Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to School - Back to Work!

After 11 years as a stay at home mother, I am returning to full time employment!  Hence, the lack of any new posts here.

I am both nervous and excited.  Excited for me and my family having extra money in our savings, but nervous for how my time out of the house will change the dynamics.  I set up my paycheck to be direct deposited into an account we don't have any online access to, don't have a debit card for, and the only way to access the money is to go to the bank branch and take money out.

Many people often assume that my days at a stay at home mom were spent watching television and engaging in "me" activities.  I know this, because many working moms have felt free over the past 11 years to say this to me (usually as they are asking me to do a favor for them!)  However, they were wrong.  While at home, it became my job, my career, to make sure everything having to do with the house and my children were handled.  And I took this role very seriously.  I did all the budgeting, menu planning, house cleaning, bill paying, lawn mowing, repairs to home, and repairs to vehicles very seriously.  This allowed the time that we were all home together to be sacred and not spent on the household.

3 kids, each with an activity means that I had two separate parts to my day.  I spent the morning getting everyone off to school and then concentrating on the house.  I would usually find an hour to walk the dog, getting some exercise for both of us done.  Then I would clean and take care of any errands that needed being done.  At 2:30, when my oldest stepped off the bus, I switched into my afternoon role of taxi driving, soccer/martial arts/football mom.  I got after school snacks together to be eaten, while we loaded the van with uniforms, gear, water bottles, dog crate, leash, and between activity snacks.  And when the second two got off the bus, after a brief bathroom pit stop and drop off of back packs, we headed out to get everyone where they needed to be.  We did one kid's homework on the sidelines while the other practiced.  We dropped off one sibling at the dojo and went back over to pick another one up at the soccer field.  Basically, it was organized chaos.

And we will continue to have that chaos, but without the added benefit of me being home during the day to take care of all the other tasks that need to be done. Including making dinner.  While a fan of the crock pot, I have found that even that has its limitations.  And even if the meat is cooked in there, sides still have to be prepared.  So, I am going to have to figure that aspect of this out.  Uniforms will need to be washed at night and hung to dry before headed to bed so that they are ready to go the next day.  Cleaning is going to need to be done in short spurts as I find the time.  Thankfully, there isn't a lot of clutter, which keeps things a little easier.

Big changes, but with college looming on the horizon, a change that needs to take place.  I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have been able to stay home for as long as I have.  And I wouldn't trade a nicer car, a nicer kitchen or more exotic vacations for the time I had with my kids.  While we had to make some financial sacrifices in order for me to stay home, I don't feel we are all that far behind where we would be if I had worked.  We were forced to budget and knew where every dollar was going each month and as such, did not take on any debt while I was home.  (Thank you Dave Ramsey!)

I wish I could stop the clock and keep things how they have been for the past 11 years.  But I know that is impossible.  Kids grow.  Time marches on.  Mommy's role changes.  Yikes!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Redneck Triple Crown

When I started dating my husband, my future SIL joked that I needed to complete my redneck triple crown before the wedding.  This meant attending the local rodeo (pronounced by SIL as row-day-o), the demolition derby and a monster truck event.

15 years after the wedding, my crown is still missing all of its jewels.

But that changed this weekend.  This weekend my husband and I took the kids to Car Wars at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.  We had a blast.

Smiles all around at the end of the night.  My daughter was with us, but the only photos I have of her have other kids in them, and my policy is to not include those here unless I have explicit permission from their parents.

My SIL will be happy to know that I've started working on my triple crown.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Right Stuff

Neil Armstrong: August 5, 1930 - August 25, 2012

Perhaps, based on how he chose to live his life, Mr. Armstrong would be pleased with how little media attention his death attracted this past weekend.  

I am not just saddened by the fact that the first person to ever step foot on the lunar surface passed away.  I am also saddened that his death was over shadowed by the out of wedlock birth of Snooki's baby and naked photos of Prince Harry.  What does this say about us, about our society, when the passing of a true American hero receives such little media coverage in comparison?

The absolute awe of moon travel - of actually landing and walking on the moon, is missing from our world.  I remember when I was still teaching and trying to get my students to understand why Neil Armstrong's and Buzz Aldrin's moments on the moon's surface were amazing.  But how do you explain that to teenagers who are accustomed to "traveling" to new galaxies through their Playstation 3 or with the use of their Mac Book Pro?  How can generations of kids, who have missed watching the moon rise over the horizon while playing wiffle ball with friends or have never used the moon light to guide them through a neighborhood game of manhunt appreciate the exploration of its surface?

