Tag Archives: vacation

Going Home

Home.  I think about it frequently. I write about being a stay at home mother.  I write about making a home for my family.

I grew up in only two houses.  Home was a physical and unchanging place for more than twenty years. In the last ten years I have moved more than I had previously in my entire life.  In the last five years alone I have moved three times.  This house, this home where I am now, we moved while I was pregnant.  When we brought Lucy home and our family was complete, I knew we were home for good.

This week I am packing up the car again.  I am taking the girls to the beach. Mention to a grocery clerk or an acquaintance “heading to the beach” and they might not even notice the melancholy tone.  The beach.  The beach is vacation and sunscreen and smiles all around, right?  But long ago, the beach was home.

I became a mother at the beach.  I brought Emily home at the beach.  Home.  I miss the sand and the salty air in the morning. I miss the long, flat roads for running. I miss my friends and the seafood and my family.

This week much of my ex-husband’s family will gather at the beach.  My family.  Waiting on the birth of a new baby we will grill hot dogs and laugh and soak up the sun.  Some time  this week  I will put Lucy in the jogging stroller and I will take a nice long run down Bay Drive. I will turn down Third Street and as I get closer to my turn, my old street, my feet will slow.  I will ready myself.  And I will run by my old home.

My family is still my family. The beach will still welcome me with the promise of sandy feet and the tight feeling of salt water dried on my skin.  The long, flat roads with a cool breeze in the morning will be there. But my home? It isn’t my home anymore.

I hope it is home to someone. I hope there are flowers on the porch and bicycles in the driveway.


Spring Sprang Sprung

From you have I been absent in the spring
When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him. ~William Shakespeare

Can you feel it now that spring has come?
And it’s time to live in the scattered sun.
Waiting for the Sun, Waiting for the Sun… ~The Doors

Pick your poison.  Shakespeare.  The Doors.  Donna Summer.  The Beatles.  Elvis Presley.  Springtime.  It will make you run outside and sing and dance and fall in love.  And if you have school-aged kids it might make you pack up some stuff and hit the road.

We didn’t go over the river.  And we didn’t go through the woods.  But the gals and I headed off to grandmother’s house.  Ordinarily heading home to my mom and step-dad’s house  in the Spring looks like this:


Opening Day at the Nats’ Game


And sometimes it looks like this:


Or like this:20130406-140107.jpg

And this:20130406-140112.jpg

We eat.  And watch baseball.  And drink wine.  And eat some more.  And take naps.  I did all of those things.

Spring Break with the little ones is not so debaucherous.  There is very little in the way of oil wrestling.  The wet t-shirt contests have only one competitor, me, and only when Lucy Goose is having so much fun she skips a meal.  But I ate cheesecake.  And I drank a little wine.  And I ate a bag of cookies.  Spring Break was good to me. Add in a bonus Willie Roberston (of Duck Dynasty fame) sighting and Spring Break was a smashing success.

20130406-140045.jpgAnd all of that doesn’t even count Easter Egg hunts and this morning’s ColorMania 5K.

20130406-140121.jpgYep.  I ran every day but one while I was at my mom’s.  I ran this morning and I am planning a trip to the pool to crush a 3000 yard swim this afternoon before dinner.  My “Spring Break Vacation” was actually a good reason to hike up to my mom’s house to borrow her bicycle for tri-training.  And now I am attempting to hand off a post filled with pictures and sonnets and song lyrics after having been quiet for a week.  Forgive me?  I warned you.

I hope you have had a colorful week.


Road trip: Part 4 – The Heat

On day six of our seven day trip to the beach we made what seemed like a very good decision. It was hot. Hot hot. And it was getting hotter. We had been to the beach, the pool, the outlet malls, the board walk. We had eaten crabs and drank some wine. We’d had a good time. And the prospect of dragging our not yet sunburned selves out to the water for one last day in more than hundred degree heat seemed unnecessary. My grandmother always told my mom, and she in turn always told me, that you should always leave a party while you are still having a good time. So, it seemed wise. I had an appointment to get my hair cut at 9 am.

20120707-123220.jpgI went short. And I am glad I did. When we got back to DC it was even hotter than it was at the beach. So, we went to the mall. Naturally. We basked in the glory of their air conditioning. Emily decided to get her hair cut. We took pictures of her new do and we relaxed at my parent’s house. We went to bed early. And I am glad we did.

Some time around 11 it started to rain. I went to grab Emily from where she was sleeping. She is not a big fan of thunder storms and it seemed like we were in for a doozy. I had no idea. My compulsion for checking the weather came in handy. A quick peek at the radar indicated that it was no small thunderstorm. The lights flickered. The ceiling fans turned off. I settled in for some sleep with my girls.


