Summer’s Unofficial Close

Should we blame Shakespeare as Labor Day looms when he writes in “Sonnet 18,” “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date”?  Perhaps.  And though the media is always quick to add that Labor Day is the “unofficial” end to the summer, as a school teacher, it is indeed about as official as it comes.

So, as Don was on vacation this week, we decided to truly get as much out of these halcyon days as possilbe with a long weekend away.  We started in Boston at the Children’s Museum where we were met by Christina and her adorable 15-month-old godson Jordan.  Trying to photograph children in a “chidlren’s museum” proves difficult because they move at warp speed and sometimes faster.  But we were able to snap a few. 

We then drove on to Rochester, NH, to stay overnight at the Anchorage Inn, a motel that made life very easy for us–a parking space literally a sidewalk’s width from our door, plenty of room, and a continental breakfast.  Our ride through North Conway to Story Land was riddled with traffic, but that was to be expected.  So, we enjoyed the sights and tried very hard to spot moose along the way.  (We had to settle for a plastic one at the gift shop later that day!)

Story Land was everything we imagined–and probably  more, since our imaginations are pretty limited compared to the thriving ones of Oscar and Edgar.  This is a park geared specifically for the five-and-under crowd, and it did not disappoint.  The boys rode a swan boat, a pirate ship, a train, and rides galore.  There was even a circus that featured–thankfully–predominantly human performers.  (One act highlighted the antics of some pretty amusing cats.)  We might have made it out of the parking lot before the boys fell asleep but just barely!


We arrived back at the hotel Saturday night with two sleeping boys who never woke up even when we changed them into their pajamas–which I promise you was anything but a graceful undertaking.  Sunday morning was a leisurely combination of “Sesame Street” and muffins; but by 11 AM we were ready to go and headed back to Boston to visit the New England Aquarium.  Oscar was enthralled by the sharks as well as the “Diagnostic Laboratory” and the 3-D IMAX movie, through which he sat silent, attentive, and still–all the while donning some pretty spectacular 3-D glasses.  Edgar looked for clownfish, kissed a harbor seal through the glass, and talked to the penguins.  He also ate the following for lunch (and I hope his pediatrician, who told me after he gained only 1.5 pounds last year, “Feed him!” is reading this):  a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an entire fruit cup, a blueberry yogurt, some chicken from Don’s sandwich, and chocolate milk. 

I have never been a fan of the close of summer, and now that I am a parent of two young children, it is particularly hard to let go of the easiness that summer represents.  I remind myself that as a teacher I am VERY fortunate to have this time with my children, and, of course, I know it to be true.  For that reason, I try never to take that time for granted.  But when Don, too, is on vacation, the boys are able to sense another layer of ease, of togetherness.  We are learning to travel well together and have a lot of fun together.  Our weekend getaway went by way too quickly but it allowed us to bask in summer’s warmth and revel in what is our number-one priority–being together as a family.

If you would like to see the full album, please click on the following link and select “Slideshow.”


A Study in Contrasts

When Don announced to Oscar Thursday morning that we were going to visit Franklin Park Zoo outside Boston, he reminded us that we had already been to a zoo this week and that, perhaps, we should sprinkle a little more variety into our vacation.  Those weren’t his exact words but the sentiment was the same.  When we arrived, we followed the “zebra prints” that were painted on a pathway leading visitors into the zoo and tried, in a moment of whimsy, to imagine the zebras parading down Dorchester’s Columbia Avenue leaving their prints behind.  Oscar surmised that they weren’t real zebra prints but rather someone–a human, in fact–must have painted them on the concrete.   Then there was the exhibit featuring replicas of the bones of a large animal.  Children were running in, on, and around the bones, and Oscar let them know in no uncertain terms that their behavior was “disrespectful”–to the bones, to the life that the bones once purportedly represented, we’re not sure.  But he was not pleased.  But lest one think he is not four but rather 74, he nevertheless hopped on the carousel, wrestled his brother, scuffed through the dirt paths, played “conductor” in a play area, and had moments of silliness that rivaled those of his parents and brother. 

