“Why is there so much dancing?”

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Here’s a play-by-play account of how our big day in New York City played out…

8:00 am – Everyone’s in their fanciest clothes. And by fanciest, I mean, most comfortable. I do NOT want to hear “these sleeve bumps are bothering me!” all day. So they are dressed. Period. Not exactly dressed for a Christmas Spectacular at Radio City but I’m not fighting that battle.

8:15 – Shit. I got a paper cut on my texting finger. How am I going to be able to text for help when I lose one of my kids in Rockefeller Center?!?

8:25 – Grab my bag* and we’re out the door.

*Contents of my bag: Z-bars, applesauce pouches, Goldfish, M&Ms, lollipops, one iPad, one DS video game, two books, water bottles, tissues, baby wipes, Epi-pen/Benadryl, change of underwear for one kid, change in socks for another kid and a giant jar of Advil for me.

 And at the last minute, I also remembered our tickets.

8:30 – Aunt Lori drives us to the train station. Says something to the effect of “Wish I was going with you!” I THINK I hear her mutter “sucker” under her breath but I could be wrong.

8:45 – Wait for the train. They’re listening AND super excited. It’s the high point of the day. Kidding! Not really.

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9:00 – Get on the train. It’s packed. A nice woman gives up her seat and moves her bags so the four of us can sit. I see extreme pity in her eyes. I’ll take it.

I just realized RIGHT NOW that I bought a ticket for my 4-year old, who rides free. Grrrr….

I just realized RIGHT NOW that I bought a ticket for my 4-year old, who rides free. Grrrr….

10:00 – 82 rounds of “I Spy” and “Who Am I?” later, we arrive at Grand Central. After having nightmares about losing a kid all night last night, I make them all hold onto me somehow… two hands and a coat-tail.* We are absolutely the most annoying people on the city sidewalks today… a group of four, side-by-side, sort of shuffling because I’m making them all hold onto me, while they stare up at the “super tall buildings!”, stopping randomly to ask about the random puddles of mystery fluid on the sidewalk. The New Yorkers LOVE us.

*I also tried to make them all wear bracelets with my phone number but only the Nibbit would agree. Happy Dude wore his for a whole minute before declaring “This is SO annoyin’ and it’s frustratin’ me.” So I put it in his pocket. Loud One ripped it off two seconds after I put it on and said, “That’s bothering me; I’m not wearing it.” I MIGHT have said, “Fine, if you get lost in a huge Rockefeller Center crowd, don’t come crying to me.”

10:10 - We exit Grand Central and bump into my cousin Meagan, which is a pleasant surprise. Is it wrong that I feel extremely jealous that she is going to work? Alone?

10:15 - I had planned to walk to Radio City but that plan got vetoed so we get in a cab. No functioning seatbelts and an extremely chatty driver who also has two boys and a girl and does NOT recommend bringing them all to Radio City to see the Christmas Spectacular because it’s so crowded and not really worth the money = good times!

10:35 - We arrive at Radio City, take the requisite “Pose like a Ninja in front of giant Nutcracker across the street” shot and head in.IMG_7134

10:45 - The plan is: bathroom, snacks, seats. The reality is: not QUITE the same as the plan. As we approach the bathroom, we see the line winds all the way around Central Park and back. [Slight exagg. Whatever.] I’ve got Loud One whining, “Are we going to miss the show?” I’ve got the Nibbit saying, “I can go to the boy’s room by myself! I won’t look at anyone!” And I’ve got the Nibbit saying, “I weally weally weally have to go RIGHT NOW!”

So we leave the six-mile line and walk straight into the Men’s Lounge. I sit LO on a chair and say, “Close your eyes and don’t talk to ANYONE” before racing the boys straight to the stalls while yelling, “So sorry! My sons really had to go! Girls line too long! Not looking, I swear!”

Gross.

11:00 - Showtime! Lights dim! Music starts! Santa appears! Rockettes kick! Magical things happen! JAAAAZZZZZ HAAAANNNDDDS!

11:15 - Nibbit: When is lunch?

11:30 - HD: I want to go home now.

11:40 - Nibbit: There’s SO MUCH dancing. WHY is there so much dancing?

12:00 - HD: I’m really ready to go home now.

12:15 - All of them: LOOK! OMG, IT’S A REAL CAMEL! ARE THOSE SHEEP REAL?! LOOK AT THAT DONKEY!! ARE YOU SURE THOSE ARE REAL!! I NEVER SAW A REAL CAMEL BEFORE! THAT’S SO COOL!!

12:30pm - Show ends.

Me: Did you guys love it??

Loud One: YES!!!

Nibbit: No. I did NOT like it.

HD: I did not like it either. I liked the camel and the sheeps and the donkeys and the Santas but I did not like the rest like when it snowed and all those girls were dancing all the time.

Nibbit: Me too.

OK then.

1:00 - Lunchtime! While we waited for our food, we played the “Guess what I’m drawing game” and this happened:

I’m not sure what exactly he’s drawing.

 

I asked them, “Do you guys want to go see this show again next year?”

LO: YES!!!

Nibbit: No.

HD: I want to stay home with the Nibbit.

HD may have been a little tired.

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I tried telling them that this was the big tree I was telling them about but they didn’t buy it.IMG_7144
So we went to see the REAL big tree.