Landing on the moon was the greatest technological accomplishment of the century, and I would argue of all time.  The achievement itself is magestic on its own, but the technological advancements that were a direct result of the mission, impact all of our lives on a daily basis.  And Neil Armstrong's role in the landing is unknown to many.  With only 15 seconds of fuel left, he was able to land at the Sea of Tranquility.  And when a ignition switch failed when it was time to return to Earth, he and Buzz Aldrin were able to use a pen to complete the electrical circuit.    

The last man to walk on the moon's surface did so when I was only 6 months old.  Soon, we will be living in a world in which none of the only 12 men who left footprints on the moon will be alive.  Our space program for all intents and purposes is finished, at least in the public's eye.

So much can be learned from Mr. Armstrong.  Not only for what he accomplished, but, for how he chose to handle his celebrity.  By all accounts, he was a humble man who avoided the spotlight.  He didn't seek out praise or attention from the media following his historic walk on the moon.  He returned home to his wife and children and skipped the media and hard partying path some other astronauts chose to follow. 

Perhaps the best description of Mr. Armstrong was by Virginia Heffernan who wrote, 
"Armstrong was resolutely adult and elegantly square."  

If only more of our current "heroes" were resolutely adult and elegantly square.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mia 2

I have had acne since I entered 7th grade.  I was lucky and avoided the cystic acne some of my peers had or I saw on the faces of my students when I was teaching.  However, my acne never really went away.  I am now 40 and finding myself battling not just the start of wrinkles and age spots, but the ever present large pores and the monthly splattering of pimples along my jaw line.

I have tried almost every product that is out there in the past 25+ years.  Over the counter, Rx topical treatments, antibiotics, birth control pills, Proactive - they have all been in my possession at some point. And some of them worked.  Kind of.  But even if the pimples were gone and the pores free of debris, my face was beet red and irritated.

At some point in college, I discovered that if I used Dove soap and Oil of Olay every day, my skin called a truce.  The redness went away, it wasn't as oily as it had been, and the pimples stayed at a minimum.

I had been contemplating for months buying the Mia 2 clarisonic facial cleaner.  I first became aware of it through the comments section at a web site I love to hate, Jezebel.  There is a weekly post done over there in which a staff member raves about a product that they love.  The rules are, they can't have been given the product to test, and can't be paid to review it.  The Mia 2 wasn't even the product being discussed, it was actually mentioned by a commenter and then a number of other commenters chimed in with their odes to the Mia.

I did some research and found that in almost every case, purchasers gave the Mia 2 five out of five stars.  Almost every review was positive, citing improvement in softness, fewer and less severe acne breakouts, and smaller pores.  So I took the plunge.

I have been using it now for two full weeks.  My face absolutely is softer.  But as for appearance .... Remember me saying I have never had cystic acne?  That is no longer true.  I have three very deep, very red, very sore pimples brewing beneath the surface.  And that is why there is going to be absolutely no pictures accompanying this post!  To be fair to the Mia 2, almost every reviewer stated that their skin got worse before it got better.  The claim is that all the gunk has to be drawn out.  I'm not sure if I 100% believe that theory.  But at least I know I am not experiencing anything much different than the others who eventually fell in love with the Mia 2.

I am hoping to be able to move the Mia 2 into my Products I Love tab.  For right now, the jury is out.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer Loving

Oh. My. Word.

Summer is over.  My kids go back to school a week from today.  Where did it go?

We've only been to the beach once.  I still have a Groupon for the water park.  We haven't been to Car Wars at the local track yet!  I don't have a single shot of my kids jumping off the rock wall and into the pond down the road from us!

We had a great summer.  Lots of doing nothing.  And we needed that.  No one kid is over scheduled, but as a family, we are pushing our limits during the school year.  3 kids in organized activities, 1 husband who travels a lot for work, 1 house on the far outskirts of town (meaning far away from athletic fields/facilities & far away from carpooling options) and 1 mom getting everyone back and forth  equals chaos from late August to late June.

