he-who-should-not-be-named = the letter L

Harvey is sitting at the table. "I want a piece of mun." he declares.

"Mun?" I say.

"No mun."

"Mun?"

"No, MUN."

"Mun?"

"Mun."

We are getting nowhere. I have to change tactics.

"Is it something you eat?"

"Yes"

"Is it in the frigerator?"

"Yes."

I open the fridge hoping for miraculous insight. And there it is, in a tupperware on the top shelf.

"Oh! You want some mellon!"

"Yeah!" he says breaking into a thousand-watt smile.

It's been too long since we had mellon in the house, I guess. Thanks food stamps! Now can you get my child to say the letter L???

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occupy barnyard graphic design

There's a farmer's march in New York on Sunday. The announcement came into my rss accompanied by this cute logo:

It's true. If you put your fist up like that a chicken will totally hop on it. They'll also hop on your head if it's low enough.

I asked Dan for his first impression of the logo and he said, "That chicken's gonna poop on that dude's hand."

Our political literacy is affected by our chicken ownership, i guess.

christmas list

At my age it seems a bit declasse to make a Christmas list (please mentally insert the appropriate accents so it comes out day-classay... I don't know how to type in french or haughty WASP on this computer). Dan and I usually have a conversation with our parents that goes something like this: "What do you want? Money? You guys probably want money right?" To which we reply, "Well, um, yes, money is useful for things like paying bills. We'd like to pay our bills so yes, please give us money."

And then we get some lovely checks with which we pay our January real-estate tax and water-and-sewer and student loans and we generally feel pretty responsible, though not very festive.

Oh God, this is just about the whiniest blog post I've ever written. How can I go on when I start off with "Wah wah, people give us money and it's no fun!" What an ungrateful little brat I am.

I'd better start over.

The thing is I made a Christmas list, and I feel guilty about sharing it and angry about not sharing it.

I've been a little depressed lately over this idea that once I was a person but now I'm a mother. I used to run around the block for fun but now I walk around the block to put the baby to sleep. It's not very novel, the idea that with two young kids you don't get much time to yourself or time to sleep. It's just that I've been in some pain recently with the repetitive stress of caring for 50 pounds of very needy children, and it's making me rather cranky. And then I think of Christmas and how everything is about making it magical for the two little princes while I just wait around till the end of December to buy new shoes I needed at the beginning of October.

And then I think, but there's nothing I really want anyway. I want a nap and some time to do some sewing. I want to play with my children without worrying about getting hurt and without worrying that I should stop soon to do chores. I want to have some time when it's quiet. These things you can't put on a Christmas list because they're impossible.

Anyway, I have four things on a wish list and one of them is a humidifier. It feels stupid to bother with the html and even stupider not to ask someone to make my holiday with a $40 elephant that shoots steam out his trunk.

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a more hopeful turn of events

I lay in bed on Friday night praying about many things, mostly about my foot which had been feeling more and more stress-fracture-y as the week went on. Putting Zion to sleep these days requires walking an average of five miles a day, and my current sneakers are the same ones that suffered through the gain and loss of 50 pounds this year. Pregnancy plus refusing to drive to the library can really do a number on a person's sneakers. (By the way, is there anything more poverty pathetic than a story about getting hurt because of old sneakers? This old post comes to mind.) Anyway, I was praying about my foot and it wasn't making me feel any better so I decided to search for some different things to pray about. I went with one of my favorite fallbacks: "God, if you're willing please cancel my student loans."

I pray this half jokingly, though of course I would really like my student loans cancelled. On Sallie Mae dot com there is a loan-cancellation raffle that picks a winner each month. This is what my friend Bridget calls "a very legitimate contest" and we both pray to win. But Bridget is more morally upstanding than I, and I would be happy with a server melt-down or some other cataclysmic event that could magically wiped my loans off the face of the earth.

I'd still take a golden ticket or a useful crash of the banking system. But no less magically my father came to visit this weekend, bearing the news that my Grandmother is making an early disbursement of inheritance this year to the tune of the remainder of my student loans. Plus a nice extra chunk of change that will give us a bit of breathing room in 2012.

