At home in the streets of Boston

Today was a perfect day to go to a sprinkler park. We made a day of going to Downtown Boston with best friend Wubby, them in swimsuits and me in my trusty summer hat. The girls were a cheap date. We took the T ($2), played in the Rose Kennedy Greenway Rings fountain (free) and had ice cream from Emack and Bolios ($3/kiddie cone) while looking at seals in the New England Aquarium (free). The girls decided to walk to the Frog Pond for more water play (free) and a carousel ride ($3) with the caveat that we would rest as needed. Rest turned out to be Dunkin Donuts (munchkins for them, dark roast iced coffee for me) and Bath and Body Works for personal sparkly hand sanitizer ($1.50 with case).
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How refreshing it is to explore the city with children. They donned their sunglasses and sashayed like they owned the place. They took turns looking for the “red brick road” aka Freedom Trail that would lead us to our destination. They tried not to chase the pigeons and waited for me to cross the street with them. Wubby was more genial than my daughter, chirping a bright “Hi!” or “Hello” to every tourist, baby or dog that came our way. Inevitably, we met people for whom the streets have become home. And before I could stop her, she was already talking to a girl who looked like she was in her 20s.

Wubby: (reading from sign) Every bit helps…homeless. (To lady) What does homeless mean?
Girl on street: It means I don’t have a place to live.
Katie: Why?
GOS: I lost my job so I can’t pay for a place to live. But I am looking and hopefully soon I can have a home.
Wubby: My family is moving to another house but you can’t live in our apartment because the people downstairs are having twins so they are moving upstairs.
GOS: That’s ok. If they are having twins they must need the space more than me.
Wubby: (pointing to backpack) What’s in there?
Katie: Is that ALL of your stuff?

We try to shield our children from the unpleasant, and the ugly, and hope they will never have to deal with these things. Avoidance makes it easier to tune things out and pretend that all is well but we lose the opportunity to teach tolerance and compassion. The reality is that the world is not all pink and fluffy, but black and white and infinite shades of gray all of which our children deserve to know about, if not experience. In their innocence, neither girl was uncomfortable discovering the harshness of life.

We resumed walking and I answered more questions. I stopped myself from telling Katie that we were homeless too, once, and that Wubby’s parents had been one of those who had offered us a place to stay. I held their sticky hands when what I really wanted to do was give them a big hug.

“Peng, how come some people can’t have a place to live? Why isn’t there work for everybody?”

“I wish me and Wubby could be fairies and unicorns with magic so we can give her a home.”

“If me and Katie were giants or Martians maybe we can give that lady a job and we can MAKE her a house.”

Thank you Katie and Wubby. You are hope for the future.
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***
P.S. While chatting, we found out that our new friend had worked with animals before she lost her job. I was able to tip her about applying to my old workplace. I hope she finds work soon.

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On vacation with friends of friends

I am sipping my coffee in beautiful Vermont, listening to birds and watching the sun spread light over the trees and mountains. We are here for part of the weekend on the invitation of a dear friend’s dear friend.
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A close knit family is as essential to a Filipino as white rice is to adobo. As transplants from the motherland, we have had to make our own families here. Thus, friends of friends and their friends become cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. Just like at home.

My bestie Maya is one of those people who are adept at making an ever expanding circle of good-as-family friends. For instance, all the 13 adults in the house are somehow connected to her: through high school (soirée!), college, dance, or when she first moved to NYC. I met our host through Maya when we were pregnant with our first borns. 6 years later, our children become fast friends, roaming the house’s many secret passages, refreshing their kindergarten phonics lessons and even deciding to have a “sleepover”.

The air is sweeter in the country. After living under the city lights for so long you forget what a massive blanket of stars looks like. We swam in a pond, played on rocks, even waded through a rushing stream. As we return to the bustle and noise, to being awakened by ambulances and drunk college kids, I am grateful for the reminder of a world so massive and peaceful.

Thank you M and J for an awesome time.

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Birthday party at Build-a-Bear Workshop

Katie and I decided on a Build-a-Bear Workshop (BABW) party with a small number of friends instead of our usual park play date. BABW is a place where you choose and stuff an animal plushie. I booked the party at their location at Faneuil Hall, around the time the store opens (10:00am). Booking was done online, and I received a call 2 days ago confirming the number of guests and the $ budget for each child.

We were met at the door by Sean-Patrick, our engaging and delightful party host. He gave Katie a special badge, kept track of each child’s name and the name of their chosen animal, engaged the kids, stuffed their bears, and made taking turns fun. My favorite part was when he had the kids pick their plushie’s heart and an extra one for Katie’s bear so that hers had hearts from her friends!

The kids all seemed to know which friend they wanted to take home. Some even had chosen a cheaper bear so they could dress it up. Katie chose a pink and purple bear she named Elizabeth. She also brought along her old BABW friend, Hello Kitty. One of her friends chose a camouflage bear eventually named Army. Another child’s bear was simply, Bear. All her friends and Sean also signed an autograph bear which is still unnamed.

At the end of the party, the kids had a picture with their creations and each was given a cardboard “cub condo” complete with a stuffed animal birth certificate. Katie rang the store bell and everyone sang happy birthday. We then headed outside with a cooler of juice boxes, pizza from Pizzeria Regina, and more Keyks cupcakes. I even remembered to bring candles and a lighter.
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Many thanks to the parents who came and helped me by saving and setting up a place for us outside, serving the kids, taking pictures, cleaning up and being kind enough to take home presents and our cooler. You guys are so great! Everyone went home happy 🙂

Build-a-Bear Workshop
6 North Market Bldng, 6 N Market St, Boston
(617) 227-2478

Pizzeria Regina
226 Faneuil Marketplace Boston, MA
(617)742-1713

Keyks
333 Acton Rd, Chelmsford
(617) 855-5395

Song of the Day: Cups/When I’m Gone by Anna Kendrick

the actual magic starts at 1:15.

Anna Kendrick rocks.

Flatbread Pizza, Burlington

I had eaten at Flatbread Pizza for an office lunch and am in love with their banana bread (it has ice cream). Since I had brought Katie to work with me today, I decided we would eat there for lunch. Their specialty is wood-fired pizzas (in more familiar Filipino terms, cooked in a pugon or stone oven).

We had the Jay’s Heart (mozzarella and parmesan cheese) with mushrooms on my side. The small was enough for both of us. The organic salad with berry vinaigrette dressing (I added goat cheese) was fresh and delicious.

Katie says: Next Bunker Hill day we should eat here because the pizza is sooo good!

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See that foil purse? It has 2 slices of Katie’s leftover pizza. Our server made it just for her 🙂

I wish the place had wee bit better service. Servers are attentive and pleasant, but on the slow side and made errors on our simple order (1 instead of 2 desserts, vanilla instead of choclate ice cream). But definitely will eat here again.

Flatbread Pizza is located at 213 Burlington Rd, Bedford, MA 01730.