I'm looking at my calendar as I type this and am distressed to see all the doctor and dentist appointments this last week.  It will make it a lot harder to fit in the other things I want to get done.  As will the 2 hour soccer and football practices in the evening.  And the extended forecast; calling for rain.

But I've got this.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Required Reading

I love to read.  When most people say they love to read, they usually mean they love putting their feet up on their deck and reading for a while.  Or taking a book to the beach.  Or reading a chapter or two before bed.  When I say I love to read, I mean I love to read in the sense that I am often tempted to forgo food, drink and caring for those I am responsible for if I am in the middle of a good book.  My Mother's Day dream gift is a gift card to the book store, where I will stop and buy a book before checking into a hotel room where I can stay and read uninterrupted until check out the next day.

I read a lot and I read across all genres.  I am always looking for something new to read and am always open to any suggestions/recommendations.  But today, I am going to share just a few of my favorites with you.

1. Favorite Kid's Book

This book was a gift to my daughter from my godparents.  I loved it.  She loved it.  It is now the book I give to anyone who is having a little girl.  You should too.  My daughter has wanted to dress as The Paper Bag Princess for Halloween, but no one ever knows who we are talking about.  And that is a shame.

2. Favorite Book I Read While Teaching
If you work with middle school aged children, or have some living in your home, or soon will have middle school aged kids, run, don't walk to the store to get this.

3. Favorite Required Reading From High School

Fell in love with my husband all over again when he turned to me shortly after my first son was born and said "Hey Lennie, careful with the puppies" while I was smooching Conor's chubba cheeks a bit vigorously.

4. Favorite Thriller

If I was forced to stick with one genre from this point forward it would be the Mystery/Thriller.  This is always the section I check out first at the library or on Amazon.  I debated between two books to pick as my all time favorite thriller.  But in the end, Watchers by Dean Koontz narrowly beats out The Stand by Stephen King.

5. Favorite Bandwagon Read

I try not to look a gift horse in the mouth and to me, anything that gets more kids and more adults reading is a good thing.  No, its a great thing.  But I do often find that I am disappointed with the quality of writing.  Not so in this case.  The Hunger Games was a great book, as were its follow ups.

6. Favorite True Crime

If you think you know the Andrea Yates story, you are probably wrong.  This is an amazing read.  Again, I was torn between two books for this category.  But the story of Andrea Yates beats out Columbine by Dave Cullen.  Both were fascinating as they detailed the real story verses what was reported as well as the lack of follow up by the media to correct misreports.  You won't go wrong if you were to chose either of these books.

7.  Favorite Current Read

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is getting a lot of attention this summer.  If it is half as good as Dark Places, I am excited to read it.  I'm not sure what year Dark Places was first released and why it didn't generate more interest.  I am now on the waiting list at my library for both Gone Girl and Sharp Objects.

8. Favorite Series and Characters

I was introduced to Robert B. Parker's books and characters while in the ICU in Boston.  A nurse brought me some books once I was well enough to read.  I devoured them and when I was released, I soon requested each book, in order of publication, and enjoyed the stories, the character development, and the introduction of each new character.  I was upset upon learning of the passing of Robert B. Parker and thought that would be the end of Spenser, Hawk, Susan and others.  But, Robert B. Parker's estate, headed by his wife Joan (the inspiration behind Susan) hired Ace Atkins to continue writing the series and I was not disappointed with his first Spenser book.  I don't think you will be either.  Easy reads, with well developed characters, plots and dialogue.

What are you reading this summer?  What are some of your favorites?  Again, I am always open to recommendations and suggestions.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Have you ever met a person that at first, you think you really are going to like them?  And then, as you spend more time with them, you start wondering if you were wrong.  Have you ever had the same experience with a blogger?

There are a few blogs that I have joined and keep up with on a daily basis.  Occasionally, I will discover another blogger through links.  As a woman who enjoys anything and everything preppy, I tend to spend a good amount of my online time checking out preppy blogs.  A while back, I found one written by a woman closer to my age (most of the popular preppy blogs tend to be written by younger, southern college students).  I bookmarked it and would pop on over to see what was up in her life once or twice a week.

