Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Baby is a Teenager!?!

    It's official.  My baby boy, the Evil Genius, is really a teenager.  This momentus occasion was marked in style.  By all accounts the Glow-in-the-Dark Hot Tub Dance Party (oontz oontz oontz oontz) Birthday Rave was a smashing success.

     This morning, my basement looks like Willy Wonka's factory had an explosion, what with all the candy wrappers everywhere.  The backyard is a mess of silly string and abandoned glow sticks.  There are glow-in-the dark stars, planets, animals, and zombies all over my patio furniture.  And there is a trail of pizza sauce stains and potato chip crumbs--the only signs that there was any food for these boys at all.  It really was like a mass of locusts descended on the picnic table.


     The Evil Genius is pretty pleased with the results.  It met all his criteria for "epic 13th birthday party."  So, we have that going for us.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Can't You Hear the Bass Line?

   In a few more hours, the Evil Genius and one of his buddies are hosting a joint 13th birthday party.  Actually, according to them, it's a Glow-in-the-Dark, Hot Tub, Dance Party (oontz, oontz, oontz, oontz)  Birthday Rave.

I stand corrected.  

    My house is plenty clean enough for a dozen teenage boys and almost clean enough for their Mamas.

  There are marshamallow peeps to roast on the bonfire, glow sticks, glow-in-the-dark bubbles, stars, planets, and zombies, a totally fabulous glow-in-the-dark piƱata, a dozen cans of silly string, birthday cake, my Personal Chef's famous hand-tossed pizza, some day-glow colored drink concoction, Thing 2's mad DJing skills, and the centerpiece of the Oasis of Awesomeness--the hot tub.

     I think I'm going to take some pre-emptive ibuprofen and double-check to make sure that everything breakable is put someplace safe.

If you don't hear from me in the next few days, come looking for me in the rubble, would you?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Summer of Awesomeness Super Awesome Edition

  What. A. Week.  We crossed off a whole bunch of amazing things from the 
Official Summer of Awesomeness To Do List.

    Last weekend, we went down the Cape  (that's Cape Cod to you folks who are not from the northeastern part of the United States).  For generations, my father's clan has gathered in Falmouth, Massachusetts to spend time at the beach, eat fried clams and lobster rolls (that's lobster salad in a hot dog roll), ride bikes, go for walks, play board games, drink a smidge too much perhaps, laugh a lot, and have a wonderful time.  We did all that and more.

    On Sunday, we got to cheer on a Cool Cousin for running her first Falmouth Road Race.  It's 7.15 miles of winding, seaside roads, lined with happy people cheering her and all 12,000+ runners.  It was the furthest she had ever gone and she did it with a smile.  She was a last minute substitute for her cousin who runs it annually, but has a stress fracture in his foot.  Because he runs for a great cause--Compassionate Care for ALS--the family didn't want to bail.  Hurray for Cool Cousins who will run their furthest just because it's the right thing to do!

     While she ran, we raised money and cheered.  Because supporting Compassionate Care for ALS is definitely the right thing to do.  The folks there are wonderful and caring on a level that is exceptional, even for charitable organizations.  When my Uncle Tom was sick with this heinously cruel disease, Compassionate Care for ALS provided adaptive technology that made it possible for Tom to stay home, and ongoing support for his family to keep on keeping on when it was really too hard for anyone to do it alone. To learn more about this organization, click here.

     We played in the sand and the surf.  There were boogie boards and sand pails and preschoolers bossing college graduates around.  There were blankets and chairs and umbrellas and towels.  There was plenty of sunblock for kids, not quite enough for adults (or at least this adult, I burnt to a crisp).

     We watched the sun set into the sea.  It's a family tradition, one that I had never been a part of before, so I found it to be especially heartwarming.  After a perfect, post-race beach day, the FabFam gathered drinks and snacks and sweatshirts and blankets.  We talked about everything and nothing.  We snacked and drank and sang and poked fun at one another.  And we watched the beautiful sunset, until the sun disappeared into the sea.  (I got to do this again with my family on Wednesday night, too.  I can see why my Aunts keep doing it!)

     We watched the Perseids Meteor Shower from blankets on the beach.  It was a perfectly clear night, and the sliver of a moon set into the sea around 10 PM, making the conditions perfect for seeing the vastness of the universe at it's most wondrous.  The Evil Genius proclaimed it the best bit of the entire summer.  I'm inclined to agree.

     There was more biking and walking and beaching and picnicing and delighting in each other's company all week long.

     And that's not all of it!  On Thursday morning, to celebrate the Evil Genius turning 13, my Personal Chef, Thing 2 and I drove all the way to the other end of Massachusetts to the Berkshire Mountains.  There, the men I love ziplined  for three hours, across the valley.  I did not join them.  While I am not afraid of heights, I do have a fear of falling.  (Hey, I cannot explain it either.)  So, three years ago, when celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary, I did this exact same zipline adventure with my Personal Chef.  It was one of the most remarkable things I've ever done.  As it took everything I had in me to step off of the platform before every run, I didn't see any point in doing it again.

