Whiplash

“Mom!  I can’t find my North Face jacket.  I think I left it in North Carolina.”

“Mom, my elf didn’t do anything last night.”

“(via text) We need to discuss 2014.  Let’s talk tonight.”

“Stacy, I swear to God, if you don’t get me your Christmas lists right now, I’m gonna make you buy all your own shit.”

It is December.  The smell of fried turkey may still linger in the garage, but Thanksgiving 2013 is already a distant memory.

It is December: put up tree and decorate house http://www.amazon.com buy Sheepdog some egg nog design Christmas cards remind kids of real reason for the season ask them for wish lists Nutcracker end of season team party ding-dong (www.amazon.com delivery) make and refrigerate cookie dough watch “Love, Actually” design photo calendars for family presents class party money collection for bus drivers buy Sheepdog more egg nog ask kids for better wish lists (no, you may not ask for cash) http://www.amazon.com go to stores for things not available on amazon label and stamp and mail Christmas cards decorate gingerbread houses money collection for teachers buy dress for Sheepdog’s law firm’s holiday party buy snowman tablecloths and small water bottles and help with wintry craft at another class party watch “Elf” ding-dong (another http://www.amazon.com delivery) wrap presents Toys for Tots go see Santa get hair cut and colored need to buy Sheepdog more nog go to Sheepdog’s law firm’s holiday party bake cookies drive around to look at lights wrap presents hide presents http://www.amazon.com because there is not an even distribution of presents watch “Rudolph” cousins pollyanna party unwrap presents pack suitcases pack presents pack Christmas socks (that’s what Kid E calls our stockings) ding-dong (whew – glad that last delivery made it in time!) wrap presents hide presents make more cookies because we tore through the first batch Christmas Eve remind kids (again) of real reason for the season visit family deliver presents Christmas Magic wake up early run down stairs make strong coffee open presents open more presents finish off second batch of cookies and egg nog while sitting in sea of crinkled wrapping paper plastic toys electronics and happy faces.  Count our many, many blessings.  Whew.

Stress over Christmas bonus

Don’t forget to stress over the Christmas bonus

It is December.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

It’s All Greek to Me (Day Seven in Mykonos)

This is Monday.

This is Monday, September 9.

This is Monday, September 9, 2013, and today we are docked in Mykonos, Greece.

I have to repeat a similar mantra for each day we are on this trip, else I might lose my mind.  I am thrown off by the whole waking up in a different port/ city/ country/ continent thing.  I feel like I have been away from my family and my home for months at this point.  If someone had a finite number of days on this planet earth, I would highly recommend they spend their last ones on a cruise ship.  Time seems to double or often triple when experienced this way.

Day Six was spent completely at sea.  We were excited for Day Seven so we could scream, "Land Ho!"

Day Six was spent completely at sea. We were excited for Day Seven so we could scream, “Land Ho!”
Coincidentally, that was also my nickname in college.

We have only a few hours in port today.

I’ll bet we spend some of it shopping.  It never ceases to amaze me how much shopping my mom, sisters, and Kid A can do.  Just when you think they’ve bought everything they could possibly need or want to buy, they see another store that they just have to browse.  My dad observed in Spain that he was missing the art gene.  If that is possible, then I am definitely missing the shopping one.

This port is incredibly beautiful. There is so much blue water, which is in stark contrast with all of the white buildings and white beaches.  Mykonos has a very relaxed charm, despite the fraternity/ sorority row comparison (I am just being sarcastic…. I’m perfectly aware which is the chicken and which is the egg).

Someone mentioned wanting to rent a house up in the hills here, but I fear it may be a little too quiet for me to spend an extended vacation.  I really wish we had more time to explore this city and see what it is all about, beyond the touristy stuff.

In the meantime, we are going to wander, window shop, stop for a most excellent Greek coffee, and take lots of pictures.  Most importantly, I want to put my feet in the sand and let the water splash over them.. What a glorious day to be at the beach!

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?

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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…

Magic Markers

Every year I take the kids back to school shopping for new supplies.   I usually despise shopping, but I love this particular trip, as I am hot for office supply stores and the wares they peddle.  I can’t really explain it, but I can tell you that I get a little tingly every time I go down the padded envelope aisle.  And I have a thing for 5″ X 8″ notepads too.  I like to touch the paper.  My favorite thing is the sound it makes when I fan the pages.  It’s like a magical purring noise. “Puuuuurrrrrrrrr.”  So sexy.  But I digress.

Anyway, each August the kids come with me to Staples and Target to pick out new folders and notebooks and binders.  The younger ones also get rulers and scissors and crayons and index cards.  And everyone gets a new box of markers.  Now, some are classic colors and some are dry erase, some are highlighters and some are washable.  None of them are actually called “magic” anymore, but to me they will always be magical and special, because they mark another important milestone in each kid’s life… the start of a brand new school year.

