Guess who was the Mystery Reader!?!

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Today Meera had a special Mystery Reader – her brothers!

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As we stood outside the door the kindergarteners asked their questions and attempted to figure out these mysterious two.

“Is is a parent?”   ~No

“Is it a girl?” ~No

“Is it a boy?” ~Yes

In there somewhere there was a hint it was more than one. 

“Is their hair black?”  ~Yes

“Are they boys?” ~Yes

“Do they have dreadlocks?!?” ~Yes (that would be Meera who asked)

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Meera’s class loved Please, Puppy, Please, by Spike Lee; one of Kyle and Owen’s (and Meera’s favorites).
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They had lots of positive things to say:

“I liked how they showed the pictures while reading.”

“I liked how they took turns reading pages.”

“I liked how they [the teacher helped out] used expression when reading”

But the happiest was Meera

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Annual April Angst

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Well, here we are in the middle of April. Like every year, the angst is fully in place. It comes like a tornado that you can see moving in your direction — you can take shelter, but you cannot truly avoid it, and you just hold out hope that there isn’t too much destruction once you come up for air in the wake of its path. I know this month is coming, I try to gear myself up for it, I try to mentally prepare our whole family for it. But nothing seems to help the absolute overwhelming nature of my life (and thus, my family’s life) in April. It is the end of what is — for me individually, and for all 5 of us J-Ms — a long year. We give the whole of ourselves. And now, living on campus, that is muti-faceted and multi-dimensional, and multi-insanity-producing in so many, many ways — not just for me, but for all 5 of us. By now, I am done. By now, we are done. But the cram and push (while running on fumes) to finish out the year is a major production. It is like the last leg of an Iron Man Triathlon. The kids still have 2 months of school, but I have only 2 weeks of classes left, and the academic year is imploding like a volcano in the weeks that are our April. Right now it feels like a pressure cooker. Wrapping up classes is the least of my concerns. The up-till-midnight-working, burning-the-candle-at-both-ends, 18-hour-work-days, eating-on-the-run, catch-as-catch-can, no-room-to-breath-let-alone-sit-down-for-5-minutes…. all of that right now is the result of things like committee work wrapping up, council reports deadlines looming, numerous events to attend, other events to plan/implement/host, meetings (so many meetings) requiring full attention, lots and lots of people to attend to, academic reviews to be done, work to be completed, a huge stack of grading, etc., etc., etc. Oh, yeah, and there’s the kids’ birthday parties to plan. And Little League; swimming lessons; violin lessons. I sit in a meeting for an hour, and exit the room to see that I’ve received 34 new email in the 1 hour away from the screen. I dread checking it when I wake up in the morning (a ridiculous portion of my emails from students arrive while I’m sleeping). I’m drowning in email. My calendar is packed back-to-back (sometimes, scarily enough, double – or even triple – booked). The To Do lists are long. The days are long. The sleep is short. The chances to get to the grocery store are few (related: I’ve eaten eggs for dinner, after the kids have gone to bed, for the past 3 nights in a row). The blog is always the first thing to go. And thus, …my absence here. I’m not complaining about any of this… just being real. I think it is important to chronicle the joy and the angst. I’m dreaming of the beach, evenings drinking wine, and days in the sun watching my bambinos collect sand dollars and float on their backs and play in the waves with their mom looking on with nothing pressing to do but to watch them.

The Month of March

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You know that old saying, “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb”…? Well, this year, for us, March came in like a lion and out like a lion. There was no lamb, no soft-edges, no cushiony buffer; March was a jam-packed, high-intensity, chock-full month of madness! So much good stuff, hard stuff, mediocre stuff, all crammed into such a little month. And as in so many of my catch-all, catch-up blog posts, I’m going to just put the hard (and bad) stuff — and even the mediocre (and mundane) stuff — purposefully on the margins, to hone in on the good stuff that was packed into our lioness (and lion-esque) month of March.

