City Happenings: A September Guide for Families in Philadelphia

Little Moon + ArrowNow that the children are back-to-school and you aren’t going to the beach this weekend, there are many things happening in the city to keep you busy. A few in particular recently came across my radar that I wanted to share with Mommy Call readers. Some of these are happening this weekend, so don’t procrastinate (like I did in writing this blog post).

Lume Creative Learning Studios

Lume not only offers art classes for kids and adults but is a community gathering and event space for Passyunk Avenue and offers birthday parties. Where else could you find a Drag Queen Storytime?

Evelyn’s Corner: Grand Opening September 16, 2017

You may not think the city needs another kids art studio, but Evelyn’s Corner is bringing a new perspective to the kids’ art class scene. The website alone inspires creativity. In addition, they offer private classes and in-home birthday parties.

Momo’s Treehouse: Grand Opening September 16, 2017

If you loved their Old City location, the new Fitler Square space promises to exceed your expectations. Their Grand Opening celebration will be joined by Baby Wordplay and the Igloo and includes a petting zoo at the Grays Ferry Triangle from 10:30-12:30.

Penn Museum Family Game Night: September 15th, 2017, 6-9 PM

The Penn Museum is creating an adventure-packed evening for children 6 and up, including ancient board games, artifact guessing, hieroglyph decoding and more. Admission is $15pp or $50 per family of 4.

MOM’s Organic Market: Grand Opening September 8-10th

This new organic market in Center City not only aims to bring high quality, organic produce, but also sustainable insect proteins, a beekeeping section, car charging stations, sustainable seafood, growler-filling stations, liquid bulk products, and a recycling center. The grand opening celebration will include meet and greets with local green leaders, tastings, henna art, and kids activities.  5% of Grand Opening sales will be donated to the Philadelphia Orchard Project and Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

Play Arts: One Year Anniversary Party September 10th

I’ve written before about my love of Fishtown’s uber-cool Play Arts. They have been celebrating their one year anniversary all week, but the festivities culminate on Sunday, September 10th, with a party from 10AM-12PM. As if you need additional reasons to attend, they will be serving Cake Life cupcakes, dishing out door prizes, and offering discounts! RSVP is required!

Rock to the Future

This is a nonprofit that provides free and low-cost music education programs for Philadelphia youth. Their MusiCore program is where students learn their choice of instrument, form bands, write and record original music, play cover songs, participate in vocal ensemble, attend creative workshops, work with real musicians, and perform live. This program is open to grades 6-12 and operates Monday-Friday 3-6PM.

Little Moon + Arrow (photo above)

If you have been to the parent store, Moon + Arrow, you can imagine how adorable and crafty their version for the littles is. Their new space is drenched in sunlight and with all the pillows in the windows you will wish you could stay all afternoon.

Mister John’s Music

Queen Village cult favorite, Mister John, has upgraded to his own space in the Italian Market. He’s transformed a spice shop into a cozy studio with beautiful old world charm. With new teachers on staff and all their new square footage, there are new class options as well.

Franklin Ice Cream Bar

Sometime this Fall, Franklin Fountain is opening an Old City sister store where you can build-your-own ice cream pop shaped like the Keystone that is the symbol of Pennsylvania. There are even vegan options. I’ll see you there.

Bartram’s Garden: Philadelphia Honey Festival, September 10, 2017

Nothing is cuter than a bunch of children parading around in bee costumes. As the Honey Fest wraps up at Bartram’s Garden (10AM-4PM on 9/10/17), expect this as well as beekeeping demos, honey extractions, a marketplace and garden tours.

A Mainlander’s Beach Homecoming

LBI

Growing up a mainlander, I always felt like an islander outsider. Once living away though, I described Long Beach Island as my hometown, as no one could recognize Manahawkin by name, and I claimed a bit of islander identity. I have spent years recounting my beach town upbringing to jealous urbanites, who dream of their beach house rentals while accruing vacation in a concrete jungle. I always try to describe the paradox of having your small town beach sanctuary invaded by tourists, who create longer lines and traffic jams, but simultaneously sustain the businesses for the long, quiet winter ahead. My parents were among these business owners, with a marina in Brant Beach, where they would need to sell enough boats in three months to last us the next nine. As vibrant as the tourists make the island, we all know how as the crowds trickle out, the speed limits raise, and the lights go off, the locals enjoy the island as much as the tourists did all summer from those early fall weeks through Memorial Day.

