Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Only how many weekends left?

  It has always felt this way - after my birthday the summer is on a bullet train to the end of the line.  Now for a summer baby like me this is not a welcome thought.  I do like Fall, the clothes are super cute and the whole changing of the leaves while colder but not nasty freezing out is pleasant, with all it's warm during the day moments and cooler nights. However, you cannot beat summer for me.

So as usual right after my birthday I look at the calendar and get crestfallen about the few weekends left.  In those few weekends we will cram as many things as possible of course, just because that is how we tend to do it in this house.  The beach - oh the beautiful beach.  I love the beach - I dream of a house on the beach and do not burst my fantasy with the reality of cost and upkeep please - the waves crashing, the smell oh that smell of salt water made me smile just thinking of it.  I like the clear blues of other seas but there is nothing with the power of the waves, powerful and tall, crashing with the white foam at the end like I see as many weekends as possible with the Atlantic.  I have taught the boys a healthy respect for the water - they often repeat my words "bravery is not doing something dangerous but knowing when something is too dangerous and getting away from it".  They have been walloped and scarred by a knock down and that is as it should be.  It is amazing but it is to be treated with a healthy, respect for it's power.

Now the countdown begins .. who can still visit us at the beach and enjoy the time with us, who do we still want to visit.  Do we give up a weekend for another location ?  It is all good because it is all fun.  We were fortunate enough to buy a weekend place a few miles from the beach, in a town that was "up and coming back" aka relator speak for "good luck and hope it does but it's cheap for now".  The town has revitalized and become this adorable artist haven, with old structures kept intact and renovated, restaurants and all walking distance.  There is something very New England about the lack of ostentatious people, places since we are on the RI border.  The town next to us has some incredible homes and a gorgeous hotel called Ocean House that is a Victorian on the beach reminiscent of a time when men donned hats just to tip them at the ladies.   All of this and yet there is a feeling of comfort, ice cream parlors and walks on the sand without having to dress up, push for a reservation or be someone other than yourself to get a table.

I do look forward to school supply shopping, there is something I so like about that since I was a kid and my boys well they are happy to let me do it all because outside of a backpack they do not seem as spellbound by the smell and cracking sound of a new marble notebook.

Ahh summer we hold you in our memories and our hearts with music, pictures and an overall sense of languid enjoyment throughout the year in this house.

It turned colder; that's where it ends
So I told her we'd still be friends
Then we made our true love vow
Wonder what she's doin' now......................Summer Nights Grease

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I am not Trayvon Martin's Mom

So I will not tell people I know how she feels, what she thinks or what her next statement may sound like.  I am not a young man of African-American descent nor am I George Zimmerman.  I do not own a firearm and I try to admit to and deal with any prejudices I may have.  I do not trust anyone who says they have no prejudices because we all have them just in different amounts about something.  For me I know they center in my issues with religions and exclusivity of organizations that stem from that doctrine with your deity of choice.  I am no better than the hateful things they say if I start to hate them. 

I have children who are a product of multiple ethnicity, some of which in years past did not tolerate each other to the point that they killed one another just because they could. They are amazing for the mix they have and for the people they are in their own right.  I am sad for her because as a human being regardless if her child was a good kid, a bad kid, or somewhere in between he was her son first.  A son who listened, a son who sometimes did things she may have told him not to, a son who thought she knew it all, a son who as a teenager may have thought she knew nothing.  Those things we do have in common and I grieve for her loss because no pain could be greater than that of losing a child.  I think of George Zimmerman's mother - because she too must feel a loss, one that happened before that night, one that I would not want to live with.  Regardless of the why, her son took a life. I am a person just like these mothers and this tragedy has left us all battered in different ways.  I struggle every day as a mother to teach my kids how to make good choices.  

So here I am - not anyone's mother except for my sons'.  I do not know quite how to explain this to them but explain it I must.  I have a responsibility to them to have them understand that you judge people by their actions and not whatever else we see first but know nothing more about from that first glance.  Our children are the future and no matter how hard this case has been we are strides ahead of the past and they and their generation need to be that much further. 

It is easy to say the words to them - you know the politically correct words - but more important to live them. The world needs our children to not be afraid of one another because we are all much better than that and those few, those who wish us ill exist everywhere and we should make them afraid of the strength that we have when we see each other for the things we have in common and the beauty of what makes us different.  
I am struggling because my words will not help Travyon's mother, nor will it take George Zimmerman back to a place where he did not purchase a gun and stayed put when the police told him to.  None of us can change that and that is frustrating and sad.  

