I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Four Months Condensed in One Post: Boom! Done.

 So... it's almost October and I haven't written a single post since the beginning of the summer. Most parents know that once your kids are out of school for the summer break, most personal projects and that one or two hours of downtime you grew accustomed to just disappear. Not to say that I was diligent in my blog posts before summer, but... well... our lives got even busier.

 No complaints here: I will take a social life and vacations over countless available hours on the internet. When we first moved to Buffalo - life was much less hectic (due to not knowing more than five people!) and with only one kid in school. Now Ayla is blossoming in second grade, bouncing between playdates, homework, swim and gymnastics class. Jackson is loving full-day Kindgarten and ballet classes - as well as refining his Wii skills before and after school. Elliot is now old enough for preschool and literally rolls his eyes at me if I don't leave fast enough at drop-off. We are a family that enjoys our time together, but damn, they also love to get out of the house and be with their friends! I am thankful every morning for their confidence and happiness to be away from me! (But also thankful that they are happy to see me at the end of the day too.)

 Our summer itself was bonkers. In June, we hosted grandparents for Ayla and Jackson's dance recital. We traveled to Canada twice: once with my cousins and their adorable children to camp in Pinery Provincial Park, and another to finally meet my cousin Lynn's children for the first time. (Seems like not such a big deal... until you hear that these boys are in high school! Unfortunately, in my spread out family - it's not uncommon to go 15 years between visits.)

 In July, we took our first beach vacation in three years. Thanks Gramps and Nano for having an amazing beach house and keeping in un-rented at the peak of the season. We traveled through Greensboro (to see more family), to Holden Beach, NC for a week of boat rides and baking in the sun. And on the way back, packed three kids and myself into my sisters' compact DC apartment for a little sightseeing and DC food trucks. Not to mention seeing my college roommate and bridesmaid, Ilyse, for the first time in almost a decade.

 And in August, we co-hosted a big "check out" party for my husband and his co-worker Luke. Basically - there is an enormous amount of training when you sign on to be an air traffic controller. Months in Oklahoma City, months (okay, even years) of on-the-job training for your local airport. So what better excuse to celebrate and get everyone together for the ice-luge?

  We were also lucky enough to have more visitors in August! My friends Sara and Shane brought their two kids en route to Maine; the highlight being our trip to the fairgrounds and the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. Grandparents and Uncle Matthew came to our party, Ayla turned 7 (whattt!), and an overnight visit from Gregory's Uncle Chris. There was also a little wedding dress shopping with my sister in the 'burgh... eeep!

 Did I mention that we also sent the kids to Pittsburgh for some solo time with their grandparents? That means Ayla and Jackson were gone for two weeks and Elliot spent a good four nights away as well. Gregory and I went on a date night without paying a babysitter! We also turned our house in Pittsburgh over between renters - it was emotional, yet awesome, to be back in our first home, cleaning, replacing floor tiles, putting the wet vac to good use and trimming back the grapevines in the backyard. Epic events.

 That brings us to September: getting back into school routines, packing lunches and running to different daily activities. More time for sewing (which is a main reason this blog has fallen to the wayside), my Etsy shop is busier than ever and I can power through quilts in less than a week. More time for daytime lunch dates when Elliot is at his school and more time for Zombie Mud Runs... and for Baxter's little accident.

 Yes, Baxter had an accident. He has always been known to take off running at the slightest opportunity. This time he ran straight into a moving vehicle. We watched him charge down our street and then bounce off a sedan. And then bounce back up and run back to the house, utterly bewildered. Somehow we didn't hold a doggie funeral and one week later, he is back to his normal (ha!) self.

 This was all on a day that we had friends from Pittsburgh come up to run the Zombie Mud Run with us... so we were pretty spent from darting growling zombies and trudging through mud, having our dog get hit by the car proved to be too much for one day.

  And here we are, with some trips already planned for fall and incredibly lucky to have a life filled with friends, family, vacations and Zombies, too. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

It's not the Teenage Years you should be worrying about...

Although I am dreading what kind of trouble my kids will be getting into ten years from now... they are pretty ridiculous these days. The toddler years. The preschool years. The... duh duh DA... elementary school years.