When your hometown culture has always had a local versus tourist divide, it feels uncomfortable to return on the tourist team. However, as a former mainlander, my Ship Bottom rental made me an islander of sorts. With my newly minted, albeit temporary, islander status, I quickly fell into character. I bemoaned having to drive “all the way to the mainland” as I had heard so many islanders say in my youth. My children collected clams and snails from the bay and we snuck sand into every item we own. We exclusively showered outdoors. Evenings were for sunset bike rides and glasses of wine on the deck. There was no need for fancy. Being an islander meant enjoying the idle moments.

Yet, knowing the island’s history made me feel more connected to it. I wanted to tell others that I wasn’t really a tourist, I belonged here. It felt empowering to show guests my local knowledge of the landscape and see so many familiar faces and businesses still thriving. High school classmates are now local entrepreneurs. We drove up and down the boulevard admiring its beauty, with childhood memories flashing by with each passing storefront. We ate dinner in the restaurant housed within my dad’s old marina; the new may obscure the old, but with the memories of locals the history is never gone.

Since I left the area eighteen years ago, the way I experience the island is now much different. I remember sitting at the counter at Just Bead It in Surf City, my summer job for most of my adolescence, watching mothers toting toddlers and dragging wagons full of shovels and chairs. Now, I am her. Instead of waiting for the lifeguards to leave to sneak onto the dunes of Barnegat Light for a bonfire with friends, I am hoisting children onto abandoned lifeguard stands. My children, rather than myself, are scooping clams from the bay and collecting shells from the beach. I can only imagine what my adult life on the island would look like through the examples set by my classmates who remained.

Standing in line at The Local, a spot that in name gives the illusion of insider status yet with outsider prices, there was a small disagreement about which way the line should go. In confronting a tourist, the woman in front of me said, “those of us who are locals know that the line always goes this way.” Then, she turned to me and said, “you know, right?” Nearly two decades later and I was mistaken for a local islander while renting a beach house, making this former mainlander’s week on LBI feel complete. Although I have chosen not to make LBI my permanent home, each time I return I regain my fondness for it and know it will always be home.

Summer of ’17

beach

Summertime often feels like an endless cycle of applying sunscreen and tugging wet bathing suits on and off my children. I am constantly tracking down and tallying sunglasses, goggles, hats, and flip flops. Knees are skinned, bug bites speckle their legs, and sand is pouring out of every purse I own. The late sunsets have ruined our bedtime routine and some days the humidity leads us to watch more TV than I care to admit. I am sweating off all of my makeup and my hair is twice its normal volume.

On the other hand, we have collected shells, ate scoop upon scoop of ice cream, and belly-flopped in every pool we found. We have lost 1 tooth and gained a handful of freckles. We pack bathing suits with our school lunches and come home with paint splattered arms. Playgrounds are our second home, where we picnic with pizza and watch pinwheels spin. Our garden is bursting with flowers and the evening sky is our favorite shade of pink.

This summer we have traveled more than usual, including North Carolina, New York City, and the Jersey Shore. We have relived childhood memories through our children’s eyes. In each place, we have reconnected with old friends and extended family. We explored new museums, rode rollercoasters, visited historical sites, and ate fresh food off the grill most nights of the week. We have not passed a fountain without throwing a coin and making a wish.

These are the things I know I will remember when I remember the summer of ’17. Luckily, it’s still only July and there are still so many fireflies to be caught.

The Exciting Way I Started My Weekend

selfie

“So what did you do to kick off your weekend yesterday?”