"But Dad!" I said, "She gave us money last year, and this is twice as much!"

"Well, you have two kids now." he said.

"Oh no," I said. "Don't encourage us."

Anyway, I'm pretty excited to be debt-free next year, I mean excluding the bottomless pit of the home mortgage and all. I'll take it as an answer to prayer. Also Dan took Harvey out for the afternoon and I miraculously got both a nap and a some time to sew. And the few hours with 35 pounds less children turned my foot problem from a major wincing limp into a minor irritation.

So there is a God in heaven after all. And come January he is totally buying me a new pair of running shoes.

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preservation motivation

I made some applesauce this evening. Yes, it's not really apple season any more, but we still have the best part of a bushel sitting in our kitchen that needs to be dealt with soonish. Applesauce isn't any hard, but somehow it's tough to find time to get it done around here; the 4:30 dinners and correspondingly early bedtimes (for us, not just the kids) may have something to do with that, but mainly it's just not easy to summon up the energy to start the undertaking.

I used to have the same problem getting bread made, but then we stopped buying it and now the threat not having any bread at all generally gives me sufficient motivation to produce; but any prospect of no applesauce (or pickles or whatever) is so far in the future it doesn't provide me the same kick in the pants. What we really need to do is invite other people over for preserving parties! Anyone interested in getting on the schedule for next summer?

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When someone tells you about a dream it's like saying "Here is a story of something that didn't happen."

I had a queer dream last night. Dan and I were at a party with a few college friends, when suddenly the doors burst open and in enter a herd of beautiful people wearing nothing but thongs. "These are the models I've hired to have sex with us" says our hostess. As a pair of perfectly dimpled buttocks approaches me I announce, "Thanks, but I think I'll just watch this time. I'm fertile today."

The next moment a baby is screaming and with a jolt I see the bed clothes and the sunrise and the tiny shrieking mouth of awakeness. "That was stupid," I say to myself as I fumble for a diaper and shake away the sleepiness.

"Obviously if we were attending a swingers party we would use a condom."

It seems perhaps that nursing for two-and-a-half years has done something funny to my brain. Of course I'm firmly committed to my stance that nursing breasts are food not sex. Therefore I have no problem glimpsing a stray nipple from the row in front of me at church when someone goes to feed her baby. No more than seeing the person next to me chow down on a bagel. Yes, I know what you're thinking, but we go to a very liberal church. They allow BAGELS in the SANCTUARY!

Still, something in my subconscious tells me that my thought life would be improved with a bit of good old-fashioned 12-month weaning, and a timely end to co-sleeping, and maybe a return to my moratorium on lady Gaga videos. Seriously, they can play that on tv? what on earth? Maybe I'm getting old, but...

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surprise christmas

Along the former narrow-gage railroad, the site of our daily doggy walking route, someone has decorated a small pine tree with golden lights. Harvey is delighted to point it out every time. "Oh!" he yells with delight. "It's a Christmas tree!!!"

Yesterday the babies were asleep as we walked past, so I whispered to myself "oh, it's a christmas tree!" Then I saw something shiny peering up from the ground underneath.

"Oh," I said moving closer, "It's a teething ring. It's OUR teething ring!" One of six we have lost in the past month, actually. Someone had probably found it along the path and put it under the tree like a little pre-chewed present. How happy I was to reclaim it and place it back in the stroller!

So here's my prayer for each of us this christmas. May all that is lost be found again. May our children sometimes sleep. And may you find small blessings in surprising places.

where's us?!

We're pretty busy around here getting ready for Christmas and also, you know, having two kids under three and everything. I've had all kinds of awesome thoughts for blog posts but in every case they'd require a good solid hour or so of drafting, and any free time I have is taken up with seasonal preparations. Well, it ought to be; it's actually mostly taken up with cleaning up and organizing and trying to prepare the ground for seasonal preparations. I don't want to get out of the gate too fast, you know—it might spoil the stress.

The Christmas card is also well underway. This year's edition will feature our two little catalog models; luckily we managed the photo shoot before Harvey attacked the coffee table with his face, giving himself some serious cuts and a lip that's so swollen you can just about see it from behind. He may heal up before Easter.

