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

Monday, August 31, 2009

Holden Beach, Part Two

The second half our drive to the beach was a little more tortuous... so close, yet so far! I've really loved our GPS, but it randomly decides to take us on routes that no sane person would take. I mean, why would you choose the roads with car dealerships and 1,000 stoplights? Nonetheless, we took a more "urban" trip through North Carolina until reaching the oasis of Holden Beach.

Ayla enjoyed watching Annie on Gregory's cell phone, but possibly not as much as I did. I watched that movie for maybe 5 years straight during my childhood, so it is with selfish intentions that I've hooked Ayla onto that "Annie" drug. The best part is that she sings along, but only at the last word of each song. So we're listening to the intro, (she is watching in silence) "Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow...you're only a day a....." And then Ayla belts out, literally as loud as she can, "WAYYYYYYY!!!!!!" It's hilarious.

But this post isn't titled, Annie, Part Two.

We finally got to the beach and were united with the rest of Gregory's family (sans Matthew, unfortunately) - and we got to see a pregnant Rachel! Check out her blog, The Mama Experiment.

Unload the car, throw our bags into the bedroom and get in the water, damn it! Ayla had been yelling at us since the moment we crossed over the bridge to Holden Beach to "Stop, go to the beach!" She thought we had arrived and were proceeding to take her farther away. What cruel parents would drive to the beach and only look from the car!

Ayla, of course, is fearless in the ocean. She jumps right into the waves face first and would probably stay in all day. This was Jackson's third time at the beach - and he really didn't appreciate the water at first. Maybe he was tired from the drive (you know, since he refuses to sleep in a carseat) but he was completely overwhelmed by the crashing sounds of the waves. Lots of crying. Over the course of the week, he made peace with nature, but still only really liked to splash around in the low tide or watch it all from his lounge chair.

One of the nicest parts of the vacation is that we all take turns making dinner. Yes, the pressure is on for those two nights you have to feed 10 people... but getting to enjoy a tasty meal made by someone else when you have two small kids, it's almost better than sunbathing. Rachel and Raul made great meals - shrimp scampi and a simple, but exquisite shrimp boil. Gramps and Nano made a Greek feast of cous cous, hummus, cucumber salad, etc. and their best spaghetti sauce. Gregory and I made chicken & steak tacos and some tasty crab cakes with homemade french fries. (That's when the cooking for 10 people becomes a little stressful! - but you mastered it, Gregory).

The thing about vacation is that on the first day, you think to yourself, "Man, it's only Monday... I have a whole week off!" And then all of a sudden it's Friday and you are packing a sandy bathing suit back into the suitcase and wondering what happened.

But what did happen? We watched the finale of SYTYCD (for the second year in a row) and loved it. We tested out SYTYCD Canada and laughed our asses off - sorry Canada, but that was pathetic. It was like watching the dance-off between the worst dancers eliminated before U.S. choreography and then listening to clueless judges speak with either unintelligible accents (or fake Italian ones "Bravissimo!") and give them the highest praises! That country is afraid to admit mediocrity. "You sexy beast!"

We got Genevieve hooked on Greg the Bunny.

We drank margaritas, mojitos, dark and stormy's and the Red Hook beer sampler pack.

We dug holes in the sand, drew with chalk, jumped in the waves, put on lots of sunscreen, read books (finally got the time to read Eat, Pray, Love) and caught up with all that has happened in the last year. And it's always nice to get to know Raul (Rachel's husband) a little bit better!

This beach week was much more relaxing for me than last summer - how relaxing could it have been with a newborn? But, I had more realistic expectations for exactly how much time I was going to get to chill out on the beach AND everyone slept well. We put Jackson's pack-and-play in the bathroom off of our room (poor neglected child) and used a different bathroom out in the hallway. Ayla shared our king bed, which was more than enough room for all of us!

My kids have great relationships with the rest of the family - always asking Aunt Rachel and Uncle Raul to go swimming and Genevieve really kept Ayla happy by jumping in the waves! Nano took Ayla on an educational trip to the tidal pool (even though it was dried up) and Gramps really spoiled her with refrigerated binkies and fuzzy. Jackson treated them the same as any old stranger, with his strange scowl... he'll come around.

That's it for now, until Part three....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Holden Beach, Part One

Another summer and another visit to Holden Beach. We're lucky to have such a great place to spend our vacations; and great family to visit along the way. As the children get older, we have to be more creative with our travel plans - long gone are the days of making the 12-hour drive in one shot. Factor in bathroom breaks, sanity breaks, meals on the lawn outside of Wendy's - and that drive would turn into at least 15 hours of misery for all of us. Instead, we break the trip in half and try our best to keep a demanding Ayla and Jackson happy.

We left on a Friday morning and drove to Greensboro to catch up with Gregory's aunts, uncles, cousins and Gamma. We got to see the Kilmartin's new house and all of its' spendor! Ayla jumped right into Barbie land and was soon prancing around in Emma's princess outfits. (Not to mention the epic temper tantrum when we had to take it off for dinner).