Oscar and Edgar see the world in different ways–Oscar expects logic and order; he questions everything, and needs to know if something is “real” or “mythological.” Edgar is his opposite:  He is unfazed by disorder, happy to embrace any experience–whether or not it bears a resemblance to another experience earlier in the week–and revels in whimsy and silliness.  He wants to run in, on, and around the bones despite his brother’s admonitions.

But what they feel for each other is becoming increasingly undeniable:  Walking along, they will suddenly hold hands or hug.  Or today, when Oscar thought an older girl had pushed Edgar, he said to her fearlessly and with conviction, “Don’t push my brother!”  They play with each other and check in with each other and make sure the other is nearby.  And despite their differences in philosophy, they are clearly there for each other.  And as they travel through life together perhaps Edgar will show Oscar that once in ahwile it’s okay to imagine a zebra walking down a busy city street; and Oscar will remind Edgar that he should probably refrain from using a respectable paleontological display as his personal trampoline.  In all, something tells me they’re going to be good for each other.

If you would like to see the full album, click on the following link, then click on “Slideshow”:

Duck, Duck, Goose–and Goats

Today was a day to commune with some friends we’ve been meaning to visit for a while now.  Our first stop was Prescott Farm in Middletown, where Oscar and Edgar had a chance to explore the grounds, chat with the local denizens, grab a couple of bags of feed, and provide fine snacking material for our feathered friends.  We then headed across the street to Simmons Farm, where the goats were in rare form and ready, willing, and able to snag a blade or two of grass from the boys.  At Panera Bread this evening over his bag of chips and piece of cheese, Oscar decreed this “a really good day.”   I’m sure the well-fed farm animals would agree!

Here is the link to the full album of today’s visit to Prescott and Simmons Farms if you would like to take a peek:

Confidence That Soars

How do you help a person to feel good about themselves?  How does a person learn and begin to feel that they are trustworthy?  The magnitude and implications of these concepts are enormous–whether you’re an employer trying to boost the morale of your staff, a friend trying to help someone you care about negotiate his/her way through a crisis, or a parent trying hard to imbue your child with the self-esteem that will play a crucial role in helping him/her to make good decisions–decisions borne of the self-respect they feel, that has been inculcated and cultivated ideally since they were born.  There is no magic formula to be sure, but today it became clear that letting people do something new, trusting them to do their best while sticking close by should they require assistance might be a start.

We went to Brenton Point today–an idyllic scene for kite-flyers of both the amateur and experienced varieties.  We fall into the former category, but Oscar, at four, may be moving into the latter.  Last year he “assisted” Don by holding the kite along with him, holding it independently only briefly and under the strictest supervision.   This year he held it, controlled it, and made it do tricks!  He beamed with pride knowing that he was doing something he had never done before, that we were trusting him to hold on to the kite.  Meanwhile, Edgar spied a crumbling though infinitely charming rock wall.  He said, “Mommy, will you hold my hand so I can balance?”  And back and forth we walked–sometimes clasping hands tightly, other times barely at all–he, too, bursting with the enthusiasm of being able to do something new, knowing that if he needed help it was nearby.

I have friends and members of my family who have raised or are raising teenagers, and I have taught teenagers 180 days a year for the last 18 years.  And when I allow my mind to fast-forward ten years to Oscar and Edgar’s teenage years, well, there is a brief moment of terror pause that cannot be denied.  It is my hope that as Oscar’s confidence continues to soar as high as the kite he flew today and Edgar’s ability to maneuver though rocky, often unstable territory grows that it is enough to keep them safe, healthy, and, ultimately, happy.

