Almost 7, Almost 5

I think we might be growing out of the time when I give my kids’ ages and people say, “Wow.” Five sounds so much more manageable than four, although I keep hearing it’s actually harder. I hope not. Elliot’s not what I would call a challenging kid, but if I could get him to stop tackling me that would be great.

I’ve started my vague fretting over their birthday party. This ruminating and dinking around on Pinterest will give me the impression that I’m actually doing something. So some time around mid September I’ll be shocked that nothing is done and I have a party to plan in 10 days.

I do have a wish to make a lovely birthday cake on my life list. I think maybe this is the year to get to work on that. While I will combine the birthday party for as long as I can, being both lazy and cheap, maybe I can give each kid a fun cake on his own birthday. Their tastes are so different. Elliot is a great lover of anything cute. Browsing over my shoulder, he picked out this mutant bunny cake from Handmade Charlotte.

mutant bunny cake

That’s beyond my pay grade as a cake maker, but I may be able to modify it. I’m not willing to buy a bunch of supplies I’ll never use again, and I’m not willing to involve fondant.

I found a picture of a donut cake for Alden. It’s pretty ambitious, and there are no instructions, but I may take a whack at that.

Donut Cake

I’m sure it’s harder than it looks, which is how I get into most of my trouble in the kitchen.


Festive Cab Is Festive

I’m looking out my hotel room window, deeply resenting that not one person in the apartment building across the way is doing anything interesting. I also resent that three of them on this side have sizable patios and none of them has done a thing with theirs. Those people do not deserve patios. Or to be across from a hotel full of bored business travelers. Double fail.

Tonight my Greek cab driver dropped me off with the Jamaican hotel valet. Inside I ordered my dinner from the Irish barman. That might be all my entertainment for the evening.

Festive Cab Is Festive

Festive Cab Is Festive

My Dad always told me traveling for work isn’t very much fun. By his scale, he was right. Even the coolest city loses a lot of luster when it’s packed with work obligations and low on friends and family. But Dad also was almost entirely free of little-kid responsibility, and so he never knew just how sweet a lonely hotel room bed can be. A friend once told me to banish my guilt about traveling. Her reasoning was that I have to go anyway and so I have a moral obligation to enjoy it for all those moms who will never get a night themselves.

This trip hit Alden hard. He cried and cried last night, begging me to cancel my trip. We stayed up together for a long time (sorry teachers!) and talked through his sadness. I don’t know what’s worse, when they get upset or when they seem resigned. I guess those are both better than indifference.

Two guys now visible in apartments across the way. One is on a computer. Once is making a snack. Boring. I don’t get to come to NY very often, guys. Roll up a rug in a decidedly suspicious manner. Hide some gold bars under the floor boards. Something. The minute go to sleep, someone is going to dance around naked. I’ll miss it, but at least I’ll have this bed all to myself.

The More You Know

One of the upsides of leaving Manhattan for a small Southern city, I always said, was that I didn’t think I had the constitution for the school situation in New York. When I was pregnant with Alden I would talk to other pregnant women who were getting their zygotes onto all the “right” waiting lists. If that was isolated to all those crazy rich people you read about, with their 30K-a-year preschools it would have been easy to ignore. No pressure to fight for a place we could never, ever dream of affording. But lots of regular, conscientious parents — people living in our same building — were doing it. Everyone was ramped up about districting, charters, bi-lingual magnets. It all sounded impossibly complicated and stressful. I never minded the subway (loved it, actually). I was happy to buy only as many groceries as I could carry back to our apartment. 800 square feet felt plenty big enough. Lots of things people hate about New York, I loved. (I did not love how we bled money constantly.) This, though, I knew was going to push all the wrong buttons for me. It’s not why we moved, but I was so relieved that I escaped.

Five years later, we have just emerged from a crushingly stressful re-evaluation of our school situation. It was one of those situations where we (me, Damon, my Mom) couldn’t seem to talk about anything else. There was insomnia. There were tears, including a flash flood in the middle of a meeting with a prospective school director and one of her teachers. That was when they told me they felt Alden (who is already on the older side for his grade) should be held back and repeat kindergarten. Which would mean he would graduate at 19 and a half. 

He is not going to repeat kindergarten, although I acknowledge and respect their informed opinion on the matter. This all started as we came, painfully, to the conclusion that we have two non-Montessori kids in a Montessori school. I went to a very similar kind of school when I was little, and I remember so clearly being so happy there. I felt so sure that was the most perfect learning environment. But what I’ve slowly come to realize it that it was the perfect learning environment for me. Alden, it seems, has taken advantage of the great freedom to spend a lot of time daydreaming. He likes to gaze out the window. He’s also a little bored, having been in the same classroom for probably at least one year too many. So he doesn’t know what most kids know as they wrap up their kindergarten year. I think the intense academic focus of early grades is ridiculous, for sure. I don’t even care, objectively, that Alden is behind. But eventually he would have to leave the Montessori bubble (school only goes through 5th) and the risk just felt too real that he would graduate 5th grade on a 3rd grade level. And then where would we be? So we did a little testing to see if there’s an issue. So far, it seems not. His intelligence is fine. There are no clear learning disabilities (although I allow that something like dyslexia could still reveal itself). He just needs someone to sit his butt down and teach him. He actually, it seems, enjoys that. 