So yeah, not so much blogging lately, and we apologize for that. My mother tells me that a friend of hers has seen something suggesting we're the target of persons even more nefarious than the comment spammers; she writes, "Has Squibix been hacked??? try it....a weird monster comes on and says hacker or something." We haven't seen anything like that, unfortunately. A monster would certainly keep things interesting between our sporadic updates!

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Biblical cuteness

I have this feeling that when Jesus was living on earth he sometimes said normal things like "that's a funny joke" or "pass the salt." Obviously no one wrote these things down because paper was expensive and they weren't, like, blogging or whatever. So we have this weird image from scripture of a man who talked really... slowly... and... meaningfully... all... the... time.

Anyway, I am trying to piece together a blog post in which I describe Harvey in the same manner. Harvey says approximately infinity words every day. He is speaking from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to bed and sometimes also in his sleep. But if he happens to say anything about God I perk up instantly and grab a pen. And then I'm left with a series of small remarks that make my child look like a spiritual prodigy rather than a person who just never stops talking.

All this is to say that the following stories are adorable, but please don't think we're like crazy fundamentalists force-feeding our two-year-old bible all the time. He talks about many other subjects, including Santa Clause and Thomas the tank engine. (I don't know why I pick these out as anti-religious examples. A subject for another post I guess.)

I think that's enough preamble. On to the biblical cuteness.

————

Here is Harvey's one-sentence summary of the bible, spoken as he was flipping through a copy on the coffee table:

"Now they go to sleep. Then they wake up and play. And on and on and on."

————

We listened to a bit of audio bible on our drive to Market Basket this week. After we were done shopping, as we were walking back to the car, Harvey suddenly got very excited about listening to it again.

"Are we going to watch the... uh... uh... the savior show?" he asked.

————


We sang a song in church last sunday called "Bless the Lord." As the last chorus was dying down a woman near the front yelled out, "Bless the Lord! Bless Him!" Harvey's eyes widened and he immediately called out in his loudest voice:

"Bess da 'Ord! Bess 'Im!"

Because, you know, he can't say the letter "L."

Then, because it felt so good to yell in church, he did it again.

If all 500 churchgoers hadn't turned around the first time, they turned for the second.

And I just stood there like some parenting prodigy. Yes, my child is moved to praise by the Holy Spirit ALL THE TIME my smile beamed.

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what pre-christmas looks like around here

Sometimes the best thing we can do for children is to contain their mess. Unclear what course of action is best when the parents can't do so themselves.

harvey and zion in the messy office pre-christmas

elves in captivity

Dan just set up the playpen in the office. This is allowing bursts of christmas crafting in one-minute increments. The great thing about the playpen is we can all be in the office without Harvey breaking the serger... any more. The bad thing is they can still break each other. And pull all the dictionaries off the shelf. And that's not even the primary source of mess in the office...

preschool pageantry

harvey at the kids church pageant

sheepishly curious

The kids' church preschoolers put on a Christmas Pageant yesterday during church. They didn't present it to the whole congregation—probably a good thing, considering the very little amount of preparation involved—but a select group of parents attended and enjoyed a sparklingly entertaining presentation. Harvey had a great time, except for being in a strange room in front of lots of people.

He—along with the rest of his class—was a sheep. It took some convincing to get him to put on the delightful hand-made hat when I dropped him off; but as he is a fan of both hats and sheep once he had it on he consented that it was kind of cool. His friend Ollie declined to wear his hat, or to carry it, or even to touch it, but on the other hand Ollie walked into the pageant room calmly and quietly, even if he was visibly rather apprehensive about what on earth was going on. Harvey, on the other hand, was carried in literally crying and screaming. He wanted everyone to know that while he—barely!—was willing to spend some time in his classroom, he wanted absolutely nothing to do with any other rooms and what were they trying to do with him and oh my goodness. He wouldn't have made it in if his parents hadn't been there, needless to say.

angel and mary

"fear not" ?

