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Category Archives: Travel

Looking for things to do in England

With all of the stresses going on these days, my trip to England can’t come fast enough.  I desperately need a vacation, and if I’m honest, I need to see my family over there.  It’s a funny dynamic.  Living so far away, and with my mom being gone, I often feel isolated from my family.  I go on Facebook and I see some of my cousins experiencing life with their moms, and I feel a bit envious.  It’s hard not to, especially since my mom and her sister were so alike, and I know I would have a lot of the same experiences as them if she were still alive.  In some ways, I feel isolated, but on the other hand, being around that also makes me feel comforted.  They know a part of me that almost nobody else does. I’m excited to introduce my kids to my family again (they were very young last time) and to show them a country half way across the world.

We have about 7 days to experience as much as possible, while getting as much fun and relaxation as we can too.  I have always been of the mindset that travel is exciting and exhilarating, but it should also have time to relax and enjoy it as well.  For me, it’s about the people, and I know the kids are super excited about seeing my cousins’s kids as well. That being said, England is rich with history, and how often do you get to go visit a real castle in the US?  Not too often.  My husband has always been a lover of old places, old architecture, and interesting spaces.  He loves roaming old graveyards, looking at the stones of people who lived and died about 200 years ago or more. He loves the gothic stone churches, the little villages and the pieces of history.

Unfortunately, with us going near winter, some of the houses/castles I was hoping to take them to are closed.  I had REALLY wanted to make the trek to Highclere castle, where they filmed Downton Abbey but it’s closed to the public while they film the movie.  For now we are looking into Chatsworth, which they decorate for Christmas about the time we are traveling.  I’m still looking into other interesting places in the East Midlands. If you know of any, please let me know.  With the long travel time and the need to get around to visit people, I need to stay somewhat local (can you believe I have never really been to London aside from a flight layover where we got stuck?)  London is on my bucket list, but I don’t think we’ll make it this time.

Some day, I hope to take the kids over for Christmas.

For now, I just want to make their trip as magical as possible.

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Some random facts about me, in case you (never) wondered:

myself

Some random facts about me, in case you (never) wondered:

Some are silly musings, some are a bit deeper in nature.  Maybe if one is interesting I’ll blog about it later.

I talk to myself in the car, Every. Single. Day.  It’s where I work out my problems, get out my frustrations, and narrate my life to myself.  If you’re driving along side me, you’ll probably see me having a full on convo with myself.  Ain’t no shame in my game.

When I was little, I trained with olympic coaches for figure skating.  I was ambidextrous, which was desirable.  I quit after my skin split from the cold and started bleeding one night, and my babysitter at the time freaked out.  Her fear scared me, and I decided I didn’t want to skate again after that.  My parents were sad, but never pushed me into anything I wasn’t comfortable with.

Little dogs make me anxious, probably because they seem more delicate.

I lost my English accent when I was a kid, but it comes back when I am in England or talking to my family from there.  I wish I had it all the time. My brain just switches and I don’t have any thought into it.

When I was a toddler, I had imaginary friends that I would talk to every night.  I always wanted my door shut and the lights off, and if my mom came in the room I would cry she had frightened them away.  One day, I saw a picture of a couple in a book and asked my mom how she had gotten a picture of them….it was a couple who had lived nearby who died long before I was born.

I have had several experiences that lead me to believe in spirits, however I’m not religious and struggle with the concept of God. The two seem to go hand in hand but for me, I can’t reconcile it all.

I believe that the more someone tells you how real they are, the more full of shit and deceptive they probably are.  Real people don’t need to advertise it.  They just live their lives.

One of my favorite quotes is “you are never to old to be what you might have been”-George Eliot.

Self esteem is the root of many of our problems, in my opinion.  If we all believed in ourselves more, loved ourselves more, we’d make MUCH better decisions and put up with a lot less nonsense.

Ice cream is one of my favorite things.  The texture, the temperature, the multitude of flavors….just everything about it makes me happy. I rarely say no to it, and I’ll sometimes allow my kids to have it as a treat before dinner.

