Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Best Pizza + Dessert in Boston's North End



Boston's North End is well known for its abundance of Italian eateries in addition to its history as the city's oldest residential community.  If you're visiting Boston and you enjoy Italian food, this is the place to be.  Be sure to bring an appetite with you! 

Pizzeria Regina
On our recent stroll along the Freedom Trail, we decided to eat an early dinner at Pizzeria Regina.  The location in the North End is the original restaurant and dates back to 1926.  So what makes this brick oven pizza so famous?  The crust is thin, but not too thin, and there's a perfect ratio of sauce and cheese.  Regina's is well known and loved by locals and tourists alike, so expect a line.  We arrived around 3:30 and there were five parties ahead of us.  The restaurant is tiny and there's no waiting area inside. You form a line outside and wait for someone to come out and ask, "How many you got?"  Their goal is to feed you as quickly as possible so they can seat the next group.  As a positive, service is quite fast.




(Don't smile, kids.  And Allie, give me "the jaw.")






Galleria Umberto
Galleria Umberto is the official name but everyone calls it Umberto's.  This restaurant is located on Hanover Street but the storefront is unassuming and if you aren't looking for it, you could easily walk right by.  This is my absolute favorite lunch place for pizza, which is Sicilian style.  The sauce is what makes the pizza so tasty here.  A little sweet and absolutely delicious.  Take note that they are only open for lunch and once the food runs out, they close for the day.  When my office was located near State Street, my co-workers and I ate here about once a week.  This isn't a sit down restaurant.  You order your food from the counter and either take it to go or find a table, of which there are a fair amount.  The two guys working the counter are friendly and know who the regular customers are.

Battle of the Bakeries
"Locals go to Modern, tourists go to Mike's."  (I didn't make that up.)  Located on Hanover Street, you'll find both Modern Pastry and Mike's Pastry.  I insisted on a stop at Modern on our way out of the city to pick up dessert.  Rich and I debated over the difference between Modern and Mike's.   I usually order a cannoli and at Modern, the shells are filled with your order, making it as fresh as possible.  Next time we're in the city, I've offered to take one for the team and taste test both Mike's and Modern.





These precious beauties survived the trek home.


That cannoli was a little slice of heaven.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Ramblings on my upcoming retirement

A few weeks ago, after I had given my notice at work, I stumbled upon an article/blog post/what have you written by a stay-at-home mom who was frustrated by friends/family/strangers saying she was lucky to be able to stay at home with her kids. My first thought, which is a first thought quite often these days, was people need to stop being so sensitive.  The author explained how she and her husband had made sacrifices in order for her to stay at home.  These sacrifices were mainly material items: cable television, daily coffee from Starbucks, vacations, etc.  Look, we all make sacrifices when we become parents.  I can't think of any parent who leads the same life he or she did prior to having children. 

It was a bit of an afterthought but her career was mentioned.  And that was where I could agree.  Although, I wouldn't use the word sacrifice.  Unfortunately, there are still many employers who will turn up their noses to those who have been out of the workforce because they chose to stay at home with their kids.  Yes, so the whole returning to work and competing for positions/promotions is frustrating.  I agree.  I was out of work for about 18 months before and after the girls were born.  I've lived it.  But your babies are your babies and will only be babies for a minuscule moment in the grand scheme of life.

In giving my notice, the one aspect that I struggled with at first was the loss of my career.  I've basically told everyone that I'm retiring and that's what I plan to do. I don't have plans to return to the workforce as a CPA in the position that I am in now.*  Internally, there was a brief struggle to let that go because I've worked so incredibly hard over the past 20+ years to get here.  After I resigned, I spent a week thinking this will either be the best thing I've done or the biggest mistake of my life.  But then I realized that it could never be a mistake because I'm devoting time to my children and my family.  How could that ever be a mistake? 

Am I lucky?  I think I am.  I'm lucky to have a supportive husband and parents and family.   Interestingly enough, when family/friends/co-workers heard the news, no one exclaimed, "Wow, you're so lucky!"  Read through all the supportive comments from my post last week.  There's only been one "you're lucky" and that was from my friend at work who is in a similar situation and the luck referred to my escaping the madness of the office.  (And for that, I am extremely lucky.)

So what do the girls think of this change in life?  They are a bit in disbelief.  Maybe because we've talked about it happening for so long.  Hopefully someday Mommy will be home all the time.  Big dreams to share with little ones.  Anna thought I was only going to be home for the summer.  I made the mistake of saying that there was going to be a new sheriff in town and they balked at the thought of new rules and routines.  But Grammy lets us do whatever we want.  And she brings us salads with sunflower seeds!  

