TWO HUNDRED FORTY TWO…my new two favorite words

Homer, Alaska.

 

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“Make sure you visit a grocery store before we head out to Homer because it’s so remote there, they may not have a grocery store. So in other words, shop for the week” Greg warned me before we left Palmer. So naturally I went buck wild and spent a ridiculous amount of money on enough groceries to get us through the week because “Homer isn’t like anything we will ever experience in our lifetime” according to Greg.

 

I was going to be a smart ass and take a picture of the enormous Safeway in town, but let’s just say, the people who live in Homer, Alaska…aren’t “roughing” it as Greg had warned me about. My studious researcher husband claims he was, “misinformed”. “What year was the article you were referring to published?” I ask…to which he responds, “Hey what is that? A Moose??” A successful Subject aversion. I decided to let it go.

 

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The feelings I had when we first visited Bar Harbor, Camden, Rockport, Freeport, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, Maine; Montpelier, Burlington, and Newport, Vermont; Mackinac Island, Michigan; Hatteras, North Carolina; Mt Shasta, CA are equal, if not more intense, to Homer, Alaska.

 

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Once Greg finished work on Friday, we explored the fishing village of Homer. We walked along the docks, loosing ourselves in the hypnotic glossy blue ripples in the pacific, all the life happening in the streets, families meeting up with their friends for dinner, watched fishing tours bring in their latest salmon, Halibut, or trout catch so they could hang them up in the center of town, watching the boats bob up and down on the choppy waters of the docks, observing a little group of teenage girls giggling together as their boy group tags behind rolling their eyes, and individuals walking their loyal canine companions through town.  After yelping the best seafood places, we made our way into Captain Patties Fish House. I would have taken a picture but it had begun to rain…maybe next time.

 

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Trust me when I tell you, if you ever find yourself in Homer, RUN don’t walk, I repeat RUN to Captain Patties.

 

I was thinking about getting their Salmon special, because I love salmon…but Greg usurped me and told me to trust him. He ordered the three-pounder fresh Alaskan King Crab, the price of which was a three digit number for the one dish. Within a fifteen minute time period, our waitress told us to take a look out the window and see if the King Crab their fisherman just caught was to our liking. I wonder what would have happened had I said no. I shutter to think. I looked at the damn thing and couldn’t believe how big it was. We can eat all that? Between the two of us?

 

I’ve seen the romance movies out there where the wife wants to be romanced…wined, dined, dancing, and surprised with flowers, candy, and expensive jewelry, which is perfectly fine. My idea of a romantic date night is a night of amazing food, great music, surrounded by people I love, and a nice cold glass of chardonnay or two…In other words, Friday was my idea of a perfect date night. And adding to the list of things that are romantic to me, we were in Homer, Alaska…eating dinner at a restaurant with a fabulous water view.

 

When my time comes, if I can choose how to exit this world, I choose that night, with those people plus a few more, in that restaurant, with that view, that meal, and that goofy classic easy listening 70’s rock in the background.242 f.jpg242 e.jpg242 g.jpg

 

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I went to bed Friday night feeling all the feels. I thanked Greg for being who he is and allowing me to be who I am, and for everything he does for this family, all the love he gives to his girls, and for being such a great best friend. I ran over to the girls and kissed their chocolate stained faces and told them who much they mean to me and how happy I am that I get to be their mother. Then I don’t know what happened but I must have passed out once my body hit the bed because when I awoke Saturday morning, my ears were ringing, the sun was way to bright, the sound of the toilet flushing almost put me over the edge, and I was still wearing my clothes from the night before along with my puffer vest. Needless to say the gratuitous feeling I had the night before was long gone. Vanished. Into thin air. POOF. See ya later happy girl, run along now!!

 

242 aa.jpg242 y.jpgAfter my second cup of caffeinated coffee that morning Saturday, August 12th, we greeted the morning in Homer with a trip to one of their small inlets. We wanted to give the girls an opportunity to fish in the fishing capital of the world. Just kidding. I made that last part up. But it should be called the fishing capital of the world, if it’s not. The inlet we found leads into Kachamek Bay and boasts of large salmon and another fish which I forgot the name of… because really, to me there is no competing with salmon.

 

6176737168_img_1587What do Homerians do on Saturday mornings you ask? Well, let me tell you, a lot of them can be found at the inlets with their families teaching their little toddlers to bait their own hook, catch, and release fish that are bigger than they are and probably just as heavy.

 

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They also walk up and down the fish markets picking out fresh fish for their party they’ve likely been planning for weeks. I saw two young girls who couldn’t have been more than 10 and 12 wearing their wellies everyone wears their wellies, and shorts cause 58 degrees in Alaska to the natives is a warm day, a box of pizza, and bopping onto their little boat parked in the local marina.

