was needlessly complicated. I've definitely got the Providence bug out of my system, and am not sure we'll be heading back there anytime soon.

So that was July. Tomorrow we'll be having dinner with our friends Allie and Mark, who are expecting a baby boy in a few months. Hannah is prepared to tell them all about little boys, and Max is, well, prepared to be himself and show them all of the wonderful and terrifying things he can do.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ch-ch-changes Abound in June

Well, I did say in my last post that June would be a busy month, and I guess it was since I didn't get around to posting at all! Shame on me! Now I'll just have to catch you up again (especially since my loyal reader Fillis just posted comments on my last entries!).

So as the title suggests, lots of changes happened in June. Some were pretty minor: Hannah moving on from her Cinderella bed to cool IKEA stripes, Max moving from his high chair to a booster seat at home, starting a new cleaning service and me getting regular massages to help with my back pain. But the more major shift was Hannah graduating from her preschool program and Max starting his.

Hannah had been in full-time daycare from the age of 13 weeks until mid-June, so nearly five and a half years. She spent close to two years in family daycare, then six months at Sunshine Academy, two years at Gan Yeladim and finally one year at the JCC. All told, we spent close to $100k just on daycare costs alone. I feel so very fortunate and grateful that she had such a great experience, always having good friends and being well-cared for by teachers and staff. Given Hannah's personality, she's been offered many teaching jobs at her centers even at these young ages. I'm so proud of her, and of me and Marc for having successfully navigated what can be a very stressful experience.

And now Max has moved from family daycare to his first (maybe only?) center experience. It's been a difficult transition for him, with lots of tears every morning at drop off, but it seems like he's having a great time once he's there. He's had a few dips in the pool (the weather here in Boston did not cooperate for most of June, and July isn't off to the greatest start!). His teachers are great, and at night we "talk" about his new friends and how his day went. Max's vocabulary is just exploding now, with new words like "school" and "happy." He loves to sing, and I never thought I'd find mangled versions of the "Bob the Builder" theme song as adorable as I do.

But our real June highlights were the wonderful visits we got to have with Grandma Susan, Uncle Ryan and Allison! Uncle Ryan had two weekend weddings in Boston in June, so he got to spend an entire week hanging out with us. We had a lot of fun together, and it was great to have an extra set of hands at times! We spent a Sunday in Boston, going to the aquarium, walking all over, getting ice cream and riding a carousel. A few days later, Grandma Susan joined us. Grandma, Ryan, Hannah and I had a fun lunch at the American Girl store and Hannah got fully-stocked on the latest AG doll and accessories. Then Allison came for a couple days of fun. We had a nice Shabbat dinner all together, then toured the Wenham Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts over the weekend. Hannah spent two days at home with Grandma Susan, going to Plaster Funtime and hanging out in the village. It was wonderful to have everyone come visit us, and we promise that we'll provide better weather the next time they're all here!

Since Hannah had a few weeks off before camp began, she also got to spend a few days with Grandma Fillis and Grandpa John, going to the beach and having a very busy social calendar! Hannah especially liked getting to feed cousin Evie (cousin Nate was sleeping). And then the four of us had a fun extended 4th of July weekend, hanging out at home and going to see the fireworks.

Now it looks like we'll have a pretty quiet July. Hannah's at camp for the first time, and I'm so excited to teach her to make lanyards. Max's is sailing along at the JCC, bringing home multiple shirts each day due to messy snack times. Laundry is harder than ever with two kids going swimming each day. Our July weekends should be on the quieter side, but we're looking forward to a full August with beach time and a return trip to Storyland!

