Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Joseph!

Sorry for the blurry shot. I had to run to tend to a waking baby in the middle of dessert and handed over the camera to a different photographer.

We had a lovely birthday celebration for Joseph though we had to improvise at the last minute. None of us were too enthused about Joseph's bizarre birthday dinner request and we didn't really know what to give Joseph for a birthday present. We decided to kill two birds with one stone and offer to Joseph a trip to the top of the Empire State Building. Joseph has wanted to go to the top of the ESB ever since he learned that there was a top and he was very excited for this to be his birthday present. Afterward, we told him, we could get supper at a diner where we would be sure to find banana splits.

We woke up Tuesday morning to pouring rain and the forecast predicted 36 straight hours of rain (which is pretty much what we got). We promised Joseph we'd go another day and hunkered down for a birthday at home. He was thrilled to get some new books at breakfast time and a puzzle matching game from Great Grandma. That game kept the kids busy for five hours on Tuesday while I tried to make a dinner plan. Every once in awhile Joseph and I would have a conversation like this,

"Joseph, what do you want for dinner?"
"Well, I know the market has lupini beans."
"Right. And what should we have with the beans?"
"No meat! But maybe some corn, if you could find it."
"Right. Anything else?"
"Well, I'd really like some broccoli."

That kid doesn't forget things easily. So I asked Eric to stop at the grocery store on his way home and--ignoring the pile of perfectly good vegetables we'd had delivered that day--we made Joseph his requested birthday feast.

We roasted the broccoli with garlic and roasted some frozen corn cobs and they weren't bad. The lupini beans were enjoyed by both kids and we got some bread from our baker around the corner. The Sumol is the official soda of our neighborhood.

Ironically, even though we had to ask Eric to make a special trip for corn and broccoli, I did have all the necessary ingredients for banana splits in my kitchen--including maraschino cherries which is something I have never had in my refrigerator prior to last Saturday and which were bought for reasons unrelated to Joseph's birthday. I had to make the whipped cream and fudge sauce myself but the banana splits with coconut ice cream were delicious.

Joseph made himself a birthday present: a pet crane with a harness so that he can ride it.

Yesterday the weather finally cleared enough to make our trip to the Empire State Building. Getting into Manhattan from our house is very easy and inexpensive. The train station is a short walk from our house and there are regular commuter trains into several stops in Manhattan. I can actually get to Manhattan more quickly and more cheaply than my friend who lives in Brooklyn. We've been into the city many times since moving here but we've always taken the train into the World Trade Center stop and explored Downtown. There is a also a wheelchair-friendly stop just a block from the ESB.

Going to the observation deck on the 86th floor of the ESB is not inexpensive but it was okay for a birthday present for our little five-year old. And the lines are legendary. Ticket-sellers outside were quoting us a two-hour wait time. I suppose it's not really fair to brag about getting special treatment for being handicapped but Joseph got us to the head of every single line in the place (and there are many!). We almost never stopped moving from the moment we entered the door until we go to the top.

We timed our visit perfectly, getting there just early enough to see some daylight view and then watch the lights come on all over the city against the setting sun.

Joseph had a good view until the fanatical security guards yelled at us. There is no possible way a child could fall off the building but you can barely pick up your kid without getting yelled at. Fortunately there were some spots with a lower wall.

Even on a less-than-perfectly clear day the view was pretty spectacular. If it had been just me and Eric, I would gladly have spent a long time up there but the kids got antsy--especially William--and we left after taking some nice time taking in the view from each direction.

The red setting sun is also a picture of Newark. Joseph really wanted to see our house but the haze and the light obscured the city pretty completely. But we do enjoy a nice sunset out our kitchen window many evenings and it was neat to see it from so high.

It was a wonderful evening and wonderful way to celebrate a very wonderful boy who is now calling to me to come check out the "pirate stuff" he built.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

First Taste

My kids all love lemons . . .