 

242 ah.jpgI saw the whole story playing out in my head: the two young girls whom I pretended were Abby and Phoebe planned a night of co-babysitting little Cecilia while Greg and I had a date night out. They went into town like they do every Friday, to pick up pizza and other goodies, hopped back into their little single motor cold tin fishing boat and headed home so the parents could get an early start.

 

Back to reality, I watched as they nodded hello to Abby, then me, hopped in their boat, untied their lines from the dock cleats, used their little size 5 wellies to kick away from the dock, started their engine, and motored across the bay where the lights from their windows welcomed them home.242 ae.jpg

 

242 ag.jpgIt’s a dangerous sign when I start picturing all of us living in an area. Playing out little scenarios about living on an island not reachable by cars is quite charming. So you have to park on the mainland and use your boat to take you back and forth. Big deal. I could do that. I could totally see Abby and Phoebe taking the boat out to meet up with friends to go fishing and have lunch together at The Little Mermaid Cafe, where we would have a running tab…and somehow, Abby has been putting her friends orders on the Spranger tab too. We didn’t find that last part out until the owner of the cutest cafe you’ve ever seen and yes that’s the real name by the way, called me up and hinted at our oldest child’s generous spirit. Clearly, I can get lost in the deep corridors of dreamworld.

 

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Being in Homer reminds me of the first time I visited Mackinac Island in Michigan, which by the way, had the same effect on me. The island is like 8 miles long and doesn’t allow motorized vehicles of any kind. It has horses and buggies, bicycles…and a fairy if you need something on the mainland. But the cute quaint picture perfect little town just romances me into all the big possibilities of a small existence. I love the idea of small intimate towns. The sense of community is so appealing to me.

 

242 ao.jpgI can see us in the fall starting school on the island. I can teach Kindergarten my absolute favorite grade to teach at the little elementary school so the girls and I get to walk to and from school every day. Greg will come and have lunch with us every Friday…and on the weekends, when we eat out and go to the movies, we say hello to everyone we pass…because when you live on an island that is 8 miles long, there aren’t many people you don’t know.

 

242 ab.jpgI have been in a dreamy haze since I’ve been here in Homer specifically. Beauty in my surroundings has the power to take me to all the places I’ve ever been that have had some kind of hold on me…or transformed me in some special way.

 

242 an.jpgJust like the rest of Alaska, the colors in Homer seem to be more vivid. And forget 50 shades of Grey…here they have 50 Shades of Blue. The ocean is a completely different glassy navy blue color but, it is absolutely clear…cold no doubt, but you can see all the way to the bottom. And in different angles the water can also look green. The sky has about 20 different blues all in the same sky just peeking out from behind the cotton candy clouds. The farther the mountain is away from you, the deeper the blue shade gets. so that takes up about 5 to 10 shades right there. I swear, flowers are more colorful here too. Everything is so crisp and specific. I said to Greg the other day half jokingly that maybe because it’s not sunny all the time, things here don’t really ever fade.242 b.jpgOn our way back to the RV, after our fishing excursion, I was enamoured with my surroundings while CC was singing…something, Abby talking about a wolf sanctuary in FL where the wolves are trained to safely be around people and Phoebe who is talking to the air about unicorns, rainbows and her intense dislike for all things Hannah Montana, Greg was talking about going to a fishing store so he can get the girls better fishing equipment and I’m sitting in the car, floating above my body watching and taking in all the chaos. And then the poking and bickering between the girls in the backseat begins.

 

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What would normally drive me to the brink of insanity, left me completely unphased. Why, you ask? Because it’s sunny, beautiful, chilly and dammit all, we are in HOMER, ALASKA.
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H O M E R

 

 

A L A S K A!

TWO HUNDRED THIRTY SEVEN….don’t mess with me, I’m ebbing

Today almost became the day, where I remove the tops from our jeep, turned up the bass and blasted the Foo Fighters on the car stereo, bought a pack of Marlboro Lights from the closest gas station, put my favorite baseball cap on, and drove 45 miles north from Minot (pronounced ‘my not’), North Dakota until I reached Canada.

ALONE.

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Yes, I envisioned myself running away from home. It happens once a year, where my sanity is taken to the edge of a Grand Canyonesque drop and dangled off to the side of its highest peak. I don’t smoke, but today I contemplated starting. Just a big fat inhale of nothing but carcinogenic badness and an exhale of Abby’s constant pleads for taking the summer off from school, Phoebe’s inability to concentrate on the most basic task, and Cecilia’s blatant and defiant deafness to my voice…it seemed like running away with my jeep, the tops off, music blaring, cigarette in hand was the better alternative.

