Christmas Thoughts in August

This morning, we found our old video camera and some tapes. I had been looking for the camera for years, as I got it as a gift from my parents the Christmas before we had my son. It was also what we knew was going to be the last Christmas with my mom.

That Christmas was such a strange mix of happiness and devastation. My now husband and I drove down to Virginia to spend Christmas with my parents. Until that point (we were still dating at the time) I believe we had each spent the holiday with our own families, but this Christmas was different. My family is British, so of course we held it all together and put on the famous British “stiff upper lip” but each of us knew that the next year, it would be very very different.

Christmas was always my favorite holiday. It was just my parents and I in the US but my mom made every effort to make Christmas magical. If we got to go to England for Christmas it was even MORE magical because then I had my cousins to play with and my massive family around me. While my parents didn’t have a lot of money in my younger years, my mom somehow managed to pull together enough money to get whatever was on the top of my list plus more. It wasn’t just gifts though. She just had an air about her that made the holiday absolutely magical.

2005 was the year my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. By the books, she wasn’t supposed to live more than a couple of months. The cancer had started in her lungs, spread to her liver and pancreas, which are some of the worst places for it to go. She would end up living until June of 2006, but at the time, we never looked up what the books said. We just lived and took each day at a time. That year, I was inherently aware that it was likely my last Christmas with her. This broke me inside in ways I’ll never be able to explain, and I hid that grief from everyone, including my husband. He knew I was struggling, but nobody else knew just how bad it was for me at the time. I put on a brave face most of the time, and soldiered on. It wasn’t until I could be 100% alone that I really let it all come pouring out, and then I bottled it right back up. I couldn’t let my parents see how bad it was because they had their own battles to fight and I didn’t want extra worry about me falling into the mix. They were worried enough.

I was very pregnant that Christmas, and the hormones sure didn’t help me tackle the grief process. My parents I believe had gotten me the camera (althought perhaps we got it?) but I remember recording moments in the kitchen, including one of my mom cooking Christmas dinner. I’ve thought about that moment for years. This was back before smartphones and everyone having a camera and video recording device in their pocket. I’ve spent years wondering if that video was there, and most importantly, if I could hear the sound of her voice. I’ve missed that voice…the sing song “Hello Sweetheart!” and joking “Ya cheeky bugger!” in her British accent more than I can ever say. I just wanted to hear her voice.

This morning, my husband found the camera and tapes, far back in his closet, and handed them to me. It felt like Christmas. I was beyond excited. What was interesting is that yesterday, after having a particularly bad day, I looked up in my linen closet and saw the quilt my mom had given me that Christmas in 2005. I remember the card she had written, asking me to remember that particular Christmas as it was likely our last Christmas together. Somewhere, I have the card stashed away and the blanket has been in my linen closet to keep it safe.

I plugged the old camera in and was thrilled to see it still worked. I popped in tape after tape. Sadly, it looks like the footage I was looking for may have been taped over. On the bright side, it was footage of my husband’s family gathered around the table at a family event, and my father in law is there. He passed away a few years after my mom did. I excitedly told my husband we had footage of his dad, as well as another clip of him holding our son for the first time in the hospital. It was incredibly sweet to see, and to see everyone from 13 years ago in all their youth. There is video of me in the labor and delivery room, in labor, recording while my husband is fast asleep. I found video of them laying my newborn son on my chest while I was in recovery. There was video of my husband talking to the baby in silly voices, and making me cry with laughter by doing silly dances. There was footage of his first birthday party, some of his first steps, him telling me he was scared of thunder, and us being first time parents. There are silver linings.

My house was clean back then too. Isn’t it funny that I made note of that? but it was. Lots of toys around, but it was clean.

2 kids, work, pets, life happened, but ok, I did miss the cleanness of the house back in the day.

That being said, I wouldn’t change it. I love our life and our crazy house. Floors can be dusted. I want the memories.

