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An overnight visit to Gmma

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After all the wedding wonders for Stina’s day, we headed south home. But on the way we had a nice stop in Arlington to visit Gmma. In addition to seeing aunt Diana which was really nice and who really enjoys the kids, we got to visit two days in a row. The stop over was a good way to break up the trip and it was nice seeing my mom.

One of the things the kids loved to do with Gmma is work on maze books and find-it-books (well, mostly the boys, although Meera got to enjoy some books there too). Everyone did great with that nice bit of time in my mom’s condo overlooking the pond – and the kids were happy to see her and Diana. Of course, we couldn’t get away without sticking our feet in the water too….

Auntie Stina’s Wedding!!!

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Auntie Stina and Mark got married on June 19, 2010.

It was a beautiful wedding.

We had a wonder-filled few days in and around Norway, Maine.

Friday was a day of Maine fun. We picked up Sadie that morning and spent the day with her at Papoose Pond while Stina and Mark began the final wedding preparations. Friday at 5:00 we gathered at Stina’s house for the Wedding Rehearsal. Rehearsal Dinner was a fabulous party, thrown by MorMor and MorFar, and held at a beautiful nearby VRBO house rented by family and friends. We met Mark’s family, drank Swedish and Polish vodka, and ate shrimp, chicken, and ribs. Wedding cakes adorned with edible hearts for dessert.

Saturday was the Wedding Day! We woke up to the most perfect New England summer day. It was hot and sunny, but Stina’s fields brought a constant wind that kept us happy and comfortable. It was a day of wedding prep– getting the tents ready, the tables set, flowers arranged, food prepared, and everything in order. There was much to be done. A wedding is a big to-do! But somehow it did all get done. And everyone was dressed and ready for the 5:00 ceremony.

This was the J-M kids’ first wedding. It was the perfect wedding for Stina, and she was a beautiful bride. She wore Mark’s mother’s wedding dress, with a new pair of brown boots, and daisies in her hair. The kids walked down the “aisle” throwing flowers from baskets. MorMor and MorFar proudly walked Stina to Mark. They got married under a hand-made arbor in the field outside Stina and Sadie’s house. Friends and family gathered to watch them exchange vows and rings. The kids were up-close sitting on quilts with Charlie the dog. Everyone was happy.

The reception was right there, under a big white tent. Drinks and toasts to the bride and groom. Meera ate at least 1/2 dozen bacon-wrapped-scallops; Kyle drank at least a dozen ginger ales; and Owen ate at least a quart of strawberries and whipped cream (home-made strawberry shortcake, only he made his minus the shortcake). It was all very beautiful and perfect in everything that it was.

The kids ran and played in the fields. We ate and drank and danced. It was all that a happy wedding should be. And then, to cap off the night with a bang!— fireworks in the pitch-dark sky over the field.

A really special wedding for the J-M family to be part of. We are so happy for Stina and Mark!

(photo post below)

Auntie Stina’s Wedding Photos

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We had such a great time~~ and 953 photographs to prove it! Here are just a sampling of some of the good ones~~ click on each image to enlarge.

Papoose Pond

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While in Maine for Stina’s wedding, we stayed at the VRBO home of the Bazyk’s — good old friends of ours from back in our Boston days. Their vacation home — a very rustic, very isolated log cabin in the woods — is only about 20 minutes from my sister’s house, so it worked out perfectly. We had never been to the Bazyk’s “Maine House” before, but had heard a lot about it. And it definitely lived up to all of the stories we had heard! I must say, never in my life have I slept in such a remote location (and that is coming from a girl who grew up in rural New Hampshire!)— we were almost entirely cut off from the rest of the world– and truly in the backwoods of Maine. The cabin is right on the edge of a small pond– Papoose Pond. There was not another human being within eyesight or earshot. The fact that there was no internet, no cell reception, no phone service (except for local calls), no t.v., etc….  made it quite an adventure unto itself, and a very good break from reality for Braydon and I. We were there by ourselves the first night, and then for the rest of our time my parents and Sadie stayed with us there. The kids had a blast sleeping in bunk beds, exploring the cabin and the woods, canoeing and kayaking, hunting for bull frogs, and picking flowers from lily pads. The drives to-and-from the wedding events were stunning in places (especially all of the beautiful Maine lakes and fields). And the kids were up so late every night that they got to see the dark, dark nights with the bright, bright moon on the very still pond under incredibly starry skies. A highlight was when a loon popped up just a couple of feet from Kyle’s kayak one day– and then popped back under and swam underneath his kayak. Another highlight was that our first morning there we awoke to moose tracks in the sand at the edge of the pond! (as always, click on any photo to enlarge)

