Sunday, July 22, 2012

They did not have central air in the 1830s

Central air is a good thing.  This is our first summer in our new home.  The last time we had central air conditioning was two houses ago, 6 summers ago.  For the last 6 years we had window units.  Very loud window units.  Very ineffective and very loud window units.  So I am appreciating the silent beauty of central air.

But now that I've lived a month into my first summer in Massachusetts, I can see why many of my neighbors opt not to have it.  Right now, at 8 am on July 21st, it is, I kid you not, 65 degrees outside.  Ahhhh, so lovely, after the heatwave we just endured here.  Scorching heat, highs of 93, with bazillion percent humidity.  But then yesterday was cool and overcast.  My daughter even wore a light sweater.  We were able to have the windows open all day.  I really like that.  I keep saying "Wow, in the 12 summers I lived in New Jersey, it never once cooled down, between Memorial Day and Labor Day."  I found that very draining.  Am I getting to be an ol' granny?  Probably.  (Not that there is anything wrong with being an ol' granny.  Ol' grannies are awesome!)  Another thing I love about Massachusetts: it sometimes cools down in summer.  (Yes, I absolutely already realize that bitter winter is mere moments away already! haha!)  It kind of reminds me of what is so neat about visiting the beach, how it cools down at night, and after feeling (happily) so hot all day, your body says ahhh, and you wear a light sweatshirt, and smile at your luck at having both hot summer day and cool summer night.

Fireflies.  Yes, they have them here.  This was a large question for my children and me.  We love fireflies.  I did not grow up with fireflies, what with them not exisiting in California, where I spent all my childhood summers.  I am equally as fascinated by them as my children have been every summer since they were aware of the yard and its inhabitants.  We had many happy nights of them chasing the fireflies around with their bug boxes, catching some, oohing and aahing at them, and then releasing them back into the warm humid night.  We have only seen a few so far here.  Read above paragraph for explanation.  From what I saw in New Jersey, not that I'm a lightning bug expert!, they seem to come out the most on the hottest and most humid nights.  When 9 year old Aidan was looking forward to summer vacation beginning, he said "If it were summer already, my only homework would be watching fireflies and eating smores."  That made me smile.  And made me feel we are providing him, and his sister, with good summer memories.

And one of our new Summer 2012 memories is our first trip to Old Sturbridge Village!  And we chose the hottest day of summer to go there! hee hee, not the hottest, but man, it gave me new appreciation and respect for those pioneer men and women (and children!), who lived during those New England summers in very hot homes, wearing very many layers of clothes.  It is a wonderful place, reminded us of Greenfield Village in Michigan, with recreations, and originals, of residences and business buildings from the 1830s.  The kids got a kick out of the photos showing one of the original houses being transported down the highway.  History, history, history.  That is one of the elements of living in New England that I had been looking forward to so much.  The funny thing is, I am not usually a history buff.  Just another thing about Massachusetts that brings out the love in me!

Okay, seriously?!
Massachusetts, you are gonna need to stop being such a show off!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hot all day sports camp, and how parents leave

In the long continuing saga of How Am I Supposed to Trust my Child with Strangers?, I had my first experience with leaving my child at an all day sports camp.  With people I had never met before.  During a heatwave.  With public restrooms.  Next to a busy street.

"Oh, Liz, you silly nilly, there is nothing to be afraid of, he will be fine." is what I'm imagining some parents are thinking upon reading this.

But, fortunately for me, and unfortunately for them/all of us, I discovered I was not the only parent who was trepidatious at this first experience.  I had mini-therapy sessions with other moms and dads as we dropped our sons off.  The extreme heat.  The need for hydration.  One dad unapologetically admitted he had told his son "You will die if you don't drink enough.  Do you understand this?"  The question of will they use the public restrooms alone.  The graphic terrifying subject that parents who did not know each other moments before will discuss with each other.  And then seconds later we share sunscreen with those who forgot, trust coaches we have never met before, and drive away.  Somehow we do that.