With a comfortable lap to sit in, though, he settled down to enjoy the show. Sure he didn't baa on command—that responsibility was outsourced to me—but since most of what he tells me about kids church are the things he didn't do I take that as par for the course. ("I didn't sing a song." "I didn't drink any juice." So go his typical reports of his formal religious education.) He stood up to see what was going on when the angel Gabriel mumblingly appeared to Mary—wonderful acting for four-year-olds, it was!—and enjoyed the singing, even if he typically declined to take part.

zion holding lantern

practicing for the part of innkeeper someday

If he could walk Zion would have shown his big brother how it's done: he had to be restrained from raiding the props bin, conveniently located right next to where we were sitting. But then, Harvey too was pretty outgoing at <1 year, if I recall, and we see where that's gotten him now!

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A Video Christmas Card

Merry Christmas from our silly boys, who wear clothes most of the time I SWEAR!

full of more than holiday spirit

We may be busy around here, but we're still taking the time to enjoy ourselves and visit with friends and eat. And eat and eat, in my case. It occurred to me this morning that I haven't actually felt hungry since some time Wednesday afternoon; I've entered that lovely state so common to the holidays where I eat every time there is the slightest bit of room in my stomach. How can I do otherwise when there are so many good things to eat, at home and at work?! This evening, though, I may have overdone it. When a sample tortilla chip with salsa at the grocery store is too much for my stomach to handle, I know I'm in trouble. Maybe I can skip breakfast tomorrow... but we have bacon in the house!

And suddenly there was with the angel all these other little guys...

After reading to Harvey ten different retellings of the Christmas story this year, I had a new insight. The crescendo of the story is when the heavenly host appears to the shepherds. What if angels were excitedly bursting out of heaven all over the middle east and the shepherds were the only ones who saw it because THEY WERE OUTSIDE? Of course that can't really be true, or we would have Jesus worshiped by hordes of wandering Bedouins. Still... my interpretation this year is that to get the most of what God has for us we need to leave our homes. And maybe also be outdoors.

Harvey has asked me several times this week to "tell the christmas story." Of course this is the kind of moment in parenting where a spotlight shines down from heaven and I turn on my thousand-watt smile and say "of course my little darling!" and drop whatever dishes or laundry or christmas present I happen to be wrapping. (Yes, I'm so exhausted now I've started wrapping dishes...)

I vacillate between trying to put the story in words Harvey can understand and reverting to scriptural recitation because I don't want to leave anything out. Harvey would prefer the latter, I think. When I was saying yesterday "The Glory of the Lord shone roundabout them and they were very afraid," Harvey interrupted and said, "They were SORE afraid, you mean!"

At any rate, whether you'd prefer goodwill towards men, to humanity, or only for those on whom His favor rests (I'm referencing translations here, not trying to provoke an ideological battle on Christmas Eve) I pray that you will feel a bit of peace on earth today, peace that only God can give, which feels the same no matter how you put it.

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season's greetings

Merry Christmas to everyone out there in the internet!

Despite strong temptation to reference the suckling child and the weaned child and their respective snakes (we'll never have the setup so perfect again!) we went with an angel theme for this year's card. What with Harvey's hair it would've been tough not to, and I don't know how many people in our card-receiving audience would have picked up on the reference.

Just a few more minutes of work until I'm ready for Christmas to come here at the squibix household—though not before, I hope, I get a sufficiency of sleep. Everyone else is long abed, what with their superior planning and motivation or their blissful unawareness of what, besides simple breathless expectation, will be required from them on Christmas Eve. A couple years.

Of course, Christmas on the blog here will keep on going for at least 12 days. Leah has a lot of crafting that I'm sure she's eager to share!

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a few Christmas snapshots

our wide christmas tree shining late on christmas eve

65 minutes to Christmas

We had a wonderful Christmas with some great presents and delicious food. And wonderful company too, of course!

Harvey and Grandma singing Christmas carols

hark the herald angels sing!

Harvey really entered into the spirit of the holiday, on his third try at it. Not only did he consent to sing with us, he was very properly appreciative of all his presents. I'm mostly excited about the three new duplo sets.

Of course, we're all pretty tired out now, even those of us who didn't stay up past 11:00 last night. Good thing this holiday comes with some vacation days afterwards, so we can recover!

