I used to think that Valentine’s Day was a grown-up holiday and anything we did to celebrate it as kids was just practice for the REAL celebration of the day that would happen in the future – when we were grown ups. Then I grew up and decided that Valentine’s Day really just causes me more trouble than it is worth (whether single or coupled).

Now I think I have come to some peace about Valentine’s Day. It is clear to me that it is a holiday concocted by the greeting card industry that as a grown up I am ok not participating in. But it is also a day that is super fun for kids – and a great opportunity to teach them to “shower the people you love with love”. I have some issues with the generally accepted concept of romantic love (that is for another post perhaps), but I am all about loving each other in a true sense and not being afraid to express it.

So – this year the kids made a list of all of their family members and spent an afternoon creating Valentine’s Day cards for them. The cutest part was that they were very clear that each card was for a specific person. No “one-card-fits-all” for these kids. They were deliberate in their art and each person got exactly the card the kids wanted them to get.

Aunt Emily and Aunt Lexi posted their cards on Facebook – one right after the other, which was funny:
Valentine's Day via Facebook

The kids made chocolate-covered heart-shaped rice crispy treats on-a-stick for their classmates and they seemed to be a big hit:
Valentine's Day

Next year I want to try these cute stained glass Valentine cards.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to you and all those you love!

All that survives after our death are publications and people.

So look carefully after the words you write, the thoughts and publications you create, and how you love others. For these are the only things that will remain.

— Susan Niebur

Susan Niebur - WhyMommy

I first discovered Susan Niebur a few months after Emma was born. I had been blogging for a while, but was just tuning into the world of parenting blogs and somehow I stumbled across WhyMommy at Toddler Planet. We both had a six month old baby, we both lived in the Silver Spring area and we were both bloggers. There were a few differences though – Susan was a rocket scientist, and she had just been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer.

Her writing captivated me from the beginning. She was a beautiful and honest writer who loved her family and friends with all her heart. But I almost couldn’t stand reading her posts as she underwent chemotherapy and contemplated questions that no parent wants to even imagine – how long would she be able to fight the cancer, how much time – measured in years, months, days – would she be able to spend with her children. Then I decided that I had to read it, as uncomfortable as it was, because she had to live it. So I read. For years I read and followed and wondered at the courage and grace and joy of this woman. I read as she had recurrences of the cancer. I read as she lived and loved and fought. I always hoped I would meet her – at a local mommy blogging event or maybe even at BlogHer some year. I never made it to BlogHer and I never met Susan.

Susan fought and fought against IBC for years – more years than the doctors said she could – but her fight ended yesterday.

The blogosphere is weeping with her loss. She was an amazing mother, friend, rocket scientist and blogger. She has made me want to work at being a better mother and friend and… person, really.

I weep too – for her children, for her husband and family and for her closest friends. Her friends who did meet her, and who were there for her and who are now devastated by her loss. The world is a much different place without her in it.

Goodbye Susan. I am glad you aren’t in pain anymore, even though I know you would endure never ending pain if it meant just another day with your boys. I hope in the end you knew how much you meant to so many many people. How inspired we all are by you and how loved you are.

AFSCME Convention 2010, originally uploaded by Justpowers.

Our family is in Boston this week for the 2010 AFSCME Convention. Well, Mike is in Boston for it, we are just along for the ride, enjoying the adventure of a new city, seeing old friends and hanging out with Grammy and Grampy.

Traveling is always a mix of fun and stress, especially when kids are involved. So far we have had far more fun than stress. This picture was taken in our first few minutes in our hotel room that has an amazing view of Boston Harbor. It is incredibly similar to the photo I took of Emma in our hotel room at the 2008 AFSCME Convention in San Francisco.


We have already seen the Swan Boats and the Make Way for Duckling statues, hung out in Boston Common and had lunch at Faneuil Hall. We are here till Friday, with big plans to storm the museums – Children’s, Science, and the Aquarium – with a boat ride and trip to the Harbor Islands somewhere in there. Oh and a little train named Thomas happens to be visiting the Boston suburbs this week too, so we will also be making a trip out there to visit with him.

We are going to be wrecked when we finally get home. Wrecked but happy and with lots of stories to tell.

A Walk in the Woods

Emma and EJ discuss what might be lurking in the hole in the tree. Or maybe they are just sharing ways to drive their parents crazy.

I know that most of the cool kids were in San Francisco last weekend for BlogHer, but Emma and Mike and I are in town this week for the AFSCME Convention. Mike is working behind the scenes to make sure the convention goes off without a hitch, so he is working pretty hard and is not getting to hang out the way Emma and I are. We did have dinner with him last night though, so that was cool.

