xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#'> On the Edge of Beautiful

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Wine and Chocolate 5k...and Marathon Man

Last Saturday my friend and I ran a 5k.

I know what you're thinking. "Why do you keep doing this to yourself? You're clearly terrible at running."

Which is true. I suppose it's one of those things like childbirth. It's terrible but it gets good at the end. Well, it's not exactly like childbirth, lest any men think we've been exaggerating all this time. Also, races have fewer drugs than childbirth. Some - but not as much.

Sure, I feel like I'm about the receive the cold kiss of death during a run but my legs feel all glowy the rest of the day.

Every race, there's always this one guy.

He never wears a shirt and he dons teeny tiny shorts, like he's concerned about wind drag on his time. This guy is one of the people who practice for the 5k, warming up by running miles and miles and miles before the race. Considering the race is only 3.1 miles, I see this as rather absurd. What is this, a marathon? Stop sprinting in your toddler-sized shorts, sweat glistening on your hairless chest, face stony with determination.

It's a 5k.

No, no, it's a Wine and Chocolate 5k.

This isn't the Olympics, for Dean Karnazes' sake. It's a 3 miles run with children, and moms with strollers, and groups of sorority sisters with shirts that say "Run now, Wine later" on them. You're only irritating people.

When the first pace group is called, usually the 6-7 min/mile group, he's there, guzzling an energy chew and doing a couple quick high knees for good measure and visualizing his first place win.

Calm it down.

Someone asked what my pace was and I answered, "Whatever the slowest one is."

In fact, during the race, I was passed by a dad and his two daughters, one of which, a 6 year old-ish kid, was wearing jeans and flip flops. And still she passed.

It does nothing for my self-esteem, which has never recovered from the Atomic-Bomb-Frizzy-Mushroom haircut of '94.

Before I was even at the Mile 1 water station, people were looping back to finish. Marathon man was third or fourth, I think. It must have really chaffed his Daisy Dukes not to be in first. Should've done a couple more high knees.

So I didn't win the 5k. And it was flippin hot, seeing as it took place at 430 in Florida in late April. This date and time was clearly set by someone who has never been to Florida on an April afternoon. But I had a great evening with my best friend, where we got to laugh and talk without anyone yelling from the bathroom to come quickly. And there were wine glasses at the end and lovely people pouring chilling drinks into our glasses while we sipped and munched on chocolate covered popcorn.

We decided to make a 5k date, maybe twice a year. That means I have to wait a whole 6 months before I can be treated to the fanatic warm-up stylings of Marathon Man. 


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Getting Your Child To Sleep: First Born vs Third Born

When I was a new parent, I was dumb.

Man, was I ever dumb.

Not that I'm rolling in the neurons now. But especially as a new parent. I owned every "What to Expect Book" there was:

'What to Expect When You're Expecting'

'What To Expect the First Year'

'What to Expect When You're A Neurotic Parent and You're Driving Everyone Crazy'

'What to Expect When Your Baby Has a Slight Case of Jaundice Which is Totally Treatable and Not Really a Big Deal but You're Hysterical and Slumped in the Hallway Sobbing by the Vending Machines'

I'm telling you, I had all of them. I remember my mom visiting me and newborn Jack and she told me that I read too much. Bear in mind, this is a well-read woman. She loves books. We all do. We buy them for each other and loan them and talk about them over dessert. And here she was, telling me to stop reading.

But I really couldn't help it. In fact, when I was first pregnant with Jack, all shiny and full of hope (no really, I was shiny. My face was all oily and stuff), I even wrote out a daily schedule with all the vitamins and minerals I would need for a healthy pregnancy.

I can't hardly type that without simultaneously wanting to laugh at my old self and slap her for being so insufferable.

My plans included lots and lots of leafy greens, a colorful array of vegetables, lean protein, and, of course, a prenatal vitamin with folic acid.

And then I ended up throwing up so hard and often that nothing would stay down and I would burst the blood vessels in my eyes.

Despite my best intentions, nacho cheese Doritos are the ONLY thing I could keep down. So that's how Jack was made - with love, good intentions, and lots of Doritos.

If you're wondering when the sleeping part comes in, I'm getting there. Sometimes I ramble but that's most likely due to the high amounts of artificially cheese-flavored processed snacks I consumed a decade ago.

In the years since I first became a parent, I've had to let go of the high expectations I had of my parenting skills. It's now more a matter of survival than it is excellence.

