Next time, let’s hit the road.

For the first time ever, we tried our hand at a “staycation” this past week.  Now, I’m only using the term staycation because it’s become part of our vernacular, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Because generally, I think it’s just a dumb, made-up word to describe a fairly lame concept.

NBA store

Because of the shifts in school calendars due to Hurricane Sandy, my kids had an unprecedented week off between school and camp this summer.  We’d thought about going away somewhere, but decided to stay home and do some fun local things with the boys, while still having time to relax and get ready for camp.

We went to the beach, and to Six Flags.  We took the boys into New York to see a Broadway show (which was immediately followed by a testosterone-repleneshing visit to the nearby NBA store).  So, yeah, that was fun.

We also took the boys bowling, where Matthew complained about losing the first game and Michael complained that he was hungry.  We went to our local pool, where the boys complained they were bored.  I did a load or two of laundry every day, served breakfast every day and dinner a few days, and argued with Dave about the clutter level in the house.  Things that just made it feel like an extra-long sucky weekend.

So, I kind of came to the conclusion that while the concept is a nice one (and don’t get me wrong – it might work for some people), I’m glad that our “real” vacation at the end of August involves air travel and a hotel room.


Why we both go along.

Flagler Beach

Flagler Beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dave and I took the boys to the beach today.  It’s an easy drive – about an hour – so it’s good day trip for us, but since we’re not huge “beach people,” we only end up doing it a few times a summer.

My kids are lucky to have us both along on days like today.  Dave is the parent who’s great about taking them out to swim in the waves.  I’m definitely more cautious and have a healthy respect for the ocean.  So I’m the perfect parent for the kid who wants to stand in ankle-deep water and collect pretty rocks and shells.  I’m also the perfect parent for the kid who wants to hear, “Be careful!  Stay where I can see you!  Don’t go too far out!”

I’m generally also the more prepared parent.  I’m good for a fantastic sunscreen application before we leave, additional sunscreen in the beach bag, along with frisbees, sunglasses, as well as a supply of snacks and drinks.  Today I brought along spray water bottles, which I was especially delighted with, since it was 90 degrees AT the beach, and the sand felt like hot lava.

If Dave took the boys to the beach without me, they’d probably stop for Slurpees on the way there, and Dave would bring his wallet.

I like to think that the boys are learning some important lessons by having us both along for the ride.

#1. Take chances.  Go swim in the deep end.

#2. It’s nice to have someone who wants to keep an eye on you.

#3. If you feel like staying in the shallow end today, find someone to stand there with you and hold your hand.

#4. While I don’t believe in the phrase “you can never be too prepared” (because I think you CAN – I believe in being “just right” prepared, because there’s only so much stuff I want to lug around), being prepared can save you a lot of time, hassle and money.

#5. Respect the choice of the person who’s swimming all the way out, and the one who’s hanging by the edge.

And don’t forget the sunscreen, even on your feet.


This is the world we live in.

Caution Tape

Caution Tape (Photo credit: Picture Perfect Pose)

For the past three summers (this will be the fourth), I have worked at the camp that my kids attend.  It’s a great fit for us – I love the job I have and the people I work with, and my boys have a fabulous eight weeks there every year.

As a camp staff member, I attend required staff training sessions every year.  At the end of today’s training session, we had several camp-wide drills, before which the camp director spoke frankly to the staff about the harsh reality that we all live in.

And it hit me.  Hard.

Not because I didn’t already know this.  I follow the news.  I read the information that comes home from my kids’ schools, and I know that safety is something to be taken seriously.  But there was something about looking around and seeing the faces of the counselors who take this job just because they love kids, thinking about my own kids being there, and then thinking of the terrifying possibility that something unthinkable could happen.

I find it so sad that kids’ (including my own kids) reality these days includes lockdown drills and intruder drills.  I know it’s necessary, and somehow it’s both scary and comforting at the same time to know that places our kids go are preparing for this.

It also makes yearn for the days of previous generations, when parents put their kids on a camp bus every morning, or sent them off to a sleepaway camp for the summer, thinking that the worst that could happen would be an argument with a friend or a bee sting.

I think every generation of kids has had their crises, their issues and things to fear.  All we can do is hug our kids tight, love them with everything we have, and just talk to them when they have questions, because unfortunately, we don’t have the answers either.


All for one, and …. oh, whatever.

My husband Dave and I and our 2 boys are a pretty tight-knit family.  Which is mostly a good thing.  Until it’s not.

It seems lately that it takes just ONE of us to be in a bad mood to throw off the entire dynamic of our family.

Earlier this week, Matthew was frustrated about a group project for a required 6th grade class (where he had to build some cockamamie contraption to fly ping-pong balls. Or something like that). Which, in turn, meant that the rest of us were frustrated.

Then the next night, Michael started falling apart around dinnertime, because he’d been kept up late, listening to Matthew complain loudly about said cockamamie project.  So the rest of us were dragged down by listening to a tired, whiny 8-year-old.

