Saturday, September 11, 2010


The problem I see with a lot of Facebook posts and an overwhelming majority of blogs is this: People only ever talk about the 1% of things that are perfection. Perfect pictures, edited as such, perfect posts about a perfect meal (not mentioning the fact that you’d fed your kids cereal for dinner the five nights leading up to that), how positive and perfect you're feeling, turning illness into a great learning opportunity, talking about how great your kids are when we all know they're driving you up the wall more often than not, the highlights of a trip that leave out the four hour plane delay, the fact that your four year old vomited all over the hotel, etc.

Typically, I try to be honest in my posting. I’d hate to make someone feel bad by getting a less than realistic view of my life and think I’m anything close to perfect. Cause I’m not. And proud of it.

Last week I took a trip to Baltimore for my grandmother’s funeral. Obviously it was not a happy occasion. Besides the fact that my grandmother is no longer with us, my family is… a little dysfunctional. What you find below is by no means an accurate account of my trip and contains positive, and only positive moments. Therefore, this is about 1% of my trip.

I do really love going to Baltimore. It’s where I was born, and it only takes one step off of the plane for me to delve into reminiscing. The airport reminds me of a trip four years ago when my nephew (who was four years old at the time) threw a fit because there were no dinosaurs there. His parents promised he could visit dinosaurs on the trip (at the Smithsonian). I guess he was expecting them to be awaiting our arrival promtply after deplaning. He was also really upset that when he finally did get to see the dinosaurs, they were bones, and not real, live, roaring beasts.

I went alone this time. When you have three kids, being by yourself seems like a really good idea, but in truth it's really quiet and kinda lonely. I felt like a little kid hanging out with my parents and having three meals a day with them. Everywhere I went I got carded which had me laughing hysterically. Partially from being carded and partically because no one could find my birthdate on my Florida license.

But I really enjoyed my time in Baltimore. It's a truly historic town.

Driving around and just seeing all these things that used to be so familiar and now are so...distant. You don't often see train tracks where I live, and in Baltimore I saw an actual train chugging along, minding its business. I know it probably sounds crazy, but I like it.

Being in Baltimore with my dad has a distinct advantage: he knows where all the best food is. And there is a lot of good food. Straight from the airport we headed to G&Ms, a place that has, hands down, the best crab cake in Baltimore. It was funny because I posted on Facebook about just having the mother of all crab cakes and my brother (who lives in Baltimore) responded "G&Ms or Timbuktu?" (Timbuktu is really good too, but we had gone there on our last trip. Gotta spread the love.) When you’re a Marylander you are a natural born crab cake snob, so I really enjoyed being able to go to a restaurant and order one, knowing it wouldn’t disappoint.

The next day’s food stop was a bar in Locust Point called JRs. I was told they have a hamburger topped with meat, and more meat.

It was the most majestic hamburger I’ve had in all my years. I had the ¼ lb. version, but more manlier men have the option of the ½ lb. burger, which is just unphathomable to me. I chose the “Locust Point Burger” which consists of a burger topped with ham, bacon and cheddar cheese, plus I opted for tomatoes, mayo and grilled onions. Holy mother of deliciousness.

It was here at JRs that I was introduced to National Bohemian, from the land of pleasant living.

Baltimore is famous for its beers, and this one is a Baltimore original. My dad described it as a raunchy beer, and I was a little afraid, but it was really quite good and exceeded my expectations. The bartender told me it’s “in style” right now. The best part—it was $1.88 a bottle. You can’t get a glass of water in Naples for $1.88. Notice the little one eyed guy on the label. My brother says the beer's called the "one eyed wonder." And he, being a beer man, would know.

I consumed more Natty Bo at my old childhood hangout of Muirs. Yes, you read that right. I spent my childhood in a bar. Every Sunday after German school my dad would take us there and we’d eat pretzels and drink Cokes. It was nice to go back. I wish I got a better picture of the building—it had this tall, pointed roof.

My dad's all time favorite hot dog joint, Pollock Johnny's.

In between funeral events and eating, we visited our old house.