We have changed as a country and we need to continue to change as a country, as a world.  There is so much death and anger in the world and we so could use the time instead to just live.  We all want our children to live, to have what they need, to be happy - more than anything those of us who love our children want them to be happy and enjoy the world.  In the end that is all this is about.  We all have the right to walk, talk, laugh, love, dance, shout, disagree and live with one another. Those who incite people otherwise are just afraid that if we stopped and did just that well maybe we would notice that they are the ones we should fear, dismiss, they would lose their power. 

We need an honest discourse on how poverty, education, women's rights all add up to the situation where we hate those not only who have more than us but those who have as little or less.  Trayvon deserved to live simply because he was Mrs. Martin's son, a son I can only imagine she hoped would have just that bit more than she had, a son who did not have to be president to be important but a co-worker who was respected, or maybe the president it does not matter he deserved the chance. 

So here we are, a nation in many ways scarred by this, scared by this and bit stuck on how to say what do we do to move forward?  As a mother I believe I owe it to the two mothers in this case to raise my children to treat people exactly as they want to be treated, to know when to walk away and to know when to stand up for what is right without using more than their voices.  Violence has no color but we all bleed the same red from it.  

May we all hug our children a little extra tonight, shower them with the love and experience we owe them to go forward toward a world where they all have the same opportunities and a world that allows them all to take those.  Racism has a place in our history books let's not continue to have it have a place in our current events. 

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation....Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

This side of 50... did I just write 50?!

A friend of mine wrote a blog about being on the other side of 40, she is 42, and it was quite witty. She talked about being more comfortable with certain aspects of herself as she passed that Oh my crap I am 40 or over stuff.  I also was a little surprised because she is gorgeous, runs the universe and has time to be a great Mom and fun friend still... and yet I guess even the "best" among us doesn't always know they are terrific.

I have not been one to really have issues with my age.  I mean really if you know me for a long time and are a friend then telling you I am younger than I am seems either like dementia on my part or my thinking you have it.  If we graduated from high school together ...ehem baby Einstein you were not so we are roughly the same age give or take a few months.  My mother also once told me that if you are going to lie about your age add 2 -3 years so people can ooh and ahh at how well you look... otherwise looks like life may not have been kind if you deduct too much and people think "umm does she know about Botox?".  Speaking of which I do not judge or fault you for plastic surgery, Botox or other "fillers", tucks, nips, etc... but a part of me thinks 1) hey I can no longer tell your emotions and I love the emotions that pass through a face and now you seem a bit frozen 2) elective surgery is an oxymoron - I would yeah elect never to need or have surgery 3) some people over do it ...your lips are not a life raft and should not be featured in that movie that they show on planes about emergency evacuations 4) in the end who are we fooling??? Having said all that if that is the choice someone makes and it makes them happy (hard to tell since expression doesn't change) well then that is up to them. 

In my teens I worried -- and fretted - and counted.  I worried if I looked ok, when I did not look ok, if I was too fat, too thin, too big chested, not showing them off enough.  I worried if people liked me and worried why they did not.  I fretted over things that in retrospect seem trivial and at the time seemed incredibly important (I mean really if he looked at me when I walked by - in reality it meant nothing - at the time it meant hours of discussion back and forth with my girlfriends).  I counted the hours until I was older - until I did not need permission to do things - I willed the speeding up of the hours until I could walk by again or see that boy again or just do nothing again.  

In my twenties I worried about how to cram as much possible fun into every moment.  I fretted how to pay for first apartments, gas for my car, cigarettes or food (often cigarettes won) and where the next fun thing was going to be.  I counted the days until the nights arrived, the weeks until vacations arrived, the songs and tears between the boys.  I loved deeper but not deeply - I met someone who made my heart (or maybe it was another body part) take over my thinking - I lost that someone because he was a bit lost to begin with.  

In my thirties I wondered if I would get married, if I wanted children, about world events more deeply.  I focused more on career and changed the definition of fun.  I chose to give up cigarettes.  I fell in love in a way that I never understood until that moment - I am grateful for that love - it has become a part of who I became even though he did not get to take the trip with me.  I had children - I moved to suburbs - I hated the suburbs - and then I let the place I lived not be the stereotype in my head but the great town it actually is where I found happiness.  I said "I do" and now found myself worrying, fretting and counting about the kids - constant worrying, fretting about how I am parenting and the world they are getting, counting and trying to slow the hours so that the kids just don't shoot past me. 

