Gone Campin’

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We spent this past weekend at my favorite place taking a very abbreviated camping vacation. Being an adult sucks when you have limited vacation days, but we made the most of it. For the first time in years the weather was absolutely amazing which meant lots and lots of beach time.

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In my 37 years, we’ve gone camping at this campground with this group of people (plus or minus a family or four) for roughly 32 of them. Each and every year was wonderful. We had friends we only saw a few times a year that would come camping with us and we’d run tame all over the camp ground with our bikes. It was everything a vacation should be with no electronics or distractions. Just card games, games of Spoons, bikes, hikes and eating. So. much. good. food.

We took Scorch camping for the first time when he was 2 months old and we’ve gone every year since – although we did only go for 1 day the summer Bean was born since she was only 2 weeks old and I’m not completely crazy. Camping with kids is a lot of work but there are so many people helping so the fun outweighs the work 9 times out of 10.

Except for when it was time to shower.

At the camp ground, there are communal bathrooms and 2 showers in the woman’s room, 2 in the men’s and two family showers. You have to stand there in your flip flops (DO NOT go barefoot- ever) and constantly press the water on as it doesn’t stay on by itself. The water comes out in a sharp spray and is either cold or hot- there really isn’t a middle ground. When the kids were itty bitty we’d find other ways to bathe them, but once they were mobile toddlers, covered in sunscreen, bug spray, dirt and sand it was shower time.

You guys, showering kids in this shower was like wrestling a greased pig. The kids were pissed, crying and slippery as hell. It was, at minimum, a 2 person job although 3 adults worked best (two to wash them and one to dry them and calm them down). You’d often end up sweating and wet when you were done, hoping that the whole camp ground didn’t think you were torturing your kids.

The passage of time hit me like a ton of bricks this past weekend after I showered my kids (9 and 7) and my niece Lala (4) with no fuss. I didn’t have to fight anyone, I didn’t have to wrestle them and no one cried. They took their showers, dried themselves off, got dressed and hopped right back on their bikes.

Where did our babies go??

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Our nightly camp fire.

The Hubs and I came back on Monday night (again: being an adult stinks) but the kids had the privilege of staying with all the extended family for a few more day.  This makes me happy for so many reasons. I firmly believe the gift of friends and family is the best gift we could give our kids- and time with them without us even more so they can form their own connections. While we’re camping, the kids also get their first real taste of freedom when the answer is always yes. Yes, you can ride your bike. Yes, you can walk to the park. Yes, you can play at the ball field. Yes, you can make new friends. Yes, you can have s’mores every night. Yes, you can be independent and not always within eye sight because there is pack of 7 of you and cars can’t drive faster then 5 mph.

The kiddos will come home tomorrow covered in bug bites with hair streaked blond from spending 12+ hours per day in the sun. Our kids are lucky because we travel a lot with them and they’ve seen some amazing places, but it make my heart so happy that that their favorite place on earth too.

 

37!

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Thirty-seven? How is that even possible? Am I the only one who gets taken by surprise every time they look in the mirror, expecting to see their 17 year old self to be looking back? 17 year old me didn’t have these under-eye circles and the random gray hairs though…

36 was a wonderful year. I made a vow that I would do things that scare me last year and I did. I did it in small ways by using my voice more and speaking up even when it would have been easier to go with the flow. I did it a large way by taking a part time job that took me out of my comfort zone and put some constraints on mine and the Hubs schedule, but has ended up being amazing. The Hubs and I did it while making some decisions for our family on some big topics like having more kids (no) and moving (one day).

I also held some reptiles, including Boo.

It's an anaconda, nbd.

It’s an anaconda, nbd.

So, I’m now 37. Outside of being slightly boggled by this fact, I plan on enjoying the hell out of this year. My goal this year is to find my balance. This past year, while awesome, veered more towards the crazy than I would have liked. Things like date nights and work outs took a back seat to kid’s practices and work which is not good for a million different reason and I’m old enough to know better. So here’s to saying a no a bit more and being mindful of what’s really important. Here’s to family and friends and more love than any one person can handle.

Here’s to 37.

Seven.

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Oh my Bean, how can you be 7? When I look at you, 95% of the time I still see my baby. The other 5%? That’s when I see the hints of the girl you’re turning into. You’re coltish with these legs that don’t end and these long, spindly arms. You have this weird physical presence that makes you seem big when you’re really a wisp of a thing. If you weigh 45 pounds, I’ll be shocked.