Maine Coast

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It was a 10.5 hour drive to Maine for Auntie Stina’s Wedding. Things did not go as planned that day and we ended up leaving much later in the morning than we had anticipated. [Long story, but the night before we had all three kids at the 24-Hour Urgent Care clinic; all three diagnosed with staph infections (CA-MRSA… for anyone who knows about this stuff, you know it is nasty!!!); prescribed 10-day rounds of antibiotics for which it took 3 different pharmacies in order to find enough of the antibiotic to fill all three prescriptions; no child got to bed before 10:30pm that night and both parents were completely spent (on top of everything else, Braydon had spent all day in Delaware that day for a venture capital conference); and, so, unfortunately, the final packing for the trip didn’t get done until the next morning.]  Anyway… it was a long drive that day. Toward the end, when things were getting really hairy, we ended up spontaneously making the decision to pull over for a couple of hours on the Maine Coast for some R&R before attempting the last 2-hour-long leg of the drive. It was around 5pm when we found our way to the beach– the magic hour. The light was gorgeous, there were hardly any other people within sight, and that time at the ocean turned out to be a really magical wonderful couple of hours for our family.

A Very Fun Summer Day Trip

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My New Favorite Picture Ever

“Nature hike to see a waterfall.” CHECK.

this probably would have been my new favorite picture ever, if it hadn't turned out blurry. oh well. I still love it.

Today we took it upon ourselves to be able to check off one of the items on our Summer 2010 Family Fun To Do List. And the end result was way better than simply a check mark–  we had an awesome Summer Sunday. A very fun, very cool, very adventurous, very memorable summer day trip was had by all of us five J-Ms. We spent the day in Jim Thorpe, PA. After a fun lunch in town we spent the rest of the day at Lehigh Gorge State Park. We did a serious hike (like, probably way too serious for 2 six year olds and a 2 year old in a backpack that she’s right on the verge of growing out of) to Glen Onoko Falls. The boys are completely amazing hikers and we could probably do just about anything with them (anything that we ourselves could do, anyway). But with Meera along we’re pretty severely limited– she is not digging the backpack too much these days (although today we forced her to stay in it for the entire hike despite some periods of protest from her), and she’s just way too little to actually hike anything much at all beyond a simple walking path. Today, though, it all magically came together for us and worked out. She never napped the entire day (unheard of!), and still she was relatively cooperative (or at least tolerant) of the backpacking part of the excursion. Braydon deserves the real medal, though, for doing a very serious (and at times, quite dangerous!) hike with a 27-pound baby on his back! The pay-off was huge though—   we got to experience an awesome (truly exhilarating!) hike, see very beautiful waterfalls, and then — at the end — hang out for a couple of hours along the shore of a beautiful river. We headed back into Jim Thorpe for ice cream. And then came home for pizza, baths, and bed. Really, we can’t think of much better than this day for our family on a Sunday in Summer.

K & O Reflecting on Vacation

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re·flect

/rɪˈflɛkt/
–verb (used with object)

to cast back;  to think, ponder, consider, or meditate; ruminate, deliberate, contemplate.

*

Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.