The good news is that we found a lovely school to work with us. We met with the lower school director and laid out the whole situation for her. They invited Alden to spend the day in the classroom with them. After that said the teachers felt it was just a matter of exposure, and they’re happy to take him on for first grade next year. Our part of the agreement is that we will have Alden tutored over the summer so that he isn’t facing a such big gap in August. We’ll probably be able to hire his first-grade teacher to do that, which seems pretty perfect. Critically, Alden really loved his visit day at his new school. It’s an Episcopal school and every day starts with a 15-minute service. I sat in with him on his visit day and he leaned over and whispered, “I want to go to school here.” Which blew me away because we are not so much with the church. So this may be something entirely new for us. He also stage whispered to me, “Hey, what’s Lent?” To which I said, “Uh… It’s a thing where.. There was this time when…” It wasn’t pretty.

Elliot. Well, that’s a whole different situation. One of the first shakeups in this whole school nonsense was when we took Elliot to a prospective school and were gently asked, “You do know he’s not old enough to go to kindergarten next year, right?” No. We definitely did not know that. We 100% thought he was going to kindergarten. But it seems that in 2013 the state moved the cut off back one month, and Elliot was a rising kindergartener no more. We had no idea. Which means if he stayed in Montessori he would, like Alden, be in the same classroom for what would likely be too many years. That’s so great for so many kids. Not mine, though. Elliot is already restless with the pastoral, peaceful, quiet nature of his wonderful Montessori classroom. One of the most consistent notes we’ve gotten about him this year is that he’s disruptive. He just cannot seem to keep still. On the other hand, he’s pacing well ahead for his age. He loves to learn and will extract knowledge from almost any situation. That school that wanted to hold Alden back? It looks like a summer camp. The kids are outdoors a minimum of an hour a day. They eat outside. They troop all over the campus. They wear pedometers to show their commitment to movement. They use physical discipline — misbehaving means laps, not timeouts. They are also driven and fast-moving academically. And they invited Elliot to join their pre-kindergarten program just for kids who don’t make that school cut off but are ready for a little more than another year of preschool. 

So now we have something I never even contemplated. The boys are going to different schools next year. I hate that. But which one should I ask to sacrifice? I can’t. We will learn a lot this year and maybe decide to move one guy next year. Or maybe not. I never would have guessed we’d wind up in this place. And yet, now it feels right. Alden will spend time every day in the chapel; Elliot will spend time every day in the woods. 

Lest I sound too proud of Elliot’s “advanced” academics, I should say that today at the zoo we saw this guy and Elliot said, “Hey, can we pet your doggies?”


Sunday Dinner: Eye of Round Roast with Garlic and Rosemary

Sunday Dinner is back! I can see that, slowly, slowly, I am coming into a little more discretionary time. It’s a product of a few things. The first is that, for better and worse, the boys occupy themselves and one another with more independence all the time. I am still the moon to them, but maybe not so much the stars. Mostly I’m so grateful that, for the time being, they are excellent friends to one another. Not only does this leave me to myself more often now, but it has a halo effect in that I’m not entirely exhausted all of the time.

So, my plants are happier. My closet is (a little) tidier. I exercise occasionally. I am catching up with television and movies (although I am still years behind). And I am back amidst my pots and pans. I acknowledge that this could all unwind in an instant, which is my bloggy version of knocking on wood.

Lack of time never stops me from thinking of, from missing, my Dad. His birthday was last month. It felt good to bring out his recipe folder. I’ll bet he made most of those things either once or never, but he saved them because they appealed to him. And so they appeal to me. In picking, I wanted something that seemed kind of simple and essential, and a roast seemed like my Dad’s definition of those things.


I’ve never heard of eye of round roast. Or round roast. But the butcher had, so we were a go. The recipe is obviously simple, but I still managed to overcook it. I did not consider that my roast was very much on the small side and I should have adjusting the cooking time down to accommodate that. It’s fine. It’s edible. It’s just a boring roast to me. Damon loves it and Elliot says, “More beefs, please.” Alden won’t touch it, reminding me that, “I’m not really a fan of meat.” I had a bite, toasted my Dad with my glass of milk (a shared favorite) and will just be grateful to be back at work on the folder.


I am never, never going to go down the navel-gazing road of “Why am I blogging?” on this blog. (Probably. Maybe.) Recently, though, I discovered that what this is doing for me in the present (letting me write, making a record for the boys) isn’t all. I’ve discovered the charming Timehop app, which sends along an update daily to show you what you posted on social media one, two, three years ago (or however long you’ve been sharing) that day.


I love it completely, and I’m so grateful to my past self for the blog posts I wrote. In the past few weeks I’ve gotten to re-live birthday parties, sweet little moments I would have forgotten and, most powerfully, the days where we got one “all clear” after another in regards to Alden’s mystery illness. I felt the relief and joy all over again.

And now, in a year, I will get a reminder of this post (provided I remember to link to it on Facebook). So, a note to my future self:

Hi! You’re writing this blog post while on a business trip. You’ve probably taken quite a few more since then. I hope you’re still remembering that you can miss the boys and still appreciate that you can see the ocean from your hotel room. Also, remember how you agonized over where they were going to go to school? I’ll bet you’re nodding now and smiling, because it all worked out just fine. Also, please tell me you finally got around to watching Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. Even just one of them.