The road seemed super skinny, but I guess that’s what happens with you get bigger and the road doesn’t. My dad had planted a tree sapling outside my bedroom window 25? years ago that is now twice the size of the house. A family with a baby lives there now. They caught us cruising by and staring like stalkers so we ended up introducing ourselves.

Right down the street from us was the Georgetown Market. We used to go down there and buy typical kid stuff, sodas and candy. It's the exact same 7-up sign.

My grandmother’s house was auctioned by the state last spring to cover the costs of her nursing care. I mentioned before how hard this was for me… A company is rehabbing it. South Baltimore is in the midst of a revival, so her old house was perfect for a company to gobble up and restore.

They took off the form stone front (it used to look like the houses on either side of it, form stone was a popular trend in the 50s) and restore the original brick. It’s beautiful. I spent so many nights of my childhood sitting on those steps with my grandmother. It’s a South Baltimore thing, sitting on the stoop. People would stop by and talk. It was so… neighborly. The house has new windows and upon a peek in them I was delighted to see all new walls, wood floors, and beautiful trim. I’m so happy to see this house restored to its glory, but so sad that my grandmother never got to enjoy it, and even sadder that this place is no longer a part of our family.

I love irony of this picture. The greatest city in the world, indeed. We’re just so busy being great we can’t trouble ourselves with picking up the trash…

Even with the rough patches, it's a beautiful city.

Monday, August 23, 2010

ABC’s of the First Day of School

A – Adorable. My kids, they are.

B – Buzz Lightyear shoes that Cole insisted on wearing even though he complains they hurt his feet. But hey, they light up.

C – Car line pickup. It was a little bit like the apocalypse.

D – Daddy, who had to deliver Cole to his first day of preschool since I can’t be all places all the time.

E – Early wakeup. For me at least. The kids slept in, which is hysterical since they were up at 6am every day of the summer.

F – Fancy. What Cole called the plaid shorts I picked out for him and the reason for his refusal to wear them.

G – Gatorade. Our special after the gym after the first day of school drink from the gym vending machine.

H – Hectic. An honest description of what it’s like to have to deal with kids at two different schools.

I – Impressed. Mason’s teacher is amazing with how she speaks in this low, slow voice. Those kids listen. I could learn a thing or two from her.

J – Junk food. How every first day of school should end.

K – Kindergarten. Can’t believe it!

L – Lemonade served at the “Boo hoo” breakfast. Spilled by Lila all over the media center.

M – Memories to last a lifetime!

N – Nap for Lila. Oh wait, there wasn’t one.

O – Overwhelming. This entire day!

P – Playing outside. Cole’s favorite part of the day today. Although I don’t see how since it rained all day and he doesn’t seem soaking wet.

Q – Quiet. My house with the boys gone. It was also clean, which was bizarre.

R – Relaxing. What I’m going to do for the rest of the evening.

S – Sunbutter sandwiches. Good ol’ PB&J is banned from Cole’s school, so I passed off sunbutter to both of them hoping they won’t notice. So far, so good.

T – Technology time. Mason’s favorite part of the day today. Shocker.

U – Umbrella. It was a very rainy day, like most have been lately. I’m ready to build an ark.

V – Valium. I’m gonna need one.

W – Work. It takes a lot to get your kids to and from school.

X – Xanax. I’m gonna need one.

Y – Yoga class that I had to teach at 4:30, meaning Lila went to the gym kids club without a nap.
Z – Zzzzzzs. What I’m going to need a lot of tonight in hopes of making a full recovery!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Many Faces of Cole

Cole is my free-spirited child. Almost always you can find him with a smile plastered on his face. It's fascinating to me that I have a child who's so busy soaking up life. (My general personality is that I'm too busy with life to soak it up, if you know what I mean.)

When I became pregnant with him, my firstborn was a whopping nine months old. So being as Mason was still very much in the baby stage and his newborn stage was still fresh in my mind, I sorta (unrealistically) expected my second to be just the same.

Couldn't be farther from the truth.

These two could not be more different, and I'm not just talking about Cole's blonde hair and blue eyes.

Mason's very interested in learned facts--numbers, letters, words, bookish stuff-- Cole wants to take crap apart and learn how it works. I call him the Evil Genius, if only he could use his powers for good.

