The rest of the summer

Summer’s over, so I have to put up these pictures now, or I’ll never do it. Without further ado….

The Cape
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Elijah was obsessed with digging. Every. single. day.DSC_0920

Deeper…DSC_0930

Deeper!

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Remy kept saying, “Are you going to dig all the way to Chinatown, Elijah?” I’m not sure if she thinks that is farther away than the actual country of China…DSC_0926DSC_0941

Doing a nature scavenger hunt. Miss Thang loves having a clipboard (and telling people, especially her brother, what to do).DSC_0947DSC_0963

We had a lot of fun visiting with friends and exploring the tidal pools.
DSC_0976Check out my tiny crab friend…

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Can you even believe these tiny shells?
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We stopped in Wilkes-Barre on the way home and then went to Knoebel’s, an amusement park. You can even bring dogs there! It was really hot and there were a million people there (as well as quite a few whiny children, including ours), but we had ice cream at the end, so that saved the day 🙂DSC_0028

And Izzy was there, and she just makes everything better.DSC_0031

Home, sweet home….DSC_0037_1024

We continued our adventuring around PhillyDSC_0043_1024thumb_DSC_0099_1024

and had some friends come for a visit (although getting everyone to look in the same direction proved challenging).thumb_DSC_0104_1024

And then off to Family Camp at Camp Friendship. It’s a really great way for kids to get the sleep away camp experience, but still be with their parents. It’s also a great way for parents to get to hang out, not cook or work, and do archery, play tennis, and go zip lining.
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It was really fun to see the kids get out of their comfort zones and try new things.thumb_DSC_0122_1024thumb_DSC_0144_1024thumb_DSC_0158_1024thumb_DSC_0169_1024thumb_DSC_0165_1024thumb_DSC_0190_1024

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Road to Cape photo dump

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Holy crap, where did the summer go? I mean, my kids still have like a month left of their 13 week summer vacay, but still, it’s sort of flown by. We’re headed out to Richmond and (heaven help me) family camp, but here are some pics from our annual Cape trip.

We took our typical route up to the Cape, stopping in Hawley first for some pierogies, baby cuddles, and cousin time.DSC_0734

Look at baby Izzy and her mommy (more specifically, look at Izzy’s tongue. She is so very yummy).

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DSC_0749DSC_0741Such a good big sis!DSC_0755DSC_0762DSC_0768Jam session for baby Izzy.DSC_0775DSC_0778

My doggie love, my spirit animal, my daemon (a la His Dark Materials books)…but don’t be fooled: he is actually a vicious beast.
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All the activity tired Miss Izzy out…DSC_0782 Then on to Boston….First up: Hingham. It was low, low tide, so we walked out to the raft through deliciously yucky muddy sand, with lots of interesting little sea creatures.DSC_0797DSC_0800DSC_0808DSC_0805Then we relaxed and played on the sand, already settling into vacation mode.DSC_0814DSC_0816Is there something on my face?DSC_0817The next day we trooped into the city.DSC_0841

At the Harvard Museum of Natural History. It was awesome-the glass flower exhibit is absolutely breathtaking, and photos just don’t do it justice. All of us kept going, “I can’t believe these are made out of glass.” Seriously mindblowing. We also enjoyed looking at the rocks and geodes and trying to find examples in every color. Nature, man. That’s some good stuff.DSC_0825 DSC_0835The folks at Harvard also figured out the ultimate low-tech playground/entertainment system for kids (I guess there are supposed to be smart people there or something?). Elijah and Remy spent a LOT of time just jumping from rock to rock, pretending to escape from lava or water.

They also (nerd alert!) had a giant chess set by the food trucks.

