Archives for posts with tag: family

Ernestine-01

When I was in 5th grade, one of my best friends moved to Littleton, Colorado, and I would beg my father to let me make a long distance call to her every now and then. I had to wait until after 10:00 pm, because that’s when the rates were lowered, and I could only talk for 10 minutes.

I thought of this the other day when my daughter spent the night on the phone with her friend Rae who lives in California – they watched A Nightmare Before Christmas together while on the phone. Holy Hell…that would’ve cost a few hundred bucks when I was a kid.

Man how time have changed. And not only from those ancient times when I was growing up. Just a few years back, when we still had only a land line, my daughter would talk to her friend who lived out in the sticks and calls to her started to become costly.

Same thing when I was little. If I wanted to talk to a friend who lived a few towns away, those toll charges would really rack up…and then my dad would give a very stern lecture. But not any more!

With Skype, Face Time and cell phones, long distance charges, and the accompanying headaches, is a long distance memory.

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The family made our annual trek to Kings Dominion for Halloween Haunt this past Saturday. It was not one of my favorite trips.

When we arrived, the parking lot was so full, that they were directing cars to park in the back lot. In all the years I’ve been schlepping out to Kings Dominion I have NEVER seen them using the back lot. Our gold passes allow us to use a preferred parking lot up near the front and even THAT was full. It wasn’t encouraging.

Needless to say, the lines were horrendous – and not just for rides. All the haunted mazes had lines that spread far beyond the attractions. So far, in fact that they needed park employees with giant signs reading “Line for xxxxx starts here.”

The one bonus was that it wasn’t freezing out. So, we waited.

But the wait was never worth the scare. The mazes did little to scare me because there were so few participants inside the mazes. In past years there seemed to be triple the amount of performers hiding in places to scare the bejezzus out of you. This year? It seemed like we were just marching through a highly decorated fun house, and it certainly wasn’t worth the 45 minute wait in line.

I wondered why Kings Dominion seemed to lack the ghoul power to fully staff these haunted mazes, and my guess is this. Usually Halloween Haunt is the big showstopper at the end of the year. But new for 2018 is Winterfest, where they deck out the park in lights and turn the fountain pond into a skating rink. Having to extend man power through December, they cut back on zombie performers for Halloween.

By the end of the night my feet were KILING me, and I was more than happy to finally reach the car. I know one thing for sure, next year we are going to Halloween Haunt way earlier in the season.

Soup

One of my all time favorite foods is soup.

I have loved soup since my childhood. My mother made a killer beef vegetable soup. She would leave a pot of it on the stove along with a bowl of noodles. Our method was to fill your bowl with noodles and ladle the hot broth over the top. After adding copious amounts of black pepper, I was in heaven.

Nowadays, chicken soup is my favorite by far, and I make a giant pot of it at least once a month. I don’t even follow a recipe anymore. I’ve made split pea from my leftover Easter Ham, I make potato leek soup, and my girls really like my mushroom soup – a pot of that doesn’t last too long.

I love having soup for lunch. We have a store up the street from my office that sells containers of soup during the winter months, and I am addicted to their chicken noodle. Yesterday they didn’t have any, so I settled for brisket & butter bean soup, which was also good, but I have to admit I ate it begrudgingly.

We also have a place close by that makes a really good Pho…I try to order it every few weeks. Today for lunch I am trying a Thai beef noodle soup. I hope it’s good. (PostScript it WAAAAASSSSS!)

My one rule for soup is I like it brothy. I don’t mind if a potato soup is on the thick side, but if your spoon doesn’t sink into the soup, it’s not soup…it’s pudding.

I also love how soup is a meal that lasts. It seems to take a long time to polish off a big bowl of soup, and it you want seconds??? Big deal…there are worse things you could be eating.

My next soup move is to branch out from the 4 or so varieties I cook. If anyone has a great recipe, be sure to share a link to it! Anything but seafood…Tracy doesn’t do seafood.

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My 16 year old daughter just experienced her first real Valentines Day. And it’s largely in part to a conversation my husband and I had at the grocery store.