But the shine wore off quickly.  There was the post about her dog getting sick.  Turns out the dog ate some clothing.  Thankfully, the dog was able to pass the clothing on his own.  And she thought it was a hoot.  There is also this underlying sense of smugness -  I can't quite put my finger on an exact post or the wording that leads me to this conclusion.  Its just something I sense in my gut.  Have you ever had that happen to you?  The nail in the coffin for me and what led me to delete the link from my bookmarks was due to her committing a pet peeve of mine.  She has her daughter call her genitals by a euphemism.  The few who commented on the post thought that was "adorable!!!" My comment asking why she didn't use the right terminology didn't make it past approval.  I was willing to overlook the over use of "super!" and "soooooooooo cute!" by a grown woman.  But, an educated, middle to upper class woman teaching her daughter to call her genitalia a "who ha" was my line in the sand.  (And to be clear, Oprah lost me with the whole va-jay-jay thing.)


Yes, there is a but.  One extremely positive thing came out of my time spent reading her posts.  I discovered Birchbox!  Birchbox is a company similar to Sephora or Ulta.  They are an online resource for beauty products.  However, here is what makes Birchbox different than the others.  You need to request to purchase a membership.  Membership costs about $10 a month.  You can buy one for yourself and/or as a gift for someone else.  But, memberships are limited and there is a waiting list.

By now, you may be asking yourself why I would want a membership.  Let me tell you why I bought and maintain my membership.  For $10 a month, I get sent a small box in the mail each month.

(This arrived yesterday!)

I get so excited when a package arrives in the mail, even when I know what is in it.  In the case of Birchbox, there is the added excitement of not knowing what surprises lurk inside!  In the box is a bunch of different samples of beauty products.

This month, I received a sample of Juicy perfume, a Schick razor, hand wipes, lip/cheek stain and DDF facial cleanser.  I am most excited to try the cleanser as it has been on my wish list.  I am a big fan of the DDF  10% Glycolic Toner and will be anxious to see if using both the cleanser and the toner helps speed the fading of some of the age spots I discovered last winter along my jawline (lesson learned to apply sunscreen a bit better.)

My daughter has already pilfered the lip/cheek stain.  Which isn't a bad thing because I noted that when she used it, it really does appear natural.  So if this is a means of satisfying her desire to wear makeup to school and ending our recent daily discussions of what is an appropriate amount and type of makeup for a 10 year old, I may be purchasing a full sized one for her.    If I order it this month, I get a significant discount since it was one of this month's samples.

I anticipate the arrival of my Birchbox each month the same way I anticipate the arrival of my Better Homes and Gardens.  I know that some months, I am going to love every single thing in it.  Some months, I am going to hate it all.  And sometimes, there is going to be that one hidden gem.

So thank you smug, annoying, uncaring for your dog blogger!  Sure you made my blood boil laughing off the threat to your dog's life, and made me cringe imagining your daughter in 15 years going to her first ob/gyn appointment and being too embarrassed to refer to her body with accurate terms.  But you led me to Birchbox.  And for that, I can forgive you -- but you are still deleted.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Products I Love: Shoo Bugga

Shoo Bugga

If you are like me, you are making the time and effort to limit your family's exposure to chemicals.  We are living in a time when it may be impossible to completely avoid contact with them.  Yet, we are being presented with some opportunities to replace products that contain potentially dangerous compounds with natural options.  Though, if you are like me, you often wonder if they will work as well as the mass produced merchandise.

7 months ago, while recovering from surgery, a care package arrived from my friend Stephanie.  Stephanie is the owner of Lola's Natural Alternatives.  Her company makes soaps, shave creams, lotions, deodorant and lip balm.  In my care package was a bit of everything.  When I opened the box, the scent of her Sweet Dreams soap was what I first noticed.  Truly amazing (I have since given over a dozen bars as gifts and everyone comments on the wonderful scent!)  Tucked in the corner was a bottle of her homemade bug repellant, Shoo Bugga.  As it was almost winter, I set this on the shelf in my bathroom closet and didn't give it another thought.

Spring came, and with it, the bugs.  My family spends a lot of time outside and as a result, are often molested by mosquitos, no-seeums, horse and deer flies unless they are coated with bug repellant.  I will admit that I only used Shoo Bugga that first time because I hadn't yet bought the chemical repellant we normally used.  Because the bugs are so prevalent here, I doubted a natural product could work.  Sorry Lola's Natural Alternatives!  However, I was proven wrong.

