3/5

Originally, Kid A was planning to take a nanny job with three little kids in a nearby neighborhood for the summer.  But then she was offered a summer internship at my dad’s law firm in southern New Jersey.  She weighed her options: Babies or the beach?  Wearing t-shirts covered in finger paints and spit up or dressing up for an office job every day?  Living at home with your parents who are always complaining about money or staying with grandparents who basically buy you whatever you ask for?  Kid A is smart, has always been independent, and has had one foot out our door since she went to Spanish immersion camp the summer between her sophomore and junior years of high school.  Obviously she chose the internship.  She has been gone (with the exception of a long weekend when she came back to GA for college orientation) since the beginning of June.

Kid A and I texting a few short weeks after she left

Kid A and I texting a few short weeks after she left

Kid B was relied upon heavily during the house selling and buying phase of the summer.  Basically, she raised the other kids for us.  Well, she did along with all of the video game systems we have in the house.  Do you know what happens when you leave a 15-year-old in charge?  I’m talking no bathing until the weird smells start to offend, cereal/ peanut butter sandwiches/ frozen chicken nuggets as the “fancy” meals, and a glazed look in everyone’s eyes as a result of 8 – 10 hours a day of electronics exposure.  I wasn’t paying attention to how bad it had gotten until one morning, after dropping Kid B at the soccer field for training, Kid E and I were having a nice car conversation.  Then he asked me if I knew what a K/D spread was.  I did not, but said I could look it up when we got home.  Imagine my horror when I learned it was short for Kill/Death ratio (basically, how many kills you achieved before your character was in turn killed), tracked in Halo, a military science fiction video game.  Parenting Fail #1,024 for the summer.

Me:  Um, you know that this is a video game and you NEVER, EVER shoot anyone in real life, right?  Because when you die in real life, you don’t get more lives.

Kid E: Yeah.  Yes.  Of course, mom.  I know.  Everybody knows that.

Eh, they’ll survive.

Fortunately for everyone, I was quickly jolted back into a lead parenting role as Kid B had a trip of her own planned this summer.  She went to Europe to guest play with a team from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina in an international soccer tournament.  She was gone for almost two weeks.  She traveled to several cities in Spain (including Barcelona, San Sebastian, and Madrid) as well as the beach in Biarritz, France.  She had the trip of a lifetime and didn’t miss home very much at all.  As a matter of fact, she admitted to crying on the plane ride home because she couldn’t stay there for the rest of the summer.

For me, the time with both Kid A and Kid B gone was amazing.  Don’t get me wrong… I enjoy both of them tremendously and love that they are my children.  But let’s be honest about the Catch-22 situation involved in raising independent, strong-willed, powerful women (which is my end game in successful parenting Kids A, B, and C, by the by).  There is the occasional tension and butting of heads between teenage girls and their mothers.  And I’m saying that in the nicest way possible.  Add in PMS, some OCD, the DMV, a deficit in R-E-S-P-E-C-T, plus a pinch of sarcasm, and you likely get one or more parties CRBT (crying real big tears).  I already knew it, but while they were gone I was hit once again by the fact that raising teenagers is really hard.  I’ve stopped counting all of my parenting fails with them.

Eh, they’ll survive.

But will I?

Oh, of course I will.  I used their time away to thoroughly enjoy the three littles (well, Kid C is not so little anymore, but you know what I mean).  We went to the movies and the pool and we played games and stayed up too late and went out to dinner (it’s much more affordable with less people!).  It was relaxing and light and fun.  No matter how many kids you start out with, it turns out having fewer is kind of a vacation.

But when it was time to pick Kid B up from the airport, we were all excited and ready for her to be home again.  Especially the ‘kids’ that she raised for us.

Kid B airport pickup

Now we are back to 4/5.  And even though it is only for a little while, I can’t wait for all of my chickens to be home.  Having Kid A go off to college in August will definitely be interesting.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

 

 

I’m in Toulon, It’s in France, Buy Flea Market Underpants (Port of Toulon)

When my sisters and I were younger, my mom dragged us whenever she could to the Columbus Farmers Market on Route 206 in Columbus, NJ.  We would get up at some insane hour and arrive at what was basically a field with wooden tables in it.  There were some paved roads, along which people pitched tents and sometimes displays.  They backed up their windowless vans and the odd men and women wearing vendor belts full of change would all sell their crap to anyone with cash in hand.  Long live capitalism!