We were checking out, and as I saw a package of crab cakes scan up at $5.99, I turned to my husband and said, “$5.99 for crab cakes?” This started a rather lively conversation with the cashier, a handsome, tall fellow, about the quality of the crab cakes, and whether we should even bother purchasing them.

My husband then asked him if he were working while in college, and he informed us he was a junior at our high school.

This adorable boy is a junior at the same school my sophomore girl attends? So, I asked him if he knew her. When her name sparked no recognition I said, “you might have seen her on ‘In The Know,’” which was the school’s news program.

He said, “Oh, is she blonde?” To which I replied, “yes.”

We paid for our groceries and left, and I thought to myself, why can’t cute guys like that ever show an interest in my daughter? Well, little did I know that this small exchange would lead to my daughter falling head over heels a week later.

Because when we got home I mentioned our conversation with my girl, and asked her if she knew a Chris who was a Junior and worked at the local grocery store. She knew who he was, and the next day at school approached him at lunch to apologize for her crazy parents. Apparently this sparked in interest in young Chris, and they continued to talk the entire week.

The following Saturday, my daughter accompanied me to the store, and Chris happened to be working. He spotted her and immediately shouted out a hello to her with a wave. I did a double take and said to her, “Hey, that’s the guy I was telling you about! Are you friends now?”

She admitted they had been talking, while blushing profusely. By the time we were ready to check out, he was out rounding up shopping carts, but they managed to exchange a few words (and a few hugs), and I thought to myself….hmmmm…could this be something?

They texted all that night, and the next day, he came over to “hang out.” He greeted me with a hug, which I have to admit, I liked. They played ping pong and looked at yearbooks, and after a few hours they were hooked on each other. They’ve been dating ever since.

Chris is a super sweet boy, and so far, mom approves of him. He’s extremely kind to my girl, shows her tons of attention (which none of her past crushes seemed to do), is very affectionate, and hugs us all whenever he comes and goes.  I’m so happy that she finally found a guy worthy of the title “boyfriend.”

For Valentines Day, he gave her roses, a stuffed fox, some chocolates, and had his dad, who is a professional chef, cook them dinner. She said the food was amazing, and so is his family. Everything is like a fairly tale. So far.

I really hope this romance lasts for her. She’s given her heart to him, and I don’t know how easy she would get over a bad break up. But, I don’t think I have to worry. I don’t read him as a player – I think he’s more a steady, one girl type of guy, which is good.

Sometimes she will turn to me and say, I can’t believe this all started because you guys were arguing over whether or not to buy crab cakes. Love works in mysterious ways, that’s for sure.

Footnote:
Like most boys, this one turned at to be a dud and a douche. Right at their 4 month anniversary, after days of texts proclaiming his love for my daughter, he went to a party and texted to her “I think I want to be single.” He had ignored her for more than a week now, and friends tell her he’s been asking out another girl. My girl did nothing wrong. All she did was love him.
Just wait until I get in his line next time…..

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Back when I was unemployed in 2013, the dentist told me my youngest daughter would need braces. Gee, thanks. I’ll hop right on that.

She has been begging for braces ever since she was in 6th grade. One of her front teeth is crooked, and she’s positive that one singular tooth is the cause of every miserable thing that has ever happened to her in school.

Problem is, braces are like a car payment – I took her to 3 different Orthodontists for consultations and prices, and  braces, it seemed, just wasn’t in our budget.

Until now. We were able to pay off my car, which freed up some money, and we decided to invest in our daughters future, and her smile. This past Wednesday, even though most  of her friends have already had their braces off, my little girl got some metal in her mouth.

She was excited, but also really nervous. Her dream was coming true, but she had just started dating a new guy at school. A guy she is really crazy about. And my poor little dear was afraid he’d take one look at her braces, and hit the bricks.

The first time I saw her with her new mouth, I was relieved. They were so little! I kept envisioning these giant metal Marsha Brady type braces that covered the whole tooth. She didn’t see it that way, though. She was in pain, and adjusting to the fact that her lips were going to look different for the next two years.