 Ayla, Jackson and Elliot have a keen ability to make the most mischief out of the time we give them. If we give them an inch, well, you know exactly what happens.

 The other night we had put them into their beds upstairs. All three are sharing the upper floor of our cape cod house. (As a side note, I kicked Elliot out of his bedroom downstairs and turned it into my office/sewing room. He has the most adorable nook to himself and he loves it up there, hanging with the big kids.) So - all three are up there and not exactly willing to go to sleep.

 But they were in bed. And we were done parenting for the day. We walked thirty feet into the backyard and layed in the hammock for about ten minutes before we saw a little face pop up in the dining room window. Jackson yelled, "Mama, where are you?" I yelled, "In the hammock. Jackson, where are you?" He replied, "In the house!" Now, all of that was settled.

 He was instructed to go lay in our bed and we hoped that he was the only straggler.

 About a half hour later, we went back in the house. BUSTED. Jackson had grown bored playing games on a cell phone. He knows better. So, he turned on the tv and was just watching a show. He knows much better! And he must have heard us come in the house and realized there was no safe place to turn. Not enough time to turn off the television!

 He was easily put to bed. But at least upstairs was quiet, right? I am sure it hadn't been while we were outside. It looked like they threw a preschool kegger. All of the stuffed animals had been unearthed and thrown around the room. Elliot was literally sleeping on top of a huge Elmo doll. Ayla was sprawled across her bed with God knows how many little toys hidden under her pillow. They must have had a blast.

 My thought is this: if they can get crazy in a half hour when we are still in the yard... what hope do we have when they are legally allowed to be by themselves? Will they rob the convenience store around the corner? Will they invite fifty friends and fill the house with popcorn? (You've read this book, I assume.) Will they make Elliot do the kinds of pranks I made my own sister do?

 I should have taken pictures to document, I know. But sometimes it really gets difficult to keep up with the shenanigans. As I write this, they are all in bed.... Jackson was singing about 15 minutes ago... but I think we are safely out of hijinx for the night.

 Famous. Last. Words.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Everybody Cries at the Gym... Right?

 "Why, why... tell them that it's human nature.... why, why, does he do me that way?"

 So... I have an embarassing habit.

 If a Michael Jackson song "shuffles" into my playlist while I am running... I kind of start crying. Yeah, I start crying. For real. I think this is the essence of my workout: to pound out all of those circling thoughts, worries, aggression, fears, to-do lists and general over-caffeinated-ness. Now that I *try* to consistently run a few times a week, I find that it gives me an outlet for the trials of simply being human. While that is awesome (and better for my stomach than ice cream therapy), it also comes with the side effect of emotional vulnerability. In the presence of everyone at the YMCA.

 I don't mind though. Consider it more of an emotional swell than a bona fide breakdown, with tears of awareness more than sadness. I dare anyone to listen to "Man in the Mirror" without some sort of self-introspection occurring. It's just that running brings all of these emotions and questions to the surface. And when the two collide: it's crazy town on the treadmill! :)

 Reason #1 - Running makes me think of my father: a complicated, happy then sad then happy again person. He has been out of my life (deceased) for 15 years, yet time doesn't make a difference when it comes to that specific loss. He was a runner. He ran marathons. Of all the things he probably should have been consistent at, one of those things that seemed always to be in his life was running. I remember how he would go running after work and then come home to finish his workout with sit ups on one of those generic camping mats. He was gross and sweaty, and probably sat on the couch without taking a shower first. He would open a Rolling Rock and sometimes let me have a sip. Therefore, it is my most nostalgic flavor in the world after zucchini fritters.

 When I was old enough to run, he helped me "train" for the Osborne marathon. Our elementary school made a big deal about running laps around our school - probably to the tune of a mile or two. He supported my dismal races on the middle school track team, coming to cheer me on until I stopped wanting to go. His biggest rule: don't stop running. Hold your arms above your head if you have cramps, just don't stop running. This could be a HUGE analogy for life if I could just get a grip on the words.

