Lazy Days of Summer

I’m not cut out for summer. As a super pale British lass, who is probably the only person in the entire family who doesn’t tan, I’ve never been one for sun and sand. Only if I wanted burn and aloe, that is. As a kid, I tanned. Long days at the beach with my mom or at camp turned me blond and golden skinned, but as I grew, something switched and I am now pale, freckled, and I burn far too easily for my own comfort. I remember my parents taking me to the Caribbean as a child, more than once. Despite slathering on sunblock and wearing a hat most of the time, I got sunstroke and got violently ill. They, excited to take me to new places, also took me to Mexico. I woke up suddenly unable to see. I thought I had gone blind, started screaming, only to determine my pale skin had forsaken me, leaving my eyelids burned shut. Heck, despite a week in Vegas, slathered in sunscreen, I burned promptly once I returned to the Northeast and dared go outside for an hour. The sun is not my friend.

I’m also, to my husband’s frustration, reincarnated Goldilocks. I hate being too cold, or too hot, but mostly too hot. I can always throw on a sweater or jacket if it’s cold, but it’s not as easy to cool down. It’s certainly not cheap either, as my electric company tells me daily via emails that I am spending too much money to run my window unit AC’s just at night so that I don’t melt into my bed. The heat leaves me tired and drained, and if I’m honest, my neighbors probably have disdain for me this year, as yard work in 90 degrees isn’t happening, folks. Nope. Not mowing my grass when stepping outside makes my skin crispy. It’s starting to look like Children of the Corn out there, and while I feel inherently guilty and sigh sadly about it, I don’t get upset enough to drag my pale, overheated ass outside. Well, I haven’t, but today that may be a reality.

Today we planned to take the new kayaks out as a family. I figured since we live 5 minutes from the water, that would be an easy task. My husband, however, is determined that sharks are everywhere and that we would be best served heading to a lake. I was A-OK with the plan, until I woke up this :morning to a news story that at 7:30 AM all the State Parks were nearing or at capacity. WHAT? Folks packed up for a full day of July 4th partying and outside time at friggen 7:30 in the MORNING? The showered, got themselves ready, got kids ready, packed food, drinks, beer, and all the accoutrements needed for a full day out, packed the car, drove and arrived at a park by 8 am? Savages, I tell you. My goodness, folks, it’s like people don’t know how to celebrate the glory of a lie in on a day off. My ass slept in and I am still, at mid day, enjoying a lazy cup of coffee.

I’m a lazy asshole sometimes, is the point of this post.

For all my posts about my chaos, which is usually self imposed and keeps me busy, yet usually very gratified, my heart is lazy. My family, my pets (which are family), my projects, my work, it all keeps me insanely busy. And then a day rolls around where the joy is in the lazy. At least for a little while. Then antsyness will arrive in all it’s glory, and I will feel guilty about the laziness, and will need to MOVE, to have a PLAN, and to feel at least a teensy bit productive.

For now, I need to go hunt down oodles of sunblock and a hat, as well as another coffee to get me through this beautiful day. Happy fourth y’all!

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A Sailing I Will Go (Well, Kind Of)

After arriving back from Vegas, I swear I have been out of sorts. The time change, the sleeping hour changes, and staying busy have kept me losing track of time and feeling kind of always tired. I compounded these feelings by taking on some extra stuff, so I certainly have been busy.

The week after we arrived back, my best friend who I went to Vegas with went in for her knee replacement. Everything went really well and she is doing better than she anticipated she would. That being said, she is pretty much out of commission. She does the cooking in the household, so I stepped in and made about a week’s worth of meals for her and her husband to get them through. I walked in the door with loads of single portion servings of all the things she loved me making when we were roomates. Her husband looked tired and anxious, but oh so grateful for a hot meal that he didn’t need to really “cook” other than heat up. The next day I stopped by to drop off a treat for her and walked into her having just vomited, her husband looking like he hadn’t slept a wink all night, and lots of tangible stress. The visiting nurse was sorting my friend out, so I offered to run to the stores and pick up anything they needed. After a grocery run, I came back, cooked them lunch, sent her husband for a nap while I sat chatting with her, and then heated up dinner for them. I left them both smiling and feeling much more relaxed. I know they were super grateful, but to be honest, it was me who felt grateful to be able to help.

The same day I was helping them happened to be the 13th anniversary of my mom’s passing. Some years I cope really well, some years I don’t. I had tried not to commit to much that day in anticipation that the day might swing either way. I woke up feeling heavy hearted. I miss my mom, but mostly I miss having her celebrate all the amazing things that have happened. I miss having the chance to have her be a part of my kids’s lives. I know she would be so incredibly proud of my kids, and would delight in the role of grandmother. She’d spoil them rotten in all the best ways, and I know she would play a very active role in their lives. The fact she has been deprived of this has been especially difficult for me, and is a bit of a raw subject. My mother defied all the odds and lived far longer than estimated after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. I have no doubt her determination to meet her grandchild was a big defining factor. My kids are very lucky to have other people who have stepped into the role my mother had to leave behind when she died. My husband’s brother’s mother in law is a champion and treats my kids as though they were her biological grandchildren. She asks to watch them, spends time with them, has them sleep over, and does activities with them, especially my daughter. When I went to Vegas, she graciously offered to back my husband up with caring for the kids around his work schedule. My son has reached the teen years and likes to be alone or out with his friends but still enjoys hanging out with her, and my daughter LOVES to hang out with her and goes every chance she gets. My step mother also plays an active role in their lives, albeit from a geographical distance. The very best part is that they extend the offer with no hesitation.

