Friday, October 30, 2009

K & O's Halloween Project

This was a big project for us. 4 necklaces -- 1 for Miss Amanda (Kyle's teacher), 1 for Miss Joyce (Owen's teacher), 1 for Margie (of course!), and 1 for MorMor (who was going to be visiting for Halloween weekend!). We worked on this over a two week period of time. We took it in small doses. And none of us lost our minds in the process (which is huge!). In the end, K & O were very proud of what they had accomplished. The receivers of these four Halloween treasures were pretty delighted too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

K & O on Gender: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Our humanity rests upon a series of learned behaviors, woven together into patterns that are infinitely fragile and never directly inherited. --Margaret Mead

There is so much I could say here. But after pondering this long and hard I've decided to just let the quotes and stories speak for themselves. Here it is folks... some of our most memorable recent moments with Kyle and Owen regarding the subject of gender. The good. The bad. And the ugly. You can decide for yourself which is which (depending, of course, on your own leanings with these subjects). I will say, however, that anyone who has read here for any length of time will be able to guess where I stand on these things. I AM MORTIFIED ABOUT A LOT OF THIS---- but for the sake of memory, for better or for worse, I am putting this down here. It is what it is. It is real. So, here we go...

In the car one day early this Fall~~~
K: Mom, what are you going to be when you grow up?
H: Well, I'm kind of already a grown up. And I am a professor. You know that. That is what I am for my work-- that is what I do for my work. I am a professor.
O: I'm definitely not going to be a professor when I grow up.
H: O.k. That's great! I think it is great if you do something different than what I do.
O: I'm definitely not going to be a professor when I grow up because I'm not a girl.
H: Oh. Well, there are lots of professors who are men. Professors aren't just women.
K: Like who?
H: Like Ben! You know, the Ben of 'Ben and Ruth.'
O: The Ben that visited us?
H: Yes, he's a professor. You know that! And there are lots of other men professors too. You've met lots of men professors. Like at my work. You know, like all the people at my office who are men. They are all professors. You know that.
O: Papi, are you a professor?
B: No, I'm not a professor. But there are lots of men who are professors.
K: What is Papi?
H: Umm... umm... Papi is an executive.
B: Yeah, I'm an executive.
K: An executive. Oh.
O: Well I'm going to be a pilot when I grow up.
H: Whatever you want to be there are men and women who do it. Boys and girls can all do all of the different jobs. There is no job that women aren't allowed to do. And there is no job that men aren't allowed to do. There are men and women professors. There are men and women executives. And there are men and women pilots.
K: I never saw a pilot that was a lady.
B: Yes you did! The first time you ever sat in the pilot's seat in a plane cockpit! That pilot that let you do that was a woman! You've definitely seen a woman pilot before!
K: Oh. Really?
B: Yes, do you remember that?
K: Oh, yes, I do remember that.
B: So, there are pilots that are women and pilots that are men.
O: Well, I'm going to be a pilot. I'm not going to be a professor because I'm not a girl.

One day, playing "Mailman" in the playroom (a common theme of play with K & O).... They make "mail" (i.e., write on paper and make letters and envelopes, packages, etc.), and then they "deliver it" to other parts of the house (via riding on their toy train), and this goes on and on for hours. Talking to each other, while deep in their imaginative play~~
K: I am a mailman and you are a mailman. Right Owen?
O: Right.
K: Are we kid mailmans or are we growned up mailmans?
O: We're grown up. Definitely. We are grown up. Kids can't really be mailmans.
K: O.k. That's right. Are we married?
O: Yes. Definitely.
K: To women or to men?
O: Um, I think to women.
K: O.k.
O: What is your wife doing?
K: She is a mailman too I think. But no. It is just you and me. We are the mailmans.
O: Right. It is just us.
K: Right.
O: I will tell my wife to stay here and take care of our kids.

Another day, during dinner, we were talking about marriage (this is a consistent theme for K & O ever since school started this fall). Despite the fact that we have gay and lesbian friends and family members who are legally married and many of whom have children of their own together, and despite the fact that in their own classrooms Kyle and Owen have friends whose families represent such family structures, they continue to be challenged by the fact that some kids at school tell them outright that "men can't marry men and women can't marry women." Apparently, according to K & O and their teachers, K & O duke this out (words, not fists, at least so far, thank God!), on the playground on a regular basis. Anyway, one night at dinner~~~
O: Well, I know this for sure-- I am going to marry Stella and Kyle is going to marry Emily and we are going to live in a house together and we are going to sleep together in a giant bunkbed and we are all going to be together in the top bunk.
H: Oh?!
K: Yes, that is how it is going to be. Right Owen?
O: Right.
H: Well, if you decide to get married when you're grown-up, that is still a long way away, and you have plenty of time to figure out who you will want to marry.
K: How far away? How old do you have to be to get married?
H: Well, I think you have to be, I don't know, maybe like something like 30 years old when you decide to get married. It is a big decision!
O: Well, I know I am going to do it and I am going to marry Stella.
H: Maybe. Or maybe it will be someone else. Maybe a different girl. Or maybe a boy.
K: I will marry a lady.
H: Why?
K: Because then she will cook for me.

