New Children’s Room at the Boston Public Library

There aren’t a lot of places for kids to play indoors in Boston’s downtown and Back Bay. So the new Children’s Room at the Boston Public Library’s Central Branch is a big deal for city families. It’s also a pretty big deal for tourists. If you’ve been dragging a child to historical sites and they need to blow off a little steam, this is a great place to do it.

We took a Saturday afternoon, rode the train to Copley, and decided to check out the room to see if it would help us kill some time inside on a cold day.

It did the trick.

Just a heads up. If you’ve got a baby or watch one, you’d better get here soon because once all the moms and nannies in the city find this place it’s going to be crawling. Literally.

First up, there’s a big play area with bins full of board books and big foam letters. The walls are covered with built-in toys. Oh, and there’s stroller parking and two family restrooms inside.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Toy Wall New Childrens Room at the Boston Public Library

Library toy wall New Childrens Room at the Boston Public Library

Oh, and did I mention there are toys? Dress-up clothes, stuffed animals, and more.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Play Area New Childrens Room at the Boston Public Library

There’s a great storytime area with risers for kids to sit on to listen (or play on otherwise), plus some little puppet theaters. All of it in front of a big gorgeous window, a brightly colored Storyteller’s Chair and with some beautiful brownstones with built in shelves on the walls.

I was able to snap plenty of shots without asking for poses. They played. I took pictures, it was easy. Have you been to one of these indoor play areas? They cost a ton and they’re crazy and kind of smelly. I’ll take this place any day. Especially since I can curl up in a chair with a book of my own while the kids have fun.

 Boston Public Library Childrens Room Storytime Chair New Childrens Room at the Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Brownstone Bookshelves New Childrens Room at the Boston Public Library

Kids dressed up at Boston Public Library Childrens Room New Childrens Room at the Boston Public Library

At first I was a little confused about all the toys but then I got it. What better way to escape and pretend than through books? Why not add some dress-up to the mix? 

The area for older kids and teens is a little more spare, with seating and shelves below this bright mural.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Teen Section New Childrens Room at the Boston Public Library

And don’t forget the books!

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Book Display New Childrens Room at the Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Black History Month New Childrens Room at the Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library Childrens Room From Outside New Childrens Room at the Boston Public Library

Plenty of computers. A big room for activities. Oh, and 3 friendly lion cubs. They’re currently having a contest to name them. Graham decided his entries would be Bob, Fluffy, and Sunny.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Lion Cub 1 New Childrens Room at the Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library Childrens Room Lion Cub 2 New Childrens Room at the Boston Public Library

We were there for well over an hour and could’ve stayed longer. For our next trip, I’ll take the kids here and then we’ll walk over to the old building to check out some of the art, there are a bunch of Sargent murals I love. 

We also need to check out the AWE Early Literacy Stations, which have computers with touch screens for kids age 2-8 and don’t require a library card to use.

Boston Public Library Childrens Room AWE Early Literacy Station New Childrens Room at the Boston Public Library

You can get info on events and more at the Boston Public Library website. FYI, most events are weekdays during school hours. But you can’t hang in the Children’s Room without a kid, so curious browsers best bring the littles along. 

Mommitments and Changing the World

I spent my first days, weeks, and months as a mom sure I was doing everything wrong. My baby wouldn’t breastfeed, wouldn’t nap, wouldn’t smile, wouldn’t stop crying. 

There was formula feeding. There was crying it out. And I kept quiet about it most of the time.

I was terrified to talk about the things that were so hard for me because I knew I was supposed to be happy. I was supposed to be doing everything the best way possible for the sake of my baby and people would see that I was failing.

A lot has changed since then. I’m not too scared anymore. I got a real baptism by fire in my first couple years of parenthood that opened my eyes to a lot of things I wouldn’t have realized so quickly if I’d had an easier first baby. 

And then, of course, there was the second baby. Where all the rules changed and everything I thought I knew went out the window.

Because there’s no one way. We’re all just doing what we can. We’re different. Our kids are different. It’s a huge world out there.

I was recently chatting with some people about the problems you run into when you say you like doing things like X and anyone who prefers doing them like Y is immediately offended that you’re judging them for their choice. It’s tricky. 