Friday, May 29, 2009

April and May Notes

The past two months since our trip have gone by rather quickly. Here are some of the details:

- Max and I both picked up a stomach bug and got sick the week we came home from WDW.
- We had a great playdate with Hannah and Max's friends, Anais and Max, featuring a trip to the village playground.
- Passover seder at Grandma Fillis and Grandpa John's house was wonderful, and Hannah was a great helper getting things set up and making salt water. I joined her for singing the four questions, since Hannah and I were actually the youngest people available!
- Unfortunately, over the first few days of Passover I began having escalating issues with my back, including a trip to the ER. I've since been diagnosed with sciatica and am now having lots of fun going to PT and dealing with that.
- Max and I have been taking a baby swim class at the JCC, in anticipation of him starting daycare there in June. I'm not sure he's enjoying the class much, but he's learned to say "JCC."
- I took Hannah to see the "Hannah Montana" movie, and recently downloaded some of the soundtrack for her. During the movie, there's a touching scene between father and daughter featuring a song called "Butterfly Fly Away." My Hannah grabbed my arm and snuggled close during it, and now it's one of "our" songs.
- Julie joined us to attend a sheep shearing festival at Gore Place in Waltham, MA. It was a gorgeous day, and neat to see that done up close.
- That same day we decided to purchase a backyard playset from Creative Playthings. The kids have already enjoyed it a lot, and I know it's going to get a lot of use this summer and many to come.
- I won free tickets to a Boston Pops show featuring the music of Billy Joel, sung by Michael Cavanaugh. It was a great show, but I had to go alone since it was a last-minute thing. I hope to get to go again sometime with Marc.
- I got two nights in a row out of the house, going to a party at Carol's and a dinner at Allie's. It was great to spend time with these friends, and especially to hear Allie's exciting baby news!

But the most wonderful event occurred on May 4th, with the birth of Nathaniel and Evelyn, making me an aunt for the first time! Marc got to go to New Haven and meet them while they were still in the hospital and congratulate Rachel and Jon in person. We all went to the bris and naming a week later. Hannah held both babies and Max was surprisingly sweet and gentle with them. It was such a treat to get to hold and help take care of these tiny new people, and I was so lucky to go back again and get to spend a day with them. Rachel and Jon are doing a fantastic job, and I can't wait until they're big enough to play with their cousins!

Looking ahead to June, we've got some big transitions coming up. Max will be leaving family daycare and entering Hannah's JCC center just as she leaves it. Next week is her preschool graduation (sob, sob). But we're looking forward to visits from my brother Ryan and his girlfriend Allison, as well as Grandma Susan's annual summer visit. It should be another busy month!

The Disney World Post

I recognize how long overdue this is, seeing as we visited the happiest place on Earth back at the end of March, but I wanted to spend some time kicking it around for a while in my mind before writing it. There is so much I want to share, so you're going to have to indulge me as it's going to be a long post. But hey, it's my blog, and there's only 3 dedicated readers of which I'm aware (feel free to prove me wrong in the comments).

I've been wanting to go to WDW as soon I became a parent really, but it was cemented during a business trip to Orlando I took when Hannah was only 4 months old. Since she was so little, Marc and Hannah came along. During an afternoon off, and after lots of discussion, we spent an afternoon and evening at Epcot. We had a fabulous time, and I couldn't wait to go back.

But we did wait, almost exactly four years. We don't get a lot of vacation time, and a great deal of it is spent managing gaps in childcare schedules, so it had been a while since we took off a chunk of time for anything other than visits with family. Marc gave me the okay to start planning in December. Thanks to Julie and Mike, who bought us both the official and unofficial Disney guides for Hanukkah, I was able to dive right in.

I actually didn't use the official guide much, but the unofficial guide was priceless. Not only was it incredibly thorough, it also included access to additional features on the book's website. While I didn't follow one of the touring plans it provided, it helped us to determine what we wanted to see and do in each park, and really managed my expectations of the trip. Some of the details were just crazy (where to stand to get the best picture of your kid on Dumbo – hello, I wanted to be on Dumbo myself!), but some really did pay off (buying glasses strings for our sunglasses, since they need to be removed so often, which Hannah and I both enjoyed). At any rate, if you're planning a trip, get the book.