We went on a big trip to Anguilla with MorMor & MorFar, Stina, Mark, Sadie, and Lukasz. I’ll eventually post about that (huge amazing special) trip another time. That’s when my blog silence began (side note: thanks to ALL who have reached out to me worried about why I’ve been MIA on the blog for so long). There is a lot to say about that trip. But, for now, I’ll just say that the travel for that trip was unbelievably rough and rocky — a great time in Anguilla was book-ended by horrendous travel problems on both sides. But can I just say?… our bambinos would easily win the prize for Best Travelers Ever. Not even one complaint, fuss, or even “when will we get there?” from any of the three of them!

Meera jumps, into the hotel pool, EB Hotel Miami , 2pm (we got stuck in Miami on the way there, for 24 hours) ~a M jumps pool

Owen & Kyle, in the Charlotte airport, 5am (we got stuck in Charlotte overnight on the way home, and got only 4 hours of sleep that night) ~a 5

The bambinos at the Marigot market in St. Maarten, after ferry from Anguilla to St. Maarten, before we found out about yet another flight delay (which caused us to miss yet another flight connection). Blah, blah, blah… I refuse to complain; we had a GREAT trip! ~
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And yeah, like I said, the in-between of those travel nightmares was a travel fantasy; beautiful Anguilla ~

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So, March. Turns out March Madness gets started early these days — our 9-year-old basketball superstars had an undefeated season, becoming the top-ranked 9-year-old team in the league, pushing them into the division tournament season. It was so exciting for all involved (confession: I lost my voice cheering at the final game). They lost by 2 points, in overtime, during a championship nail-biter-of-a-game. It was an exciting conclusion to a very exciting basketball season for the J-Ms!
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Ironically enough, as we were pulling out of the gym parking lot from that final basketball game (literally), we got a phone call from the baseball coach notifying us of their first Little League practice of the season. Out with the old, and in with the new; new season, new sport. And suddenly, basketball is ancient history and it is all baseball all the time. What a difference a year makes!— our little sluggers are now a little bit bigger sluggers. They are so fun to watch!

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And with baseball season comes green-smoothie season! Our current favorite smoothie = pineapple, mango, spinach, kale, chard, coconut water. I have these boys convinced that their baseball hitting power is the direct result of the power smoothies their mother makes for them daily. They slurp it right down, and think nothing of the greenness (which just cracks me up! they don’t even know that lots of people would think it odd to see two 9-year-old boys drinking green smoothies! trust me: what they don’t know won’t hurt them! lol!). Here they are, doing homework and slurping the green goodness before baseball practice ~
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As for Meera… March was a month of reading blast-off for our girl. Something came together for her, and she’s sounding it all out and really blooming as an emergent reader ~
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And of course, she paints/draws/colors every single day. Sometimes in the early morning, with her Papi, while the rest of us are still sleeping ~
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But the big news for our girl is that with March came the start of violin lessons! For a long time Meera has been wanting to learn to play the violin, and for a long time we had been on a waiting list for lessons with this young female violin teacher named Grace, who has a fabulous reputation. Now Grace is Meera Grace’s violin teacher! ~
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I had a trip to Chicago to attend Maggie’s dissertation defense. I was the outside reader on her dissertation (Emory Phd Sociology), but more importantly: she and Eric are very special VIPs for me (for backstory: click). I love these two (here we are the night before the diss defense) ~
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That trip to Chicago gave me the splendid pleasure of a night alone in a hotel room. There is not much that re-charges me more than that. That is one of the strange ironies of working mother work trips: while they are one of the things more challenging for the working mother, they are, at the same time, one of the hidden benefits of being a working mother. I have a little ritual for myself of ordering room-service tea-service upon check-in and indulging in a hot cup of tea with milk and honey in a room full of peace and quiet all to myself ~
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As for Braydon, this is what he thought of March (too much, too fast, too packed, too lion-ish) ~

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Dash. He’s our saving grace (cute, fluffy, and unconditionally loving no matter how much madness is packed into one month), and he is BFFs with Meera Grace ~a girl dog 2a cuddle dasha girl and her dog