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But then Greg would be all alone with the inmates (as I always LOVINGLY refer to my wonderful children). If I could have my druthers, we would be running away together. And in this day-mare (like a nightmare and a daydream all rolled into one) our kids are seen in the last scene relaxing on the ground outside and bragging, “Wow, that was hard! I thought they were never going to leave. Ugh, they put up with so much…my kids will never do this to me!!!” and then they raise their chocolate milks to one another and eat their favorite peanut butter with pickle sandwiches.

The scene ends and lights fade to black.

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Today was one of those days where I question my decision to not only home school, but live with all five family members in a 300 square foot mini-assylum-on-wheels. What was I thinking? I’m looking in our pathetic manufactured in Thailand bathroom mirror (that distorts my face…and not in a good way) watching myself age rapidly and not even recognizing the person looking back at me.

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After a shit (pardon my french) morning, I thought we could all use a little break, breath of fresh air, a minute or two in nature to recalibrate our rhythms. Oh, who are we kidding, Mommy needed to recalibrate her sanity. I am referring to myself in 3rd person. I had hopes of taking the kids to the park and taking pictures with my old friend, TANK (aka my Canon) in an effort to bring us all some much-needed peace. Nature always brings me to a good frame of mind.

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NOT TODAY.

No cooperation from anyone what-so-ever.

The evidence is all around…every picture.

I was on the verge of a Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford moment, in the infamous ‘no more wire coat hangers’ scene in the 1981 classic film Mommy Dearest, when I waved my white flag of surrender high in the air.

  I  brought Cecilia back, set her up at the table with some goldfish crackers, ice water, and her fully charged iPad. I needed a break. I isolated myself in my bedroom, laid down on the bed, cried, and had myself a 30 minute pity party. And within 30 minutes, I was perfectly fine.

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Cecilia came into the bedroom, climbed on the bed, sat down on my lower back and bounced up and down for a while, then laid down beside me, kissed me on the cheek, and said, “Mommy, I need more water, ice, and fishies.” As aggravated and frustrated as I was with all three of our inamtes, they are so damn funny.

Such is life.

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Ebb and Flow.

Clearly I’m ebbing right now…I am anxiously awaiting the flow.

TWO HUNDRED THIRTY TWO…suspicious eyes

We went to a great seafood restaurant last night downtown Longbeach, MS. It was nice, intimate, low-key and super casual. We beat the dinner crowd and I got all the girls in and out of the bathroom before our appetizers came out.

I like to take the girls to the bathroom when we first arrive at a restaurant so that I can spend the rest of the night bribing Abby with candy and toys if she will take Cecilia to the bathroom every-time she asks. Otherwise I am up and down, up and down, up and down every ten minutes, as all liquids run right through her.

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Phoebe begs to tag along too. It usually buys me at least 30 minutes of face to face time with Greg before Abby, upon Cecilia’s 3rd bathroom request, waves her white flag to surrender.

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So when Phoebe volunteered to take Cecilia, Greg and I looked at each other and said, “Well, I don’t see why not.” There were maybe 2 other couples in the restaurant and I had a pretty good visual on the bathroom door. “Let’s see what happens” I thought. Phoebe has been asking to help out a lot more and showing more initiative.

I watched Phoebe and Cecilia hold hands and walk together toward the restroom. Before Cecilia let go of Phoebe’s hand and tried to run away from her, they were actually having a sweet sister moment. Greg and I watched as Phoebe regained control and clasped little Cecilia’s hand in hers and firmly said, “No CC! You stay with me!” to which Cecilia complied.

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I watched the girls disappear into the private bathroom and resumed my conversation with Greg.

About 5 minutes later the appetizers came out along with refills for the kids drinks. As the waiter was walking away, Cecilia appeared from behind him. 

There she was…

…alone

…at our table

…without Phoebe.

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“I will give Phoebe a couple of minutes to finish up…if she doesn’t show up, I will go check on her”, I thought.

Five minutes later when our food came out, I scooted out of our booth to check on her in the bathroom.

As I was approaching the door, I had a series of thoughts running through my cursed brain: Phoebe has flooded the bathroom…they made a mess and Phoebe is trying to clean up…there’s a poop mess on the floor and Phoebe is trying to clean it up but of course, making it worse…Phoebe put too much toilet paper in the potty and when she flushed it – you know the rest…Cecilia tied Phoebe up and trapped her in the bathroom (that one made me chuckle)…Phoebe had an accident (that one made me sad).

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As I laid my hand gently on the knob, turning it slightly, surprised it was unlocked, I opened the door to find Phoebe dancing and singing, “We can’t go on together, with suspicious eyes, with suspicious eyes” in front of the mirror. 

She had used sink water (I hope) to wet the sides of her hair and was really swinging her non-existent hips while waving her left arm in the air and holding on to her makeshift toilet paper microphone. 