Someone told me today my dad was one of his heroes.  My eyes teared up and I welled up with pride.  My dad is such a quiet guy who doesn’t really share all the amazing things he does.  I wish I knew more, but he’s humble and doesn’t think to really share such things.  I’m so proud to be his daughter.

I like silence.

I have about 16 tattoos.  Most people think I have 4, (small ones).  A former coworker once sat and told me how they hated tattooed women and how they thought it was horrible.  They became very uncomfortable when I explained my husband tattoos and I have quite a lot of them.  They responded “well, at least you can’t see them”, as if that made their comments any better.  I just laughed and walked away, knowing they felt really uncomfortable.

I have a stalker. She checks my blog on the regular and created fake accounts to get notifications of when I post, to harass me with on other platforms, and to stalk others. I almost moved the blog and changed the name, but I decided for now to keep it as is.  I know her IRL.  Awkward.  On the bright side, things seemed to have calmed down, so I’m hopeful it will end.

An ex of mine was black.  I’m about as fair as it gets.  When people tell you that racism doesn’t exist, when they tell you that black people and minorities are “exaggerating” how bad racism is, they are lying or they are ignorant of what really goes on.  I never really experienced racism growing up, but I learned quickly during that relationship just how deep it goes.  Racism isn’t always in your face.  Sometimes it flows like a silent, underlying current, or it’s whispers.  Going to an event with my ex and someone white sidled up to me and whispered asked who invited the “N*****” to the party with a laugh.  I was horrified, first at the racist comment, and then at the fact the person felt just so comfortable in saying it to me, clearly because I was white.  I guess they thought that they were talking to someone in the “white club” who would share their views. Their laugh quieted very quickly when I called over to my ex and asked him to come over to introduce himself.  We then politely turned to mingle elsewhere, while that person sat looking inherently uncomfortable.  Yes, it was the classier thing to do, but looking back now I wish I had told the person off.  Then again, I think they learned at least a small lesson.  Sadly, they are probably the same ignorant racist but perhaps they will be less likely to spread their thoughts to others.  While that relationship with my ex eventually ended (on good terms as well) it opened my eyes and ears to an issue. Which leads me to:

When we know others are suffering, but we say “well, it doesn’t impact me so it’s probably not my business”, we are ignoring a basic truth that we are all people, and that kindness matters.  One day, that hurt may come our way, and we would hope someone would stand for us.  It’s not easy to stand for others sometimes, but it is necessary if we wish to raise empathetic children.

I am sometimes really awkward. I’m also generally self aware enough to know when I am being awkward, which makes me feel even more awkward.  Ah well.

When I was a little girl, a neighborhood kid tricked me into sitting in dog shit so the other kids would laugh.  That humiliation was DEEP and it stayed with me.  I’d probably punch her in the neck now if I had my chance.  Her name was Cindy.  That’s all I remember.

My best friend growing up has a dad who is a hoarder.  I’m to this day one of the few people he is comfortable letting in the house, because he knows I don’t judge.  I have a bit of a fascination with hoarding.  I believe it’s way more common than people think it is, and I’ve had several friends who have relatives who hoard. My house is messy. (I’m sure you figured that out by the blog title) but not at hoarder standards. I think the combination of working full time, limited free time, 2 kids, and a lack of organizational skills in the home is the root.  It bothers me a lot because my mom was a neat freak and I wish I had inherited at least a little bit of that.

I love comedies.  Laughing is one of my favorite things.

I often try to see both sides of a situation.  Sometimes this drives people nuts.

Being born British has its perks. For example, nobody expects me to be a very good cook.  Usually they ask me to bring plates or soda to events.  Luckily nobody expects any highly complicated dishes from me.   I’ll admit I’m not a fancy cook.  I have a few things I make pretty well, or at least well that people will go for seconds for.  That being said, I love British food, but then again, most British people probably do. 🙂

Speaking of British food, fish and chips is my comfort food.  It is hard, though, in the US to find a place who can make it JUST like it is in England.  It’s often close, but never quite right.  A Salt and Battery in NYC has it to a science. If you’re in the area, GO.  Then go next door to Tea and Sympathy for hot rhubarb crumble with custard.  You’ll thank me later, even though you’ll have to roll yourself to your final destination because you’ll feel like a fatty after.  It’s utterly delish!