Lastly, a head's up regarding the soon-to-happen-Halloween-extravaganza!!! (just 48 hours away now and the countdown is on!)~~~
The boys are very excited for Halloween. We have their costumes and everything is all set. They've known for months (well, basically, since last Halloween) what they want to be for Halloween this year. Prepare yourselves for what you will see on this blog in the coming days..... for disdain or delight (again, depending, of course, on how you lean on these things)... my Boy-boys (the same ones quoted above) are going to be butterflies. Glittery, fluttery, winged, butterflies. They were insistent. INSISTENT. Not that I fought it. But still. They were determined about it. Nothing else would do. Note: they have absolutely NO IDEA WHATSOEVER that butterflies are considered, by the vast majority of the U.S. mainstream population, to be 'girl costumes' (etc etc etc). So, like I said, it is what it is. All mixed up. And real.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

5th Annual Fall Traugers Farm Day

Sunday we enjoyed our tradition of celebrating the season at Traugers Farm. This place is only a few minutes from our house, but this outing is big for us nonetheless, and we all look forward to it each fall. Corn maze, hay ride, kettle corn, pumpkin picking... a sweet, sweet family tradition for us five.

Traugers 2008
Traugers 2007
Traugers 2006

Traugers 2005 {pre-blog}:
these photos were taken as we were getting ready to go to Traugers; those were good, but tough, days (twin 17-month-old boys); those were days pre-ability-to-bring-camera-along-on-outings (!!!); we could barely handle the two of them while out-and-about, let alone take photos of it!!!!!!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Street Beat!

Last night the boys and I went to Street Beat at Zoellner arts center at lehigh. It was a great time and all three of us loved it (thank you to Heather who got the tickets). Street Beat takes the idea of street drummers (people who sit on the coner and drum on all manner of household items) and takes it to a totally new level - drumming like crazy with breakdancing and all kinds of jamming.

We already had an affinity for this (see here for where it started), but Street Beat went beyond. In addition to the normal amounts of incessant drumming and music we have in our house, we're sure to see a lot of break dancing and all around throwning bodies into unnatural and amazing positions that will make Heather and me cringe in envisioing hospital visits.

Of course, when the dancers came out into the audience to find participants both boys' hands shot up to be picked. Owen was picked but not Kyle. He headed up saying "what about my brother???" but the guy wasn't going for it. So, I sent Kyle up anyway. When they both got up there, the main guy hands Owen two orange drum sticks and Kyle to Yellow ones. Since the boys favorite color is orange, Owen promptly gave one orange one to Kyle and Kyle gave him one of his yellow ones. Everyone in the audience broke up laughing, it was great. They drummed like crazy to wild applause, and loved every second.

We got them to bed around 9:30 and they were asleep in 5 minuntes flat. A great night all the way around.