In the end, yes, all was well.  It is always a learning experience.  I tend to hold my breath.  Well, hold my breath, and also drive by the field one hour later, just to assure myself things are going okay.  And upon seeing my son at pickup, ask him how much of his beverages he drank during the 5 scorching hours since I dropped him off.  And be glad I gave him extra bottles when he generously gave a bottle to his friend.

Sigh.  I just sighed.  I do alot of sighing.

Oh, did the child learn anything at the all day baseball camp for 4 days?  I'm sure he did.  But I also learned my own stuff too.

Sometimes he seems so tall and mature.
Here he seems so small and young.
Probably me reading into it. And that cooler full of hydration.

Someday perhaps words will be invented
to describe how mothers feel about their children.

I'm pretty sure it ain't a childhood summer
unless you go somewhere still in your pajamas.

It all looks fine, the field, the exercises, the capable adults in charge.
And then I had to walk away.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A love story, in pictures


Our first family trip to Cape Cod

Cape Cod


New England

I had always dreamed of one day living on the East Coast.  Maybe it was the English major in me.  All that academia, history, the land of literature.

But I didn't expect it to feel like coming home.  I've lived here for only 5 months now, during the latter part of a winter, one springtime, and half a summer.  And yet, it continues to feel so natural, like "Ahh, yes, this is where I am supposed to be."

Is it because I lived for awhile in Cambridge as an infant?  No, I don't think so.  I think it is because of alot of reasons.  One of them is that I have realized I am a woods person.  A green trees person.  A rugged coast type person.  I loved growing up spending summers in Los Angeles.  I still consider myself a huge fan of LA, of 12 months per year sunshine, sandy beaches, flip flops, outdoor living.  And when I visited Sedona, I had thought I might want to retire there someday.  I considered myself a lizard type person, who loved the dry heat and to soak up the sun's rays.  (Well, through sunscreen.  My sun's rays soaking up days for a tan was over decades ago.)

Now I think I would miss the seasons too much.  Having lived in New Jersey for the last 12 years, I have enjoyed every year the change from hot summer to cool fall, the leaves changing colors, the snow, and the return of spring.  Raising children in the seasons is an added pleasure.  My kids are growing up in the yard, investigating fuzzy caterpillars, putting fireflies in their bug boxes, gathering autumn leaves, and building snowmen.

I had been to Cape Cod once, 20 years ago, before I met my husband.  It was a short visit, I borrowed a friend's Jeep, and drove up the coast to Maine, took a boat to Nantucket, which was so pretty, with its cobblestone streets, and quaint charm.

We were so excited to go to Cape Cod together as a family for the first time.  It was a lovely holiday, reunited with friends-who-are-family, playing baseball, body surfing at the beach, building sandcastles, and eating scrumptious food.  My heart was full while watching fireworks, with my seven year old daughter on my lap, the smell of sand and sea in her hair, her stuffed animal on her lap.  Life is such a blessing, and I am appreciating every single day of it.

Isn't it the cutest little cupcake of a house?!!
Don't you just want to pinch its little cheeks?!!

And you walk out the door to this view:

I would love to be a boat person.
Except for all the seasickness I get.

My hearts.

My girl.

After body surfing fearlessly,
(with me hovering fearfully. Hey, I grew up with Malibu's riptide.)
they engineered complex waterways for their sandcastle.

7 yr old Ashley and I had so much fun
making this patriotic dessert together.

I enjoyed my morning stroll while everyone snoozed.
I rejoiced upon finding a Starbucks.
Coffee is good.

Me and my coffee dug this morning view.

I just loved walking by all the architecture of Cape Cod.

A lovely sunset to end a lovely day.

I look forward to many future adventures in Cape Cod with my family.  We are New England transplants.  It's gonna be a good ride.

I love Massachusetts, Part Deux (without the bad parts. Maybe.)


That is how I would sum up Massachusetts.  If I had to sum it up in one word.



That would be my tie for one word description.

I am in love with Massachusetts.