I love getting comments on my blog.  Drop a line sometime.

 

 

 

 

 

Letting Kids Fly, But Not By Helicopter

Helicopter-Parenting-300x300

Ahh, vacation.  It’s my first day back from a weekend trip to visit family, and I already need another vacation.  Not because of the family, we had a fantastic time, but because I came back from a Saturday and Sunday away to a shitstorm of work to do.  I digrmyess, however.  Every year, my step mother’s sister throws an annual weekend up at her house.  Since my dad married into the family, they also include me, my husband and kids.  The weekend is filled with laughter, days spent at the lake, and lots of food and beer.  It’s always a fun weekend.  This year, I think we had 16 or more.

Saturday, while lounging at the lake, watching the kids play in the swimming areas and in the sand, I got into a conversation with my…let me see if I get this right….step cousin’s wife.  We were talking about our kids, and how they are growing up so fast, the usual.  She lives in Brooklyn NY, and she overheard her son tell me how excited he was for school this year because at his school, the kids are allowed to leave the school and go out for lunch unattended.  I was completely fascinated by this revelation, and his mom (I’ll refer to her as E) filled me me.  Apparently, starting in 4th grade, the kids are allowed to leave the school building and can go for lunch.  Completely unattended.  In Brooklyn.  I was a bit amazed that the school, never mind the parents, would ever go for such an idea.  I live in relatively small town suburbia, and parents here are CRAZY intense.  Helicopter parenting is mostly the norm, if not encouraged.  Parents direct every aspect of their children’s lives, friends, interests and activities.  Kids are placed into a LOT of activities because the general thought is that they must be active ALL the time.  They must be kept busy.  I have friends who have their kids in about 6 activities a week.  It looks exhausting, not only for the kids, but for the parents who have to drive to (and most attend) as well.  The idea that this school in NY would allow kids as young as 10 to just leave the building mid day and roam to a local restaurant unattended was something I struggled to fathom, but I was intrigued.

For those of you who follow my blog, you may remember I wrote a while back about how I was trying to let me kids have more freedoms, more independence, and promote a sense of self responsibility and good decision making skills.  It went swimmingly, until we had a falter when my daughter forgot to communicate she was going to a friend’s a few houses down and I couldn’t find her.  After that we had to place new rules and explain the communication process.  Things have been going really well, except that it got so hot the kids haven’t really wanted to venture outside too much, never mind riding bikes etc.  Hopefully, we will work on things more in the fall.

As we talked, E explained that the school allows the kids to leave, unattended for lunch, mostly due to a problem with overcrowding in the school.  There really isn’t enough room in the cafeteria.  She said the kids have a radius that they can go to, about 2-3 blocks, and their are crossing guards at the intersections (and to make sure the kids don’t go outside of the “zone”.  On those blocks, there are a bunch of restaurants the kids can choose from, they bring their own money, and buy lunch.  I thought about how this would fly where I live and giggled, because it never would.  After hearing the layout of their school’s plan, it seemed like quite a good one.  The kids have choice, are given responsibility, there are crossing guards to keep them in the general vicinity, and frankly, it was a great way to keep local businesses afloat.  E explained also that the principal is a very strong leader, explains the process to the kids very clearly, and they are fully aware that one misstep means they lose the privilege.  They haven’t had any issues, because the kids take the privilege so seriously, they don’t want to lose it.  Also, with the volume of people in the area, parents feel that the kids are far safer than wandering in the suburbs.