Today Cole mentioned that we need to buy another dog so Mike has someone to play with. It'll be a cold day in hell before I bring another being into this house--the last thing I need is another mouth to feed and more crap to clean up.

So I laughed and said, "No, Mike doesn't need a friend."

Cole's response: "When is Jack going to come back to be Mike's friend."

Jack was our Jack Russell Terror, I mean Terrier who died four years ago (three days before Cole was born in fact). He was bit by a coral snake.

I said to him, "No Cole, Jack is in heaven so he won't be coming back."

Mason chimes in, "Yeah, Jack is in heaven with God."

Cole, after a pregnant pause said, "Well, can he come back down if he promises to stay away from snakes so he doesn't get bitten again?" Cole must have heard us tell the story to someone somewhere along the line.

This whole exchange went down in the car. Life's most important conversations happen in a minivan.

So I'm driving, stupefied, wondering what to say to this. Death is something so hard to understand, let alone explain in appropriate terms to a four year old.

Saved by Mason, the ever precocious child. "It doesn't work that way, Cole," he said.

"Oh, okay. Can we go have a playdate with Matthew?" was Cole's very accepting response.

I've been known to make problems more difficult than they need to be. I guess I'll leave the life lessons up to Mason from now on.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Seven Day Countdown

I had the best weekend.

It was just what I needed, being here at the end of summer (and therefore on the cusp of losing my sanity. Long story short, it involved my kids spending the night with their grandparents, celebrating a friend’s 21st (plus a few) birthday, sleeping in, a delicious breakfast, an indulgent take-your-time-and-don’t-worry-about-getting-paged-to-the-Kids-Club kind of workout, a trip to the beach with my friend (the first time I’ve been to the beach in many moons where I was able to pack one small, teeny bag to hold my stuff), an afternoon with a book, and an evening at the movies.


So here we are on Monday. At first glance it’s an ordinary Monday, but if you look a little closer at the calendar you’d notice it’s the last Monday before the kids start school. I wasn’t teaching any classes this morning so I really was enjoying my one of my last mornings of not having to rush kids off to school (I am teaching tomorrow and Wednesday, but repeat performances of this lazy morning will be held on Thursday and Friday).

Tomorrow is Cole’s open house, Wednesday we find out who Mason’s Kindergarten teacher is, and Friday is his open house. I am so excited for it all!

And then there’s my girl Lila. When the boys depart on Monday I’m sure I will have my share of sadness and bittersweet moments. But I am really, really looking forward to spending some time alone with my girl. It’s been nice having the boys around all summer but I miss my mornings of last spring, where it was just me and Lila. She’s my sidekick. She’s really good at it too! I’ve discovered lately that I’m a bit lost when I’m without all of the kids, so at least I still have one to keep me company. And this might sound really strange, but I've never had one-on-one time with a two year old. When Mason was two, Cole was six months old, when Cole was two, Lila was a newborn. I have really learned to appreciate alone time with my children.

The summer has ended with a bang. The boys did a little set of swim classes last week and were proud to get diplomas at the end. (***Dislclaimer: All photos are craptastic iPhone photos. I forgot my camera. Hey, no one's perfect.)

They learned the backstroke and the freestyle stroke, and Mason has proven to be a wicked fast freestyle swimmer. His only (and quite significant) downfall is that he forgets to pick his head up and breathe. But watching him tear across that water freestyle is some kind of amazing. Cole is more interested in diving to the bottom to retrieve things off the pool floor. The kid is a solid hunk of very heavy muscle. Buonacy is not his forte. They both have taken to jumping off the diving board, something that looks so freaky I don't even know if *I* would be brave enough to attempt it. But that's little boys for ya.

On the last day all the kids were allowed to go down the waterslides twice, which is a huge deal because typically you need to be 48 inches or taller to go down them during park hours. On one hand this is cool because they were excited and had so much fun. On the other hand when we go there on our own to visit it’s going to be tough to explain to them that they’re not tall enough to go down the slides when they can clearly remember that exception being made.

Excluded from swim lessons due to the broken collar bone of the Summer of '10, is Lila. Still as cute as ever.