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More from Joseph . . .

Joseph's tinker toy sculptures are finally starting to take off. When we first got him tinker toys about a year-and-a-half ago he quickly took to making actual objects but on a very small scale. He favored swords and scepters and he's stuck to that scale of things for quite awhile. Margaret has always built big with Tinker Toys but she never makes anything very specific--just "look how many Tinker Toys I can connect all at once" kind of stuff.

The last couple weeks Joseph has gotten more creative. He built a simple wrecking crane, complete with swinging wrecking ball not too long ago. Then yesterday he called me in to see his latest creation. The kids' bedtime story right now is Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis and Joseph is completely enthralled with the idea of a dragon boat. He built a boat-like structure out of Tinker Toys and called it Dawn Treader. It even has a really tall mast. I asked him if the round spools sticking off the mast were lookout posts and he said, "No. Those are their kegs of wine." Right.

And in the Shaving Years off My Life Department:

Joseph zoomed through the living room at his usual break-neck speed this afternoon on his way to rest time. I was standing with my back to this scene at the kitchen table and heard a sound. It wasn't loud, exactly, just the sort of sound that makes you turn around saying, "What on earth made that sound?" And it was only after I turned that all the books and shelves fell down. I have no idea why only the middle shelves fell and I am extremely grateful that Margaret had strapped herself into a highchair because she would normally have been on Joseph's heels and would have been right in front of the bookcase when this happened.

After a little examination I think this was partly a matter of coincidence. The shelf supports all look pretty well-worn. But let's look at the bright side. I've always hated that bookcase. And Joseph, after recovering from the shock announced, "Maybe I should have gone a little more slower, Mommy!" Yeah. Maybe.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

You're all invited

Joseph has put in his birthday dinner request:


So, who's coming to party with us?

He did say that instead of a cake he would like banana splits for dessert.

For fun this afternoon the children are playing "go to bed." Margaret is playing Daddy and reading a story to Joseph.

When I peeked in on them a few minutes later they were both snuggled together under the futon blankets pretending to sleep. If only real bedtime were that simple.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Margaret!

Late as usual. Margaret had a lovely third birthday. Celebrations began early when Laura, Paul, Patrick and Nicole (aunts and uncles) came for the weekend. It was so much fun for me to host everyone together at our new place--it's great to be the one in the middle!--and Margaret had a little party, too. She had requested chocolate cake with white frosting "just like Uncle Ben." I'd made Ben that kind of cake for his graduation and apparently the memory really stuck. Margaret loved it but for Joseph's birthday I'm hoping to talk him into a dessert that doesn't require a whole bag of sugar.

Margaret was the very happy recipient of several gifts including some stationery that some of you might be seeing if you are the chosen "letter day" correspondent for the week. A couple of grandparents contributed to the furnishing of the doll house Margaret got for Christmas last year. She is so thrilled that her dolls have beds and tucks them in most nights before heading upstairs to bed herself.

We got Margaret a tea set which might have been an even bigger hit. Joseph wants one for his birthday, too, but we're still negotiating. You can see that Margaret has already had the quintessential tea party with her dolls. Actually, I misspoke: Margaret's "dolls" live in the dollhouse; the tea party guests are her "babies."

We're looking forward to a wonderful year ahead for Margaret. She's really growing into such a lovely, smart, helpful girl. Lately she has been on a kick of going out of her way to thank people. "It was really nice of you to get me these new tights, Mommy. I really like the color." So sweet. And if Margaret is having a hard time, the best way to get her to snap out of it is to state a problem. "Margaret, William needs a diaper," sends her scurrying off to fetch one for me. She loves to vacuum and peel garlic, she loves to draw, she loves fussing around with collections of small objects (like doll furniture and tea sets), she loves being around me, she goes nuts with excitement when Eric gets home. She thrives on ritual and predictability and useful occupation. And she can really, really make William laugh. I think we'll keep her.