A break from normal

Now that things have pretty much returned to normal since our France visit, it’s time to shake things up again!

We went to Boston Calling last weekend to see Mumford and Sons. We knew it was going to be a late night, and Monkey hasn’t been napping, so we weren’t sure if we should take him. But when the regular sitter said she couldn’t come, we figured we might as well just go for it. He loves Mumford and Sons (this kid is so much cooler than his parents) and it was free to bring him. If the worst thing was that we were all tired the next day (which we were), well, that’s pretty much every day for us!

He ended up taking a short nap around 3, and we got to the Harvard Athletic Field around 5. There was lots of space for him to run around, and people handing out free bubble stuff, so basically, it was kid heaven.

He was one of the only kids I saw, at least initially. I saw maybe two or three crawling babies, and a few kids in the 7-10 year range (free for under 10). Their website said it’s a “family friendly” festival, and while there was the expected flagrant ignoring of the no smoking rule, it did seem a bit calmer than other festivals I have been to. I was worried about being “those parents” who bring their kid, but Monkey’s cuteness charms most people, and we got lots of comments on what cool parents we are. I said later to a friend that it’s funny how much I complained about the negative comments on our parenting in France, but don’t mind comments when they’re positive! A few more kids showed up when Mumford and Sons started playing. We passed a couple with a baby in a carrier, plus two under-5 running around, so I was very happy to just have the one to deal with!

Another recent adventure (this weekend actually) was a trip to Cape Cod.

Last year we went “down the Cape” for just a half-day, to visit a colleague at his beach house. This year, he offered up one of his rental houses to the whole team for a weekend. Initially two other families were coming, but they ended up having other commitments. So we had the whole (giant) house to ourselves!

It was not warm enough to go in the water, but we put our feet in (or, in Monkey’s case, his whole clothed body!) and it was nice weather to walk around. We visited Provincetown and had a lovely early dinner at a restaurant right on the beach. Sunday morning we walked up and down the very calm and lovely road where the house is. Very chill weekend overall, and while the activities are nothing we don’t do on a typical weekend (walking around outside, visiting stores), being in a new place made it feel like a special weekend. The first of what will hopefully many longer visits to the beach that he will have during his childhood!

Traveling around in the area with Monkey has gotten both easier and harder as he gets older. He is more willing to walk, so we don’t always need the stroller (=I usually realize we forget it once we’re an hour away from home). He is getting better as restaurants, and the early dinner thing was a good idea – less people to worry about if he gets loud/crazy.

He listens better, but not always. With him starting to nap less, it means we have to be extra careful about planning too much into afternoons, so he doesn’t get too tired and cranky. The other option is to just put him to bed earlier, which means less time for fun things when we’re out and about.

Despite how tired we’ve all been, overall, the past two weekends have been really fun. We’re excited about what new fun things we’ll be able to do this summer with our (almost) 3-year-old.

First races in the states

The last race my husband and I ran was a half marathon in Luxembourg last September. We were both eager to keep running a part of our new life in the states, but it took awhile to get back into the groove. Out first Boston summer was much hotter than we’re used to, making evening runs hard. And while we managed morning runs for awhile, once bébé Monkey starting sleeping “late” (past 6:30), we did too.

We finally decided on November races, which gave us plenty of time to prepare. I did a 5k at the beginning of the month, in an effort to work on speed before tackling a longer distance again. My husband has his sights set on a full marathon soon, so he did a half marathon this weekend at Red Apple Farm, about an hour away.

My 5k was at the local Y, so it was basically like a regular Saturday morning: Monkey and papa stayed at home while I went out for an hour or two. The half marathon got us all out of the house exploring. It started at 8, which meant getting up before 6 on a Saturday (much harder to do when you’ve only been able to sleep past 6 for the last few months!). The farm was having a harvest festival, so there was plenty for Monkey to see and do.

Blacksmith

Farm Animals

As much as we want to keep exploring New England, I think we’re getting to the point where we just want to chill out on weekends. Yesterday was probably the last of the warm weather (at least 60 degrees for the race). Winter weather has finally appeared and we’re going into hibernation like most people do. So it was nice to have a motivating event like the race to get us to visit somewhere we wouldn’t normally go. And now that we’ve been there, I think we’ll definitely try to get out there again next year!

BearRed Apple Farm
Farms are great places for toddlers, and we’ve already been to a few in the area. This one had everything though – cows, chickens (running free!), pigs, donkeys, sheep, goats, and huge bunnies. The store was absolutely adorable, and the outdoor grill was both entertaining for Monkey and delicious for us. I was the only one who found the blacksmith entertaining, but I grew up next door to one and have always loved it. For the festival there was music and additional booths with all sorts of fun holiday stuff. I think we’ll try to go during apple picking season next year to take full advantage of everything they offer.