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We went to the LEGO discovery center in the afternoon, which the kids (especially Elijah) loved. They had a ninja training sim that he probably did 8 million times. This is what he looked like by dinnertime:

DSC_0884No one ever said being a ninja was easy. He rallied for ice cream though…DSC_0887Remy’s favorite part was the karaoke area. I could lie and say she had to strong arm me into performing a variety of pop hits, but I was happy to use the otherwise useless (but very large) part of my brain that is consumed with teeny bopper, Top 40 radio.DSC_0853We went out to dinner with this girl (now a big sis) and her parents, also in Assembly Row.DSC_0880It’s a totally weird part of Boston-like someone dropped a piece of suburbia there. But along with the LEGO place, there was a great little playground and several yummy restaurants. Finally, we headed home to Auntie Jenny’s to play with the cats and get ready for the Cape. This post is looooong, so I’ll put the actual Cape pics in another post!

 

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Some old and some new: a visit to Richmond

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The Roo finished school in the middle of June (sniff, sniff) and then we left the following morning for Richmond. It will be so weird not to visit PIC every week, answering the question of the day, signing in, seeing all the familiar faces. Remy has loved her time there, but many of her close buds are leaving PIC as well, mostly for kindergarten, and she seems to be totally fine with this transition time (fingers crossed that she maintains that attitude come September).

Since we visit Richmond about four times a year, we tend to go to our “greatest hits” spots for playing, eating, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for my sanity and and the spirit of exploration, we decided to try some new places as well. DSC_0322

However, it would be unthinkable to monkey with the Ukrop’s birthday cake tradition. Those frosting roses have enthralled generations of frosting lovers. As someone who doesn’t eat much processed sugar, I feel like when I take a lick of that frosting, I feel like someone has given me a shot of pure adrenaline into my veins: it’s intense.DSC_0330

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That’s my girl.DSC_0343

We went to Tarrant’s West for Father’s Day brunch. Despite a long wait for our food (the place was totally packed, and they brought a second little tray of sweet rolls to pacify us in the meantime), we kept ourselves busy playing ISpy and reading. Always reading.DSC_0352We hadn’t done paint your own pottery in a while, so next we went to Color Me Mine. Remy made a rainbow dog, and Elijah chose a shark bank. He must have been feeling the vibes from all the ravenous shark brothers down in North Carolina.
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Of course, we couldn’t miss a trip to the children’s museum. They had to visit their favorite apple tree. Seriously, they both have loved this section for so long. I think they actually have a Pavlovian response when they see it-they just keep picking up the balls, dumping them, repeat. It’s odd and amusing.
DSC_0363DSC_0364Their water play area is just the thing for Remy (and it was sooo hot most of the days were were there). How was she not born under a water sign? She’s a Libra, which is also pretty fitting.DSC_0379Sass. There’s always so much sass.DSC_0389We’re together! It’s like seeing that Snipe from the movie Up!DSC_0398Don’t worry. She got him back (see below)DSC_0401We tried a new-to-us place for lunch, Zoe’s Kitchen. Really yummy, fresh, Greek-inspired salads and sandwiches. Definitely will be a repeat place to dine.DSC_0412DSC_0410

See what I mean about the sass? Remy saw this picture and said, “Do you see my eyes? My eyes look crazy, Mommy.”

We had to twist their arms for hours, but Remy and Elijah finally agreed to go to Duck Donuts, where you can choose your donut’s topping.DSC_0416Want to keep your kids mesmerized? Let them watch fresh donuts coming out of the hopper. Donut hypnotism, the newest trend-you heard it here first.DSC_0419DSC_0426They do look quite pretty, don’t they?DSC_0425

Just for research purposes, we also tried Country Style Donuts another day. Elijah got maple topped.DSC_0467I don’t remember what Joe got (I think it was something cream-filled), but by the time I took the cover off my camera and took a picture of Elijah and Remy, this was all that was left of Joe’s donut. Inhaled!DSC_0465He put a hurting on this ice cream at another old favorite, Ray’s, as well. Sweet tooth!DSC_0458As always, everyone loved having so much Daddy Time. Remy really loves being at home and often needs extra cuddles when we are away from Pine Street for more than a few days. Of course, we’re all more than happy to comply!DSC_0438DSC_0430

