A Summer Trip to Baltimore

The kids loved playing with Paw Paw’s pool table, even though the boys kept insisting it was “baseball.” James loved the table so much that he drew on it. With red crayon. (I’m still so sorry about that, Paw Paw. James is, too.)

Sophie wasn’t too fond of Jake’s (their beautiful new lab) kisses. So she created this cage for herself—she sat up here, often.

The boys loved the train table Grandma and Paw Paw found on Craigslist.

James also loved hitting Owen on the heads with trains. Which he got put in time out for. Which, as you can see in this picture, he loved.

We took a day trip to visit my aunt Alise and uncle Tom, and their three kids—David, Jessica and John. We spent the hot, hot day playing in the sprinkler, enjoying a cookout and eating ice cream sundaes.

There was up-past-bedtime-swingset time.

And s’more-making time.

We visited Paw Paw’s office in downtown Baltimore …

and Grandma’s office, too. The kids loved Grandma’s view.

Sophie even got a present from one of Paw Paw’s colleagues—a crown-making kit, which she loved, and which she still plays with, almost daily.

James and Owen playing at Grandma and Paw Paw’s house—and proof that James isn’t the only one who gets into trouble for hitting/touching/otherwise bothering his brother.

We also celebrated Paw Paw’s birthday!


Grandma’s flowers

The night before we left, Sophie got a tour of Grandma’s jewelry studio. She loved it.

So much so, that the next morning Sophie and Grandma made a beautiful necklace together. You can read more about Sophie’s venture into jewelry-making here.

On the way home, we stopped at my alma mater, Ohio University, for dinner. It was surreal, seeing my children walking the same grounds I walked for four years, before I knew them, of them, of this life I now live.

The drive went as well as you can expect although we arrived much later than I had hoped. It was so nice, though, to see the home where Grandma and Paw Paw live, for the kids to be able to envision that space when they think of their grandparents. It was fun to see their workspaces as well. And there’s something just so comforting to wake up and eat breakfast while in pjs with family. To spend the day sharing one’s day-to-day activities with others. To stay up late talking. And to wake up and get to do it again. Especially when family lives far away.

“The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.” —Thomas Jefferson

Crème Brûlée for Dinner

For this I am either a terrible parent or a fantastic parent—I suppose the answer lies in who you ask.

Sophie ran errands with me all afternoon. We dropped off clothes I’ve been meaning to have dry cleaned for more than a year (I don’t have occasion to wear dry-clean-only clothes often) at Atlas Cleaners. We went to a gorgeous old Victorian way up in Hamilton so I could pick up a lot of milk glass I won on an estate sale auction site (I blame you, Danielle, for this). We had a nice, long visit with my parents. Next up, the mall. I had a birthday present to buy and an item to return, and Sophie and I were hungry. I had every intention of going to the food court. Instead we ended up at Maggiano’s. We sat on high, leather chairs at a high-top table next to a glossy black grand piano. I ordered us both crème brûlées (not knowing how big they were), white milk for Sophie and coffee for me—dinner.

Sophie was thrilled. She cracked into the crème brûlée and said how much she liked it. She carefully wiped her lips with a white cloth napkin. When she was stuffed from the richness of the dessert, she started scraping off the caramelized sugar and eating it alone. And then, the prom goers showed up. Sophie was beside herself, with the tall cup of white milk, the huge dessert (for dinner!) and the dozens of young women surrounding her in beautiful dresses (at one point I had to tell her to stop pointing and saying “gorgeous!” every time another prom goer walked through the front doors).

“This is like a princess world,” she said.

And, for a 4-year-old, it was.

We finished our dessert dinner, left the restaurant and purchased the birthday gift. We tried on sparkly, deeply discounted jewelry and laughed at ourselves in a floor-length mirror. We went to the Disney store and Sophie held every single princess gown in front of her, swirling in front of the triple mirror in the princess castle, waving wands and trying on tiaras. We left the Disney store and walked to the indoor fountain. She was so giddy. On sugar. On trying on sparkly jewelry. On pretending to be a princess.

She asked for a coin so that she could make a wish. As usual, I had none (they always go straight to my Paris Fund jar). I told her to simply close her eyes and make a wish—that it would still count.

And then, my stomach hurt. Maybe it was all that crème brûlée on an otherwise empty stomach. Maybe it was the number of shoppers swarming around us, arms filled with luxury goods from high-end stores. Maybe it was all the glitter in the Disney store. But I feared about what she was going to wish for. I feared about the decadence of the evening. That it was simply too much—allowing a 4-year-old to have dessert for dinner (and crème brûlée at that!). Trying on sparkly jewelry with her. Letting her spend 20 minutes in the Disney store pretending to be a princess. I feared she was going to wish for crème brûlée for dinner every night, or sparkly jewelry, or a princess gown, or anything from the Disney store for that matter.

But she didn’t.

She closed her eyes tightly, breathed in and opened her eyes.

“What did you wish for?” I asked.

“That a rainbow would appear,” she said.

And then she was off, skipping, taking care to follow the lines made by the fancy mall’s tile floor.

I immediately calmed.

We returned the item we needed to return and then walked through Nordstrom. I tried on some Coco Chanel parfum. She wanted to, too. I debated, and then remembered her wish for the rainbow. I spritzed some on her wrist. She inhaled, deeply, and smiled. “Now what?” she asked. I showed her how to rub her wrists together. She did. She inhaled again. She was deliriously happy.

We took a wrong turn when leaving the mall. It was chilly so I had her put on the Red Riding Hood-esque cape my mom made for her for her birthday. I had no idea where the van was. Sophie took charge of the situation, claiming her cape was magic and that it would find the car. We ran around the outside of Nordstrom, past entrance after entrance (seriously, how many entrances does a store need?), hoping to outrun the goblins that were after us, and the darkness that was upon us.

We eventually found the van (for which I was secretly extremely thankful for, as I have a terrible sense of direction and we could have very well wandered around the parking lot a good 20 more minutes before we found it) and she climbed in, exhausted, happy. Despite the decadence of the evening, I hadn’t bought her a thing, except the crème brûlée and milk that filled her belly. No princess dress. No tiara. No Coco Chanel parfum (which she did ask for, and which I immediately said no to, for many, many reasons).

I know some (most) of the evening was ridiculous in its extravagance. But I hope, when she thinks back to this evening (if she ever does) that it’s not the sparkly jewelry or the princess dresses or the expensive parfum she remembers. Rather it’s that we had crème brûlée for dinner, an unheard of treat. That she wished for a rainbow. That we outran goblins while trying to find our van (and that we did so, smelling awfully good).

“You live but once; you might as well be amusing.” —Coco Chanel