So this is the difference between getting my first-born to sleep as a toddler/preschooler and getting my last-born to sleep (This is Noah; I do realize that Tali is my last baby but she came to us a great sleeper, probably more the result of not having enough help during the night at the orphanage and kids just learned to sleep).

Where Does Baby Sleep?

First Child

He slept in my arms because he fussed when I put him down (in his perfectly SIDS-safe crib without blankets and bumpers). Jack wore a sleep sack for both easy access for nighttime diaper changes as well as warmth without the use of frowned-upon blankets. We had a baby monitor for awhile and I would lay awake, wide-eyed, straining to listen to it, on the rare times he slept in his crib. Just in case the monitor was lying about my baby sleeping soundly, I would jump out out of bed throughout the night and put my shaking hand to his chest to make sure he was breathing. Sometimes, if I was feeling all-the-way crazy, I would wake him up, just to assure myself that he was, in fact, alive. He only slept in my arms or swaddled tightly in a safe, secure cocoon of love.

Third Child

No monitor, same crib as the first and second born - now with teeth marks. He might have slept in sleepers but probably slept in diapers or his clothes from that day. The 4 year old may or may not have helped to dress him. He might have the sleeper snapped up properly, he also may not. He had blankets and toys and socks and possibly Cheerios in his crib.

I definitely did not have a monitor (and if I had had one, it would have been packed away or in the toy box. Or given it to some poor new parent who actually cares about their baby's sleeping habits.)
Noah slept in a swing, in the car seat, next to his 6-year-old brother on the couch, on the floor surrounded by toys because I completely forgot he was playing there and he passed out for a nap.

Covered in blankets, on a recliner. A recliner!

How Do You Get the Baby/Child to Sleep at Night?

First Child

Jack was surrounded by words - lullabies, books, songs, poems. Every cd carefully picked out from a recommendation in a Parenting magazine. Songs for naptime, for playtime, for cleaning up, for eating. Every bite of food is talked about - color, texture, taste. Words were enunciated to help with verbal development - Print Rich Environment, Developmentally Appropriate Play!

I pored over the books for sleep. Books on how to send baby to dreamland with comfort. No crying it out, no break in the mother-child bond. He was rocked, tummy to tummy, swaddled, fed (but not right before sleeping! Feed then begin nighttime routine so he learns how to fall asleep). When it was finally time for Jack to sleep in his crib (8 months old. 8. Freaking. Months), I followed a program, step by step. First sitting by his crib, talking softly. Then sitting quietly. Finally moving my chair towards the door (all this time a night light is on, the white noise maker filling the room with the soothing sounds of a babbling brook) and then lastly, leaving the room after Jack falls peacefully asleep, being assured that I was there as he slept.

Third Child

I'm using what few parenting books I have left to hold up the leg of the coffee table. If I have a question, I google it. But they're usually not parenting questions. More like "What is the maximum amount of wine I can drink in a day that is socially acceptable?"and "How often do I HAVE to wash yoga pants?"

For parenting advice, I ask my mom (which is silly because she can't remember our collective childhood. Her brain has blocked it out for self-preservation) or just make it up.

I rarely talked to Noah about his food except to say "NO! Don't eat that! That cheerio was in your diaper. Gross. You know what? Fine. Less I have to clean up later."

By that time I didn't have a subscription to any parenting magazines and if I did, I would have given them to the kids to cut out and glue on a piece of paper because it would've bought me 10 minutes of business and quiet until someone stabs someone else with the scissors.

Noah slept in a crib from the first night. I got up to feed him, often falling asleep in the rocking chair. Often he ate right before sleeping, pulling off from nursing in a milk-induced coma as I snuck out of the room. Or I just put him to bed crying, told him good night, and shut the door. He might have cried for awhile or he might have fallen right to sleep. I was too far away to know either way.

Nap Time

First Born

Jack napped at proper intervals and always with a book (often about naps - appropriately themed books). Then I would whisper to Jack as we lay side by side. We would talk about the things we did that morning and our plans for later that day. Thoughtful questions were asked and answered. A kiss on the forehead before leaving. Daily events were mapped out around sleep times, because it's so crucial to brain development.

Play date at 1?

Nope, naptime. Can't do it.

Dinner at 7?

Goodness gracious, nighttime routine starts at 7:15. We can't possibly do that. Our little one needs his sleep.

Third Born

He just sleeps whenever. Sometimes it's at actual naptime, right after lunch. But if he sleeps in the car or in the stroller, we count that as nap too.

