Archives for posts with tag: kids

Picture 2Each Christmas for the past forever years, I would set up and display all sorts of thing besides our Christmas tree. There were Santa statues, snowmen on sleds, wire reindeer, and my Christmas village.

Yep, I collect those little ceramic houses and craft a wintry village each year. It’s a task that is super time-consuming. First I have to drag in a long, narrow table from the garage and drape it in a table cloth. Next I get to dig around the hard to get at crawl space and free up all the boxes each house is kept in. Then I have to trudge up and down the stairs and pile the boxes on the table. I then go back up stairs to find books to use as hills in my village.

Then you lay down the fake snow, and begin the process of opening up each and every box that has a ceramic house encased in it. This is a chore in itself as each house is wrapped in a styrofoam mold which needs to be pried open, and then put back in the box again, or I’ll forget which form goes with which house. Next it’s time to plug every house in to test if their lights still work. If not, it’s off to the store to buy replacement bulbs.

I then need to find not one, but two power strips in order to plug these suckers all in. I arrange all the little houses and shops in a pleasing fashion, then climb under the table and hope to God they all light up again, despite the fact that I just checked them. Then you set up all the do-dads; trees, villagers, benches, mailboxes.

Then, my kids play in it. Or at least my youngest one does. I doubt my 18 year old could tear herself away from Netflix and Habbo to bother with the village, but my youngest will sit there for an hour moving people around the town and creating little stories. Just like her dear old mom used to do.

This year? I kind of never got around to putting anything out. Once the tree was up, I sorta stopped decorating. And why? Because it’s a lot of work for a few week’s enjoyment. With Thanksgiving coming so late, I lost at least a week of decorating time.

Another reason I’m holding off on the decorations is to be honest with you, they sort of junk up the house a bit. I don’t have a lot of room in my house, and even less room for chachkies and whatnot. Whenever I put out all my Christmas stuff the house seems cluttered rather than festive.

I have felt like a total Grinch about this too. I’ve been debating whether or not to bust into the crawl space and just set everything up, regardless of the late date. But you know what? My kids haven’t mentioned a thing. They haven’t said, “hey mommy, where’s the Christmas village?” or “why isn’t the countdown to Christmas Santa out?”

So I’m thinking I might stick with the tree and that’s it. Unless one of them notices and eventually asks. I think then I’ll heave a sigh, and begin my first trek up the stairs.

 

Girl-with-Fingers-CrossedWhen I was little – I’m talking 6 or 7 – I told a pretty big lie. One, that when I think back on it as an adult, could have had some pretty serious consequences. Lucky for me, like not wearing seat belts, wearing no bike helmets, and taking candy from strangers, I managed to survive to the ripe old age of 48 despite this big lie.

It was a summer afternoon, and I was outside trying to find something to do. I was left in the care of my older brother and sister, as my mother had gone down the street to have coffee with Aunt Dorothy, who wasn’t really my Aunt – just my mom’s good friend.

Ah, Aunt Dorothy. She’s almost worthy of a blog post of her very own. She was the type of friend that was both a blessing and bummer. Never having had any children of her own, she was always quick to criticize my mother about how she was raising us. She reprimanded often, and had a “children should be seen and not heard” type of attitude.

But, she always made me rye toast with Breakstone’s butter, which I loved, and she always let us watch “The Wizard of Oz” at her house because she had a color TV when we only had black and white. And let’s face it, seeing Oz in black and white is like trying to eat with no taste buds.

When mom was down at Aunt Dorothy’s it was a strict rule that we were only supposed to call in case of an emergency. Too many times had we disturbed their coffee klatch with nonsense like “Judy ate the last Yodel” or “Stefan is hogging the TV watching the Yankees.”

That afternoon my brother probably was watching the Yankees, because I know I was bored and roaming around outside. I was in front of my neighbor’s house when I spotted a cat on the sidewalk. I’d never seen it before and wanted badly to play with it. However, my mom had told me not to mess with stray kitties because we didn’t know if they were mean or nice or if they had their shots.

But it was such a cute thing, so I wandered over, calling to it in kitty talk. I petted it for a while and then got the idea to pick it up and carry it to my yard. This was a mistake.

Upon picking it up it scrambled madly to get away. In the process of making it’s escape, it managed to use my forehead as a springboard. I felt a horrible pain on my head, reached up to touch it and found that I was bleeding.

I remember I took the front of my shirt, and lifted it up to my forehead to try and wipe off the blood. When I pulled my shirt back down the amount of blood seeped into the front of it was way more than I had ever dreamed would be there.

AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! I ran down the street and into the house to show Wendy and Stefan. I must have been a sight with a manhole-sized blood stain on my halter top and probably as much on my head and face. Stefan grabbed the phone and dialed Aunt Dorothy’s number where he got immense satisfaction at saying,  “YES! IT’S AN EMERGENCY!!!”

When mom came rushing home she asked me what happened. Remembering that I was not supposed to pick up strange animals, I told my mom that I had been sitting on my neighbor’s wall, saw a spider and fell off, hitting my head. This is the story that was told at the emergency room, as well. I stuck to it like glue.

I’m sure my wounds puzzled the doctor, and may have cast doubt on my story, but I don’t ever remember anyone questioning me further. I got 7 stitches and was sent home.

Me with swollen eyes staring longingly at the sea...

Me with swollen eyes staring longingly at the sea…

A few days later we all went to Jones Beach, but I couldn’t go in the water because I couldn’t get my wound wet. Plus, my eyes had puffed up something terrible as a result of the stitches. My brothers and sisters made fun of me – and it was no fun being at the beach when you couldn’t go in the water.

A few weeks later I got my stitches out and the whole incident was over.

Thinking back, I realize how bad of a lie this was. How big of a lie. Can you imagine if that cat had Rabies? Or had some crap under it’s claws that could’ve given me an infection? The doctors didn’t know to give me anything special as a precaution, because they didn’t know a cat was even involved in this injury.

It’s like I said earlier, it’s a wonder I managed to stay alive with all the dopey things I’ve done over the past 48 years. Thank goodness I am one, strong, hearty Slovak.

TinyWitch-GraphicsFairy1My youngest, who is 11, is still very much into Halloween. Trick or treating is serious business for her, and as we went door to door in our neighborhood last night, I realized something…Halloween is changing, and not for the better.

First of all, half the houses didn’t participate. This is especially true of my immediate neighborhood – out of the 8 or 9 houses that make up “my block” only two were brightly lit or decorated inviting kids to come on up and ring the bell, mine, and the new family across the street. Rule of thumb usually is, if the porch light is off, don’t bother, so my house got very little traffic.

While we were walking around the block, the kids would get a good 3 or 4 houses in a row with folks handing out candy, but then we’d have to walk past at least 4 or 5 homes that were completely dark. It was super creepy too, because it was pitch black last night.

There were also very few trick or treaters at first. We walked around for a good 25 minutes before we came across another family, and they weren’t even on foot, they were driving around in their car canvasing areas with a bunch of good houses in a group.

That’s another Halloween oddity here. Because so many folks live in rural areas, they drive into the developments to do their trick or treating. So along with the throngs of kids on foot, there are almost as many in cars – it makes for a busy and potentially dangerous night.

Every now and then, you hit a little area where a group of houses really embrace the spirit of Halloween. Their homes are well lit and decorated, and there are large groups of families and kids milling about, excited to have found a good pocket of trick or treating territory. It’s almost like a block party atmosphere – and I am super jealous of those folks. I’d love for my neighborhood to be more like that.

And then there are the die-hard Halloween fanatics – the ones who go way overboard. We visited two of these homes last night.

One, has his yard and home decked out with what has to be $4,000 worth of lights, tombstones, and animatronic ghouls. You can park in front of their house and listen to music that accompanies the lights. But they gave away dollar store lollipops for treats – I guess they spent all their money on Jason and Freddy Kruger statues. Oh, and they are twice as bad at Christmas…

The other house was amazing. It had twice the stuff as the first house, but they also made theirs interactive. You could walk through a lighted path lined with tombstones, fog machines, spiders and killer clown robots. They had their porch turned into a mad scientists lab. They had no less than 25 carved pumpkins. A woman was handing out good candy by the hand fulls. And they had a serious traffic jam in front of their house. It was great.

As I turned out my Halloween lights for the last time, and watched my girls digging through the bowl of candy in search of their favorite treat, I thought of all the differences there are between the Halloween I grew up with and the ones my kids have experienced. It’s too fast here. You can’t go out until dark, which isn’t until at least 6:30, and it’s all over by 8:30…just two small hours where you are trying to cram in as much fun as possible. Our night was over in the blink of an eye.

And what’s the deal with trunk or treating? I’m not sure how I feel about those things. If they are meant to be a fun event in addition to traditional trick or treating on October 31st, then I think they are a splendid idea. But if they are meant to replace going out on Halloween night, I think it’s really sad. Everything is too safe…to PC these days.