If there’s one thing that’s been reiterated to me today, it’s to get in the pictures. Get the videos and get IN the videos. One day my kids may be looking for me and my voice in the old home videos. One day they will want to see our memories in a visual form. I want to be in them, and leave them my voice, my love on a screen as a reminder, and to be present. Times have changed and videos are so EASY to make now. I know my mom often didn’t like being on film etc, but I wish I had made more of an effort to get her one screen and in videos. I’d be more content now to be able to hear her and see her on screen on those days I miss her.

In a few weeks, I am headed down to see my dad and step mother. I plan on taking videos. I want voices, and memories for not only me, but for my children as well. I realized I don’t have many pictures and videos of my dad. Not as many as I would like, anyway. It’s time to correct that, while I have the chance.

Seize the day.

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Birthday girl

Tomorrow, the little one turns 9. I’m not prepared at ALL. Sure, we had a fun filled family party, and her gifts are almost ready for tomorrow, but what I don’t have ready is this mama’s heart.

You know, when I had my son, everyone told me the old “enjoy him while he’s little” advice, as well as the “time is going to fly by” jobber. And I laughed sometimes, because sometimes, the days seemed interminable. There was always so much to DO. So many errands, so many diapers, so many meals, so many floors to sweep. Half the time I didn’t get it all done. Ok, MOST of the time I didn’t get it all done. I was a tired mama. My husband worked until late at night so I was on my own a lot. I was domestically challenged. It was a recipe for disaster. Only I didn’t follow the recipe.

I picked my battles. Housework lost far more often than I am willing to admit. Sometimes, long chats in the car (my kids often become the chattiest in the car) far outweighed in importance than dishes in the sink. We got through the milestones one at a time. In a blink of an eye, he was 5, then 10, and now 13. He is almost as tall as me, 13 in all its angsty glory, and if he doesn’t remember deodorant, he stinks a bit. He’s a smart, kind, and gentle soul with quick wit and a sarcastic dry sense of humor. He’s exactly the child I needed for my first child. The advice was right all along though, folks. Today he is begging me for rides to his friend’s houses. in 3-4 years, he’ll be driving. In 5 years he heads to college and becomes and adult. My mama heart isn’t ready for that. Not one bit.

The little one, well, she started out in the world as a challenge and she kept going. We never quite knew if she’d make it during pregnancy, as I spotted for months and months. I ended up hospitalized after my gall bladder went bad while I was pregnant. We made it through. My daughter was diagnosed with strabismus and alternating amblyopia before she was 1, and went in for corrective surgery. It worked for a few weeks, before her eye dropped back in. She had tonsils out, oral surgery to fix teeth that were coming in in the wrong place, and she has braces. She managed to get through each surgery or problem with a smile. She is my cuddly, huggy lovebug but she also my tough little warrior girl. I watched her see an elderly woman walking towards a restaurant with a cane, and my daughter, unprompted, ran to open and hold the door for her. I was so stinkin’ proud, but I also got a bit emotional because I see how grown up she is getting. I’m trying to embrace the little in her while encouraging her to grow. Every weekend she crawls onto my bed in the mornings to cuddle and giggle with me, and I try to soak in every moment because I know one day it will be her last to climb up, and I shall miss it every weekend thereafter.

I’m not ready for them to grow up.

I feel like these kids are growing up so amazingly, but I’m not ready for them to spread their wings and fly. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready. Life will be pulling on me, kicking and screaming to that point. I know it’s coming, I just want to push it off. I want to enjoy the little moments. The giggles, the belly laughs, the cuddles, the jokes, and even the awkward moments as we navigate growing up and all entails. I want to take pictures and videos and savor it all. I want to hold on to the memories, while making more and more of them. In the words of Aerosmith “And I don’t want to miss a thing”.

That advice is true. It goes so fast. It goes so fast and you don’t even realize it.

So tomorrow, I’ll be trying to savor it all, and to take it all in. I’ll be that mama watching her girl get a little older, a little wiser, and a little more independent, while still trying to eek out the moments of her being little.

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!

It was Vegas, Baby!