Play date at 1?

Yes, please. I need some adult talk time. If Noah is really tired, he'll just sleep in the car on the way home.

Dinner at 7?

I don't have to cook? Yippee! Load up the kids and let's blow this pop stand. If Noah gets cranky because we're out late, we'll just strap him in the stroller. He'll eventually tire himself out with his tantrum.

On the rare days Noah naps, I might lay down next to him if I'm desperate. Then I have to pretend like I'm really wanting to take a nap with him. Like I'm exhausted and it's my dearest dream to curl up on his ratty old blanket that smells faintly of pee and milk and take a nap. He knows what's happening and watches me with suspicious squinty eyes.

So then I have to pretend to fall asleep almost immediately. Mouth open, maybe a soft snore because I'm so comfortable and cannot wait to nap.

He then asks me "Can I get up when you get up?" because he knows as soon as he falls asleep, I will sneak out.

So I have to say "How about this? Whoever gets up first gets to stay up. And if the other person is sleeping, that person will keep sleeping. Could be either of us. It's a toss up."

He'll try to talk me out of making him nap.

"Mom, my heart doesn't want to nap. My heart is saying "Noah, I'm not tired. Let's get up and play."

"Noah, your heart doesn't know what's going on. Your heart wants to nap. It's tired. Your heart is a liar."

Eventually he'll start to fall asleep and I'll try to slide off the bottom bunk bed.

I put my leg and arm on the ground to begin my departure.

Sometimes Noah's eyes will pop open - suspicious, piggy, glaring at me. So then I immediately pretend like I'm sleeping.

I act like I am deep in the best sleep of my life, even if my right knee is on a lego and my right hand is still scrolling through Pinterest on my phone.

At some point he does fall asleep and I creep out.

After he wakes up, Noah accuses me of not waking him up when I left.

"Why didn't you let me leave with you?"

"Noah," I say, aghast with emotion, "Noah, I tried! I would've loved to stay up and play with you but you were sleeping so well, I couldn't get you to wake up! I was like "Noah, Noah, please play with me, don't sleep" but you just kept on sleeping."

Now is not the time for scruples and honesty.

Now is the time for sanity and yoga pants while you drink your wine in silence.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

It's Still the Holidays! Somewhere.

Ever since the day after Christmas, I've been thinking to myself, "I should really write a Christmas post on the blog."

But then other thoughts would come and I'd forget all about the post.

Thoughts like:

"What should I make for dinner? We should be eating in 11 minutes and I've done nothing to prepare for this daily event."

"What's up with all the GoFundMe accounts? Medical ones I understand, crappy healthcare is the tie that binds most of it. But to give people money for their vacations? To purchase their hearing aids? Come on now. To put someone through college? To fund their wedding? Suffer through cheap young adulthood like everyone else."

"Where are my sweatpants?"

So you can see how I've just been swamped the past couple weeks. Hence, the late post. 

Our holiday season began with a trip to St. Augustine and their annual Nights of Lights (which is on the top 10 list of best city holiday light displays IN THE WORLD). Matt doesn't have much holiday spirit so I went with my mom. We went to the cool, big, wooden playground near the Visitors Center for awhile and then got on the trolleys to take the Holly Jolly Tour around the city. 

Doesn't that sound like fun?

They even give you these special 3D glasses that make all the lights look like snowflakes or ornaments.

I know the pictures are terrible but my phone froze halfway through so I borrowed my mom's phone and struggled with the settings. 
But really, by now, mediocre pictures are what you've come to expect from my blog.
We rode on the trolley and sang Christmas songs over the PA system and enjoyed that most beautiful city lit up for the holidays. During one song, possibly 'Santa Baby,' Noah starts loudly singing "We will, we will, ROCK YOU!" 

It really made the song.

Then we walked around the old Spanish area, which is one of my favorite places. One of the little shops had a "snow" machine, which was actually soap but these southern kids loved it.

We also ate at a Jacques Cousteau/Nautically themed eatery which serves only specialty waffles and milkshakes.

I know what you're thinking: It's about time all those things came together in one magical setting. It's only natural.

We also had a picture with Santa (in which Jack refused to participate or talk to Santa) and a picture with the world's tallest elf.
In carrying on the tradition, there were several photo sessions where I made everyone dress up in holiday attire and pose.

Everyone loves it.

Eventually, it gets so frustrating that I say "That's it! Everyone inside for dinner. Take off your antlers."