Shoo Bugga comes in spray, stick and balm!

In May, I ran the Pineland's Trail Challenge, a 15 mile run on the trails through the woods.  In other words, I was running through bug haven!  I sprayed myself with Shoo Bugga as well as placed a bit of the balm under the brim of my hat.  Not only did I stay completely bite free, I also didn't stink like commercial bug spray or suffer the burn that can happen once your pores open and you start to sweat.

I use Shoo Bugga every day when I walk my dog.  If I didn't, we couldn't do the walk.  The deer flies are so bad this year, and their bites hurt almost as bad as a horse fly's.  My poor Stella has come home from walks with her eyes swollen shut due to deer fly bites.  I started using Shoo Bugga on her and have had great success.  The flies hover around her head, but won't land.  I checked with her vet on Shoo Bugga's safety after she had gotten hold of the bottle, chewed the top off and ingested some.  I was assured she was okay and given the green light to use it on her.  I am using the balm just under and over her eyes and then spraying some on my hands and rubbing it on her fur.

Lola's Natural Alternatives is becoming a fixture of the northern New Jersey farmer's markets.  And word is starting to spread about their products.  I have no doubts that Stephanie is soon going to be fielding phone calls from big companies that are going to want to buy the formula and rights to Shoo Bugga.  It works THAT well!!  And a bonus is that you aren't covered with possibly dangerous chemicals, the smell of the chemicals or the oily feeling from commercial sprays.

You can find Lola's Natural Alternatives on Facebook, check out all the products they offer and place an order right there.  I have linked to their Facebook page throughout this post. If you live in New Jersey, you can find a schedule of the farmer's markets they will be at and see and smell all the soaps, lotions and balms.

Have you tried Shoo Bugga yet?  Have you tried any other of Lola's Natural Alternatives products?  Feel free to share your experience in the comments section!

***Update: I realized that on blogger, I can't keep adding to pages.  So I needed to set up my Products I love page to link back to the blog.  So this is a repost.  However, since the original post, I was contacted by Lola's who wanted to make sure that in the spirit of honesty, they made it clear that they work with another local woman who makes the soap for them.  Finally, Lola's has also launched a new web page and online store.  Check them out HERE!

New Shoes

I just laced up my new running shoes.  After the Warrior Dash last weekend, I left my old shoes there with the organization Green Sneakers. They will clean all the shoes they collect and distribute them to people who need them.  Most of them will go overseas.  

That left me needing a new pair of running shoes.  For the last week I have been using an old pair I found in the back of my closet.  I am a Saucony diehard.  I can't wear Nike.  Or Reebok.  Or Adidas.  I can wear Asics, New Balance or Saucony.  But after many, many pairs of sneakers, I have found that this particular Saucony Cohesion style sneaker  works for me.  

Last year, I tried a different brand of running shoe.  While my feet were fine, I developed achilles issues and had to stop running for almost 2 months.  The only change had been my shoes, so I am certain that is what caused it.  Fortunately, the injury happened right before my surgery, so after completing 2 months of physical therapy, I was forced to rest for an additional 2 months.  Last winter, I returned to my beloved Saucony Cohesions.  

I tend to get super lucky and find Saucony Cohesions on sale.  They aren't expensive shoes and have a starting price point of around $55 on the official Saucony web site.  They also tend to be easy to find a size as many people don't even consider buying them.  The girl working at the box store handed them to me with a look on her face that would make someone believe she was handing me a cardboard box full of dog poop.  She even said to me "these are the least quality shoes we offer."  With a tone.  I'm guessing she is basing her opinion on what the cute shoe rep who was there at the same time explaining to her all the benefits of the new $150 Under Armour shoes he was pushing.  I kindly told her I disagreed and said shoes accompanied me on training for and completing a full marathon, two half marathons, two 25K trail runs and too many 5K's to count.  

Another place I get lucky to buy my beloved Cohesions is at Marshall's.  As stated above, Cohesions get overlooked.  I think people mistake price with quality.  As such, stores get stuck with many leftovers in last season's colors.  These find their way to Marshall's and I stock up when they do!