Influenced no doubt by the YouTube video of Elvis singing ‘Suspicious Minds’ I was watching the night before. It was really something. I think she was just repeating the “suspicious eyes” phrase over and over.

In fact, she is correct, it would be very difficult to carry on a relationship with suspicious eyes. 

When she caught me looking at her in the mirror, she spun around and said, “I just love that song Mommy!” “Me too Phoebe…that was really good singing and your dancing was on point”, I said in my most dry and serious “MOM” tone. “Yes I know…I’m actually a really good dancer”, she informed me.

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I motioned for her to follow me back to our table and told her, about her yummy mac and cheese waiting for her. 

When we settled down, I asked Phoebe how it was taking Cecilia to the bathroom and she promptly said, “Uh oh, I forgot! Sorry Mommy…I’ll take her this time I promise”…to which Cecilia took Phoebe’s dinner spoon and chucked it across the room to another table.

232 q.jpgI calmly scooted out of my comfortable booth seat, grabbed Cecilia by the hand and took her to the potty.

It was my first time trying “cold” steamed clams.

Maybe next time.

WE CAN’T GO ON TOGETHER, WITH SUSPICIOUS EYES…SUSPICIOUS EYES

TWO HUNDRED TWENTY EIGHT…we’re in Texas, “sha-moe” Part ONE

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It’s official, Texas is quickly becoming one of my favorite states. We just spent a glorious week at South Padre County Park where we were mere steps away from the beach. Ok, maybe the word “steps” might be exaggerating a wee bit…our beach journey was more like a short jaunt. I would like to take this moment and express my happiness in the form of song lyrics of Michael Jackson, “Sha-MOE”.

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Which brings me to my story of the day. It doesn’t matter where we are, Florida, North Carolina, California, Oregon, New York, Vermont or Maine, I am the human equivalent of a pack mule heading on a long journey for a daytime destination.

I can see it in my mind and am certain it is a comical sight. I wish I could capture the image for you, heck, I wish I could capture the image for myself…but it would most likely make me sad. Suffice it to say, my enormous beach bag now being used as a bag for transporting sand toys, a medium-sized drink/snack bag, giant beach blanket, 5 towels, and my camera bag all while pushing Cecilia in the stroller makes me feel as ridiculous as it sounds.

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It’s no surprise for those who’ve been reading this blog or know me…I’ve always been open about my over-packing issues. BUT, I really do need all those things, assuming I want to have a relaxing day at the beach. If I don’t bring toys, the girls will pester me to play with them the ENTIRE time. If I don’t bring snack and drinks…our four hour stay will turn into a dismal 45 minute wine fest with impulse to pack everything back into their special bags and head home. Same goes for towels and blankets. And any time I don’t bring my camera, I just sit and watch all these wonderful picturesque moments pass me by.

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So, I am owning it.

With each step getting me closer to the beach, the load I would carry, reaffirmed my current life motto, I am a pack-mule. The looks, the crazy stares, and as always the, “You’ve got your hands full” commenters…I don’t care anymore…it’s totally worth it.

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We spent all day Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the beach. Since we needed recoup days, we used Tuesday and Thursday as “school work” make-up days, much to the girls’ chagrin.

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Cecilia as always, is the DJ for the entire day…controlling my iTune downloads and adjusting our portable Bose speaker volume. Phoebe was the self-appointed dj for the longest time until Cecilia relieved her of her duties when she refused to play Cecilia’s favorite Dr. Demento’s Star Trekkin for a fifth time.

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Despite having to chauffeur Cecilia around in the stroller, my duties at the beach have been greatly reduced. Everyone is getting older. I can sit, relax, sip on water, listen to Star Trekkin a gazillion times, and just watch my little inmates run wild on the deserted beach. Occasionally, I step into the DJ booth. I have rediscovered my 90’s all-time favorite bands The Police, The Black Crows, U2…and then ‘Fool in the Rain’ comes on and I just can’t contain my good vibes. I have to get up and run to each of them, kiss their little foreheads, dance like an idiot with them in the water, and tell them how much I love them.

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But I swear to everything holy, if I have to listen to Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ song one more time, my head will explode. Abby has discovered and fallen in love with Michael Jackson. “…As I turned up the pot of gold, my favorite winter cold…a broken bottle top…they follow each other on the window sill…and no mess is gonna man in the cliver…

What the crap is a “cliver”? I’m afraid to ask…yet, I need to know.

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“MOM, those aren’t the words” yells Abby disapprovingly.

Nah nah nah nah nah…uh huh…there is love with no home and not a nickel to love, could it be, would it be pretending that their not alone…a willow deep blue sky…Ja know…whew, whew, whew, whew, whew…Im’ gonna make a change, it’s gonna feel real good, sha-moe, you got to move, sha-moe…whew, whew, whew, whew…” before he whispers, “Make that change“. And don’t even get me started on the cowbell in the background. If you ask me, it really adds to the immediacy and importance of the message, “Man in the mirror…make that change”.