I thought I got the perfect picture until I checked it and saw that it looks like HD had been cut out of a picture taken at a scary movie on a really sunny day and Photoshopped into this picture. I have NO idea how this happened and I’m sure I could never make it happen again.

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I tried again and got this “perfect” picture.

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So, it turns out, I was wrong when I said, “It will either be a great day or a great blog post!” because neither was true. In fact, I’d say that the whole experience was … fine.

Just like this post.

PS. This happened on the way home so it should be a nice, late night tonight.

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Gratitude 2014

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

I’m writing this in the wee hours partially because I had a big mug of coffee ice cream at 9:30pm, so I’m wide awake and partially because I’ve been trying to write a post for about 17 days and am determined to finish this one before we leave for New Jersey later this morning. (Mostly because of the coffee ice cream.)

Earlier today, the Loud One told me that she LOVES Thanksgiving because there’s so much good food. And by that, she means crescent rolls and pie.

I told her that while she is not alone in thinking about Thanksgiving as a food-centric holiday, it’s really important to remember that this day is about gratitude; you know, giving thanks. She said, “Right. I’m thankful for my family,” and I said, “That’s great! I’m thankful for coffee.” She said, “You can’t say that!” and I said, “You’re right… I SHOULD have said that I’m thankful for the creamer that goes in my coffee because without that, the coffee tastes like… bad.

It goes without saying that I’m extremely thankful for my family – immediate, extended and in-law’ed. I hit the lottery on all three accounts and man, do I know it. I also have several friends that I know would drop their coffee/wine/desert to help me out if I needed it. (You all know who you are and which choice belongs to you… ) I’m truly [hashtag] blessed.

BUT…

It’s also the little things.

So with that in mind… I give you my Gratitude List for 2014. Randomly selected and in no particular order, here are the things that I’m thankful for right now.

The Thanksgiving Day parade
It starts in less than eight hours and I CAN’T WAIT. I love seeing Matt Lauer and Al Roker and [insert female host here] in their festive winter garb – red scarves and Irish sweaters – making small talk about those talented Spirit of America dancers and about Snoopy’s tenure in the parade (36 years!). I love the odd pairings on the floats like Carrie Underwood singing with the Pilgrims, KISS hanging with the Sesame Street gang and Meghan Trainor following the Pillsbury Dough Boy.* I love predicting what the annual controversy will be – another ill-placed Victoria’s Secret ad? Or maybe a performance by the cast of Kinky Boots? I love it all. I really hope Jimmy Fallon and The Roots sing “We Will Rock You” again this year because that really spoke to my soul in 2012. *These are all real, scheduled balloons and musical acts this year, although I did make up the combinations. 

Anne Lamott 
After finishing Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers a couple of months ago, I became fairly interested obsessed with Anne Lamott and now I can’t stop reading her words. ALL OF HER WORDS. I think many of her sentences are like tiny works of art and I feel like I’m becoming a slightly better person just by paying attention to her. I also feel insanely jealous of her talent, so maybe I’m not THAT much better yet.

Given it’s the day of thanks, you can start with this: Counting Our Blessings: Why We Say Grace.

The Mindy Show/Parenthood/The Shonda Rhimes Thursday Night Line-Up
Yup, I’m thankful for TV. Look, I have to fold a lot of laundry. I can either do it in sad, boring silence OR I can watch Scott Foley sit in a hole with no shirt on (Scandal reference). Seems like a pretty obvious choice to me.

Also, Mindy Kaling is FUNNY and Parenthood makes me cry. For the whole hour. Every week. It’s like therapy.

*I could be grateful for technology in general, as it allows me to waste countless hours each day on social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but since I simply cannot grasp the concept of tumblr or reddit, I’m going to just stick to TV.

Odd-shaped bookmarks

Originality? Ummm...

Is it a tree? Or…

The fact that I don’t have to cook Thanksgiving dinner
I feel really lucky to not be responsible for a turkey or the majority of the Thanksgiving Day meal (thanks Keith and Colleen!) because all I know is that I made this one dish today and it took me almost two hours and I used EVERY pan and bowl in the kitchen.

Teachers
I shared this conversation I had with the Nibbit on Facebook but it’s worth copying and pasting here:

Nib: Mr. S told us…
Me: Wait, who’s Mr. S?
Nib: He’s the teacher who comes in to teach us about healthy… ness.
Me: OH, cool.
Nib: Yeah, Mr. S told us that when we exercise – you know Mom, like run or jump – there’s a dance party in our heart.

A DANCE PARTY IN OUR HEART!!

Also, I spent two hours with the Loud One crying over long division the other day and that was about all I can handle. Her teacher handles THAT – multiplied by 21 more kids – many more hours each day. And then she still puts smiley faces on her emails home!

The Nibbit’s Kindergarten teacher creates and sends out a video/slide show every month with pictures she’s taken of the kids during the previous weeks. It has MUSIC! And that’s in addition to doing the usual humdrum things like teaching our kids to READ and WRITE and SHARE and BE KIND and KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF. Unbelievable!

And our preschool teachers? Well, they’ve been heroic since I met them seven years ago. It’s going to be really awkward when I keep showing up there next fall even though I won’t have any kids enrolled. Co-op, consider yourself warned.