That evening her boyfriend came over. And you know what? He loves them. Her whole school loves them too. She got a lot of encouraging remarks her first day back with her new braces and I think it was a real relief for her.

I’m just relieved we are finally getting her tooth, and eventually, her massive overbite corrected. Although I have to admit…I’m going to miss my little Beverly D’Angelo lookalike.

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For Christmas my children bought me a DNA kit from Ancestry.com, and I was super excited. My father came through Ellis Island from Czechoslovakia, so there was no doubt that half of me is Slavic. But my mom’s side has always been a bit of a mystery.

We were always told mom was English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and French. It was a list I learned to memorize early on. Her families roots go back to Brigham Young, so she always just considered herself “American.”

So when I spit into the little test tube and mailed back my DNA sample I was excited to know I was finally going to get some concrete answers as to my maternal heritage.

Yesterday the results came in. And what I discovered was that Ancestry.com’s DNA test sucks. Call me naive, but I was expecting to see a categorized list like: you are 50% Slavic, 12% English, etc, etc.

Instead this is what I got:

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A map with a vague list of countries my DNA could be linked to. 54% of me most likely came from Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein. And 29% of me could have hailed from Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, or Croatia.

Can you believe they get away with charging money for this shit? This is all stuff I already knew.  My only solace in all of this is that my kids bought the kit when they were having a 50% off sale, so they didn’t get swindled for the full amount.

I plan filing a complaint with the company – they should at least be aware that I am deeply disappointed in their “services” even if my kids can’t get their money back.

Complaining when I think I got cheated is in my DNA – somehow that didn’t come back in my results either.

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I can recall the day I decided to stop ordering drinks at restaurants. We were at a TGI Fridays, and we only ordered a few appetizers to share trying to keep costs down. Yet when the bill came, it was still super-expensive.

So I looked at the bill. $12 of it was soft drinks….sodas and my iced tea. TWELVE DOLLARS. For that amount of moolah one of us could’ve ordered a burger, and it was only for drinks.

So I turned to my girls and said, “Next time we eat out, let’s not order soda…we’ll just drink water.” And that’s just what we did.

And you know what? Nobody suffered without their Diet Coke, and although my usual beverage of unsweet tea with lemon would’ve been nice, water whet my whistle just fine. The best part? I really noticed the difference in the bill.

My husband is a professional soda drinker, and he’s the only one I have not been able to lure to the water side. He will still order a soda when we go out, but it’s okay. This way if one of the girls DO want to indulge in a sip of sugary sweetness, they just take a taste of Dad’s.

I figure I’ve saved myself at least $500 in the past few years by just cutting soft drinks from our lunch/dinner selections.

It’s an eating out strategy I am super proud of.

20170703_105904I just got back from a week on Martha’s Vineyard. The main reason for going was to spread my father’s ashes around the island. You see, my father is the founder of Martha’s Vineyard for our family. He went up one weekend a million years ago with a college friend, and never wanted to vacation anywhere else.

While he was never able to afford to buy a house on the island, he turned my cousins Bob & Carol on to this summer wonderland, and they own two homes – one rental and a large home that they live in during the summer. For 52 years it has been my summer place, and it felt really good to release dad to the beauty of this island.

We began by releasing some ashes into the water during the ferry ride from Woods Hole to the Vineyard. My husband, in a flash of brilliance, let one of the crew members know we were doing it, and after dad’s ashes swirled into the air, he gave the ferry horn a long, loud blast. It was very cool, and very moving.

20170702_195615We spread more ashes on the beach in Menemsha at sunset. It was a beautiful evening spent on the beach with the family, listening to music, sipping wine and noshing from a picnic spread. I think dad would have loved it.

20170703_114816And of course, we had to leave some of dad on Gay Head. My mom’s ashes are here. It was funny…when we spread the ashes by my mom, my sister had trouble with the container, and it was a very clumsy release. It makes me laugh to think of that now, because I think it’s something my mom would have found amusing.