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Abby eats it up, “Mom, can we play it again? PLEASE??? And don’t mess up the words this time Mom, if your going to sing, sing the right words!”

Join me for the next blog entry where I discuss other issues I have with our beach trips, including but not limited to our haphazard tent  escapades, girls and their beach toys, and kids who love to get dirty… Until tomorrow…

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“Sha-MOE…make that change”

Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror

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TWO HUNDRED TWENTY SEVEN…typical monday

I have this perfect night alone all carved out for myself.

And lately, for the past nine months, the word “alone” can mean many different things. For example, tonight, Greg went to the movies and my “alone time” came in the form of time to myself where the girls were successfully pre-occupied and Cecilia was down for the night. I have a whole chunk of time, two and a half hours, to myself. I can see the neurons and axons lighting up in my brain creating synapses at all the possibilities.

My dream this evening was to situate myself on my bed, with my giant ear phones enveloping my ears in the rhythms of Tycho, a nice cold Corona with lime, and a medium-sized bag of salted Virginia peanuts in the shell. A perfect combination for a night of writing about how much I love being a mom.

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As soon as Cecilia gives that double inhale, I know I am safe to escape. I make a b-line to the refrigerator for the Corona I just purchased on Monday of last week…a whole seven days ago. I know their in the frig, cause I’ve only had one…and I also know in our relationship, I am the only one who imbibes in the Corona experience. It’s been a favorite since my college days in good old Winston-Salem, NC. But when I open the fridge, there’s only the unopened bottle of Yellow Tail Chardonnay staring at me with its “What? I’m not good enough? ” face.

I am forced to confront my shady memory, most likely due to the fact that I eat a lot of Kale or just have a crappy memory to begin with…I vaguely remember Greg drinking one or more of my Corona, even though they don’t satisfy his complex beer palate. I even vaguely recall him opening, sipping, and dumping an entire bottle of Corona down the drain of the sink without thinking twice. In my dream I say, “Hey, that’s my beer”, but in reality, I’m quite sure I just watched him.

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Ok. I will settle for the glass of Yellow Tail. I thoroughly enjoy a nice cold Chardonnay. It might be a little odd with Salted in the shell Virginia peanuts, but I may come to love it…you never know. When I open the cupboard, cause I’ve been reading a lot of classics lately where they refer to “kitchen cabinets” as “cupboards”, I discover a Jumbo bag of UNSALTED, in the shell, peanuts.

Damn that sucks.

That sucks.

Time to switch it up. There will be no ice-cold Corona with lime. There will be no salted in the shell Virginia Peanuts. There will be no Tycho. This calls for ‘Burn you down’ Beach Fossils anthem at a full on decibel of 28. A mere two decibels shy of the maximum volume..just enough to aggravate my, one too many B-52’s in concert no doubt, Tinnitus.

But not when my phone is sporting a mere 10% battery life.

So, my perfect night “alone” has to be amended.

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Ugh, Feck.

I think I’ll just go to bed.

We’ll try this again tomorrow.

It’s definitely a Monday and one thing is for damn certain…I need to find “hiding spaces” somewhere in this 350 square foot beast.

TWO HUNDRED TEN…my day was craptastic how was yours? part 3

I’m visiting yesteryear with Dave Mathews Band’s ‘Live at Red Rocks’ this evening. There’s just something about ‘Granny’ that makes me envision myself lounging in the back of a pick-up truck wearing one of those old-school red plaid bikini tops with jean shorts, driving down a sandy beach road soaking up the sun, watching the clouds pass by. I always think of my friend Justin my brother-from-another-mother when I listen to DMB. Out of the 15 DMB concerts I went to, I don’t think any of them were with him…but he is the first person who pops into my mind anytime I hear this band.

So, I had another craptastic day last week. Why do my craptastic days always begin in retail stores?

I took the girls into the Lake Havasu, Arizona Wal-Mart on Friday. We were doing a little bit of food shopping…a little bit of school shopping…a little bit of craft supply shopping.

Despite not really knowing the town, I made it to Lake Havasu from the outskirts of Needles, CA without any whoops I missed the exit U-turns. It is an amazing feeling to arrive at the destination solely on memory,  without detours. It was an accomplishment for me honestly and it was Friday to boot. It was going to be a good day. I could feel it!

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During our visit, Cecilia and I made it to the potty twice, we had picked up all the groceries, visited the school and crafting section with no hick-ups. I was feeling it. I was proud of my crew. We were having a successful shopping experience. No-one was crying, no one wet their pants, the girls were walking by my side…not asking for everything in sight and I remember thinking, “OMG, this is it. We have turned a corner. My inmates are getting older. We are to the point, where we can all visit the store and make it in and out without any major dramas or catastrophes. This is it.”