I wonder, once my youngest grows too old for Halloween, what kind of participant I’ll be. Oh, I know my light will always be on for the neighborhood kids – I could never become that much of a crank. On the one hand, I look forward to sitting at home with a glass of wine waiting for the doorbell to ring. But I wonder if I will miss being out there, walking through the inky black streets of my neighborhood, hearing the sounds of laughter around the next corner.

I guess I’ll find out in another couple of years – that is, if Halloween hasn’t gone to hell in a hand basket by then.

number-300It’s funny.

My first blog post on Typical Tracy pretty much consisted of me whining about how my kids always manage to make me do stuff I don’t really want to do. Well, here I am, 2+ years and 299 blog posts later and guess what? I’m still doing it.

We were supposed to go to King’s Dominion (our local theme park) on Friday for Halloween Haunt. But, the weather was very uncooperative. Some storm front is stalled right over Virginia and it’s been cool, drizzly and utterly miserable.

We were one exit away from the park on Friday afternoon, when I pulled off the highway, turned to my youngest and said, “We can’t go today.” I explained to her how I didn’t want to spend all day and night in the drizzle, getting our asses wet in every roller coaster, and then having monsters scare the crap out of me the minute the sun went down. I told her we should wait until Sunday when there was a chance the weather would be better.

She was crushed, and both cried and pouted for the rest of the day. I scolded her for this…I told her earlier in the week that the only things that could keep us from going were weather and illness, and I can’t control either, and therefore shouldn’t be punished or blamed for them. As for me, I was actually proud that I put my foot down – and the call I made was a good one.

Well here it is Sunday morning, and it’s just as wet and dreary as it was on Friday. On top of that, I woke up with a backache that copious applications of Icy Hot and doses of Tylenol are having little to no affect on. I’ve contemplated telling her that we’re not going today, but the thought of crushing her for the 2nd time in one weekend is just too much for me to bear.

Just like Dana Carvey as former President Bush would say, “not gonna do it…”

So, I’ll get my ass wet on roller coasters and spend all day in the drizzle. I just hope by nightfall I’m not too crabby – there may be a zombie or two who are in grave danger of getting kicked or punched if they catch me off guard.

My 300th post? Yeah, I used it on my kids, same as I did my first one.

facts_01She’s gone. I better learn how to face it.

We moved my first born into her college room this weekend. I thought it would be a lot worse in a lot of different ways, but to be honest, it wasn’t that bad.

First, I thought there would be gigantic crowds. While the lines were long and the streets hectic, things moved quicker than I would’ve guessed. Move in weekend was a well-oiled machine.

When we pulled up to her 18 story residence hall, which sits smack dab next to another 18 story residence hall, the streets looked like a refugee village. Folks lined the streets sitting beside bundles of belongings. We were lucky and found a spot right in front. After a quick off load (we packed light) we got in line for the elevator. I think it took us about 30 minutes to get on an elevator and up to the 18th floor.

When we found her room I was amazed. While the room is tiny, she has the most wonderful view. Her room is on the front corner of the dorm, and she has sweeping views of Richmond, the park, the campus, and points south and west. I was also amazed at how small it was. Luckily the bed that was left open was, in my opinion, the best in the room.

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To the West – our home is an hour that-a-way

After getting her room set up, we decided to do some shopping for last minute items, and get some lunch. A few hours later, with Target bags in hand, we returned to her room after another 20 minute wait to use an elevator only to find one roommate asleep, and the aunt of her other roommate, asleep.

Well this sucks…we were looking forward to unpacking all her new dorm room do-dads and instead had to tip-toe out after a whispered change of game plan. Luckily the park across the street was having a festival of sorts, so we decided to make the best of it. Our kids got to use a rock-climbing wall, ride a Segway, slide down a giant slide and bounce on trampolines.

We also viewed the gym, which was close to a religious experience. The VCU gym has got to be the dopest college fitness facility on the east coast. It’s truly amazing. I made my girl promise she would make good use of it.

Before long, it was time to say good-bye. I wasn’t too bad because I knew I was driving out today to bring her items she forgot…toothbrush, laundry bag, etc. But for hubby it was hard. He felt like he was abandoning his little baby girl in the big, bad city. She was a little scared too; I could tell.

She left us about 10 text messages that night, and I woke up at 2 am and could not get back to sleep wondering if she was okay.

Today I drove out there and spent the whole day with her helping her dot i’s and cross t’s. We mapped out her class schedule, bought her books (cha-fucking-ching) and toured the library. We had a nice lunch, and then shopped for more room decor and snacks.

It made me feel a hell of a lot better getting a closer look at the area, and I think walking around so much help familiarize her with the campus a bit more. The streets were teeming with students, and the general bustle of a college campus was an invigorating way to spend the day. Hell, it was just super nice being with my girl.

