Thursday, November 6, 2014

Chillin' In The Nation's Capitol

With the New Jersey schools off for a 5 day weekend, we planned to go to Washington DC. Then we canceled it. Then, at just about the last minute, the trip was on again. And we found ourselves somewhat spontaneously in the nation's capital.

All New Jersey schools are off every year on my birthday weekend which is nice because we can plan a fun little weekend trip. This year, we piggybacked a few days in DC with one of Dr. Fabulous's conferences.

On Tuesday, we headed into DC, and on the way we stopped and visited a little place across the Potomac. About 4 years ago we took Pink and Tink here when we stayed at the Gaylord Resort on the Potomac. They still remember riding the glass elevators and walking through the indoor courtyards.

They remembered the waterfront and the statue of the sleeping man awakening in the sand.

Rella was too little to come with us the first time, so she was very excited to see where her sisters romped years ago. She had heard all about it!

They were especially excited to see that the Peeps store was still there. Some people love peeps, some people hate 'em. We are in the "love" camp. 

Peep heaven.

After settling in our hotel downtown, we ended up dining at the hotel since Tink wasn't feeling well. Unfortunately, she has had a low grade fever since Sunday. Though she wasn't getting worse, she wasn't getting better either. By the time her Advil wore off around dinner time, she was down for the count and we were in for the rest of the night. 

Rella was also starting to look a bit piqued as the day went on, though that kid REFUSES to ever admit she doesn't feel well. She can look like death warmed over with a raging fever and she's all like "I feel great!" with her glassy eyes and stuffy nose and hoarse voice. I don't know why she is such a liar about this stuff, but we know the drill.

 The next morning they both woke up with low grade fevers, but I pumped them full of Advil and we hit the Zoo, which was a short walk from the hotel. They really hung in there - they are such troopers! Not a single whine or complaint, even with 6 hours of walking!

We had never been to the DC Zoo and it was wonderful. It was gorgeous with the fall leaves turning and the weather was not too warm, not too cool. Just perfect.

The lion cubs were frisky and playing with each other - so cute! Just like kittens. Kittens who could shred you into pieces.

The DC Zoo has the only giant panda in the country. It was really cool to see her (though she was sleeping) and her baby (who was chilling up in a tree).

The ape house was another incredible attraction.

As were the Big Cats.

After six hours at the Zoo, we reunited with Dr. Fabulous after his full day at the conference. We went out for dinner, but Rella spiked a fever of 103 and Tink was still coughing up a lung with a low grade fever, so we turned in early and were up at frequent intervals with night wakings and coughing fits. The joys of five people in one tiny hotel room!

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Thursday morning was my birthday. I woke up to three sick kids and a husband who had to run off early for the last morning of his conference. Pink finally succumbed after 48 hours in close quarters with 2 sick sisters. She spiked a fever in the morning and spent the day in bed, in and out of a haze and feeling pretty terrible. With the rain and the ill children, we ended up spending my birthday morning sitting in a tiny hotel room watching a string of cartoons waiting for Dr. Fabulous to finish up.

It got so pathetic that I found myself waiting for birthday wishes just to pass the time. By 10:30, no one had called, texted or posted any happy birthday wishes on my Facebook Wall.  I mean, the Facebook wall? That should have been rockin'. This is how much of a loser I was...  I went into my profile to make sure my birthday was right and found I had my privacy settings too strict!  Once I unlocked my birthday for "friends" to see, I filled the long, boring hours with bad hotel coffee and smiling at the emails that started coming in wishing me the happiest of birthdays.

Oh, and yes... I am a total loser.

We spent the rest of the day driving home in the rain. Pink vomited all over the back seat an hour into the drive which meant a detour to a sketchy McDonalds where I cleaned up 5 quarts of vomit with 100 flimpsy paper napkins and a bottle of water for 30 minutes. We hit traffic from an accident and when we finally made it home, Dr. Fabulous was changed into a suit and out the door to attend 2 evening work events before I even got all the suitcases in the house.

