Monday, April 30, 2007

Sorrows and small joys

Early this morning the historic building which has housed Eastern Market for 134 years burned, leaving only the exterior walls and part of the roof. This market was truly the heart of Capitol Hill and the neighborhood is shocked and sad.

I think we've brought every out-of-town visitor--and some in-town visitors--to Eastern Market over the last five years. It's a bit of a local secret, just off the beaten tourist path but well-known enough that the weekend crowds are large and vibrant. Even during the slower weekdays I often passed the Market on my way to errands on Pennsylvania Avenue. It is only six blocks from our apartment and really served as our "convenience store" in a lot of respects. Every special occasion we walked up and down the main hall picking up delicious foodstuffs from vendors who had been in business for decades. Canales Meat Market had incredible bacon. The Calomiris family always gave Joseph a free banana even if all I'd paid for was a bunch of parsley. We could never tell if Mr. Bowers, the "Cheese Man", remembered us, but he sure acted like he did as he passed around slice after slice of gourmet cheese samples to actual and potential customers. If my pancakes weren't the best in the world, we might have often joined the long line of locals and visitors each Saturday for breakfast at the lunch counter. To those of us who live in the neighborhood, Eastern Market is The Hill.

Our sadness over its destruction is all the more poignant in the wake of the last several days. The doors all seem to be closing for a job in Brooklyn. It may be that Eric could land one of them still, if the stars aligned just right, but this last round of interviews brought much into perspective for him. We love Brooklyn and, if the job didn't matter, we would probably more there in a heart beat and raise our family there. The job does matter, however, and well it should after all this education! Eric needs time to finish up his dissertation and then needs a job that will advance an academic career. That means probably--though not certainly--staying in Washington another year. We are exploring several options and know ourselves too well by now to get over-excited about any one of them.

We are very, very sad about the loss of Brooklyn. In every way it is what we want for our family. Staying in Washington has always been Plan B--but even that is a bit uncertain now. We've just said goodbye to our last group of students and are trying hard to stay on the Hill. The loss of Eastern Market might seem trivial to some but to us, and to many of our neighbors, the Hill, too, seems lost.

I walked by this afternoon with the kids. Out doing errands as usual and I felt like I had to see it. I wanted to look and grieve, in a way, with my neighbors. It was good to be there with Joseph. Kids have such a way of not letting us take ourselves too seriously. Joseph isn't quite old enough to realize what had happened and he was jumping out of the stroller with excitement: "Towers!" (for TV crews) "A crane!" (clearing rubble) "Firetrucks!" (Full of very sad firemen). I didn't have the heart to finish my errands and we passed by again on our way home, partly to see it again and partly because I knew it would be so much fun for Joseph. So many simple joys in his life despite all the stress. The picture below if him kneeling at our windowsill. He went over to watch the garbage truck and stayed for an hour, looking at books and enjoying the fresh spring air.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Back in New York

As I write, Eric is sitting in an interview in Manhattan. He has another one this afternoon. The two jobs are completely different but both seem like good prospects. I optimistically came up Sunday with the kids to begin the apartment hunting process. It's been an exhausting few days. Robyn is hosting us again--twice as much cooking, cleaning and laundry, plus three people sleeping in her living room every night. There are three kids between us so we borrowed a double stroller for the two boys and Margaret has been riding on my back. Monday Robyn and I walked over 120 blocks! Sore feet aside, it's been great to see Bay Ridge in the springtime. We've taken the kids along the waterfront and gotten delicious slices of Brooklyn pizza. I got to Mass one day at our prospective parish and we've hit up a few local coffee establishments to keep us going on too-little sleep.

Robyn has been kind enough to check out apartments with me and we have found a couple good prospects. If the timing works out we might be able to land one of them this week. Otherwise we'll probably have to come back in a couple weeks and look some more. I'm not too worried about finding a good place. In two days we've found two good places despite the fact that several brokers have all but hung up on me when I tell them we need a ground floor unit and my husband is currently job-hunting.

The kids like the city. Joseph love the bridge, the planes, the boats and Margaret is so excited she could just eat her metro card.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Long leg braces

Here is the latest orthopedic toy for Joseph! We've been waiting for these braces for a few months and they've finally arrived.

These braces consist of big, blue, plastic "ski boots" that fit over his shoes (which fit over ankle braces). There are metal bars running up the sides to a leather pelvic band, which is under his shirt in these pictures. There are locks at his knees and hips to keep the joints from moving, although we only lock his knees.

The idea is for Joseph to shift his weight from side to side allowing the brace to swing his leg forward. This type of brace is less automatic than an RGO (which, I believe is what Sarah recently built). The absence of the automatically-reciprocating mechanism makes the whole brace much lighter and less-expensive. It is much better if Joseph has the muscle strength and function to use these.

It looks like he will be able to learn, but it is a slow process. The brace does not provide as much support as he is used to, so a lot of energy is required. He also has a loaner walker now while we wait for his new one to come in. The loaner is pretty old and has four simple wheels instead of automatically braking wheels. This means Joseph falls down pretty easily--no help to his confidence!

He mostly enjoys it, though. We'll see how these fit into his life longterm. Some kids really take to the long braces and use them for daily activities, reserving the wheelchair for longer trips. Some kids like the wheelchair better and use the braces only therapeutically. We'll see what Joseph likes better.

The other person in the picture is Joseph's awesome physical therapist, Shannon.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


We got this great bathtub free from a neighbor. Joseph thinks its his very own S.S. Bathtub and Margaret has loved it from birth. She can recline it and kick her legs like crazy. I always feel bad taking her out of the bathtub because she has so much fun. Then, last week, in the flurry of preparations for our big Easter party I asked Eric to give her a bath. Margaret doesn't really like any adults except me, but I figured Eric couldn't go wrong offering something as fun as a bath. Wrong. I returned to the apartment to find a shrieking, red-faced baby. We couldn't figure out the problem.

This evening we tried the bath again and I realized what was wrong. She's such a good sitter now that she doesn't want to lie back, but sitting in all that water--that's scary. We played for a bit with the water and after awhile she discovered that she could sit up and SPLASH WITH HER HANDS! Bath time is a whole new adventure. I was afraid she'd drown just in the wall of water she was churning up into her face.

Off to put one nice, clean baby to bed . . .

Happy Easter!

I know it's a few days past Easter Sunday but Catholics celebrate Easter (and Christmas) for eight days--so I'm still okay.

I haven't posted for awhile. Every day I think, maybe today the wheelchair will arrive and I can take some pictures of that. Or, maybe tomorrow we'll pick up Joseph's long leg braces and I can write about those. No luck. Nothing ever seems to arrive for Joseph. We've even had a new carseat on back order for months!

Margaret continues to amaze us. She's crawling around on her tummy, now, but that's hard to capture on film. She tasted a few potato molecules on Easter, but spit them back out again.

Also, no news on the moving/job hunt/dissertation front, so please don't call and ask us about that.

Just to keep the blog spirit alive, here are two cute pictures of the kids acting silly on Sunday.