We were in the check out and Cecilia said, “Mommy, pee pee” and seriously it was all I could do to hold back the tears of pride.” I gushed over her and took a moment to look her in the eye, rub her sweet face and shower her with verbal praise and kisses. A little over-dramatic…definitely. What can I say, I was submerged in gratitude and feeling appreciative. One by one, I was running down my list of people I needed to call and thank like I had just won an Academy Award.

I finished my praise-a-thon, paid for our items and politely asked Abby and Phoebe to stand with the cart outside the bathroom until we returned. We got into the stall and it was a thing of beauty. I didn’t have to coax her to “Go ahead and pee sweety” she did it all on her own. I swear it was a moment of moments to be treasured for years to come.

When we came out Abby and Phoebe were standing there like the good little girls I knew they were. Guarding the cart with their vigilant eyes. I proceeded to put CC in the cart and was quickly jolted back into reality when Phoebe started screaming at the top of her lungs.

Turns out, her finger was stuck in the cart and when I sat Cecilia down in her seat, it forced Phoebe’s finger into a more precarious position. I quickly picked Cecilia up from her seat and set her in the main part of the cart so I could focus on PJ. Yup, her finger was definitely stuck and bless her heart, I couldn’t get her to lower her voice. If you’re lucky enough to know PJ, you know she doesn’t do anything half-way. She’s a “Balls to the Wall” kind of girl. And that’s especially true with her volume. “Why speak at a 5, 6, or 9 for that matter when you can always speak at a 10” is her philosophy.

By that time, I had a small crowd gathered around me…watching to see how I was going to “save” this tortured soul. I began to sweat. I licked my fingers and was hoping to free her finger with my spit…but soon realized I was too nervous and suddenly had a severe case of dry-mouth.

“Chapstick” I thought. As an non-official chapstick spokesperson, I have every flavor all shoved in my “make-up” bag, because you never know when you’ll need a hint of wintergreen with a tint of strawberry followed by a splash of the forgetful blue one. I can do this…I whipped out the chapstick and within seconds her finger was free…black and blue for sure, but it was free.

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I got to one knee in preparation for hugging it out when a hand touched my shoulder. It was a petite lady fashionably dressed who had been watching nearby, “I saw the whole thing” she said, turning in an instant and vanishing into thin air. I thought she was going to say something else, which would have been fine, but she just turned and walked away, leaving me to ponder the purpose of her comment the entire weekend.

Phoebe and I had a private moment in a crowded store and all was well again…until she said, “Ok Mommy, you have my glasses right?” I blinked then squinted my eyes and stood with my mouth agape, like I normally do when I have absolutely no recollection of the words just spoken. Frantically searching through my purse and then the grocery bags to no avail.

“Phoebe, I don’t remember you wearing your glasses” I confessed. She then assured me she had in fact worn them and matter-of-factly had them on in the crafting section. I could hear the panic in her voice escalating. I could feel my body getting a fresh shot of adrenaline. My gut reaction was to take flight: GET OUT OF THIS STORE AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE…but my head was telling me to put it all aside and help her…all the girls are watching me now. I needed to take the time, put aside my uncomfortable feelings and desire to get the hell out of there and give them a good example of what it means to “take responsibility and care for your things…and of course retrace your steps”.

We walked through the produce section, the cereal section, over to the kids sunglasses section. She assured me it was Abby trying on sunglasses, not her. Sure enough, they weren’t there. We made a B-line over to the school notebook section, the coloring book section and finally the crafting section. We scoured the rainbow looms, the wooden letter section and paint section where they lingered for minutes at a time trying to pick their activity, with no luck. During our frantic search, Abby and Cecilia became the supportive sisters and complied with every wild twist and turn of our storewide search.

It was in this moment, I contemplated telling her she actually didn’t even need her glasses anymore because her eyes had already improved. But I decided to forgo that piece of information because in reality, they did belong to her and she was taking responsibility for them. So many little lessons happening all at once, I couldn’t just throw my hands up in the air. We traced our steps all the way back to our self-check-out line where the empathetic cashier suggested we visit customer service.

When Customer Service said they did not find a pair of children’s red prescription glasses, Phoebe broke down once again. And again, I knelt down on one knee to commence a new hug-it-out session. Cecilia sensed the inner turmoil of her sister and naturally fell in line to help make little Phoebe feel better. Little Phoebe June, as beautiful and unique as she is, has inherited her mother’s sensitivity gene. It is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because she will naturally empathize with others. A curse because she could turn into an over-sharer and a “yes” person much to her chagrin. I hope she fares better than I have in walking the fine line of being too open, caring, and eager. 

