In which the children become slightly feral

Living in Irish suburbia means that things have slowed somewhat. It’s not every day that we’re out and about seeing different things, eating different foods. Our lives resemble that which we have back home, where the kids go off to school in the morning, come home in the afternoon, we eat dinner at home, then have our evening routine.

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after school homework time

 

It’s been hard to write much partly because of that, and also because of being consumed by the political situation back home. I know I try to keep politics out of the blog, but it’s impossible when that is what dominates your life. It’s of course on all versions of social media, and even in Ireland is all over the news and in conversations you hear around you. Despite what seems terrifying on the news cycle with the new slew of executive orders, the fact is that most of our lives haven’t changed all that much from a day to day basis. Therein lies the danger of these things – it can be easy to ignore the issues especially if they don’t directly impact your life. I spent a week in New York, and other than the charged atmosphere, life proceeded largely unchanged from before the election happened. I shouldn’t be surprised, really. We’ve traveled to a few authoritarian states on our journey, and the reality is that there, too, life proceeds as typical on a day to day basis. But people are aware that there are limits to their freedom, and that speaking out can be a dangerous thing. We’re not there yet in the US, but I think it’s heading in that direction very quickly. I think that if you feel completely safe with this current government, then you’re okay with ignoring the suffering and difficulty of others because you don’t feel that you’re at risk at all, which to me is simply morally incomprehensible.

Back to blogging as usual over here. As I said above, I flew back to the States for a week to New York to visit my sister, Sapana, and attend her baby shower! She’s due in March with her first baby and I’m over the moon excited for her. She’s excited, too, though sometimes I think she feels as though she’s been handed a complicated IKEA cabinet to put together, with no instructions and just a shoddy allen wrench. Don’t we all feel this way with the first baby though? I’m sure the child will be fine, and to continue the weak analogy, will be assembled and functional at the end of it, though will have a bunch of spare bits and bobs left over. I usually end up taping these to the back of the piece with some masking tape, as if by osmosis they will provide whatever essential function they were meant for. This works for children too. The shower was so fun! Rakhee, Sapana’s sister in law, did a fabulous job arranging it. It was the best attended shower in the history of baby showers.

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I also met up with my friend Ulcca from Denver, who was in town for a work meeting and stayed an extra day so we could hang out, my friend Rebecca from medical school who lives in the suburbs, and even my in-laws drove up from Pennsylvania to see me, which was delightful. Both sides of expectant grandparents were of course in attendance. It was great to see my parents again! It’s been so long since we were all together and we all had a fun time being together. We’ve made a lot of friends along the way, but it was just wonderful to see and spend time with family and old friends, to feel that sense of comfort from other people. Texting and social media help while I’m far away, but they’re pale comparisons for actually being with people who are important to you.

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I was worried that it would feel odd to be back in the States, but well, I haven’t been away that long and it’s a known entity. I love New York City, and spent most of my time (when not with family) wandering around, going to shops, stocking up at Trader Joe’s, and just enjoying the atmosphere. I find New Yorkers to be friendly and helpful everywhere, if not a bit matter of fact.  There were people who offered help when I clearly needed it, and many with whom I chatted just around town. I also think I personally helped to save a New Yorker’s life. This was a checkout clerk at The Strand Bookstore, where I was buying a sloth enamel pin for the girl. As he completed my transaction, he gave a little shudder and said, “Sloths scare me, man. Those eyes…” I gave him a grave look and said that for the sake of his health, I would not tell my daughter about this apostasy, as she would find a way to track him down and cut him. Thus far, I have kept my promise. I hope that I will be recognized for my efforts, if only here.

The one exception to New York friendliness was an Uber pool ride I took while there. I slid into the back seat, and said hello to the other passenger. The car was silent, without music. The other rider next to me didn’t acknowledge my presence, nor did the driver, both women. With traffic, it was a long 30 minutes to my destination, and easily the quietest ride I’ve taken in six months. What was strange for me was that while I previously would have been quite happy with this, I’m not used to it anymore. I’ve become one of those people who likes to talk to strangers now, in a way that I never did before. Meeting different people and interacting with them has become something fun and enjoyable, not something to be avoided. I kept trying to think up different ways to chirp in and start a conversation, but the oppressive silence cowed me until the car spit me back out onto the welcomingly noisy streets of the East Village.

 

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Back to Ireland, where the children run amok…

One day a few weeks ago, the kids had returned home from school. Still in their uniforms, they were sitting at the kitchen table and working on their homework. The doorbell rang, and Eric and I looked at each other, as if to ask “Were you expecting someone?” I went to answer it and there stood a young girl and a very small boy. “Hi! Is E here?” she asked. My girl ran up and said happily, “This is my Bus friend, S! I invited her to come over to our house!” In came the friend and her little brother, handing me a crumpled piece of paper with her mother’s number on it. I texted to let the mom know that they’d arrived and to ask when we should walk her home. I thought that this was a one off situation until it’s now happened a few other times with other kids as well. My kids will invite a friend over without really telling us, the kid shows up with a crumpled piece of paper and a number, and then we send the kids home by themselves at the end of the play time.