We also walked further down the beach and around the horn of the cliffs to spread dad among the stones, rocks and ocean. It felt right.

The trip itself was pretty hectic. I’ve never seen the island so crowded….things are definitely changing there. I’m just so pleased that there are pieces of both of my parents on the beaches where we spent so much time growing up. I know how much dad loved this place. I am certain he’s resting peacefully now.

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For my youngest, this is her last week of school before the school breaks for summer. This morning, she turned to me and said, “Momma, it’s my LAST week of school. I just realized I have the whole summer ahead of me.”

And you know what, she’s right. What a delicious time of year that was when you were a kid…those last few days of school before the start of summer vacation. Where you did next to nothing in class other than watch movies and talk with friends. Recess would be 2 hours long.

The summer seemed almost endless. Long days spent at the pool, riding my bike up to the corner store to buy candy or ice cream, afternoons filled with bottles of diet Pepsi and bags of Doritos while watching Match Game.

And then, vacation would come. Like real vacation – packing up the family and heading to Martha’s Vineyard for 2-3 weeks of gloriously good times. We never went to the Jersey Shore growing up. My dad hated it. I don’t think I had ever been to the Jersey shore until I was in college. Who needed it when you could romp in the surf of South Beach.

Every aspect of our trips to the Vineyard were magical. We would always have an early ferry, so we would leave our house in the middle of the night. I remember as a child going to bed that night in giddy anticipation of being woken up at 1 or 2 am, piling into the back of our station wagon fixed up with pillows and blankets, and heading north towards Cape Cod.

Dad would usually stop at the Howard Johnsons at the Mystic Seaport exit, where we would get muffins and hot chocolate. And those next few hours in the car were blissful…the cool night air and the anticipation of the ferry ride that began the official start to vacation.

We are heading up there again this year to spread my father’s ashes. It’s really where he belongs. While this trip will be the highlight of our summer, I’m hoping there are many other trips that my daughters will cherish over the course of those short summer months.

Things like visits to Kings Dominion, hiking and swimming at Blue Hole, and a trip to DC to take part in the Truth March. Yeah, I think the summer of 2017 might turn out okay.

Oh wait…I still have to buy a bathing suit. Groan.

In response to the daily prompt word, which was Float

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Around 10 years ago, we were on our yearly family vacation in Palm Coast, Florida visiting my dad. Our beach of choice while we are down there is Flagler Beach, a) because it’s right down the road from his house, and b) because it’s just an awesome beach.

My girls were young, and were playing in the surf under the watchful eye of their dad, and I decided to swim out a little.

A little.

I was treading water and decided it was time to head back in. I start kicking and paddling, and realize I’m not really getting anywhere. Every time I point a toe down to feel the sandy bottom of the ocean floor, all I feel is ocean.

I looked at a dude on his surf board, who was only a few yards away. I thought to myself, “should I ask him for help?” At this point I was very jealous of his floatation device. He could sit there cool as a cucumber, while I was beginning to feel the warm seed of panic growing in my lower belly.

Was I caught in a riptide?

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And then I remembered my father, who always said if you can’t get back to shore, swim parallel to the beach and eventually you’ll be able to make you way in.

For the next 5-10 minutes I floated and swam, floated and swam parallel to the shore, but moving slightly toward the beach with each kick and stroke. And finally, I could touch bottom. I lumbered my way through the surf and onto the beach where I heaved an audible sigh of relief.

I was safe, and I did it on my own. I didn’t need to be rescued by either surfer dude or the lifeguard. I walked back to where we were sitting…I was a good 75 yards down the beach…and plopped into my chair, out of breath. I told my sister and nieces what had happened, but seeing that I was back safe & sound, they didn’t make much of it.

But it had frightened me. I doubt either of my girls would have been able to keep cool and figure their way out of it. Now, I repeatedly tell them the same advice my father gave me every single time we are at the beach, and I encourage them to bring a boogie board with them in the water just in case.

And I watch them very closely…from the beach.