Remy and Joe and both cashed out post-donuts. Somehow, Elijah managed to avoid the sugar crash.
DSC_0432One thing you can say about Joe: he goes all in when he’s playing pretend. This particular game, which took place over the course of days, involved Joe trying to steal the crown jewels, which were buried. (Side note: if you were to look at the recent google searches on my computer, they would include “crown jewels”, “how to steal crown jewels” and “most terrifying jails in the world”. If you want to freak your kids out, google the last one; there’s some crazy prisons around the world.)DSC_0436We also took our annual mini-golf outing in preparations for the numerous games we will play while on Cape Cod.DSC_0440DSC_0445

And, of course, we always have to visit Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.DSC_0474We’ve been there a bunch before, but this time they handed us the KidQuest brochure, which gives the kids various things around the grounds to look for and was a fun incentive to explore. It started raining pretty hard while we were there, but they continued playing happily in the sand area.DSC_0478DSC_0489DSC_0492DSC_0501

On one of our last mornings, we went to the South of the James Farmer’s markets. I am obsessed with farmer’s markets (a throwback to my years in NYC and the amazing Greenmarkets there), and I was pretty impressed with this one. There were pastries, kombucha, natural body products, honey, and all sorts of other goodies (even jewelry-Elijah got a rose quarts necklace to give him “special, rare” powers.)DSC_0519DSC_0524And popsicles! The perfect snack on a hot day.DSC_0526The kids loved this knit bombed post at a nearby park.

Joe and I went out to dinner at Postbellum with some friends. So good. Not exactly light, but super delicious Southern-with-a-flair food. If you live in Richmond or nearby, please go there-their vegan and gluten-free menu is awesome! Vegan poutine! Smoked mushrooms over polenta! A pickle plate! Sorry for the iPhone pic.

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I couldn’t figure out what the light peach, pinky portion of the pickle plate was-it looked like cantaloupe and was softer than typical daikon pickles (my favorite kind). We asked the server, who told us it was daikon pickled in… wait for it… kool-aid! Oh and the salad with brussel sprouts and nuts-order that too!

We had a wonderful week in Richmond, and we’re coming back for more in August.

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Jersey Boy: A day trip to Collingswood

DSC_0240Elijah’s school ended in early June, while Remy finished a few weeks later. It’s pretty rare that Elijah gets Mommy time all to himself, so I told him we could take some day trips while Remy was at school. His main requests were to take the subway all the way west to 69th street and then to take the “PATCO to somewhere in New Jersey”. Our first trip to 69th street took place on a boiling hot day, but we found an awesome Asian supermarket that I probably would otherwise have never known existed (and I got a bi bim bop-type bowl with mushrooms and seaweed that was the size of my head)!

I had been to Collingswood before a few years ago with some friends, and I thought it was a cute little town so Elijah and I took the PATCO over and explored. We found literally the best children’s toy and game store ever: Extraordinary ED. They promised that nothing they sell there needs a battery or to be plugged in; they had a ton of games we had never seen before, including Pyramix, which really spoke to Elijah’s Egypt love. It was hard not to buy everything in there!

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We did also buy a set of story cubes. Basically, they are what they sound like: a set of cubes/dice that have little pictures on every side. You roll them and make up a story using the images. I thought they would be a good little speech therapy game for Remy, but, as you can see, Elijah loves them too, and they have helped keep all of us occupied while eating out as well.DSC_0258

Collingswood is a really manageable town. Not everything was open right when we got there around 10am, but there was enough to see that we weren’t at all bored. DSC_0252

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One of the places that was closed was a taxidermist. I’m not sure if I am sad or happy we couldn’t go in; Elijah got his fill by looking in the window.
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We also stopped at My Little Kupcake, and Elijah picked out a decorated cookie to share with Remy when we got back to West Philly. They had vegan and gluten-free cupcakes and cookies and parfait-type things among their offerings. I got a gluten-free flourless chocolate cookie sandwich with cannoli-filling. It was so rich and yummy; I ate it over the course of 3 sittings (which if you know me and my sweet tooth is pretty incredible). That place would be dangerous if we lived nearby!DSC_0262

We found a really cool art store with a crazy collection of international artisans represented: everything from jewelry to boxes to puppets to paintings to skeleton cups.

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We finished our outing with Elijah’s favorite type of lunch (sushi). I think he liked it.:) DSC_0266

Then we jumped back on the PATCO, switched to the blue line, and were back in time to pick up Remy.