For my friends outside of the States, this is something that absolutely would NEVER happen at home, at least not in Denver. The first time that a new friend comes over to play or goes to another, you arrange a time with the parents that works for them and you and where the kids aren’t involved with some after school activity or sports tournament. Then, if you haven’t met them before, you take the kid over (usually by car because it’s not easily walkable) and hang out for a little bit to make sure that they don’t seem like axe murderers. If you are a really good parent, you’ll be sure to ask if they have guns in the house and if they’re locked up. At a prescribed end time, you will come to pick up your child from the house. Future playdates, because they are always called playdates, are again arranged through the parents for specific times. Occasionally after you know someone, the kid will come over after school for a bit. If kids are out on their own, they usally have a cell phone leash so they can always be contacted. The only friends the kids have where these rules don’t apply are the neighbor friends from down the street, who are now close enough that they all run back and forth. Even then, though, usually it has to be cleared by one of us to make sure that they are not busy doing something.

The freedom of children here is revolutionary for the kids, and us. Despite how “free range” I’d like to think of myself as a parent, I was uncomfortable with this at first, but it’s easing up. The boy the other day went home with a new friend and then walked home by himself at the end of it. The other day, the girl had an afterschool activity, and Eric and were going to be in Dublin for the day. A plan was made: the boy was going to walk to the library, stay for an hour, then walk over to the girl’s school and they’d walk the one and a half miles home together. I suspected they would stop in at the candy shop along the way, and in this I was not wrong, however I underestimated as they also stopped in at the chip shop. It went off swimmingly, and the kids loved having the open space to do what they wish, asking if they can do this more frequently.

Yesterday we may have stretched things a bit far – the boy didn’t want to come to the pool with us, instead his friend V came by and they played outside in the morning. In the afternoon, he went over to V’s house to play a bit more, and I thought he’d be there for quite a while but left after an hour and came home. Eric, the girl and I were in town running errands, thinking that he was at V’s house. When I got home, I found that he was sitting at home with the lights off because he was afraid of robbers and thought we might have been parent-napped. I felt a bit bad, to be sure. Still, he said that he would definitely want to do something like that again, and now is more comfortable with it as well. Besides, I did point out that he could email us at any time, which hadn’t occurred to him.

I currently am not entirely sure where they are. They ran out of the house a bit ago to go play outside and perhaps see if some friends were home and could join them. I love that we can be somewhere where the kids can have their own life without us needing to hover or know exactly where they are at all times, and the growth opportunity it gives them.

-s

New York, end

The next day we went up and went to 4 and 20 blackbirds to have pie for breakfast, which is hands down my all time favorite breakfast.

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There is nothing better than apple pie for breakfast. I dare you to disagree.

The girl, of course, had to be contrary and get a cinnamon roll instead.

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Then it was off to Central Park to spend a day with Rebecca and her two kids.

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ImageWhy I thought it would be a good idea to have the girl wear white pants is beyond me. We first went to Belevedere Castle, but it was sadly closed for maintenance.  I told the girl that we couldn’t go inside because the princesses were sleeping (I know, I know) which was apparently an acceptable reason and we wandered off through the ramble, pictured above.

I can’t believe that in the picture above we’re in the middle of New York City.  It felt like  a lost forest. All 6 of us (Rebecca + 2 kids, Me + 1 kid, Sapana) imposed upon an unfortunate but muscle-thighed pedicab driver to take us to the carousel, which was such a hit we went around twice!

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Wave everybody!

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Outside was a juggler (NOT a juggalo, that would be terrifying) who put on a near private show for us.  As we all sat down to watch, many others hurried by.  It’s too bad because he was pretty funny.

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All the kids got to try out balancing a spinning ball.  The girl was VERY serious about this.

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Then there was time for a bit more rock climbing.

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It’s tough to tell from the picture, but that was a BIG, BIG rock and the kids ran all over it, completely undaunted by the height. I love that my little girl is so fearless and unafraid to get dirty.  Though I should note that Rebecca’s daughter ran exactly where my girl did and yet managed to stay pristine, so maybe there’s a skill there my little one is missing.

Then it was time to say goodbye to Rebecca and friends and board the train for a trip to…LONG ISLAND! Woo-hoo!

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Just kidding! We were on our way to meet Sapana’s boyfriend’s family, who were so sweet and nice to us. They handed the girl a doll when she got there and she was in heaven the rest of the evening.  His mom’s cooking was so delicious, too-it was so nice to have a traditional Marathi dinner that it made me resolve to cook it more for my kids so they grow up with the same love of those dishes that I do.