Store2 Store1

Even if we didn’t pick them ourselves, we brought some apples home with us that  I can’t wait to bake into a pie for Thursday!

Sick and tired

With fall weather comes fall colds! The past few weeks have been rough on everyone, bébé especially, who had bronchitis, along with the regular sniffles thanks to the changing seasons.

Things were better last week, so bébé and I headed to Springfield with a friend who came up from New York. This was to give my husband a little break, since he took care of (sick!) bébé for almost an entire week while I was at a conference in July. We know it will never be a 50/50 split between the time we both spend with him, but we do try to give each other breaks like this when we can. And we both need lots of breaks these days, as bébé is getting more and more . . . opinionated (=insanely frustrating). He even won a raffle at work for Red Sox playoff tickets, so he had a perfect sports/video games weekend all set.

The weekend with my friend was pretty nice too, eating and drinking, exploring a part of the “revitalized rust belt,” and making plans to move there once we saw at how cheap the beautiful old houses are. (These plans were abandoned, however, upon researching the quality of the schools system.) It was nice to not make any particular plans, but just go by what we felt like and how bébé was acting. That’s one thing I’ve gotten much better at the past two years. I used to plan trips down to the second, not wanting to miss anything a new city has to offer.

But this weekend was a good example of my new “non-plan plan” of writing down a few parks and family-friendly restaurants and seeing what the day brings. Day one it brought us to a corn maze with ice cream, the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden, the public library, and some excellent barbecue. Day two it rained, but we got in a quick walk in Forest Park, before heading north to check out a big Yankee Candle store (that sells way more than candles!). It was a very different pace for both of us, used to bigger cities, that I think we’re getting to the age/life stage to really start to crave. Definitely a bummer the schools aren’t better. So we’ll just have to keep exploring the small cities between Boston and New York to find that perfect one to live out our next-door neighbor dreams.

I wish I could say the sick and tiredness was cured by a weekend away, but as often is the case, coming back from a break means you’re even more tired than when you left. Both my office and daycare were closed today for Columbus day, so at least there wasn’t the usual morning craziness to deal with. But I decided I needed to cook all the fall things today (butternut squash soup! pumpkin spice cake!) and bébé has been coughing all day, so we’re both not in tip top shape. At least I won’t have to worry about cooking the next few days while we’re all sitting around sniffling!

The French family is visiting!

My husband’s mother and sister arrived last Friday for a two weeks visit. Bébé is super happy to have Mamie and Tata here, and I am more than happy to let someone else cook and play with bébé. I have managed to work out every single day since they got here, which has also been amazing.

I was very nervous about this visit because she has said in the past she never really wanted to visit the states. We all have places that just don’t hold any interest for us. Mine is Spain (which I know 90% of people find weird!). And while she would have preferred we didn’t leave France with her only grandchild, she also lived abroad for many years while her kids were young, so she couldn’t exactly tell us not to go. Still, I wanted her to be happy about our choice, and her liking the country/city we live in is very important to me.

And she definitely likes it so far! She finds all the brick in Boston quite charming, thinks our brand new apartment lovely, enjoys walking along the river, and is not totally disgusted by American food. We took her to Lexington, Walden Pond, Castle Island, the MFA, and some of our favorite restaurants. Next week we’re headed to Maine for a few days on the ocean eating lobster. We’ve never been to Maine, and I hadn’t been to the MFA properly, so it’s great to be able to explore new things during their visit.

I hope the second week goes as well as this first week has!

A visit to Salem in the summer

My husband passed a financial exam last Saturday, after studying for the past six months. What better way to celebrate than with a trip to Salem, also known as Witch City? (There’s really no link between the two things, other than I am super proud of him for passing it so I wanted to mention it!)

I read there was a maritime festival happening last weekend, and since bébé loves boats, I thought it’d be a fun reason to check out Salem. It was a quick drive up 95, and as usual when traveling with bébé, we got there before 9 and there was tons of parking (frugal tip: street parking is often free on Sundays, so arriving early is always good!). We walked around the deserted streets, enjoying the old houses and pedestrian city center before getting (our second) breakfast.

Empty center
Empty center

I’m not sure what I expected, but it felt more European than I thought it would. I’ve heard people say Boston is a very European American city, but so far I don’t really see it. Parts of it are definitely old, and I like it, but it’s not the same feel. Maybe it’s just not like the parts of Europe I’ve been to.