I was down on my left knee with CC who was so overwhelmed with worry for her sister,  She was holding on for dear life to my right side and Phoebe mirrored her on my left. Abby wanted a piece too, so she hugged us all. I have no doubt we put on quite the show at the Lake Havasu, Arizona Wal-Mart. A wee bit dramatic…definitely. The talk of the store…maybe.

When Phoebe felt better, we picked ourselves up off the ground, placed Cecilia back in the grocery cart seat, made it out to the car, and made it all the way back to the RV again, with no hick-ups.

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And wouldn’t it be great if the story ended there?

Naturally, I insisted on taking the girls to the park, because who needs to relax after the kind of morning we just experienced?

We rode our bikes up the mile and a half trail to the playground. The kids were getting along with each other, running around, chasing each other down the slide, under the platforms, over the steps, and through the little tunnels. I turned my back to check out some of the other RV’s in the park, when I hear Abby’s nervous voice yell, “CC!” followed by Cecilia’s screaming and crying.

I didn’t even think, I just turned and ran in the general direction of her voice. I hadn’t gone a full 2 steps before knocking my head on the steel platform above. The blinding pain brought me to my knees. With my hand over my forehead which I was amazed to find it was indeed NOT covered in blood I stumbled to my feet and made my way over to Cecilia. She  had tripped over a post and skidded on the right side of her face on the astroturf covered playground. She was standing there with that perfectly pouty lip holding her arms out toward me, needing me to kiss the pain away.

I laughed through the pain thinking to myself, “If someone had been watching this, they have surely just reached their quota for hardest laughable moments of 2016.”

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Poor Cecilia with her PD on the mend, she now had a huge cherry on the side of her face. We picked up our bicycles and peddled the mile and a half back to the RV.

The rest of the afternoon went off without any major hick-ups: Cecilia went down for a nap, the girls did their best at school, dinner fell into place, and as we were winding down the night, I thought to myself, “I need a glass of wine after this day”. I retrieved the only wine glass we had, since I had broken the other one, washed it out, set it out on the counter to dry while I reached for the bottle of Merlot. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of the wine glass tumbling off the counter and turned just in time to watch it shatter in 3 large pieces on the floor.

Carefully, I picked up the pieces and threw them in the trash.  I kissed Greg on the cheek and pulled a Kathleen Kelly: I made it to the bed and fully clothed complete with running shoes and baseball cap, flopped into the bed, pulled the covers up to my head, and proceeded to sleep sound until the following morning.

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In the morning, Greg took the kids out for breakfast allowing me an extra hour to sleep in.

And there in lies the memory of my craptastic day #3. A day so unforgivable, it is worthy of the Craptastic title.  With ‘Proudest Monkey’ on in the background, I picture my friend Justin having a good laugh at my expense…I know I sure am.

TWO HUNDRED NINE…you had me at “bookstore”

209 j (1 of 1).jpgI am watching my children tickle one another on the floor while my ears are covered with Greg’s massive headphones. I’m lost in the rhythms and lyrics of ‘Breathless’ by Small Black. So I cannot hear them as they giggle, squeal, and protest one another.

It is lovely.

This morning Abby said she wanted a new book. She’s double digits now and conscious of everything I am into. I know she is aware of my affections for aimlessly wandering around bookstores. I am guessing she is beginning to suspect I have a unique borderline unhealthy relationship with them.

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I wonder around bookstores the way most people wander around department or clothing stores. And if you were to see the way I dress, it would all make sense. The way some people touch the fabrics to feel the weight or softness of the material trying to decide if it is something they might like to have against their skin, is the way I touch new books hoping to feel the connection to its weight and softness shiny smooth paperback flesh or am I going to go for its cold coarse hard cover counterpart?

The reasons some people read the fabric’s care instructions, are the same reasons I read the reviews: I want to know how much work is involved, is it an easy read or will I have to re-read paragraphs,  will it sustain my interest or will my mind wander, will I be able to put it down for months at a time or have a week of sleepless nights because I cannot imagine putting it down?

The assessment of the garments style, I would argue is my way of accessing whether or not I am in the correct mindset to take on the book in question. For years after grad school, I was only able to read resource books. I couldn’t get enough of them. Since my focus was in early childhood development, I couldn’t walk into a bookstore and not pick up and eventually purchase a new theorist’s take on brain-based learning. If I was on the verge of finishing a knitting project, I needed a new knitting book for my next project. “Doh, Phoebe is a right-brained learner? Well, let’s get a book on the best way to teach those who are…you guessed it, right-brained learners.”

Having a child with Down syndrome, definitely took my love of resource books to a new level and eventually I hit some sort of resource book wall. I began and finished my first book of fiction within a weeks time over the summer. And not-so-patiently waited for the movie release. It was a cathartic experience. And in my interim for finding my next work of fiction, I am once again reading 3 resource books. So I guess my resource book wall is not as high as I thought.