I miss my mom’s advice, her laugh, and her sing song “hello sweetheart” in her heavy British accent. I miss her dirty sense of humor that always seemed out of place from such a posh accent, making people blink a few times in wonderment if what they heard was really what she said. I miss the cheeky ribbing she gave me, her endless support, and knowing that no matter what happened, she had my back. I miss her stories about the family. I miss her. If she was here I’d tell her I’m sorry for all the times she asked me to rub her feet and I declined because I felt feet were kind of gross back then. I would have been a less angsty teen and I wish I could have listened more and not been so damned stubborn. I wish I could tell her that while I look horrible in yellow, and it was never much a color I liked too much, I now gravitate to all things yellow because it reminds me of her and the sunshine she brought wherever she went. I would tell her I miss how things were when she was here. It’s different, and not bad, but a bit of the sparkle has left with her. I always have loved a bit of sparkle you know. I’d probably be better domestically too because I’d constantly worry she’d be shocked at how messy the house gets some days. I’d say I’m joking there, but I’m not.

I had started the day feeling not my best, as I mentioned, so I felt determined to turn things around. It is important to me that my kids know how much I miss my mom, but also how great she was. I spend time telling them silly stories about her, and trying to create a “visual” so to speak of who she was. I need to make her more than just someone who died. I started the day by coming down for my normal coffee, but then grabbing a box of little creme brulees I had gotten from Costco. I set to work with my little torch, doing the sugar on top until it was a crispy topping. My kids walked in and stared….were we having creme brulee, a favorite, for breakfast? Yes indeed we were! I said that in honor of my mom it was a special breakfast day. This kind of bit me in the ass when I went to drop the little off at her friend’s house. The mom asked if she had eaten, meaning lunch. My girl announced excitedly “Yes! I had creme brulee for breakfast today!” Oh well. We can’t all be perfect moms.

Looking after my friend was cathartic in so many ways. She knew my mom, loved her too, and she also lost her mom to lung cancer. We get each other and get how those anniversaries can be. As I puttered around in the kitchen, we chatted about the tough days. It felt good to be around someone who understood me so well. While I was there, I got a text from my husband.

A bit of background, I grew up on the water as a kid. When we came to America we always lived within a short drive to the beach. I instantly took to the water, always wanting to swim. Eventually my dad got a motorboat and I loved being out on the water. I’m not sure why he ever got rid of it, to be honest. As a young kid, my parents saw my love of the water and enrolled me in sailing school. I had my boating license many years before I could ever drive a car. I then took further classes, and before long I was sailing, windsurfing, and spending my summers in the water. We never got a boat or a windsurfer, but I sure loved them. As I got older and had kids, the idea of buying a boat was out of my price range. I did want a kayak, however. My dad and I had mulled over each of us getting one. He lives on a lake, and I live near the beach. It’s something we talk about every time I visit but neither of us has gotten one. For me, it’s not the kayak itself, but all the “extra” stuff that was daunting. My husband isn’t much into boating, so it would be something I’d probably do mostly on my own. Transporting a kayak was the biggest reason I never got one. I’d have to get a rack for the car, and to be honest, I’m so short I doubt I’d ever be able to safely load and unload a kayak on/off the car myself. It just wasn’t feasible. I don’t have the upper body strength nor the height to make it work. While at my friend’s we were chatting about it, and I found a bright yellow kayak that was inflatable on amazon. It was cheap, inflatable, came with a paddle, and an air pump. Even better, it was about a quarter of the price of a basic kayak. The reviews were great. Instead of grappling with fitting it on the car and buying racks etc, I could deflate it and put it in the back of my SUV! It was yellow, which is a color I associate with my mom. It called to me. I sent the pic to my husband, saying I might treat myself in the next few weeks. I got a text back a little while later that said “It will be here by Monday. I wanted to treat you today.”

He’s the very best, I swear.

Best of all? It’s a two person kayak, which means I can take one of the kids with me if I want, or my husband.

The other night, the husband and I were chatting about the 4th. What to do? He mentioned the kayak and said we could go out. After mulling it over, I went back on Amazon and bought a second one. Now there is room for all four of us!

Another cool thing is that my nephew just got a kayak. I’m hopeful that once I get comfortable, I may be able to go out with him on the kayaks and have something cool to do together. I’ll have to see if he’d be up for that. First I have to build up some arm strength to keep up.