Columbus Farmers Market, "The Place Where Everyone Shops"

Columbus Farmers Market, “The Place Where Everyone Shops”

They sold clothing, furniture, cosmetics, toys, tools, food, plants, wallpaper, luggage, housewares, jewelry, hardware, electronics, and sno-cones.  They sold fruits and vegetables and seasonal whatevers.  They sold belts and purses and underpants.  They sold baseball cards and china and formal evening gowns and hair bows.  Its claim to fame is being the largest and oldest flea market in the Delaware Valley.  Apparently, it has some staying power.

I think that this is the place where I developed such a strong aversion to shopping.  I really hated Columbus.  Following your mom around while she shopped for junk for four or five hours will do that to you.  Being ten years old and trying on matching, smocked dresses with my little sisters in a sex offender’s van will definitely do that to you.  And how many hair bows do I really need?

**************************************************

We pulled into France on the morning of Day Two of our cruise.  When I woke up, I wondered if France was mad at our cruise ship because there were a bunch of grey battleships right off of our balcony.  We took a water taxi to shore and then walked around the tiny village of Toulon.  Kid A bought some French shoes.  We went into a beautiful church, which – odds are – was called Notre Dame.  We tooled around cobblestone streets to do some window shopping, and practiced what few, lame French phrases we could recall (Combien?).  Then we came around the corner and saw something that I found truly shocking.

They had a French Columbus right there in the middle of the street in Toulon.  They had crappy clothes and cheap fabric and vegetables and sun meat (meat out in cases, not refrigerated as far we could tell, and sitting in direct sunlight).  The sun meat stores also displayed for sale some tripe that looked like dirty rags.  Tripe comes from the stomachs of various farm animals.  We thought they were the skin off of lamb faces, complete with the eye and mouth holes, so I guess cow and pig stomach isn’t actually so bad in comparison.

Put that into the category of some things that you can’t unsee.

Put that into the category of some things that you can’t unsee.

Where was the incomparable French shopping?  The fancy clothes?  The lacy lingerie?  I was a little disappointed that Toulon had such crap for sale because I believed that the French were above the low-end nonsense, but I guess that everybody has to make their living somehow.  And this was the small port of Toulon, not Paris.  At least there were some really cute storefront shops along the road as well.  I tried to ignore the creepy vendors and focus on the good stuff.  Vive le capitalism!

We walked all the way down to the end of the market and soon made our way back to the pier.  As we rode the water taxi back to the boat, the salt water flew up and splashed me in the face.  I watched the French mountains fade away into the background.  And it struck me  – despite the icky flea market – how incredible it was that I had just spent the morning in France.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Baby, You’re a Ship – You Make Me Want to Wear My Evening Gown… and Cruuuuuuise

…aaaaaaaand we’re back.

After fifteen days, six countries, and three continents, we are finally back.

WOW is really all I can say.  I am simply blown away in retrospect.

What a trip we had!  It was amazing and truly once in a lifetime.  It was not a vacation by any means; it was much more of an experience.  We set an alarm almost every morning, were out the door and off of the ship to meet and explore (and get a little lost on more than one occasion), came back hot and sweaty and covered in filth, but our memories (and our cameras) are filled with some absolutely amazing things.

Yet, that was not the end of each day.  After we reboarded the Royal Princess, we then showered and dressed for dinner (Sheepdog is so mad that he missed that… I wore a dress and heels every single night, and I even wore gowns on the two formal nights).  Then, we started our nighttime adventures on the cruise ship.  We drank, we ate, we laughed, we cried, we drank some more.  My sisters, an aunt and an uncle sang on stage.  We gambled and played BINGO and asked if they had any swedish fish (sadly, no).  We shared stories and reconnected with old and new friends and family members.  We met new people and made new friends.  Then we drank some more.  Sister C, Kid A, and I (we were roommates) went to bed “early,” but many of the rest stayed out until all hours of the night watching (and participating in) shows and sing-a-longs and whatever else was happening aboard the incredible floating entertainment palace.

It was like being back in college... tiny twin beds (one came out of the ceiling ), no closet or drawer space, a very small shared bathroom, and lots of drinking.  And we loved every minute of it!

It was like being back in college… tiny twin beds (one came out of the ceiling), no closet or drawer space, a very small shared bathroom, and lots of drinking. And we loved every minute of it!

We made even more spectacular memories than I could have imagined.

I tried to jot down some of the things I was thinking and feeling throughout the trip.  It was hard, mostly because we were so busy and always running from one thing to the next, but I managed to keep a journal on my laptop.  Most of the entries are unfinished because I fell asleep in the middle of writing them.

My plan is to post everything, along with some pictures, over the next few days.

For now, I have to unpack and wash a mountain or two of laundry, catch up on two weeks of lost sleep, and should probably spend a little time in rehab.

My family did it like we always do things… absolutely over-the-top.  But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…