Salem felt more like something familiar. There was a pedestrian center with shops and cafes on a square where you can sit outside. There are lots of old buildings, some are brick, others are First Period houses, and the newer ones blend in pretty well I think. I am not a fan of old mixed with new, I like when cities try to be harmonious. Think Paris, not London. Florence, not Rome. So I liked Salem a lot.

Salem architecture
Salem architecture

I’m not sure if I’ll like it as much in the fall, when the witches come out… There was a little taste of spookiness, which is easy to handle in the sunshine.

Salem

The maritime festival started later than I thought it would, so we didn’t see much. But we did get to see the boats in the harbor (does everyone in Salem get a boat when they buy a house?) and the canon. Bébé behaved beautifully, so we’re crossing out fingers that a slightly easier period is upon us after the screaming fits that plagued us last month.

There were a bunch of these near the museum all painted differently
There were a bunch of these near the museum all painted differently
Much calmer than in Salem's 18th century maritime heyday
Much calmer than in Salem’s 18th century maritime heyday
Sadly, they did not actually shoot the cannon
Sadly, they did not actually shoot the cannon

This weekend I was supposed to take bébé to Providence to visit a friend, to give my husband a break after all that studying. She was sick so we rescheduled, but I tried to at least give him Saturday morning free. So I took bébé to the same farm we visited a few months ago (Drumlin Farm) that’s only 2 dollars per person with a library pass. He liked it last time, but absolutely loved it this time, since he’s now completely obsessed with farm animals. I might have to look into a Mass Audubon membership so we can go as much as we want for free (and all the other wildlife sanctuaries in the state, plus other nifty benefits like member-only access to CSAs and campsites).

I wish I didn’t just post weekend updates, but we really don’t do much during the week! We did call the babysitter to go out for drinks one night last week, and my husband freaked out because he forgot his wallet and was worried about not being able to drink. But then we didn’t get carded, so I guess we’re officially old!

July wrap up

Well that month went by fast! I’ll see if I can remember everything that happened…

My first conference

We were in DC the weekend after bébé’s birthday to visit family, eat more birthday related pastries, and so that I could attend my first professional conference! We all flew down Saturday morning and I stayed on through Thursday while the boys went back Monday morning. Of course bébé slept the whole plane ride home, making me very jealous until it turned out it was because he had an ear infection. He tried daycare but ended up staying home with daddy the next day. And then the daycare called to say hand, foot, mouth disease was making its rounds, which he definitely got in addition to the ear infection. So while I had a great week learning and networking and feeling like a super successful professional lady, it was not a super fun week for my boys. But my husband did an amazing job! I’m not in a role where I need to travel a lot (or even that often – this was pretty much the one time per year), but knowing things at home, including the hard stuff, can be handled just fine without me is reassuring. Though hopefully next time bébé will not be suffering from multiple maladies and it will be a bit easier for them both!

Sun, sand, and water

The weather has been great all month, so bébé has been to the pool every weekend, sometimes just with daddy, sometimes with both of us. We also went to the Revere Beach Sand Sculpting festival, and were pleased to discover the beach is equally agreeable to bébé as the pool is. More so, perhaps, since he has much more room to run around.

I will probably repeat this several times over the next few months, but I really really love that we’re less than 30 minutes from the ocean. For someone growing up a good three hours away from the beach, this seems quite luxurious. My husband asked if we could go to the beach every weekend. I said we could go every night after work if he really wanted. It’s probably less of a novelty for him, since he spent elementary school on the island of Mayotte where his mother taught, but we’re still both excited about how much beach time bébé will get in the coming years. Though we are not set on Revere beach as “our” beach, since we still have many more beaches to explore in the area.

Art fail

It seems like bébé decided “hey, I’m two, time to get learnin’!” and his growth in all areas has exploded exponentially this month. To encourage this period of ever increasing curiosity, I thought I’d take him to the Institute of Contemporary Art. Always trying to keep things cheap if possible, we went on one of their Saturday Play Dates, when it’s free for up to 2 adults accompanying children (who are always free). I even found street parking that was only 2 dollars instead of the 15 dollar lot. So while we only spent about 20 minutes in the museum, it wasn’t too expensive of an outing.

Besides the art we (very briefly) saw, the location on the water is really pretty and the building is cool. Bébé liked the area out back with steps to climb up and down, and the walkways along the water. I think he’s still a few years from appreciating art (and not trying to destroy it) but I think I’ll keep taking him to museums when I can (=when it’s free). Getting used to the space, the atmosphere, and having special time with me will hopefully make it something we keep doing as years go by. And there are tons of museums in Boston to discover together!