The important thing to keep in mind is to find a shoe that works for you.  These work for me, but may not be the right shoe for everyone.  If you are a seasoned runner, you probably have a go to brand and style of shoe.  If you are new to running, I highly recommend going to a running store to buy your first pair.  They will not only analyze your stride and strike of your foot, they will find the shoe that works best for you.  AND, even better, almost always a running store will stand behind their recommendation.  If you aren't happy with the shoe, even if you have used it, they will take it back and help you find something that works.  Be sure to ask if this option exists and what their time limit is for taking the shoes back.  You may pay a little more for this first pair of shoes, but you will find the shoe that is right for you. 

Remember that following any major change in your body, you may need to go back to the running store and make sure you are still in the best shoe for you.  During my pregnancies, my foot grew an entire size and got wider.  I switched to New Balance shoes during each of my pregnancies.  (I ran into the 9th month with my first, into the 8th with my second and third.)  I also stayed in the New Balances for a period of time after I had given birth, until my feet returned to their pre-pregnancy size and width. 

Also, please don't ever buy shoes for running based on color.  The fit is absolutely the most important criteria.  It won't matter if the color looks good if you are limping due to a blister or worse, a run ending injury.

Running is a budget friendly way to get and stay healthy.  Cut corners on the clothing.  Shorts and t-shirts are fine.  You don't need expensive, matching outfits.  Spend the money on shoes, socks and a good sports bra.  You may get lucky like me and find an inexpensive running shoe.  You may need something that costs more.  But get what works for you.  Socks is another area not to cut corners.  I like Nike's Dry Fit socks.  They are a bit expensive, but again, I wait for sales and coupons and then I stock up.  

Finally, take good care of your shoes by doing the following:
  • Wear them only for running/walking.  Don't use them for mowing the lawn, completing errands, or hanging around the house.  
  • Put rice in an old pair of socks and tie off the top.  Place these in your shoes after a run.  They will absorb excess moisture and keep your shoes from getting stinky.  If your shoes start to smell, consider an anti-bacterial spray in addition to the homemade rice bags.
  • Make sure you are lacing your shoes correctly. Lacing your shoes based on your own needs will allow your shoes to maintain their proper shape.
  • Wipe down the outside of your shoes after any muddy runs.  
  • If you have to wash your running shoes, put them in the top rack of your dishwasher.  It does a lot less damage to them than the washing machine.  This will address odor issues as well.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Warrior Dash 2012

I did the Warrior Dash this past weekend.  It was awesome!

Actually, I take that back.  It was awesome doing it with the girls, but the event itself was not as enjoyable as last year.  First, the arrangement of the obstacles seemed to not be very well planned.  After running up the side of a ski slope for .8 miles, 500 to 700 runners bottle necked at a tunnel that counted as one of the challenges.  Luckily, we were the very first heat of the day and we knew enough not to run up the hill.  We power walked that son of a gun and left people dry heaving in our dust.  Meaning, our bottle neck wasn't so bottle necked.  We also left behind us the chick that didn't want to get dirty (what did she think she signed up for??).  Because of her aversion to dirt, she didn't get down low enough on the ground to avoid the barbed wire.  She took it right to her face.  Ouch.  Dirty hands and knees would have been the better choice I think.

There weren't as many obstacles this year.  The ones they had were all too similar.  3 walls to go over and lots of muddy water to traverse.  Then there was this:

That my friends, is one very large, very fast, ghetto slip and slide.  (You will either have to trust me about its size, OR use the back hoe for scale.)  Black plastic stretched across hay bales with just enough room between for one slightly chubby house frau to achieve extremely fast rates of speed.  I owned that thing.  I also owned the pain in my shoulder from crashing at said speed into the hay bales at the bottom.  But is was fun, so it all worked out in the end.

The entry fee was reasonable.  I think we even got a break for signing up early.  But then, they charged $20 for parking.  This is double what they charged in 2011.  I thought that was ridiculous.  However, as a founding member of Team "Meh", I ponied up and let it go.

And then this:

Sure, I'm sort of smiling drinking my free can of Miller Lite Beer.  But you know what?  I was smiling a lot more last year drinking my complimentary Yuengling.

See? I'm smiling behind that cold cup of GREAT beer!  And how in the world did I look so good after last year's event?  I keep scrolling back and forth looking at this year's photo and then last year's.  I'm at a loss as to what happened differently.  Yowza.