Ayla isn't upset in Grace's arms - that's just the face she makes when she is pretending to be a princess in need of "true love's kiss".

The night was spent catching up, but I don't seem to have many pictures - everyone else was snapping away! We slept at Gamma's house, which is always very restful. And in the morning, we were ready to face the second half of our trip.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

And, he's off!

Jackson, that is. He's been walking pretty well for a few weeks now, after being inspired by a younger lady. When my friend Jenn and her beautiful "Anna Cake" (that's what Ayla calls her) came to visit, Jackson turned into quite the stalker and couldn't get enough of her. He climbed on her, tried to kiss/eat her and when she got away from him... he finally figured out how to take those first real steps on his own.

(I like the protective Mommy hand in front, Jenn!)

I am really enjoying watching my little man walk around the house. At first, he looked like a baby Frankenstein. Jackson held his arms out in front of him and struggled with keeping his balance. Now he's deftly turning corners and stopping to dance or pick up his favorite toys (which are necklaces and magic wands by the way). He is also climbing and absolutely loooooves to sit in chairs. For us normal people, you wouldn't think hanging out in chairs is all that awesome - but it is Jackson's new hobby. At the beach, he would go into the water for about .2 seconds before heading back to his lounge chair.

He has graduated from walking confidently indoors to uneven surfaces as well - especially our backyard, which has so much ditches and hills.... hopefully someday you'll see a blog about the leveling of said backyard. It's much more fun at the park now, although Ayla has not learned how to wait for her brother to get out of the way on the slide. Or else she has learned and just wants to kick him in the face. I guess I'll never know.

And I couldn't help myself with this last picture. Along with walking, he's learning how to vacuum. Naked.

But only with his pretend vacuum which plays annoying songs like, "Home, home on the floor. I'll vacuum from here to the door!" He is intrigued yet terrified of the real thing. But at least now he can walk quickly away from it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What does pink mean?

Ahh, the joys of teaching Ayla new things. We've been talking a lot about road signs and stop lights during our cars trips recently. She gets impatient at red lights and starts yelling, "Go, Mom, go! Let's keep going!" So, we turn it into a game and make her tell us when the light is green and we can go. (Don't worry, Pennsylvania, I still look... I'm not leaving it up to chance.) Here are some of things we've discovered about lights and colors and what they mean...

Green = we can go! Yay!
Red = STOP
Yellow = Sloooooow down
Black = Danger ahead
White = It's a snowy day!
Brown = Look out, there's poo poo ahead!
Pink = Bubble gum
Purple = grapes ahead

She's got the important ones down, and perhaps someday we will see a pink octagonal sign warning us about lots and lots of bubble gum. I just hope the sign for brown never ever EVER shows up.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I put my Internet foot in my Internet Mouth

I have to make a few amendments to yesterday's post about the shower. When I said "we", I meant "me". I am the clueless one when it comes to bathroom construction, not Gregory. He put in the hours behind the saws and measuring tape and plumbing configurations. He worked through the week that I was lying in bed, fevering away from a mystery illness.

My only contribution was to keep the children happy and away from sharp screwdrivers and cut tile. (Which I'm not downplaying at all, of course - those pesky toddlers missed their dada!). I also did my best to measure and place the shower tiles, and make several trips to Home Depot.

I apologize Gregory for downplaying your amazing handy-man skills. Although I do get a little sick to my stomach every time you starting using power-saws... you haven't cut off a limb yet, but I still worry!

So thank YOU for putting in our new shower. I love you. But I still love the shower just a little bit more...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I'm in love with a shower

So far, 2009 has been the Year of the Shower. It all started in January when the cold water pipe froze... and then the hot water pipe burst. And we were down one shower. Luckily, we still had our claw-foot tub. But this is the gaping hole that became a part of the scenery for 8 months.

Ayla and Jackson couldn't have cared less. The kitchen sink baths are a novelty and as far as they are concerned, there are more splashing opportunities in the tub. But, for Gregory and myself, it was a hassle. Every "shower" was a two-part process, (1) lean over the tub with the shower attachment washing your hair until your back hurts and (2) clean yourself off like a toddler!

Either we are laid-back or lazy, but this problem wasn't remedied until Gramps took control of the situation. It was just too intimidating to start the project. How in the hell does a person install a new shower? So in June, he forced us to get to Home Depot and pick out a tub. Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step to recovery right?

In the next couple of weeks, in between work and caring for two kids (and my ridiculous fever that I mentioned in an earlier post), Gramps tirelessly built us a new bathroom. He cut tiles, he figured out the plumbing, he built walls! Of course we helped, but let's be honest, we didn't have a clue what we were doing. We just took orders. :)

We already thought it looked beautiful at this point! (Because progress is beautiful, right?)

A finished wall!!!
Gregory takes his measuring very seriously...

And I'm just excited to be here!
OOhh, that scary wet saw...
And, as if our dreams weren't already coming true, he gives us more storage!