The next day was the last one for me with the girl in the city.  Her grandparents came to whisk her away to Allentown for the weekend. I looked at her before we left the house and said, “I’m going to miss you so much when you’re gone, little one.” She looked at me, reached out and touched my chin, and said, “Don’t be sad, Mommy.  I’ll be back soon.” So much for parental attachment.

That morning we had fun at the Park Slope playground

This piece of playground equipment took no less than 4 adults to figure out.  After we did, it wasn’t all that fun anyway.  It was too much like exercise trying to be disguised as fun.

The climbing structure, on the other hand, proved irresistible to grownups as well as kids.

After that, it was time to say goodbye to the girl. Sapana and I wandered around New York for the next two days rather aimlessly.  It was so fun to spend time with her, though I did feel a bit too aimless at the end of it. That evening we had delicious sushi and went to see “Battle Royale” at the IFC film center, which was…an experience.  The best part was the previews, which featured this GEM of a short from the New York Times op-video.  Please spend 2 minutes of your life watching it (link below).  If you do not guffaw at least once, email me privately and I will send you a $5 Starbucks gift card.

Mitt Likes Music

Sunday morning, Sapana had a race.  In kindness to her I will not post pictures of her running, because with the exception of that one genetic freak, all pictures of us running are horrible. It was the Portugal day race, and can I say that people in New York were all about Portugal, except for the race announcer who only knew a few fun facts and kept repeating them in an elated tone. “Did you know that Portugal is where Port comes from? I didn’t know that! Buy some!”

After that was more aimlessness and then the plane home, back to Denver, to a joyful reunion with brother and Daddy.

Oh, right…brother and Daddy.  Where were THEY during this week? Off mountain biking and fishing! Next post all about the boys.

And as a final note, it was so great to travel with the girl.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s trip with the boy, and wondering if we should go to New York again (which you could visit every year and have a different adventure) or think about branching out somewhere more adventurous, requiring a passport stamp, for example.

New York 2012, continued

We had a BIG NIGHT planned tonight and after the lesson of the previous day, scrapped plans to go to the Statue of Liberty (which is closed anyway) and instead visit the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

We walked there from my sister’s apartment, which she insisted was not far. Of course, she was thinking in adult terms of not far and not 4-year old legs, so it got to be a bit long getting there. As soon as we got inside the gardens, though, the girl ran about merrily and the second we hit pavement after leaving, she began to complain about walking.

In Brooklyn, the size of kids that are in strollers is truly, truly astonishing. I know there’s already a tumblr on the topic, but I couldn’t help but stare at these very large children in tiny strollers. I guess for Brooklyn, this is the equivalent of a car and you simply need to get from Home to School and then Work in a short amount of time and can’t be leisurely strolling. Some of these kids were 7 or 8, though, easily and could have been on a scooter next to the parent, if they were in a hurry. I’ll keep this in mind the next time I strap my kids into the minivan to go less than a mile away, which I do frequently. Back to our previously scheduled programming…

After what need up being a one and a half mile walk, we got to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. So, so pretty! We took some time to smell the roses, literally.


There’s a lovely discovery garden with some nice little tree-y nooks

And a compost bin where the girl got to do one of her favorite activities: digging for worms.


Then, we went back to Sapana’s place for a well deserved nap!

And in the evening, Times Square! On the way to the subway, the girl swung her arms side to side and sang as loud as she could, “I Loooovvveee Meeee! I love me! I so fancy! I so fancy!” Ah, if only she can keep up that self-confidence her whole life.

Soooooo BIG!

And someone was VERY excited for the Ferris Wheel inside the Toys R Us building

After that, we went to watch

The girl has never seen Mary Poppins, so before the show we had a little conversation that went like this:

Girl: “Mom, what this show about?”

Me: “Well…it’s about two kids and their nanny.”

Girl: “And then the kids die?”

Me: “No! They don’t die!”

Sapana: “Well, that would be more interesting then your boring description!”

The show was surprisingly delightful, albeit with some tongue-in-cheek drug references, like, did they really need to keep taking spoonfuls of “medicine”?And while you could take alcoholic beverages into the theatre, they were served in…sippy cups. What cracked me up was the number of groups of adults without children that came to the show and merrily sang along with Mary.

Late, late taxi ride home with a sleepy little girl, to get ready for the next day of adventure.

New York 2012

As you may know, every year I do a trip to New York with one kid and alternate kids every year. This year it was the girl’s turn to come to New York with me.  She was so, so excited to go, as was I.