Before we did anything else, we made dining reservations. We knew we wanted a meal at Cinderella's Royal Table in her castle at the Magic Kingdom, and reservations here are very difficult to get. We made a lunch date with the princesses, and then also booked dinner at Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary Hotel. With the dates finally nailed down, we booked very early flights leaving Boston on Wednesday and returning home on Sunday. We rented a car, figuring the additional cost was worth our peace of mind at having access to one, and then found our hotel.

Through poking around on hotels.com, I stumbled across a hotel that featured family suites. A little more digging revealed that the All-Star Music Resorts, one of the Disney Value hotels, featured these suites that included two bathrooms, a small kitchen area, and a separate master bedroom. The most amazing feature was the price – hotels.com offered the suite at 45% of the price offered booking it through Disney. So our hotel ended up being one of the cheapest parts of our trip, seeing as the flights and park-hopping tickets cost us more.

Hannah was so, so, so excited to be going to WDW. She made her own version of Mickey Mouse hats for us about a month before the trip, and she worked hard to get Max excited too. This trip really was for her – she'll remember so much of it. She is already getting past her princess phase, but when she was there and in the moment, it was all so real. Hannah didn't complain as much as I had expected, and was a real trooper regarding all the walking we did. I think it also helped that she couldn't read yet – there was no fighting about rides she couldn't go on, since she didn't really know that there were things she missed.

Obviously, Max had no idea what was going on, and parts of the trip were hard on him. At 15 months, he wanted to walk everywhere, and got very frustrated about waiting in lines. He would pull off Marc's hat and glasses, fight and struggle against the stroller, and wait too long between diaper changes. Naps were irregular at best. But there are moments that I know he really enjoyed, and even though he can't remember them, I hope that somewhere he retains the memory of our first trip as a family of four.

Thanks to my BlackBerry, I was able to send emails each day that detailed our adventures, so I'm not just drawing on memory here. Again, it'll bore the rest of you; this is more for my own re-reading pleasure down the line. (And apologies if I get any of the names of things wrong!)

On Wednesday morning we got up and left the house around 4:30 to make our 6:50 am flight. The kids were up and excited, and had fun playing in an area near the gate before we boarded. It was Max's first flight, and he slept the entire flight sitting next to me. Six rows away, Hannah peppered Marc with a million questions for the entire flight. We splurged and used a skycap to help us get everything to our rental car, which was a big red boat (Chevy Malibu) that Hannah helped pick. Hannah was fascinated with everything just driving out to WDW – she loved everything about Florida. We changed the kids into summer clothes and then boarded the ferry over to the Magic Kingdom, and suddenly our vacation had begun. Marc wanted to buy a new hat, so we went straight to the hat shop and Hannah designed her Mickey ears – purple cap, Hannah Montana sticker, pink jeweled ears. While waiting for the embroidery, a parade began outside. Marc and the kids got swept up in it, and I eventually found them dancing with Donald Duck and Goofy on Main Street USA. What a way to get started with the Disney experience. We had lunch in Tomorrowland at Cosmic Ray's, and while Max finished Marc and Hannah rode the Motor Speedway car ride. Next Hannah and I rode the Astro Orbiter, a very high space-themed ride, and she screamed her head off but totally loved it. Then all four of us used our first Fast Passes on the Buzz Lightyear ride (ALWAYS USE FAST PASS WHEN YOU CAN!!!). Next was the Monster's Inc. show, which incorporated people in the audience, including Max! Mike (the one-eyed monster) asked if anyone wanted to see something cute, and they flashed Max's image on the screen. He was wearing an Izod shirt with large letters, and Mike yelled "look at this baby named Izod!" One of the funniest parts of the show for sure. Next we walked over to Toon Town and toured some of the character houses. Hannah also got an elaborate face-painting done, which turned her into a mermaid. Next Hannah and I rode the tea cups, which we both really enjoyed, especially because we got a pink cup. Hannah then played in a little water area outside Ariel's Grotto while I waited in line for her turn with the Little Mermaid. Hannah loved meeting Ariel, and thought she was incredibly nice. We finished our afternoon at the park with the scary Snow White ride, and then hopped on the monorail to the Contemporary Hotel for our dinner at Chef Mickey's. We had a long wait since we'd arrived an hour before our reservation, but it was good to be out of the sun a bit. Our dinner was fun – both kids loved meeting the characters, especially Max. The food was okay, but I think we were all pretty tired from such a long day. We finally made it to our hotel around 9, and after getting settled Marc went back out for a diaper run and a little exploring. A jam-packed but amazing first day.