Saying goodbye was bittersweet, but I know I only have to wait until Friday to see her again. Then, in just one week she’ll be home for the long Labor Day weekend. I know as the weeks go on, she’ll come home less and less partly because she may want to stay, and partly because we may not want to make the drive.

For now we are separating from each other slowly, like dipping your toe into a really cold pool rather than doing a cannon ball into the deep end. I think that way works best for both of us.

But I miss her. I’m looking forward to Friday.

back-to-school-wallpaper--665x411Today was the first day of school, but this year, it was a bit different.

See, I only have one child in the public school system now. One lunch to make. One person to herd through the morning maze of “are you dressed” and “did you brush your teeth.” One school to drive to.

It was so much easier! But of course there will be a price to pay in a weeks time. In a week I won’t have my oldest around, as she will be a college freshman, fixing up her dorm room, and exploring her new campus.

Me? I’ll be a nervous wreck. Is she safe? Did she eat? Did she eat right or just load up on junk? Is she staying up to 3 am and then sleeping the day away? How in the world am I going to survive this?

Maybe I’ll join the PTO. A group of clucking stay at home moms should take my mind off things.

spin_prod_ec_785420001Today is my niece’s birthday – my sister’s second born.

I feel the need to commemorate this day with the telling of my involvement in my niece’s births. Both of them were noteworthy, or at least my participation in them was. I wasn’t present for either birth in person, but behind the scenes? Oy veh – can we talk?

Meaghan
When my first niece was born my sister and her husband were living in the apartment above my grandmother. It was a dwelling almost everyone did time in at one point or another. I was still living at home just a mile or so away.

My parents had flown to California to be on hand for the birth of my brother’s second child, which was due at any second. My sister wasn’t due for another 3 weeks, so my folks were certain they could see my brother’s child born, and then fly back to see my sister’s as well.

The universe? It had a different plan.

I was excited to be “on call” for my sister while my parents were away. We were close, and it was her first baby. While I sat alone in my family home one spring night, the phone rang.

It was my brother-in-law calmly stating that my sister’s water had broke. While they were not close to heading out to the hospital, he asked if I would run to the Grand Union and get her some maxi pads to help absorb the trickle of fluid while they waited for the contractions to speed up.

I snapped into action – my mission was clear. I was thrilled to be given even this one simple task to help my sister with her delivery. I grabbed my keys, bolted to my Dodge Colt hatchback and raced towards the store.

The road to the supermarket was up a long, steep hill, and I was immediately slowed down by an old car crawling up the hill at a snail’s pace. It was around 9 at night, and I figured the car had a granny behind the wheel, so I passed it on a double yellow.

I didn’t beep my horn. I didn’t flip the bird. I just quietly passed them thinking I’d see their headlights recede after I put a few blocks distance between us. But they sped up too.

As a matter of fact, they pretty much stayed on my tail the entire way to the supermarket. I was thinking that they were going to yell at me for passing on a double yellow, or maybe it was an off duty cop that was going to ticket me.

I pull into the first spot in the aisle in front of the Grand Union, when the car pulls up next to me and stops. I look over, and the car is filled with young men. The driver turns and looks at me.

Then suddenly he’s pointing a gun at me, tapping it against the window and smiling – a slow, evil grin. I froze, sort of. I actually smiled, put up my hands and shrugged in an “oh well” sort of fashion and then I ducked down and laid flat against the front seat of my car. I was waiting for a boom, but all I heard was tired screeching.

Thankfully they had driven off.

But I wasn’t sure if they were gone for good. I ran through the empty parking lot into the store zig zag fashion, shaking and panicked. I wanted to tell someone, but I felt compelled to get these maxi pads to my sister. I WAS ON A MISSION.

I bought the biggest pack they had – there must have been 60 pads in this sucker, and used it as a shield while running back to my car. My life was in the hands of a jumbo pack of Stayfrees. Thankfully, I got to my car safe and high tailed it out of the parking lot.

When I got to my sisters, I told them of my harrowing adventure, and even called the police to report it from their apartment. The only info I had was the make of the car and the NY plates, but not the actual number. The cops were pretty much disinterested, saying that the thugs were probably over the GW bridge and back in the Bronx by now.

I drove home taking a route that was far out of the way just in case.

My niece was born, perfect and healthy. I went to see her the next day at the hospital and claimed the rights to being the first to discover her dimples. I was happy to be there to see them when I think of what could have gone down the night before.

It would’ve sucked getting killed on my way to get Maxi Pads.

