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?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Wii Madness

Something has clicked in Jackson's brain. It's one of those life lessons that we all encounter. The temptation is there... but will it overtake us? The desire to spend hour upon hour jumping through virtual hoops to win coins or mushrooms or Lego studs.

 It seems that Jackson has caught the bug and now hears in his head, "MUST. PLAY. VIDEO. GAMES." Or more specifically, "MUST. PLAY. DA. WII".

 A few months ago, he could not have been less interested in playing by himself. He was happy to watch Ayla play princess story games and participate if she was in a loving mood. We have suggested playing Wii sports together and he had a pretty successful first try at bowling.... but he could take it or leave it.

 The situation now is completely different. And I might mean that we have a real "situation" with learning limits and controlling serious Wii side effects. I haven't started an incentive program yet, trading chores for Wii play time - but I think it will soon be necessary. The biggest problem is that Jackson will wake up early in the morning and start up a round of Lego Star Wars before anyone else is awake. God only knows how long he has been standing there (sometimes in his pajamas, sometimes stark naked) when we rouse Ayla for school at 8:15.

 Jackson constantly asks to "play da wii". Driving in the car home from school, he completely loses his sh%t if we have to stop at any store before going home. He would much prefer to run into the house, throw his backpack on the floor and stand in his coat and shoes for HOURS while slaying storm troopers with his lightsaber. (What's the problem, Mom?)

 Describing it as standing is not even a good description. He moves closer and closer to the screen, flailing the Wii remote around, jumping, bouncing back and forth and lunging and yelling. And yes, there is even the occasional maniacal laugh.

 While I am impressed by how good he has become at his Lego games (mostly Star Wars, but also the odd moments of Indiana Jones or Batman), I don't like the intensity. For awhile, Jackson didn't understand that turning off the television did not affect his place in the game. He was okay with pausing. He was okay with putting down the remote. But if we tried to turn off the screen - God help us all! Panicked tears and screams and terror. Many a time out has been spent over hitting, sticking out the tongue and going temporarily insane.

 And here is rock-bottom: one night I woke up with Elliot at around 4 am. Who did I see playing the Wii in the pitch dark of night? One lanky little guy with messed up hair. It was like a possession because when I told him it was time to get back in bed... he climbed right up the stairs and was asleep as soon as he was back on his pillow.

 Poor man. I understand it. How amazing was your first game system? We only had three games for our Nintendo and that totally rocked my world! I remember fighting for my turn and how traumatized I became if *perhaps* a certain older brother covered my eyes during Level 11 of Tetris.

 But now I am the parent dealing with the daily battle of limiting the Wii. I have to be honest: it is sometimes SO tempting to just let him keep playing because it could literally give me hours of uninterrupted sewing time or the ability to make dinner in peace. I am happy, though, that we are a family with ONE television and we are therefore forced to take turns (Elliot needs his Elmo, you know!) and not let anyone get sucked into a technology black hole.

 But then again, if I don't wake up at 4 in the morning, how do I know Jackson is really sleeping or just battling with droids in a galaxy far, far away?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Artists' Anger

 Rolling with the theme of disgruntled girls and strong emotions, let me share a recent "gift" from Ayla. These notes and pictures are the result of discipline. Our daily goal in this house is to get the kids to listen to each other, stop screaming, stop pushing, stop calling names (okay, that goes for me and Gregory too!).

 I can't remember the specifics of what Ayla was being disciplined for... but the general idea is that when we tell her anything in terms of changing behavior she turns the anger at herself. These writings were instructions on all of the ways we could punish her for not being nice. A child services disclaimer: we didn't heed any of her advice.

 What's a parent to do? Congratulate her on putting her thoughts into words, and then writing them down with barely any spelling errors? :) As with most episodes, this was smoothed over in a relatively short period of time and our little girl was back to drawing pictures of happy princesses.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Old Feelings Never Die

 This post is about dreams. About feelings. About adolescence and adulthood. About those undercurrents of emotions that never quite drift away. How we relive the same universal fears, manifested in many different ways.

 Deep. Very deep.