Rascal resting in front of the fire

the celebrating wore him out

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Christmas sweaters

I had a simple wish for Christmas this year. To see all my boys wearing matching hand-knit sweaters on Christmas morning.

archibald boys in sweaters

the adorable archibalds

Okay, so actually that wish wasn't so simple.

Dan had asked for a fisherman's sweater, and I asked him about five trillion times to clarify what that meant to him. Really I didn't need much clarification, I just tried to force him through my constant pestering to agree that what he really wanted was a casual-style wool sweater and not an intricate show-piece with owls and cabling an popcorn stitches in between. In the end he got the intersection of what he wanted and what was possible for me to do with a baby on my lap; a casual wool sweater with simple vertical stripes. One day he will have his cables and owls, but not while our children still whine and suckle.

I adapted a pattern from my favorite men's knitting book, using smaller needles and worsted weight and knitting the bottom part in the round. (Though I did end up knitting the sleeves straight and then sewing them up... I tried to pick up and knit from the shoulder down but it was too much for me to figure out on a pattern with so much fudging already.)

dan sweater close up

so handsome! and nice sweater too.

I started Dan's sweater in July and finished knitting by the end of November. That left me a month to do two child-sized vests. Which would be crazy any time of the year, but doubly crazy in December. When I show all the crazy shit I sewed this month, you'll understand. But out of everything I made this year, the sweaters were really a project for ME. I'm the one who wants to see my boys matching on Christmas morning, to beam with pride and parade them in front of extended family and friends so that everyone can compliment me on my work. Also, God promised me I would be able to finish the sweaters before Christmas, and I didn't want to make him a liar.

harvey sweater close up

insisted on wearing it atop his other Christmas sweater

I finished the neck ribbing on the two vests the afternoon of Christmas eve. I left off the ribbing around the arm holes because I was starting to hate knitting. Maybe I'll do it some day. Maybe not.

zion head

THIS IS MY BIG BABY FACE!

This is the only picture I could snap of Zion because I was holding him. He looks like he's floating in a sea of gray stitches. And I guess that's the point of mama knits, really. If anything is a physical symbol of what I want for them, how much I want to wrap them all in love and warmth, squeeze them and spoil them with the work of my hands, it's these sweaters. Merry Christmas to my most loved boys. You all look darling in gray.

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it never stops

This year Hannukah and Christmas overlapped, and so—unusually—we got to do the former with the Bernsteins after the latter with the Archibalds. It was very pleasant, but I have to say that Harvey's present haul is now beginning to exceed the capacity of our house to encompass it. Not that I'm complaining about any of the individual presents themselves, of course; the latest batch includes several items that will be very useful for keeping him occupied while we do other things. He's now the proud owner of a play kitchen, for example, as well as a CD player—the only one in the house!—and a set of read-aloud albums. (There's more to say about how, in the absence of television, he enjoys hearing spoken word audio—he's wearing out "Peter and the Wolf", or would be if digital audio files could show wear—but that's the subject of another post.)

The problem is just that we don't have that much room. The play kitchen is much smaller than I feared it would be, but it still has a footprint of several square feet that we'll have to accommodate somewhere, and the train-and-car basket was already full before having to hold a further four trains and six cars. Keep in mind that we don't have a playroom, particularly: all this stuff has to fit in the space that we need to live in.

Of course, I'm saying this as someone who refuses to get rid of any books and indeed would like to continue to add to the number in the house, acquiring more bookshelves as necessary to hold them. Clearly, we all have something to learn from the Adamses! But we Archibalds like our stuff, so we'll see if we can improve our organization before we have to resort to desperate tactics like giving things away. Although, ask me again how I feel about getting rid of things after the 32nd time through the audiobook of Curious George; maybe adding some headphones would be a proactive step in that case.

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Soap

As intentional homesteaders (translation: crazy people) Dan and I each have a short-list of skills we'd like to learn. Mine includes such things as basket weaving, bee keeping, and scavenging for edible mushrooms. But high on the list this past year was making soap. What kind of a homestead are you if you can't make your own soap?

soap raw on the table

i made this.