Erin
My sister got pregnant again fairly quickly. By this time I was living in the apartment above my grandmother, and they were living above the old woman who lived next door. Being neighbors was great, and also convenient…they had a built in babysitter a stone’s throw away.

The night of August 4th I was in New York City with some friends. By the time I stumbled into my doorway it was around 3 am. I was bushed and wanted nothing more than to drool into my pillow the next 10 hours.

The phone rang before I even got my shoes off. It was my brother-in-law once again, saying that my sister was in labor, and could I come and sit with Meaghan? I figured, it’s the middle of the night, and the baby will be asleep…I’ll just crash on the couch until morning.

I changed into sweats and headed next door. By the time I reached halfway up the stairs I knew that there would be no couch-crashing in my near future. Meaghan, having woken up with the commotion of her parents bustling around the house, was screaming her head off.

I took hold of her and watched them rush out of the house on the way to the hospital. I wasn’t worried though. Megs and I got along great, and I knew the drill… a few of her favorite videos and she’d be out cold again.

We settled into the living room, and I plopped “Kidsongs – A Day At Old McDonald’s Farm” into the VCR. I was sure by the end of the tape she’d be dead to the world, safe in Aunt Tracy’s arms. But she had cried too long and had obviously had enough sleep prior to mommy and daddy leaving the house. As far as she was concerned it was morning.

But I hadn’t had any sleep, and I was close to crying myself at this point. I spent the next 4 hours watching Barney, Sharon, Lois & Bram, and of course, A Day at Old McDonald’s Farm. I think we watched A Day at Old McDonald’s Farm 15 times that night.

Unless you’ve sat through a Kidsongs video, I don’t think you can appreciate what I endured that night. The videos consist of a group of too happy children singing syrupy sweet versions of classic songs. The Old McDonald tape featured songs like “Shortnin’ Bread,” “Skip to my Lou.” “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

These tapes? They are great when you have a buzz on…the kids mess up their lip syncing a lot, and they are so hokey, they loads of fun to cut up on. But at 5 am, with no sleep, and a crying baby? Where is that carload of dudes with the gun now?

My brother-in-law called at 7:30 am or so to tell me I had another niece, Erin. I mumbled “gee, that’s great,” and stumbled back to the couch; E-I-E-I-Oh. Lou, Lou, Skip to my Lou. My friend Sean likes hot cakes hot cakes.

One of his sisters came over to relieve me within a half an hour of that.

The girls and I laugh about these tales now; I’d never want to relive them again, but they make a good story when we are all hanging out together. And I’m glad that I had some small part in their grand debut into this wacky planet of ours.

Slide08_0070Growing up in northern New Jersey, it was almost a given that you would vacation somewhere along the Jersey shore. Unless, of course, you were me.

My dad? He didn’t like the Jersey shore. It was too commercial with its boardwalks and cheap motels, and you could be sure all we’d ever want to do as kids was head to some amusement pier. That could get pretty expensive with four kids.

When my family went on vacation, we headed north to Martha’s Vineyard, a little island off Cape Cod. My dad had first gone there with a friend from college back in the stone age, and he loved it’s rustic beauty and the fact that is was so unspoiled and natural. Once he married my mom and began spitting out kids, it became our summer vacation spot.

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The cliffs at Gay Head, many, many moons ago.

We’d usually head up in August. The drive up was always fun because we’d usually leave in the middle of the night. You have to take a ferry to get to Martha’s Vineyard, and if dad got a reservation on a boat leaving at 9 am, we had to leave Jersey at 2 am or so. I can remember going to sleep dressed in my shorts and a tank top so I could spring out of bed and get in the car when it was time to leave.

This was before the days of mandatory seat belts, and us kids would sleep in the back of the station wagon which was outfitted with blankets and pillows. We always stopped at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut where dad would get some coffee at Howard Johnson’s and we’d use the bathroom. Then it was back in the car and next thing you knew, we were in Wood’s Hole waiting in line for the ferry!

The ferry ride was another thing that made going to the Vineyard so special. You parked your car in the belly of the boat, and then scramble up the stairs to the deck, gather up a bunch of chairs and enjoy the ride. It takes about 30 minutes or so to reach the Island, and it was fun to try and guess whether the boat would dock in Vineyard Haven or Oak Bluffs. I always hoped for Oak Bluffs.

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On the Ferry to Martha’s Vineyard with our friends the Moriellis. I am sitting on my mom’s lap in the background.

My dad would rent a house somewhere on the island – that in itself was an adventure. Some houses we got were great. Others? There’s a story of one house we rented when I was rather young that was infested with bugs. I got lost in the woods that summer too. That part I remember – I had followed our dog Alfie into the woods and before I knew it he was gone and I was surrounded by very tall trees. I can clearly remember looking up and seeing them tower over me – as if I were looking through a wide angle camera lens. My family found me eventually.