This year I even considered mailing out Christmas cards, which is a big step from years past when, if the idea of Christmas photos entered my head, I would immediately think "Screw it."

Christmas letters don't make much sense to me anymore after the advent of social media. Everyone sees pictures of my kids all the time and knows what we're doing.

Plus, I just didn't want to.

Our actual holiday was very nice. We hosted the traditional Christmas Eve dinner/ Aunt Becky's birthday/adult White Elephant gift exchange (as I type it, I realize that doesn't sound quite right.).

I try to take a picture on Christmas Eve but not this year. You'll have to wait a whole year to see my blurry cell phone picture. Sorry about your luck.

Everyone differs on this but I tend to not take a ton of pictures. First of all, most of the time nothing happens with them. They just sit on your cell phone or on your Facebook page or Instagram or whatever. Second, it tends to take over your experience. Rosie and I were at a party a couple weeks ago and we remarked that the people there weren't even really there, talking and laughing and enjoying each other. It was a couple hours of just selfies. Selfies of you, selfies of you and a friend, selfies of the whole group at the table, etc. One or two pictures, yes. But when people have 136 pictures in an album chronicling one average event, it seems to have become a problem.

Suffice it to say, I took three pictures on Christmas Day, two during the quiet afternoon at my parents house.

Christmas morning Matt and I woke up early and sat and drank hot things and had a moment to ourselves before the rabid anarchy of the morning begins. We did presents and had breakfast with Matt's parents. Noah got this construction worker set from Matt's parents and he is all about it.

We hung out and watched a movie and enjoyed the presents for awhile before we headed to my parents for lunch. It was around 80 degrees here on Christmas so my parents had a fire going ON THE TV. 

This is a picture of Christmas afternoon at my parents house. We spent some time out there sitting on the porch and listening to Kate's rendition of "Let It Go." Noah entertained us with another rousing chorus of "We Will Rock You." 

Which led to us googling the verses, while sipping our adult root beers.

Holiday Cheer.

We played games, we ate lots of food, we were together.

After Christmas, Matt took a couple days off. We considered renting a cabin in North Georgia but the weather up there was rainy. We looked into camping but lots of good sites were taken. So we stayed home. We went out to eat everyday with giftcards, we played in the yard with the kids, we played game after game of Monopoly. The trash talk, oh the trash talk. 

One day we went to Joe's Crab Shack and let the kids play on the beach. 

Tali and I spent some good time being chased by the waves and laughing.

Jack also overcame his fear and went on a (non-highway) ride around town on Matt's motorcycle. He said he might even let Papa take him on the jetski and go over 15 miles an hour. My dad, who is a safety-conscious engineer, says it's too cautious even for him.

Jack told us after the ride that he thought he was going to die the entire time. He told us "I said to myself, "Jack, this is it. Your last day on Earth.""

So that was our holiday. Consider this your Christmas newsletter/picture. And since it's already 2016, I'm just going to mark this one down as the 2016 holiday picture and letter. I'll let you know if anything changes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Random Ramblings: Sports Edition

I wish I could say my long absence from blogging was the result of something amazing - a European pilgrimage, completion of a novel, finally learning how to curl my hair with a straightener.

The sad truth is that we were camping and our computer was being repaired and I had nothing good to write. If you've ever read my blog before, you know that that has never stopped me before but there you go.

Today's Random Ramblings all have to do with sports and exercise. Which makes me sound really athletic. Which I totally am (unless you know me in real life. And then I'm totally kidding.).

Professional Soccer

As a thank you to coaches, my local chapter of Girls on the Run gave the coaches free tickets for them and their families. Girls on the Run is a really cool running program that teaches girls how to be confident and encourages positive emotional and physical health. I'm one of the coaches and Kate is in the program, which is such an amazing experience to go through with her. But that's a post for another day.

Back to the soccer game. So we got these free tickets for coaches (there I go again, flaunting my sportiness). It was pretty fun - much more fun to watch than football or baseball. It's constant action and the athleticism of the players was astounding. Jack plays soccer and Kate will play next season so it was fun watching the game with them. My in-laws watched the littles for obvious reasons.

All I have to show you are two mediocre cell phone pictures. I can either learn photography or I can concentrate on being beautiful. No time for both.

At one point during the game, the captain of our local team (who was a phenomenal player) did a couple wrong things and got kicked out of the game. I don't know what they were but everyone was booing so I did.