In the morning the power was still out. Em and I went for a ride. We were hunting down a cup of coffee. Seemed easy enough. Wrong. On my third trip through the intersection aptly titled Seven Corners with no traffic lights I told Em that we were going home. With or without coffee. With our lives and what remained of my sanity in tact.

We spent the day preparing for the power to remain out. My mom fashioned curtains for the windows in the kitchen out of pillow cases to help keep it cool. David found the last generator for sale in Northern Virginia. I kept both my children alive while slowly regressing to about fourteen years old. We went out to dinner. We “made the best of it.” A euphemism for “did not kill one another.”

We camped out in the downstairs bedroom. Em, Lucy and I slept in my parents’ bed. They napped on the air mattress. We all woke up warm and cranky. Emily survived watching movies on the iPad. I read. I bickered with my mother like the teenage drama queen I had become over the last twenty four hours. My mother declared that she was retracting our application for Family Survivor.

Every family has a go to coping mechanism. When I was little and the power went out we would gather around the fireplace and read fairy tales. When Things go to shit in your house maybe you go to church. Maybe you go to a local bar. Maybe you go out for ice cream. May God, Buddha, Mother Earth and the whole rest of the gang smile down on my step-dad for all of his days. When everything goes to hell in his world he goes to the Ritz Carlton.


Something about showering with tiny bottles of liquid soap and wrapping yourself in big white towels and drinking a very, very large glass of white wine does a body good.

We survived the power outage in DC.  My almost seven year old daughter knows absolutely every single swear word in existence.  Those she did not learn from me she learned from my mother.  Passed on from one generation to another.  That’s how you do it, right?  And from my step-father I have learned an invaluable lesson.  Tough it out.  Long enough to say that you did and then get your ass to the nicest hotel in town and order a drink. Make mine a double.


Road Trip: Part 3 – The Boardwalk

Some things never change.

That is one of those things that people say when what they really mean is “Can you believe that asshole? They haven’t grown up at all!” But sometimes you get to say it and all you mean is that some things do not ever, ever change.

Zoltar told us our fortune. We piled in a photo booth and had our pictures taken. We ate ice cream cones and greasy pizza for dinner. We went on the Gravitron and laughed as our arms turned to lead. The Freefall had me hysterical. The bumper cars did not let us down.

The Boardwalk at Rehobeth beach. Some things really do stay the same.

I walked over to ask a game attendant a question. “A million years ago there was a mermaid,” I said…. Instead of looking at me like I was tripping on acid she started to point towards the rides for small children. She didn’t need to answer. Because I saw her. And some things really never change.

She has been repainted a time or two in the twenty years that have passed since I have seen her. And it seems someone did something to the water that the boats go round and round in. It is no longer so … tan and sludgey. But she is there. I crouched down next to Em and said “This was my favorite ride when I was little, baby. I loved that mermaid. And now I am here with you and it is so crazy…” I hugged her. Emily more than tolerates my dramatic moments. She feeds right in to them. “I will go on that ride for you, mama. Even though it is for babies.”

I didn’t make her ride it. But I thought about it. But we had big girl rides to ride and more importantly – we had games to win.


I thought I should prepare Emily. Explain to her that carnival games are designed so that you almost win every time. Her first time out, it was the horse races. You roll the ball like skee ball and your horse advances. She won. Beginner’s luck. And then she catapulted a rubber frog on to a lily pad with a mallet. And then she tossed a wiffle ball right on to the red plastic cup. The kid was on fire.

She comes by it naturally. When my brother and I were kids my mom would win us stuffed animals on the boardwalk. It was the horse races that were her ace in the hole. She would get in the zone. The same stare she gets playing skee ball. And we knew that we would be going hone with the Jumbo prize.

Some things never change. And I couldn’t be happier about that.


Road Trip!! Part 2: The Beach

I used to go to the beach.  On vacation.  I got up early and I spent as much time as possible over the week with my feet in the sand.  I read.  I took walks as an excuse to parade my teenage bikini-clad body back and forth.  I ate dinner and went back to the beach again at night to look for shells.  I filled grocery bags with shells and had plans to wash them when I got home and make something spectacularly crafty.

Then in my mid-twenties I moved to the beach.  “Beach days” were good days. Locals don’t camp out on the beach all day nearly as often as they should and a solid beach day was a good day.  I stopped my car at a beach access and took a long look at the ocean nearly every day.

It is the only way to justify your outrageous mortgage payment.  I no longer collected shells.  In fact, I grew to hate the beach motif.  “How do you like living in the Outer Banks?” people would ask me. “It’s fine unless you want to buy some place mats that don’t have a lighthouse on them.”

I have had my fill of sand between my toes.  But “going to the beach” is more than just sitting in the sand.  We trucked it down to the ocean a handful of times.  Enough to get some sun and some sand in our swim suits.  We rode waves.  We peed in the ocean.  We put on sunscreen religiously.