But when it came right down to it, the house didn’t matter all that much because we didn’t spend a whole lot of time there, especially when I was really young. Our typical day went like this; wake up, pack a lunch, head to the beach, stay there until 3 or so, head home, eat dinner and then walk/drive to town to shop or get ice cream.

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Driving in style on Chappaquiddick

They were blissfully long days filled with sand and sun and adventures that we just didn’t get to have in northern New Jersey. Take the photo above – the box attached to our station wagon was used to haul all of our luggage to the island – remember, us kids were sleeping in the back. But once it was emptied, it served as our penthouse view when we were on less populated areas of the island.

But there is a deeper element to our summers on the Vineyard that I’m not sure I’m a good enough writer to capture. Going there each year was both familiar and new. As the years would pass, things would change – a store you loved might have gone out of business, or a new restaurant would open and become a family favorite. It was constantly evolving as it gained popularity.

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The good house – I am the little thing in pink

Each summer, linked to a specific house we rented that year, holds it’s own set of memories. I can remember staying at an A-Frame house in the woods where my siblings and I invented the song “Bicycle Mary” inspired by a girl riding her bike down the dirt road. There was the beautiful pond-front home we got one summer (due to an error on our realtor’s part) where we could go crabbing right in our backyard. And there was the Amaral house, which had a pool table and was within easy walking distance to Edgartown. I think we rented that house three years in a row.

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You can’t climb on these cliffs anymore – but in our day it was nature’s jungle gym.

My memories are many and varied – it is impossible to put them all into one blog post. Going fishing with dad at 5 am and catching nothing but sea robins. Climbing the cliffs at Gay Head. My brother crashing our car hours before our ferry was to depart for the mainland. My sister Judy almost drowning and being saved by a handsome stranger. Trips to Chappaquiddick and the Dyke bridge. Half the family getting food poisoning from bad mussels at Giordanno’s. And hours and hours spent riding the Flying Horses carousel.

I always loved that carousel. Have you ever been on a carousel where you try to grab for the brass ring? It’s fun on several levels. The rings are metal, but the last one to come out is brass. If you get the brass ring, you get a free ride. As a kid I’d sit on the horse and let Dad grab the rings for me because my arms were to short to reach the holder. When was around 6 or so, my dad missed the brass ring and slammed his hand down on the horses head in frustration. Problem was, each horse is outfitted with a metal spike to hold your rings on. This spike went through my dad’s palm – we spent the next few hours in the parking lot outside the hospital.

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Me at the Flying Horses – circa 1982

But as a teenager, The Flying Horses was a place to meet guys and show off your ring grabbing skills. My sister was the best at it, but I could grab 5 or 6 rings each time around. The crowds that were waiting for their turn in line would ooh and ahh as you tried to snatch grab as many rings as you could. By the end of the first week my fingernails were ragged stubs, but I had caught the brass ring at least a dozen times.

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For years the foyer of The Island movie theater had this mini tribute to Jaws.

Then there was the summer 1975 – the summer of Jaws. Anyone who saw Jaws in the theater knew how scary it was back then. I saw it in the theaters – at the Island in Oak Bluffs to be exact. Do you have any idea how hard it was to swim on the same beach you saw Alex Kintner get chewed up into little bits on the big screen just the night before? The fame of the movie did ruin the island for a few years, though. Businesses who had changed their signs to read “Amity” whatever for the sake of the movie kept those signs up to lure customers. It became a little cheesy after a while – especially after Jaws 3 came out.

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See if you can guess what I am now…
A disrespectful teenager!

I did my fair share of hitch-hiking on the island too. Dangerous? I didn’t seem to be back then. My parents thought it was easier than having to drive me to and from town, especially when we rented a house that wasn’t in walking distance to civilization. I made friends that way too. Many of the folks who gave me rides were islanders and knew all the cool, unknown spots. That’s how I was able to find Belushi’s grave. It’s in a small cemetary up island, and the average Joe back then wouldn’t know where to look. I’m a tad ashamed of the above photo – sitting on someone’s tombstone isn’t exactly showing respect, but I was a dumb kid and wanted to be cool. Maybe it’s no accident that the photo is such crappy quality.

MV 6I went to Martha’s Vineyard for a week or more almost every summer until I was in my 20′s. I remember one year when I was living in Arkansas, my mom called and said they were getting ready to leave for the Vineyard in a day or two. I cried for a week knowing that they were up there and I couldn’t be with them. That might have been my first summer away from the Island.