 I am nothing but an amateur runner: I don't have hopes that I will ever have the discipline to run a marathon. But it's my default exercise and it always brings me to a space in my head that is calmer. I wonder what my father thought about on his runs and whether it had any sort of Zen affect on all of those grown-up troubles he must have had.

 Reason #2 - Listening to Michael Jackson will always make me sad. I miss him. Duh.

 Reason #3 - Ever since the Boston marathon bombing, I have come to equate the spirit of marathon runners as an untouchable grace. Humanity is one screwed up venture. People are often so shitty and so awful that it makes you question "why, why does he do me that way?". To attack runners and their spectators in an event that takes months and years of training, for something so quintessentially innocent, is baffling. Of course I felt the same way after the Newtown shooting and many other senseless tragedies. But I think my reactions to ALL of the garbage I have seen in the world is culminating in this most recent shitstorm.

 It all comes down to my inability to accept that life is going to be unfair. I want bad people to be known for who they are and to be punished. I want good people to be recognized and left alone. Gregory would qualify this as my black and white thinking. It's true. I have major beef with humans. I don't like that otherwise "good" people can become crazy or delusional and do "bad" things, all while completely rationalizing it. I don't understand it. I'm not perfect... but as an adult, I keep busy with crafts and my kids and trying to think of what new recipes to try: not how to actively hurt people. It bothers me that I live in a world where people do horrible things and that my kids will grow up and learn that fact as well.

 So, on my runs, I cry about that too.

 And then the moment passes. I laugh at my ridiculousness. I feel better that the run is over and I can cross that, metaphorically, off of my daily to-do list.

 ***And as an emotional disclaimer: I know I come on here every few weeks and rant, I promise the next post will be a little less philosophical and little more haha, my kid did something funny anecdotal. ***

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Artwork to Soothe the Soul

 I should be writing about the Boston marathon. The bombing has caused panic and pain nationwide, including my own psyche. I can't think of many more events (other than the daily life in elementary school) that is hopeful, awe-inspiring and benevolent than a marathon and it is absolute SHIT that someone felt the need to set off explosives.

 Yet, I haven't wrapped my brain around what exactly I need/want to say. April is an emotional month for me as it is, and coupled with terroristic acts, the anniversary of Virginia Tech and my overbearing parental feelings: I am upset. We all are. Events like this make us question humanity and why we have to coexist with such madness.

 While I gather my thoughts and try to not belittle the events with sensationalism and trite sayings; let's just focus on the two drawings I have been meaning to scan for the past month. God Bless the survivors and God Bless the poor family that lost their little boy.

Ayla's recollection of having the stomach flu. The projectile vomiting is intense! 

Jackson's "definition" of love. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Honeymoon in Retrospect (Because It's Cold Outside)

 This unending winter weather (more like just getting serious) has pushed my thoughts into happier places. Warmer places. Ocean places. Relaxing places. Need your sunglasses places.

  Most specifically, cruise ships.

 It is a cruel trick to sit and endure cruise line commercials January through March, knowing that you are still years away from enjoying their majesty. The marketing offices are filled with geniuses: because it's just at that moment when you wake up to frost (again) and looking in the mirror confirms that you have lost every hint of a tan from last summer; that you are quite close to picking up the phone and booking a cruise regardless of finances and real life demands.

 See, I know that it's not practical, or remotely affordable, to bring three small children on a cruise. We have plans/dreams of going on a Disney cruise in the next couple of years. I keep saying "next year", but that may jinx us more than anything else, so I will stick with "in the near future". Our Disney card is racking up points with every grocery store purchase and someday we will book the vacation.

What else do people do when wearing lifevests?

The good ol' Panama Canal

 Our last cruise was our honeymoon in 2004. We sailed on the Carnival Paradise, perhaps the second most infamous boat in their line, after the sewage disaster Carnival Triumph was stranded at sea. Gregory recently discovered that our cruise was eventful enough to be described on Wikipedia. It was their last sailing as their only non-smoking ship, precisely because non-smoking ships generate less money. You can read about it here. Or I can just tell you about it.