I explained to her my realization earlier in the year that there were so many things I knew how to do at a young age that my children have never learned, simply because they have never had to learn it.  Road safety, because I am always there to walk them across the road, for example.  All those little things, that really are big things, because I am always there to do it for them.  She said she had had the exact same realization, and it really bothered her.  The interesting thing was that with one of us living in the city, and one in the suburbs, we each had a different set of skills we realized we had never taught our kids because we’d always been there to do it for them. Also, the kids needed different skills based on their location.  For my kids, bike riding was more important, but for her kids, there wasn’t much of a good place for her kids to ride.  For her kids, navigating their neighborhood during rush hour was more important than for my kids, who don’t see a lot of traffic in our area.

Both of us have decided a change is in order, and we are working to give our kids more flexibility, responsibility, and more LIFE skills they can do without us.  While the skill sets may be different based on where we live and the needs that arrive from that, the mentality is the same. Our parents let us learn the hard way, on our own quite a bit, and it taught us good, solid lessons.  We weren’t hovered over and coddled.  We were treated as little people who had to learn to live in a complicated world.  I see moms on social media claiming their kids are never out of their sight, that they do EVERYTHING for their kids, and that they keep their kids in activities and busy every minute of the day.  Know what that tells me?  Those kids likely won’t be able to entertain themselves if someone isn’t telling them how.  Those kids will miss many an important life lesson.  Independence and self discovery is important!  If someone does everything for you, how do you learn to do it yourself?

I recalled the conversation I had with the police officer who came that day my daughter left for her friend’s without telling me where she was going.  I was honestly really, really frightened and questioned my decision to let her do more on her own. (And trust, there were the people who had to make nasty comments about what happened, but you know what? 0 craps given.)  The officer told me that I was doing a GOOD thing.  That kids should be outside playing.  He also said that one thing he runs into all the time are kids of helicopter parents.  He said these parents hover over their child’s every move, thinking they are doing the right thing.  He said that he sees the end result of that, where if a parent goes to the store and runs 10 minutes late back, the kids (old enough to stay home themselves) the kids freak out because they don’t know how to cope for a few moments outside of expectation when the parents aren’t there.  He sees a lot of kids without some basic life skills, because they have never been taught them or had to learn them.  When I recounted this to E she thought it was really interesting, and we discussed how true this probably is.

Statistically, we are at a time of lower crime, but more ways to communicate it.  Our kids in some ways are probably safer than we were when we were younger.  Yet parents are more protective and are helicoptering.  I have seen parents call their grown children out of work.  I have seen parents doing laundry for grown children.  How did we get here, where we are so focused on our children that we have stifled them?

One of the greatest feelings I had as a kid was the feeling of being trusted with responsibility.  I felt so grown up, and appreciative of any new independence, that I worked hard to keep the privilege.  As a kid, I flew overseas by myself!  I traveled 3000+ miles myself, with some oversite from the airline.  I arrived, got my bags, and found my ride.  I navigated airports like a pro.  When I traveled with my parents, they had me tell them where to go, what our next steps were, etc.  In time, I learned my way around our frequented airports, knew how to travel responsibly, and became comfortable that I could manage travelling on my own.  If I got separated from my parents, I knew I had a plan to stay safe and find help.  I knew road safety on my bike. I knew how to speak to adults, how to navigate my corner of the world, and even another area of the world.  I walked comfortably across town at 12 years old in a town overseas.  It saddens me that after being pushed to hover over my kids, I have neglected to teach them some life skills, not for not wanting to, but for not thinking of them.  Why? Because I handled everything for them.  The more I talk to people, the more I notice parents having the same revelations.  This year, I am going to teach my kids the process of navigating an airport and how to travel safely.  Time to let them fly, just not by helicopter parenting.

Going Home

home

Flights are booked!  I have been absolutely giddy the past few days now that are family trip is coming together.  It’s crazy to think that in just a few months I will be on a plane traveling to where I was born. It’s funny, I always consider it as “going home”, but when I am on my way back here, I also say I am on my “way home”.  I saw the quote I pictured above and it hit me how true this rings for me.  On one hand, it is hard to have all the people I love scattered around the world, but on the other hand, I am so very, very lucky to have those same people always there to welcome me “home”.