There, I've said it.  We can take our love affair public now.  Wait, is Massachusetts reciprocating this love?  Well, it must be.  Because why else would it be so green, so beautiful, its people so friendly, and grow so many huge insects.  (oh, I was going to leave out the bad parts?  Okay, then I definitely will not talk about what our front screen door looks like at night, when our porch light has been on.  And I will not even mention the minivan size green insect that flew in, unbeknownst to me until I saw it on my bedroom wall as I was about to turn off my bedside light for the night.  Light.  Do you see a trend here?  I need to google why they are so attracted to light?  And why Massachusetts must grow them so large?!  See how I am NOT talking about this?  And I will most definitely not mention how my 9 yr old son told me how many profanities I apparently blurted out while I was trying to capture in a Tupperware with a lid this huge green Massachusetts alien flying insect, kind of like a grasshopper crossed with an F-14.  Why capture him?  Was it a kindly Buddhist-hurt-no-living-creature act on my part?  Um, no, I was just thinking the quantity of green alien goo that would be spread on my wall from smooshing that size of an insect would be too much to witness.  Or remove from wall.)

Hi! What's up?!  Oh, really?  I talked about large insects.  Hmm.  Go figure.

Love.  Love this place.  Love that I live in my own nature preserve.  Love that there are woods surrounding our yard with cute little chimpunks skurrying cutely all over.  Love that a mama turkey wandered through, without a care, with her little turkey babies following her.

And the fact that it needs to rain every single day to maintain this green?  Does not seem to bother me one lick.  That's what happens when you're in love.  Nothing bothers you about your beloved.  Even its insects.  (Doh! There I go!)

The green, the green, how can I tell you about the green?  I swoon at the lushness.  I faint at the richness.  Trees and leaves and plants and flowers all seem to shout "Hooray!  We live in Massachusetts!  So we are going to be extra vibrant green and beautiful!"

I'm woozy from love.

Down the street there is a pond that is really only a puddle that can remain there if it keeps raining.  So I found myself telling the rain, outloud, "Keep raining! The puddle needs you!"  Yes, in front of my children.  It will not surprise you I refer to myself, and they now join in, as "crazy."  The great part of this puddle?  It is host to ducks, and baby ducklings, who just ooze cuteness, and a turtle.  Yes, I pulled over my car to save a turtle.  It was a few feet into the street, I grabbed a towel in case I had to pick it up, (why would I randomly have a towel in my mother-of-two-minivan?  If you have to ask, do not enter my minivan without a hazmat suit on.) but I did not need the towel, because once I approached the turtle, it turned back towards the lush forest, and the inviting puddle/pond, and tried its best on its little turtle legs to scurry away from me.  Which it did veryyyy slowlyyyyy.  And then for days I imitated for the kids, who were unfortunately not with me to share this magical turtle saving experience, the turtle trying to "hurry" away on its little turtle legs.  I am a genius comedienne.


Wait!  You said you weren't gonna!!!

I know, but c'mon.  It had to come.  All this damp lushness had to bring out slimy creature talk.

But now I will leave it.

Massachusetts, I know most Hallmark cards of love would not comment on your large insect population, but still, consider this a declaration, again, of my love for you.

Swooningly yours,
The Lady Whose 7 year old Daughter had to come into Mommy's bed in the middle of the night because of that huge green insect incident minutes before sleep.

A love poem to Massachusetts (with the inevitable glitches that always come with love)

Ouch, now that I've written that title, I feel it must actually be a poem?  And maybe rhyme?  And here is me, only halfway into my first cup of coffee of the morning?

An Ode to Massachusetts

(not a poem, or rhyming)

I am listening to birds chirping.
I am seeing all the green.
Craig calls our yard my "nature preserve."
I love Massachusetts.

The blue skies,
The green trees,
The nice people,
Are the bees knees.
I love Massachusetts.

(see, I did throw a rhyme in there.  UCLA is already sending me notice of rescinding my English degree. heeheeheehee!)