If you see the girl with a big old smile, spending time on her yellow kayak, it may be me…just puttering away. The fact my husband knew it was the day I lost my mom and chose to mark the day by fulfilling a little dream of mine, in bright yellow fashion (my mom drove a yellow car and always said yellow was the color of life) was the very best gift he could have given me. It’s also the reason my mom felt he and I were such a perfect match. He gets me, he really does.

MUST DO activity in Vegas

I wrote a post the other day about my fun filled trip to Vegas but I also wanted to do a post just on our last excursion. Honestly, it was the best part of the trip for me, and I came away from it exhilarated, worn out, but all smiles. Before I tell you about it, know that the owners have no idea I am writing this, and I get no benefit for doing so other than sharing what made my trip to Vegas unique and amazing in my eyes. When we were initially planning our girls’ trip to Las Vegas, my friend handed me a list of excursions/shows etc we could do, for free, on her Chase points. I perused the list full of Cirque de Soleil shows (I recommend Ka, while I got a bit lost in the storyline the show itself was magnificent), some other options that weren’t really my thing, and then I saw it: UTV riding in the desert. I looked up excitedly and said “dune buggy things in the desert?” My friend’s head whipped around. “Would you DO that?” she asked, “because nobody else will do it with me and I want to!”. We booked it immediately. The company who runs it is OUI Experience https://www.ouiexperience.com/.

Fast forward to our trip to Vegas, and she got a text from Jake, who runs the operation. He explained that he would show to pick us up from the Uber lot at the hotel in a white unmarked van. He also warned us it might be a bit dusty (after all, we found out he and his wife live in the desert, so a little dust is normal). He gave us some flexibility as to when we wanted to be picked up, in case we wanted to bypass the sun’s strength a bit by going out earlier. He let us know the excursions were private, so it would be just us and him, no other people. We decided on 9 am as a meet time. My friend and I joked about the fact we were getting into a dusty unmarked white van with a stranger in a cowboy hat, and I mentioned it was a good thing my husband could locate my phone in an emergency to “find the body” (you all should know I have a dark, dry humor by now, but if not, you do after reading that).

9 am rolls around and we head to the Uber lot at the hotel. As promised, there is a large white van parked and a tan, smiling man in a cowboy hat chatting with someone. We walked up and he immediately introduced himself as Jake, and escorted us to the van. We hopped in and he turned the AC on which was certainly a welcome treat after the Vegas temps we’d had for the past few days. We headed out to the highway, with Jake filling us in on what we would be doing, how his company had special permits and permissions to go where other places couldn’t, and various other tidbits. Before long, I saw a sign indicating we were crossing into Arizona. The drive took about an hour or so, but it flew by with good conversation. You could tell immediately that Jake loves what he does, and his excitement became our excitement. I was staring out the window in awe at the landscape. I’ve been to Las Vegas once before but had never left the strip until that day. The views were beautiful but very different than anything I had ever seen. Next thing I knew, we turned off the paved road and onto a dirt road. I was laughing to myself how it reminded me of Breaking Bad when they are in the RV headed down dirt roads. I had always wondered how people found their way in the vast desert and here I was rambling down those very types of dirt roads.

Jake filled us in on how he met his wife, Ani, and his whole face lit up when he talked about her. As we pulled into their land, where they keep the vehicles, he beeped the horn, mentioning it was his way of always letting her know he was home, as well as a symbol of good luck. Ani comes out of the building where she does the paperwork and has the supplies and has a huge grin on her face. She helps us get equipped with helmets, does a quick introduction to the vehicle, and explains my friend and I will be riding together on this tour, which was fine with us. She handed us a GoPro to take videos with, and gave us a tutorial on that. Like a mother hen, she reminds us of the heat (honestly, no reminder was necessary…..116 degrees is not something you easily forget, trust me!) and tells us we must drink tons of water. We get bandanas to cover our noses and keep the dust out. Jake has a bag packed by Ani filled with ice cold water and anything we might need. She lets us know to be careful of rocks with the tires, as occasionally a rock, if caught the wrong way, can slash the sidewall. She also takes a moment to quickly quip about Jake, before assuring us we will be in good hands.

We set off. Jake leads the way and we follow. Slowly at first, as I learned to navigate the vehicle and the terrain. Before long we were going 50 mph down the dirt roads. Occasionally we would ride on little cliffs, and I had to go easier, being mindful of dips in the road so as not to launch us out. We hit a bumpy patch and my friend and I burst into hysterical laughter as boobs bounced mercilessly. Periodically Jake would stop and give us thumbs up to see if we were ok. We were feeling great.

It wasn’t lost upon me that this was an amazing adventure that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. I shouted to my friend over the roar of the engine how grateful I was. She decided she didn’t want to drive and said she was quite happy to let me drive while she filmed videos on the GoPro and took pictures. When we passed wild donkeys with a baby in tow, her whole face lit up. Aside from the wild donkeys, we saw free range cattle, including babies, as well as jackrabbits, bunnies, and even a roadrunner (meep meep!).