Wild Things

When you visit the same place year after year with children, one of the many benefits is being able to compare and contrast in a way that would be impossible with a constantly shifting venue.  We have been visiting Roger Williams Park Zoo consistently since the boys were babies.  The first year it was simply a single stroller ride that needed to be curtailed because Oscar, at barely one, was a bit overwhelmed by the noises emitted by the temporary dinosaur exhibit–a concept that simply eludes him today.  The next year saw the commodious double stroller and a toddler and a baby who fell asleep at alternate intervals, Oscar immediately after his requisite visit to the elephants, and Edgar fairly regularly throughout.  Then there was the year, which is a particular point of pride for Oscar, when he was rather sick (okay, he threw up) in front of the lemurs.  Today, however, was a little different.  There was no stroller.  Nothing particularly frightening.  And not a bit of vomiting!  It was an easy trip with two boys who spontaneously threw their arms around each other at one point and explored the attractions together.  Oscar tried to read the guide map and learn about the harbor seals’ habitat; and he was concerned about the penguins because there appeared to be no ice in their exhibit and he felt that that wasn’t realistic or comfortable for them.  Edgar expressed his opinions about where he wanted to go and when he was ready to leave.  So, though we visited the wild things today, things for us were a little less wild; in fact, they were easy.  People said to us when the boys were very tiny–both in diapers, both drinking from a bottle, both needing us to fulfill every need and solve every problem–that “things will get easier.”  We didn’t believe things were especially hard per se at the time–just busy, just the way they were supposed to be.  But now I think I understand what was meant by that sentiment.  Things were easier today.  Their own curiosity led their way, and we were available to answer questions, make sure they were safe, and to purchase water, lemonade, and a couple of very cool butterfly souvenirs.  But other than that they led the show.  And I have to admit it felt natural, even easy to see and to let that happen.


To see the full album of today’s adventure at Roger Williams Park Zoo, please click on the following link

Party On!

The props included two delicious and–for a brief moment in time–quite beautiful cakes, one adorned with a space motif, the other looking like a scene out of a Jane Goodall documentary.  The cast of characters included friends, neighbors, and family, some of whom we see frequently and others we need to see far more regularly as well as a one-armed grill master who shall remain nameless.  The setting was a breezy, balmy August night in our backyard.  It was a sublime setting as we gathered to celebrate Oscar’s fourth and Edgar’s third birthdays.  The festivities began at 5 PM, and commencing at approximately 10 AM, the question was:  “Mommy, when are our friends coming?”  The boys were excited and seemed to understand the significance of the occasion.  As we decorated the yard, Oscar looked around and said from atop his cushioned perch, “This looks really nice.”  That was motivation enough for me to blow up at least another dozen balloons.  When we hung up the cards today, his comment was, “That’s really cool,” as he laughed and ran off into the kitchen still giddy and feeling the post-party excitement.  Edgar possibly reached the pinnacle of his personal level of messiness as he and his cake (and it would appear Oscar’s, too) became one.   It was an evening to remember and a celebration to look forward to every summer! 








To see the full slide show of the boys’ birthday celebration, please click on the following link:

A Broken Bone Can Heal

The story is now near-legendary:  On April 10, 2008, the first balmy day of the season, that day in New England that serves as the harbinger of warmer weather ahead, Don went out for a bike ride.  Two minutes later neighbors were at our gate letting me know that he had fallen.  We learned that a small dog had darted from its house, chased Don on his bicycle, and to avoid hitting the wayward canine, Don maneuvered in such a way that led to a nasty if not memorable spill.  His broken humerus was diagnosed right away; the accompanying shoulder dislocation not so quickly.  Surgery on July 17th led to Don sporting and sleeping in a medieval torture device brace for four weeks followed by a week in the sling.  On Friday, August 22, the sling came off!  And though his physical therapist recommends he still wear it in large crowds or among friends who like to greet with robust handshakes or pats on the shoulder, he is free of it.  He can drive, grill, and, oh, how I’m hoping, possibly change a diaper or two (or three or four).