In my forties I stopped hating everything about my body - and just wound up disliking parts of it.  I still have that insecurity but it does not define my hours.  I count less calories and add up more laughter.  There is a peace about understanding that the people I count as close friends like me and are here for me as I am for them and that we share a love and bond that is not the fragile one of teenage years or even twenties.  The people who I choose to keep in touch with enhance my life and do not add to my fretting.  I am ok being the funny, smart one and not sad that I am not going to be the stunning one (I let a few of my female friends do that and bask in it by their side)- I do not need to do it all (well ok I do need to do most of it and some days all because I am also a New York child and that doesn't stop at 40).  I guess I just don't beat myself up about not doing it all.

As I approach 50 --- there it goes again did I write 50?!! - I think of the things I have not done and see that there is still time for some of them while understanding that those I did not get to, well maybe they were not meant to be.  I smile at the memories of a few times I should have let my heart go instead of telling myself that it would have been rejected.  There is also the fact that I no longer worry about the bedroom.. you know in your early years you have that dialogue constantly in your head "what does he think?".."how long before I can let him do xx"..."oh my I did xx and will he call?"....Victoria the Secret is your stuff is not that comfy...see at 40+ I no longer believe the myths about women and sex  - instead I embrace busting them.

As I approach 50 I look forward to getting toward a place where my children need me for my brain rather than only for my laundry and basic need skills.  So I will never be a size 0, even when I die and decompose, as long as I am healthy and not a size 50 (cause that is not some place I would be happy) then I will not beat myself up.  There is a lot of wine still to be drunk, places to see and laughter to create memories with those I care about with.  I am this side of 40 this side that is closer to 50 and I think I will start planning that party that says "oh yeah I made it and I still have a way to go before I am done".  That bucket list has changed and so have I - cannot wait to see what the other side of 50 brings.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

London and Paris - Adventures in travelling with kids

  I have boys that have really never asked to go to Disney, as someone who has been there both as a child and as adult (for business trips...back in the day when they did those week long ventures) I am impressed with the quality, cleanliness and efficiency as well as the wonder of it all.  Yet my boys seem mildly interested only - can't say same for many of my friends.  Their kids, especially their girl children (I see a princess theme here), have asked for and gotten Disney.  This year for the first time ever they mentioned that during spring break they may be interested in going (though most of the rides they mentioned are at Universal..I see a superhero theme here).  I looked it up and imagine my shock...morph into dismay...morph into Queens tinged WTF language directed at my computer when I priced it out.  How do people afford these vacations?  At 5 days in Florida to pay around the multiple thousand $$ price with airfare to stay on premise .. well that seemed CRAZY!!!!! Anyway since one of the oft asked for rides was about Harry Potter - I decided on a lark to see what the package deals for London were ... I mean really you might as well go to the source rather than a copy no?? Imagine my surprise when it was less -- a lot less.

This all lead to my discussion with a good friend who mentioned that she and her husband were taking their daughters (same ages - younger ones were in same class even - as my boys) to London and Paris.  We talked about it ... we planned it ... and we bought it.  People had mixed reactions when we told them.. really can you travel with another family ? (I am sure we had some ?s of that kind of our own - well I did- but then I thought of the family we were going with and our temperaments and thought -- yeah no prob).  It took forever to get to the date - the date came in flash.  So there we were 8 people on the plane, seating arranged together, pre-planned tours and some trepidation.  I have kids whose palates are odd (like pesto don't like steak), who are used to getting the US "yes we can put the sauce on the side" response.  I have kids who don't walk that much ...and here we were heading toward walking cities.  The large spaces in the US are non-existent in most places in Europe ... it is smaller even for restaurants so how was this going to work????

Deep breath - 4 kids flew like they had been doing it all their lives.  We arrived in London - parted ways - decided on text updates and planned to meet later.  We had the loveliest hotel, all charm on the outside, clean, a bit of a maze of hallways - room.. oh yeah not ready since we arrived early.  So we did what any rock star would do (to say anything less would be unlike me) .. we crashed for a bit in the side lobby.  Rejuvenated I walked while they slept for a bit and loved our area.  Few blocks each way to restaurants, public transport, museums and those famous double decker buses.  Came back to a family checked in .. nice room.. what's up with 1/2 glass partitions (improvement from my first forays into Europe where it was water, water everywhere when you showered) in Europe - shower curtain shop would make millions!!!! Smaller than US standards but plenty for us. We texted our friends (preferred method if I could suggest one) met up -- and let's just say for the next 10 days seemed to only part to sleep at our different hotel accommodations.

We were the walking Big Love family.  We became Underground experts - adapted Britishisms (Mind the Gap)... broke all the stereotypes and ate well always in London.  The kids found a way to eat pasta with butter in London, and pizza, and the occasional chicken and chips.  The kids were flexible - the Brits accommodating - the parents thrilled.  We saw all the major sights and they even remembered facts from there.  Most of all they were having a great time. We took them to see "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" - theater in London, they got to meet the main actor (accidentally after the show) and wound up on a documentary about theater.... first leg of the trip - splendid and brilliant. Take a trip on Thames, you will see and learn a lot and be able to hop on and off.  Loved the London Eye. 