So here is a quick recap of our trip so far:

Saturday: As we walked up to the gate to board the plane that would bring us to San Francisco the flight attendant looked at us and said “Oh, we don’t do children.”

Huh. Really? REALLY Ms. Flight Attendant, you don’t do children?

I think Mike and I both laughed at her because she very quickly corrected herself and said “We don’t do early boarding for children”.

Huh. Thanks United.

The flight itself was a little hairy since we decided not to buy a seat for Emma. But I will leave that for another post.

Once we settled into the hotel, Mike had a meeting so Emma and I explored the area around the hotel. We quickly discovered that Yerba Buena Gardens is right across the street from the hotel, and there is a very nice merry-go-round there too. And in San Francisco, if you buy one ticket on a merry-go-round, you get two rides. Ok, not really, but you do on the Yerba Buena Gardens merry-go-round. Which seems like it would be wonderful, but really in the end just makes it harder for a merry-go-round obsessed toddler to stop riding when the time comes.

Sunday: Emma and I started early (around 7:30) and went for a walk to Union Square. There were some artists just setting up for the day and we browsed some of the art. We found one that I loved of a little girl on a merry-go-round, so I bought it. This trip is starting to have a theme. After wandering the Union Square area for a while we went to the hot breakfast bar at Whole Foods which is just two blocks from the hotel. Then we wandered around Yerba Buena Gardens again, rode the merry-go-round and watched the very beginning of the theater festival happening that day in the Gardens.

Monday: Emma and I decided to go to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, just to see what it was like. The bad news was that it was $25 for the breakfast buffet. The good news was that Emma ate at least $25 in raspberries and I ate at least $25 in smoked salmon. Jen and Emma: 1 – Hotel: 0.

My big plan for the day was to go to Fisherman’s Wharf via cable car so we walked to Powell Street and stood in the looong line to get our Muni passport (because I had a brain cramp and forgot to do it at the airport). Then we stood in another long line to wait for the aforementioned cable car. Needless to say as each cable car passed by us and we didn’t get on, Emma would let out a little yelp in protest. Luckily there were lots of pigeons to distract her.

We finally made it to Fisherman’s Wharf. We found out way to Pier 39 which kind of reminded me of Provincetown in Cape Cod. We grabbed a crepe and a lemonade and went to find the sea lions and eat. Emma loved/hated the sea lions. Wouldn’t let me put her down, but didn’t want to walk away. Luckily there was – you guessed it – a merry-go-round right in the middle of the whole pier, so she was quickly distracted. We rode the MGR and headed towards home.

Once home I finally got up the nerve to email Doodaddy – a San Francisco local and one of the blogs I read almost daily – to ask him for recommendations on things to see and do in San Francisco. He wrote back almost immediately and invited me to join him and Boobaby and Cry it out Mike and Emmeline in Golden Gate Park the next day.

Tuesday: Emma woke up barking like a sea lion. We decided to try Mel’s Diner for breakfast. While the food was fine, the touristy theme restaurant thing just didn’t do it for me. In the end I think I will probably just return to Whole Foods for breakfast in the days to come. Mel’s cost me $20, and there were no raspberries or smoked salmon. Hmph.

Emma and I hopped on the N train to Golden Gate Park. We had some time to kill before meeting Doodaddy, Boobaby, Mike and Emmeline, so we headed to the Children’s Playground. After another ride on a merry-go-round – the most exotic one of all so far – Emma played on the swings, removed at least half of the sand from the sandbox and slid down a few slides. I think she was relieved to be doing something she was used to, albeit in a strange place.

We walked to the Arboretum, our meeting place, and met Doodaddy and Boobaby, Mike and Emmeline. We spent about an hour at the duck pond, feeding the ducks, eating a picnic, which Doodaddy and Mike were nice enough to share, and practicing diving in the pond. Ok there wasn’t any actual diving, but I am pretty sure I was the only thing preventing Emma from going headfirst into the pond with the ducks. Doodaddy and Mike gave me some more advice about things to do in San Francisco and were just all around welcoming and friendly.

We boarded the train to return to the hotel for nap time and two stops later Emma was asleep.

So far we are having a great, if exhausting, time. Being the sole caretaker of a toddler in a city I am not familiar with is much more daunting a task than I originally thought. Thanks so much to Doodaddy and Mike for being friendly faces and helping us feel at home!

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