With this trip, I let go another one of my parenting tenets that was established before having children, which was “Children do not need to watch screens while on the plane.” Idiotic, really. Had I been wise, I would have plugged my kids in much sooner.  To this day I have NO idea how my parents managed to travel with small children to India without any assistive devices. I was incredibly happy to get out “How to Train Your Dragon” and plug both of our headsets in. You know, that is a very good movie, even if I did have to fast forward through a few scary parts and constantly shush the girl as she yelled out “TOOTHLESS!!” in joy, unable to hear how loud she was.

First stop once arriving in Brooklyn was getting froyo at Culture. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to eat froyo again, anywhere.  It’s that delicious. Bad foodie that I am, I did not take a picture.  I’m wondering if it actually happened.

The next day it was a bit rainy so we briefly braved the Brooklyn streets,

had a first (remembered) encounter with a subway train

And then went to the Transit Museum. SO COOL. All about how the subway system was created and how it runs, though the girl mostly loved driving the buses.

My favorite part was the vintage subway trains they had downstairs, starting with above ground Brooklyn trollies from the late 1800s. The girl decided to use this time to pick her butt.

The trains are decked out with vintage ads and admonitions as well

Still good advice, if you ask me.

We then hopped the subway to the Natural History Museum.  By this time the girl was an old hand at the trains and kept warning us to “Stay away from the yellow lines or you get squished!” Always the safety officer, that one.

I love seeing the dino skeletons.  It’s astonishing to me how incredibly huge they really are.  It steels my resolve not to go back too far should I ever happen upon a time machine without first going to the future and picking up a jet pack so I can escape quickly. Or an invisibility cloak.  That would work.  But they might have a good sense of smell, so the jet pack is still the better idea.

Rawr!

You know, one thing I forget about New York museums is that they are NOT friendly to little children.  I feel like the Denver museums make a real effort to have things be open to all kids and accessible, whereas the ones in New York seem to make a point of being more for adults, really–crowded halls, tiny dense print and few interactive features.

After that, we went to get Thai food and the girl had a huge meltdown, which should have been entirely expected given that we’d been traipsing around 2 boroughs for the entire day. Poor thing.  She recovered to her usual self and we headed back home and had an early bedtime, with plans to fit in a lot less the next day.

NYC day 2

Today was a very, very full day.

The boy is doing great through all of this, though I’m realizing that he has no sense of crowds or how to navigate in a dense urban environment. In Denver, where it doesn’t much matter where he gads about as long as he’s going in our general direction, he has a lot of freedom in public spaces. He doesn’t quite understand exactly why he can’t hop about like a rabbit on Adderall at the subway station and why I nearly pull his arm out of his socket when he does so. He also has NO conception of personal space. I think he’s so used to sidling up to people that want him to be next to them that he doesn’t quite get that most of the world does not want a small child underfoot. That said, I find that New Yorkers are not particularly accomodating of children who are in their way.

Today, we had to take a little detour as a result of my forgetting our Lion King tickets. FedEx promptly delivered them to Sapana’s office this morning so we took a little side trip to the Flatiron district to retrieve them.

That done we went to the Natural History museum where they have a very, very cool exhibit all about sauropods. While it’s not large, it is one of the most intriguing dinosaur exhibits I’ve ever seen because it just makes the creatures come alive. There’s a lot of focus not just on the skeletons but on the lungs, heart, stomach, muscles and growth of the animals. Did you know that sauropods had storage sacs in their lungs?! When they breathed in air it would go into the lungs and the storage sacs. Then when they exhaled, the storage sacs would exhale that frest air into their lungs. How efficient! Otherwise all that air has to go up and down that long neck too much. And their teeth! Not as grindy as you would think–much sharper for stripping plants of their leaves instead of chewing them up. I could go on and on. I love dinosaurs.

We then went to the Ocean Life section to see the big blue whale.The little speck in front of the TV screen at the far end is the boy.

After that was a cab ride to the Theatre district/Times Square. The most exciting part of this was that the boy got to ride in a car without any sort of car seat. He was giddy.

Then….

Now, I’m not a big musical person, but this was delightful. The opening number in particular is so captivating! I must confess, I always cry when I see the “Circle of Life” scenes in the movie, and the musical was no different. Tears, people, tears streaming down my face. The boy was transfixed by the trampling scene in particular.

Then a quick trip to the Upper East Side for Dylan’s Candy Bar! The boy was, well, like a kid…

My sister pointed out to me that in the space of two days, we have been to 1) the Upper East Side, 2)Brooklyn, 3)Flatirons, 4)Upper West Side, 5)Times Square and 6)Midtown. And we have done this with a 5 1/2 year old in tow who is proving to be a very sturdy traveler.

It is so fun travelling with him. He has a few moments, but for the most part he is engaged, interested, active and never, ever complains.

Rainy day in Times Square--note all the umbrellas

Tomorrow, up to Westchester!