 Exactly where do I begin? We left a day late because of hurricanes in Miami. Therefore we could not stop in Aruba. Carnival rewarded our misfortune with onboard credit. We weren't phased by the "bad" news (because, really, I acknowledge these are first world problems) because it was our honeymoon and YES! we were going on a cruise! So we sailed for about a week straight - through the Panama Canal and stopped in Acapulco. Then we hit rough waters in the Pacific and couldn't disembark at Cabo San Lucas. More onboard credit. Our last couple of days were extremely windy with warnings posted to stay indoors. And finally, upon arriving in Los Angeles - we get the voicemails telling us that storms and flooding in Pittsburgh had totalled both of our cars.
In Costa Rica

Still, the best tan of my life. 

Did someone says drinks?

 A trifecta of bad weather all around the western hemisphere. 

 So, our weather and luck could have been better - and in retrospect, our luck WAS better than some because our boat never caught fire and we never had to pee in buckets. We saw beautiful coasts in Mexico, went kayaking, hiked through the rainforest, read books in the sunshine, drank with the bartender at the pool, laughed at the onboard entertainment and cruised the world for two weeks. We were on our Honeymoon, for God's sake!

 You might think I am a nut job for speaking wistfully of this vacation: we missed half the places we wanted to see and learned our lesson about cruising in the off-season. But it was fun. I was cruising with the love of my life. It was exciting AND our fateful ship was notable enough to mention in the Carnival logbooks.

 Therefore: we can't wait to risk the open seas again! This time with three kids in tow. :)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


This guy has been "posing" all over the country. 

 I know I have been unforgivingly inconsistent. Just give me a few years and I will have all the time I need to devote to thoughtful writing and insight about life.

 Our man Jackson has been UP to a lot of antics lately. I can't blame him for being a complete weirdo, because, well, we encourage it. A lot. The stranger the comments, the harder we laugh. This post is dedicated to some of the more *interesting* moments we have had in the past few weeks. (Disclaimer: the use of the word "pito" will be frequent here. Please don't google it because I don't want to be responsible for what you find. Pito simply means... well, somebody's privates.)

 Here are some choice moments that deserve to be shared:

 During a routine drive back from the grocery store, Jackson started singing, "My little Pi-to, my little Pi-to, ahhh, ahhh, ahh ah" to the theme song from My Little Ponies. Perhaps I should not have laughed so hard because I think I have encouraged him to change many a songs' lyrics.

 While changing at the Y after swimming, Gregory caught Jackson looking at himself in the mirror and saying "My, what a beautiful pito." He then went on to say that about many of his other attributes. What I would do for that self confidence!

 And, finally, an embarrassing incident at good ol' Tim Horton's. We were walking back to our car, past the windows when Elliot stopped to wave goodbye to a little girl sitting inside. Aww, how cute, right? Elliot waves. The toddler waves back. I smile. Then Jackson sticks out his tongue and swipes his finger across his throat in that way that says, "You're dead" or "I am going to kill you." YEAH, I wasn't smiling anymore and I didn't wait to see if the little girl and her mother were smiling either. What the heck he was thinking, I don't know - maybe he thought it would be ironic? It's unexplainable and oddly predictable.

 That's the story of our 4 year old!

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Do you ever wonder what your kids remember from their early years? I recall trips to the grocery store, chasing the reflections of light on the floor. I remember meal time and playing with my Barbies and Jesus figurine. (You read that right!)

But when it comes to important moments: birthdays parties, vacations, "bonding activities", all of the events that make or break a childhood, what exactly do kids remember? Do you yourself remember random nuggets of vacations you took in your elementary years?

I loved our first trip to Disney World at six years old. But what sticks in my mind? Waiting in line for the Dumbo ride and taking an overnight train from Florida back to Pennsylvania.

Our roadtrip over winter break was certainly not Disney world caliber, but I thought it would at least be exciting to visit the sights of Washington D.C. Hearing Jackson talk about his recent ventures gives me some insight into what really is memorable to a 4 year old.

Me: Whose house did we visit on our trip:
J: Evie's?
Me: And?
J: Mimi's
Me: And?
J: Nano's.
Me: AND?
J: President Obama!

So yes, seeing the White House might be cool... but not as exciting as spending time with family. How's that for priorities?