The first step to soap making, if you're me, is to take several months to psyche yourself up. There's a list of things to gather: safety goggles, rubber gloves, spatula, whisk, stainless pot and a wooden box. Then there's locating the oils (coconut is sold at Whole Foods, palm oil nowhere I can find except online) and the dreaded sodium hydroxide. All this is to get you to ask yourself over and over again, "Do you really want to make soap? Really? Are you sure? Don't you know you can BUY soap instead?"

Soap making and children do not mix, unfortunately. Almost as much as soap an children refuse to mix, ha ha ha! No, but really, soap making is an activity to do only while the children sleep soundly AND there is back-up parental coverage, for two reasons. One, the children can't be around the lye, and two, the soap solution needs constant stirring for 15-30 minutes, and seriously I can't leave to check on the baby for one second or I've wasted $20 worth of ingredients.

So there were several nights of very cautious chemistry, and a month later I ended up with two big batches of soap.

all the soap in its box

all wrapped up and ready to go

I felt very fancy indeed wrapping the bars in tissue paper and sealing them with the beautiful labels Dan made. Unfortunately the big wow of "You made soap!" was lost on my friends who have all known for months that I've been working up to this soap thing. I guess I'm bad at keeping secrets. Only my Dad was pleasantly surprised, and asked more scientific questions than I was able to answer (Der, you stir it up an it becomes soap. Der.)

soap labels

when are you opening up a dry goods store? asks my father

We've been using the soap in our bathroom since last week and it's VERY soapy. It's like if you washed your hands with soap and then put moisturizer on them immediately after. Not to say that's bad, but it's rather surprising. I don't want to call it a "soap scum" but I will say that the oils stay clinging to your hand in a way that's lovely if you want to feel moisturized and irritating if you want to feel sterilized. Oh well, it's homemade. Next year... baskets.

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holiday beer

an empty

this one didn't last long undrunk

Leah's new project for the holiday season was soap; mine was beer. She had the harder task, though, since she did all the reading and collecting of ingredients by herself. Me, I just tagged along with our friend Luke to the homebrew store to pick up a kit and brewed it up in borrowed buckets. Still, I take some pleasure in the achievement.

The beer came out pretty tasty, if I do say so myself. Good enough that I didn't mind handing some out as a present to various relatives. Of course, to give anything away I have to design packaging for it—I'm as much about packaging as I am about content, you should know. For this, a Christmastime brown ale, I couldn't do anything but go with the words of the song, and then find a picture to match.

Luckily I have a few friends who share my enjoyment of old-timey carols, so I wasn't forced to keep the joke entirely to myself.

There will probably be more beer-making in our future, especially once we get used to drinking what's left of this batch and then run out of it. Despite the suggestion of both Luke and my brother, though, I think it'll be a little while before we start growing our own hops.

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aquarium

Harvey and friends at the top of the big aquarium tank

where's the shark?

With the holidays we came into a little bit of extra money (thanks, parents and grandparents!) so we thought we'd splurge on a trip to the aquarium. I figure we can afford it about once every five years or so. To make it more fun, we invited friends along.

Unfortunately, everyone else in the Greater Boston area had the same idea, so it was a little crowded. Poor Leah had to wait in line for nearly and hour to buy tickets while we ate snacks and watched the harbor seals, and then when we finally got inside it was sometimes a struggle to see any actual fish. But we prevailed, and over the course of a couple hours we made it to almost every exhibit. The penguins I think were the kids' favorite—not counting, of course, any sort of interactive screen.

some penguins at the aquarium

always so formal

There was some whining from almost all members of the party at various points, but I'm happy to say that my indomitable good spirits carried the day and by the time we left nearly everyone was happy with the expedition. A late-lunch-slash-early-dinner at Quincy Market sealed the deal, and as it started to get dark we were reminded that, yeah, it's still Christmastime!

a gigantic Christmas tree at Quincy Market

still standing proud for the sixth day of Christmas

And after all that walking around the city (no changing trains for us, it's Park Ave and hike over the hill both ways!) we won't feel like we're missing out when we skip First Night tomorrow. Party at our house!

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