In addition to the stress of being a working mom with an extended commute, we also have Anna's spina bifida and hydrocephalus to contend with.  She does well at school right now.  She is strong when it comes to ELA (English Language Arts) and does okay in math.  There are certain areas that are difficult for her because of how she learns.  Organization in general is an issue for kids with hydrocephalus  For example, giving her a project of placing a bunch of steps in order of completion is a tough task for her.  Her teacher showed us a project that listed out 6 or so steps on how to make ice cream and the kids' assignment was to order the steps.  Anna struggled with this even though on the surface, it appeared to be an easy task.  School only has the potential to become more difficult for her.  It will be best for all if I'm here to assist and not trying to figure out the situation at 7:00 at night.  (I don't know if I've ever shared this link or not but it's a teacher's guide to hydrocephalus.  We found it to be extremely helpful in discussing Anna's needs with the school.)

I'll have to revisit my thoughts in a year to see if any have changed!

*  The three roles I held outside of public accounting all involved setting up a new process/function.  For the first two, the tax compliance process which had previously been outsourced was brought back in-house.  For this last one, a very large entity had converted to a flow-through and it took years before we had a strong process implemented.  That is where I thrive.  Daily routines drain me and now I know that staying in the same role for years and years is just not for me and that's okay.      

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Exploring Boston


(My career began in this building.  I actually ended up working for two different companies located here.  Gorgeous views from up on 32.  As a senior associate, I scored an awesome cube that faced a line of windows overlooking Boston Harbor and the airport.  Watching those planes made me contemplate my choice of basically working in a box.)  

The girls have been learning about Massachusetts state history as it is part of the third grade curriculum.  Some teachers have assigned projects that involve earning points by visiting certain historical locations in the state.  For the girls' project, they had to read a book (or books) about a historic figure in Massachusetts, and complete a timeline of major events in that person's life.  They were all given a completely optional project of visiting historical places in the state and creating small posters with pictures.

For an afternoon outing, we decided to bring the girls into Boston and walk part of the Freedom Trail.  I should note that this was the day after our 3 mile bike/walk, after which we had visited a playground.  I gave Anna some time to cool down and recover in between.  And then to top it all off, we had attended a birthday party for one of Rich's sisters that night.  We had intended to leave by 8:30 so that the girls would be in bed, and hopefully asleep by 9:00, which is pretty much the norm for them. We actually didn't end up getting home until 9:30.  So they were tired the next day and hiking around Boston wasn't exactly at the top of their list of things they wanted to do.  More Disney training!  We brought our old Britax single stroller for Anna in case she needed it.  And she did.

We are in kind of a weird spot with Anna.  What do we do when there's a ton of walking and we know that she physically may not be able to handle it?  She's small enough to still fit in a stroller and look like a tall toddler.  No one says anything or looks at her questioningly.  The best part is that she absolutely doesn't give a crap.

We made a handful of stops along the Freedom Trail which was perfect for an afternoon outing.    


Old State House and Boston Massacre Site



Faneuil Hall



(We didn't go into the marketplace this time but I popped in here for lunch for years and years.  I should do a guide on where/what to eat here.  I actually want to share more on what to do/where to eat in Boston.  After 20+ years, I feel a bit like an expert with that subject matter.)

Paul Revere House





Old North Church








(This was the favorite and most interesting stop.)

I hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of our city.  More to come!  With food!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Biking and spina bifida

The weather was absolutely gorgeous on Friday and I was so incredibly happy to have taken the day off from work.  It was sunny and 79 degrees, not hot and not chilly.  Just perfection.  I wanted to take advantage of the weather so that morning, I asked the girls if they would be up for a bike ride away from home that afternoon.  There's a bike "path" located approximately a half mile from our house.  I guess it really is a path because it's pretty short and if you're looking to actually bike more than a few miles, this is not the place to be.  People use it for walking, biking, running, roller-stuff, etc.  While it's great having this near us, it's not so easy to get there.  The first .3 miles is quiet, residential streets with sidewalks.  The remaining .2 miles is on a narrow, windy road with no sidewalk, no shoulder and drivers who don't obey the speed limit.

The whole outing almost didn't happen because the tires on my bike were flat, but I finally managed to get the air pump to work.  Anyone else remember having to use a manual air pump?  Ah, the good ol' days.  The girls were bummed when I told them we may not be able to go so I told them I would run if I couldn't get air in the tires.  Thank goodness it didn't come to that because I am not in any shape for running.

We had a peaceful ride through the quiet side street and then we hit the last .2 miles.  Here are the rules I set out:
  • We walk the bikes, not ride them
  • We walk single file, with me first, against traffic
  • We walk in the grass, not on the street (no shoulder)
  • We stop walking when cars are coming so we don't accidentally trip, drop our bikes out onto the street, etc.