Overall, it has just been pure awesome awesomeness.  I can only go on and on about all I love about it here!  Our yard, with the four bazillion trees!  Of all different types and kinds!  Hickory nuts?!  Who ever knew I'd have a yard with hickory trees in it?!  Why does that sound so exotic?  And so very American?

Oh sure, there've been the minor obstacles.  Like when I opened the silverware drawer and a mouse ran across the forks?!  People!!!  Nature wants to live INside my house!!!  I won't go on and on.  That situation was resolved.  Then came the march of the carpenter ants.  People!  Do you know that they are actually cartoon huge giant size ants?!  Like you are saying to yourself "That cannot be just one ant?!  I must be watching a cartoon?"  But it is not!  It is your house! Where you live! And then the march indignantly all over your floor and walls, and the children call out "Here's another one."  And they then notify their friends, the flying ants.  Which have unnecessarily large wings.  I don't think they are for flying, I think their huge size is strictly for looking extra gross.  But no!  They will not only suddenly swarm all over your deck while you are enjoying (or attempting to enjoy!) your lovely Mother's Day brunch with your lovely family!  "There's another!  There's another!  Let's take this party indoors!"  They will also decide, like the rodents and the ants, that they too must live INside the house.  Apparently the huge forest surrounding the house is not large enough?!

Oh dear.

Those situations were resolved.  I, of course, handled this all with such calm decorum that others were in awe of my strength and fortitude.  Well, that might not include the very nice mom at school drop off who I had just met, whose eyes were wide eyed trying to handle my frantic recitation of the drawer event, the previous floor event, and the one peeking its eyes under the door event.  Sigh.  I'm still regaining my breathing from this, eight weeks later.  Good news is that mom was not fair-weather, we have continued to chat about life, often without my arms flying wildly in the air, and now completely without rodent stories. 

Beetles.  Big ones.  Fortunately only OUTside of my house.  My new phrase?  "Woods grow 'em big."  It must be all that damp mucky underbrush of layers of rotting leaves.  Helps them reach their gargantuan size.  Craig refers to them as similar to "scarabs."  (Yes, this is why I married him.  The man knows what a scarab is.  Makes my English major heart swoon.)

And that mucky underbrush?  Well, I faced approximately 14 of my fears when we all, as a fun family project, you know, akin to Disney World, raked up layer upon layer of wet damp leaves.  Do you know how many creatures adore living under wet damp leaves?  No?  Good, keep it that way.  And you shall continue to be able to sleep.  hahahahahaha!  The good news is that all the hard work has given us a whole new section of our yard!  Hooray!  More leg room for the beetles!  (Liz!  Stop that!  This was supposed to be a love poem!  It's funny how when I began this post, I actually had zero idea I would ever veer into the underbelly of life in the forest!  I honestly thought it was going to solely be the cute-pretty-happy-pigtails side of Massachusetts story here today!  Oh well, that can be another post! haha!)

It has been such a fun experience for us to watch with eyes of wonder as our yard has revealed all that grows in it.  Since we moved here in February, everything was bare and flat and dormant.  Then boom came spring!  And pow came the lushness of summer!  Do not even let me begin about how excited I am to live in New England when my very first autumn here arrives?!  They'll have to sedate me!!!! heehee.

And with that, I head out to reclaim more of our yard.  Happy Summertime to ya'll.

March to July, time flies

Well, holy cow harry!  (Yes, that's me, corny old-fashioned phrases user!  If you want current hip trendy phrases, do NOT come here, ya'll! hee hee!) 

It has been wayyyy toooo looooong since I wrote a blog post!

I was looking at the last few I wrote, and that seems like both a long time ago, and yesterday.  And now, 4 months later, I wish I had written all during these 4 months.... if wishes were fishes....

It has been hard.  And good.  And getting better.