At the end of the school year I had decided to keep the kids home all summer, mostly due to Mason’s increasingly more vocal request that he was getting burnt out of school. Truth was he’d been attending almost nonstop since he turned three. I am proud to say that with the exception of one week of vacation bible school, they have been my constant companions. Let’s just say that next summer a little bit more scheduled activities will be involved. As much as I enjoyed the low key nature of most days, my sanity is on the line here. Plus Mason in particular has been requesting me to enroll him in a different activity every five minutes. Soccer, tennis, basketball, bowling, more swim lessons… you name it, he wants to do it. What’s summer for if not to explore some interests?

So here I sit, on the cusp of major changes with my family. I am bad with change. Extremely. But time waits for no (wo)man, and Change it is a comin’.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mother Age

I’m under the mistaken impression that I am still young.

It has recently come to my attention that I am not.

Even though I am still (for a few more weeks at least) in my 20’s, I have three kids. The first one ages you three years, the second one ages you four more, and the third one ages you five years on top of that.

So just like we used to have “weighted” GPAs in high school, my Mother Age is somewhere around 42. Which 42 is not “old” per se, but when you’re an honorary 42 year old who doesn’t sleep enough and eats a nutritionally void diet that is mostly consumed while standing at the kitchen counter, it’s a little rough.

And then, you get the bright idea to consumer bottles, yes bottles of wine with your friends and stay out until midnight on a Wednesday night.

Wednesday night is half price wine bottle night at The Pub, for those of you who are interested. So my cohorts and I headed out to take advantage of this. And then, about 30 minutes in, this drunk 24 year old kid came over to hit on us, three married ladies. Kara asked him how old he is and his answer was something to the effect of “I’m younger than you, of course.”

This, coupled with the fact that he had (at 8pm) already consumed so much beer that he couldn’t open his eyes all the way, should have been a warning.

The night lumbered on and he started tell us how his sister (who I went to high school with) is a whore because she got pregnant and had a abortion at 17. What kind of wacko calls his sister a whore to perfect strangers?? That was just the tip of the iceberg, but I won’t go into details here. Let’s just say it was highly disturbing, and he repeatedly tried to get Keri to leave with him because he deemed by some method his puny little brain created that she had the least happy marriage out of the three of us and was the likeliest to commit adultery. Like I said, he was a super individual.

So we ended up next door at the pizza place to let some of the wine to wear off. And when I say pizza place, I’m talking like gourmet, fancy pizza. It was delicious. So there we are, at 11pm or something, eating our delicious pizza with wonderfully spicy pepperoni, and the owner of the place comes over to chat. He’s a legit Italian guy named Fabio. He ends up pouring us some champagne and discussing how American men only work out their upper bodies and never their legs, therefore making them look like birds. His point is an excellent one. Anyway, he was a super nice guy, and like I said, his place makes the most lovely, flavorful pizza I’ve had in some time. But in the back of my mind I keep thinking, who do we think we are? Young people with no kids? This is going to hurt in the morning.

And, uh yeah, it hurts. I woke up thirsty, hungry, thirsty, hungry some more, and tired. The kids were up at 6:30, and I had no time to acclimate before I picked myself up by the boot straps and headed out to swim lessons.

So, I think that when you and two friends consume two bottles of wine plus some champagne, get insulted by a guy in a bar who is only five years younger than you but behaves worse than your toddler, and stay out so late that it’s the next day when you make it home, you can add 15 years to your already adjusted Mother Age. Which makes me 57 today.

That feels about right. I must have some grandchildren running around here somewhere.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summertime, And the Living Ain't Easy

I LOVE this picture. I have titled it "Summertime." I feel this is an appropriate representation.

It's been more than a month since I have posted. I have lots of good excuses.

Summertime is an interesting beast. I was so excited to get to it, so glad to have days where the kids and I could rise leisurely, craft four course meals for breakfast, and take our time deciding what to do with the day.

This never happened. Of course it doesn't help that I don't cook.

And besides, I selectively blocked out that at least two morning a week I have to rise and instruct yoga. A welcome break to the cacaophony of screaming and fighting that has been the soundtrack of summer, but it does stand in the way of the aforementioned leisurely mornings.