Thursday was similarly busy. We started the day at the food court at our hotel, along with several hundred high school students. We had read that our hotel was often used for school trips, and it made the food court a nightmare. I waited in a huge line to get Mickey waffles for everyone. Fortunately, that was the only time we were barraged like that, as we went to the food court a little later the following morning. After breakfast, we headed to Animal Kingdom, which none of us had been to before. I had read that it was a smaller park, and as expected, we finished everything we had wanted to see around 2:30. Since we were there right after the park opened, we went right into a character greeting with Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore and Tigger. Then we headed to the dinosaur area, and went on Triceratops Spin twice and poked around a bit before Nemo: The Musical. This show was definitely one of the highlights of our trip, and was truly fantastic. The costumes and sets were very well done, and we all enjoyed this show. We went a short train ride, had lunch and then used our fast passes on the safari. Hannah got into it, thinking there really might be poachers and that we needed to keep the animals safe. Seeing animals living in a set-up like that was really interesting. The last thing we did there was the Lion King show, which included some amazing gymnasts and was a lot of fun. We then headed back to the hotel for a swim break. I'd read over and over how beneficial it would be to take a break from the parks in the middle of the day, and it was. Max had his first official swimming experience in the baby pool, and we each took turns with Hannah in the giant guitar-shaped pool. Her swimming skills have really improved over the last year, and she enjoyed making new friends as she played around. After we dragged the kids out of the pool and got dressed again, we arrived at Epcot around 5. They had an amazing topiary display at the entrance with all the princesses made from flowers, which was very cool to see. We made a beeline for the Kim Possible game, which had been heavily promoted on the Disney Channel. Unfortunately, the timing of the game conflicted with our dinner reservations in Morocco, so we promised to come back the following day. We went into the Living Seas exhibit and Max seemed to want to dive in with the sting rays. We saw Turtle Talk with Crush (Hannah was too shy to ask a question), but she liked it so much that she bought a stuffed turtle. Our Moroccan dinner was good, but Max had a meltdown there which seemed to entertain some nearby guests. After we got some very good pastry in France, and then Marc and Hannah took in the Canada film while I sat outside with a sleeping Max. Hannah bought a cool Sleeping Beauty light toy, and Max awoke just in time for Illuminations. Watching the fireworks reflected in their faces was one of the trip highlights for me.

Friday began with a much easier, later breakfast (no lines!) and we still made it to Hollywood Studios just as it opened. We immediately went to the Playhouse Disney show, which combined four of Hannah's preschool show favorites. Even Max got up at the end and danced around in his toddler ways. Then we saw the High School Musical 3 "Block Party." Hannah sat down near the front, and as the show ended I waved frantically to "Troy," who saw me and waved back to Hannah. She was so thrilled about that. We next went to the Beauty and the Beast show, which had some amazing costumes. The only downside to all of these shows is that Hannah kept asking when they'd start. My answers of "when you see people on stage" didn't seem to appease her much. We saw a quick movie on Prince Caspian and then the Little Mermaid show. After lunch we went to the new American Idol Experience show. We got taped in the waiting area outside the theater and got to see ourselves incorporated in the show later. Hannah really liked voting for her favorite teenage girl singing a song from "Camp Rock!" even though she didn't win. We then went back to Epcot, as we'd promised Hannah, but it was a disaster. The Kim Possible game wasn't available until the park was nearly closed, and that caused a lot of tears for Hannah. We convinced her to go on Spaceship Earth by promising to leave right afterward and get dinner at McDonald's. We followed through on that by going to a McDonald's we'd seen on the Travel Channel. It was definitely tricked out, with tons of games and lots of different food options, but it was so tacky that we left as quickly as we could! We headed back to the hotel for more time in the pool, and Hannah stayed out quite late, playing in the water while High School Musical 3 was projected on a giant screen. I think swimming at the hotel was really her favorite part of the trip. Max enjoyed the line dances they organized poolside as well - he tried hard to dance along, especially to YMCA and the Macarena.