 It might be a by-product of parenting three small children and the lack of long, uninterrupted periods of sleep... but I don't dream nearly as much as I used to. My brain might be too sluggish to recollect anything during the night. When I do dream, the scenario can be lumped into the following categories: packing/unpacking nightmares, zombie apocalypse, running in high heels or hurt feelings.

 And hurt feelings is always the scariest one!

 First, let me explain the other categories. Packing and unpacking. I think these dreams are divine messages from God to just throw stuff away and stop hoarding. But I never listen. These dreams always involve frustrating scenarios like packing for a vacation and always coming back to my suitcase to find things missing or thrown in a pile of dirty laundry. Or someone telling me I have to evacuate my house and I cannot find even one pair of shoes or any photo albums. These dreams are maddening.

 Zombie apocalypse. (Coincides with poor "happy sleeping" TV choices like American Horror Story or The Walking Dead.) Now it isn't always a matter of flesh-eating zombies, but of the inability to keep the doors and windows of my house protected. Many of these dreams involve real people trying to break into my house, and I think all of the windows are closed and doors locked, but I keep realizing I have forgotten one padlock or one basement window. Needless to say, these are ridiculously creepy. But in my most recent zombie dream, we had nestled ourselves in a safe place with a backyard filled with animals: ducks, goats and some unnecessary jungle cats. I will also take this as a divine message: must own farm animals someday.

Running in high heels. I am not joking: this is a recurring theme. I am either trying to catch a bus and cannot move faster than a snail or I am tripping over myself on a stony alley. But I am always in the wrong shoes. The good news is that these dreams are not as recurrent now that I wear high heels about twice a year. Take that, corporate ladder!

 Now, for the kicker, hurt feelings. I think this dream will speak volumes to any woman, about the twisted relationship antics that we grew up with in our formative years. Men don't have it easy either, but I think their issues are often solved with simple fist fights and name calling.

 I recently dreamt that one of my friends here in Buffalo (and I really only have a few!) was "talking about me behind my back". You know, that hellish activity. I had her over to my house, she stole something from me and then told all our other friends that I had done THAT to her. And they all believed her. I was frantic in my dream; screaming for people to believe me and absolutely devastated that there was nothing I could say to change their opinions. As a grown woman - married, educated and responsible for small people - I could not handle being jilted by friends. I woke up terribly devastated.

 What does that say? I fear mean words more than zombies? I would rather hoard than have a fight with a friend? All I know is that my dream mirrored my real life experience as an 11 year old. I had a friend who totally sold me out to avoid getting in trouble. We had both done something stupid, wrote a mean note, and got busted for it. I was grounded. My friend, however, lied to her parents and said that I forged her name on the note. And her parents bought it.

 I will always remember the shock I felt that night. I forgot all about the shame of being a mean girl myself, and could not believe that my friend had blamed me for everything. And even more so, that her parents were that gullible. It was not a thought process I could have imagined on my own.

 This must sound pathetic. Imagine how someone feels being wrongfully accused of a crime! How about the women who find out their husbands have second families? I certainly didn't have a fairy tale life up to that point, but for some reason, that incident was my first glimpse into the darkness of humanity. How we all really care about our own interests above anything else. That was the first time I really felt betrayal. And loneliness. And helplessness. Yikes.

 My point? Old Feelings Never Die. These experiences shape us and our actions shape others. And they revisit us in dreams. Whether we are terrified of zombies climbing in the windows or being buried under our own shoe collection... it is sometimes the stuff of life that stays with us for years. Having a friend lie about you to save their own skin.  Ouch.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Puss in Boots"

 I had planned a Happy New Year post with inspirational ideas, resolutions and other blog-worthy quips....but apparently half of January has already passed and all I gotz is this video!

 Hopefully this gives you a glimpse into the plethora of reasons why I cannot seem to find 15 minutes of productive writing time for this blog. Elliot's new favorite film is obviously Puss In Boots. He usually finds me (or Gregory), remote in hand, begging for "Puss in boots, puss in boots!" in a voice that you just cannot humanly resist. Then, if we're lucky, we get a little reinactment of the movie with fake cat scratching and pretend sword fighting.

 It's meow-tastic.

 So Happy New Year everyone!

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