We went to the beach.  But I am at peace with my decision to go to the pool just as often.  So we could just sit.  And relax.  And not pack up the entire house.  20120707-122457.jpg

And I find an even greater peace with our decision to spend one entire day at the outlet malls.  Ahh, Delaware.  Where the beaches are wide…. and so are the outlet malls. 





Road Trip!!! Part 1

The battle cry of ROAD TRIP! used to mean something totally different to me. I would stock up on Marlboro Lights and Diet Cokes.  I might organize my tape case on the front seat of my Geo Metro convertible.  If I was trying not to feel totally reckless I’d apply sunscreen to the part between my pigtails and I’d hit the road.  I always arrived at my destination earlier than I thought I would because I could drive for hours and hours without stopping to pee and I held steady at ten to fifteen miles over the speed limit.

Things are different now.  Lucy and I hit the road early in the morning.  It was almost two weeks ago and I have only just now recovered enough to write about it. To say that we made frequent pit stops would be an understatement.  She was hungry.  She needed a new diaper.  But mostly?  She just needed her mama.  And I cave like a wet paper bag.

I know you, rider…

I picked up Emily and it was smoother sailing from then on out.  Lucy loves her mama.  But her big sister is supremely entertaining.  We laughed.  We sang.  While sitting in traffic I thought I might pee in my pants.  Emily informed me that if she had a magic wand she would turn all my pee to blood.  Not eliminate the traffic, mind you.  We made it to DC.  We regrouped.  Lucy, my mom and me in one car.  Em and my step-father in the other.  We took off for the beach.

A hundred years ago my mom and I went on road trips.  Sometimes they would be small adventures.  Denny’s for breakfast in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep.  She would come down to Williamsburg to visit me in my twenties.  We would tear up the town.  In the summer we would usually steal away for a night or two at the beach.   As we hopped in the car to head to the beach I was reminded of those long ago beach trips.  In spite of the car seats, the pool floaties, the sleeping kids in the back seat, the sun shades and the SPF 3 Million in my car for a moment it was like I was sixteen and we were headed out just “us girls.”

Twice in the car she laughed until she spit her water.  Her Perrier.  My mom likes “bubbly water” without it seeming like a “thing.”  I have some on my dashboard right now and I might not wipe it off.  Not because I am a slob (which I am, in my car only) but because every time I see the splash marks on my window and my dash it makes me laugh.

Rarely is your Vacation complete before you arrive at your destination.  But it had been too damn long since I had made my mom laugh until she spit her drink.  Too damn long.

Annie, showing Lucy that the Party never stops. Folding laundry is fun even on VACATION!

In the weeds

My wonderful friend and blogger Colleen had me write a guest post over at The Family Pants.  (Go pay her a visit!!!)I was going to write about why I love Colleen and then something funny happened at the park that had me thinking about my past.  Colleen is married to a restaurant person, so maybe that is why she puts up with me.  What follows is what I wrote for Colleen.  

Robert Fulghum said he learned all he needed to know in kindergarten. He was lucky. I had to wait tables for ten god damned years. When I got a job as a waitress at nineteen years old I never imagined that I was embarking on what would be ten years of training for motherhood.

This girl was 22 years old. She worked two jobs and thought red hair dye was a good idea. She could take an order from an eight top without a pen. She thought she didn't know a thing about motherhood.

Perhaps first and foremost I learned to drink booze out of a coffee cup. And not make an “I’m drinking booze” face. How, even, to wince in a “ooh boy this coffee is hot” way instead of a “Jeez , there’s a lot of bourbon in this bourbon and ginger” way. This is a handy skill when your kids are old enough to recognize anything that vaguely resembles an indication of grown up time. Wine in a wine glass? Instantly, they need you. Wine in a coffee cup? Business as usual.

It was in the dining room of a restaurant I learned that everyone I work with will likely step right over something as if they don’t see it. And that it is a colossal waste of my time and energy to wonder if anyone else will go get the vacuum. If that something is wet and maybe gross, the length of time your coworkers might let it sit there gets exponentially longer.

It wasn’t waiting tables that taught me this next thing, but rather the  after hours activities, but it was valuable nonetheless. I learned that no matter how late I stayed up the night before I will have to drag my ass out of bed the next day. And start fucking smiling at people who want things from me.

It taught me that wearing a dirty shirt is fine. No one cares. Even if you slept in it the night before.

It taught me that there is nothing wrong  with day drinking. If you are off work you’re off work. Seize the moment. Carpe the shit out of that magnum and don’t answer your cell phone. Because that day off you think you have –  it could end abruptly with one single phone call. The only way to absolutely get the day off no matter what is to drink enough that you are a danger to yourself and all those around you.