Apparently I look like I know what's going on even though I'm actually clueless. It's a rare gift. So one of the guys in the row behind me starts talking to me like I know things. He has that beautiful lilt in his voices that I associate with Afica. Our conversation is like this:

Guy:  I don't know what the referee is thinking. You can't call players out on a (soccer term) play. It's absolutely ridiculous. It changes the entire game.

Me: Don't I know it.

We are both shaking our heads with disgust and then I turn back around. He goes back to shouting and making animated gestures concerning the game and I go back to the kettle corn.


I consider myself in ok shape. Not great but not terrible. Just average. I decided to try the 21 Day Fix workouts. Not the dumb little containers which are most likely overpriced but the workouts. I borrowed them from a friend. The workouts are pretty good except that woman who leads them always says at the beginning "We're going to have some fun today" and I then make a mental note to never invite her to a party because her idea of fun and my idea of fun are very different. And also I wouldn't be able to enjoy my pizza rolls because she'd be judging me.

These types of workout videos always have a modifier, someone who shows you how to make the moves a little easier. You know, push ups on your knees, squatting but not as low, etc.

What I need is a modifier to the modifier.

"Hey guys, we're going to have some fun today. If you need some help, Janelle is over here to modify the moves for you (Janelle smiles and nods at the camera). And if you need even more help, this is Jessica's first week doing this program and if you feel like you're about to die, do what she's doing."

 - 45 seconds into the 60 second cardio blast move (or whatever fun term they have for torture), Jessica stops and gets a handful of chips and watches everyone else finish.

 - Jessica starts doing push-ups on her hands and feet, then goes to knees, then eventually against the wall, all while trying to get the dog off the yoga mat.

 - 9 minutes into the 20 minute workout, Jessica stops and says aloud "Ok, that's it, I'm done." She flips open a computer and scrolls through Pinterest while everyone else finishes the workout.

Holiday Themed Races

This past Sunday my best friend and I ran a Halloween 5k. We laughed so much that we were wiping away tears and our cheeks were sore. We always joke that our children are confused by our smiling and laughing on our Friday afternoon playdates.

"What is that sound?"
"Oh that's mom laughing. I know it's confusing as she's usually barking orders but you'll get used to it."

We thought about signing up for a 5k every weekend.

Or bypassing the race altogether and just driving around for a couple hours by ourselves.

Even though it was a Halloween race, there weren't a ton of people dressed up. Rosie and I decided to go as two stay-at-home-moms who didn't train much. If I do say so myself, we nailed it.

For those of you non-racers, everyone lines up according to their pace so as not to irritate people in front of and behind you. I think it started at a 6 minute per mile pace and moved up from there. We thought about joining that one but in the end moseyed over to the 12 minute mile flag, where the toddlers in costumes were starting out.

Usually the race announcers are chipper and encouraging. This one wasn't. His voice would boom over the runners:

"Make sure you're in the right pace group. If you're too slow, we're going to pull you out and put you in the back with the walkers."

"The course is clearly marked. If you get lost, it's your own fault."

To Rosie I said "If you guys even finish. Losers."

To add insult to injury, I had forgotten my mp3 player. So instead of listening to the sounds of Lecrae and Creedence Clearwater Revival, I had to listen to the sounds of my own breathing.

Horrible, gasping death rattle.

As typical with races, I was passed. While it's still demoralizing, at this race I could at least amuse myself by watching those who pass me:

A middle-aged woman dressed in what I can only assume is a toddler's pirate wench costume. Bustier, fishnet stockings, striped miniskirt. I can only imagine running a long race in that.

Oh the chaffing.

Rosie and I were also passed by a man who looked about 90 - long, skinny, sinewy legs. He wasn't even really running, just short stepping ahead. And still he gained.


Sometimes they were double strollers, some athletic and cute young parents chatting happily as they passed me, probably planning their jaunt up Mt. Kilamanjaro, baby carriers strapped to their Under Armour clad backs.

The announcer was right about me, after all.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Random Ramblings

It's that time again!

Never Recovering

A couple evenings ago one of our offspring walked in on us.


It's probably every parents' nightmare and wouldn't you know, the one time we forget to lock the door and a kid comes to our door at night, which never happens. I'm sure you'll be able to read all about it in this kid's future book:

Traumatized: An Autobiography

Chapter One: I wanted to stick a fork in my eyes

I am very thankful that it wasn't Jack. He's not old enough to know things but he's old enough to know something. He would probably just move out of the house because he couldn't stand to be near us anymore.

"Jack, what are you doing?"