I spent the rest of my birthday answering a few nice phone calls from family, nursing three sick kids, drinking a Sam Adams and eating some left over Recess peanut butter cups for dinner. Oh, and writing this enthralling blog.

Okay, maybe it wasn't the best birthday DAY of all time. In fact, it might fall into the mildly pathetic category: An unexciting morning, a long drive home, cleaning up puke, unpacking, three sick kids. I didn't even get the homemade kid card or a random cupcake with a candle stuck in it (or a good cup of coffee... it was a bad coffee weekend... long, tragic story).

BUT, the truth is - we were just in DC at a great hotel AND I'm getting a new fridge of my dreams delivered tomorrow morning (yes, I dream of stainless steel, counter depth double door refrigerators to replace the awkward fridge we've had in our kitchen for 3 years). Plus, I've had my birthday gift since August (a road bike). Most importantly? I have a great family who love me.

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And that makes my day. My year, actually.

But I could still go for that good cup of coffee and homemade card.  Maybe tomorrow!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Weekend Wrap-Up: Tricking and Treating

Another Halloween Night has come and gone, but the candy wrappers remain. It was a fun, busy day and it reminded me that this season too will pass. Meaning, it is such a "holiday" for the little ones. Sure, you can get all dressed up when you're older and hit the bars. Sure, you will give out candy as an adult and oooh and ahhh over the little kids that come to the door dressed as the latest princesses or video game characters. But it's not the same. That excitement you see in your children's eyes and all the ramping up for this sugar-filled night of dress up? It's just not the same.

I appreciate these days.  

Hectic as it was.

Pink's parade was at 9:00 am. The costumes were amazing at her school, which is grades 4 through 6. Simply amazing. Lots of homemade. Lots of creativity. Lots of quirk. Loved it. 

After that, I raced a few towns over to pick up my 50 rolls from the bakery and rushed back home. There, I did my last minute cleaning and food prep. Though I stayed up until 1:00 am to do the lion's share the night before, there was still a bit to do in anticipation of the  40-plus people that would be congregating at our house for the "post trick or treat" party for our neighbors!

Then back to the elementary school to help in Rella's class with the little party, the changing into costumes, and the parade. 

Since I was marching IN the parade with Rella's class, I wasn't able to see Tink in the actual parade. But, luckily, I caught her queuing up in the hallway and snapped my picture (to her mild embarrassment). 

I've never had the chance to volunteer in the classroom on Halloween before. It's a very coveted spot reserved for the room moms and one extra volunteer. This was probably my first, last and only time and I was grateful to get the chance with my last little girl. 

Upon arriving home it was the last minute pre-party frenzy while trying to keep four kids out of my hair. But luckily, it was a nice day so they could stay entertained outside.

Pink the Nerd.

Tink the 50s girl. 

Rella the "Swiss Miss Girl"... who looks like she's been a bit wind blown.

And CB, the ticked off cat. 

Her school has a Halloween party, but the kids don't dress up and parade anymore. At the ages of 19 through 21, it's just a bit juvenile I suppose. 
But, I kept her in the spirit with the cat ears. She's thrilled, as you can tell.

Our whole street trick or treats together, along with a few of their friends who live around the corner. This year, Dr. Fabulous went out with the little ones while I stayed home with CB who doesn't 
a) like to walk 
b) like candy or 
c) like crowds and chaos.
So, this is clearly not her holiday. Nor are any of the others.
Hence, the many photos of the other girls and only one of her. 

I did sneak up the street with the group, because I'm the dork who thinks "I'm gonna miss these days" and just don't want to squander them. 

The post-party was super fun, as it always is. I don't say that to take credit for it.  It's the company, not my stellar entertainment skills. We all 'pot-luck' it and I supply the seasonal beers and local apple wine which gets warmed in a crock pot with mulling spices and just screams FALL!
I also doctor up some of the best homemade hot chocolate for the kids which is simply decadent. 