Tonight, for whatever reason (perhaps from listening to several nights in a row of complaining and whining), Dave just came home in a crummy mood. Which put the rest of us in a bit of a crummy mood.

I’m not suggesting that we pretend to be something we’re not, especially at home where we should be able to let loose and really be ourselves.  We’re all entitled to a bad day now and then.

But on some level, it’s sort of ironic that the people we love the most are the ones who see us at our worst and get more of our crap than anyone else.

On the flip side, which is generally what I prefer to look at, when something good happens to one of us, it’s a celebration for us all.  I guess we’ve all gotta put up with a little rain to get to the rainbow.


What’s your name again?

I’ve been finding lately that I’ve been forgetting things.  Nothing really important, but I’ll turn on my laptop with a task in mind, and then by the time I’m logged in, I’ve forgotten what I was going to do in the first place.  Or I’ll go into a different room in the house to get something, and once I get there, I have no idea why I left the room I was in before.

It dawned on me today that the reason I forget things is because there just isn’t any room in my brain for new information, because the old, useless stuff just refuses to leave.

Like the complete lyrics to every song from A Chorus Line.  And the words to the majority of the songs recorded by Air Supply, which I don’t believe I’ve listened to since the mid-80s.

And how to load and use a caulk gun (I only realized this information was hanging on, because I spoke to a man in his 20s today who didn’t even know what a caulk gun is).

About half of the Gettysburg Address, whichI was required to memorize for a class in 9th grade.

I know how to french braid hair.  This is information that’s not doing me any good whatsoever, as I’m in my 40s and have no current need to french braid my hair.  Oh, and I have two sons.

I also have the entire layout of my local supermarket, where I’ve been shopping for almost 12 years, memorized.  I write my shopping list in the order of the aisles.  Okay, so maybe that’s useful information, but the fact that I can tell you exactly where in the cereal aisle the Cheerios are, and that canned corn is on a bottom shelf, is probably taking up a fair amount of cognitive real estate.


Information (Photo credit: heathbrandon)

Every time I use my waffle maker, which I assure you is NOT often, I remember that despite what the instruction manual says, it takes 4 minutes from the time I close the lid for the waffles to be cooked to perfection.

So, is it any wonder that when I’m introduced to someone new, I just pretend their name is Lisa, because I know there’s no way I’m going to remember it once I walk away?


Um, yeah. I told you.

Over the winter, we got an e-mail notifying us that it was time to sign up our 8-year-old son Michael for “pre-travel” soccer, a required program should he want to participate in travel soccer in our town in 3rd grade.

We asked Michael if he wanted to participate. Nope. Told him that all of his friends were doing it. Still no. Explained to him that if he decided later that he wanted to try out for travel for the fall and didn’t do this program, that it would be too late. No again. Reiterated that if he changed his mind halfway through the spring and wanted to join his friends, that he couldn’t change his mind. No, no, no.

So we signed him up.

In our defense, he’s 8 years old, and 8-year-olds can be pretty fickle characters. We really didn’t want to chance that he’d change his mind, because there would be nothing we could do about it.

And what happened? He almost always gave me a hard time about going, To our credit, when he did go, he enjoyed it, but when he wasn’t there, he told us he didn’t like it. I don’t think he enjoyed the serious level of competition (there were more than 100 boys there, being trained and evaluated by international soccer players for about 50 slots on the town’s travel teams). He said that he just wanted to play soccer, and this was, understandably, lots of drills. By the end, when Michael was justifiably arguing that HE never wanted to do this program, and that WE signed him up for it, we let him skip a bunch off the twice-weekly sessions.


We found out last night that, no surprise, Michael didn’t make any of the travel teams. All of his good friends who participated did. And while Michael seemed happy for his friends who got onto a team they really wanted to be on, he was incredibly happy for himself that he didn’t make it.

I guess sometimes kids really DO know what they want, and we have to figure out when we know better than they do, and when we should just shut up and listen.


Happy Father’s Day…..

….. to all the wonderful dads out there.

To the dads who, like my husband Dave, work long hours at a job, then come home and play basketball (still wearing a tie) with the boys who want nothing more than to play with their dad, even if it’s  just for a few minutes.

To the dads of little girls, who let their daughters paint their toenails pink.

To the single dads, who leave a 20 dollar bill under a pillow in exchange for a tooth, because they just don’t have anything smaller.

To the stay-at-home dads, who change diapers, supervise homework, and nurture kids as well as any mom out there.

To the dads who don’t live with their kids, but still find a way to stay engaged with them.

To the single moms, who seek out the wonderful men in their lives to love their children, and step up themselves, because there just isn’t a dad.

To the dads, like my own, who can still make their adult children laugh by making a funny face.

To the dads who teach their kids to play a  sport, to fish, or to play guitar, just because they want to share something they love with someone they love.

To the dads who have been thrown up on, had a runny nose wiped on their shirt, or have had a diaper seemingly explode in the back seat of a new car.

To the dads who play endless games of Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, and Monopoly, when all they want to do is sit and read the newspaper.

To the dads who pretend to eat play-doh hamburgers and sip tea out of tiny plastic teacups.