I am really thankful that these educators spend each day with our kids and teach them an ungodly amount of stuff. Because Lord knows, I could not do that on my own. I’m serious, the Lord really knows that. That’s why whenever I read stories about impressive homeschoolers, I hear a little voice that says, “That could NEVER be you. Put the kids on the bus and let those wonderful professionals do their thing.”

Rummikub 
It’s fun. That’s all.

The Backyardigans
They may be retired, but HD is still obsessed and they bring him a lot of joy. Although, today he asked for “the Backyardigans’ Mom’s and Dad’s houses” for Christmas… I am not sure how Santa is going to pull that one off.

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Roasted Vegetables
I arrived late to the “if you roast vegetables to a crisp, they taste better and your children will eat them” party but believe me, I am here now! My friend Smitty calls it the “carcinogenic sauté” which I’ll admit, does not make me feel like Mother of the Year, but hey, they’re eating vegetables!

Humans of New York 
Restoring my faith in humanity one post at a time, Brandon Stanton is proving the point that “Everyone has a story that will stop your heart” (Claudia Shear). Plus, it’s the ONLY place on the Internet where it’s safe to read the comments.

Last and most definitely not least and not really so “little” …

The good health of my children (knocking so much wood)
Last week, my boys were sick. The Nibbit started dragging on Sunday morning and by Monday he was down for the count. It was a bacterial bronchial infection according to the Urgent Care doctor, which is code for “nothing you can do about it.”

So we just sat. Rather, I sat and he slept on me. His skin was so hot that I had to put a blanket under his face so it wouldn’t heat my blood to a boil. Basically, for two days, we were on the couch. He was so sick, he couldn’t even be nibbity. That was distressing. (and maybe a tiny bit nice.) 

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Tuesday night at midnight, I was giving him a routine dose of Tylenol when I heard a sound come from HD’s room that scared me like a stranger in the dark. I ran in there to find him coughing and desperately trying to get a deep breath and failing. Croup. Channeling my inner-Debra Winger, I took him into the steamy shower and we basically alternated hours in the shower with hours of this:

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And then the next day, we all looked like this:

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Of course, they got better and by the fourth day, they were JUST sick enough to justify sippy cups of juice on the couch.

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Thank God they recovered. I do, thank God. I don’t take their normal, noisy, active, crazy little selves for granted; I know how lucky we have been.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Make happy memories today and count your blessings.  

Here are four of mine.

Here are four of mine.

PS. I’m also grateful for coffee ice cream because it helped me stay awake to finally finish this post. Also, because it’s delicious.

 

 

 

Dear HD: An Almost-Four Letter

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Dear Happy Dude,

You know how once in a while, you just have a hard time saying goodbye to me during school drop-off? You’ll be fine for weeks at a time and then one day, you just suddenly wrap your arms around my leg and say, “No. You’re not leaving.”

And then, when I try to peel you off, your eyes start to water and I quickly remind you that you really, really love school? Eventually your fabulous teachers take over so that I can hightail it out of there and before you know it, you’re having fun and you forget that you really did not want me to leave. You know what I’m talking about, right?

Well, I have a secret for you…

Once in a while, this happens to Mommy, too.

Usually, it’s when we’re having a really good morning. You turn off the iPad and get dressed as soon as I ask. You don’t complain that your sleeves are too bumpy or that your shoelaces aren’t tucked in perfectly. We get out the door unfrazzled.

I drive you to school and we sing Backyardigans’ songs in the car. You say things like, “Remember that time I was brushing my teeth and the toothpaste hit the mirror when I spit? That was so cwazy!” and I say, “I sure do remember that” because it was only like an hour ago.

We walk hand-in-hand to the playground and you tell me things like, “Sometimes my friends are silly! And sometimes they’re just nice.” And when I answer, “You’re lucky to have so many nice friends,” you say, “I’m YOUR friend too, Mom.” And my heart. OY, my heart.

And then, on this kind of day, we enter the playground, you hug my legs and yell, “Bye Mom!” and run away.

“Wait!” I yell, “Come back and give me a kiss!”

You do and you look like this:

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And then even though you run away again, I don’t leave. I can’t. Not yet.

Yup, it happens to Moms, too. And today was one of those days.

I just found myself rooted to that playground mulch, watching you find your friends, wishing that I could just freeze time for a few tiny minutes and keep you in this place. This just-days-shy-of-four-years-old place.

Because HD, here it is… I really think you’re a perfect you.

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… EVEN THOUGH you were up three times last night complaining, “My mouth really hurts. My mouth still really hurts. Sleeping is not helping my mouth to stop hurting.” And then at 5:15 this morning, when I sleepily shuffled to the bathroom with you, you looked at me wide awake and said, “Do you know what yellow plus black makes? Because I don’t.”

… EVEN THOUGH you won’t eat anything that could even remotely be considered healthy except for applesauce from a pouch and MAYBE an apple slice on a good day (with NO SKIN). And if I do what the experts say and just put a vegetable on your plate, you will either scrape it off onto the table OR refuse to eat anything else until I remove it. Good times.

… EVEN THOUGH you’re still having too many accidents for my liking, including one that prompted me to post this on Facebook the other day:

“It is NEVER a good thing when an almost-four year old yells from the bathroom, “MOM!! Um, I got a little problem here!””

(Let’s just SAY I threw a pair of underwear, pants AND a plastic stool right into the garbage because I couldn’t cope with the mess.)