We first headed off to an abandoned gold and quartz mine. It was partially boarded up, but other areas simply had a few pieces of metal wire around it. I suppose not too many folks would be out that way anyways. Jake told us you might get some unsavory wildlife in there, so I was quite content looking around at some of the beautful rocks around the mine. We jumped back in the UTV’s and headed out down to Lake Mohave. As we started our way down there, the water looked a bright, crystal blue. In the dry desert heat, it looked a picture of heaven.

As we got down towards the water, it only got more beautiful. Suddenly we were surprised to see a few Apache helicopters (I think that’s what they were) zooming effortlessly above the water, looking to be mere feet above the waves. It was such an unexpected site I had to pause to watch. We headed all the way to the lakefront where surprisingly there was a building housing a toilet. Jake told us we could go in and change into our swimsuits if we like (they had told us to bring them so we could swim). My friend looked panicked. She had left them back at the startpoint by mistake. We decided, due to the heat, we’d just go in our clothes. After all, Jake said we’d probably dry off within no time. I was in awe at a tree growing quite far in the water. Just one, lone tree amongst the beautiful crystal clear blue waters. Jake informed us the lake often recedes during drier months and the tree must have taken root. We headed a bit further down to another spot and jumped off a small rock into the water, clothes, sneakers and all. I will tell you that the water felt like all my hopes and dreams after being out in that heat all day!

After a long, leisurely swim, we hopped back in for our final stop, which was at a peak of one of the mountains. We hopped out to appreciate the view, which was stunningly beautiful. I had to pause for a moment to take it all in. As a farmgirl from the emerald green fields of England, to the green, tree lines streets of New England, USA, to the dry, dusty, yet picturesque desert in Arizona. This area was nothing like anything I had ever seen in real life before. I wondered at the cacti that were spotted around, looked for wildlife, and honestly wondered how people navigated the area. The mountains had a reddish, earthy tone, and while it was hot and dusty, the dryness of the land against the crystal waters of Lake Mohave below was just something you had to take a moment to absorb.

We headed back to where we had started, all in all doing about 100 miles or so that day in the UTV. Ani came out to greet us yet again, asking excitedly how we had liked our day. I couldn’t really put into words how much I had enjoyed myself. After handing over the helmets and bandanas, we were handed another ice cold drink before the ride back to Vegas. This time, Ani joined us for the trip. I found ourselves asking lots of questions, which she was eager to answer, filling us in on her version of how she and Jake met, how they live in the desert, and what their days are like. She told us she also works as an English teacher. They live full time in the desert on about 8-10 acres of land, in a large RV that has sides that expand. I sat fascinated as she described life in the desert, the beautiful amazing parts, and the challenges too. Her and Jake mentioned how many nights, they take their jeep down to the lake and go jetskiing or swimming to cool off and relax.

Now it may sound silly, but when they dropped us off, they gave us a huge farewell, and I was honestly sad to see them go. Not only had I had an amazing, fun filled, memorable day, but it felt like I had spent it with old friends. And, if I’m really honest, in a world where marriages often struggle to survive, it was a joy to see a couple who seemed to really love not only each other, but the life they have created together. I turned to my friend and said “I really wish I could follow along with their story, they were just so fun to be around”. I will be rooting for them.

We arrived back to the hotel, hungry, dusty, and surprisingly not too sunburned! (Thanks for the sunblock Ani!!!).

After showering, getting prettied up, and feeling relaxed and sleepy, we headed out for a good meal.

It’s not all too often I write reviews, and it’s even less often I’d ever blog about a company, but here’s my 2 cents…..if you head out to the Vegas area, look up https://www.ouiexperience.com/ Spend the cash, and go. It’s not super cheap but I guarantee it’s a lifetime memory and experience. The excursion is a full day. We left at 9 and got back at 5, but you can make it shorter etc if need be. You’ll be back early enough to do dinner and nighttime excitement in Vegas. Not only that, but you’ll put your money in the pockets of two really great people who will be a joy to hang out with. This is a MUST DO experience, and you won’t regret it.

And as for me, I shall go somewhere…

If you have access to news, you’ll probably see there has been a rash of deaths of Americans in the Dominican Republic. Folks looking for a beautiful vacation at seemingly safe resorts ending up mysteriously dead, one woman dragged off the path and beaten within an inch of her life, and people mysteriously getting sick. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were targeting American’t specifically. I’ve never been to that region, so I’m not really sure what it’s really like. Folks I know who have been there say “as long as you stay at the resort and don’t go anywhere, you’re fine.”

Sounds friggen’ horrible.

Maybe it’s me, but I don’t much care to travel to a resort where I can’t leave, can’t experience the locals and the true place I am visiting. I might as well be visiting Epcot and experiencing the world that way. What good is it to travel and not fully experience the place? If I’m only allowed to stay at the hotel, and have to be frightened of being beaten or killed if I step outside their gates, then I’m thinking maybe that’s just not the place for me to go. It reminds me when I had an apartment I chose not fully knowing the area. Late at night, I sometimes heard gunshots. I remember singing, like Ariel “I want to be…where the gunshots aren’t. I moved to a place I felt safer.