Friday, October 23, 2009

This Morning

Ok, seriously, proudest parenting moments ever? It is the little things, right? Like when they say 'please' and 'thank you' unprompted. Or when they show genuine love for that kid in their class who really needs some TLC. Or when they pee in the toilet without leaving pee-puddles all over the bathroom floor. You know, the little things. Well, anyway, proudest parenting moments ever? --This morning was one of them. For all the hair-pulling and tear-shedding and ranting-and-raving that they cause me.... they then go and counter-balance them in moments like this. Man, they drive me crazy (their boundless energy, their frenetic activity, their twinny-tempermental-tantrums-and-incessant-boyish-brawls, their Behavioral Problems (capital 'B' 'P') and strange-personality-traits that provide a never-ending-list-of-things-for-their-Mama-to-worry-about, ETC., ETC. ETC.). Oh, how they drive me crazy. But my gosh, they make up for it in some big, big ways -- big, creative, joyful, benevolent, make-their-Mama-ever-so-proud ways. Things that just come seemingly out of nowhere and make up for oh so many wrong-doings. They say, and do, the most sweetly profoundly awesome things sometimes. So, this morning, they woke up (had slept together in Owen's room last night). We heard them in there getting ready all by themselves. They do this sometimes, out of their own initiative, when they feel like really making us proud. It involves getting dressed, bringing their pajamas to the hamper, making the bed, opening up the window shade, etc., etc., etc. Basically, getting up and going fully completely entirely on their own. After all is done, they come to us, so proud, and we make a big deal about it, and the day is off to a great start. So, this morning, we listened and heard them doing this. A great morning was brewing. But then, a twist. We heard excited conversing (but couldn't make out what they were saying). Then we heard them running downstairs. Then we heard banging around in the kitchen. Minor-nerve-wracking anxiety ensued on our part. What, on earth, were they doing down there? God help us. Next thing we knew, seriously, they were calling us downstairs for coffee. They had MADE COFFEE FOR US. ???!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I said to Braydon, "No matter what this 'coffee' tastes like, we drink it graciously and show, enthusiastically, our excited appreciation. Got it?" Yes, he got it. O.k. "Oh, and no matter what the kitchen looks like, no matter what mess or disaster has been caused down there --even if there are coffee grinds everywhere, even if our beloved coffee bean grinder and/or super duper coffee maker are totally broken-- no matter what, we praise them adoringly for this gesture. Got it?" Yup, got it. We could hear them, eager whispers and excited chit-chat, planning their presentation. O.k., we're heading into the kitchen now. And what do we find?? The photo above. Two PERFECT cups of freshly ground, fresh brewed coffee. I mean, PERFECT. Braydon's even was ready with his milk already poured in (the PERFECT amount). Mine was black, as they know I like it. And there they were. All proud and glorious with what they had done. And the kitchen and the grinder and the coffee maker? In PERFECT condition. PERFECT. Seriously. Yes, they've been "helping" Braydon make coffee for years. But no, they had never done it themselves (not even remotely close), and no, we had absolutely no idea they would know how to do it (let alone PERFECTLY). Our coffee maker is not simple to use. It is a complex sophisticated-coffee-making contraption. Making perfect coffee out of whole beans is not easy to perfect. Especially when two picky coffee drinker parents are the taste testers. But seriously, seriously, seriously, Kyle and Owen did this this morning: They got up and made us coffee. They missed the bus as a result. But seriously, who focuses on details like that when you've got a fresh brewed hot steaming perfect cup-o-joe in your hands that your twin 5-YEAR-OLD boys made you???? Not us. We let the bus go and made pancakes instead and savored the moment. Braydon happily drove them to school and they made it just in the nick of time. And they walked in there feeling like a million bucks.

In other news, Little Miss has a new favorite breakfast that she's become very fond of recently: two eggs, over-easy. Here she was, this morning. She won't eat pancakes but she'd eat fried eggs every morning if we let her. I love this picture of her:

I never want to forget these moments.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

MorMor's Basket Blog!

My mom has launched a basket blog!!!!
Check it out! ~~ CLICK HERE!
As I set out to take some photos of the baskets in our home -- baskets that she has made for us over the years -- I discovered just how many baskets of her's we have -- and just how many uses we have for them!
Haven't you always wanted one of MorMor's handmade Shaker-Style Baskets?

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Photo of the Day

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Rainy Weekend Recap

It was a rainy, raw, raucous fall weekend. Everything was canceled due to weather. Everything. Birthday parties were postponed, football games were a no-go (at least for us, that is, there was no way in heck we were going to sit in the damp cold rain to watch Lehigh play Yale, regardless of how badly Kyle wanted to go despite the weather), and the big plans we had for gearing up for Halloween/Thanksgiving (pumpkins, gourds, hayrides, etc) were totally rained out. It left us all to our own devices for a whole weekend of previously-unplanned-for-free-time. Strange, but true. We're not used to this kind of totally unscheduled time.
Friday is my day to pick the boys up from school. This is precious time for me. Meera was taking a long nap, and Braydon was working from his home office and agreed to cover Meera, so I got to go get the boys by myself. That one-on-two time is a rare treat. Despite the wet weather, we went to our old favorite after-school-haunt: Ringing Rocks Park. There is almost always nobody there but us. But on Friday we ran into a friend of Owen's from his class at school. We had the best time. The boys playing with her. And me having time alone (i.e., without Meera on my hip) to savor chatting with her mom. (note below that Kyle still has not mastered the simple art of smiling for the camera.)