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You, my darling, a contradiction and a mystery to me. At home, you are loud and brash and opinionated. You rule with an iron fist and are quick, witty and so freaking fun. But away from home, you embarrass easy and are as quiet as a mouse. People tell me how sweet and shy and reserved you are and I laugh and laugh and laugh. If only they knew, baby girl.

Because you’re such a contradiction, I worry I’ll break you. You and I lock horns and neither one of us lets go and that scares me so much. I don’t want to break you – you are a glorious creature. I just don’t want to be broken by you either. It’s a fine line we’re going to walk and I hope I manage it with grace and with my sanity intact when it’s over. Because as astounding and amazing as you are now, you’re going to be 100x more so as you grow. It’s my privilege to get to witness that.

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So as you blow out your candles for this, your seventh birthday, this is what I wish for you this year:
> I wish you to keep your amazing sense of self. You know your mind, child, and you have since the moment of your birth. That’s a rare gift- don’t lose it.
> I wish that you learn how to bend a little. I don’t want what makes you, you to be broken, but learning to bend a bit will serve you in the long run.
> I wish that everyone can see what an amazing, funny, sweet, quick witted, whip smart kid you are. I hope you learn to be your true self around more people because those people will be so lucky when you do.
> I wish you the gift of friendship. Watching little girls navigate friendship is a very cool thing and I hope I’ve given you the role models you need to find your tribe as you grow.
> I wish you the knowledge that you’re secure in our love. Always. Forever. There is nothing you can do that would make us not love you. We may be mean and we may get mad- but we still love you through it all.
> I wish that you can see how amazing you are. I hope you always know that your awesome even when you’re in 7th grade (which is, IMO, the worst time in any person’s life) and you hate your hair and your parents and your clothes and life is just a mess- I hope you still hold that kernel of truth that tells you that you don’t have to change who you are for anyone. Because you’re the best.

Happiest of birthdays, my sweet girl. You are my sunshine and I’m so very lucky to be your mom.

All my love,
Mom

 

Start of Summer

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So…hey, been a while. Life got nuts. Like more nuts then usual. We had the end of school- both kids passed and I got all teary on the last day of school. I’ll let you decide if they were tears of joy or terror for the summer ahead. I cannot believe I have a 4th grader and a 2nd grader now!  The day after school ended, Little League ended with a bang when Scorch’s team won the championship game. There wasn’t even time to celebrate because we left the next day for the Outer Banks in NC.

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Scorch, Bean and Lala

And that is when summer really started.

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It was the perfect vacation. The hardest decisions were deciding whether we went to the beach first or then then pool or vice versa, and what we wanted to drink each night around the pool (don’t judge- deciding between margaritas and Cape Codders isn’t for sissies).  The weather was gorgeous 85% of the time and when it did storm it was a night and the lightening was spectacular.  My biggest complaint about this vacation is that it is over.

The waves were so big, the kids couldn't go in far even if they wanted.

The waves were so big, the kids couldn’t go in far even if they wanted.

I read 6 books, spent time with my extended family and vegged on the beach for hours a day. That’s my definition of heaven.

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And now we’re back to reality. Camps, more baseball, work and all the craziness that comes with real life. But at least it’s summer time- that makes it all OK.

3rd year in a row we've found a heart shaped shell on the last day of vacation.

3rd year in a row we’ve found a heart shaped shell on the last day of vacation.

Happy Summer!

Happy Father’s Day

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They say that all women marry their fathers. Literally doing that would be creepy as hell, but marrying a man like my father was one of the best decisions I ever made. Growing up, my father did his damnedest to balance his work as a cop with his family. This meant working odd shifts to make sure he could attend our events, picking up sports just because we played them and making sure he was always around for us. My Dad continues to be one of our biggest supporters, strongest allies and clearest voices of reasons (whether you want to hear him or not).  We are all so lucky to have him in our lives.

The Hubs, bless him, is just as an amazing father (thanks to his father!). I married a cop with a life just as crazy as my father’s and the Hub’s is doing the same amazing balancing act that I grew up with. He coaches our kids, takes them to school every day he can and tries his hardest to be around every night to tuck them into bed. He picks up where I fail, talks me off the edge and makes me laugh every day. My kids are lucky to have him and so am I.

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This is a terrible picture, I’ll own that. It’s was taken from my window looking down at the Hubs, Scorch and my father grilling this past Mother’s Day. But it makes my heart happy knowing that my little boy will one day grow up to be an amazing father thanks to the incredible men in his life.