MV 5

Edgartown Light House

Many times other families came up with us. Dad was always trying to convince someone to invest in a house with him, and I’ll never understand why nobody would. I bet they are all kicking themselves now. What you could buy for $60,000 back then is worth 10 times that now.  He did manage to cause a cousin of ours to fall in love with it. She and her husband now own two houses up there.

MV 4

The gingerbread cottages in Oak Bluffs

I’ve only been back to the Vineyard 3 times since getting married in 1994. The first time I was pregnant with my first born – we went up there to spread my mother’s ashes. We’ve brought our children up there twice since then, but the last time was too long ago; probably 6 years. We keep trying to plan a trip every summer, but something always goes wrong. Being unemployed doesn’t help – it’s super expensive to go there, even if you have family to stay with.

I really hope I make it back up there again. Yet, when we go up now, it’s a vacation too jam packed with activities we have to fit in before the week is up. I rarely get a glimpse of places and things I remember before it’s time to move on to the next photo op. And my husband? He doesn’t really get it, and that sort of detracts some of the joy for me.

MV 2I’d love to stay for a month, and take my time to retrace so many steps I’d taken over the first two decades of my life. A month…walking the streets of Edgartown, wandering along South Beach, maybe going topless at Gay Head. Oh, and I’d ride the Flying Horses over and over again. My fingers would bleed, but it would be worth it. I’d have caught life’s brass ring.

our pool

We were stuck in the house for the past 3 days. From either bad weather or illness I’ve been stuck in my little house since Tuesday. Today dawned sunny and bright, and while my youngest’s tummy was still a tad rumbly today, we thought we’d risk a trip to the pool.

I spent most of my summer vacation at the pool growing up. It was only a short walk down the block from my home, and our family got a membership every year. My kids? not as lucky. Our pool is more than 2 miles away, and we only buy a passbook that lets us go around 6 times over the course of the summer.

We also have a lake that has 4 beaches, but I like the pool better. It’s cleaner – the water is clear and blue and refreshing. There aren’t leaves floating in it, and you aren’t likely to step on something that you can’t identify. Don’t get me wrong, we use the lake often – way more than the pool. I just like the pool better.

It was crowded today. We had to park in the far away lot and hoof it. There were no tables to be had, and we were lucky to find two lounger chairs that we could easily pull together to make our home base. We always get a table – I will watch like a hawk until one opens up and then snag it. But today I didn’t mind our little set up. I was poolside, and I had a lounger – I could lay on my back or my belly (in theory, anyway.)

In the past the pool was a drag. My youngest was too young to be trusted in the water without adult supervision (mommy) so someone (mommy) always had to be in there with her. Now? I love the pool! I can sit in my chair and read, and take a dip when I begin to feel like a medium rare porterhouse.

The girls? They can take care of themselves now. I just need to be in glancing distance.

The kids jumped in the water and I gingerly settled into one of the loungers – it made an uncomfortable groan, hence my use of the word “gingerly.” Nothing, and I mean nothing would be as embarrassing as me breaking a chair at the pool, unless my boobs fell out in the process. That might make me put a for sale sign in my front yard and relocate.

Plus they are low to the ground. I realized this when I tried to get up for the first time. Trying to raise my ample carcass out of that lounger was no easy feat. I tried to do it quickly and as inconspicuously as possible. By the end of the day I had a system down that gave the illusion that I had a modicum of grace.

My book, a loaner from the library, was difficult to read. It’s gigantic, first of all (Plains of Passage – book 4 in the Clan of the Cave Bear series) and therefore was hard to hold without cradling it against my body – which was wet. Thus, the pages would get soggy. I have too much respect for a library book to mistreat it that way, unlike the previous reader who thought turning pages with fingers coated in Cheez Doodle dust was A-OK.

So I put the book down and just observed humanity – fun in the sun poolside humanity.

  • There was a deeply tanned woman in a black bikini. She had to be in her last week of pregnancy, and she was absolutely beautiful. Bronzed and oiled and all belly. And in a bikini.
  • I love that run/walk thing kids do when they are trying to get to the snack bar or the diving board as quickly as possible without actually running. Because we all know running on the pool deck is usually #1 on the “no-no” list. If you run, you get the lifeguard whistle. But let’s face it, they aren’t fooling anyone. That quick-step shuffle will usually get you a whistle and a warning just as fast as you would if you were in a full-blown sprint.
  • When did kids start wearing goggles…no, requiring goggles? When I was a kid I did 7 hours worth of under water acrobatics without the help of goggles. Yes, I went home with eyes red as beets, but that was your battle scar from a day at the pool.
  • My daughter did her first front flip off the diving board today and landed flat on her back – which is pretty much what we all did when we did our first flip. She wanted to cry, but didn’t. She also lost her earring in the process. Yeah, she hit hard. I’m amazed and proud that she did it with no hesitation, though. Last year I had to bribe her with cash just to jump off the board.
  • I’m thankful for spray suntan lotion. I can re-apply in seconds.
  • Laying on your stomach in a hard plastic lounger is not comfortable, especially if you try to read at the same time. Getting up from the lounger while on your stomach is no picnic either. Duly noted – that act may not be repeated.