So I’m back! Back from what felt like a whirlwind girls’ weekend to Las Vegas, otherwise known as Sin City. Never fear, not too many sins were cast during our time there. I must say however, I had a grand old time, saw the sights, heard the sounds, saw a show, and had a wild and crazy time after climbing into a white, unmarked van (much of that I will get into in more detail in a later post, as that warrants it’s own post). Some of this may venture into the rated R level, so please be forewarned.

For those not caught up, my bestie is going in for surgery this week. For some reason, despite having many surgeries and hospital experiences throughout her life, this one in particular is bothering her a bit. She’s anxious about it in a way I haven’t seen her anxious before. To alleviate her anxiety, she decided to plan a vacation in Las Vegas, and I was her desired travel partner. We’ve been friends since high school, were housemates once upon a time, and have been through the best and worst of times. We laugh together, we’ve cried together, and most importantly, we’ve been there for each other. When she had a prior surgery, I cooked meals and dropped them off for her and her non-cooking husband. When my ex treated me badly, she scrubbed the toilet with his toothbrush. You get the drill. She’s one of my ride or die friends, the ones that are hard to come by in a world full of selfish people. Anything the other one needs, we’re there for each other. I trust her implicitly and I know she feels the same. I’m so very lucky to have her. We had talked about going on a girls weekend to Vegas since we were in our teens, but marriages, kids, and a world of responsibilities later, we never made it. She asked me to go. I said I couldn’t, because while my kids are cute as hell, they are EXPENSIVE and I just didn’t have the cash to swing it.

She told me to pack my bags, she was taking me on her dime. All I needed was some spending money. My husband said we’d make it work, he’d work short days, and my kids bonus grandma said she’d watch them when my husband was at work. How amazing is that? So with tickets booked, hotel room reserved, and bags packed, we headed to the airport on Saturday night. We flew out Mint on jetblue after 9 pm, arriving at around 11:30 PM Vegas time. Mint is extraordinary, with all the perks and seats that go into full on beds. I slept and awoke just before landing feeling refreshed. Off to the hotel we went.

Arriving at the Bellagio, I walked in feeling a bit underdressed, but excited. I had been to the Bellagio for a wedding years ago, but didn’t know all to much about it. I had stayed next door at the Vdara (which was awesome by the way….it’s a none gambling hotel and it is quiet and smells non smokey, which is a plus. The rooms are modern, calming, and quiet…plus they are well air conditioned, but I digress). Our room was up on the 26th floor, in the building on the left side of the main building as you’re looking up. We checked in, grabbed our bags, and started the LONG walk up to the room. Everything in Vegas is a long walk from everything else. The sheer amount of steps and miles I walked last week was unreal. Anywho, we arrive at the room, and step in. The room is clean, pretty, and has an AMAZING view of the Las Vegas strip, but not only that, we can view the Bellagio fountains going off throughout the day/nights! We had a prime view of Paris, as well as some other hotels. I immediately stepped to the thermostat to turn the AC on, after all, it was Vegas and it was warm in there. I tried lowering the temp, but it wouldn’t go down past 65. Also, the AC cut off. I went all the way back down to the desk, only to find out that the AC is on a motion sensor. This meant that the AC would cut off at night and when we left the room. “Do you understand this is the Bellagio? In 105 degree heat? Why does the AC turn off?” I asked. I know, not my proudest moment, but I HATE being hot at night. The person at the desk shrugged, apologized, and sent a fan to the room. I slept every night with a fan blasting me in the face.

Now, you can tell when long term friends, especially those who lived together, go on vacation together. Concessions are made, and adjustments to keep everyone happy. I am always hot, she is always cold. She said I should sleep near the AC vent, with the fan, and she got an extra blanket. This happened for the whole trip, each of us finding ways to “make it work” which resulted in everyone having a great time.