March also included a week of spring break from school for the bambinos. While a week off from school is great, it is also complicated for a dual-career family. Luckily for us, we have about 1,000 incredibly awesome babysitters at our fingertips, chomping at the bit to show our kids a good time (major fringe benefit of living on campus!). For their spring break week I lined up a different babysitter for each day, and another one for Friday night (Braydon and I needed to attend an event). As March ended, and the mounds of snow and ice melted, and we got outside more and more (us and the students we live with), the area outside our building’s front door came to have that familiar non-winter-look of bikes and sidewalk chalk ~
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After such a gruesome winter, we are so ready for spring! ~
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And we are so grateful that spring is here (note: photo below is totally unedited — yes, we have green grass starting to sprout! and we could not be happier about that!) ~
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Meera’s First Ballet

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Last night I took Meera to see the Moscow Festival Ballet’s performance of The Sleeping Beauty. It was absolutely exquisite in every way.

The boys had basketball practice, so the plan was for Braydon to take them while I gave Meera a very special night out. She’s 5.5, this was her first ballet, and I was not sure how it would go. I had explained to her repeatedly that there wouldn’t be any words, and she seemed to understand the concept of “dancing out” the story. She’s currently taking a Creative Movement class after school once a week, so she gets the concept of expression through movement. And she knows the story of Sleeping Beauty inside and out (it has always been her favorite princess story). But I still wasn’t sure how we’d fare (plus, it started at 8pm, which is already 1/2 hour past her bedtime; and it was a Friday — the end of a tiring week). I figured if she made it to intermission and got even some enjoyment out of it, we’d be golden.

I had hoped for, but could not have expected, what happened. She was enchanted and thrilled and enthralled by the entire production. At many moments the ballet literally took her breath away, and she’d audibly gasp so that several of the beautiful, ballet-loving, gray-haired men and women in the audience around us would smile and nod in delight (there were very few children in the audience). I’m not sure who enjoyed the ballet more— Meera, or those gentle arts-adoring seniors surrounding us who got so much joy in sharing Meera’s first ballet with her and me (several came to me after the show and commented on how “lovely” and “wonderful” it was to see me take my young child to such a production; and how they were sure she’d remember it for the rest of her life).

Meera made it through the whole show, finally giving up and falling asleep sitting upright in her chair in the last five minutes. But for the first two hours she leaned over to me and whispered, “This is awesome!” at least a half dozen times. She adored it.

I had brought a small pair of binoculars, thinking Meera might like to use them a bit. She kept them hung around her neck throughout the entire ballet and watched at least 2/3 of the performance through them. She notices every detail— the costumes, the jewelry, the pink jewels adorning the silver crown on Princess Aurora, the gold sparkled belt on the Prince, what color tights they are all wearing, the turquoise feathers in the hand-held fan of the queen, the smoke marking the entrance and exit of Maleficent. I appreciate how much she appreciates it all.

I got so much enjoyment from the ballet too — but for me, at least half of that joy came from experiencing it with my arts-loving daughter.

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Kids and Technology Hangout

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We haven’t done any promotion on our blog, since it’s really a family record and our way of remembering these years of parenting our young kids. I guess we mostly spend our time trying to be good parents, and making progress in our work. I’d like to say that we also have tons of creative hobbies and a super, active social life, but you know that’s not true!

And one of the things we, and lots of American parents, are thinking about and dealing with, is how much technology our kids are using on a daily basis. Tablets, cell phones, computers, streaming media, television; the screen engagement is tremendous.  In years past, there was the “sweet 16″ and the new-found freedom of getting a drivers license and maybe a car. But today it seems that most teens would take a smartphone over a vehicle. Freedom has taken on a new form.  And it’s a form that is staring us all in the face…literally.

But when our adult heads are down in our phones for email, facebook, texting or amazon and our kids need to use iPads in the class, and our music is coming from the phone plugged into the stereo, or we can finish a movie on the TV that we started on a tablet, and the moment we’re not connected is a moment of fear and trepidation of missing something, what do we do?