The thing that concerned me, outside of the actual events of these people getting injured or killed, was how some people reacted. “I’ll never leave the US!” many said. “I have everything I need right here in the US!” Some of those commenting had likely never even left their own STATE I saw posted more than once on social media. It occurred to me how boxed in many people make themselves. To have this big, beautiful world, with so many cultures, foods, and places to see, and then to ignore it all, and not even TRY to get out there seems like such an inherent waste to me.

Look, I am far from a world traveler but I HAVE traveled quite a bit in my lifetime. There are many, many places I want to somehow visit in my lifetime. This world has so many beautiful opportunities and places that call to me. There is something different about people who travel to various places. They seem more worldly, often more tolerant of differences, and more open to new ideas. They seem less complacent.

A few of my cousins have set off on some major traveling excursions. I saw pictures of her at the airport, bright, wide eyed and looking excited. Over the next few weeks, I saw pictures of her show up on social media, meeting an elephant, sitting with an African tribe, and beaming with joy in some of the most beautiful photos I have ever seen. Pictures of African sunsets and the people that live there…each picture more stunning than the rest, yet she had LIVED it for a short time. I have no doubt she came back with an expanded mind from all she saw.

My other cousin went to India to work. I’d never much thought about travelling to India, but her experience opened my mind. I began to see how beautful some areas were and wondered why it had never really crossed my mind to go there.

Another cousin just MOVED to Australia. I was shocked. Sure, I packed up and moved 300 miles away from my parents. She moved half way across the WORLD. Each picture, each mention calls to my soul to go there. It looks amazing. I actually think I would suck it up and do the monsterous journey just for the experience.

I know, I know, for most, travel to foreign lands seems so out of reach. I often wondered how I could afford to get all four of us to England last year. I scrimped and saved, carefully watched prices on flights, and gave up a few little things. I stopped eating lunch at work. At $5-10 a day, that EASILY added up to a big monthly payment to put towards the trip. I made my own coffee at home, saving several dollars a week. I put the funds in a special account, not easily accessible, so I wouldn’t be able to pull them out and spend them on a whim. Such small changes made a huge difference.

Are there places in the US I would like to visit? Of COURSE! I have a friend who I believe will always be a part of my girl tribe, but I’ve never met her in person. I’m dying to fly down south to meet her sometime. I have friends around the US that I want to visit, and places I want to see. I want my kids to see new places, and experience new experiences they can’t easily do so here.

When I took my kids to England, they LOVED it. As in, they loved it so much they begged to go back. One child proclaimed they were seriously thinking about moving to England when they get older. They felt a light in their heart there. It is a slower, easier paced life, and they LOVED it. They loved having all their other cousins around, seeing things they don’t see here at home, and trying new experiences. It was eye opening to them. They came home with a fire, and I loved it. Hopefully we can get back sooner rather than later. Time to save those pennies!!

If you travel, find a place you feel safe and you can see more than just a resort. See the locals, the customs, the traditions. Taste the local food. Learn the local language (at least a few words) and make as many wonderful memories as you can. Right now, the Dominican Republic may not be the best place. Hopefully one day things will be better and it will be safer than it feels to many right now.

My point being, please don’t lock yourself into a mental box and think you shouldn’t travel. You SHOULD. It will make you a better person more often than not. It will open your eyes to so many things, and give you experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. Eat cheaply, save pennies, have a tag sale, whatever you can do to save a few bucks. Instead of buying that new outfit or new item you’ll be donating in two years, invest in yourself and invest in TRAVEL.

I’m Totally Not Ready

You know, there are moments in your life that seem to take forever to arrive, and then suddenly they are upon you and you think…”I’m totally not ready! How am I not ready? I had all the time to be ready!”. Yep, That’s pretty much where I am at on this cold, overcast day.

Last week I wrote about choosing joy, and doing things you WANT to do. As soon as I wrote it, I missed out on a party I wanted to go to because my back went out. The irony of it was that I had just told a friend how grateful I was that I’ve had very little back pain in a long time. It took me bending SLIGHTLY to get shampoo whilst in the shower, and next thing I know is searing pain up and down my back and hip. It hasn’t been quite right since. Now, I’d like to say that the reason that all the things has crept up on me this week is because I’ve been a little gimpy, but the fact is, I’ve been overtired, sore, but also pretty busy. Now my total procrastination is catching up to me.

Today was the last day of school. I picked up my little one from school only to have her jump in the car and burst into tears. I thought someone had hurt her, and I was ready to pounce. The truth was, she was sad to leave her teachers, school, and friends behind for the summer. This, coming from a child who in years past complained about how she disliked school. She always loved her teachers, but she never much enjoyed school. I think mostly because she found it a bit hard and challenging. This year, she moved forward quite a lot, and seemed to really enjoy herself. So much so that she was sad to leave. This made me happy. I’ve always felt education is key to more opportunities, and I had always hoped she would find her niche in school. Despite some hard changes this year, she did really well and I’m proud. The town recognized her efforts in helping me with the Closet project, which I thought was really awesome. I think it added to the positive feeling she felt about the year. We started the year with most of her old friends getting pulled out of school. She made some wonderful new friends. She also got bullied a couple of times. Surprisingly, she turned the situation around (despite hauling off and kicking one of the bullies) and even making good friends with them. I’m so proud of her, but I’m not ready for her to go up a grade. It feels like it’s going too fast.