It was all worth it though.  We all ran together and helped each other conquer our fears (heights, balancing, fire).  The vibe at these events is great.  People talk to each other, assist and encourage strangers, and the costumes are always fun to check out.

Do you want to know what else makes it all worth it?  The guacamole at Pancho Villa's, in Tannersville, NY.  Last year, we ate there the night before the race.  And I thought the guacamole was the best I ever had.  Ever.  But then, I thought, maybe it was just because I was really, really hungry and it wasn't the best ever.  I had it again this year.  Best. Ever. Ever.  Now I'm wishing I had purchased some to take home with me.  Instead, I'll have to wait until next year.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Orchid

My parents live a half days drive away from us.  Regardless of the distance, they have done a great job of maintaining a great relationship with my kids.  In addition to trips to our home for big and small events, my parents have been very good about calling my kids often and sending them small notes and cards on a regular basis.

This summer, in addition to a visit to our home, my parents played host to my kids separately.  Due to a scheduling issue, my daughter and youngest son went to stay with them at the same time, leaving my oldest son, Conor, here with me.

Conor is my kindred spirit.  He's the child who is the most like me.  He loves to read, enjoys time by himself, has a great sense of humor and loooooooves to talk.  He can talk your ear off.  Add to that the fact that he is super smart, well read and retains oodles and oodles of information in his big brain.  So he has lots to talk about.

Conor is the child I worry the most about.  Because he is so easy to please and compliant, I sometimes forget to give him the attention he needs.  If my kids were houseplants, he would be my pothos - left unattended and unwatered it appears fine, until suddenly, you awake one morning and it isn't okay.  It has yellowing and dying leaves.

So this week alone with my Conor gave me a real chance to nurture him in the way both he and I needed.

On Monday, we did nothing.  I tackled all the jobs that have to get done each week, such as laundry, cleaning, bill paying, etc.  Conor enjoyed having the television and Playstation all to himself.  No need to argue over who got to sit in dad's chair or even what channel to watch.  He was able to turn on the History Channel and not have to worry that something may have too much shooting or that a war re-enactment was to realistic and would give his younger brother nightmares.  He could play his Cabella's Big Game hunt and not have Hayden stand behind him saying "Can I have a turn now?  Is it my turn now? Can I go?  When can I shoot?"

On Tuesday, we decided to check out Peak's Island in Portland's Casco Bay.  We headed into Portland and caught the ferry over.

Got our tickets!

Portland's beautiful working water front!

Ferry ride over.

We walked up from the dock and to Picnic Point.

We found small pieces of sea glass.

I questioned my thought process of bringing a purse! 

We walked over to the rope swing.

No way he would pass up a chance to climb up it.

Checking out the tide pools.

Loving the day.

Watched some ships go through the islands.

He let me hold his hand on the walk back to the dock.

He even smiled while holding my hand.

We didn't eat there this day, but The Inn on Peak's Island is a great place to stay if you ever visit.

Then we went home and I made him chicken fried steak. He ate it all. 
(Recipe from the The Pioneer Woman - have I mentioned I love her?)

And that was just day 1.  We got a good night's sleep and the next day, we took Stella for a walk down to the covered bridge.  It was a hot and humid day.  Conor rode his bike and I got dragged along by a dog that wanted to keep up with that boy incredibly bad.  The dog was hot so we brought her down to the river to cool off.  Soon, Conor was dropping hints about how hot he was and how he wished he had worn his bathing suit.  

He tried to cool off by putting his feet in the water.

Conor is not a risk taker.  Its not that he is afraid of anything, rather that he is a rule follower.  He is the stereotypical first born child.  He believes there are rules and they should be followed and is amazed that people don't understand the simplicity of it all.  This is another way he is like me.  So the thought of swimming in regular clothes was way out of his comfort zone.  But perhaps it was the heat, or the humidity, or the simple pleasure of being the sole focus of my attention for an extended period of time that allowed him to embrace the moment and jump in.

And he swam and the dog swam.  And they continued to swim.  For over an hour.  And then we headed home.
Our last day by ourselves I set aside to fulfill a birthday wish.  Conor didn't ask for much this year.  There was a series of book he asked for and that was all.  At the last minute he asked if he could go rock climbing and bring a friend.  We were so busy around his birthday that we kept having to push it off.  This was a perfect time to do it.  We could spend all day there and he wouldn't have to worry about his brother and sister being there to distract him.  