What do we do when we look up from our screens and see our 5 year old staring at a screen just the way we do?  What do we do when we hear our parents’ nagging voice in our heads to move away from the TV, that our heads will turn to mush, that you’ve exceeded your 2 hour cartoon limit, that you need to go outside and play?  How do we handle that with our own kids?

Alex and Alexa asked us to chime in on this very question in a Google Hangout, and it was something I felt would be a great conversation to have. Join us Thursday at 1:30 PM EDT to find out if we have anything worthwhile to say about it.

Click here to see it, or just watch it here:

 

 

A Mothers&Sons Getaway

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We each drove three hours to meet up halfway between where we both live. 2 moms, 3 boys, for a Mother&Son Getaway. We checked into the hotel and proceeded directly to the pool. The Haitian Sensations swam and played like there was no tomorrow. Their moms put their feet up, drank rum punch, and talked like there was no tomorrow. The pool closed at 11pm, so we called it a day. We slept in cozy beds, in rooms that we didn’t have to clean. We woke up the next morning, ate a breakfast that we didn’t have to make, and then hit the pool again (substituting coffee for rum punch).

From check-in to check-out we never left that hotel once. We planned it perfectly: we planned to do nothing but spend some time together. By the time we left, the boys were convinced that they are biological cousins. And the moms were re-reminded that real-deal-friendship is the key to getting through life relatively whole-and-intact. It was a combined total of approximately 12 hours driving time. For one night away. But that Mother&Son Getaway was priceless. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, and I’d drive double the distance. It was that good, for us all.

Love you Erin & Geoff! xoxox

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Special Fans

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Julie, Dan, Kyle, Jon, Meera, Owen, Kelsey

As a family, we give a lot to our Lehigh-friends-neighbors-students. We sort of pour our hearts into them, and fully embrace them into our lives. From all outside appearances, you might think we’re providing some sort of student-centered “service” or “outreach,” and, in fact, what we do (through living on campus) is often referred to as that. But when I hear comments about the “service” we are providing by doing what we do, it rubs me the wrong way. Not because I don’t think we are doing a lot for students (trust me, I know more than anyone just how much we are doing for students). But, rather, because in calling it that, it devalues and misrepresents what is actually happening.

People who think what we’re doing is uni-dimensional “student service” are truly misunderstanding what is going on here. What is going on here is a real reciprocal relationship between us and the Lehigh students with whom we interact. We’re building relationships that are genuine. There is give and take, and back and forth. There is community. There is reciprocity. For all that we give, we get back tenfold.

This Saturday, four of our Lehigh-friends-neighbors-students came to Kyle and Owen’s basketball game. They spent the afternoon with us, off campus, at the Bethlehem Township Community Center, cheering from the bleachers for their two favorite 9-year-old-twin-basketball players. Then we all went out to Red Robin, where Braydon and I treated these kids (the bambinos and the students) to a non-dining-hall meal complete with lots of rambunctiousness and goofing off at the table.

This is — dare I say it? — quite unique. I can say with 100% certainty that this is unique at Lehigh. But even I, who went to a small liberal arts college, with an uber-dedicated faculty devoted to out-of-classroom-interaction (where professors are actually encouraged and credited for spending time with students)… even I, who took full advantage of that situation and formed life-long relationships with some of those professors (and sometimes babysat for their kids and/or was invited to their houses for dinner)… even I, who really made the most out of that sort of collegiate residential experience… never experienced anything close to resembling what our Lehigh-friends-neighbors-students are experiencing with us. Although I was in some sense “close” to some of my professors (a fact for which I will be eternally grateful; and a fact of which I’m very proud), I never ever ever would have been hanging out at the local community center on a Saturday afternoon watching their kids play basketball. Voluntarily. Just because I wanted to see one of their games and cheer them on.

We are taking the relationships to a whole other level, I think, in large part because we are doing it as a whole family. We’re giving of ourselves and each other, and in return, we get so much.