 So when Abby tells me of her desires for a new book, she’s tapping into an addiction I try to keep beneath the surface. I haven’t been to a bookstore in almost a month. Actually if I retrace my location by weeks, I didn’t visit a bookstore in Chowchilla, CA…we were in Pismo (for 3 weeks) and I walked by a Barnes n Nobles 2/3 times but it was Halloween and why would I go in a bookstore on Halloween with kids that would make me super selfish, I’m selfish for sure, but I don’t know if I’m super selfish…before Pismo we were in the unmentionable town for a week and there was definitely not a bookstore nearby…Idaho, once again walked by a Barnes N Nobles but I was late for my movie so I couldn’t go in then…again, we were there for a week…Mount Shasta, CA I didn’t visit a bookstore then either and that was 3 weeks…Oregon for 4 weeks and definitely no bookstores there. Oh man, I haven’t been to a bookstore in over two months.

Well, it was certainly time. Abby scratched an itch…so we drove 90 minutes in the jeep, on the highway, with the tops off, going 75 with a surf rack on top. We couldn’t hear a damn thing, but who cares? We were going to a bookstore.

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“I want one of those really old classical books from like 1980’s, where there hard covered and really long” she confessed. “Oh wow, 1980’s? Do you think you’ll be able to read and understand the language of that really old-time” I asked dripping with sarcasm. Of course it went right over her head…as I hoped it would to which she responded, “Yes, I think I will understand it…I just want to read something old”. “Yes, you said that already” I reminded her. “What are you hoping to read about” I asked her trying to see if I could point her in the right direction…

…and she thoughtfully replied “Oh just something really…”.

“Old” I replied?

“Yes” she boasted.

I could tell she knew, I knew what she was talking about.

“I have just the thing” I told her.

I had been holding off on my childhood favorite ‘Anne of Green Gables’ hoping for this very moment.

When we walked into Barnes N Nobles in Nevada, a full 90 minutes later with our wind-blown hair, we made a B-line right for the children’s section and there it was, basking in a the brightest spotlight shining on its light mauve hardcover color complete with gold lettering, attached satin bookmark holder, and gold trimmed pages. It was small and perfect.

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I reached for it and grabbed it with my all-too enthusiastic hands. I was too excited. I turned the book over and read the synopsis…handed it to her or more like shoved it in her face and more or less said, “Here, this is what you’re looking for” with utter confidence.

Looking back I now see how that definitely could have been a turn off. I went for the one I wanted first. I should have gone with ’20 thousand leagues under the sea’ first or ‘The Swiss Family Robinson’ first although it would have been my second choice. Both Anne of Green Gables and The Swiss Family Robinson were smaller hard copies. “A manageable read” I thought.

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Annoyed with my over-excited aggressive omniscient attitude, she put both of them back on the shelf. “Oh rats balls, I’ve just lost her…she’s going to go for Peter Pan or something else…but I really want her to choose Anne of Green Gables…should I push her, give her an ultimatum or just get her the book I want her to get and completely ignore/discount her feelings” went through my mind in a split second.

She bent down, picked up The Tales of Peter Rabbit which for the record, was twice as thick, twice as heavy and of course, twice the price of my pick.

She’s gone through her chapter books, graphic novels, and series books, Harry Potter and Roald Dahl phases. The classics are of interest to her now. But I really wanted to read Anne of Green Gables with her…and then Greg’s voice popped into my head with his, “Why does she have to go with your pick? Peter Rabbit is just as much of a classic if not more than Anne? If she picks yours and doesn’t finish will you blame her or yourself? If she picks Peter Rabbit and doesn’t finish will you blame yourself or her? She can always read Anne of Green Gables next can’t she? Or is it out of print and this is the last copy anyone will ever see?”

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“Ugh, shut up. Even when you’re not with me, you’re in my head…rationalizing and weighing out the pros and cons” I argue with myself. Ultimately I have those “What would Greg say” moments when I have this nagging feeling I might be imposing my desires for my children on my children rather than allowing them to forge their own path. “FINE” I quietly concede defeat to my husband in our imaginary argument, “You’ve won again…are you happy now?” I just had to get that last dig in after allowing him to gain the upper hand.

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“That’s a great choice Abby, I just want to make sure you feel confident about taking on a book this large. I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed and not finish” I explained. “I love Peter Rabbit!” she gloated. “Peter Rabbit it is then” I took the book from her hands and put it with the books I had picked out for Cecilia. I then allowed Phoebe to pick out some of her own graphic novels and chapter books.

On our 90 mile drive back to the RV through the desert, she read a quarter of the mammoth book. If she keeps this up, we might be going back this weekend to pick up Anne of Green Gables after all. Two visits to a bookstore in one week…is it my birthday?

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