Exploring Boston for free

We discussed getting out of town for Memorial Day weekend, but in the end, we decided on a staycation and explore Boston more. And as an added bonus, nearly everything was free!

Saturday we headed to Castle Island, to the south. Parking is free, but fills up fast. We ended up parking closer to the long path that curves around the bay (Google maps tells me it’s called the Head Island Causeway), rather than in the lot right at the park.

Castle Island 1

It turned into a hot day, but the morning walk along the water was really nice. I really love the sounds and smells of the sea, but I’m not a fan of sand. So while there were beaches around the bay, being on the island was nice, since it was grassy and you could be by the water without getting sandy.

The island is a great place for kids, with a big playground and lots of green space for kids to run around. The tours of Fort Independence are only in the afternoon, so we didn’t stick around to do it. We have learned it’s just best for everyone to not skip nap time.

Castle Island 2

We brought some food to snack on, but will definitely try out Sullivan’s on our next trip. We also skipped the toll roads, and got a great view of the Boston skyline when driving back along 93.

View of Boston

 

So overall cost for the day was just gas, which, at about 15 miles away, probably comes to about a dollar and a half. Not to bad for a little morning trip to the sea.

On the drive back, we passed a park with a spray deck. I have no idea if these exist in France, or even in other cities. Probably. Hopefully. Because they are awesome. It’s literally just a bunch of sprinklers and shoots of water on a flat area for kids to run around in. Since it got up in the 90s on Saturday afternoon, I thought this would be a fun thing for bébé to try. And he definitely loved it. There are a bunch around that I can’t wait to try out this summer.

Sunday we checked out the Arnold Arboretum, in Jamaica Plain. I feel like pictures really don’t do it justice. It’s like, a very pretty, manicured forest, with super wide paths. Bébé went crazy running all over the place, and laying in the grass, and smelling flowers. Arnold Arboretum

Parking is also free, and harder to find as the day goes on, so at least there’s one advantage to having a toddler who wakes up before 6 most days! Again, gas was probably less than two dollars, maybe even less than one, since it’s only about 10 miles away.

Sunday afternoon I headed to Cambridge to pick up a dining room table I found on Craigslist. It was a new area of Cambridge for me, so that was fun to drive around looking at everything.

I found some chairs on Craigslist as well, and picked them up this morning down the street from the Museum of Fine Arts, which was free today. So bébé and I checked it out while my husband took the chairs home, thus saving me the 25 dollars in parking (though paying tolls twice, so 5 dollars plus gas). The museum was not quite as fun as the island or the arboretum, since bébé could’t touch anything. Still, there were a few pieces you could interact with, and he seemed interested in a few paintings and stained glass windows. Mostly though, he liked climbing on the benches and stairs.

And finally, this afternoon I went to a movie for the first time since Christmas. It was in Lexington, a super cute (and historically important) town only 5 miles away that I’m sure we’ll go visit again and again. There’s a bike trail and ice cream shop and all sorts of stuff for kids this summer. I totally have a crush on this town.  Of course the houses start at like, 1.2 million dollars, so it will have to stay a crush, sigh.

Overall, it was a great weekend getting to know the area a little better. Our exploring actually started last weekend with a visit to Walden Pond (free parking with a library pass!), which will be another nice place for bébé to play in the water this summer. The walk around the pond got us thinking about longer hikes we might try, now that he’s slowly getting used to being in the baby carrier on our backs. A good system seems to be to let him run around for a good half hour before putting him in it, so that he’s tired and doesn’t mind being carried.

I didn’t set out to make this a “no-spend” weekend, but having bought the car a little earlier than planned, it’s interesting to see that it’s actually easier to get to cool free stuff than before. So to help offset the higher transportation costs, I like the idea of sticking to cheap and free family activities on the weekends. And honestly, with bébé’s attention span the way it is, there’s no sense in dropping tons of money on doing something he’ll like for about three minutes.

Right now, what he most seems to enjoy is being outside, running around, chatting up strangers, and if possible, getting wet. There are plenty of cool places to do that for free in the area, and I’m happy we got to visit a few this weekend. At work when people mention things, I can finally start to say “Oh yeah, we’ve been there!” and begin adding things to my list of recommendations for visitors. First up is my parents in a few weeks!

 

 

The importance of music

I was going to write a whole post about our awful experience buying a car. However, everyone I’ve spoken to has said it wasn’t fun for them either, so perhaps it’s just an accepted thing that car buying sucks. I did want to mention that this experience included the salesman showing me a video of his son while I was driving, and him asking me to (quite illegally) sign the title for my husband, presumably because he didn’t want to drive out to my husband’s office downtown.

Anyway, now we have the car, and while I wish I could feel excited rather than completely emotionally exhausted, I am looking forward to listening to more music. The importance of music in my identity has become very evident in the past few months. On my walks to/from work/daycare, I either listen to a French podcast on France Culture or to the radio using the iHeartRadio app on my phone. And there’s just something about walking down the street to a really good song that gives me all sorts of energy. This morning there was Weezer, Sublime, and the Bloodhound Gang all in a row. How is that not a super fun way start to your morning?