A simple enough question, but at 4:30 PM on a Saturday I had to pause to consider how I should phrase a response to my 24-year-old hair stylist. Should I start with how I picked my daughter up from daycare, then helped my children ride their new bikes to the playground and celebrated that we avoided any trips to the Emergency Room? Or how we had pancakes for dinner and I was asleep by 11 PM? The exciting event of the night was when my son and husband built a new Lego set that came in the mail earlier in the day, while my daughter and I played with her stamp set and we managed to create a beautiful Autumnal tree. I laid on the dark floor of my daughter’s room for 20-minutes while she fell asleep, only to come downstairs to find my son awake and waiting for me. I pinned three recipes I will likely never cook to my Pinterest board. Before I completely passed out myself, I helped my husband repaint our basement, splattering myself with tiny white paint freckles that I would later have to scrub off. Ahem, not white, the “Swiss coffee” shade I spent 30-minutes choosing at Lowes last week. All after seeing patients and sitting on a 3-hour conference call.

“Nothing special,” I summarized. Looking downward at the black gown draped across my lap, serving not only to keep the trimmed hairs from my clothing but also hiding the 10 extra pounds I now carry around my middle since having kids. While I was embarrassed to recount this entirely mundane Friday night to this millennial stylist, it was actually a Friday in which I could be proud. There was a STEAM project, exercise, a home-cooked dinner, family bonding, and a home-improvement project. In the few hours that I have between leaving my office and crashing into my pillow, I consider this a success.

There is no doubt that my weekends as a parent are quite different from when I was her 24-year-old peer. While she reminded me that there was a band playing locally, I remembered that there was a children’s art shop hosting their grand opening, and while we missed it I made a mental note to visit it soon. My phone lit up on her console with a texted video of my daughter riding her bike and yelling “I love mommy!” Is there any other way to spend a weekend?

“How would you like your hair styled?” she asked in preparation of sending me out into the hustle and bustle of Saturday night in my neighborhood. It didn’t matter though, as my plans included making dinner, watching a movie, and doing some work on my laptop. The ringlets she made in my hair made me smile while walking around my house in my yoga pants though.

What I wanted to tell her was that this hour was the highlight of my weekend. An hour to be pampered, sip my iced tea in leisure, and zone out. No one could ask me for another snack. I didn’t have to wipe anyone else’s butt. I did not step on any Legos while walking to the hair-washing station. There were no decisions to be made, other than wavy or straight. Getting out to the salon was a weekend victory in itself. This news could make me the envy of any of my mom friends.

Rewind.

“So what did you do to kick off your weekend yesterday?”

I spent it with the best people I know in our favorite place.

 

The Myth of Seamless Work-Life Integration

beachRushing off to work with a frozen Lean Cuisine lunch in my bag and a small hole in my stockings threatening to run down my legs, I brushed my hair while driving and thought about how my work-life integration was falling apart. If only there was more time in the day, I thought. Or substitute time with any number of things… energy, love, money, ease, gratitude, efficiency, peace. Every week I have working mothers in my office with their children telling me about their struggles: making time to play, cooking nutritious meals, and finding a high-quality childcare provider. Their struggles are ones that I have had and continue to have regularly. Others had more dire issues, such as obtaining FMLA leave to take care of her ill child, a high-risk pregnancy, food insecurity, and inability to pay her gas bill. We all have our personal issues– some big, some small– that make us feel like we are failing at motherhood at one time or another. Some of us just do a better job of camouflaging it.

One of my coworkers said that when choosing her outfits she thinks about whether or not she would want her doctor to wear it. Certainly our appearance conveys a degree of professionalism and is important. At the same time though, there is a bit of chaos in my life that sometimes I like my patients to see. If the doctor, who on the surface seems to have things put together and seamlessly integrated work-life, has similar challenges to her patients it can be relieving. One patient told me that she read my blog specifically to see if my family had similar struggles to hers. So here’s the secret: yes.

I ran my fingers over the tiny hole in my stockings while listening to a mother lament her messy, poorly childproofed living room and how she is too tired after work to fix it. I imagined the floor in front of my own couch blanketed in Legos and how I would step over them nightly before eventually having the energy to sort them into their proper containers. My nail then snagged on my stockings and I snapped out of my daydream. I hear you, I said. My stocking hole may have been too small and just high enough to be hidden by my hemline, but I was conscious of it all day, much like the imperfections I know are always behind my professional veneer. Every now and then, a patient family needs to hear that I too sometimes fall apart at the seams.

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