Which leads to me to something off topic, but so be it. During the redistricting, I got into a debate with a gentleman who had an opposing view. We had a bit of a heated conversation. He wanted the redistricting, and I didn’t. So be it. He approached me at the end of year party to thank me for all I have done at the school. I told him that even though things didn’t swing as I had hoped, I wanted to make the very best of it for all of the kids. I also told him how impressed I had been by his and his wife’s frequent presence at the school. They had stepped up and stood by their word, and I admired it. We ended the year with a hug and a joined goal to continue to make the school the very best it could be. I wasn’t prepared for the sunshine and happiness moment, but I am sure am glad it happened. It ended the year on a really nice note. He’s even agreed to join in and help me next year, so that’s pretty awesome!

Aside from kids growing up (which I doubt I shall ever be quite prepared for), I’m also trying very hard to get used to continue my “free range” parenting idea. I am trying to loosen the reigns on the kids more and more. The boy child goes off with his friends more often than not, and he seems much happier. He has been great with checking in, being where he is supposed to be, and letting me know when he is going from place to place. I have a tracking app on his phone so I do periodically check it to make sure where he says he is. The better he does, the more freedom he gets. Even the little one is doing well. Both kids are enjoying added responsibility and freedom. They also know it can be taken away if they don’t follow the rules. It’s a work in progress. Compared to me hovering over them all the time, it’s been a positive experience to let them spread their wings. I notice they are much more street smart now as well. It’s not easy letting go and allowing them to go off on their own but as I remember from childhood, it’s SO important. I still remember when the little one went to her friend’s house and I thought I lost her. It was terrifying. Yet I remember the cops’ words to me “You are doing the right thing…you HAVE to let them roam and do things so they learn to be independent”, so that’s what I am trying to do. I’ve heard comments about it, sure, but I’m doing what’s best for us. As a child, I flew across the Atlantic by myself, navigated numerous airports, and never blinked an eye. I’m not at that point yet with the kids, but I remember the confidence and happiness that independence brought me as a kid. I felt so comfortable in my own skin knowing I could travel half way across the world and navigate the process by myself. I want that for my kids too.

Another thing I am not ready for, yet mentally so ready for? Vegas.

I have packed nothing. I have to do all the jobs around the house, prep father’s day gifts, mow the grass, and pack. Nothing has been done. I’m a slacker. I was going to come home from the year end beach party and do some jobs before heading out to another party, yet here I am, writing. I feel like I want to sleep for a week, yet I am gearing up for a week of very, very little sleep. I’m not ready for anything.

The nicest thing about the Vegas trip? Well, there’s a few things. The first is the daily countdown email I get from my friend each day. I haven’t told her, but it makes me laugh every day because I can FEEL her excitement about this trip, and I am just as excited. I will miss my husband and kids terribly. That being said, there is something so cool about being responsible for just myself for a few days. As a parent, I am constantly responsible for the health and well being of multiple people and animals in our household. To be able to just be responsible for myself temporarily is just a strange sort of luxury. I am excited for our planned events. These include, but are not limited to, a Cirque show, Riding dune buggies in the desert, ziplining, swimming through a shark tank, and one truly amazing fancy dinner. Doesn’t all of that sound amazing? I swear, I am so incredibly lucky to have such awesome friends. That being said, we are cramming tons of things into just a few days, and I’m struggling with the fact that I want to do ALL the things, but I am getting old and I love sleep. Look, 10pm you will usually find me laying in bed. I love bed. I love sleep. They are my favorites. You can’t go to Vegas and sleep it away though! I gotta be ready to hang. I did take the day after come back off work though. Wasn’t planning to, but I have the time and frankly, I am gonna need a recovery day.

I’ll fill y’all in on how things go, what I loved, what I liked a little less, and much more when I come back.

I think when I come back there will be some life changes going on. I’ve got that antsy feeling. Sometimes when that feeling hits, I make a small change or two, and sometimes it’s a huge change. Then again, I could spend a week away and come back feeling right as rain. I got the itch to shake things up.

I may get suddenly inspired to write before I go, but if not, see you all on the flip side.

Waving From the Chaos Whilst Finding Joy

June is one of those months where it seems like there is always a million birthdays, a million things going on, and no money with which to do all the things. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE all the celebrations, parties, events, and end of school things, but I feel like I am in constant chaos all month. I find myself constantly checking the calendar to make sure I am not missing anything.