~Lorraine Hansberry,  A Raisin in the Sun

the morning after returning home from the Dominican Republic; K & O play airplanes/airport/"we're flying to Hispaniola"

Many people believe that traveling with young children is a “waste.” They say that elaborate vacations or substantive trips and travels are simply “lost” on younger kids. That we should “wait until they are older” so that they will “appreciate” it, or, “at least remember it.” Braydon and I know that lots of people think this,  and we have had people say these things directly to us. Braydon and I, obviously, disagree. Right from the start we have always traveled as much as possible with our children. We have conscientiously prioritized travel — both financially and in terms of our time — in a major way. We try to make our trips as often and as substantive as we possibly can. If we could, we would do even more. And while we know that our kids probably won’t remember much of the details (if any), and that they probably can’t appreciate well (if at all) how truly privileged they are to have the life experiences that they do, we are sure that their world views are being shaped by the bigness of the world to which they are being exposed.

A few years ago I asked a good friend what parenting advice she could give me. I ask this question of many people I come into contact with– it is my favorite question to ask of people– but this particular person said something that really stuck with me. She is a friend who is many years older and wiser than me; a single mom whose mothering I deeply respect; someone whose bi-racial, bi-lingual, bi-cultural, bi-continental daughter we’ve known since she was quite young and is now a young woman that I’d be proud to be the parent of. Anyway, our friend told me that her best parenting advice was this: “Travel with your kids so they grow up knowing they are part of the big world.” That’s the direct quote. I’ll never forget that. And I try to remember it in the face of naysayers who tell me (or insinuate) that “traveling with young kids is a waste.”

Since we’ve been back from the Dominican Republic, Kyle and Owen have been doing what they always do when we return from a trip: they are reflecting on it. In their own ways. Mostly we see this in their play and their questions. Every trip expands their world exponentially. And when they are grounded, safely back home again, back into the rhythm and routine of their own daily life, they explore their new-found expansion and reflect on the new that they have seen. They process it in part by talking about it, but mostly by playing it. The woods are now a tropical jungle. The pool is the Caribbean Sea. And the sandbox is now a favorite dinner spot on the beach in La Romana, Dominican Republic, on the island of Hispaniola.

the Jungle Restaurant, our favorite at the resort where we stayed in the DR, is re-created in the sandbox; table, chairs, play dishes, and an old umbrella were pulled out from the shed and set up on the sand; K & O were the chefs and servers for hours and hours and hours for many days after returning home from our trip

I have a hard time getting K & O to draw. They resist it and always have. And they are really (relatively speaking– for their age) bad at it. I say that with all due respect (and I’d never, ever, ever tell them or imply to them that they are “bad” at it). But seriously, drawing is not their strong suit. (and even on a recent ‘IQ’-type test that they took they were in the bottom 5th percentile in the area of drawing). This is ironic because I am actually quite a crafty-artistic-type and have always encouraged them to draw (while carefully not pushing them to draw). But it is also ironic for another reason–   since long before I ever had kids, I have been intensely interested in children’s artwork as an expression of the perspectives and vantage points of youth. This is actually something with which I’ve done quite a bit of academic work, and something I’m sort of ‘known for’ in one corner my professional life. Strange how ironic life can be– that I can do all sorts of work on children’s artwork as a qualitative methodology for the sociology of children and childhood… and then, years later… my own children pretty much won’t draw! (we just have to laugh!)… anyway… despite all this… every once in a while K & O do draw. And, usually, when they do draw (if it is for real and not just scribbling for the sake of scribbling), what they do is enough food-for-thought to last me quite a while. A few days after coming home from the Dominican Republic, the boys actually sat down at the kitchen table with me to draw. Here is what Owen drew:

Owen's drawing

Owen explained it (from left to right), in his own words~~~~    The bright hot sun; a palm tree with coconuts growing on it; a flag sticking up– it is the Haiti flag and the United States flag and actually a whole Hispaniola and America flag; a map of the hotel which is actually also a dot-to-dot maze; Kyle and Papi and Owen and Mommy on vacation.