Do you know how much it meant to Kyle and Owen to have Jon, Dan, Kelsey, and Julie come to their game? It meant the world to them. My guess is that they’ll never forget it. My guess, too, is that Jon, Dan, Kelsey, and Julie will remember that day long after they’ve forgotten much of the rest of their college experiences. That afternoon will make a much larger impact than any physics lecture or required reading or frat party or extra-curricular-club-event.

I’m betting that the impact will be huge for all involved, in ways that go far beyond what any of us could now imagine.

Saturday there were these special fans in the stands at K & O’s game. And when I say, ‘special,’ I do mean special. These friends-neighbors-students are amazing (them taking a Saturday afternoon to cheer on the Residential Fellow kids is just the tip of the iceberg). I stand back and marvel at these young people, and at the honor that it is for us to know them and have them in our lives. We get the privilege and joy of seeing these students in such an honest and real way. We live with them, we teach them, we learn from them, and we cheer each other on. We’re not doing a service. We’re receiving a gift.

Love Her.

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Meera. Gosh do I ever love her. This girl is nothing like anything I ever would have imagined to come from me. In an unexpected twist, my only biological child is the one who challenges all of my preconceived notions of nature vs. nurture; she’s so much more dissimilar from me than her adopted brothers have ever been. This girl is full of grace, twirl, sparkle, and pink; she’s entirely centered in who she is, and has been that way from the start; happiest at home coloring or painting, surrounded by her little family; no need to be top of her class or “best” at anything… it is remarkably stellar the person that she is. I stand back and watch, and am overwhelmed by admiration for her, and by relief for the path that she’s on. I adore every part of her, respect her, and am awed by her. She has fundamentally challenged me more than any other person on this planet. Somehow I got matched with the most perfect daughter for me.

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Love Him.

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Owen. Gosh do I ever love him. A foodie after my own heart, this boy made it his New Year’s Resolution to “learn to really cook” (Penne Alfredo & Roasted Broccoli is the meal he’s determined to master first.) And he doesn’t just cook, he gets completely into it and makes me laugh the entire time. This is a kid who has always engaged fully in life — everything he does he does fully. Including making my heart overflow. Somehow I got matched with the most perfect son for me.

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Love Him.

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Kyle. Gosh do I ever love him. Runny nose, snowy ice, and all. Seriously, I know I’m biased, but this kid is the soulfully sweetest and soulfully strongest boy I’ve ever known. He has a genuine passion for social justice and he is a real conversationalist. I feel like he and I are in a never-ending conversation about everything important. Somehow I got matched with the most perfect son for me.

V-Day 2014 & Shovels Full of Love

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Longtime readers might recall me complaining about Valentine’s Day in past years. Well, not this year. We are finally at a school that does not require intricate and numerous and unique homemade and from scratch valentines! Hip-hip-hooray x3 for us. Hip-hip-hooray particularly for me. This year we could be like so much of the rest of America and just buy the dang valentines at Target and be done with it. I have got to tell you: It was AWESOME. All three kids loved it. And it was truly painless. It made me a very happy mother.

Due to snow days, and snow delays, and President’s Day, and snow days, and snow delays… did I say snow days? and snow delays?… due to all that, V-Day got a tad bit stretched out this year. But, as of tonight, all three bambinos are finally officially done with Valentine’s Day. The school class parties and valentines exchanges are finally complete, and we can put another V-Day behind us. It was the best yet… because of the lovely simplicity. I think even Kyle and Owen enjoyed it this year. Which is really saying something.

The true love, however, has come in the form of snow removal. In the days surrounding Valentine’s, I have watched my family — all five of us in our own separate ways — step up to the plate and help many-a-Lehigh-student shovel out. It has been a really sweet thing for me to see. And the love has come back ‘round too. Last night, for just one example, a student that Braydon, Kyle, and Owen had helped shovel out came and brought us a whole batch of scrumptious, oozy gooey, warm, straight-from-the-oven, homemade chocolate chip cookies. All of this is the kind of thing that makes my heart just melt… even when it is frigid cold and we’re surrounding by mounds and mounds of ice and snow.

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