In some ways, I feel like we are much more settled now.  We have gotten used to our new city, new neighborhood, new school.  Wow, that is a ton of the word 'new" there.  Shows all the new-ness.  And alot of new-ness can be very tiring.  Exciting and wonderful in some ways, but mainly tiring.  Hence, the not writing blog posts.  Exciting newness is probably all great when one is a 20-something youngster, with just their own one human self to take into account, to take care of.  But when you are two middle-aged humans, with two young humans, and two senior citizen canines, man, it is quite a different story.  New-ness is overrated.  Sameness, consistency, routine, familiarity, these are what those six creatures thrive on.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying I am endorsing we four humans to become boring or not learn new things or do new adventures.  Not at all.  It is the home base staying known, that is they key.

Known.  Knowing.  Those are words that sum up what we have dealt with since moving here 5 months ago.  Getting to know our area, our neighbors, our school, where to go, where things are..... a lot of knowing being learned.

It feels like we've reached a kind of finish line.  Not an all-the-way-done finish line.  There are still boxes in a storage room yet to be unpacked.  There are still many more new things we need to set up here, where to go for this, where to go for that.  But it feels good.  Symbolic somehow that we have come from moving here in the stark cold February winter, (remember my "They are wearing SKI MASKS on their Sunday walks, people!" haha!) to the lush green, balmly, hot sunny days of July summer.  I wished I would've chronicled the change of season here, it would've been so much fun to tell you all about that, but I can start from here.  I seem to want to say I was too busy living those changes to write about them?  But that is the life of a writer.  If you are going to write about something you are experiencing, you really cannot, or should not, wait until the pace calms down to write about it.  Because, fortunately, blessedly, the pace keeps on going!  We keep on experiencing new exciting adventures!  So, I will dash out, zap out, blurt out, daily life here on my blog, without waiting for the time for calm literary reflection!  Hooray!  English professors with red markers need not participate! hahahaha!  I will not worry about writing perfection, just writing that is sharing!

Happy Summer!  I am soaking up every single gosh darn day, because Back to School is gonna be here before we know it!  (see, old-fashioned phrases is me! hee hee!)

The list of all that I miss from where we lived before

So here's how it is.

12 years ago I moved to New Jersey, a new state to me, in a new part of the country to me, where I had never lived before.  I had no family living there, and did not know anyone when we moved there.  Neither did my husband.  Our closest family lived thousands of miles away. 

So the connections I made over the years I lived there were so important, so central, to my life.  And this made leaving all those connections even more difficult.

Just to skim the surface, here is a very incomplete list of all I miss, from our former home and life.

Our house
The history of 6 years in our house
My babies grew up in that house
My second baby learned to walk and talk in that house
6 years of my babies/children playing in that yard
Our church
The wonderful people at our church
Our ministers, Mark and Joy
Mark and Joy's sermons
Our 12 year history at our church
Both my babies baptized at our church
My children singing with childrens choirs at our church
Barbara Thomson, our church's Music Director
Our 12 year history in New Jersey
Our neighbors Mary Ann and Ron, and Ebony
Sharing our homemade soups, cakes, and foods, with each other
Mary Ann being so kind to bring me homemade soup when I was sick
Ron thinking my baking was yummy
Our neighbors Marie, Ian, Justin and Liam
Handing down happy toys and clothes to families we know
Having my girlfriend Dawn be able to walk 4 houses down the street, with coffee in hand, to have girl talk with me
Having my girlfriend Dianne sit at my table and chat with me over coffee
(coffee is a theme here, yes)
our history there, and next door at the preschool
Still going back to visit the wonderful teachers at preschool
Mrs. Lazare, Mrs. Eggert, Mrs. Waters, Mrs. Whalen, Mrs. McConville
being a Classroom Mom at school
(our new school doesn't do holiday parties in classroom, and no food, due to so many food allergies amongst students.  I know this is common now, but still, I miss it.)
bringing cupcakes for birthdays in classroom
On their birthday, students carrying extra cupcakes to teachers classrooms and the front office, and being given fun happy stickers and pencils, and being able to bring a few classmates with them to share in the fun
Chatting with my girlfriends while waiting at afterschool pickup
Dawn Dineen, Dianne, Leslie, Mara, Andrea, Dawn Santos
Wonderful PTO President Lisa Kubereit
Awesome principal Mr. Diehl
My kids getting a kick out of how happy Mr. Diehl got when we brought homemade applre bread to him
Mr. Diehl jumping up and down in excitement over homemade apple bread
Nomahegan Park
Vicki's Diner, and the owner Helen, and hostess Dorothy
Memories there with my late Grampa Eddie
Memories there with Craig and our kids
Watchung Reservation
Photos taken at Watchung on the day of my baby shower, pregnant with my first child
Photos taken there with my first child, while pregnant with my second child
Frosty Freez, in Garwood
Fujiyama Mama
The South Plainfield Public Library
Children's Librarians Miss Linda and Miss Mija
Memories of storytime when my kids were little
Summer Reading Program every summer we lived there
The Fanwood Library, Children's Department