One person suggested a “You are Free to Think Differently” disclosure, so that people are aware that you’ve made a choice just because it works for you and not because you think it’s superior. This, I think, is something that should catch on. YAFTTD could change parenting. Could change Facebook. Could change the world. 

Next%2BLife%2BNO%2BKids%2BI%2Bmade%2Ba%2B%23MOMMITMENT%2Bto%2Bend%2Bmom%2Bwars%2B300 Mommitments and Changing the World

My friend Julie has started a push for the #Mommitment, where moms decide to opt out of the mommy wars. You know, the constant bickering, the judging. Whether you’ve thrown stones or had them thrown at you, it’s hard to parent without getting in the middle of these fights. 

The last thing I needed in my difficult early days as a parent was a war. I kept breastfeeding long after I should have quit simply because I worried that I wasn’t enough. I didn’t need someone telling me I didn’t try hard enough, I needed someone to tell me it was okay. I caused myself a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering, weeks of it, because I was trying not to be a disappointment. What we need most when we’re stuck in those tough times is the help and support of other moms who have been there.

So I hope you’ll think about joining Julie’s Mommitment and think about your own part in the mommy wars and what you can do to stop them. 

Breakfast for Dinner at The Breakfast Club

Whether it’s an outing with girlfriends, a date with a new guy, or just another meal with the kids, breakfast food is a go-to. I love breakfast for any meal. I adore brunch. Breakfast for dinner is a big thumbs up. It’s the meal with the most sweet, the most savory, the most eggs, and the most coffee. 

The Breakfast Club is throwing three amazing Breakfast for Dinner nights, and to spread the word they kindly invited me over to try out their food.

So glad we had a pre-scheduled outing for brunch today. Thanks for hosting us, The Breakfast Club.

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

The Breakfast Club is nestled in Brighton with a parking lot AND on-street parking nearby. We found a spot the day after the last big blizzard just fine, a true shock. Diner style digs with big booths and a bar greet you, along with plenty of 80′s memorabilia.

I brought the kids along since they are up for pancakes everyday. There’s no kids menu, but that didn’t matter. We ordered a short stack for them to split along with a fruit bowl and a muffin.

Eating out with kids often means ordering a fruit bowl. Nice to see one that looks so tasty. #hosted

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

I admit, I use the fruit bowl as a measuring stick for any restaurant that offers one. It’s where you can tell who’s phoning it in and who’s trying. The Breakfast Club gave us a gorgeous fruit bowl that was nice and big, with a wide variety of fruit, and none of it looked old or sad. Nicely done. The pancakes in the short stack were bigger than the kids’ heads, which didn’t stop them from diving in. Syrup in squeeze bottles meant things were less messy than usual, too. Oh, and the muffin was served halved and toasted. 

Sorry vegetarians, but there's little I love more than a house-made corned beef hash. Swoon. #hosted

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

As for me, I ordered the eggs over house-made corned beef hash. I adore corned beef hash and I’m lucky enough to live in a place that considers it a normal breakfast food. The downside is I’ve had a lot of mediocre hash. In fact, most of it doesn’t seem to have a hint of corned beef, there’s none of that bright tang in your mouth when you take a bite. But this hash? This hash was delightful. One of the best I’ve had in ages. The sourdough toast was wonderful and well-buttered. The breakfast potatoes were a little boring, but I honestly didn’t mind. 

The best part, to me, is that the prices were actually lower than what you find most places around town. All omelets and breakfast plates are under $10, and the cups of coffee are bottomless. They’re open until 2 a.m. so I know where I’ll be getting my next late-night fix.

If you’re a fellow hash fan, the first of The Breakfast Club’s three Breakfast For Dinner nights are for you. Monday March 2nd from 6-9 pm their St. Patrick’s Day Dinner has all kinds of cheeky Irish food in a four-course meal. It includes Lucky Charms parfaits, Bailey’s French Toast, and a riff on Corned Beef & Cabbage with their house-made hash. Finish it off with an Irish Coffee milkshake. Tickets are $35.They’re also offering Easter and Spring-themed dinners on the first Mondays in April and May, tickets at the same link.


