Tuesday, July 22, 2014

these are my people

Once we left from New York, we continued our drive north to Massachusetts.  My nephew, Philip, who was once upon a time - nearly 20 years ago - the ring bearer in our wedding, was himself getting married this past weekend.  I've been thinking about this for several days and I'm not sure how it is really possible - but .... there you have it.  I'm obviously caught in some kind of Life Is Flying By At Lightening Fast Speed Time Warp.


Our first stop in Massachusetts was at my sister and her husband's house.  Earlier this year, Janet and Bob lost their beloved Golden Retriever, Bobby Joe Rockstar. Their sadness was so deep and so wide, that the only cure was for them to adopt a brand new puppy ... a beautiful Golden Retriever that they named Pearl.


Pearl is only four months old and she is quite possibly THE MOST ADORABLE PUPPY THAT HAS EVER LIVED.   For the two days that we were visiting, my children never left her alone and that is why, two days after we  left - she is still sleeping.


Four month old puppies simply do not have the endurance to handle the constant love and affection that is doled out by children who kept squealing with delight, "SHE IS SO FLUFFY!!!!" 


On our first night, we went out as a family to dinner and watched the beautiful sunset over the beautiful mountains...


The following day, Janet and Bob hosted several of our long-time friends and family at their home.  As it often happens, I was distracted and did not take pictures of everyone ... but in attendance at this fun-filled gathering was my mother, Mary, my sister, Beth, and my father's little sister, Peggy.  My sister-in-law Donna was there, along with her nine-year-old twin boys - Wally and William - and seven-year-old son, Wyatt.  There was my niece, Janine and her husband, Graham and their sweet three year old daughter, my GREAT niece, Rachel.

photo 3 copy

Janine, once upon a time - nearly 20 years ago - was the flower girl in our wedding, and seeing as Janine now has a toddler with another baby on the way ... it just further proves my Time Warp theory.  Honestly ... how do we slow down time?

There must be a way. 


At one time or another, or simultaneously, eight children splashed in my sister and brother in law's inflatable pool ...


And ran around in the full-sized basketball court on the top floor of their barn.


They played with sheep and of course, Pearl, and made awesome cousin memories.


My sister, Eileen, and her husband, Clark arrived from Michigan. And Janet invited her realtor friend, Merillyn, who was kind enough to show Charlie and I homes for sale in the area, because that's what we do every time we travel north. (It's just a matter of time!)  Janet also invited our dear friends, Donnie and Kathy.

The story goes that Donnie met my father more than 50 years ago, when he came in to a pharmacy where my father was employed (as a pharmacist of all things) in Groton, Massachusetts.  I'm not sure how it all happened, but my mother had three young children - under the age of three - at home, and Donnie - who was only a teenager - was hired as an extra hand to help my mother, who was expecting her fourth child, my sister, Beth.

Donnie soon met and married, Kathy, and the two of them would often come babysit. They obviously adored children, despite the time my mother left a colicky infant Eileen who cried for a weekend straight, because they went on to have two children of their own.  But the stories that my mother told about Donnie - and the soul grabbing laughter that shook the room was something I never want to forget.  Donnie has the most contagious laugh I've ever heard - you absolutely cannot listen to this man laugh, without busting your gut in laughter, too.   I LOVE PEOPLE LIKE THAT!


Mary, Oh Mary! Do you remember when we tried to make donuts?"  Laughter erupted as my mother and Donnie would reminisce, through their tears of hilarity, the time that they tried to make donuts and how they would eat all the donuts - and give the tiny holes to the children.  I can just see my mom as a young mother, overwhelmed with her enormous mothering responsibilities, and a young Donnie who loved the energy of our home, trying to convince my siblings, "It's time to go to bed!" so that they could eat ALL of the donuts, uninterrupted.


At one point, we Face Timed with my sister, Mary, who lives in South Carolina and is the mother of Janine, grandmother of Rachel, and was thrilled (and shocked) to see Donnie and Kathy.


She listened in and shared a few memories to supplement those that were being told.


We remembered the assortment of times that Donnie would accompany my father on his boat, "The Green Owl" which people referred to as "The Green Howl" because we were lost at sea and rescued by the Coast Guard more times than we could count.