     Instead, I spent the afternoon wandering through the hidden gem of a town--Shelburne Falls.  It is an old mill town built on the Deerfield River.  Today, it has a thriving art community.  So, I spent several joyful hours in galleries.  I befriended a local potter and her adorable dog. I also finally experienced the Bridge of Flowers.  The FabFam often travels to this part of the country.  I've read about the Bridge of Flowers, but had never seen it for myself until this Thursday.  In 1908, there was a trolley bridge built across the river.  It was decommissioned in the mid-1920s.  Dismayed with the eyesore, the local gardening club took it upon themselves to covering the span with plantings.  Nearly 100 years later, the garden club still maintains the Bridge of Flowers.  It is so stunning, it made me tear up as I walked across it.  It was really wonderful to spent that much time just looking at beautiful things.

     I stopped off at a local market to pick up a picnic dinner then gathered my menfolk from the mountain.  From there, we trekked to Tanglewood to see Yo Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan, aka The Goat Rodeo Sessions.  They were joined on vocals by local girl, Aoife O'Donovan.  It was a phenomenal show.

     Over the weekend, my Personal Chef, the Evil Genius and I got out on our bikes and got the kayaks out on the Blackstone River.  It was an 8 mile bike ride, but only a mile or so on the kayaks.  The river is low and the lily pads are high...

     Finally, we finalized plans for the Evil Genius' Epic Thirteenth Birthday Extravaganza.    It's a Glow-in-the-Dark, Hot Tub, Dance Party set to go off this Saturday night.

So, how's your Summer of Awesomeness Going?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dream a Little Dream

      Most of my dreams are just wisps of a vision and they vaporize with the morning sun.  Once in a while, though, I will have a dream that really gets to me.  I had such a dream about Rwanda the other night.  It is still with me this morning, two days later.
     Well, I say that the dream is still with me, but really what I mean is that the feeling it evoked is still with me.  I can't actually remember anything about the dream except that I was walking along a red clay road.  I don't remember now where the road was.  I don't know where I was going.  I just know I was happy to be walking.  I also remember the smell of the air.  Rwanda has a distinctive smell, like barbecue almost.  I remember snippets of sound--so many birds, cow bells, the deep tones of Kinyarwanda and French being spoken by people who were out of my line of vision, and music--East African pop music with it's synthesizers and mellow dance rhythm.
     And once again I am homesick for someone else's home.  I cannot explain the feeling beyond saying that it is a deep longing.  I am really looking forward to traveling with my family next summer, and showing them this place I love.  I worry a little that they won't be as captivated by Rwanda, that it won't get into their souls the way it is now a part of mine.  Then I smile to myself, imagining my children and my husband discovering the gifts of this beautiful nation for themselves.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Goodnight, Sleep Tight

     One of the most challenging, and simultaneously the most rewarding, part of caring for infants--either my own or in my classroom--was nap time.    Sleeping babies are among the world's most precious treasures.

       At work, to help get 4-9 tiny ones to sleep at once, I employed a time honored tradition that all the cool early childhood professionals know--the naptime tape. There are plenty of lullaby tapes on the market and local musicians are always trying to busk their latest compilation at early childhood conferences.  In a pinch, the third side of the Beatles White Album makes an excellent playlist for sending kiddos off to sleep.  The best teachers, though, skipped the ready-to-play naptime tapes preferring to put together their own special mix tapes.  Back in the dark ages (before iPods), it took significant effort to create the soundtrack to peace and quiet.  And in many child care centers, the competition to create the best naptime tape is fierce.  
(This is the subject for another blogpost, but I promise to one day tell you how I vanquished the toddler teacher who insisted that a Madonna mix could touch the Beatles with a vengeful hour of over a dozen covers of "Blackbird.")

     My naptime mix has evolved over the years to include a mix of classical, classic rock, gospel, and folk tunes guaranteed to lull my wee charges to sleep.  When my own children were babies, it was these songs that I would sing over the cradle, or while I walked miles and miles in circles around the house to comfort a fussy one.  When my cousins and nieces and girlfriends' children started having babies, I made up CDs of my naptime mix to add to their shower presents.  I would like to think that one day my own children will sing, or at least play, these same songs to my grandbabies.

Miss Kristen's Naptime Mix

Blackbird (Beatles)

Freight Train (Peter, Paul & Mary)

Whistling Gypsy Rover (Tommy Makem & the Clancy Brothers)

Ripple (Grateful Dead)

You Can Close Your Eyes (James Taylor)

Three Little Birds (Bob Marley)

The Garden Song (Pete Seeger)

Welcome to the Family (Kids Praise 3)

Monday, August 5, 2013


     This weekend, I fell head over heels in love.  He's got soft, brown hair, and big, blue eyes.  After a whirlwind romance, he spent two hours in my arms.  It was heaven.  I can't wait until our next date.

Baby D arrived in our family on the first day of summer.  He's my cousin's first child.  And he's perfect.

I'm not just a one-baby girl, though, and yesterday, I spent the day with another cousin's babies--8-month-old Marshmallow  Man and his super groovy 4-year-old big brother, the Little Lebowski.  These fellas have had me wrapped around their little fingers since they first arrived on the scene.

  It's been too long since I've spent this much time with babies.  I forgot how much I love them.  I mean I really, really love babies.  I made a career out of caring for them, of training other infant caregivers, and working with parents through pregnancy and the early years with their babies.  Two years ago I took another job--that I do in fact love--working with hunger relief programs at a food bank.  It's a wonderful job doing really good work that helps a lot of people.  I get to work with church food pantries and social service agencies and afterschool programs and shelters.  It's not working with babies, though.

It was good to be reminded of my first love.  I am okay with not making my living in the baby biz.  I am defnitely going to have to spend more time with these three lover boys, though.