"Taking my mattress out to the workshop. Please don't contact me ever again. You are both dead to me."

I'm sure we'll hear all about this decades down the line, at a family card game or something.

"Hey, you guys remember the time I walked in on you? My life was all downhill from there."

Kids, we just don't have enough in the therapy fund for all of you. You're just going to have to deal.

What Dreams May Come

A friend of ours told us he takes magnesium supplements to feel more refreshed in the morning. He did tell us a side effects is vivid dreams. So far my dreams have consisted of:

1. Everything in my friend's new house is made of paneling. Everything - walls, furniture, food. I struggle throughout the entire dream trying to figure out how to be supportive and positive about her new house but, at the same time, ask her what the frick is wrong with her. I sit at their panel table and try to cut my panel food with my panel knife.

2. I am driving around an unknown neighborhood. It's snowing - a blizzard. The road is treacherous. A white cat is sitting in the passenger seat, arguing with me about directions - we're lost. The cat is my best friend. I know I love the cat, we are like sisters, but I want to wring its furry little neck because she won't stop harping on me about where we should be going.

3. I'm at Comic Con and I'm eating Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. There's a girl there that everyone likes but I don't and I can't figure out why I don't like her. She's small, a dwarf. It turns out she's actually Hermione from Harry Potter (not the actress but the character come to life). I realize the reason I'm mad is because I thought she was taller and I feel betrayed.

So there you have it, a completely legal way to spend the first moments of each morning questioning your sanity. Recently I read an article that said our dreams are secretly our desires and our minds play them out. I don't think I want to drive around lost in a blizzard with a abrasively chatty cat but hey, maybe I do.

Violence Starts Young

Noah is in pre-k this year and everyone is happy about it. Everyone. The big kids and I get to have quiet homeschool times where we read about Ho Chi Minh (did you know that the city and trail are named after a person who began a revolution in Vietnam? I had no idea. It's so exciting to learn stuff) and discuss Einstein's thought experiments and watch Youtube videos on why cereal is attracted to magnets (there's iron in it but also something about the properties of water - I totally get it).

Anyway, Noah is very serious about pre-k. He tells us all the serious things that happened each day - from the letters they learned to the kinds of cookies they ate for snack (I want to send healthy snacks but every parents seems to send delicious desserts like pudding and rice krispy treats. If I send carrots and hummus, they will probably shank Noah at recess with blunt scissors). He loves going and being picked up by my best friend and her kids.

Noah also tells us how good he is each day. Which is both a frustrating and heartening thing for a mom. While you want your kid to be wonderfully behaved around other people, it's also a real kick in the teeth.

"So what you're saying is that you're completely capable of being kind and sweet and using a soft voice and being obedient and not screaming that you'll never sleep ever again while throwing toys and yet you choose not to be that way when you're at home?

You little punk, you.

The conversations go something like this:

"Mom, I didn't hit anyone today."

"That's good. Hitting hurts people."

"I also didn't pinch. Or kick. Or bite."

It just starts to escalate.

"Or stomp. Or spit. Or punch people's head."

...Or use an AK-47, or detonate a bomb, or steal someone's identity online..."

Please stop telling me all the kinds of violence you could have engaged in but didn't.

We'll be sleeping with one eye open.

And locking the door.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

New York 2015: Part 2

When we left off, we were not quite halfway into our NY trip recap.

All during our time in NY, Matt and I were visiting his Grandma Dot in the hospital, who was being treated for pneumonia and the underlying condition of congestive heart failure. Since the kids weren't able to go to the hospital, Matt and I took turns visiting her.

At some point, Aunt Sue told us that they had moved some of Grandma's stuff to her little assisted living apartment and if we wanted to go through the rest of the stuff and take things we wanted and/or reminded us of Grandma, we could. I found a doughnut magnet that said "Lord, if you can't make me skinny, make my friends fat."

Yes. I will definitely take that one.

We also found some sentimental things - Matt took Grandpa's old handsaw, I found some glass goblets with our last name and a crest etched in them, an old fashioned silver butter container, little things the kids would appreciate - costume pearl necklaces for the girls, a little wooden rocking horse for Noah, an old pin from Grandpa's job celebrating a clean driving record that Jack was thrilled to have. Echos of the past that seep into our present.

One day when I was visiting Grandma with Matt's Aunt Sue, the doctor came in and took off Grandma's O2 and said "Why do they keep putting her on oxygen? Let's see how she does without it."