Home is where my house is, a house filled with mess and chaos, but also giggles, laughter, cuddles and intense love.  It is where my amazing husband and children are.  It is the bed I sleep in with my beloved dog snoring next to me in his bed on the floor.  It is where my cat lays sprawled in the sun.  It is the place where laundry gets away from me, and I grumble about the mess, but am grateful for a roof over my head.  It is where my local coffee place makes my coffee perfectly.  Home is running kids to gymnastics and sports, school, and for ice cream.  It is where I know I am loved and cherished.

Home is also about 300 miles away, where my dad and stepmother are.  Home is where I can go when I need to have downtime, to see them, and where I am told no problem is too big in life.  Home is seeing my first hero, who knows me and knew my mom better than anyone else.  Home is being spoiled a little bit as only a parent can, but also told when I need to get my act together, like only a parent can.  Home is their house on the lake, where I can go sit on their boat and drink coffee and have quiet time.  Home is fishing with the kids, going to the farmer’s market by boat, and eating fantastic food.

Home is the house about 5 minutes away from my dad’s house. We don’t own it anymore, and I struggle to visit it, because it holds so many memories, but I drive by anyway because it’s home.  Home is a house you don’t even live in anymore, but it contains the memories of the last time I saw my mom, memories of her before she got sick, and laughter…lots and lots of laughter.  It’s the place where my mom buried my cat Sam in the yard under the shady trees when I was too crushed to do it.  Home is where I spent time growing up.

Home is 3000 miles away, where most of my family still live.  It is where I was born.  Home is hearing “ey up mi duck” and feeling comforted. It is Flake 99, brilliant colored landscapes, and remembering that time when I attended school there and got chastised for not putting a “u” in the word color.  Home is sitting around the table with my aunt and uncle, nights at the pub laughing with cousins, who are the closest I have to siblings.  Home is where people know where you come from, know who you were before life took over, and who know all the family stories.  Home is where my cousin is, who flew across the world to stand by me when my father remarried because there was “no way I’ll have you do that without family there to support you”. Home is trecking across the emerald colored fields, with dogs at your side and wellies on.  Home is seeing a castle out the window.  It is the news shop that has been around since before I was born, where I got candy and bought magazines as a kid.  Home is going to the cemetery to sit by my mom’s grave and tell her all the news.  Home is seeing that orange monarch butterfly landing on my grandfather’s grave after telling him to “look after mum” after she passed away.  Home is having your mom’s cousins show up at the pub to surprise you, making you feel really special. Home is trying to get used to grandparents and older generation starting to pass away and feeling a bit lost now that they are gone.  Home is love. Home is various homes belonging to family members.   Home is the farm house I grew up in, no longer in the family, but that the current owners let me come visit.   It is the memories, the love and the fact even though I only get there once every couple of years that I’m stepping right in where we left off.

While I am not a religious person, home is also this church:

Melbourne_Church

 

This church, with it’s arches, columns, worn stone steps from centuries of use, and heavy wooden door, is a different type of home.  This is where my parents were married.  Decades later, on the same weekend, it is also the church where I got married.  It is where I was Christened, where family members have been married, babies Christened, and walks were taken. It is the keeper of many memories.  I still, after all these years, feel a sense of awe when I step through it’s doors.  I still remember midnight masses held there.  I remember the crunch of the tiny pebbles outside under my feet as we stood waiting for family brides and grooms to step out into the sun.  I remember my grandmother looking a bit like the Queen of England at my wedding, while she stood with my son.

Home is also the places we’ve traveled over the years where amazing memories have been created.  Home is Heinz field in Pittsburgh, where my husband and I take an annual trek to watch our favorite team play.  Home is the Red Parrot in Newport RI, where we head every year for an amazing meal with family (and where we ate on our honeymoon!).

Home is where the love is, where the memories are, where the people who make life special are.  I consider myself very lucky to always feel a sense of coming home, no matter where I go.  Of course, I always feel like a piece of me is elsewhere, and that is a bit difficult at times.  I am sad I don’t get to see my family overseas as much as I would like.  I am sad I am missing my cousin’s kids grow up.  I wish I was there more.  Hopefully, with planning and effort, I can travel there more in the future than I have been.