Well, this last rule was a mistake because some drivers saw us stop and then they stopped and I was all like, move along, people, MOVE ALONG.

We made it past the first house, which took about 10 minutes, because Anna couldn't keep up.  Instead of walking her bike and moving the handlebars so that the wheel moved where she wanted the bike to move, she would drag the bike sideways, which caused her to exclaim, "But the bike is so heavy," over and over.  I decided to walk my bike with my right hand and her bike with my left hand.  After what seemed like a half hour, we finally made it to the bike path.  I don't feel particularly safe on that road when I'm running it by myself and I was hoping that we wouldn't cross paths with any cars, which sometimes happens.   

Once one the path, we all relaxed and had a nice bike ride.  Anna still has the training wheels on her bike and she's not as strong so she's slower.  I also discovered that she needed air in her front tire, which I'm sure didn't help the situation.  I told Emily and Allie they could ride ahead.  That part of the path is straight and wasn't crowded so I could see them even if they were a quarter of a mile ahead of me.  We stopped after a mile for a water break and then it was time to head back.

Anna did not do so well on the return trip.  She was wearing these little sunglasses, which Emily referred to as granny glasses, and just looking at her cute face with those sunglasses, pedaling with all her might.  Gah, my heart just about split open.  She was trying so hard.  She kept asking me why I wasn't hot.  "Because my bike is barely moving."  We stopped a few times because she was overheating (side effect of her meds) so I splashed some water on her and let her rest.  We were getting close to the street/walking portion and I just wanted to get her home.  There was a minor incident with an unleashed dog that delayed us but at least the walking portion on the street wasn't as scary because only a few cars drove past us.

Once we hit the sidewalks, Allie and Emily rode ahead but Anna kept walking.  I walked both her bike and mine for last half mile home.  She was too tired to bike and honestly, she was probably too tired to walk but there wasn't any alternative.  I had jokingly told the girls earlier that this was training for Disney.  When we were almost home, Anna told me that she wasn't going to be able to do walk Disney.  

When all was said and done, we covered 3 miles.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to do that again by myself with them in the near future.  It was too much for Anna.  In the back of my mind, I knew it would be difficult for her but she welcomed the challenge.  You never what you can do unless you try.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Booster seats forever!

Although I'm drowning at work right now, I took Friday off so I could be the one to bring the girls to their 9 year pedi appointment.  I was very much interested in genetics when I was younger and even considered going into genetic engineering.  I've always found the concept of identical twins fascinating and now with the girls, it's so interesting to see how much they are alike, along with their differences.  For weight, we have 44, 46 and 48 pounds.  Anna is still our peanut.  The girls definitely aren't picky eaters but she's the one who eats what I would refer to as a typical kid diet and she doesn't always have the best appetite.  Let's just say I happily agree to be a short order cook if she asks for an egg and cheese sandwich.     

In the state of Massachusetts, a child is required by law to remain in a booster seat until she is eight years old or reaches 4'9" in height.  The law aims to keep children in booster seats until an adult seat belt properly fits.  At this rate, the girls will be in boosters until they are 13, maybe 14 years old.  (insert laughing/crying emoji)

Allie and Emily both measure 47.5 inches tall.  That's just under the 2nd percentile for their age.  Anna is only an inch behind but that's enough to throw her in the .6th percentile.  Point 6!  At least they are on the charts.  There are no real concerns over their size.  They're following their own growth chart curves and genetics is playing its role as well.  I was always the smallest in my class. I hit puberty late.  I even grew two inches taller in college.  I'm just under 5'4" (my mom is shorter than I am) and there are some short genes on both sides of the family.  When all is said and done, I predict the tallest will be 5'1".  We really just need to ensure that they keep gaining weight, especially Anna.

The NP asked if the girls had chores at home.  They do have things they are supposed to help with, such as carrying their dishes from the table to the counter after they eat and cleaning up their toys after playing.  They are responsible with packing their school bags, snacks, etc., as much as they can.  There's the inability to reach top cabinets and shelves in the fridge.  They are still too short to empty the dishwasher.  They can't even reach the faucet on the kitchen sink.  The whole point in me telling you this is so you'll understand why Emily was fussing on the ride home.     

"I shouldn't have chores.  I'm just a kid and I should have fun now because when I'm adult, I'm going to have chores."

Oh, the girls did point out that they have asked to sweep the floor and Grammy has told them no, that they will make too much of a mess.  (insert laughing/crying emoji again) They've never asked me if they can sweep.