The rest of the weekend was basically spent inside. I don't remember the last time our family spent that much time inside. Seriously. Anyway, the whole weekend is like a hazy blur. There was some "motorcycle" riding in the basement:
Lots of playing with baby dolls:
"Playing Football" (i.e., tackling each other like crazy madmen):
And the discovery that Meera loves Braydon's work. Literally, she loves what his company does. She cannot get enough of watching music concerts streamed over the internet via rVibe. No kidding:
Saturday morning Braydon and I made a split-second executive decision that we could not possibly stay around the house for the whole entire rainy day. We took off for our new favorite museum in the entire world: The Please Touch Museum (Philadelphia's Children's Museum). That place is great. All five of us love it. (photo of O, B, K on carousel taken there) We became members on Saturday. That was big for us. Anyway, before we left for Philly I was determined to take a picture of the three kids because they were all wearing brand new outfits (well, except for Meera's hand-me-down-from-K&O-jeans). It has just been this past week that we've broken out the fall clothes. I wanted so badly to get a photo of them because they all looked so good and their shirts were oh-so-gloriously-clean. I knew enough to know that those shirts would never look that way again, and I wanted a photo. I begged, pleaded, and bribed. Still, this was the best they could give me. Little buggers.
Ky Ky was not pleased with the photo shoot and just wanted to get on the road to Philly. But this photo, as it turned out, is just so perfectly Kyle. So, in the end, it was all worth it. I guess. If only for this one photo. (And I was right, by the way: those three shirts came home looking nothing at all like what they looked like in these photos from before we left).
Owen did this all by himself at the museum. He was so proud. He asked if he could take a photo of it with the camera (which he did, photo at top). And then he asked for me to take a photo of him with it:
Sunday was at home. We did nothing but everything. That's how it is sometimes. Sunday evening we went to a "Work Party" at the home of the chair of my department. Driving there in the car I again begged, pleaded, and bribed the bambinos -- this time to please make me proud of their behavior at the party and not royally embarrass me in front of work colleagues. They went overboard with their displays of their best manners and polite behaviors and positive party attitudes. Many people commented to me how well-behaved they were (my chair, for example, told me that she had "never had someone ask her so politely where her bathroom was located"?!!!). They got donuts on the way home for that (and lots of proud positive remarks from their Mama). At the party Kyle ate, amongst all the other food he consumed there, 4 pieces of chocolate cake. Have I mentioned how much food these boys eat? Heaven help me.
Last note: all of those new fall clothes? So quickly going downhill fast. Isn't it just exhausting to look at?! This shirt was brand new when he put it on this morning. This is what it looked like when he threw it into the hamper before bed tonight. Braydon just takes it in stride (thank goodness, since he does the laundry), but I can't help but cringe (I do the clothes shopping). Heaven help me.
But oh man, do I ever love those little buggers.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Top Ten: On Our Finding of Great Destinations