A Study in Contrasts

I’ve always been a bit of a study in contrasts. 

I love rules. I often break them. 

I love organization. I tend to be messy.

I crave science and data. I yearn for creative expression.

It’s just how things are. I’m pretty used to it.

Last week my post on the snow in Boston went a teeny bit viral. Viral in the sense that it spread almost exclusively on social media, mostly Facebook, and that almost everyone who read it or shared it is from Boston. (How many people that I met on OkCupid found that post and recognized me and told me so? 3. I’m assuming many more just didn’t send a message.)

The blogger rule book says I should capitalize on this, being every so briefly dubbed the Voice of Boston. But I won’t. Thanks.

Because I never want to be blog famous and that post reminded me why. I don’t want to have to moderate comments when people are fighting. I don’t like internet fighting. I spend a lot of time on the internet, but I also carefully control what I see and unfollow liberally. I can’t imagine what that would be like if they were fighting about me.

It’s funny, but I kinda hate conflict. Yes, I know, I used to be a lawyer and made my living fighting in a courtroom and I hate conflict. Like I said, contrasts.

There’s more reasons I won’t keep writing about the snow. Not because it’s any better. (We got another foot or so over the weekend.) But because I am trying really hard to hold on to any bit of grace and kindness I have left. I’m at the end of most of my ropes and it’d be great if I could hold on a little longer.

That post I wrote about banding together after divorce and treating each other with grace? I really meant it. But I’m not particularly good at it. It’s more about what I want to be and not what I actually am. 

I need to work on that. And writing about all the stuff that’s making me angry isn’t going to help.

Just a few days after I wrote that post I read a post by two divorced women and instead of feeling connected and full of grace, I felt resentful. I thought then that they really didn’t get it because they both fell into new relationships and got into them quickly and how could they understand the loneliness that I’m dealing with when they pretty much skipped that part?

It was a stupid thing to think. Luckily my own post talked me out of it. 

It’s not that I feel the need for this blog to be constantly positive. That is so not my jam. My jam is being the other side of that a lot of the time and not being afraid to talk about things that people won’t talk about. 

But this is a little different. It’s something I’m working on. Actively. And I have to nudge myself a bit. Just a bit closer towards grace.

I can’t promise there won’t be venting on social media (there will be) but I feel like I’ve said my peace and it’s time to tell a new story.

What It’s Like Living In Boston Right Now

Living in Boston What Its Like Living In Boston Right NowSomeone tweeted an article about how Boston needs to stop complaining and enjoy the snow. 140 characters weren’t nearly enough to say just how wrong I think this is. 

Here’s the thing:

This isn’t just some crappy weather we’re dealing with. This isn’t just some minor annoyances that we should just deal with and get over and worry about real problems instead.

It’s a real problem. A significant problem. A problem as big as the giant piles of snow that now line our roads.

This is people missing work, which means people not getting paid, businesses not getting revenue, families that will struggle to pay their bills this month. The snow keeps us inside and puts a huge damper on our city’s retail and tourism economy. 

This is dangerous. Our narrow roads are banked with giant drifts of snow. Two lane roads are now one lane, and encountering a driver going the opposite direction can mean someone gets stuck. Four lane roads are down to two lanes. Sidewalks aren’t shoveled. Even sidewalks that are shoveled are narrow and difficult to navigate. People are walking in the streets, streets that are already crowded with cars in snowy conditions. And it’s not just people who can walk. There’s strollers and wheelchairs out there in the roads because we have to get where we’re going and there’s simply no other way. 

Everything is difficult. For the last two Wednesdays I’ve done my usual normal routine. First, drop Tessa at daycare so she can make her morning therapy session. Second, get Graham to school, usually just get home and wait for the bus. But for the last two weeks it’s taken over 2 hours, nearly 3, to get this done. Graham spends nearly 3 hours in the morning in the car and then when we get to his school, which is on a small side street and has little parking on a good day, there’s nowhere for me to pull in and drop him. So we have to park down the street and around the corner and walk up to school. It’s not the worst thing that ever happened, no, but all that happens and I still have to get to work. I made it in at noon yesterday. I had to miss the Parent Council meeting in the evening because leaving in enough time to get there would’ve meant leaving at 4 when I’d already missed the entire morning. It’s a problem.