To the dads who say “I love you” to teenagers being dropped off at school, because they know that when these kids are just a little bit older, they’ll say it back again.

Happy Father’s Day, from the moms, kids and everyone who loves you.

Dave and boys


Please, just stop.

Warning.  Rant ahead.

But before I begin, let me say that I’m not without my complaints.  I have a bad day now and then, my kids sometimes drive me crazy, and I get pretty irritated when someone in front of me is driving 15 miles below the speed limit.

That said, I am generally able to put things into perspective, and with each year I grow older (and somehow, miraculously, more patient with myself and others), I’m more appalled by the people I see who are unable to understand that there are lots of minor (and yes, sometimes major) annoyances in life.  But they are just that.  Annoyances.  And it’s really important for us to remember to keep these things in perspective.  And really, I do understand that crappy things happen to all of us.

But…. a bad haircut is temporary.  If your kid is assigned to a class without her best friend, she’ll adjust.  And so will you.  The construction to update your kitchen is running behind?  As they say, it’s a first world problem, my friend …. consider yourself lucky that you have the means to update your kitchen.  Or that you even HAVE a kitchen.

I think it’s even more important to teach these lessons to our kids.  When Matthew was in 4th grade, he woke up one morning, realized he’d forgotten about a science test he had that day, and said, “I forgot to study!  I’m going to get an F! My life is ruined!!”  Sure, failing a science test because you forgot to study kind of sucks.  But more than anything, I wanted Matthew to understand that even if he did fail, it’s unlikely that this would be the most difficult hurdle he’d face in life (much as I wish that were the case).  Incidentally, it turned out that the test was actually the next day, and while I think Matthew did fine, ironically, I don’t remember that part of this story.

So the next time you have something to complain about (to me, anyway), ask yourself if this is really something that’s a problem.  Or just a minor inconvenience in your otherwise pretty wonderful life.

Stop Sign

Stop Sign (Photo credit: ladybeames)


Whose Reality is This, Anyway?


I love reality TV.  There I said it.

I know that doesn’t make me popular, and it certainly doesn’t make me any smarter, but for whatever reason, I find eavesdropping on someone else’s screwed-up life to be pretty relaxing.

The love I have for some shows is beyond even my own comprehension.  What it is that I find so appealing about Lockup on MSNBC is beyond me.  That said, though, I’ve learned quite a bit about prison culture and gangs, and I find it fascinating.  To what use I will be able to put this information in my personal suburban reality isn’t clear, but I’m not sure I care.

I think that shows like Hoarders make me feel just a little bit better about myself.  I know I’m not the greatest housekeeper, but I’ve never felt the need to bottle and save my own waste, which automatically puts me at an advantage.

I like to think that I will never be as much of a train wreck as any of the “real” housewives (although I’ve never met any actual housewives who were anything like any of the “housewives” I’ve seen on Bravo).

I’ve even enjoyed some obscure reality shows that I’m not sure anyone else watched, like Kid Nation, Shalom in the Home, and the Gastineau Girls (this one I think other people may have watched, just not people my own age).

Some of these shows, Dave and I have watched together.  We have had our own dorky tradition of watching all 26 seasons of Survivor, and for whatever reason, around season 10, we started eating Chinese food while we watch every week.  We used to watch Extreme Makeover, until Dave kind of ruined it for me by pointing out that the friends of the makeover recipient (who would be there for the surprise when the person found out they were selected for the show), were essentially cheering that their friend got onto the show for being the ugliest person the producers could find.

I suppose I could look at this as a little bit of an addiction.  Or maybe not.  I’m pretty sure Dr. Drew doesn’t have a show for this one.


Ugh, vacation?

As much as I love getting away and seeing new places, sometimes the planning and preparation is so much work that it seems easier to stay home.

For me, anyway, because my best estimate is that in my family, about 90% of the planning and packing seems to fall on my shoulders.  And that’s for several reasons:

1. How many pairs of socks does an adult male need for a week’s vacation?  According to my husband, two.  Or however many pairs are clean when he starts packing because he actually remembered to put them into the laundry.

2. Where is the kids’ travel kit with their toothbrushes and whatever else they’d need on the road?  I doubt I’d think to ask Dave that question, because I’m not sure he knows that it even exists, despite the fact that he’s had to have seen this black bag on hotel room bathroom counters for at least the last five years.

3. What do we need to pack for a beach vacation with the kids?  My answer: swimsuits, goggles, frisbee, football, sunscreen, baby powder (to get the sand off their feet), flip-flops, towels, beach blanket and umbrella.  Dave’s answer: a beach chair that’s good for naps, and a book, right??

Now, in Dave’s defense, he generally works a lot more hours than I do. which means two things – 1. He is in a greater need for a restful break than I am, and 2. More of the child care responsibilities fall to me because I’m with them more (so I have a better idea of where their stuff is.  Or, in some cases, that it even exists).

It is getting easier as the kids get older and are more self-sufficient.  Vacation feels more like vacation, and less like I’m just cleaning up after them in a different place with a pool.

license plates