As a nurse, I was willing to bet big money on two things:

1. There was a reason "they" kept putting her on oxygen.
2. The doctor would forget to put it back on.

Sure enough, the end of the conversation came, at which the doctor bade a hasty farewell. I had watched Grandma's oxygen drop from 98 to 87. So I ran after him and told him I could put the oxygen back on.


Grandma had been asking about seeing our kids and was sad she couldn't see them this trip. She recounted often the night on last year's visit when she and Tali ate corn and laughed at each other.

So on the last day in their town, while moving Grandma from the hospital to the rehab center, we stopped at Aunt Sue's house so Grandma could see the kids.

And son of a gun, do you know what Noah said as soon as he saw her?

"Grandma, we went to your house when you weren't there and took things you're not using."

She looked up at me with her sweet little old lady blue eyes.

"He might have Tourette's...we're looking into it..."

I do realize this is a terrible picture, Noah's head is cut off and Talitha isn't looking and you can hardly see Matt and Grandma. But the best we could do under the circumstances.

She was much more interested in interacting with the kids than taking pictures. These are the things we want our kids to remember. That it's important to do these trips even when it's tough and long and expensive. When Matt and I moved from Alaska to GA when Jack was a newborn, we purposely started in Chicago so we could visit both his grandpa and mine. They both died within months of those visits and we cherish that last time and the fact that they got to meet Jack. Life is so fleeting and so sweet. It feels good to know that the big kids at least will remember Grandma Dot and the little kids can look at the pictures and know that she was witness to their lives and they were to hers.

That morning we left and drove to Buffalo. Bittersweet goodbyes, a quick breakfast with good cousins and ice cream on the way.

We spent the night in Buffalo with Matt's best friend and his family. We played Marco Polo and tag and ate pizza and, after the kids went to bed, drank beer and watched the Republican debates and made fun of everyone, which is the only way to watch it.

On our last weekend, we drove 5 hours East to spend a couple days with Matt's brother and his wife and daughter. We rode the carousel in Saratoga amidst the horse race frenzy and swam in their pool everyday. Matt's brother was pleased with Noah's swimming ability and would often tell him to go jump in the deep end, to which Noah was take off at a full run and kick out a leg and yelled as he splashed into the pool to swim around underwater and do it again. The guys spent hours throwing the kids into the pool.

We don't get to see them too often, once or twice a year. I really enjoyed getting to know my sister-in-law Taryn a little bit more this trip. We literally spent each evening after the kids went to bed drinking wine (ok, a bottle a night but honestly, they're practically single serve bottles anyway), eating fruit, watching reality tv and doing our nails. We laughed, we talked, we got an extension cord for her little nail dryer. I regaled her with embarrassing stories of my childhood, including the time I moved right before 9th grade and decided to trim my own bangs. One side would be uneven, then the other.

What ended up happening was that I started my high school years (at a brand new school in a brand new state) looking like a recent lobotomy patient. My bangs were literally a short spiky line across my forehead. Straight up.

Needless to say, I was not voted "Best Hair."

Anyway, it's hard to stay at someone else's house with young kids. Every house we went to, the kids acted like they had never been in a house before.

"What's this? A glass door? How odd. Should we lick it? Should we slam it?"

"Wow, a staircase! Let's stomp up and down really fast over and over and then throw a ball up and down the stairs."

It was exhausting. And Matt's brother and his wife are such good parents. Patient, gentle with speaking, constantly attentive. There was a point in our weekend there that Matt looked at me and said "Hey, where's Noah?"

Neither one of us knew. But we just kind of shrugged and went on with our meal.

Speaking of meals (and feeling like a crap parent), Andrew and Taryn would lovingly strap their daughter into her high chair and meals would be a time of exploration and learning, each food had a name and was talked about and praised.

We literally sent our kids to eat at the table by the pool so we could eat in peace. Occasionally we'd open a window and yell things.

After watching this sweet display of engaged parenting, Matt and I would say to each other "Remember when we cared?"

(As a side note, I was telling my bestie about these great parenting moments and my feelings of inadequacy and she interrupted me with an astonished "Wait - they still have a strap on their high chair?" She and I are kindred spirits - Rosie is the Diana to my Anne.)

On the way home, we stopped at a hotel. We ate at a Johnny Rockets where the girls entertained us with dancing. Then we swam in the hotel pool until 10 pm.