… EVEN THOUGH your addiction to The Backyardigans has almost surpassed that of your previous addiction to Cars and you walk around quoting Pablo, Tyrone and Austin all day which can get a TINY bit annoying.

Despite all of these things and the occasional whining and bedtime shenanigans, I STILL think you’re a perfect you.

I think that you striking a ninja pose whenever you see a camera is perfect.

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I think you being somewhat neutral on pumpkin-picking is perfect.

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I think you moving through life on your own terms, at your own pace is perfect.

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I think you’re VERY funny and goofy and clever and creative and usually quite calm and MOSTLY always happy. And all of that is perfect.

I think that after you turn four on Saturday, you’ll still be all of these things, but you just won’t feel like a baby anymore and my eyes will water for sure.

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Four = Big Kid. But it’s like I always tell you HD, you’ll always be my baby. And I’ll always think you’re a perfect you.

Love you the most… don’t even think about it.

xoxoxox
Mom

Poor, old, neglected blog

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[I’d like you to picture Ursula the Sea Witch singing the title of this post, please.]

I promise you the neglect of this blog in NO WAY reflects the way I parent my children. Well, maybe it does a little, but you say “neglect,” I say, “fostering independence.” Tomato, Tomahto.

Here’s what’s been happening since we last interacted:

The kids have become kind of boring.

I KNOW, I should NEVER say that out loud because next think I know, the school nurse will be calling me with all, “Lice! Strep! Broken bones! Behavioral problems!”

But that’s not to say our days are boring. They’re not. Ever. They’re still busy and loud and active and fun and sometimes not fun, but they’re never, ever boring.

But as far as “issues I shall ponder upon in my blog,” we just haven’t had many of those come up lately.

I could talk to you about the fact that my EIGHT year old now has a full mouth of braces and I’m not exactly sure how it happened. Especially since braces are not supposed to enter the picture until birds and bees and bras enters the picture and Lord knows, I’m not ready for ANY of that. But so it goes. Luckily, it hasn’t effected her amazing smile one single bit.

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We can talk about how the Nibbit is really in the Kindergarten groove now… he comes home reading new words EVERY. SINGLE. DAY and it blows my mind. I honestly think there’s a special place in heaven for all teachers, but ESPECIALLY Kindergarten teachers. Because THEY TEACH OUR CHILDREN TO READ.

Our kids walk in those doors sort of understanding what letters are and then they come home all, “Oh? Little Pea? I can read that NO PROBLEM.” AND THEN THEY DO. They read it and their little brothers look at them in awe like, “When in the hell did you learn to do that??” And they’re all, “I learned it in Kindergarten… you will, too… someday. But not that soon.” (I didn’t say he was any less fresh. Another reason teachers shall be rewarded in the afterlife.)

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I could then tell you all about how even my littlest baby is getting to be a real kid and not just some preschooler who walks around saying, “Blah blah!” OK, that would be a lie. He is definitely still a preschooler who walks around saying, “Blah blah!” and let me assure you that this does not get any less annoying the more you hear it.

The other day, I was encouraging HD to get his shoes on for school and he just kept saying, “Blah blah baby!” My sister, who was sitting in my kitchen, laughed and said, “Oh Happy Dude, you’re such a textbook right now.”

So he may be annoying, but at least he’s TEXTBOOK annoying. Which is the BEST KIND of annoying. Ask anyone.

(By the way, he also “requests” (those are air quotes which are intended to imply that “requests” really means “demands”) that I tuck the loops of his shoelaces into the top laces so they don’t “bounce and bother him.” WTF?? I’m fairly certain this is NOT textbook, but I’m hoping it’s one of those things that if I don’t give too much attention, it’ll go away.)

Aside from all the textbook annoyances and neurosis, he’s also learning stuff. LOOK:

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He’s sort of writing his name!

(I know I’ve never mentioned the kids’ real names on this blog, but most of you know them by now, PLUS this won’t really clue you in if you don’t know what you’re looking for. )

Ah, my baby’s all grown up! Next stop, college applications! Or, you know, working-in-a-fast-food-chain applications!

Oh well, at least he still looks like this:

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In addition to all the learning, we’re also busy with soccer and baseball and drama (both the “LO-is-taking-a-theater-class” variety, as well as the “Eyeroll, ‘seriously, mom?’” variety) and homework and worrying about the Ebola virus* and birthday parties and writing stories and playing with friends, etc. etc. etc. (*This one is really only something I’ve been busy doing.)

And of course, always on the evening agenda, Wrestle Baby.

The other night,

LO: C’mon guys, let’s go upstairs and play Wrestle Baby.
Nibbit: OH YEAH! I’m gonna win this Wrestle Baby!
LO: There’s no winning or losing Nib, there’s only kicking people’s butts and then celebrating.

Ah, the phone’s ringing…. “Lice! Strep! Broken bones! Behavioral problems!” GUARANTEED.

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PS. If you’re not following, “Who Needs A Nap?” on Facebook, you’re missing stuff like this:

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PPS. I also want to mention that I’ve got a couple other writing endeavors going on, which has contributed to the neglect of this blog. It’s like I have a couple shiny, new toys that are getting all my attention, while poor, old “Who Needs A Nap?” is like the old toy that’s been relegated to corner where her batteries will probably die. I promise to try to pull her out and keep the dust balls from forming, but hopefully that explains why there have been – and will probably continue to be – longer lapses between posts. JUST until I get my Pulitzer. Then I’ll totally be back full time. Deal? Deal.