But now I’m home…tanned, cool and clad in shorts and a tank top. I’m burned in a few places (I guess I didn’t reapply as diligently as I should have) but that’s okay. We got out of the house, and into the sun.

It was a good afternoon.

vintage_roller_coaster_ride_postcard-p239204406425805978trdg_400

Raise you hand if you love amusement parks.

We are lucky enough to live within an hour’s drive of a fairly decent one – King’s Dominion. In the past we might have gone once a year – mainly because of the cost, and we had 2 kids that had different mindsets when it came to the rides.

My oldest? I took her on her first looping coaster – the Anaconda – when she was tall enough to ride. That was maybe 7 years ago. Since then she has been fearless and will try everything and anything once.

Me? My last looping coaster was when I took her on the Anaconda. I too had a fearless stage when I was a kid. We used to drive down to Jackson, NJ and go to Great Adventure. Man, I have so many memories of that place.

I remember when it first opened in 1974, my sister Judy got invited to go with a friend of hers and her family. I was so jealous – but when she came home she said the park wasn’t all that great. A lot of the rides weren’t even open yet.

But by the late 70′s/early 80′s – my heyday – the park was fantastic. I’d usually go with my best friend John, and who ever else wanted to go. We’d spend our day roaming the park, feeling free and independent, and enduring the endless lines to get on our favorite rides; The Runaway Train, Rolling Thunder, and the Log Flume.

LightningLoopsLightning Loops was my first looping coaster. It was an odd configuration. You climbed up some 6 or 7 flights of steps and boarded the train from atop a platform. Then you were pushed down the hill which gave you enough speed/momentum to get through the loop. Once you reached the opposite platform you did the loop backwards and found yourself back at the starting point. There were two tracks that intertwined, but I don’t ever recall them running simultaneously, like they show in the photo.

In any case, I wasn’t a big fan. It was pretty scary for me, especially after a girl was killed on it. It wasn’t a ride malfunction, but still – it was enough to keep me off of it.

Looping_StarshipAn amusement park turning point for me was when I was on The Looping Starship. It’s your typical ride that pivots back and forth, higher each time, until you eventually do a few full loops. As I hung upside down, watching change, Chapstick and sunglasses fall from the pockets of my fellow shipmates, I realized that if for some reason my safety harness failed, I would die.

That sort of killed it for me. A seed was planted in my 20-something year old brain, and I gradually began to lose interest in anything that inverted me. I still went on some rides. I was forced onto Montu at Busch Gardens (Tampa), and kept my eyes closed the whole time. I also rode The Griffon at Busch Gardens (VA) – but that doesn’t invert. However I had to keep my eyes closed the whole ride up the hill as heights freak me out.

These days my advancing age (and widening tushy) have made me even more aware of my mortality (and how small some of those seats are). As a result, I take a pass on most of the thrill rides. But I still love a good wooden coaster.

The past few years I have tried to coax my youngest onto a variety of coasters. My mistake was letting her ride her first really big wooden coaster, Rebel Yell, with her sister. I was in the seat behind them, and once we return to the station, she was almost in tears. There are a few bumps where you get some decent air time on that coaster, and it freaked her out. That incident was 3 years ago and it was a real chore to get her to give them another chance.

Last year she rode all the wooden coasters, but no steel. Progress.

This year she reached the height limit for every ride in the park – and her attitude changed. She rode almost everything. Her first inversion coaster? The Volcano – a ride I would never even consider going on unless there was a large sum of money involved.

Volcano: The Blast Coaster

My girls’ last ride yesterday was the Anaconda. It was nice in a coming full circle kind of way. My oldest passed the coaster riding torch to her younger sister. So now going to the park is 10 times more fun. Both girls can ride everything together, and me? I people watch, or read a chapter of my book until it’s time to board a ride that does not flip me upside down, or take me too high up for more than a few seconds.

intimidator

Oh, and I’ll also spend the summer trying to get up the nerve to ride this. No inversions – but that hill? I think I’d pass out from sheer terror before we reached the top…

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