And now, everyday, I wake up with excitement to take a shower. Seriously. I love it. I'll never take it for granted again. It's easy, it doesn't leak - there's even a shelf for me to place my shampoo! Thank you Gramps!

Baking in 80 degree weather

So, it's a Friday night in August, sweltering hot (yet I refuse to turn on the air conditioning) and I get the urge to bake some bread. Great idea! Turn on the oven and make the house just a little bit more unbearable!

But I can't help it. I am intoxicated by all smells of bread baking - the rising, fermenting yeasty smells. I equate these smells with comfort and home and all things right. Yes, I grew up in a house that frequently baked. My mother is very accomplished at making theme cakes and had the decked-out decorative icing kit. My father, specifically, would bake breads and tortes and cookies all weekend long. Some of my most vivid memories are of the excitement I would feel when I was allowed to help sift the flour and measure all of the ingredients. We would lay waxed paper out on the kitchen table and sift the flour over it, crank crank crank, until it formed a beautiful mountain of fluffed flour. I also remember all of the times I got in trouble for touching the finished products. Before my father wised up and put all cakes and pies under a cake dome, I would just have to lightly touch the icing (after being explicity told NOT to do so) ... of course, leaving my stupid fingerprint on the polished chocolate cakes.

It must be in my genetic makeup - because these urges to bake always hit at strange hours of the night. When most people would be winding down, relaxing in front of the tv, I see the clock click to 11:00 and I think to myself, "Mmm, wouldn't some brownies be nice?" Then, I'm pulling out the cookbooks, scouring the internet and unloading the cabinets to find all of the ingredients.

But, damn it, baking is important. It ties into the slow food, local food, organic, natural movement. Every time I follow a home-made recipe, I always wonder at what point does the factory throw in high fructose corn syrup? It's really gross if you think about it. And I want my kids to know that bread is not something only to be found in plastic packaging with a company's name on it. (Speaking of, I remember a friend in college who said he didn't know that people could actually bake pies until he left home. He literally thought they could only be purchased in a store.) Just like with our vegetable garden, this is part of a life's education that all children should have.

In these times that everyone keeps harping that we're going back to basics and it's SO hard, I don't get it. I've lived on a budget for so long that I am thrilled to figure out yet another thing I can make myself. I grew up surrounded by the delicious smells of home-made bread, not to mention the satisfying taste! I wonder what America's next generation is going to remember about food and their childhoods... but I have a feeling that my own kids are going to think that it's normal to see their mother, sweating in the kitchen in August, because of a silly disposition to bake bread.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Refrigerator Zen

We returned Sunday from a week-long vacation from Holden Beach (more on that later) and began that tedious task of unpacking and readjusting back into our home. Some parts of this process I find annoying, like finding all of the spots where the cats threw up hairballs. Other parts of coming home are very comforting, like watching Ayla & Jackson settle in or going through a week's worth of mail.

But it's a curious process how people/families begin to "nest" immediately after being away from home. We wanted to get everything back in its proper place. Empty the coolers, dump the laundry in the basement, pet the cats, clean off the carseats, water the plants, organize the digital pictures. And in the process of cleaning up as the four of us and our stuff comes back in, I find myself taking a little effort to clean up the messes that were already there.

I read the book Eat, Pray, Love on vacation. Highly recommend it. Among other things, the author was discovering yoga and meditation. She was desperately trying to re-balance her life and "quiet her mind". I can relate to that. On my most frantic days, I frustrate myself by trying to accomplish a million tasks at once and somehow being surprised that I can't do them all... immediately! I can look into any room of the house and start thinking about all of the projects I want to do - put up a picture, cement more bricks in the fireplace, paint the attic steps - and my mind is running like crazy.

The worst spot, however, is the refrigerator. I plague myself with Tupperware containers because of a refusal to throw away leftovers. We have the most random condiments and salsas leftover from strange recipes I wanted to try out of Food & Wine. I see all of the remnants of meals we've already eaten AND ingredients to recipes I want to try. And in the end, most of the food is thrown away on Monday nights right before garbage pick-up. This is shameful and wasteful and it doesn't make me feel good about myself. Seriously, I can have an identity crisis about the contents of the refrigerator.

So, this past Sunday, as we were bringing our road snacks out of the car and looking at what had gone bad while we were away.... it was a great opportunity to clean everything out. Shelves were wiped down and produce drawers emptied (they are the worst). And now I am reaping the benefits of Refrigerator Zen. Only one salsa, one package of shredded cheese, some milk, jellies, sour cream, oranges, tortillas and no mystery Tupperware! In only a few days, it has truly brought me happiness every time I open the door. No meditating required.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Greg the Bunny

To the internet world:

I have recently re-discovered a short "sitcom" that aired on Comedy Central a few years ago. Greg The Bunny. Perhaps I am just a sucker for anything with puppets (or preferably Muppets), but this show is hilarious. Some of the episodes are movie parodies (such as Bunny Hall), and others elaborate into the lives of exciting characters like Count Blah!

You may just find that your life was incomplete before meeting Greg, Warren and Count Blah.... seriously.