I can’t wait to go home…..and then, come home.

 

Looking Forward

They say a key to happiness is to have things in the future to look forward to.  It’s been a tough summer watching everyone on exciting vacations and with amazing experiences.  Know where I went to this summer?  Work.  I went to work, y’all.  And while I love what I do, it’s not a trip to an exotic location, you know?  What it is, however, is a means to an end, and that end is vacation.  I’ve kept relatively quiet about it.  There are seldom more obnoxious folks than those who tell you about their upcoming vacation at every twist and turn. (Honestly, nobody really cares where anyone is going on vacation, and frankly, if you’re constantly posting about it on social media, you’re asking to get your house broken into).   So, I’ve held relatively quiet about it, but as the time approaches, I must admit I’m getting more than a little excited.  We’re taking a family vacation to see folks we haven’t seen in a while, do things we can’t do at home, and attend a big celebration.  There will be running around, relaxing, and long walks in the countryside.  All things to be happy and looking forward to, for sure.  Best of all, we’re doing it all as a family.

Aside from my glee for that trip, I am also squeaking in a weekend at the lake, so I’m absolutely joyous about that as well.  I don’t even care that it will be a short trip.  A trip is a trip, and memories are to be made.  Then there is another trip planned out of state to attend a huge fair we go to each year. My new goal is less stuff, more travel!   Heck, I’ll sell some of the stuff to get out of town for a weekend!

As a kid, I got to travel quite a bit.  I’ve been up and down the east coast, out to Mexico, the Caribbean, Bermuda, England, and other places as well.  Travel had a big part in shaping who I am.  Travel really is the best teacher, and I am so grateful my parents were able to give me those experiences.  I look back and have memories of each trip.  I don’t remember all the toys they bought me, all the treats purchased over the years, but I do remember those trips.  I remember seeing things I’d never seen at home, tasting new foods, seeing picturesque beaches and tiny tin shacks that people called home.  I certainly remember getting sun stroke, burning my eyelids shut, and other mishaps.  I remember parasailing, and how close my feet looked compared to how far away the water was.  I remember the excitement every time I stepped off a plane into a new place.

I’m in a different financial place than my parents were, and travel with 2 kids in today’s society is a lot compared to what it was years ago.  That being said, I’m making efforts to taking my kids on trips.  Even if that trip is on the other side of the state for an overnight, or a quick trip to visit my dad several states away, we go.  We did Disney one year. (That was a hefty trip to fund, mind you). Every time we travel somewhere, I’m reminded how much I love it.  I’m reminded when we are on a car trip and the kids start reminiscing about prior trips we’ve taken.  I’m always amazed at how clear their memories are of the trips they have taken, and their experiences on each one.  They remember tiny details that even I have forgotten.

One year, my goal is to take them to England for an English Christmas.  I want them to experience the same magic I did as a kid over there.  I can’t explain it, it’s just a different vibe and feeling over there at the holidays.  It’ll be no easy task, getting gifts etc over there, but just once, I’d like them to have the same experiences I did as a kid.  We’ll have to see if it’s feasible in the future.  I also want to get my son to his first NFL game.  I want to take my kids to new cities, new towns, and let them soak up the sights around them.

It’s been a relatively calm summer.  At least, it’s felt calmer.  Outside of the normal 2 months of chaos, we slid into August quietly.  Some of that may be due to the fact I made some life changes to calm things down.  There comes a point where you have to cut back on the chaos, and I had to go through, see what was causing me stress, and cut it.  As soon as I made the changes, I felt calmer and ready to head into the end of summer. Now it’s time to start prepping for school to start.  This year will have some big changes.  Both kids head to new schools.  There will be bus schedules to examine, drop off and picks ups to work around, and supplies to be purchased.  They’re sort of bummed there is just a few more weeks of summer left.  I’m almost glad to get back to the organized chaos of fall.  At least some planned adventures are getting us all excited for the upcoming months.