The beach on our Chesapeake Bay Trip, October 2009

Since the Chesapeake Bay post I've received a whole slew of questions about how, exactly, we go about finding the destinations to which we travel. Here's my Top Ten List:
  1. Love it. Embrace it. Travel is a passion of ours. We place huge value on traveling with our kids. We are grateful everyday for the travel we are able to do in our family life. If we could afford it we'd travel a ton more than we already do. Although we had traveled a bit before we met (huge influence on both of us were our Study Abroad experiences in college --Braydon in Russia, Heather in Chile), Braydon and I fell in love with travel together. For us it is all about the experiential aspects of it; experiencing something new together. We, and now our kids, love every single aspect of it (planning it; getting there; being there; getting home; remembering it). For real. We also tend to like experiences that push our limits just an itty bitty bit... and we don't like commercialist materialist tourist traps... and we like some level of privacy... thus, our desire for slightly 'off the beaten path' destinations. We prioritize travel and dedicate a lot to it in terms of money, time, and energy. So we are willing to do a lot of research to make sure that we're going to the right places. We (especially me, Heather) have learned to embrace the planning of it almost as much as the actual doing of it. We (especially I) spend a lot of time on the planning, researching, preparing. We are not afraid to spend hours and hours and hours figuring out where to go, where to stay, and what to do. If I had to give one tip, based on what we have learned over time, it would be this: invest, heavily, in the planning -- love it, embrace it -- it will pay off in exceptional experiences!!!
  2. I've been relying on this site for years and it has never done me wrong. If I was limited to one -- and only one -- resource for travel planning, this would be it. Specifically, I use the reviews. Reviews of destinations and reviews of hotels/resorts. I also use the Travel Forums on this site. I read the info on TripAdvisor in detail, look closely at every single photo posted, and I also will very often email/message the posters/reviewers. This is serious research people! I'll stay up into the wee wee hours for days on end doing this until I think I've absorbed everything I can to make informed decisions. For our Mexico trip this past spring, for example, I relied heavily on this site. I was in email correspondence (asking millions of questions, from the most simple to the most profound -- no joke) with numerous people whose reviews/forum posts I found there. I've been using tripadvisor extensively for the past five years or so. Amongst all the travel sites out there, I seriously think this one is the best.
  3. Suites and Kitchenettes. Way back in the beginning, when we first got Kyle and Owen home, we figured out pretty quickly that the way to go, where travel was concerned, was to --whenever humanly possible-- get some sort of suite-like accommodations. Because of early bedtimes and napping, it is very very very very good to be able to have some sort of separate sleeping area and 'living' area. A suite is great, but in warm climates just a porch/balcony/patio is enough. Someplace for Braydon and I to 'be' while the bambinos sleep. Also, we ensure some sort of kitchen/kitchenette whenever possible. Our routine is always the same: out and about for the day, feed dinner to the kiddos early (think easy breezy: mac n cheese, pasta and a jar of sauce, grilled cheese), kids to bed, then dinner and drinks for the happy parents. Braydon gets take-out for us, or we cook something simple for us, and we enjoy the peace and quiet without the strains of home. The kitchenette is invaluable-- it makes baby feeding (think freezer for storing breast milk; mixing formula; microwave for warming bottle in the mid-of-the-nite) easier, and basically all feeding easier (think a gallon of your favorite organic whole milk in the fridge; a big bowl of fresh fruit on the table so they're getting at least some kind of nutrition amidst the hot dogs and mac n cheese and ice cream; a jug of margarita mix at the ready for the kids-in-bed-Happy-Hour).
  4. Sweet Suite Hotel Chains. Suites with kitchenettes are not always as expensive as you might think. If you haven't caught onto it yet, the suite-hotel-chains are a bargain. (Homewood Suites, Residence Inn, etc.) We use these a lot. We might pay a little bit more for the hotel, but we save in food. We will almost always eat breakfast in the room. Sometimes lunch too. And we always give the kids dinner at the room. This helps in the mental-health arena too; there is no way on earth we could expect our rambunctious boys to eat out three meals a day---- no matter how much they love to eat out! So, we arrive at the destination and make a grocery-store-run ASAP. Its all good.
  5. (Vacation Rental By Owner) This is where we have found all of the house rentals, condo rentals, and timeshares that we've rented over the past few years. Seriously, folks, if you can find the right place this is often cheaper than a hotel. We contact the owners and ask about a hundred questions before we decide.
  6. Bartering. We always try to get the VRBO owners to come down on their rental prices. And they almost always do. Sometimes they come down significantly.
  7. Surfing. (the web.) We do a lot of internet research. I google google google and read up (extensively) on any websites we can find. I'm not afraid to ask questions. And I always ask about the racial dynamic of the area, and try to gauge if it will be a destination that is friendly to our particular family.
  8. We buy the book. The old fashioned, good as gold, travel book. Nothing on the web can compare. Our favorites are the Moon Travel Guides. We buy real maps of the areas too, whenever possible, in advance.
  9. Visionaries. Based on all this research we almost always have a solid idea of what we're going to want to do, and often even where we're going to want to eat. So we can prepare the bambinos for what is in store. And so that we can all be on the same page re: what the expectations are. It helps if everyone has the same vision in mind. And that can only happen if there is a vision to be shared.
  10. Wish List. We keep a running wish list of places we want to go. We often stray from that list. But we always have our dreams in place. And no dream is ever too big. Or too small.

So... what are your tips and tricks for great family travel????

Friday, October 16, 2009

School Bus

The first couple days of K & O's school year, both Braydon and I wanted to be there to watch them get on the school bus. So, Meera had to come along too (since we couldn't very well leave her alone at the house!). The school bus pick-up spot is at the end of our neighborhood road. And our mornings are often frantic (we try desperately to keep a sense of calm and ease in them, but we tend to fail miserably at that). You can imagine the drill. Every minute counts. Early on we learned the hard way that driving to the bus stop (as opposed to walking) is clearly the way to go... it saves us a good solid 10 minutes in the a.m. And believe me, we need every one of those 10 minutes. So we quickly abandoned our lovely notion of a nice leisurely morning walk and resigned ourselves to ridiculously pathetic routine of getting into the car and driving the 1 minute to the end of the road. Well, the first couple days somehow morphed into the first couple months, and here we are: all five of us going to catch the school bus every morning. Meera will not have it any other way. She insists on going with the boys to get the school bus everyday. Truth be told, Braydon and I both love this little ritual that has developed, and neither of us want to miss out on the school bus pick-up either. So we all pile into the front seat and go out there each day. I have no idea how long it will last, but for now, it is what it is: a major part of our family's daily routine. Today it was rainy and I grabbed the camera as we were --in typical fashion-- rushing frantically out the door.