Sometimes I talk myself (and the family) out of taking outings and adventures that aren’t among our usual places and activities; they can seem like a lot of work for a short amount of time, and I never know if the kids are going to like them until we actually get there! Collingswood was super easy (and fast) to get to, just a small jump out of our daily activities comfort zone, and a perfect day trip for my transportation-loving Elijah.
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B is for (Pierre) Bonnard: Sketching and still life

For our second “A is for Artist” installment, we fieldtripped over to the PMA to learn about Post Impressionist painter and printmaker Pierre Bonnard.DSC_0277

But first, we attended the very important business of splashing in giant puddles.DSC_0276

The PMA houses a lovely little room with several Bonnards (as well as a few Vuillards). We hunkered down with our sketching paper and colored pencils and got started. I don’t think I ever would have thought it was kosher to just sit down on the floor and sketch at the PMA, but we did it every week in Remy’s art class and no one objected to it then or the day we went either.DSC_0280DSC_0279

While we were there, Elijah looked over and asked, “Are you good at drawing?”

I answered him honestly. “No. But I still like doing it.” His school has been instrumental in helping him learn to experiment and create without fear of what what the final product will look like. It’s such a good lesson to learn early on when it comes to art, don’t you think? What used to be a stressful and frustrating activity (“WHY doesn’t it look the way I want it to look?”) has become a much easier outlet for expression.DSC_0555The kids really connected to the still life paintings they saw, so I knew they would love creating their own. We went to Whole Foods and bought a bouquet and a bunch of different types of fruit.DSC_0557

I let them choose what vase or container they wanted to use as well as the fruit and flowers and told them they could arrange things as they pleased.DSC_0565Then they began sketching. Impressively, they waited until they were almost done before they started eating their still life.

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DSC_0567And voila!

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A is for Artist: An attempt to introduce my kids to art

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With both kids largely off from organized activities all summer, I was looking for a fun way (for all of us) to learn a little something at Camp Mommy. My kids benefit from having at least a little structure to their days, and we can’t spend every day all day at the pool, and I had been thinking for the past year how I wanted to teach them more about art. We do a lot of arts and crafts at home, and they both get great art time at school, but I want them to understand how many different artistic media exist and how being an artist doesn’t just mean that you can paint or draw.

Remy had a leg up on this idea: she attended a totally awesome art class at the PMA for most of the year. I highly recommend it to anyone who has young children. During the first part of class, parents and kids visit a work of art with the teacher, who explains it in completely kid-friendly terms. After a (usually hilarious) discussion/critique and a game or activity, the kids go back to the studio to create their own work of art, and the parents get a little time to drift around the museum. By themselves. At the PMA. It is the stuff of dreams, I tell you. Anyways, Remy really enjoyed the class, so I knew that both of my kids were age-appropriate to begin learning about varied forms of art.

We’re going to be looking at artists alphabetically. Our “A” lesson (which was not really a lesson at all, just looking online or in my photography books and discussing some very basic concepts) focused on Ansel Adams and Diane Arbus, two photographers with very different style and foci.

To embrace our inner Ansel, we took walks around the neighborhood, focusing on nature and landscapes. I’d like to have them continue this theme in slightly more scenic and picturesque locations-like a garden or mountain, but for now, West Philly served us well.

Here were some of the results:

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Some of them turned out quite ummm…abstract and whimsical, but it was fun going back through the images with the kids and discussing composition and how to adjust the lens and our own distance from the camera (and also how to hold still while taking a picture).

Remy is basically wearing the leftovers from her snack here. You can see little baked pea particles all over her face.

Remy is basically wearing the leftovers from her snack here. You can see little baked pea particles all over her face.

Our discussion of Arbus’s work and portraiture in general was very intriguing, with about 1/2 of it consisted of Elijah telling me that he definitely did NOT want to go to a nudist colony (where Arbus completed a series of photos) and asking why people would want to go to one and if you could go to one and still wear clothes. We also discussed how to “frame” people and fill it with who or what we wanted since Remy kept saying “I keep cutting you head off, Mommy.” Not that you’d be able to see my face anyways since Harvey’s tongue was covering it.