You see, children like to fight amongst themselves. Siblings get a special kick out of sparring with one another. It's enough to drive a mother mad.

Two weeks ago I really was questioning my need for a padded room. Friday had arrived, I was at the end of my wits, and was thankful, grateful, excited and ready for the weekend. Saturday I took some me time and strolled the Waterside Shops, and when I began to feel like a human being again I returned home, ready to step back into my role of mother.

Just in time, too, because an injury had been sustained.

Long story short, the kids and Rey were playing outside and Lila fell and fratured her collar bone. I will take this (and any other opportunity) to say how wonderful I think Dr. Wilson is because he gives you his cell phone number for Saturday emergencies. He says four weeks until she's healed, and you can set your watch by that. I'm pretty sure he keeps a crystal ball in his office to predict such things. You can't *do* anything in terms of a cast for a broken clavicle, no matter how minor or severe. He explained to me how it heals, something to the effect of that the fracture will form a calcification around it and that shortly thereafter it would wear itself away into a new bone. Sorta like a miracle, if you ask me.

So we persist, our only healing instruction is to keep her calm, prevent falls that would further damage the weakened bone. Keeping a two year old calm is an... interesting challenge. She's not allowed to swim, or bike ride, or go in bounce houses, or basically do any of the things that up to that point had been helping us survive the summer. And since she can't do this stuff, by and large neither can the boys. So instead they go buck wild around the house.

It's funny how just when I was at my breaking point, just when I thought I was done and couldn't take another thing, another thing happened and proved me wrong. Because as mothers we don't have a choice. We can't break, we're never done, and there's always, always another thing that we have to take on.

Summer can suck it. I'm ready for school to start. Which I would feel slightly guilty about if the kids weren't excited too. Mason asks every day when he gets to go to Kindergarten, when he gets to start at his new school. Cole's missing his friends, and Lila's going to be taking a weekly dance class. So there's a lot of fun things in the horizon as summer sets and fall rises.

I personally can't wait.

In the meantime I've been investing small fortunes into school supplies. Mason got a new backpack.

And I love to cruise the aisles of Target. I must admit that school supplies are my weakness. It's one of my happy memories as a kid when my mom would take us to the store to buy all of our stuff. I can still remember the smell of it all. And then I'd bring it home and inhale the smell more, unpack, organize, and load it all into my backpack. Good times!

I've got to make it through two more weeks with my broken baby, and after that we have two more weeks of summer fun.

In the meantime, we have been playing a lot of Band Hero.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Amber and Ashley Vacate Plus Eight

The plan was simple—to have no plan. And the beauty of having no expectations means that it’s impossible to be disappointed. Even better—you could be very pleasantly surprised like I was.

My only thought about the trip was to get away from my house, my chores, my daily grind, and go and spend some time with great friends and their kids who I love. This was a guarantee.

Then I met the ocean.

I had frolicked with the Atlantic before, yes, but it’s been years. When I was a kid and we lived in Maryland we’d spend two weeks each Thanksgiving in Fort Lauderdale. We stayed in the same exact hotel each time. My dad would get up at the crack of dawn and dig for sand fleas to use as bait. He had an impossibly long fishing pole that had a base that was as thick around as my seven year old arm, and when he’d cast it I could swear it’d go out for miles. This is a set of memories from my childhood that I won’t forget.

So imagine my surprise when I bounded down the boardwalk, lugging a superhuman amount of towels, sunscreen and beach toys, with wild children swirling around me like a nebulous of chaos, only to lay eyes on the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in perhaps a decade or more.

Beaches are not a novelty to me. In fact, I can’t understand it when people come to visit Naples and marvel over the gulf waters and palm trees that stand at attention along each and every street. It’s just my normal. I was expecting this beach to be just as normal.

Boy, was I wrong.

It was stunning.

Those who know me know I sorta kinda hate the beach. Sand in particular. You can never seem to get rid of it. But I have cheated on my Naples gulf beach with Amelia Island’s Atlantic one. And I will have a hard time forgetting about my summer love affair.

Our first trip was during low tide, and there was this vast pool of water only a several inches deep that spanned about 20 feet before you made it to the tide. Perfect for little people. Cole spent hours, no exaggeration, trying to catch these tiny little minnows for his bucket. With the help of some kind folks from Pensacola, he did. And named his fish Dirty Head.