We partied like rock stars... kids passed out on the couch while parents talked until after midnight. That's the beauty of a Friday night Halloween.  

I didn't really take photos because I was too busy having fun and hostessing, but this one of the two 'besties since pre-K' cracks me up. If you fast forward a few years and substitute red solo cups and a sorority house background? Yeah... it's funny.  And not. 

The girls know the drill with the candy. They pick out a few days worth and then donate the rest to Operation Gratitude. We have donated our excess Halloween candy every year for the past six years to this organization. 

Operation Gratitude is a non-profit organization that assembles and distributes care packages to our active soldiers overseas, veterans, wounded soldiers recovering in hospitals and their families/caregivers. This past year, Operation Gratitude delivered 150,000 care packages. Inside they will have items specific for the soldier's particular needs, like toiletries or magazines and books. They include a homemade card and often a bit of candy... like the candy donated from Halloween! 

Three years ago, a local dentist office started a Candy Buy Back program for Operation Gratitude and we have happily donated our loot to them - I simply LOVE these guys! They make it a big party with a card making station for the soldiers, free hot dogs and lemonade and prizes. They are the warmest, friendliest practice! My girls look forward to the candy donation every year and never balk about giving up so much of their loot. 

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Two years ago, we donated about 28 pounds between us and a few friends. The next year we spread the word even more to our friends and neighbors and collected 66 pounds. This year? Thanks to the generosity of so many people and the help of our local coffee shop who set up a donation collection site for us, we were able to donate 81 pounds of candy to the troops! Whooopppppeeee! Can I get a fist bump?

All in all, it was another fun Halloween.  I love my neighbors and friends. I love my kids friends. I love this time of year. I don't love all the candy, necessarily... but I love that we can do something good with it and make this random holiday a little charitable.  

I'm feeling the love, if you can't tell. Feeling it something fierce. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

tHERsDay: 22 Staples

The dermatologist came in quickly for the procedure. He had only met CB one other time, but she was obviously memorable. Routine biopsies from her annual dermatology visit revealed that one area on her abdomen was pre-cancerous and needed surgery. The surgery for a mole half the size of a raisin involved cutting an inch and a half long, half inch wide area of porcelain tissue from her body, dig down deep and remove all the layers then stitch her back up. I've had it done and it doesn't hurt, but it leaves an ugly scar.

It doesn't hurt but I'm not CB so I understand. CB DOESN'T understand. She's already aware that something is up by her reluctance to enter the room. She hates laying on her back but unfortunately that is the position in which she finds herself, a nurse at her head, a nurse and I at her feet and a doctor leaning over her with hypodermic needle in hand to numb the crap out of the area. 

She's not happy and shows it with some mild struggle. Her un-attended hand goes up and smacks the doctor right across his freshly shaven face, the thwack echoing off the walls. I am mortified, apologetic but he hasn't missed a beat. He shows only compassion without a trace of pity - he doesn't flinch or flush. I hold both her hands so tight and turn my head to not see the cutting and the blood and the chunk of flesh get lifted off of her skin. I think at one moment that I might cry, but it passes. Crying really wouldn't help anything. Thankfully, no one notices my momentary lapse.

The tall, thin, blond nurse at her head is rubbing her arm and talking non-stop to CB, a calm soothing voice reminiscent of motherese. CB calms as if a cloak is being lain upon her.

She gets around 22 staples to close her wound. His deft hand lines them up like a picket fence. A Frankenstein-looking scar, but the wound is closed.

"You are so good with her," the blond nurse says after it's all over and I'm getting CB dressed.

"No, um, YOU were so good with her. I'm amazed. I'm grateful. Most people don't really take the time to talk to CB the way you did," I say. "And she responded to you. It comforted her."

"I think people are afraid of saying the wrong thing," the nurse offers, and I agree wholeheartedly. It's true, but here's the thing. If you are guided by your heart and come from a place of compassion, you can't go wrong. You just can't, at least that's how I see it.