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Remy’s favorite subject is Harvey. I love that you can get an idea from her photos of how close she likes to be to him all the time.

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And Elijah with his chin on his hand? I can’t even-where does he learn this stuff?

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Both kids love using cameras (especially Mommy’s fancy camera), so these activities were an easy sell; we’ll see how the next ones turn out. I’m blogging about this little experiment to keep myself accountable, so stay tuned for B-Pierre Bonnard!

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Big questions without answers

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We are no strangers to big questions around here, but lately they have been coming more and more from Remy. For a while they were anatomically-based: the benefits of having a doctor daddy and, more specifically, a doctor daddy who leaves his graphic medical journals strewn about our dining room table. More recently the questions have been of a different kind of personal nature. She wants to know more about her birth parents and her very early life in Ethiopia.

For the sake of Remy’s privacy, I will say this: there is a lot that we don’t know in her past. I had the privilege of meeting Remy’s birth mother briefly. Communication required two interpreters, and our interaction was brief, although reassuring, humbling, and warm. At the time, Remy was thisclose to coming home. We had one small hurdle to get through, which I now believe was more of a formality from the Embassy, but all I could think about was picking Remy up from her transition home and never letting her go.

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When I spoke with Remy’s birth mother, I tried to be polite, respectful, I tried to show this woman, who had Remy’s best intentions at heart, how much we loved Remy already and how we would care for her and continue loving her forever. I think I succeeded at these things, but I failed at another: I didn’t think about what Remy would want to know. I didn’t ask some of the big questions that still remain, I didn’t consider how much and how early she would begin wondering, and that is a huge regret.

We took a few pictures of the two of us, and Remy has always had one on her dresser. Lately she has been bringing it closer, first to the radiator, then next to her bed. I made her a “my journey” baby book several years ago, and she loves reading it, hearing how we prepared for her arrival, seeing the photos of Joe and I holding her at the transition home, repeating the stories we have told her about our first visits with her.

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There are constant, little reminders of the differences between her start in life and Elijah’s. Elijah was our first, so we have a million newborn pictures and dozens of videos from his first year of life. Some of this was simply due to the novelty of having a digital camera and a video recorder for the first time; some of it was due to experiencing the trippy and fantastical experience of watching a human being’s first year of life.

When we were looking at some of these home videos (in chronological order) around Elijah’s most recent birthday, Remy wondered where she was. We explained that she hadn’t been born yet and that she would appear in due time, but she quickly clarified: “Where are my videos when I was a baby?” We still have several videos from the transition home and from Ethiopia and from Remy’s first few months at home, but her newborn year is missing. We all feel that loss, we all wish we could have seen her as a small, baby Remy.

These questions have become earlier than I expected, I have to admit. I thought we maybe had a few more years. The questions about why our skin colors are different have already arrived, but those have a more scientific answer; my answers don’t rely on the intricate fragilities of her heart and trying to wade through what is age-appropriate and what is the “best” way to explain a complicated situation and complicated choices.

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There is always grief in adoption; there is always loss. It is the nature of adoption. I know this, I knew this when we started the process. It is part and parcel of parenting a child who was adopted. I am prepared to help her grieve, I am looking forward to returning to Ethiopia with her to learn more about whatever is she wants to explore, I know there may be days or months or (gulp) years when she is frustrated and angry and sad and confused about adoption and our family. But I always hoped the grief in her life would be short, because I am her mom, and no mom wants her child to suffer. Remy is sunshine and love and (if I am going to be honest) a total badass who has always known exactly what she likes and who she is.

I am just beginning to truly understand that the grief will always be part of her as she grows, that it will disappear and resurface at times. It is an unsettling emotion as a parent, knowing that this journey and its obstacles lay ahead of your child, along with so many other unforeseen ones. The balm is in knowing that we’re right beside her, that she’ll travel it holding the hands of those who love her beyond measure.

Posted in adoption, family, parenting, Remy Roo | Tagged , , | 2 Comments