Saturday was the last day of our trip, since our flight home on Sunday was around 6:30 am. I brought breakfast back from the food court to our room, unfortunately spilling Marc's coffee just before I got there. He refilled his cup on the way to take Hannah for one last swim, this time in the piano-shaped pool. We headed back to the Magic Kingdom later in the morning, this time taking the hotel shuttle. This worked really well for us, especially at the Magic Kingdom since it avoided the need to use the ferry or monorail to get in to the park. We went straight to Fantasyland and got in line for Dumbo, which I took both kids on. The wait for this ride was one of the worst - it took a long time, and you're not in the shade for a lot of the wait, and then it's a pretty short ride. But still, it's a must-do. Then we went on It's a Small World, which has a faster moving line but was very challenging for Max. Once on the ride, he calmed down, and Hannah really loved it. She tried hard to identify all the different countries as we wound through it. We then used our fast passes on the Peter Pan ride, and then moved on to Belle's Story Time. Just Hannah and I went, since it was in a tiny alcove of the park, but it was great. Hannah got to meet Belle afterward, and I think that was possibly the cutest picture of the trip. Hannah and Marc then rode the carousel right before our lunch at the castle. Now, if you've got someone in your family that loves the princesses, I cannot underestimate how wonderful this experience was.We first got to take a family picture with Cinderella, and multiple copies of it were included with the price of our meal. The decorating throughout the castle was beautiful, and included small details like a little Jaq and Gus (Cinderella's mouse friends) hiding out on a ledge. The waitstaff was incredibly attentive and gracious, and the food was very good. Marc had salmon, I had a beef pie dish, Hannah had chicken fingers and Max some pasta. The kids meals were served on giant Mickey plates, and Hannah even ate some of the green beans that came with hers! Hannah was given a magic wand, and Max was given a sword (which we had to confiscate almost immediately). They both got little stars for a special "wishing ceremony" as well. Snow White, Belle, Sleeping Beauty and Jasmine all visited our table, and Max flirted with all of them. Sleeping Beauty was so taken with him that she left a big lipstick kiss on his forehead. The whole experience was just wonderful. The afternoon was more rides: Haunted Mansion, Aladdin's Magic Carpets, the Enchanted Tiki Room (the one time we had to remove Max from an attraction), and Pirates of the Caribbean. We had a nice relaxing dinner at Pecos Bill's (relaxing since Max slept through it!), saw the Philharmagic show (a 3-D movie featuring a lot of the characters), and then Hannah and I went on our last ride, Winnie the Pooh. We saw the SpectroMagic light parade and the fireworks, then took the bus back to our hotel. The kids didn't want to go to sleep, but we had to since we'd be getting up around 3 to head back to the airport.

Poor Hannah didn't want to go home and cried a bit the next morning. We tried our best to explain that we can't always be on vacation, that we're so fortunate that we even got to go, and she seemed to understand. She told me, "it was a really good four days, Mommy." We arrived back to cold and rainy Boston, and were lucky to have most of the day to unpack and get our lives back in order, but it was a tough transition.