But, I have to say, five months later, after moving here, I am already more comfortable in our new house, new neighborhood, new school.

Change is constant, they say.  I am embracing that. 

Sports, and my Love/Hate relationship with them

I didn't play any organized sports as a child or teenager, and I am so very happy for both my children that they are having the opportunity to do so.  I think it is a great experience, for physical strength, to learn the dynamic of being part of a team, good sportsmanship, and how to lose gracefully.

I am glad for my 9 year old boy child, and for my 7 year old girl child.  And, being a female myself, I find that I am especially glad for my girl child, because it is such an amazing experience to learn to work with her body on the field, to learn the master a skill, to learn how to handle competitiveness with grace.  I love hearing her sing the songs with her fellow softball players, ages 7 to 10.  Songs of encouragement for their fellow players up to bat, mixed with fun happy sillyness, and a dash of razzing of their opponents.

I just wish sports didn't hafta hurt.


In one of my first posts on this blog, I talked about me trying to handle my young son's first experiences playing in Little League.  How he had gotten hit by the ball, and had cried, and had then, as I saw other little boys do, developed the habit of backing away from the ball when up to bat.

And now he's 9, and my worry continues.  But, like a lot of things I find in parenthood, the farther I go along, the more experiences I have under my belt, the more times my children end up being fine in the end, I calm down more.

Last week my son was pitching, the batter hit the ball, it bounced and hit my son in the face.  I leapt from my seat to the fence in one swoop.  My husband is the coach, and he was on the mound checking on my son, who was crouched and crying.  I turned to a mom and said "I am proud I am not going out on the field right now!"  And she replied "I would already be out there."  But I knew that my husband was right there, and here came my son to the dugout, holding his cheek.  A mom from the other team, a stranger, instantly got an ice bag from the snack stand and brought it to us.  Fortunately he was okay.  The ball hit his cheek.  The next day he had scratches in the shape of the seam of the baseball.

When I saw the ball hit him, and him crouch down in pain, I did not know if it had hit his eye.  I did not know if this would be a minor injury, or if we would be rushing to the hospital.  And the reason my heart jumps is because of the news story of the baseball player boy last year whose heart stopped.  The boy in Arizona who was hit in the chest by a ball and died.  Right there.  Someone's son.  A mother's son.  Upon hearing this story, when my own son was 8 and starting Little League, I talked with my husband about this fatality.  I told him other moms had started having their sons wear chest protectors?  Should we do this?  He reminded me we can not wrap our son in bubble wrap.  He reminded me that he played baseball himself as a young boy, in Little League, in the streets with friends, and he was not fatally injured.

As I flew through air to watch result of injury, these are the worries that fly through my mind, without my even trying to think them.

I hear people talk about being "control freaks."  And I think it is the exact opposite for me in parenthood.  I am having to learn that I do not have control.  I can do everything in my power to make sure my children are safe, but there are so many things out of my power that can injury them.  And maybe fatally. 

And I am learning that this is life.  I am learning I must accept this.  I am learning that I should not forbid my son from climbing a tree, because life is for experiencing, not for being wrapped in bubble wrap.

Will it surprise you at all that whiskey is now my new friend?

The love of dogs

We love our dogs.