Grace

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Dear Beaners-

Last night was a NIGHT. You had a fantastic day at school and then it was off to the dentist. You are so scared of the dentist, but you were a rock star. I could tell how nervous you were, but there were no tears and you got through it. It was so proud of you and, as a reward, we decided to stop for ice cream. And that is where the wheels fell off.

You were already pissy that we were going to get our haircut instead of going home. Then the ice cream you wanted had hot fudge on it. That hot fudge caused your ice cream to melt faster then you could eat it, so your bowl overflowed. I was already on edge from a stressful weekend and you and your brother squabbling in the car and I didn’t react to the huge mess of ice cream on your lap and the car seat as well as I should have. I snapped at you and you, my sweets, snapped right back.

And that was that. I was standing in the parking lot yelling at you, my 6 year old over, melted ice cream and you were screaming right back, rejecting all my attempts to help. We were a literal and metaphorical mess.

MotherDaughterBean- I hate nights like that. Even though the night ended on a good note, I still am sitting here feeling like a jerk. I’m the adult, I’m the parent- I’m supposed to know how to act appropriately.

Except, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes you push every single button I have at the same time and my head explodes.  And sometimes I push your buttons and your head explodes. And this scares me to no end because you’re six. We are lucky enough to still have at least 12 more years under the same roof and I can’t wait to watch you grow. Truly. You are an amazing kid, and you’re going to be an equally amazing teenager and adult. You have the brains and ability to rule the world and I love watching you.

But, girlfriend, you and I both need to learn grace with each other. I am the adult so I’ll take on the lion’s share of the work for now, but you’re not off the hook. We both need to learn to take a deep breath and walk away sometimes. We both need to learn how to talk to each other with clearer, kinder words. Your father and I are doing our best to give you these tools and words and skills so you can tell us what you really mean when you tell us your shoes is too loose, then too tight, then too loose again and then end with an ugh I hate my life! and a slammed door.

I adore you more than chocolate milk. You are my favorite six year old in the world and I can’t imagine how boring life would be without you in it. Know that when I’m angry or when you’re angry or when we’re both angry, that I love you. Nothing will change that no matter how many stupid fights we have. You will always be my favorite daughter.

But sometimes, bedtime is my favorite part of the day.

Love,
Mom

My Lady Loves

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Did you know today is National Best Friend’s Day? Neither did I. But it is and I’m always looking for an excuse to love on the incredible women in my life so here we are.

The Hubs makes fun of me because I have more then one best friend. He says that’s impossible and I say it’s not. Some of us, like the Hubs, are destined to have a very few, special select friends in their lives. And that’s wonderful. Some of us, however, are destined to have more from all stages of life. My friendship cup runs over and that’s freaking awesome.

I have my sister because everyone’s sister should be their best friend. We weren’t as kids and even today there is no one that can get under my skin faster then her, but she is the one I talk to almost every day and she is the one who loves my kids like her own. She’s the one who laughs when I talk/whisper right in her ear and ask her how she’s doing in a certain tone of voice because she’s the one who gets that inside joke. She’s the one who will tell me when something doesn’t look right and she’s the one who taught me how to pack a diaper bag less like a suitcase 9 year ago. She talks me off the edge at least once a week and I can’t imagine a world without her in it. I love her deeply.

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I have my friends from growing up. These are the incredible ladies who remember my bad perms, awful fashion choices and even more awful taste in boys. They rocked to NKOTB with me, learned how to remove paint from car bumpers when we accidentally hit something when we took our first solo trip to the mall and spent long lazy summers at the pools with me. We grew up going in and out of each others houses and knew that we couldn’t get away with anything because our parents would always check in and up on us. That didn’t mean we didn’t try though, so these are the women I made memories with sneaking out of each others homes, trying booze together and growing up together. We cried at our high school graduation and promised to always keep in touch. And we did. We are a year shy of our 20th high school reunion and even though we may not talk as often as we like, when we do, it’s like no time at all has passed. They keep me grounded and I love them fiercely.