This year the markers led me to thinking about other milestones in my life and the kids’ lives and how quickly time is passing.  This summer, in particular, seemed to whiz past us in a spectacle of raindrops and road trips and beach sand.  It marked the first summer we didn’t get to relax together as a family (until one week near the very end, which was pretty awesome).

I realized that this marks the last year that all five of my kids will be heading out the door on the first day of school together.  Kid A is starting her senior year in high school.  Next year she will be off at college, starting her own life with some pretty significant new markers of her own.

Then I realized that Kid E still has twelve more “first days of school” ahead of him.  He is not thrilled about this, especially because “school does not have very much Minecraft.”  Sorry, kid.

Kid B started high school this year – a big marker made complicated because her boyfriend also started, but at a different high school.

This is the year that Kid C started dancing en pointe in ballet.  Kid D will begin kid-pitch in baseball next week.  They are in 7th and 3rd grades, respectively, which can be full of all kinds of markers… middle school relationship drama, puberty, playground fights.

Sheepdog and I made it to the 20-year mark of marriage this summer.

And today marks exactly three months since Braden died.

So many markers.  Not all of them are magic.  And not all of them are huge.  But together they become the stories that make up our lives.  So I write them down and take pictures on film and in my mind so we won’t forget.  And we can look back on them and remember each one of the markers and what they meant to us at that time in our lives.  And they will shape us and affect us and make us who we are.  But they can also inspire us to make change, to do more and be more, if that is what we want.  So much possibility can come from those markers, big or small.

And that is truly magical.  Just like the purr of a good notepad.

I get high with a little help from my friends.  You say "toluene and xylene," I say "magic."

I get high with a little help from my friends. You say “toluene and xylene,” I say “magic.”  Source:  Google Images

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Back to School Shopping Did Not Suck

Yesterday we started our back to school shopping.  Nope, I’m not kidding.  It has been almost ten years and I still haven’t quite made the mental calendar adjustment, especially since I grew up not going back to school after Labor Day (more specifically, the day after the Miss America parade up on the Atlantic City boardwalk, which we attended every year… “Show us your shoes!”).  In the South we usually go back to school really early – no later than mid-August, but realize that my kids have been on summer break since before Memorial Day.  I may not ready for summer to be over, yet the countdown has begun.

I had to buy a shower curtain the other day, so I bopped on in to a Walmart.  (I was able to bop because I was alone.  There is never any bopping when you have a constant parade following you around.  We are kind of like a traveling circus.)  On my way to the shower curtain department I couldn’t help but notice that the back to school supplies were already on sale.  And then I calculated that there are only four weeks left until school starts.  So I went back home and announced to the kids that they should start going through their clothes and shoes to see what fits and what doesn’t, and we would figure out what everybody needs to be ready for school.

Let me say right now that I am generally not a fan of shopping.  It’s just not my thing.  If I need something, I go get it.  Otherwise, I do not go to stores.  I do not browse.  If I ever meet the person who invented internet shopping I will make out with him or her.  My mom shops like it is her job and I grew up being dragged from store to store to store to store.  I have so many childhood memories of hiding under display racks and waiting in checkout lines.  I absolutely hated going shopping as a kid.  We went to retail stores, outlet malls, discount chains, farmer’s markets, and garage sales.  It was nothing short of torture for me.

So shopping with me as an adult is all about the efficiency.  It is certainly never an all day event, but even the simplest shopping trip with all five kids can sometimes take a little while.  We planned to go to three stores, which are conveniently located in the same shopping center.  We had looked at the weather (the forecast was cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms) and decided that yesterday was a good day to go shopping, even though it was hot and sunny when we left the house.  We bought some shoes, a bunch of clothes, and most of the school supplies on their lists.  The kids were especially well behaved the entire time (which is a critical component of successfully completing a shopping trip of this magnitude) and the weather even cooperated by clearing up (the storms had arrived in full force while Kid B was trying on some new shorts) whenever we left a store to walk down to another one or load bags into our car.  Dare I say that shopping on this day did not suck?

In the last store I was paying for our stuff and the kids were behind me off to the side near the entry display.  We had quite a haul and check out was taking a while.  As she was scanning the giant pile of clothes, the cashier asked me if all of the kids were mine.  I responded with what I thought was a very believable, “… all FIVE?  No!”  Because I have all of these residual icky feelings towards shopping I guess I figured my shopping luck had run out and they had just broken something or were swinging from the rafters or Kid E had removed his pants or something else inappropriate.  But they were actually being really quiet and still and posing amongst the mannequins.  Kid A even took a picture of them…

"Mom, lemme ask you, did I ever do anything really strange as a child?… Is there any history of insanity in the family?" - Mannequin, 1987

Now that was a fun shopping trip.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…