And Kyle drew this:

Kyle's drawing

Kyle’s drawing in intense. He spent a lot of time working on it. It has been floating in my head since. The entire time he was talking, telling me all about what he was drawing. Kyle’s drawing, in his own words~~~~   the clinic where we [K & O] were born in Cite Soleil in the city of Port au Prince in the country of Haiti on the island of Hispaniola [on far right, the oval with lots of people inside it]; this clinic is far, far away from the United States and it is full of people– it is like a little hospital– and the people are all in the clinic and Kyle and Owen are being born in there– and we are born in our birthmother’s belly– and our birthmother is in the clinic too; [drawn under the clinic] Rock and Patrick coming to the clinic to get us; [leading off to the left] the road in Haiti; [further to the left] Mommy and Papi coming to get us and lots and lots of people all around in the streets in Haiti; [far left] the airplane that Mommy and Papi took to Haiti– with a line (the plane’s exhaust fumes) all behind it going all the way back to the United States; [center] a big huge palm tree with coconuts hanging down and also the special bark that you can climb; the sun. What is, probably, most interesting to me is that when he had finished the whole drawing he handed me the paper and said it was a drawing of “Vacation.”

About two weeks after we got home from the DR, Braydon was out with the boys running an errand. They were listening to music and quiet. Out of the blue, from the back seat, Kyle said, “Papi, did you know that I wish I was born in Mommy’s belly?” Braydon told me later that day that Kyle had said this. A couple of days later, when I found a good mundane moment alone with Kyle in the kitchen, I snuggled up to him and with him sitting up on the counter, and me standing close, with my arms wrapped around him, I whispered in his ear, “Kyle, you know what? I love you exactly just as you are, and I wish that I could have had you born from my belly.” Instantaneously he melted into my arms, his head heavy on my shoulder. He pulled away so that his face was just a couple of inches from mine, “Really?” He asked. “Yes, really,” I said, “I am so glad it all happened like it did, but still, I wish you had been born in my belly so that I could have had you and Owen with me the whole whole whole time.” “It’s ok Mommy!” he said cheerily. “I wish we were born in your belly too! But if I wasn’t born in my birthmother’s belly then I wouldn’t be brown! And you wouldn’t have been able to come to Haiti!” “I know!” I said, following his lead, “and I love your brown skin! and that was the best day of my life! So I wish you were born in my belly, but I’m also so glad it all happened the way it did.” That was the end of it, for then. But it did what I hoped for– it freed him to express something– because about every-other-day since then, at totally random times (last night, for example, it was when Kyle was sitting on the potty looking at a Red Sox magazine and I was chaperoning Meera nearby in the bathtub), Kyle says to me, totally out of the blue, “Mommy, I wish I was born in your belly.” And I just stop for a second and look at him and say, “I know baby, me too.” And this is a newfound place for us– an expression of something that has surely always been there, but it took a trip to their island of Hispaniola to bring us to this new place of reciprocal expression and understanding.

Each place is beautiful in its own way. And some trips are more elaborate, more long-distance, more involved, than others. But each of them bring us to someplace new. Not just in the actual trip, but in the reflection of it.

Memorial Day Weekend Wrap Up

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My parents were planning to be here for Meera’s birthday, so we planned too for them to extend their stay for us to all spend Memorial Day Weekend together here in Pennsylvania. Two of the things at the very top of my list of Things That I’m Most Grateful For are these: 1) having the great fortune to have parents with whom I’ve had a life-long awesome relationship, and 2) having the chance now, in my own adulthood, to have parents with relatively flexible work schedules which allow them to spend an enormous amount of time investing in our long-distance parent-child and grandparent-child relationships. These two things are huge in my life and I never forget how special they are. I know it is highly unusual to have such solid and reciprocally good relationships with my own parents (and to have my husband truly adore them and vice-versa). I also know — first hand — how lucky I am to have parents with big careers, but whose careers are so flexible that they can spend a lot of time with us despite the fact that we live 8 hours (on a good driving day) apart. Growing up, my parents’ work schedules were very inflexible and their time off very infrequent. That makes me especially appreciative for what we have now. I hope that all of this will have a long-lasting positive impact on my own children — their chance to witness first-hand, and be a part of themselves, positive relationships across generations. This is something I’ve always hoped for, and something I’m so proud to be accomplishing now in my family life.