Music is so closely tied to memories and emotions, I think that’s why it was always hard for me to get into French music. Driving along, listening to it, I didn’t feel any particular attachment to the songs I heard. There were a few that came to mean something in the history of me and my husband, some great 80s classics that were fun to belt out at parties with everyone, and one or two artists I I fell in love with. But 90% of what was on the radio did nothing for me. Living close to the German border meant we heard a little more older American music, but I was never like “That’s my jam!” the way I have been pretty much every single time I turn on the radio here.

I’m waiting to bring this up with my husband, since I have a theory that because American music is played so much in France, that he may not feel quite as strongly that “his” music is missing from the radio here. But then maybe on our first trip back to France (sometime next year hopefully!) he’ll get excited to hear a song he hasn’t heard in ages, and the feeling of truly belonging somewhere will come over him. For me at least, it seems like the language the people around me speak doesn’t matter so much as the music they’re singing, to make me feel like I fit in.

Bébé’s adaptation to the States

So I’ve talked a bit about our adjustment to our jobs, and a new routine, but what about bébé? I’ve mentioned how much he likes daycare, but there are other things I started noticing almost as soon as we arrived in January that I wanted to be sure to get down before I forget. While I know so much of this is just related to his age (the 18-24 month period is full of new milestones), it’s hard for me to disassociate all the progress from the move. I know he would have done all of the same things in France, but I’ve convinced myself he is doing them sooner/better because the environment in the States is “better” somehow (just rereading that made me think “You’re crazy” but at least I know that I am!)

-When we were living with my parents, he was so great with my dad. He’s retired, and not that active, but bébé managed to get him up and running around (well, ambling quickly) every day. I’m pretty sure bébé thought he was a bear, because of his size, and it was amazing to see a connection develop so quickly. Bébé also enjoyed stealing grandaddy’s food, so that was a good way to get both of them to eat more vegetables.

-Speaking of food, baby food is very different here. I guess I thought since diapers were the same, food would be. The big thing I’ve noticed is the applesauce. There are tons of flavors of natural, sugar-free applesauce in France, but here it seems like everything designed for kids has sugar in it. It’s making me a little crazy. And there seem to be less brands of baby food and less “meal” options in general. Like his favorite had been couscous, but definitely not able to find that here. People said not to waste suitcase space on bringing his favorite things, but the first week I really regretted not bringing at least a few!

One difference that is nice are the squeeze packs of  fruit that include veggies. He gobbled those up at first, so at least he was getting some veggies.  Now of course he will only eat certain colors, and insists on using a spoon for everything, and only eating from my plate, so the struggle begins again. He is a very American kid and likes macaroni and cheese, but only sometimes chicken nuggets. He prefers sweet potato fries to normal fries, which I consider a huge mom-win.

I did bring enough formula for one week, thinking we’d buy more here. Also surprised to discover it’s very different here! So the switch to whole milk (probably a bit overdue anyway) was made, and frankly, he didn’t seem to notice a difference. I’ve been putting in almond milk too now, to see if we can stop buying milk altogether, and he also likes that. So hurray for his non-pickiness in certain areas!

-The past few weeks in particular he has been going through a language explosion. This is the area I try to remind myself would have happened anywhere in the world at this age. But it’s still so incredibly cool to witness.

Since we speak only French at home, and mamie recently sent him tons of French books, some things he says in French only, like colors, and body parts. I can see him working out certain things like green/gris(grey), but that’s production. Comprehension is fine in both languages.

He’s well into his mimic phase, and will repeat random things we say or that he sees in videos. Animal sounds are obviously the cutest. And he’s got some food words like “ju” which works in both languages, though he still says “lait” and “l’eau” in French. He also started saying “yucky” the other day (daycare thought he was saying “lucky”), and he knows the names of the other kids at daycare. Well, he says “Ana” which, since he also loves Frozen, he was already saying before he started.

-He is interacting more with other kids outside of daycare as well. And he seems to be getting over his wariness of men and has stopped hiding his face from strangers on the street. He’s been giving high fives (or “ha fah” as he says) and spent 10 minutes on the bus last week playing high five with a young guy sitting behind us.

The playground near our house has a basketball court as well, so there’s always people there. Last week there was a man with his two sons, one was about 8, and the other the exact same size as bébé (though when I asked, he was actually 5 months younger, so either he was big, or bébé is small!). They were tossing around a football, and of course bébé wanted to play with theirs, rather than the one we had brought. They were so nice about it, and the older one was obviously used to playing with his little brother, and was very gentle about passing it and chasing him. Bébé does seem to be more interested in older kids, and it’s nice to have so many things so close where he can interact with kids of all ages, which is definitely really helping his development.

 

In less than 2 months he will be 2, which is insane. He’s right on track with everything (even the tiny bit of language “delay” that I notice is totally normal for bilingual children) , and this is definitely a super cute age, when he’s starting to seek out cuddles and kisses, and interact with us and the world in totally new and interesting ways.