It’s a twister, it’s a twister!

So Hurricane Irene is about to hit.   The eye is (at the time I write this) supposed to come within about 60 miles of my home but with winds less than hurricane speed as it comes through. Most of Boston seems intent on ignoring this storm.   Trader Joe’s isn’t planning on closing tomorrow during the 21 hours of Tropical Storm unless the street floods “due to the Charles.”  People aren’t taking it seriously, aren’t stocking up on supplies.

Clueless.

The Charles isn’t going to flood the streets.  It will be the torrential, hours long downpour that will flood the streets.   Storm sewers can’t keep up with this kind of rain and there will be flooding.

The winds aren’t going to knock over buildings.  However, the wind will knock down trees and power lines outside the city putting strain on the grid which can cause a massive power loss.

I’m not preparing for the end of the world.  I’m preparing to be without power for several days and for stores to possibly be without the ability to resupply for a few days.  Why?  Maybe that seems like I’m overreacting but I’ve been through six hurricanes before including storms that were supposed to be big deals but weren’t and minor storms that turned out to be major disasters.  I’ve been without power for days as result of a hurricane.  With two small children and a hurricane on the way, I really don’t feel it is overreacting to prepare.
So what does that mean….

  • a full tank of gas in the car (which is parked in a garage, I’m bewildered by all the cars that are still parked on the side of the street).
  • cash
  • LED lanterns with two sets of fresh batteries
  • headlamps
  • first aid kit
  • 72 16 oz bottles of water
  • lots of fresh fruits, veggies but not so much that they won’t be able to be eaten before they go bad if we lose power.
  • beef jerky
  • squeezy apple sauce
  • ready to eat meals
  • fresh bread
  • peanut butter
  • plenty of milk (my boys drink a ton, some of the milk is shelf stable)
  • apple juice
  • brownie mix (to make before the storm)
  • snacks
  • bars
  • nut mixes
  • cereal (which we eat without milk in our family)
  • pet food

I think we are ready. boston

Kids on the street

Today I took the boys to the library.  I chose to walk, pushing them in our double stroller contraption rather than taking the T.  My pants are getting snug at the waist and I’m trying to do something about it.  That was 3.2 miles round trip.
On the way back, we stopped at a nice playground that we haven’t been to before.  Shortly after we got there, five boys came running over and jumped the fence into the playground.  These were middle school boys, 7th or 8th grade, and they were dropping the F-bomb and the n-bomb left and right***.   They planted their butts firmly on the play structure meant for the youngest of kids and continued to posture about who knows what.

I, being the middle school teacher and all around bitch, chewed them out.  “I didn’t do it!” replied one boy.  I responded, pointing to the worst offender, “He did.”  I went on to lecture them about how they were so much older than the children who were meant to use this playground and that their language was unacceptable in front of young children.  The worst offender tried to bluff his way out of it but finally claimed he didn’t see the boys.  “And now that you know they are here?” I asked in my sternest teacher voice.  “I guess I’ll stop”   These kids CLEARLY have had too much time on their hands, too little supervision and have been getting in trouble all summer.    They eventually left but not before one of the boys asked me quietly, “Are you going to have to leave because we’re here?”  “Your presence is not the problem, the language is.”  He nodded and went back to his group.
Less than two blocks later, I saw another group of middle school kids (same racial mix as the first).  But this group was working in a community garden and it was beautiful.  I stopped and talked to the kids, praising their hard work.  They were very proud of what they had created and told me the name of the program they were in.

It’s a very common refrain in this country to hear parents excusing short school years by saying kids need time to be kids.   And in many homes it works because the kids are usually schlepping from one activity to another, from one week long camp to another or they are supervised in some other way.  In other words, there is an adult keeping them out of trouble somehow.   But not in all.  Many families stop the daytime supervision once the kid hits 11 or 12, leaving them at loose ends.  Kids at loose ends get in trouble.    They get in trouble with the law, they get knocked up or at the mildest end of the spectrum, they get chewed out for behaving badly in public by some strange, crazy lady.

We need accessible, quality summer programs for all kids.