After checking in, and getting our fan, we wandered down to gamble a bit, and played for a few hours before turning in to sleep. We awoke early Sunday and headed off to see the casinos. She wanted to make sure I saw as many as possible, as well as some free shows or things that made each casino unique. We also found eating a big breakfast and then eating dinner worked best for both of us. We went to Caesar’s Palace, MGM, Mandalay, Mirage and some others. We each had points from playing the free “My Vegas Slots” game, which scored us free passes into the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef. I am a huge water person, always happiest near the water, so this was totally my happy place. They had some other animals and fish there, including a piranha who had had it’s lip bitten off, leaving it with a permanent toothy grin. The woman who worked there informed me he was one of the best eaters of the group despite the deformity. The shark tanks and tunnel were awesome, and I got a pretty great shot of a shark swimming right over my head. Beautiful creatures, but I must say seeing them up close confirmed my nervousness about open water caused by the movie Jaws many years ago. Speaking of Jaws, I am fairly confident that may be a movie that impacted multiple generations of people.While you don’t necessarily think “Jaws” when someone asks which movie has had a huge impact on you, if you spend much time near the water and think about it, I’d be willing to guess you have thought about that movie more than once when on the beach. If you are going to Vegas, play the free slot game…they give you free play money, you earn rewards, and you can earn points towards free food, experiences, and discounted or even free hotel rooms! Another side note, your ticket to the Shark Reef also gives you a free pass to Mandalay Bay’s beach and pool. Score!

Over the next few days, we did some more exploring of the various casinos, checked out people on the strip (Vegas is simply AMAZING for people watching) and hit up Fremont st. Now, speaking of people watching, Fremont street was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip. It’s a bit of a trek to get down there, so we caught an Uber. I had only Ubered once before this trip, so I had to get the hang of it, but I was very impressed. The Uber rides became a challenge for us. For those not familiar, Uber is an app you put on your phone. You select where you want to go, the app figures out where you are, and it offers you a few selections of cars, as well as how much each one will cost. Most of the time it was 8-10 bucks for where we needed to go, but the price can fluctuate a bit depending on time and how busy it is by the looks of it. That being said, all our drivers were prompt, had good AC (a total blessing in 105-110 degree heat) and chatty. My friend initially started chatting with them, and in no time, we had a game going…”which is your weirdest Uber driver experience?” This is a great game to play if you use Uber a few times, especially in a place like Las Vegas. Some of the stores were mundane, such as drunk vomiters who got charged a very hefty fine, but the winner winner chicken dinner of the vacation belongs to a driver in a Nissan minivan. He had a couple in his car, and they were headed to a bar. The boyfriend poked the girlfriend in the side, teasing her, but poked her hard enough that it hurt, making her angry. He told her not to be mad, and said “ok, you can bite my thumb if that makes you feel better”. She grabbed that thumb and bit part of it off. LET ME REPEAT, SHE BIT OFF A SECTION OF HIS THUMB. The Uber driver, mortified, said he didn’t know what to do, so he simply asked if he should divert to the local hospital to have the thumb piece reattached. The couple declined and said they still wanted to head to the bar.

I have so many questions.

Well, it is Las Vegas, so while he was the winner of our contest, I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised by severed body parts in an Uber minivan in Vegas.