Donnie recollected the time he was out with my father off the coast of Cape Cod and the fog suddenly rolled in so thick, he couldn't see his hand in front of his face.  My father gave him a fog light and sent him to the bow of the boat and said, "Keep an eye out for rocks and pots!" Pots meaning, lobster pots because you don't want to run over one of those and have the suspension rope hung up in your propellers. By the time they finally docked, hours later, my father - who had just bought the boat and didn't know how to dock it by reversing the engines - cut the engine completely and floated in to the dock at an accelerated speed.  Donnie said he tried to grab the dock pylons to slow the boat, but he couldn't do it and they nearly took the whole pier down.


"Oh boy did that Harbor Master light in to your father!" he roared.  "I remember he said something like, 'You need to know how to CONTROL this boat before you drive it!' But that never stopped our Walter, did it?!" 


My mother chimed in, "No, it sure didn't!  Do you remember the time we went out with the seven children and the dog {our German Shepherd, Acro} and Frank threw the anchor at low tide but Walter didn't check to make sure it was set properly?  The tide came in during the night, once we were all in bed asleep, and the boat floated 13 miles out to sea!  I woke up with the baby {me, who at the time was less than a year old} and couldn't see any of the lights from the causeway.  Janet woke up and said, "Mom, is that a whale?" and I thought JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH, we're lost at sea and we're all going to die out here!" 


As we sat enjoying each other's company, we all agreed that we really are lucky to still be alive. We are lucky to be alive in this moment: sharing wonderful memories and making even more.

Friday, July 18, 2014

the brooklyn bridge

My mother recently told me that one of the top five things on her Bucket List, is to take a trip across the Brooklyn Bridge.


During our visit to New York, I made sure that we took a trip across the 131 year old suspension bridge, and as we did ... we thought of my mother the whole way.


It is now on my Bucket List to walk across this bridge ... with my mom.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

we came, we screamed, we ate hot dogs

I'm in New York on a business trip this week. Because it's summer vacation and we're embracing the idea of a quiet summer (i.e., we're intentionally avoiding formal summer activities like the plague so we savor the luxury of sleeping in every day), we have ample time to take off in the middle of week and go wherever we want to go.  The first two days of our time in New York, we were in Brooklyn.  While I went to the office to work, Charlie took the children on what he referred to as the "Brooklyn Death March."  Yesterday, they walked six miles from our hotel near the La Guardia airport, all the way to the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center (home of the US Open), past Citi Field (home of the NY Mets), around Flushing Meadows, and back to our hotel via a route along Flushing Bay.

Today, I was able to wrap up my work activities early and when Charlie and the kids came to pick me up at the office, they were swooned by my co-worker who loaded them up with tinted safety glasses and ice cream.


We then ventured south to Coney Island.


Upon arriving, William instantly laid eyes on the Army booth...


While the girls instantly laid eyes on the most psychotic roller coaster I've ever seen.


I'm not sure where these children, our daughters, get their courageous sense of daring and adventure, but they were desperate to get on it.  While the boys hung back with me, and before Charlie could say "NOT IT!" I bought him a ticket and promised him a draught beer at the end of his super fun ride.


This roller coaster starts by going straight up ... STRAIGHT UP!


Before going straight down ... STRAIGHT DOWN!


After the ride, Charlie explained to me that he just closed his eyes as soon as the ride started and said, "MAKE IT STOP. PLEASE GOD, MAKE IT STOP."


Then he said after the first hill was behind him he, "screamed like a small child."



Here's my husband describing to me what it felt like to be on a roller coaster with a 90 degree vertical drop, followed by a 100-foot loop, and a zero gravity roll along with dives - hills - and a corkscrew ... in less than two minutes.



As Charlie was reliving the experience, he looked as though he wanted to lay down in a fetal position and never ride another roller coaster again. His daughters, meanwhile, were begging to ride it again.

Instead, we put the kids on some flying machine ride...


A log ride ...


This roller coaster horse race ride, which I rode along with the children because I thought it looked tame enough, but it nearly made me throw up my breakfast from two days ago....


And then Charlie earned his stripes as Best Dad Ever when he won the kids various prizes from the carnival games.  This one was very tough, flipping rubber frogs in to little lily pad bowls that were on a table that turned in circles...


But my husband is a rock star and totally sunk the entire frog body in the bowl on the last round.



We then ate hot dogs along the boardwalk ...


Rounding out our full Coney Island experience, we spent the next 30 minutes people watching and decided 30 minutes is not NEARLY enough.  We're now in a hotel room in Manhattan and at almost midnight, someone is jackhammering in the room next to us.  According to the front desk, they're actually in a DIFFERENT building that shares an adjacent wall, and there is nothing they can do about the fact that the whole room is shaking and there is plaster coming off the ceiling.  Despite that, our kids are conked out on the floor of our tiny 150 square foot hotel room (that cost twice as many dollars).