Driving in this is rough. Imagine every street in your city is down by 1-2 lanes. Just one street with lanes closed can cause backups, we’ve got all of them. And when you hit a side street that is full of snow and you’re sliding around, it’s white knuckle time.

It’s cold. And it keeps being cold. They tell us it’s good because warmer weather during our snow is when you have trees falling and power lines going down and the only blessing in all this is that the suburbs haven’t lost power for days at a time. But with it being cold and staying cold, the snow isn’t melting. We haven’t had anything resembling a thaw since the snow started and my weather app doesn’t show a day where the high is above freezing for the next week. (My weather app describes next Wednesday as “Dreary.” No joke. It also says more snow today and Sunday.)

Roofs have begun collapsing under the weight of the snow. (We’re at over 6 feet of it in a very very short time.)

Our transit system, which everyone in the city and nearly everyone in the suburbs relies on, is old and outdated and is constantly breaking down. Getting on a train at rush hour has turned into a ridiculous farce where you stand on a platform that’s packed with people, wait for a train, and if it comes it’s already so full there’s no room for anyone else to get on. Here’s a few local Instagrams to show you what it looks like:

No train for you. #mbta #latetowork #Boston #snow

A photo posted by Jason Zavala (@braczav) on

It’s not about the shoveling (although that really sucks and have I mentioned no one here has a garage?) and it’s not about the snow days when the kids are home from school (which also suck and have I mentioned the kids have been out of school for 7 days so far this year?). It’s that after the entire city shuts down, when it starts back up everything is difficult. We lose hours of our day. We lose time and money and some people are going to lose their lives because of this stupid snow.

So yeah, I think it’s okay to complain. 

I get that some complaining is useless and stupid. I have a 5-year-old. We are right in the middle of the “No Complaining” thing. But the thing is I may come down on complaining about things that are silly and pointless, but if he’s actually doing something difficult I let him complain. Because it legitimately sucks.

The thing about complaining? It can actually help.

Complaining can get things done. And right now our city and our state really need to hear us complain. They need to know that we can’t be an urban center without being able to get through a heavy winter. We should plan for a heavy winter and be pleasantly surprised if it’s not that bad. We need serious changes, we’ve needed them for decades, and if we don’t complain we may not get them.

Complaining can also help the person doing the complaining. Talking to other people about how bad your commute was is actually a pleasant thing, even if your commute was not. When you’re bursting with frustration, it actually helps to say something and let out some of that pressure.

There’s a reason people go to therapy to talk things out. When you’re facing difficult emotions caused by something out of your control, you don’t just get to say, “Hey, I’m from New England and I love this and bring on more snow yay!!” if that’s not how you feel. You can’t change your emotions just by deciding to change them. 

The view out the window right at my eye level. Can't see the street anymore.

A photo posted by Jessica Woodbury (@jessicaesquire) on

Today I’m driving to the station because I’ll need my car for a delivery shift after work and if I have to get back to my house, my commute could take 90 minutes and I’ll lose a good hour of time. Or more. So I’m going to drive over with my shovel and see if I can find a spot and it may not work out and I may be pretty frustrated and if I can’t get my work done in the office I may have to cancel that shift and lose the extra money it would’ve brought. If that sounds extreme, take my word for it that it’s not. It’s completely possible that I won’t be able to find a parking space and that the piles of snow will be far too high for me to shovel into. Paid lots are packed full because street parking is virtually nonexistent on many of the city’s streets. 

I just checked Twitter and the train line I take to work has “limited service” today. Meaning they’re running less trains. Meaning every station will be full of people waiting. And I think I may just have to cancel that shift. We just can’t win.

We just can’t. If your friends who live here have been moaning about the weather and you’ve playfully said how it’s so warm where you are and you wish you could have some of that snow, you should probably know that we are way past joking. We are tired and beat down and every single day is a struggle to get to work and leave again, to drop off kids and pick them up, to do anything. 

Want more? Follow @jessicaesquire on Twitter or  Like Don’t Mind the Mess on Facebook. Or check out Boston reviews.