9/11

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We have a weekly calendar that hangs at kid-eye-level so instead of asking me “What do we have today?” 183 times each morning, the kids can just check themselves. This affords me a few extra seconds which I, in turn, use to reheat the same cup of coffee over and over again.

Since school began, I’ve been asking the Nibbit to figure out the day’s date and then check the school lunch menu himself. (No, he can’t really read it yet, but he knows important things like “pizza has two z’s.”)

So today.

“Today is September 11th, Mom!”

….

I just paused for a second because it was so strange to hear that date come out my five-year-old’s mouth… obviously, without any weight.

On one hand, thank God their little heads aren’t aware of the depth of evil in this world. In their world “bad guys” are still the comic book villains of Batman and Lotso, the mean teddy bear in Toy Story 3.

Just the other day, we had this conversation:

Nibbit: Happy Dude, that guy is Dark Vader. He’s from a Star Wars movie. You didn’t see that movie yet.
Me: You haven’t seen that movie yet either, Nib. And his name is DARTH Vader.
Nibbit: No, it’s Dark Vader. I’m sure.
Me: Hmm. Well, I’m sure you’re wrong. But if you want to call him that, go ahead.
Nib: He’s DARK Vader because he’s a really bad guy. And because he wears a black coat and mask.
HD: Bad guys are just in the movies and books, right Mom?

<heart. breaking. a. tiny. bit.>

On the other hand, this date is important. Monumentally important.

I want them to know what happened, because it’s an important date in our history, and I want to be the one who tells them because I want them to hear about the HEROS. The firefighters and police officers who rushed INTO those burning buildings to save people. The everyday people who sacrificed their lives to help strangers. The heroic acts of bravery on Flight 93 that saved thousands of lives. The helpers.

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I want them to learn to look for the helpers.

So, when do we tell them? Certainly the boys are too young, but the Loud One is eight years old… is now the time?

There’s no way around it; the story of 9/11 will absolutely shatter the illusion that bad guys are only in movies and books. I want to get to them before some kid on the playground explains September 11th in a different way that I will.

Because someday, all-too-soon, my response to “Today is September 11th, Mom!” will be…

“You know honey, we should talk about this date. There are some heroes I want to tell you about.”

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This is my 9/11 story. It is not tragic or unique and I am eternally grateful for that.

You don’t have to read it – it’s long and it may be boring to you. Especially if you have a real story. But we all have our memories of that day… I’m just writing mine down as best as I can remember them so someday when my kids ask, “Where were you on 9/11?” I can just have them read this. 

I was living in Greenwich Village and working in Tribeca at the time but that morning, I had an appointment to bring my car in for an oil change and was heading into midtown to the car dealership. I had told my boss that I would be a little late to work that morning.

At 8:46am, instead of sitting at my desk on Worth Street (btw W. Broadway and Church… about 8 blocks from the World Trade Center towers), I was pulling into the Lexus dealership on 47th and Eleventh when I heard the news of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.

At that point, nobody really knew what happened. The reporter was speculating that it had been some kind of accident with a prop plane. I ran into the dealership and yelled, “Do you guys have a TV somewhere? There’s been a plane crash downtown.” The news was confusing; there were conflicting reports about what happened.

I decided to forget about the oil change and drive down to the office to see what was going on. I’m not sure why I thought heading downtown would be a good idea, but luckily, I was able to connect with my boss right away (later it would become very difficult to make a phone call), who told me to stay put.

I said, “Hey Bob, what’s going on down there… I’m heading down now…” and he interrupted me by yelling, “Kris! Carolyn saw the plane hit!! She said it was NOT a small plane, but a huge passenger jet! We can’t see anything out the windows, people are going crazy, they’ve put us on lockdown, DO NOT COME DOWN HERE!! Go home and I will call you as soon as I can!!”

As soon as I hung up, I heard the news on the car radio that a second plane had flown into the second tower. I was still pulled over trying to figure out what to do when my cell phone rang … it was my Mom and she was FREAKING OUT.

“Kris! Oh my God, are you OK? Are you at the office? What’s going on?”

I told her I was fine, sitting in my car in midtown.

She said, “PLEASE COME HOME! KRIS, PLEASE COME HOME!!!!”

Home was her house, in Montville, NJ, of course. I decided that I would do that… we still didn’t really know what was going on, but I figured, “Well, I probably won’t go to work today (ha!), so I may as well go see Mom.” I drove south to head to the Lincoln Tunnel and the traffic was already backed up like crazy… people were fleeing the city. I slowly inched forward and was about three cars away from the entrance when they shut it down. All bridges and tunnels into and out of Manhattan were CLOSED.

My Mom, who had refused to hang up the phone with me in fear of not being able to connect again (she was smart like that!), was not happy. I assured her that I was going to drive STRAIGHT to my apartment and stay there until further notice. I finally convinced her to hang up with me (and she was right, it took hours to reconnect).

So, I was driving south on Fifth Avenue to my apartment on Mercer Ave. and it’s that view that I’ll never forget.