 

August will hopefully be a little calmer, but still with weekend adventures. And I’ll try to write it down as it happens, rather than attempting to remember it all during the last few hours on the 31st…

Boats around Boston

We live right by the train station, so bébé is naturally fascinated by the trains that pass by his window every hour or so (though thankfully not at night since it’s the commuter rail). However last weekend and this weekend we were around boats, so now we’ve added that to the list of things he loves.

My parents were visiting last weekend and the only thing they really wanted to see was the USS Constitution. We got there right as the museum opened and wandered around for a bit before we got in the line to explore the ship. Bébé liked the museum (they have a great kids area with games) but was just a bit too tired to wait in line to go on the “batoo” (bateau). My parents got in a bit later than planned Friday night and he was up much later than his regular bedtime so that we could go out to eat. So my husband took him home for a nap while my parents and I explored the ship.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was really cool. You can go down into it, and there are three lower levels you climb down little stairs to get to, so I felt very sailor-y. My husband didn’t realize it was free (as is the museum, though donations are suggested), so he definitely wants to go back with bébé another weekend and check it out. I think they’ll both love it.

This weekend we went to my colleague’s house on Cape Cod for the day, and he has a (much smaller) boat. There were motor troubles, so it was mostly sitting around on the water for an hour and a half, but it was such a sunny, beautiful day, nobody minded. (Except for my colleague, because he was obviously annoyed that his boat wasn’t working!) For the few minutes that the motor was working, bébé LOVED it. He was leaning over the edge looking at the waves, and giggling as the wind whipped through his hair. I made me think of Ariel in The Little Mermaid when she leans over the carriage to watch the horses legs move. (Bébé has also taken to looking under cars in the parking lot, so I think we may have a very mechanical child on our hands . . .)

Also like Ariel, bébé loves being in the water. He will run towards any large body of water at full speed, no matter the weather or what he’s wearing. We were at Pleasant Bay on Cape Cod, so very calm waters, and nothing scarier than a horseshoe crab. We’ll definitely be making another trip out there this summer, especially since I realized while driving down that there are no tolls! We packed a lunch and had breakfast at my colleague’s house, so we just paid for gas (which we didn’t even use that much of, as we happily discovered that our car gets amazing highway mileage.)

It’s been super sunny and nice lately, so I think we’ll be planning a cruise around Boston harbor to take advantage of the weather and encourage bébé’s love of all things boat and water related. Probably won’t be as cheap as the past few weekends, but his birthday is coming up, and how fun would a birthday boat cruise be?

Exploring Boston and meeting my twin

This week’s adventures included a friend visiting, which was a great excuse to explore Boston. I also met my name twin, which is probably not a big deal if your name is Sara Smith, but mine is a little more unusual. Only around 600 people born in the States in the past 35 years have my first name, according to Social Security data. For comparison, over 20,000 girls were named Emma in 2014. So this was kind of a big deal for me. Also, our last names are super similar, like Smith and Smithson. Add to that a few other weird similarities, like the fact she also just moved to Boston, and I made the joke that I shouldn’t bring bébé, lest he get confused about which of us is his real momma.

In the end, I didn’t bring him in order to have a girls-only afternoon, which included my first ever Thai food (yes I know it’s weird I’ve never had it before) and a walk along Newbury Street, the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, and the Boston Public Garden.

Newbury Street

The afternoon started off a bit dreary, but it ended up being just beautiful weather, perfect for strolling around a new city.

Commonwealth Avenue Mall

It probably seemed like I was super excited about moving Boston, and I was, but now that the initial move is over and things are starting to settle down, I have been feeling a bit more blah about it. Since we do live a bus/train ride away from the center, it’s not like we can get to everything really easily, and with a toddler, long bus rides aren’t that fun. While I am still happy to be mostly car-free for now, working around nap times and train schedules doesn’t make for the most spontaneous weekends. And it really is very different from the environment I’ve been in for the past 8 years, so being back in an American urban aesthetic will take some getting used to.
Boston Public Garden

But making the trip in this weekend and walking around in the sunshine definitely helped me start to like it a lot more. I kept thinking “this will be great to show my mother-in-law” when she visits this fall, since I want her to approve of where we live now more than I’ve ever wanted her approval on anything! I missed out on some of my husband’s initial explorations those few weeks I was working and he wasn’t, so it was nice to discover a few things he hadn’t seen yet and tell him about it (since Boston is small and he’s seen a lot, just Newbury and Thai food).Boston Public Garden

We still had time to explore together, mainly new restaurants in our town, since having friends visit is also a great excuse for exploring local dining options. Walking around with her also helped me feel like this is “my” town now. She’s visited us in every single one of our apartments, so now we just need to plan a trip out West to see her and start exploring the States with bébé!