I learned  that sometimes there is no shame in over-serving someone. And that if you don’t have any rigid expectations it can even be fun. A kid on their second bag of skittles is not too different from a  grown man knee-deep in Budweisers. Eventually they will both get extremely upset, possibly even cry and tell you that you just don’t understand them.  Just don’t let them drive or play with their favorite toy. Because it will get broken, and somehow it will be your fault.

I learned that someone always has it worse than you.  I would  count all the change in my apron only to discover I had somehow made fifty-nine dollars on a fucking Saturday night.  I’d slug back my shift beer and drop my pint glass in the dish pit on my way out the door and realize that the dishwasher was still working. And he came in before me.  And he probably works breakfast somewhere else.  And he never makes two hundred bucks in a night.  The dishwasher is the lady I see now at the grocery store with three kids under three that has not slept more than 45 minutes in years.  I smile at her kindly, and then I run the fuck away before she can ask me for any help.

I learned that when you are in the eye of the shit storm, “in the weeds” they call it in the restaurant, when everywhere you look people want something, and everything you suggest is wrong and everyone you speak to got up on the wrong side of the bed no one can save you but you.  Eventually the day will be over.  And tomorrow? All those assholes won’t be there anymore.  It might be a whole bunch of new jackasses with special requests, trying to see a movie that starts in 30 minutes and ordering a well done steak, but it will be new.  It will never be as bad as today in the same way.  It might get worse, but it won’t ever be the same.  Insanely, this is comforting.

Perhaps the most useful skill of all is the most commonly employed.
If you are a mother you practice this, I guarantee it. Waiter blinds.  Waiter blinds are a skill cultivated by seasoned wait staff allowing the waiter to walk right by a customer while they  are staring you  down, doing everything they  can to send you the “I want my 57th glass of iced tea right NOW” message with their  eyes. The seasoned waiter can ignore them  without ruining their tip.  Because they  are not convinced you can see them. Even though you are right in front of them.  You must stare intently in another direction, perhaps at the kitchen door as if to say there is hot food in the window  that could save lives if you get there in the next ten seconds.   The skilled waiter might even wave and greet a fictional customer just out of a table’s range of sight.

But whatever you do you do not make eye contact and you  do not allow yourself to stop looking in the direction you  are already looking.

Mothers have a similar skill. Only we learn not to just avoid someone looking at us. We can ignore a short person repeatedly hollering our name. “Mom. Mom.  Mom.  Mom.  Mom.”

With my oldest daughter now six years old I am like the seasoned waiter. I can ignore her without other mothers even suspecting that it is me she is hollering for. Another mother sitting on the same park bench might very well look over her shoulder thinking “where is that kid’s mother?” That is the parental equivalent of someone else refilling your table’s iced tea because you looked way too busy.

This afternoon we were at the park. I was reading and wiggling the stroller with my foot as my 7 week old slept. I was in professional mom gear. Yoga pants, vibrams and a shirt with puke on it. (In my defense I did actually exercise today, not to the point of vomiting, but you get my point.)  If you looked closely you’d have seen that the tell tale sign of breast pads (the faint appearance of gigantic nipples which are actually the result of wearing washable cloth breast pads and a sports bra) was slightly off. Instead it appeared that I had not humongous saucer sized nipples but rather nipples the size of playing cards. Rectangular nipples.

If you noticed then you’d know I really am a pro at this mom shit. Ran out of the house with no breast pads? No problem. Still in the diaper  bag are the postpartum maxi pads. Cut one of those suckers in half, cram it in your shirt and you’re in business.

Where was I??  I got distracted, forgive me, I don’t sleep. I was setting the scene.  I had my kindle in my hand.  On the park bench “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom!!” Suddenly this was the best and most important book in all the world. Nothing would divert my attention from this book. I had the good fortune of wearing sunglasses so I could see that the big kids were fine. I kept reading, jiggling the stroller with my foot. No feelings were hurt because my daughter was under the impression I could not hear her!! I read for a good three more minutes. Three minutes in uninterrupted mom time is a lifetime.

I felt renewed.

Em continued to holler.  “Mom.  Mom.  Mom.  Mom.  Mom.”

As if I had just now heard her for the first time I yelled back “whatcha need Em?”

“Nothing.”  She smiled. “I love you.”

Sucker punched by my six-year-old. Way to make me feel like an asshole. Just like that two top of women who ordered the exact same thing (a salad and a half sandwich and soup with an iced tea) and then they had me split their check in two. The pair of women that I just knew would give me 15% even though I was bringing the funny.

Emily shouting “I love you” across a soccer field. The only thing that prepared me for that moment was that two top of middle-aged women. The table I ignored after their fourth refill of iced tea and their plates had been cleared. Yeah. Sometimes that table would leave me a twenty dollar bill each on their checks of $12.54.

And I’d think “Man, I am an asshole.” And not five seconds later I’d think “nah… I am kind of awesome.  I earned it.”