It was like a scene from a movie: the towers straight ahead, on fire and the thickest, black smoke superimposed on the clearest, brightest blue sky. In some ways, I wish I had taken a picture; in other ways, I’m glad I didn’t.

When I lived in Colorado, my roommates and I used to joke that there was a “Scenery Guy” who would pull down the shade every morning with the image of the beautiful Flatirons printed on it – it was just that they were almost too beautiful to be true.

I kept thinking that in the car that morning – c’mon Scenery Guy, just pull up the shade… don’t let this be horror be real.

As I drove down Fifth Ave., I remember feeling comforted by the fact that the few cars on the road (aside from the many emergency vehicles) were still obeying traffic laws… stopping at red lights, using turn signals, etc. I kept thinking, “It can’t be THAT bad or everyone would be going crazy like in the movies.” I was wrong.

Every time I stopped at a red light, people would swarm my car to hear the news on the radio. “What are they saying now? What’s happening down there? Where should we go? How many people are dead? Are the rest of us safe?” Nobody knew anything.

Then we all heard the news of Flight 93 crashing in Pennsylvania and Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon. What would be next?

I eventually made it home to my apartment and like almost everyone else in the world, proceeded to watch the news for the next umpteen hours. It was very surreal to see the terrifying images of the towers falling and know that it was really happening only 25 blocks away. I kept looking out my window, but all I could see was that same clear, blue sky and dark, black smoke.

At this point, I couldn’t reach anyone by phone. My Dad and Paula lived in the city but they were traveling in Italy at the time. Some of my other family members were in the city but there was no way to connect with everyone. Phone lines were overloaded.

In a fortuitous plot twist, the very first phone call I received at home was actually from KJ, who was in Alabama at the time. We were just friends back then, but he knew my office was downtown and was worried. I assured him I was fine, although he claims I didn’t sound fine, and we hung up.

The hours went by. My friend Smitty came over and we watched in disbelief together. At some point, we tried to leave the apartment, but we only made it to the front of the building before deciding it didn’t feel right. We went back upstairs, back to the news.

At some point that night, they reopened the bridges and tunnels and my Mom called to tell me that my uncle and his son-in-law were stranded in the city and were desperately trying to get home to their families. Finally, there was something I could do.

I picked them up and we drove home to NJ together. Crossing the GW Bridge was eerie and terrifying. There were NO cars on the road. I kept imagining the two different scenes… people all huddled together in their homes, either thanking God for their safety or praying for the safe return of their missing loved ones.

I stayed with my Mom for one or two days and then decided to go back to the city. (As you can imagine she was NOT happy about this.)

At that point, the overwhelming emotion was just a desire to help. EVERYONE just wanted to do something. The expressions of compassion and support were everywhere, as ubiquitous as the “Missing” flyers that were being stapled all over downtown Manhattan.

My brother, Neil and I walked downtown to volunteer and were told they already had too many people.

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Too many helpers!IMG_0082

My office was closed for many weeks so the company’s owners set up a makeshift work station at their apartment. When our office building finally reopened, I had to walk through two security checkpoints to get there – one at Houston and one at Canal Street. Soldiers with machine guns would check my ID and then let me pass.

I was extremely lucky to have not been in the office that day. While everyone in our building was safe, the horrors they witnessed were painful and haunting.

Nothing was normal for a long time. People were kinder, and also nervous. The air didn’t smell or feel right for a long time. We went to candlelight vigils in Union Square and Washington Square Park. And the flyers were everywhere. The personal stories of loss started coming out. The New York Times started printed what was later called, “Portraits of Grief.” Everyone talked about who they knew. For a while, it felt like everyone was tip-toeing around the city, out of respect.

But time went on. After a while, it felt OK to talk about something else. To smile and laugh without feeling guilty. To feel hopeful.

I’ll never forget the World Series that October where the energy was insane and the wanting was palpable. I still hate the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Similarly, at the U2 concert at Madison Square Garden that October, we all just cried as they played One and flashed the names of people who died just weeks earlier. But there was also a sense of resiliency and strength. And when the firefighters took the stage? Ugly cry.

Eventually, New Yorkers got their footing back, stopped tip-toeing and started stomping again. As it should be.

These are my memories of September 11th, 2001. #neverforget

Let’s Catch Up.

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Last post was August 13th?? Holy slackerhood, that OBX road trip feels like a million days ago. A LOT has happened since then!

And also, nothing has really happened since then.

(Know what I mean? That’s life with kids, amiright? Something seems like a BIG DEAL, but then it passes and it really wasn’t such a big deal. Except the no-sleeping thing… that’s always a big deal.)

We went to Hershey Park with my brother’s and sister’s families a few weeks ago. We spent most of the four days arguing over which adults would accompany the kids on the rides and eating chocolate. A LOT of chocolate. We all felt queasy a lot of the time. Some of us from the rides; some of us from the chocolate.

This guy was totally stalking us the whole time.

This guy was totally stalking us the whole time.

We made our own chocolate bars, hence the hairnets. Someday, LO will discuss this in therapy.

We made our own chocolate bars, hence the hairnets. Someday, LO will discuss this in therapy.

The Loud One suffered a big disappointment during the trip when two of her prized stuffed animals, Penguino and owl guy, went missing after the first night. We searched the entire cottage where we were staying top-to-bottom; we called the restaurants; we checked the lost-and-found… nothing. 