Speaking of all kids, I broke one of my cardinal rules on Sunday.   I don’t ever get money to the folks begging on the streets here.  I don’t know what they will do with it… drugs, alcohol, who knows.  I also don’t know their real story and so many of the same beggers are in the same place day after day after day.  I’ve seen them come in on the T.  However, Sunday, I saw a man with a sign, “My son and I are homeless” next to a church.  There was a middle school boy trying to fad into the very wall of the cathedral.  It ate at me.  He ate at me.   I went up the street and made a Starbucks gift card for enough for a meal (yes, they have healthy food) and I went back and talked to the boy.   He was 11, claimed to go to Boston schools.  Seemed like a nice boy.  Like a boy who could have been in any of my classes.  I hope he will be okay.

***  Why was this a problem?  Well, I must admit that my children have heard me swear.  I’ve heard my children swear and I try so hard not to laugh when they do because it is hilarious.  Honestly, if it had just been the Fbomb, I probably would not have lit into the kids like that but I draw the line with nigga this and nigga that.  My oldest is a little oblivious and I don’t think he’s ever heard that word before but I REALLY did not want to have to break him of a new word two weeks before school started.

School choice is insanity.

I understand that many districts in Massachusetts  do not assign schools based upon address and I understand the social reasons why.  However,  if you are going to have school choice, you need to be able to do so in a timely manner.   Yes, I know I didn’t register until July but that was because I didn’t move here until July.   Registrations in July must be down to a trickle and by then, you should be able to do them on the fly.
Today, I was informed that my son would not receive his school assignment until the week before school starts because they haven’t done the July registrations yet. Unfreakingbelievable.

 

I have a job offer… I think.  But I can’t accept it unless I can work out arrangements for my children and that means before/after school care for my oldest if I work.   How can I do that if I don’t know what school he will be attending?

 

This is insane.  Just insane.  I am so frustrated I could cry.

Indecision

I’ve never been a stay at home mom.  I will say unequivocally that it is as hard as being a working mom, maybe harder.  When I was working, I had an identity, an income (not really, it all went to daycare but I did get some money going to SS), other people to talk to, something meaningful to do and just as importantly a second and third set of minds and eyes helping me problems solve issues with the boys.

My eldest starts school this fall and that means it will be just me and the little boy.  He’s so sweet but extremely energetic and I think misses the structure of daycare, not to mention the other children to play with.   But he’s also enjoying Mom time.

My problem is I’m not sure I will enjoy Mom time.  I’ve never done it.   But I don’t have a job lined up, not sure I will be able to get one and I’m waffling back and forth between take the year off and enjoy it and you should be doing something.

I put in an application today for a job I would be perfect for.  But it would require me to drive 20-30 minutes each way.  It would put significant time pressure on myself and the boys int he morning.  It could limit the activities we do together during the week especially with Daddy Frog traveling so much.

I don’t know what the right thing to do is.  I hate indecision.

Begging and stealing

Today, as we were leaving a store, one of the workers yelled stop and a man nearly ran us over running out of the store.  He had stolen something to eat or drink.  It was clear that this man was one of the many homeless people living in the park nearby, constantly begging on the street.

To my mind, this is a huge problem here in Boston.  I’m not clear if all of the people who beg are truly homeless but I do know that the commons near Harvard always seems to have a group of disheveled people with backpacks in the morning, packing or unpacking.     The same people with the same signs seem to be there week after week.   The homeless mom begging for money is always by the bank.  The man just trying to get bus fare home is always in the same place.   It’s not just Harvard Square.  You can find this almost anywhere there is a major T stop or tourist attraction.

Some of these individuals are clearly mentally ill.  Others clearly are runaways.  I don’t know and can’t begin to guess the stories of the others.  Did they lose their job and had no family to fall back on? Disability?

I don’t know if homelessness is this a problem of this scale in Western Europe.  But we should be ashamed that it is here.

The Toys!!!

In the great before, before Boston, before stay-at-home momhood, before downsizing to less than half the space, our family room was consumed by toys.
I started with the best of intentions.  When my oldest was young, he had a single basket of toys and a bookshelf in the family room; I was so proud of how organized we were.    He was a year old and really didn’t walk yet.   When he was 18 months old, we bought three sets of these complete with baskets:

 

Plenty of storage for his books and toys.   My mother approved and I was assured that the horror stories she told about my sister’s house would not be repeated about mine.   I carefully labeled all the baskets and organized his toys and books.  It was lovely for a while.  Then  he turned two; his book and toy collection exploded.  The shelves were filled and another baby was on the way.    My big boy struggled to put things away and I was tired, cranky and pregnant.  The system started to fail.