DSC_1005And then there are my local friends now. My sisters in parenting and marriage and life. The women I see weekly if not daily depending on the sports season. These are the women that keep me sane, the ones who co-parent with me on the nights I need it. The friends that will help out in a pinch and who know my children almost as well I do. They are the ones who see me at my worst and my best and love me regardless. They know by the tone of my voice if it’s been one of those nights and will listen with compassion and humor when I need to lose my shit at someone just so I don’t lose it at my husband or kids. They give selflessly and help make my life 1000% times more smoother thanks to carpool and play dates and communal dinners. They are the ones I can’t wait to share the next 11+ years with as our kids hit their milestones at the same time- elementary school, middle school, dances, sports, proms, dating, graduation, college and all the little pieces that make up life in between. They are the ones I’ll be calling and checking in with as our kids try to sneak out of our homes and get into trouble together. They’ll know the reason behind every gray hair on my head and wrinkle on my face. They’ll parent my children when I’m not up for it and I’ll do the same. My love for them is boundless.

Ladies_Halloween_2013I’m a very, very blessed woman. #friendsrock

Take Me Out to the Ball Game…

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Spring is fast becoming one of my favorite times of the year. Scorch’s obsession with America’s Past Time means I’ve become a baseball mom and the Hubs, a baseball dad. We didn’t mean for this to happen, we didn’t want it to happen- we wanted to be lacrosse parents. But Scorch, bless him, had other ideas and the Bean followed right along. Our weeks for the past two months have consisted of games, practices, creating line ups and hours spent throwing against the throw back. We all sport t-shirt tans and the smell of baseballs and cleats fill my car. Our lives are now lived at the fields – it’s our home away from home and the center of our social lives.

Bean is playing in the Rookie league with 5-8 year olds. She is still pitched to by coaches and kids get an undetermined amount of balls tossed to them before they strike out. She’s one of two girls on her team and she makes my heart hitch every time I see her in the catcher’s equipment with her ponytail hanging out the back of her hat. Her cleats are a hot pink blur when she runs around the bases, looking proud enough to burst when she finally gets a hit.

Scorch is playing in the next league up and the game has gone from something cute the kids to to something serious the kids love. Everyone plays and everyone is nurtured, but kids aren’t playing in the dirt anymore or picking flowers in the outfield. Scorch wants to be a pitcher or a catcher or a first baseman and I hold my breath during the big moments because all of a sudden wins and losses are something the kids care out. He wears neon green cleats and he sets them just so as he stretches his body as far as it will go trying to make the out at 1st. You’d think his team just won the World Series anytime something big happens because these kids are so exuberant and happy to be playing.

We work on sportsmanship and try to ensure our kids are as good winners as they are losers. It’s a delight and a blessing when you see your kids mimicking the good behavior you’ve tried so hard to teach them- when they cheer on their teammates, congratulate the other team for a good play and make sure the kid who got beaned with the ball is OK.

I’m so proud of my boy for playing after the heartache of last season and I’m so proud of my girl for playing with the boys. As crazy as our schedule is, I’m going to miss this season when it’s over.

Oh- wait. It’s never over thanks to summer league and then Fall ball. Never mind…

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To Those Who Mourn

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This past month our local community has gone through unspeakable tragedy. A 6 year old was killed in an devastating and completely preventable car accident. A 16 year old was killed on Prom night by her ex-boyfriend. She broke up with him, then refused his efforts to get back in touch with her, so he showed up at her home with an imitation Army knife to scare her, so she’d see how much she still loved her. Then this weekend, two talented, smart high school seniors were killed in a car accident. They were coming home from the mall and lost control of their car.

We didn’t know any of these kids, although we certainly knew of them and have many friends who mourn them deeply. I haven’t written about this because I didn’t want to exploit their tragedies or make it seem like there is a personal connection when there isn’t much of one.

However, this latest tragic hits close to home because when I was turning 16, I lost my friend Paul in a car accident. I hope what I posted about what happened after Paul’s death helps those that mourn to know their family and friends are in a good place even though they are so desperately missed here. Here is what I shared:

Paul was a sweet kid I went to school with. He was short with dark hair and amazing eyes not unlike my Scorch. He was a wise-ass and a charmer and he always, always had a big grin for everyone. He was honestly one of the nicest people I ever have met.

Paul died the summer I turned 16.

The day is etched into my brain. I spent the afternoon driving around country hills with my boyfriend- with no particular destination in mind, we just enjoyed the day. When I got home my parents were literally standing in the window watching for me. Paul was in a car crash- he was driving on a windy road and crashed head on into a dump truck. He was killed instantly.

At almost-16, I had never lost anyone close to me before who wasn’t elderly. My friends and I had lived a charmed life up until that point. Paul’s death shook us to the core.  The days after his death are still so clear to me. The crying, the huddling together, the wake, the funeral, spending time at Paul’s mom’s house trying to prop each other up.