She was very sad during the car ride home and kept saying weird things like, “Goodbye Penguino and owl guy! I’ll never forget you! Don’t eat too much chocolate!”

BUT THEN. A few days ago, KJ was at work when all of a sudden, he got this text:

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OK, I added the text to the picture, but wouldn’t that have been AWESOME?!?

Turns out, Penguino and owl guy were discovered in the laundry by the housekeeping staff at the hotel. They must have been swept up when they were changing the sheets, so they enjoyed a wild ride through a commercial-size washer and dryer.

The hotel people were kind enough to send them back to her in an unmarked brown cardboard box so now, she firmly believes that Penguino and owl guy are MAGIC because they were able to find their way back to her. I told her there’s no such thing as magic, just really, really good customer service.

Speaking of customer service, I feel compelled to share that in addition to the return of Penguino and owl guy, there was also an incident that involved the hotel security officer sending a bellhop to the Turkey Hill minimart at 2:00am one night to retrieve allergy medication for me. So I just REALLY want to publically commend Hotel Hershey. I’m going to write them a letter, but I just thought if any of you 16 readers are debating a stay there, DO IT. Because if you lose a stuffed animal or your throat closes up in the middle of the night, THEY’VE GOT YOUR BACK.

ANYHOO.

Right after that trip, we spent two days celebrating the Loud One’s 8th birthday. Her real birthday involved receiving rental chickens as a present and eating a lot of sugar.

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That’s right, I DID say RENTAL CHICKENS! Grammy and Pop strike again! They wheeled that chicken coop right into our backyard and we’ve been eating fried eggs for breakfast ever since. Before you get all, “But kmac! You couldn’t even handle those guinea pigs!” I should point out a few things:

  • Petunia, Maple and Clover are NOT rodents.
  • They live outside and not in my kitchen.
  • They’re fairly low-maintenance.
  • They’re not staying forever.
  • They provide breakfast, which is more than I can say for anybody that actually lives with me.
  • The chicken jokes are endless…

Loud One: “What are we having for dinner?
Me: Petunia.

Hahahahahahahaha!

Which part is the "nuggets?"

Which part is the “nuggets?”

Her birthday party was the next day and that involved a short, nature-studying hike and some critter encounters. And then sugar. Her best day ever. 

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No, you may not take that home.

No, you may not take that home.

"Do you have any cars in this nature?"

“Do you have any cars in this nature?”

BOOM. I HAVE AN 8-YEAR OLD.

BOOM. I HAVE AN 8-YEAR OLD.

Then we started school.

KINDERGARTEN!

KINDERGARTEN!

The Nibbit walked right onto that bus with aplomb (I don’t really know if I’m using that word correctly but I’m not going to check) and dove right into Kindergarten Life. You know, taking the K-class by storm. Livin’ the K dream. (Fine, I’ll stop.) 

A-FREAKIN-PLOMB

A-FREAKIN-PLOMB

I asked him conversation-starting questions all week like “What was the funniest thing your teacher said today?” and “Tell me the names of three kids you think you might be friends with…” I got disheartening answers like, “I can’t remember anything the teacher said at all,” and “I’m going to be friends with everybody but I can’t ever remember anybody’s name.”

In short, he may not actually learn anything this year and he may not have ANY friends.

So, there’s that.

Now we’re closing down Labor Day weekend – and thank goodness they had this well-deserved break after those intense FIVE days of school – and I think that makes us all caught up.

How are you? How did you spend the rest of your August? Did you lose any stuffed animals?

I missed you.

OBX Road Trip 2014

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We spent last week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and as promised, I kept a “live record” of the 12+ hour drive down there, starting with our 4:00 am wake-up. It actually wasn’t that bad but I honestly don’t know how the Pioneer People took road trips… you know, without the DVD player in the minivan. “They probably just used their iPads,” you might say, but my kids can’t do that because they’ve inherited my weak stomach, and are prone to getting car sick if they look anywhere but STRAIGHT AHEAD.

Here’s how the whole day went down. And by “went down,” I mean, “went downhill with every hour we spent in the car.”

3:45 AM I repeat, AM! We’re shooting for a 4am departure but this shit ain’t right. I hit snooze. Twice.

3:55 – I’m up. Meaning, I’m standing up and walking somewhere, but I’m pretty sure my eyes are closed and I’m still dreaming. About sleeping.

4:05 – We wake the kids up. This right here is the highlight of their whole trip, until we did it again on the day we drove home. It doesn’t happen often, so they LOVE when WE have to wake THEM. They immediately pop out of bed and start talking. I’m barely awake myself so I have no idea what they’re actually saying… something about excitement and darkness and breakfast… I just nod and tell them to get in the car, there’s no food at this hour.

4:17 – We leave. Kids are still talking. I’m still barely awake.

4:21 – I realize that we’ve forgotten pillows so we turn around.

4:26 – On the road again. Only 26 minutes later than planned, which is sort of amazing considering the ungodly hour, amiright?

4:41 – First Happy Dude-ism* of the trip: “Sometimes one of the suns looks like a shark.” (It’s still pitch dark.)

*Happy Dude-ism = when HD just randomly blurts out a sentence that may or may not make sense but is relevant to absolutely nothing.