It’s funny, I was never a calendar person. I simply kept everything in my head, like a giant mental Roladex. Then I saw other moms who seemingly had it all together, and these women had CALENDARS. Big, paper calendars with millions of things color coded and organized. I wanted to be like them. They seemed relaxed, despite their crazy calendars that gave me anxiety. I thought perhaps it might be freeing to go ahead and try this whole “organized mom” thing. I started out with a paper planner, and wrote everything super important down. I then started using my phone, putting in my work schedule, kids’ schedules, birthdays, events, anniversaries. I now live by the calendar, but spend an awful lot of time panicking that I may have forgotten to put something on my calendar and it will bite me in the ass. All too often I grab an appointment card with best intention to get the info on my calendar, but life is chaos, and sometimes I forget. Businesses that do reminder calls? I salute you!

This weekend, I need to find time to mow the grass, start work on clearing my patio, go to a gymnastics show, celebrate 3 birthdays, one graduation, prep for the week, as well as do all the laundry that I got behind on. Oh yes, and pack for an upcoming trip, get necessary items from the store, and figure out what sunblock a British lass with ultra fair skin should wear in the desert so as not to spontaneously combust. Hell, I went outside in the Northeast of the US for an hour and ended up with a sunburn! Also, what does one wear on a dune buggy in the desert for multiple hours so I won’t get a melanoma, exfoliate all my skin off, burn, or overheat and die? Do you know how much time these thoughts and concerns have consumed me the past few days? Way more than they should. I surmise I am going to overpack and still not have all I need.

So if you’ve been reading a while, you know I love a good story where I make an utter ass of myself. If you can’t laugh at yourself, it’s a sad life, really. So in the midst of my chaos, I stopped off to pick up some paperwork this week. I walked in and notice that there were security cameras around, which most businesses have. I walk in and find where I need to go. I see there is a little bell to push for service, and I look down and ring it. As I looked down to press the bell, as I am pushing it, I see that I have a situation. The button on my pretty flowy shirt with buttons has decided to unbutton itself. It also appears my boobs have decided to look out to see what it is I am up to that fine day, glad to be freed from their cotton button down prison. Now, I’m wearing a bra (big boobed girls rarely have any choice in that matter) but still we have a clear situation at hand. I begin to frantically try to rebutton myself before someone comes to assist the bell ringer. I am anxious though, and fumbling about like I am having a medical situation. I get my shirt buttoned at JUST the last second before the woman comes to help me. Now I am laughing at myself and cackling away, while looking like I am touching my boobs as I try to button up. I then realize this is all on the security cameras. #NotWinning.

My mom has been on my mind a lot lately, and I remembered looking in a closet while she was ill and remarking that she had some wonderful lotion in there. She commented she was saving it “for best”. I think we all have things we save for a special occasion. The problem was, however, that after she died I found that same lotion, untouched, in her closet. There were multiple things I found like that. It got me thinking how much she would have enjoyed that lotion, as simple as it was, and how by saving it she never got to savor it. It made me so sad. It also made me think, this past few weeks, how easily we often let joy slip through our fingers because we deny ourselves simple little pleasures for a myriad of reasons. Maybe it’s because we were taught it wasn’t appropriate as kids, maybe it’s something we are saving for “best” like my mother did, or maybe it’s because we feel we have to be a “good person” and do things we don’t want to do because “we should”. Why? The other day I wanted ice cream, for breakfast. I know, I’m a savage, right? So you know what I did, despite being told my whole life that ice cream is not an acceptable breakfast? I had ice cream for breakfast, because I’m a grown woman who can do that if she chooses. It seems so silly, so minute, but it brought me joy. My new goal is to find joy in small things at least once every day, even if it means “breaking the rules”. I had multiple conversations with various people this week who got put in a position where they were doing things they really didn’t want to do. These weren’t things they HAD to do. I responded by saying “so don’t?”. I get we all try to fit into social norms, or make people happy, but at the end of the day, nobody gets a martyr award for doing things we don’t want to. Look, I am all for kindness and doing kind things. But do them because you want to, and because they bring you joy. Why? Because the joy flows through to the recipient. If I show up and hand you something you need with a smile and light in my eyes, it’s a much different experience than if I show up looking like you disrupted my day and you’re a burden.

A prime example of joyful giving is totally evident with two of my friends. I mentioned in an earlier post that my friend and I are going to Vegas. She is basically taking me for a girls’ trip. I am utterly beside myself with gratefulness and excitement about this trip. I NEED a vacation, and honestly, I need a few days where I don’t need to be responsible for anyone but myself. Being a mom is the very best thing I have ever done. That being said, being responsible for the well being and keeping two other human beings alive and well and raising them to be productive members of society is HARD. Hard in a good way, but still hard. I have trouble keeping plants alive, but here I am, keeping two humans alive, healthy and kind. Being able to take a few days to be responsible just for myself is a strange kind of freeing. That being said, I’ll probably get out there and be missing them like crazy. My husband is a top notch dad so I don’t fear anything happening. Anywho, back to joyful giving. My friend is treating me to a trip, yet she also emails me daily with an excited countdown of how many days we have before we go. She excitedly tells me about all the things she wants to show me. She makes me feel like my presence on this trip will make her trip better, and that is an amazing feeling.