About 10 days after Paul died, I spent the evening with two friends. As it often did, our conversation turned to Paul and how we wished we knew that he was at peace.  On the walk back to my house, we sat down on the side of the road and asked Paul to give us a sign that he was OK.  We sat there in silence- waiting, watching for that sign. After a few minutes we realized how silly that was- because anything from the owl hooting to the car honking could have been a sign. So we got specific.  We told Paul if he was OK to please please cancel swim lessons the following day. The three of us taught swim lessons for 4 hours a day and wanted a break.

That next day while I was driving to swim lessons, I saw one of my friends and her mom driving away from the pool. When I got to the pool, the director was sitting outside. She told us that lessons were canceled that day- the pool pump broke in the middle of the night.

I still get chills when I think about that.

And here’s a follow up from last year:

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk to a psychic. I realize there are a lot of fakes out there, but I also know that some people  have a talent that I’ll never understand.  It was towards the end of my 25 minute conversation with this woman and I wasn’t entirely convinced I was speaking to the real deal. She got some things completely right, but other things seemed to be entirely off base. She asked if I had a last question so I asked about Paul. Here is what I asked word for word: “When I was 16, I lost a friend of mine. We asked for a sign to see if he was OK and we got what we thought was one. Was it?”

There was a pause and the woman I was speaking to started to laugh:

Your sign had to do with water. And yes, don’t worry, your friend is wonderful!

I hope this brings those who mourn a small measure of peace.

Nine.

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Dear Scorch-

I think I start every yearly letter to you marveling over how old you are and this year will be no different. You are NINE. N-I-N-E NINE. This is your very last year in the single digits and my mind boggles over this fact. Weren’t you just born? Wasn’t I just changing your diapers and rocking you to sleep at night?

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I read something a few months back that was floating on Facebook calling age 9 “halftime” for kids since you are half way to 18 and, presumably, becoming an adult. Will you think less of me, sweet boy, if I admit I rolled my eyes at that notion so hard they almost got stuck in the back of my head? Because I did. Don’t get me wrong, 9 is an amazing, awesome, exciting age and yes, when you’re 18 hopefully you’ll leave home but to think that I’m halfway through parenting you is hogwash. I still call my mom and dad for advice multiple times a week and I assume you’ll be no different.

There are a lot of things about parenthood that surprise me but perhaps the one that surprises me the most is how unsentimental I am. I mean, I cry at your concerts and get choked up at the start and end of every school year. Milestones sometimes hit me hard, but for the most part, I don’t mourn your baby-self. Sometimes I miss your squishy compactness and holding you under my chin, but dude- I LOVE watching you grow. I wasn’t sure if I would, I honestly don’t have much experience with kids but you, sir, are blowing me away. There is so much I love….

> I love watching you interact with friends. You, my love, are this great combo of leader and peacemaker. You always have ideas and thoughts on what you should do but you’re easy going enough most of the time to change plans if others want to do something different. You are a good, kind friend who gets along with everyone. You have no interest in girls outside of being friends and I’m totally fine with that!

> I love watching you play ball. You are obsessed with baseball right now. This past year, you played all year long. Little League in the spring, summer ball, fall ball and then weekly clinics up during the winter. I have no idea if this will stay your passion, but right now you’re all about it.

> I love watching you learn. I legitimately got choke up this spring watching you learn cursive because that is amazing (yes, I’m a nerd. Deal with it). Your curiosity and passion are a joy to watch. There is nothing better then hearing you tell your sister what an adjective is.

> I love how affectionate you are. I admit, I SUCK at cuddling. You always get hugs and kisses- always- from both your father and me. But long, laying-on-the-bed-reading-a-book cuddles? Nope, not my thing. But I’m trying because I know one day you won’t want to cuddle and that I know I’ll miss.

> I love how fun you are. I love our dance parties in the car, your infectious laugh, your sly comments and your desire to share everything you think is funny. (Even if your stories take for-freaking-ever to tell. We’ll work on that, bud.) You are a joy to be around and I don’t think you’ve ever met anyone who hasn’t been charmed by you.

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Sweet boy, it’s impossible to tell you just how loved you are. There aren’t words big enough or expressive enough to encompass all we feel for you. Your father and I must have done something really good in our lives for God to give us you to raise. Every birthday you have leaves me so excited to see where you’re going next and who you’ll grow to be.

I hope this year is an amazing one. I hope you keep cultivating good friendships, I hope you keep loving with all your heart and I hope you never lose your joy! You are astounding and I’m so glad you’re ours.

Love,
Mom