Our final destination was my Aunt and Uncle's fabulous new home in SC. Aunt Cindy enjoyed spoiling my oatmeal-eating kids with Toaster Strudels (which was a first for all of them) and I spent some time on their amazing back porch, talking to their neighbor about her upcoming adoption from China. All in all, good times. Til next year, Yankees!

Monday, August 24, 2015

New York 2015: Part 1

It has been awhile.

We went to NY for a couple weeks and then when we got back, our computer was dead. We finally got it back yesterday and since everything had to be wiped clean (which is the technical term), I lost my automatic sign-on to this blog. It took about an hour of googling "Can't access my blog" and emotionally stuffing my face with food but I finally figured out that the account I used to open this blog had a number at the end. You know, for security and stuff. So secure I could not remember what it was. So now I have 3 Google accounts.


Here we are again, recounting our annual trip to NY. We've only done it twice but it's still a super big tradition. It's never really a vacation - 4 kids in a car, 22 hours there, 22 hours back, hours driving house to house. It's more because it's important to us that the kids know their family. And we happen to have a dense population of family and friends in NY so the trip is worth it. So we tell ourselves.

It was tough last year but this year, we were even stupider.

Earlier this year we had a visit from Matt's cousin, Alana. She's the assistant director of a Christian sleep-away camp in NY that she had grown up going to. When she came for a visit, we talked about sending the two big kids to camp for 3 days at the start of our trip.

Here's where the stupid comes in.

The big kids had their YMCA swim championship on Saturday morning - August 1.

They had to be at camp Sunday afternoon - August 2.

"No big deal," we said to each other, "we have gummy Melatonin. They'll sleep right through the night."

Oh the lies we tell ourselves.

I drove the kids an hour southeast of our home Saturday morning while Matt stayed with the littles and packed the car. Their beloved coach knew we were leaving for a long car trip that day and sewed them pillowcases for the trip - is that not so sweet? Also, I suddenly realized why the coach asked Jack what sort of things he liked a couple of weeks before.

"If you could decorate your room, what would you choose? Frogs? Planets?"


A moment of bewildered silence.

"How do you decorate your room in physics?"

"Equations, of course."

The fabric store must have been fresh out of physics fabric so she settled on an ocean theme.

After the swim championship, we started our journey. It was around 2 pm when we left. I thought about taking a picture of us leaving but no one was in the mood. We ate a tantalizing dinner of partially thawed pb&j sandwiches and various dry snacks in plastic cups. Dessert was gummy melatonin. I had imagined everyone drifting peacefully off to sleep, plastic cups of goldfish clutched loosely in hands, a Pixar movie playing softly on our beloved laptop.

Instead it was a fitful dozes of 15-45 min at a time and never all four kids at once. Whenever we pulled into a gas station to fill up or pee or a rest area, heads would pop up like a macabre game of Whack A Mole. Inevitably there were muted complaints from the big kids and cries and shouts of 'I want to go home!" from the little kids.

We eventually made it to NY state and, since we had a few hours before camp, called Matt's former youth pastor to swing by for a couple hours to visit him and his family.

We had a wonderful couple hours - talking, feeding horses, eating all their food.

Matt's youth pastor had such a profound effect on him as a teenager that he was why Matt became a youth pastor at age 20 - and why Jack's middle name is Dean. Matt lived with Dean and his family after his parents moved to AK at age 18. They named their son Matthew after Matt.

Their son, Matt, is the guy putting the helmet on Jack. I told them I would be a poor ER nurse if I didn't make him wear a helmet - I, who have seen quite a few injuries from 4-wheelers in my day. Even though it's Jack and Jack would no more take a turn fast enough to flip than Bill Clinton would become a monk. In fact, Dean offered to let Jack ride around on his riding mower. Jack, who helps Matt mow on his own riding mower at home, asked Dean if there was a safety shut-off (where the engine cuts off if the person driving it vacates the seat). He told him, no, there's not, it's an old model. Jack refused to drive it without a safety shut-off.

After a pleasant couple of hours, we headed over to camp. They had such an amazing time at camp and it was so special to have their cousins at the camp to watch over them and make Jack's 10th birthday memorable.

We spent three days at Matt's aunt and uncle's house in NY while the big kids were at camp. The last night there, Matt's cousins brought the kids back and we had a corn roast (which is a tradition at Uncle Bill's, something he grew up doing as well). Matt's Aunt Sue bought ice cream cupcakes and a gift for Jack (a rechargeable flashlight from their hardware store - win).

So that brings us to Tues night - 3 days into our 10 day trip. And there's still Part 2, you lucky, lucky people, you.