Now, back to Fremont st. Some folks call it Freakmont st, and 5 minutes in, I could see why. When you arrive at Fremont, it is a flurry of activity. Normally, that’s not really my bag. I like things a bit more quite and low key in my old(er)(ish) age, but this was Vegas, so I was up for it. Fremont street is an assault on your senses, but it also tugs at your sense of humor and your heart as well. It’s a very interesting place, to say the least, and probably not a great place for kids. Although I notice some people are a bit more lackadaisical about what they expose their littles to than I am. At Fremont, you walk and there is almost a canopy overhead, with a lightshow. It’s bright and blingy. Also above you is Slotzilla, a giant zipline that goes very high up. You can zipline seated and Superman style, depending on your choice. Now, I didn’t do the zipline, and unfortunately its my one big regret on this trip. I wish I had done it, because it looked a blast. Now there is the main walkway, but along the sides there are these black circles. I was curious about these, so I looked them up online. Apparently street performers can sign up online to reserve a circle, which they get for 2 hours. They can then do basically whatever they want in the circle. The night we were there, I saw an “older” woman standing holding a sign that simply said “finish on my face”. I’ll leave that one there. There were two women in skimpy outfits offering to whip people. There was a guy in only a thong with KISS makeup, and he stood next to a “Little Person” who looked like Mr. T. One guy had a guy with a sign and a clown nose that advertised you could kick his friend in the nuts. (There were actually two guys who did that schtick. I’m not sure how they did it, but I have video.) Two guys did a “human gumby” routine where you could pose them any way you’d like and they would stay in that pose. Another circle was occupied by a small group who did dance routines, only all were contortionists and did moves that made me cringe. It’s not required to tip the performers, but most people would if they participated. It’s not the same vibe you get in NYC with some guy in a shitty Elmo costumes that curses you out for not tipping if someone takes a picture. It’s all about fun and crazy and freakishness. It’s Vegas on a street level, with fun and fabulous. There were a few vets hoping for tips. One guy used his time to complain about Hilary….which was about the saddest waste of time I could think of. Dude, you’re in VEGAS and she’s not president or impacting you…move on, or have some fun! There were free concerts with great bands, and the whole vibe was bright, flashy and most of all, a fun party atmosphere. The street performers were my very favorite, and most seemed to be enjoying their time. If I wasn’t so tired from the heat and walking from the day, I likely would have stayed well into the night, but I’m a British girl who wasn’t built for heat and sun. Freemont is free to go to, so definitely plan some time to spend there in the evenings. As long as you’re not prudish, you’ll likely have a blast. We topped off the evening with Hash House A Go-Go, where I got a little burger. Their portions are HUGE….like crazy huge, the food is reasonable, yummy, and the server and hostess were sweet. I got home full bellied, tired, and slept well.

Tuesday we had a lazy day at the hotel, starting off with a big Bellagio buffet lunch and a dip in the pool. I was coated in 100 SPF and tried laying out for a few but 106 degrees is a beast. The pool was lovely, albeit small, and there were plenty of chairs, to my surprise. We then went up to get ready to head to a show. My friend scored tickets to the Cirque show KA on her credit card points. We arrived at the theater, grabbed snacks and wandered to our seats. I believe we were about 7th row, not bad at all!! We were unable to take any photography once we walked in. Unaware of this, I took a picture of the side set, and was quickly asked not to take any more. The best way I could attempt to describe the side set is that it looked a bit like the Ewok village. There were people swinging from the set over the audience. The show hadn’t even started and i was already having fun! I’ll be very honest that I am not entirely sure what the plot was, and I left very confused but in awe. The cast was simply amazing, and some of the stunts I witnessed, as a mom, made me cringe with nervousness. These cast members were nothing short of athletes. Climbing, spinning, jumping, and doing feats that seemed impossible. I left the show saying “I have questions” when it came to the plot, but having thoroughly enjoyed myself. If you get the chance, go see it. You won’t regret it.

I’m not exactly sure whether it was Monday or Tuesday, but that was the day my mystery friend left. I was sad to see them go, to be honest. It started out with a hallway table and a simple pad of paper. As I made the long trek to my room each day, I noticed someone had written something on a pad in the hotel hallway. The next day, I wrote something silly back. As I headed back to my room, I laughed when I saw they had responded, so I in turn responded to them. Back and forth it went, until the pad stayed blank. I suppose they must have checked out. I was honestly sad to see them go, and wish I had met my mystery pen pal to see who they were. Such simple things, yet it made me smile.