Dirty Head met a sad demise when Cole left him unattended to attend to his own bathroom needs. Savannah, who was herself engulfed in her own obsession of playing in a hole, dumped him over in a fit of splashing joy. And Dirty Head was a goner.

Soon Cole had acquired two new fish, and Siennah one was well, thanks to the same kind family.

The waves on the Atlantic were something else. I knew they were bigger, better, and badder than our measly gulf waves, that only makes sense. But they were so. much. cooler. than I ever thought possible. I could stand there for hours (and did) watching them roll in, the incoming one fighting to overcome the receding one, leaving behind proof of their visit by way of white foam. They roared and lapped as they moved, and I realized the ocean was talking to us. I feel like the ocean is an analogy for my own life, noisy, chaotic, but so incredibly beautiful.

And then, I discovered body surfing. The guys had been at it from Day One, with Mason and Sebastian in tow. Cole was more interested in sand activities and Siennah was supremely occupied by worrying about everyone drowning (at the beginning at least, she warmed up markedly there towards the end). Amber and I were glad to let them be, busying ourselves with watching the little ones and taking pictures. Until we got too hot and had to swim. And so it began.

It was so fun! As in SO freakin’ fun! These huge waves would come along and lift you up, take you to their swell, and put your feet back on the ground. Sometimes it was a kind and gentle little ride, and sometimes it was a splashing, violent jaunt where on more than one occasion I wondered if a rip tide was going to take me away, never to see the light of day again. But I am paranoid like that.

Moral of the story: Go Body Surfing. Cause it’s awesome.

Sleep was scarce, thanks to an army of little kids who were anxious to get up an play. The latest they slept was 6:43, and the earliest and rudest awakening came on the last day at 6:02. Tired parents who had spent every night burning the midnight oil enjoying cocktails and company were not ready to wake this early. Save one day that Amber and I went to checkout the sunrise.

Sunrise, like waves, is a novelty to me. We here on the west coast obviously have sunsets, a much more accommodating beauty to a non-morning person like myself. However, I rationalized that in fact it was my one chance since who knows when and until who knows when that I could soak one up. So awaken I did at 5:45, by choice, and still clad in my jammies trudged with my friend down to the beauty that is the beach.

Fog. Fog prevented my vision of that big orange orb peeking up over the horizon, but we were still treated to a visual delight. What started as a gray and bleary-eyed morning, soon turned into a promising purple sky, which led to a pink horizon that was soon overtaking by brilliant orange. My once bleary eyes were opening wider and wider. It was a simply breathtaking way to greet the day. Even though bugs were snacking on my delicious skin.

And on top of that, this little guy swam by for a visit.

We rode bikes. Amber and I, thankfully, were solo riders. Rey and Brian were not so lucky, each towing a baby on a baby seat and two big kids in a trailer. It was nothing short of hysterical watching them attempt to pedal up some of the hills and come to a complete stop. But then again (full disclosure here) I did crash into a tree. There was great humor in the fact that I, a certified Spinning instructor, crashed my bike into a tree. To which my response is this—you don’t have to steer a Spin bike people! And for that matter, I have never in my life ridden a bike anywhere except for southwest Florida, which means I have never in my life ridden a bike anywhere that a thing called a “hill” exists. It’s hard to steer and pedal and brake so you don’t go flying. One hits a tree from time to time. No humans, animals or foliage was harmed.

Note the trees—all the trees on the island were adorned with lovely, soft beards of moss. Amber was quite obsessed with them. And every time I looked at them, all I could think was that they were good for packing a wound (a bit of trivia that I learned here).

We toured Fort Clinch which both astounded me in its beauty and totally freaked me out. The boys were stoked to see canon balls, guns, and the "soldier" (ask him anything! He either knows the answer or will make one up so convincingly that you’ll never know the difference). Brian watched a 15 minute video at the beginning of the tour, committed the whole thing to memory and was officially the unofficial tour guide.

My favorite part of the tour! ; )

More pics to follow... (I say that with optimism and unwavering faith in myself that I will, in fact, get around to posting more!)