Conor climbing.

Conor belaying for his friend.

After our day at the Maine Rock Gym, we headed over to Trader Joe's to get some snacks for the ride home.  I apologize for not having photos of the incredible brownie bites with sea salt we had, but, Conor's friend is in all those photos and I'm just not comfortable including pictures of someone else's child.  But trust me, they were good!  

We left the next day to all spend a week with my parents and I think Conor enjoyed having me all to himself for those final hours in the vehicle.  Currently, he continues to be spoiled by my parents as this is his solo week with them.  They have gone to Steamtown National Park, done a tour of West Point, and today they are visiting the USS Intrepid.  

Soon reality sets in again.  I will be picking Conor up this weekend and life will return to normal.  He will go from being the one and only, to one of three.  But one thing I will change.  Instead of treating him like a pothos, I will remember that he is a beautiful rare orchid, and treat him as such.


Yesterday, Hayden (my youngest son) and I spent the day running some errands while my daughter was at soccer camp.  (My oldest is enjoying some time as an "only" grandchild with my parents this week.)

After a trip to the bank, the library and the grocery store, we headed to Kohl's to return some shorts I had purchased for Hayden that were too small.  As we got on line in the customer service area, I immediately sensed some tension in the air.  Then I heard the voice.  And the words.  And the tone.

A man two places in front of me wanted to pay off his balance.  The young girl helping him explained that for customer safety, associates were unable to access account information.  So she was unable to tell him the exact amount he owed.  She told him that he could get that information by using the courtesy phones located a few steps away.  This man proceeded to go up one side of this young lady and down the other.  He called her nasty names and talked to her like she was worthless.

And I did nothing.

I'm not usually the type of person who does nothing.  I've got a big mouth and sometimes get involved in things that a 5'2" house frau shouldn't get involved in without back up.  Or a gun.

Yet, I did nothing this time.  None of us did anything.  All of us on line looked uncomfortably at the ground.  We didn't make eye contact with the girl, with the man, or with each other.  Probably because we were ashamed.  And scared.  This man scared me.  I sensed violence beneath his surface.  His reaction was so out of proportion to the issue at hand, that I sensed his grip on sanity was tenuous at best.  At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Eventually, he stormed off and the young lady burst into tears.  She held herself together quite well up to that point.  She called for someone to come help her with the line that had quickly grown as the yelling man took up a good amount of time.  I returned the shorts and walked out of the store with my son, who kept asking why that man was so angry.

When I got to my vehicle, I recognized that the feeling in my stomach wasn't just the start of adrenaline from the tense situation.  Is was shame for not intervening in some way.  I imagined that young lady was my daughter and how I would feel if I knew she was intimidated and embarrassed like that while a bunch of adults stood around and did nothing.  I imagined how scared that young girl was as the target of such anger by a man that triggered my spidey senses as dangerous.

I called the store and apologized to the young girl shortly afterwards.  I also asked to speak to the store manager to inform her of what I witnessed and how well the young girl handled the man and his anger. I felt that it was the least I could do, and I hung up feeling that my call made her feel a little bit better.  But it did little to assuage my guilt.

I wonder if I would have intervened if I didn't have my son with me.  I'd like to believe I would have, but I'm not certain that I would have done anything differently.  I don't know why I did nothing; I don't know if I ever will know.  And I really hope that I am never put in another position like that and that I never have to find out

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday

Linking up with The Pleated Poppy's What I Wore Wednesday again today.  Love getting great ideas of clothes to put together over there from Lindsay herself as well as all the other bloggers who link up.

Today, it isn't quite hot, but it sure is humid here.  But I'm running errands with my youngest.  So we will be in air conditioning most of the day.  So I put on my Target shorts.  Normally, I wouldn't consider white because of my kids' and dog's propensity to transfer dirt! But, at less than $13, after sale, I figured I would take this fashion forward risk.  I paired it with an A&F shirt.  I like it for comfort, but I'm starting to think that based on the size of their logo recently, A&F should start paying me to wear their clothes.

I like this big assed moose about as much as I love the humongous polo logo on the entry level Polo clothes at Marshall's.  And why is a moose their logo?  Didn't A&F start in NYC?  School me if I'm wrong.