At this point, we encourage the kids to try to fall back asleep but their wide eyes and loud voices tell us it’s not gonna happen. So I do what any tired passenger would do in my position… put on my noise-canceling headphones and let KJ deal with them. #boseisboss

5:02 – HD-ism: “Did you bring ALL of my every toys in this car?” All of my every what now?

5:33 – The Nibbit announces, “My belly hurts.” One hour into the effing trip. With my best early morning sympathetic voice, I tell him to Look. Straight. Ahead. Yes, for the next 11 hours.

5:51 – HD-ism: “Mom, I saw you somewhere!”

I’ll admit, at this point, I’m getting a bit concerned about the frequency of these random mutterings. Is something wrong with his brain?

6:05 – First stop! We’re a little worried that the Nibbit is going to throw up. It’s pouring rain, so KJ takes just the boys into the rest stop and within two minutes, I get a text: “Pls turn car off and come in… gonna need help.” I start envisioning vomit all over the floor of this nice rest stop and sprint with the Loud One to the door, where we see the Nib and HD standing there… smiling. KJ is NOT smiling. He says, “HD won’t pee without you.”

We pee. No one vomits. And we sprint – in the rain – back to the car.

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6:32 – We’re back on the road, driving 65 mph on a highway and the Nibbit says, “I saw a lizard on that rock.”

Oh no, it’s contagious.

7:00 – Movie #1: Jungle Book. Isn’t it kind of amazing that we made it all the way until 7:00 am before putting a movie on?

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7:58 – Ding, ding, ding!! We hear the very first “Are we almost there?” from the Nibbit. It’s 4½ hours into a 12-hour car drive, so only the truth will do. “Nope. Not even close.”

8:02 – Disturbing conversation with the Nib, goes like this:

Him: Mom did the other night count?
Me: For what, bud?
Him: For the thing… for the trip… how many drives do we need to be?
Me: I’m sorry, what?
Him: Nevermind, I’m trying to watch the movie.

8:30 – Sing-Along Time! We make it through a variety of Katy Perry songs before we’re bored with that game. I suggest the Quiet Game instead. The kids all lose. Every time, they lose. Which means WE ALL LOSE.

9:15 – Second stop! Gas and bagels. HD fell asleep about 18 mins prior (of course) so we have to wake him up. He’s a bit discombobulated and he can’t find his shoe. He starts freaking out a bit and then says, “Oh here it is! It was on my foot!

Note: Five minutes into this stop, I have a bit of a meltdown when HD wants to touch everything in the bathroom. The VERY PUBLIC, VERY REST STOP-ISH bathroom. Nibbit is being generally Nibitty which sends me right over the edge. There’s some yelling, but I pull it together and we walk out of the rest stop with some of our dignity intact. And toilet paper attached to a Croc.

9:35 – Back in the car for Movie #2 … it’s Scooby Doo time!

11:00 – Zoinks. Everyone starts to lose it. Especially HD. All of a sudden, he is all, “I am DONE with this driving! I want to go home now! This car is the worst car ever!” We pull over into a random parking lot and let him yell and whine and complain while he stretches his legs. That seems to help.

11:05 – We get back in the car and I announce that it’s naptime. In one of the few, true miracles of OBX Road Trip 2014 (I mean, the Nibbit did spot a lizard on a rock going 65 mph), they actually listen to me and they all fall asleep.

BLISS.

Bliss.

blissblissblissblissbliss.

12:41 – HD wakes up screaming, “I want a smoothie at the place!”

1:30 – LUNCH BREAK! We eat at a no-brand sports bar with sticky tables and a LOT of flies. And fries. The flies and fries are both plentiful. As we’re walking out the door, HD yells, “OK, let’s roll and rock!”

Between the final hours of 2:00 and 4:30pm, we drive the remaining 30 miles. That’s right… it took us two-and-a-half-hours to go about 30 miles.

The new Outer Banks tourism slogan should be: “OBX: One lane in, one lane out!”

Various movies are watched and video games are played and audio books are listened to and variations on “Are we there yet?” are asked with increasing frequency:

  • Are we there yet?
  • Are we almost there?
  • Are we even close?
  • Is the house close to where our car is right now?
  • Can we get out of this goddamn car soon, PLEASE? (That last one was mine.)

Until finally, we can answer, YES. WE ARE ALMOST THERE. PRAISE JESUS HALLELUJAH.

The funny part is, 12+ hours later and they look mostly exactly the same as they did when we left.

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We finally arrive to a houseful of KJ’s family who greet us with excitement and more importantly, cold beers. And then, we had a GREAT trip. And then, what seemed like two minutes later, it was time to go home.

Rinse. Repeat. Reread the above.

Highlights…

Beach time with family…

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A little consolation from Daddy where sand goes where no sand has gone before.

A little consolation from Daddy when sand goes where no sand has gone before.

Hunting for Ghost Crabs at night… and trapping them. Mwah ha ha!

Hunting for Ghost Crabs at night… and trapping them. Mwah ha ha!

Have Cars cards, will travel

Have Cars cards, will travel

Daily ice cream fix… sometimes in cone form, sometimes in shake form… decisions, decisions.

Daily ice cream fix… sometimes in cone form, sometimes in shake form… decisions, decisions.

Amazing sunsets...

Amazing sunsets…

… and one final sunrise on the drive home.

… and one final sunrise on the drive home.