In the city that never sleeps, our children most definitely are.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

our Tommy boy

My extremely patriotic nephew, Tom, just graduated from high school.


Last year, Tom was contemplating a career in the Navy - but after taking a Caribbean cruise with my mother over New Year's ... he decided that he didn't much like being on a boat for several days with no sight of land.


Seeing as the odds were high that he'd be on a boat for several days at a time with no sight of land if he joined the Navy (and the odds were low he'd have the cruising benefits of nightly shows, on-deck swimming pools, and All You Can Eat Buffets), the Navy was promptly ruled out.


Another big decision Tom made this year, is that after spending a long 12 years in school, he'd rather take a hiatus from academia for a while. So instead of jumping in to University, on his own volition (and much to everyone's surprise) ... he enlisted in the Army.  


Back in March, my sister, Eileen, sent me a text message - out of the blue, with no forewarning - to let me know that Tom was enlisting in the Army that day.   And if that wasn't shocking enough, he had taken some kind of aptitude test that indicated he'd be well suited for UXO, or "Unexploded Ordnances."


Charlie and I had recently seen the movie "The Hurt Locker" so when I heard that my precious nephew, my godchild, my sister's only son, would be serving our country on a UXO team likely stationed somewhere in the war-torn Middle East, I promptly dropped to my knees in my office and prayed to God.


An hour later, while I was still fervently praying, Eileen sent me another text message to let me know that although Tom had passed his initial physical, when he underwent the physical screening for serving on the UXO team, it was determined that he was color blind.


OK, not totally color blind, but unable to decipher shades of brown from red and green in the time necessary to make the cut for UXO.  Obviously, that could be a real problem in the field, if someone is telling him, "What you need to do is cut the RED WIRE ..." and Tom takes pause and says, "Um ... red? OK ... hold on one second..."

Upon hearing the news, I - along with my sister Eileen and our entire family - lifted my arms to heaven and said, "THANK YOU, GOD ... for making Tommy slightly color blind!"

Instead of UXO, Tom will be an Army Medic. And now that the shock has slightly worn off, we couldn't be more proud of our nephew.  Overnight, Tom has turned in to a strapping young man that at 18 years old, stands 6'2" tall with beautiful blue eyes and an even more beautiful personality.  At the moment, he is in Kentucky with his church group, roofing homes for the less fortunate. (Roofing is a skill that he picked up while he was on a mission trip, earlier this year, in Jamaica).   


Last week, we were with Tom in Michigan and ten minutes after we arrived - a Nerf battle erupted.  From what I could tell, it was Tom and Henry, against the triplets and it was an all-out intense battle.  


I certainly hope it'll be more intense than anything Tom will experience in bootcamp, basic training, and the next several years of his Army career.


He is my godson, after all.

And I'm nothing if not a little overprotective.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

... and then he was seven

For the fourth year in a row, we drove up to Clarkston, Michigan to participate in the annual 4th of July parade.


Once again, our birthday boy, Henry, tossed handfuls of frozen Hershey Kisses to the crowd ... kisses in exchange for birthday wishes.


But this year, instead of riding in the back of his Uncle's (now cousin's) truck, he sat perched on a small pillow, atop the roof of his Uncle's sports car.


And his siblings, instead of riding alongside him in the back of a truck, walked before him, carrying huge signs that read, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY HENRY!"


Note to self: I need to have a t-shirt made for William that reads, "I'm not Henry." 


Collectively, the lot of us tossed approximately 50 pounds of chocolate kisses to the more than 10,000 people that lined the parade route.  Next year, we'll need double that amount, because we still didn't have enough kisses and ran out nearly 1/2 way through.


Once Henry ran out of candy, he turned his palms to the sky and said to the crowd, "I'm sorry! I have no more chocolate, it's all gone!" That didn't stop the parade-goers from yelling, "Happy Birthday!" and launching in to song.


This has to be one of the best ways to celebrate a birthday! 


Riding down Main Street...


In a quintessential small town America parade...


Followed by a party with a Spiderman cake, a pile of presents, and dear friends and family.


The magic of the day, is almost comparable to the magic of having this little guy in our lives for the past seven years.  Almost.  


Happy birthday Henry ... we adore you!