On to Paris - more walking as their metro system no where near as good as the Tube.  Lots of walking.. so much walking that they were beginning to plot against us in French I think.  I bumbled in French - the Parisians replied in English.  They loved the city as much as we did.  The kids had no anxiety about being in a place that was so different from theirs -- or maybe because they live in a diverse area it doesn't phase them to be in a place that people speak many languages, look different.  They went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and through the bottom of the Louvre.  They went to a carnival in Paris in the beautiful Jardin Tuilliers -- they made comments about having to pay for the use of a public toilet "they make you freakin pay to pee here" according to my 6 year old. The Parisians were great and helpful - still thinking of the nice man who used his metrocard to let our family get on at a station that had no way to buy tickets.  The food in Paris - everywhere - was amazing.  The bread, the food, did I mention the food... ohhh so good and the wine - inexpensive doesn't mean anything there - that too was really excellent.  The Seine with it's little cafes on the side, the Seine river tour... can go on and on because with all that we did and saw there is so much more we could have added. 

Through it all we were thrilled to be with our friends - we had jokes that made us laugh just thinking about them - we had a few mishaps that we learned to work around together - we had each other and so did the kids.  We learned that you should get an international plan at home, worth the $$, cause the wi-fi all over these major cities is not good (myth buster here for all of us who hear how great it is in Europe - nope less than NY in any case).  We spent a lot of time together and yet at the end of 10 days there were murmurs of how to extend.. how to make the vacation last ... where we were going to next year.

A few tips for travelling abroad with kids ... book ahead, get guided tours when you can (the scavenger hunt at the Louvre is by far a highlight for all the kids and they saw enough to understand the treasure that place is), book ahead and relax.  You will eat late - you may get some stares for being American (you are different after all than the natives - any other stares are in my opinion based on what I would say here - racist ignorance - do not judge or be judged by your ethnicity) - you will have to be flexible and you will need good walking shoes and a just a bit further attitude. You will need to play in parks (by the way mothers in both cities were exactly like the mothers I know here -- watching their kids, yelling when danger, hovering - thought as much - thought that the motherhood tribe had more in common than not so there annoying writers who say different).  You will need to know when to stop and get a glass of wine, beer, water, and let the kids run around.  They work on a much more "relaxed - read slow" pace than us New Yorkers are used to - so what you are on vacation not running back to any place.  You will need to curb that soda habit -- at $8 and up a glass you may want to try wine or water (both are cheaper).  Change some money before you leave and be prepared with a few different types of cards - they don't take Discover, sometimes they take Amex and sometimes they don't.  You will need to remember that tip is included but a little bit extra appreciated.   Make a bit of an effort with the language of the place you are in- they will more than make an effort too if you just try.  After all I get annoyed when someone assumes I speak something other than English when I am in the States.

This trip was amazing in every way -- and to me well worth it if you can do it.  It was not Disney and that may have to come, they have not asked since that spring break, but it was an exposure to the wonders of travel.  They will remember bits and pieces but mostly they will remember that they enjoyed the time if you learn to relax and enjoy it with them.  It is easy to forget the world has so much to offer and if we could all share our cultures rather than watch them on CNN we may remember that our histories and love of life cross all borders.  I am grateful for being able to do this with my kids but even going to another state or driving like I did as a kid, because money was tight, to Florida in the summer (hot, at times brutally so) still pulled me into the lifestyles of others and to the incredibly terrific idea of vacations. 

Now on to looking at what other country our Big Love family of 8 can take on next year... Au Revoir - Cheers - See ya !!!

Recommendations -
London - Get all day pass for adults (Underground) well worth it you will use it , kids ride free; Radisson Blu Edwardian (great location, easy access on foot/bus/underground), Thames River Cruise, London Eye, Tower of London (guided tour - kids go up front and the guides are so good at getting their interest)
Paris  - DO not get all day pass for Metro (get tickets for each ride - not great you will walk more than use), Seine cruise, Paris Novotel Les Halles (great access to Metro, Louvre, Seine, Notre Dame, busy area) Paris Muse (great tours for kids and/or adults for Louvre), Musee D'Orsay, Rodin Gardens, Luxembourg Gardens (bring or buy there a bottle of wine, let kids play, bring small change for bathrooms as they are paid), Notre Dame, walk as much as you can .. you will find that is a treasure in itself.