This morning, my other friend messaged me to say she had dropped off some tickets to a show in my mailbox. She asked if I was awake and I said I had just woken up as I needed a lazy morning. She texted commenting it’s the perfect day to sit outside in the morning and enjoy a coffee. A few moments later, she showed up back at my house WITH COFFEE. I can tell you it was AMAZING and awesome and SO appreciated. We stood outside catching up for a few moments, and then I sat on my steps outside after she left to do all her errands and I SAVORED that coffee. It felt like it set the tone for the whole day and I felt absolutely joyous.

Yes, I have amazing friends.

Yes, I appreciate every single one.

Yes, my circle is small, brutally honest, full of kindness, feisty, and I could call on them for anything. How awesome is that?

What else is new? (Well, it’s been a few weeks so I am feeling quite chatty today, plus I am extra caffeinated).

Oh yes, my much beloved cousin, who is like a little brother to me, is off scaling the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales this week as part of an event to raise money for charity. Over 1000 miles of driving, 3 mountains to scale, and a ton of physical endurance. I’m amazed and proud and am cheering him on from 3000 miles away. I am also sitting here eating cheese puffs and chocolate, drinking my coveted coffee, and realizing why I am probably chubbier than most of my cousins. Ha! I miss my cousins terribly. They were the siblings I didn’t have as kids, and even as adults. I miss my UK family to bits and I think another trip is in order. That being said, this year so far is currently stacked with trips and things to do, but maybe next year. I asked my kids where they would like to go for a next big family vacation, and they both chose to go back to England to see their family. It made me so happy to see they love it there as much as I do, and that they had such a great time on our last trip. .

Well, I’d better get moving. I’ve done a load of procrastinating today and it’s time to get rocking and rolling.

I leave you with this…find the joy in the mundane, find time to laugh at yourself and the world around you, and know that tomorrow is always a new day. Treat yo’self. Use the expensive candles or lotion, dress up just because, and find the happiness in the little things.

Waving from the chaos!

Neighborhood Mama

It’s been a week, y’all. I knew yesterday was going to be one of those days when I spent the entire first part of the day fully content it was Friday and looking forward to the weekend. Then I realized it was only Thursday. Outside of teasing myself that the workweek was nearly over and I could plan to get some stuff done around the house before spending a day with the husband, the day went pretty unremarkably for the most part before gearing into high drive.

For starters, a text came in from the mom of one of my daughter’s friends. I only just met her recently, and I met her at a chaotic event. I don’t know her well and am trying to get a feel for what she’s like. She very friendly on one hand, but again, it’s always an odd feeling when you meet new mom friends. Turns out we live close to each other, which made me happy because the girls can play in the summer. She invited my daughter over for a playdate after she got out of school. I figured it would be a nice treat, so I said sure. When my daughter got home, she was super excited to head out to her friend’s, and I said I would walk her over on my break.

I clocked out for lunch, and all hell broke loose. I was just about to head out the door when I saw my friend’s children come running up to my door. I know they are latchkey kids in the afternoon until their mom gets home from work, and it was odd that they would be at my house. I instantly ran to the door and opened it to find her daughter crying. It turns out someone had taken umbrage at a comment my friend made on social media and had had a high schooler threaten my friend’s young kids, who are in elementary school. WHO DOES THAT? I now had two frightened kids at my house, and I knew that their mom didn’t have phone access for about an hour and a half. I put the kids in the car and drove down to see if the person who had threatened them was still there. They weren’t. I went back into the school and explained what had happened to the principal.

The principal sat down and asked my friend’s daughter what happened, carefully taking notes. She then put a call into the police, made some calls, and somehow figured out who the high schooler was. Within minutes, she had his picture, full school record, and more in her hands. I was impressed. I had to email in to my job that I had had a small emergency and would not be returning, as I had to wait for the police to arrive.

The police took ages to get there, but the officer was lovely to the kids. It was nice to see how he handled the situation and spoke with them. He spoke with me and commented how happy he was that the kids had a safe place to go to and a safe adult they knew they could trust.

I won’t lie, it made me happy to know that I’m that neighborhood mama the kids know will look after them. I’m the tough mom, but the mom they know will make sure everything is ok. It also made me feel happy knowing the other parents trust me to tell their kids to come here if they need to. I think it takes a village and it’s always a comfort to know that if my kids need anything, there are some great neighborhood moms that will band together.

While I was at the school getting things sorted, my other neighbor volunteered to take my son to the teen night at the school, which I was inherently grateful for. I had dropped my daughter off at her playdate and the girl’s mom was happy to keep her as late as I needed. I waited at my friend’s house for her to get home so her kids would feel comfortable and unafraid. I got a big hug for looking after her babies, and headed out to collect my kids. I picked up my sweaty, red faced daughter from her friend’s, tired after playing on the trampoline and running around outside. I sat and chatted with her mom a while, and decided she’s pretty cool. I then had to race off to get my son, who called me because he had a migraine. The three of us arrived home and decided to order a pizza to unwind.

While an unfortunate situation happened, I am so grateful for the neighborhood mamas. All of us banded together to take care of kids that weren’t our own, and each played a part in making sure kids were safe, happy, and being kids.