Wednesday was the day I was most looking forward to. It earned every ounce of anticipation, and to be honest, was so awesome, it deserves its own post. We were able, through my friend’s Chase rewards points, to book an excursion to ride dune buggies in the desert. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted in. I’m more of a speed freak than a heights person, and this seemed perfect. I will post separately about the excursion because it was an experience to remember in all the right ways, and I was able to capture not only stunning views, but also met some awesome people who run it. If you are headed out to Vegas or anywhere near, check out OUI Experiences. You won’t regret it. We had a private, full day experience riding UTV’s across the Arizona Mohave desert, topped off with a massive jump into Lake Mohave for a swim in it’s crystal blue, perfect temperature waters. I saw wild donkeys, cattle, and plenty of cacti. The couple that run the tour have exclusive access to certain areas, and you feel like you stepped onto the set of Breaking Bad when they are driving the RV into the desert, except there’s nobody but you and the guides, and an occasional passerby once every few hours. It was without a doubt, my favorite part of the trip. That being said, it was 116 degrees out. Now, I know folks always follow that up with “but it’s a dry heat”. No joke, 116 degrees feels like 116 degrees, especially wearing a full helmet, bandana, and riding a cart that also got a bit hot in spots. Ice water became hot water in no time, so we were constantly chugging cold water to stay hydrated. I think I drank more than a bottle per hour, and topped the whole thing off with an ice cold beer at the very end. It was fanfriggentastic.

We arrived back at the hotel with just enough time to wash the dust of the Mohave desert off of us, pretty ourselves up, and Uber out to the Stratosphere at the end of the trip. We we tired from the heat and hungry as hell. My friend treated me to dinner at the “Top of the World” at the top of the Strat, as they are trying to rebrand the hotel. Now, The Strat as the call it, is at the far end of the strip, and the area has a much different vibe than everywhere else. It starts to look a bit dicey, and there are some drunks roaming. The casino part is alright, but the access to the elevators was through a doorway into a hallway. It left me uneasy, but I can’t really explain why. It’s not a place I’d walk to late by myself comfortably, nor did I feel comfortable in the darkish hallways. Once on the elevator, at the top where the restaurant is, it’s a totally different vibe. The restaurant is busy and the views are unparalleled in Vegas. The floor of the restaurant slowly rotates, which allows you to see everything around it, doing about a 360 degree turn in an hour. This means that during an average dinner, you can see everything surrounding the hotel. 107 floors up. Not for those who are afraid of heights, but I sucked it up and dealt. The meals aren’t cheap, and you can easily run dinner over $300 for 2 people with just a single alcoholic drink or two per person. That being said, the food was delicious and the ambiance was awesome. My bestie treated me. (Sadly, she’ll be treated to my less than stellar cooking for the next week while she recovers from surgery…it hardly seems fair). After dinner, we wandered up a floor or two to the bar. Not only is there a bar up there, but also RIDES. Yes. You heard me, and everything is there with the intent to see if you are a crazy person. I forgot to mention that during dinner, one of the sites we got to see was someone doing a controlled drop off the roof. God knows how they did it without having a heart attack, because I was freaking out just watching them!! They also had multiple rides which dangle you off the side of the building, 108 or more floors up. I got anxious just watching them and had to step inside.

We headed back to our hotel room via Monorail (I definitely recommend getting a pass before you go to Vegas, as there are some great multi day pass deals out there. Mine was loaded to my iphone and popped up on my watch whenever I got close to the monorail, making hopping on and off a breeze). After a quick stop in front of the hotel to video the Bellagio fountain show for my daughter, we headed back to the room to pack and stumble into bed. It was midnight and man, were we wiped. I was sad the trip had come to a close, to be honest. It had been so much fun having time with just my friend, seeing and experiencing so much. Had I had more time, I would have done one of the ziplines. Ah well, another time. 3 hours later,after a nap, we were on our way to the airport. I was so tired I felt it in my bones. We both crashed out on the plane. The Jet Blue flight attendants scored MAJOR brownie points when they made me an Americano when I commented how sad I was to have missed coffee (and how much I needed one!) They handed me one not long before landing, making me promise to keep the lid on for safety. Thank you, Jet Blue!!!!

It took us ages to get back to our area due to rush hour traffic. My kids were with their aunties and uncles at a local sandwich place, grabbing a bite to eat. I saw their location on the tracking app they have on their phones, and showed up to surprise them. My daughter came running to hug me, a smile but also some tears of happiness on her face. My son, the too cool 13 year old, gave me a smile and looked surprised but pleased to have me back. My husband looked so happy to have me back when I got home that I could have cried. Nothing like a girls trip to make you realize how amazing the world is, especially the little world you’ve created in your own home.

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.