Anyway…. back to Memorial Day…

We spent it with MorMor and MorFar here at our house. The weather was summer-like and our pool had just been opened up the week before. Our Memorial Day Weekend basically consisted of three main themes:

  • Baseball
  • Pool Time
  • Eating

The boys are way into baseball. Kyle especially is super into it. They (Kyle especially) loves when MorFar visits in part because he knows he’ll have a baseball playmate 24×7. Kyle and my dad could eat, sleep, and breath baseball (and Red Sox) if ever given the chance. And Owen is quite the baseball lover in his own right, and usually very happy to go along for the ride. One thing they love to do with MorFar is to go find baseball fields (any baseball field) to play on. MorFar pitches and K & O hit and run. When they can get Braydon to go along, Braydon plays outfield. K & O are really good hitters. K especially. At one point during the weekend we all piled into the car and drove to one of the fields they like to play on. MorMor, Meera, and I cheered like crazy from the stands. The boys all played like crazy on the field. Anybody who happened to have seen us surely thought we were either absolutely nuts or extremely eccentric. Afterward we all went to Rita’s for frozen custard. For K & O, that particular afternoon was probably the highlight of the long weekend.

Our swimming pool is open for business and Memorial Day Weekend kicked off a great summer of pool time!

…and then there was the food. We have no problem with indulging in stereotypically all-Americana-Memorial-Day-esque food at times like this~~ bbq ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs… it is all good. We had our first watermelon of the season and it turned out that Meera loves it!

And now~~ on to summer 2010!

Dominican Republic 2010 — 1 of 4

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I’ll be honest: this past year has probably been the toughest yet for Braydon and I. We’ve been together for fifteen years and married for almost nine of those. We’ve had our ups and downs, our highs and our lows, better years and worse years. This past year has been very, very tough for us. We are 100% dedicated to sticking it out, but we’d be lying if we said these past several months have been easy. In so many respects, it has been very, very challenging for us. We knew we needed a break. Like, a real break. And we knew we needed it badly. But we also knew that we didn’t want to totally sacrifice our vacation with our bambinos in order for us to reconnect and rejuvenate as a couple. It is very hard (impossible?) to do what we wanted (needed?) to do with a baby along. We know that, first-hand, from prior experience. So, we came up with a plan: a trip with just the boys– leaving Meera at home with MorMor and MorFar. K & O are old enough, adventurous enough, and capable-and-experienced-travelers-enough to be able to afford us an awesome time. And Meera would be much happier (being the home-body that she is, at least for now) at home. It all hinged on MorMor and MorFar agreeing to come and stay with her while we went away. Which they did agree to do. What a gift from them. So, the grand plan got set in motion.

This year’s big May vacation was to the island of Hispaniola. The boys’ first time back to the island of their roots since we brought them home when they were eight months old. This was a big deal trip! We had hoped to bring them to Haiti this year, but the earthquake ended the possibility of that dream coming true. It took us a while to re-orient our minds to a new dream. But we did. And none of us are complaining. While we would have liked to have been able to bring K & O to Haiti, for us the Dominican Republic was the next best choice. It allowed for the boys to see a tiny bit (albeit a far cry from Cite Soleil) of the island on which they were born. They know and understand that the DR is not Haiti. But they also know and understand that the countries share one island. We saw enough of the reality of the DR for a bit of that to sink in. And we saw a lot of the beauty of the Caribbean, Hispaniola, and the Dominican Republic. All along our goal had been to expose them to enough, but to show them the breath-taking sheer brilliant beauty of it too. And, in the end, the trip was totally successful on all fronts. The boys came home thinking deeply– and they also came home proud of “their island,” “their people,” and “their place.” We were in La Romana, and we had done our research: not only is there great snorkeling there (K & O’s top priority for this trip), but a lot of Haitians live and work in that region. And we got to meet a lot of Haitian people who were very enthusiastic about bonding with our boys as soon as they found out they were Haitian too. “My brothers!” the Haitians would shout out to K & O, proudly proclaiming to the boys that they are “same colour!” and “same skin!” There were lots of questions, and lots of conversations all around. It was intense at times, but all good. And to top it all off, we had an absolutely fantastically fabulous vacation. Highlights (in addition to the Hispaniola/Haitian connections) included:

  • snorkeling snorkeling snorkeling! off the beach of the resort where we stayed, and during a day-trip we took to Catalina Island (a day trip which included a couple hours of riding in a tiny 12-foot out-board-motor boat on the open white-capped Caribbean ~~ very, very crazy, to say the least!!!). highlights of snorkeling included seeing a cow fish; underwater ‘meadows’ of huge sand dollars; humongous bright orange starfish; angel fish; sergeant major fish; parrot fish; surgeon fish; yellow tail; millions of sea urchins; and even an eel! Kyle and Owen are really good snorkelers. At age just-barely-six they are really, seriously, really, really super-good snorkelers. I don’t want to brag on them too much, but seriously, they are really good at snorkeling.
  • boating every day! paddle boat, kayaks, the above mentioned “speed boat,” and — the creme de la creme — an hour-long catamaran sail with Mama at the helm!
  • the boys’ first massages! no kidding. we all four had massages the first day. total, total indulgence. worth every single cent.
  • drinking and dining! turns out the boys love pina coladas (virgin ones, of course) almost as much as their parents do (the non-virgin ones, of course)! and we all loved eating lunch on a gorgeous terrace overlooking the water each day… and trying the various resort restaurants for dinner each night. Our favorite dinner spot was a restaurant called the “Jungle,” which was totally outdoors, in a mangrove area, in the sand on/by the beach. It served Dominican food and it was awesome. We ate conch, shrimp (Owen’s favorite), rice and beans (Kyle’s favorite), grouper, and goat. Caramelized banana and papaya for dessert. We ate there twice and those were heavenly evenings for all four of us. And drinking and dining out all vacation long meant no cooking and no cleaning for H & B. (this is big because it was our first trip since having kids that we have vacationed this way… it was glorious!!!)
  • no toys! We have always had a J-M policy that for any child 18-months-old or older, we bring no toys on vacation. None whatsoever. Period. This works out amazingly well, and none of our kids have ever blinked an eye at it (or even seemed to notice). One of the things Braydon and I love about vacations is watching to see what our kids do with nothing at all. It is amazing to see their creativity. One example from this trip was that K & O invented a way to play tic-tac-toe at the table using knives and salt/pepper packets. They wound up doing this during many a meal.
  • exploring exploring exploring! coral coastline and sandy beaches and flora and fauna for as far as the eyes can see = hours of endless adventure. playing with hermit crabs and all kinds of crabs were huge hits! looking for birds, fish, turtles, snails, coconuts, bananas…  it just doesn’t get any better.
  • lounging at the pool (we love that) and reading (for this trip we bought and brought with us the boys’ first real chapter book: The Swiss Family Robinson!!!).
  • going to bed late and waking up early! K & O were awesome. They were thrilled to stay up until 9 or 10 each night (way past their normal bedtime)! And their parents were thrilled to have them sleep in until 8 or 9 each morning (way past their normal wake-up time)!
  • the resort was gorgeous and lived up to all of our expectations. Braydon and I had been to the DR once before (before K & O were born), but we had gone to Punta Cana. That was a totally different experience than what we had in La Romana. La Romana was much more our speed– relatively off the beaten path, low-key, and very few Americans. A true break from reality in the best possible ways.
  • as usual for our family trips……. the best part of all: bonding bonding bonding. It was awesome to spend time together doing things that all four of us truly, genuinely love to do… and to do them TOGETHER. This trip did what we needed it to– it brought us back together and revived us to carry forward.

We came home to a very happy Meera. She was happy the whole time we were gone. MorMor and MorFar spoiled her rotten. And she was happy to see us when we got home.

Life is an adventure!