By the time we left, my oldest was almost five and my baby was already two.  The entire family room (which was about half the size of our current apartment alone) was covered in toys.  Nothing was ever put away.  Nothing was together.  It was such a disaster; the boys couldn’t really play because they couldn’t find the parts.  There were Thomas trains strewn everywhere, mixed in with Legos, Duplos, matchbox cars, game pieces, and superheroes.

Then we learned we were moving.   Something had to be done.  I bought some new clear plastic tubs with lids that fit in the cubbies and created a bin for each major set of toys.  It was like an archeological dig and I was ashamed of the amount of trash that made up that pile.

When we arrived here and all of our things were delivered to our apartment, both bedrooms AND the bathroom were piled to the ceiling with boxes.  We simply had not anticipated downsizing THIS far (and our rent if you include parking is twice what we were paying in the Midwest).  It took me two weeks to get most things unpacked.  The job is still not done.

Have you ever tried unpacking an entire house by yourself with two small children and no one to watch them?  I don’t recommend it.  I love my boys but my youngest was driving me insane.  I would open a box and put the things inside it away while he would be unloading all the things I had just put away from the last box in the other room.    My husband would come home at the end of each day and helpfully ask if he needed to take the oldest child out to do something.  NO!  Take the baby!  Please.    The big boy would happily play on the computer or watch TV or play with a small amount of toys.  Not Devil Baby!   For some reason, no matter how many times I explained WHY I couldn’t get anything done with the little guy around, he still wanted to take the oldest out.   I don’t blame him.

Clearly, in a space this small, we can’t have THAT kind of a mess.    I put one of the cubbie’s in the closet because there wasn’t room for three in their bedroom.  ALL of those clear plastic tubs that I had put toys in went on the shelf at the top of the closet so I could control their use.  The rule is (and my Kindergartener-to-be loves to tell people the rule even if he doesn’t follow them) one box at a time.  There are still toys that were out all the time.  Their large trucks, their kitchen things, their costumes and stuff animals are always out in baskets.  Some things are in the living room all the time as well.  But most of their complicated, many parts things are up high out of reach.  And yet, it still feels like an archeological dig.

I’ve been surreptitiously getting rid of stuff.  A stuffed animal here, a toy missing  a part there.  There is a path to their beds but not a clear floor yet.  I am hopeful we will see it one day soon.

I love the T, hate Downtown Crossing

The T is Boston’s public transportation system and has both trains and buses.  A month’s pass for the T is probably one of the best deals in town.  For $59 (kids under 11 are free), you can go almost anywhere in the city you want at almost any time.   It is incredibly freeing especially since driving in Boston is enough to make a nun swear.

There is nothing my boys enjoy more than to hop on the train and go to the Boston Common’s playground or the Frog Pond.   Whenever they threaten to beat each other into the emergency room, a quick trip on the T calms them down.

Unfortunately, the T has a major flaw.  Not all of its stations are readily handicapped accessible meaning that getting around with a stroller is a bit of a bitch.   Notice the word readily.   I haven’t been to a station yet that I can be sure lacks an elevator although I have yet to find the elevator at Government Center.  But transferring from one line to another can drive you insane.

For example, to get from the Red Line to the outbound Orange Line at Downtown Crossing, you have to leave the building, go down the block, cross the street and enter again.   That means you have to pay to transfer if you don’t have a pass.   To get from the Red Line to the outbound Green Line, you have to get on THREE elevators.     It’s crazy.  The elevators are slow and cramped; they have been known to smell like pee and booze.    Can you tell that I don’t like changing lines?

Today, we took the boys to the Aquarium.  When we tried to make the change to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing, we realized we had (yet again) entered the wrong way.   Finally, we said screw it and walked.  It was just over half a mile there and the walk was certainly more pleasant than trying to deal with that frustrating station.

We had a lovely time at the Aquarium; the boys and I had been once before and purchased a membership then.  It’s a lovely aquarium and the central tank is stunning with a shark, sea turtles, tuna and more.   It’s a great place to spend an hour or so but it isn’t large enough to spend much more than that there.  However, with tadpoles, an hour is plenty!  The touch tank was a huge hit with my little guy.   My big boy was dragging his feet back to the train and eventually had to be carried.

And yes, we skipped Downtown Crossing on the way home and walked straight to a Red Line station.