I can't express just how much this trip meant to me. Even though there were difficult moments where someone was upset or frustrated, the vast majority of the time was fun and entertaining, and I loved getting to be together as just the four of us. In the hectic day-to-day life we live, we don't get a lot of moments to just be with each other. There's always some distraction. I'm sure a trip anywhere might have yielded similar results for me, but knowing how much fun Hannah had, and the bonding time we had with Max, it might not have been accomplished some place else. It'll be a while until we can get there again, but I can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Red Sox Fans Riding the Rails

I know I owe my lovely reading public (the whopping 3 of you) a full post on Disney World (fabulous) and what we've been up to this month (lots), but that will require more time and effort than I have at the moment.

So what I will address is a topic near and dear to my heart - riding the Green Line when the Red Sox are at home. Hopefully some wayward fan will find this post useful as they prepare for what will surely be an interesting adventure.

Red Sox Nation, please keep in mind that the Green Line doesn't run well, even on it's best days. It's usually crowded and hot, and there's too long of a delay between trains. So when thousands of you show up for your few stops of fun, it just gets worse. Thankfully, the Kenmore station is the last one before the B, C, and D trains go their separate ways, and the rest of us can continue our commute in peace.

By the way, you can walk to Fenway from the E line's stops like Symphony or even Museum of Fine Arts, should you totally screw up and get on the wrong train.

And yes, the Kenmore station is the stop you want to use. Don't waste time waiting for the D line only, thinking the Fenway stop is closer/correct. When the train arrives at Kenmore, the conductors will be expecting a mass exodus and will wait for everyone to get off. No need to try to leave your seat before getting to the stop, as trust me, there will be no place for you to go. Note as well that the train usually makes a few pauses between Hynes and Kenmore, and that doesn't mean we've arrived at the station. Stay in your seat. But you should be advised that outbound C and D trains will have exits on the left side of the train. That means if you're standing next to the conductor, you're going to have a great time pushing past the remaining commuters to get to the exit. Don't worry, we've seen you and your buddies do this before, and we'll see it happen again.

Along the way, you'll find many new friends among the crowd who share your similar love of the Red Sox. You'll want to loudly discuss your plans for the evening, and even better, complain bitterly about the T experience. Try to refrain from doing so, and remember that there are many other people who do this everyday, who will not be going to the game, and find your additional participation to be the true burden.

I hope I've helped you understand a bit more about riding the T. You WILL make it to the game - there is no need to panic, push, or regale me with stories of how much worse the T is than when you used to ride it (you know, when they still used tokens), since you clearly have no idea what you're doing now. So store some value on your Charlie Card, and we'll somehow get through the amateur hour that is April-October evening commutes on the Green Line.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

March Update

Well, it's like my last post was a jinx or something, because we continued to have many illnesses around here for the next month. All of us had coughs and sniffles at various times, and Hannah was stricken with the flu and missed a week of school. We all seem to be healthy at the moment though, so I'm grateful for that.

Purim was this past week, and we had a good time celebrating this year. Hannah decided that rather than be like every other girl in her class and dress as Queen Esther, she would rather be a hamentaschen. I was secretly relieved, as coming up with a princess costume to her liking may not have been so easy. We bought some tan foam core and lots of glitter, and she made the triangles. Good thing that she did, as if I had done it, it would have been a lot more equilateral, whereas her version actually looked "hamentaschen-y." The best part of her costume was that the black leggings she wore were "the plate!"

Yesterday we bought Hannah her first real bike, and we're encouraging her attempts at riding as much as we can. Max has his car as well, and this morning I had both of them cruising in the driveway simultaneously. The only issue with this is that both of them are better at going backwards than forwards. Hopefully this will change soon.

We leave for Disney World in 10 days!!! I'm incredibly ready to be on this vacation, but I'm not sure how I'm going to get everything organized for us to leave before then. I'm a pretty good packer, but this time I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. I think it's the fact that we're leaving very early in the morning during the middle of the week, and it's not like I'm the most energetic person after working all day. But, I'm sure we'll get it done, and it's just Florida, it's not like we can't purchase things while we're there! Hannah is really excited, and I think Max is going to enjoy it too. I just wish he could actually remember it once he's older. We'll be taking lots of pictures and video I'm sure.