This morning could have been a hot mess, but it wasn't because I wasn't in it alone. Neither was CB. We had three people right there with us, knowing exactly what we needed and unafraid to show it. Nothing in the world feels so good than to be seen, understood, and accepted just as you are. Nothing.

A little time and a deft hand. How little it takes to close a wound.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Weekend Wrap-Up: How An Ordinary Post Turns Sour

Sure, it's Wednesday but my Weekend Wrap-Up post has been idling for days. The funny thing about being busy is that you have a lot to blog about, but no time to actually WRITE the blog. Such problems I have, I know. 

Weekends have been crammed with parties and events, games and practices. Tennis has ended, year-round swim has commenced, and celebrations abound. 

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Birthday parties that combine girlie fashion shows...

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...and jumping on the trampoline after running through 6 acres of woods are the best kind.

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And there's soccer, soccer, soccer... four days a week, soccer. 
We do it because Tink and Rella LOVE it.  

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My niece made her Confirmation last weekend and we marveled at what a young lady she is becoming.

The celebration with family following the Mass was not CB's best moment. Nor, was it mine. 
We didn't have a private room for our large party, so we shared it with another large party and there were a few other tables for regular restaurant goers.

This wouldn't have been any big deal if CB wasn't all riled up, but she was. All. Riled. Up. There are times when she is so good, and other times when she's just CB on high def, volume turned WAY up and firecrackers in her pants. 

The only thing I can relate it to is when you have, say, a toddler. A toddler who is really active and energetic and can't be rationalized with yet.. and still needs help to cut stuff up and get a diaper changed, and constant supervision. 
Except, this toddlerhood lasts forever. You know, as in FOR-EV-VER, forever. 

At one point, CB went barreling across the room, a heat seeking missile honed in on the innocent balloons tied around my niece's chair. As I shoved people aside, sprinting after her, she knocks a filled-to-the-brim glass of Coke everywhere just to show how pissed she is that I thrwarted her plan. This sends me scrambling for every cloth napkin I can find to mop the floor, change the chair out for a dry one, order a new drink, apologize profusely to my lovely 14-year old niece (who was all "It's okay, Aunt Alicia, it's okay," 'cause she's just that sweet.)

The whole event sounds really quite innocuous now, but for some reason I was sweating and annoyed and flustered and mad and apologetic and so completely OVER it. Over Autism and perpetual toddlerhood and apologizing and feeling like I'm in a fishbowl. I can't even describe exactly why. I'm quite certain someone looking at this whole event might not see it as all that bad. In fact, everyone in my party seemed pretty unfazed. 

So why were Dr. Fabulous and I so affected? I mean, so what? A nearly 20-year old, severely cognitive disabled, 120 pound young woman who has been screaming and banging on everything for the past 2 hours goes careening across a room and knocks over 12 ounces of soda to the screams and theatrics of 8 young kids. So what that the random party of 6 who happened to have the misfortune of being seated next to us trying to enjoy their meal got up and RELOCATED to another part of the restaurant following these shenanigans?

Why did I feel responsible? Why did I feel so pissed?

"You know what?" I said to Dr. Fabulous when he pointed out that the family  had migrated into another part of the restaraunt. I felt my words bubbling up from a deep pit of yucky feelings.  
Don't say it aloud, I thought.  Don't say it in front of his Mom...
I tried to bite my tongue, but then I was like, Screw it...

"F*@k them." I said bluntly. I should have minced my words, but I didn't. I shouldn't have been so crass and angry in front of his Mom, but I was. 

My mother-in-law assured me that they moved simply because our party was so overwhelming. It wasn't CB.

But I didn't care, because I thought it played enough of a role. 
Because, I needed someone to be mad at for a few minutes, and they seemed to fit that bill. 

But, it didn't really accomplish anything. 
The fact is, sometimes CB's behavior isn't the greatest.
But, I suppose some days, neither is mine.

Don't ask me how this regular post turned so sour! 
Sometimes, a Mom's just gotta bring out the world's tiniest violin and serenade herself. 
Thanks for listening to my jam. 

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