So my next post will probably be after the trip...wish us luck!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Winter Blahs

The last few weeks haven't been the greatest around here. Prior to my last post, I'd been sidelined for two days with a horrendous stomach bug. Then the following weekend, when I'd planned to have a relaxing MLK day with Max, he tried to jump from my arms while going down the stairs, and I slipped and missed the bottom step. For the second time since Max was born, I broke a bone. This time it was a finger, which actually hasn't been too awful. But I really banged up my feet too, and those toes are still bothering me three weeks later. Marc also ran a fever for a few days, Max had a runny nose for quite a while, and now today Hannah is home with a stomach bug too. Sigh. I am quite ready for this cold-and-flu season to be behind us, as well as all of the snow that has accompanied it this year.

Of course, it hasn't been all bad. The inauguration of President Barack Obama was definitely a wonderful day. I watched the coverage on CNN.com and had a blast with the facebook integration feature. It was fun having these people from so many different parts of my life commenting on the events in real time, and it made sitting in my cubicle at work a much less isolating experience. While he hasn't had the smoothest start, I am still very optimistic about what the future holds.

The four of us went to New Haven a couple weeks ago to celebrate Fillis & John's 38th wedding anniversary. We had a fantastic meal at the Union League Restaurant, and I highly recommend their ginger-infused Lemondrop if you're ever in the area. It was great to spend some time with Rachel and Jon before the twins arrive too.

This week we've been seeing signs, as Marc put it, of the light at the end of the "two-daycares-in-opposite-directions" tunnel. It's an astounding 54 degrees here right now, and the tons of snow are finally melting away, reminding us that spring is just around the corner. And beyond that, we've been figuring out summer camp options for Hannah. Even further, tomorrow night is Intro to Kindergarten night at the school she'll be attending. Before we know it, Max will be starting at Gan Yeladim, and hopefully our lives will be getting a shade less complicated. I can't wait.

So hopefully we're getting through the low point of the winter and moving on to better times. Hope you're all defrosting well!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Birthday Blasts

Both Max and Hannah really enjoyed their birthdays this year, and somehow Marc and I survived the intensity of the season, given that Hanukkah had ended just days before.

Max had a family party for his first birthday at my in-laws home in Hartford (a million thanks again!). Most of Marc's family is based in Connecticut, so it was the easiest way to get the most people together. I managed to get Max to take a nap in the morning, and when Marc went to wake him up, Max definitely knew something was up. Max was a great host, wanting to stay by the door and see everyone (plus he could keep climbing the stairs that were also nearby). He sat on my lap patiently while I opened each of his gifts for him, and made a nice display of eating his cake for everyone to take pictures. It was wonderful to get so many people together to celebrate his first year.

Hannah's birthday is just four days later, so we had her fifth birthday party at Kids U in Needham. The party was fantastic, and the staff at Kids U was amazing. I definitely recommend them for a stress-free party experience! The kids ran around a giant climbing structure for about half an hour, then were moved into another giant room for games and dancing, and then we ended with the traditional pizza and cake. Our turnout was a bit lower this year from Hannah's class since some people were still returning home from vacations, but she had a great time. She was a very gracious greeter, got to be the fox in "What Time is it Mr. Fox?" and enjoyed her strawberry cake.

So no more birthdays around here until Marc hits a (somewhat) big one in September. We're hoping to take a trip to Las Vegas, just the two of us, towards the end of the summer to celebrate, but we'll see if we can make that happen. Right now we're trying to plan our first vacation as a family of four - to Disney World. I've worked myself into a frenzy trying to read up on all of the best things to do, but really I'm just excited to go away together. All of the vacations we've taken since Hannah was born have involved an extended family component - visiting my family in Ohio and California, going to the Cape and traveling for weddings for Marc's family. So I am very excited to do a trip that's just about the four of us, and if we get to ride Dumbo too, even better. If you've got any tips for us, feel free to post them to the comments!