Middle School Freight Trains, Fear and a Cell Phone

MiddleSchoolerMy baby newly-minted middle schooler got a cell phone a couple days ago.

What in the world.

I am having a hard time deciding if this is a milestone, some right of passage, or the end of his innocence. One more screen, one more way for him to be accessed and potentially affected.

The fact that this big life purchase coincides with him starting middle school is enough to have me second-guessing everything and fanning off cold sweats.

Normal, certainly, but change is coming into his life like a freight train. And I can try to wave it off madly from the sidelines (a spot I had better get used to), but, it’s no good. There he stands, facing that freight train with wild glee and hopeful anticipation. Bring it!

The phone is for safety. Really. I want to be able to text him and get one right back whenever cold anxiety creeps up around my ankles from under my parenting grandstand.

(“There you are. He’s not safe, you know. You should be watching him more closely, he’s too young to be left to his own devices. Start hovering, hovering, hovering, right over his head…it’s what good parents do. Hover. Now.”)

He sees the phone as an offering and affirmation that he is his own person now. Right away, the texts started. “Are you coming home for lunch?” “What time does her flight leave?” “We had to leave the pool because of lightning.”

He is so ready to take responsibility and be part of the adult conversation.

WHICH I LOVE. Yes, TELL ME every second of your day. Yesssss. I am drinking in every word, while madly kicking anxiety in the face below me.

Middle school means a school twice the size, a campus, changing classes, a class schedule, gym lockers, lunch periods and… eighth graders. EIGHTH GRADERS. I think most adults are intimidated by eighth graders, let alone a wee, pre-pubescent 6th grader, whose young for his class, and a very slight 60-ish lbs of bony awkwardness soaking wet.

(Oh and do you see all of that over the school, too? The other parents hovering? I want to be up there. My anxiety certainly insists that I do. But I’ve chained myself to this little spot on the sidelines, willing myself to let him BE, let him DO this.)

He sees and considers none of this. There he still stands, cell phone firmly in one hand, a talisman of confidence as he stares down the freight train. He’s pumped. He’s got a little swagger. He talked confidently to his reading teacher, shrugging off that introversion label in a hot second. He proudly finished his summer reading. He has mapped out every class and knows he has 4 minutes to change classes. He is NOT worried.

Anxiety just laughed at me from deep down under there.

(“Hey. Who are you kidding? He’s fooling you. He’s fooling himself. He really needs you. Get up, up in the sky, over him. Make more noise than this. MAKE SURE HE’S OK.”)

I’m not dropping him off tomorrow. My husband is. And that is a good thing. Sure, he’s worried I might embarrass him. But let’s be real. I can handle the third-grader’s drop-off. The safety of ONE classroom, ONE teacher, a much smaller campus and one we both know. I can’t bear the idea of my eldest getting out of the car, loaded down in school supplies, not looking back (he won’t, you know) and being swallowed up in a sea of kids that shave, wear make-up and look about 22.

(“What kind of mother are you? You are faaaaar too trusting.”)

But he has his cell phone. He has it right there with him. It’s  proudly and comfortably zipped into his backpack (along with all the hope and trust and belief in him that I stuffed in there without him looking). I am a text, a call, and only 5 miles away from my office. (Yes, I’ve clocked it.)

Yeah, I know that cell phone will open him up to new people, friends, access, connections that I have limited control over. (Um, I WILL read his texts until he pays for it himself.) But that cell phone is my his our safety net, our conduit, our promise that we can reconnect when HE needs me. When I need him.

Is it enough? This basic flip phone with unlimited texting?

Is he going to be OK?

Are there any guarantees?

(“Yes. You could be there more. You could drop him off and pick him up and you could watch him, demand more for him, protect him, slowwww down the train. You could, you should, why don’t you?”)

I can’t. There are no guarantees. He will be good enough. So, here’s my feeble attempt at standing and cheering to him from where I am, where I think I am supposed to be. I feel every bit of temptation and fear biting at my ankles but it doesn’t matter. I’ll just yell louder and show him that this freight train is awesome and normal and he has every reason to believe that HE can handle what it brings him all on his own. All by himself.

*Cue embarrassing mom yodeling and hollering and whooping!*


Mourning Mandela

Imagine you are a 14 year old girl and you are suddenly flown from the U.S. to a small southern African country and dropped off at a foreign international school found far, far up on a hill without anyone but your little brother by your side. It’s 1987, you are wearing a stone-washed denim mini-skirt, far too much hairspray and you are terrified. That was me and that school was a place that shaped my soul in a way I never expected. While I quietly pouted about the outrage of it all, I marched onto the campus that first day, followed thWKe rest of the student body into an assembly hall, slid onto a bench with other 14 year olds and, with arms folded, I waited for something to happen. And it had better be good.

Something did happen.

And it started with assembly every week. Well, it may have even been twice a week, but it always started the same way. We sang the Swaziland national anthem and then we sang the African national anthem. Every student sang loudly and beautifully and with a shocking passion unlike anything I had ever, EVER seen. No one at my old school sang my national anthem this way. What is this?? What is going on? It was so beautiful that I swallowed back tears week after week, deeply overcome.

And then we were taught about what was really going on. You see, I was at a school where we were being taught literature and history and information about current events that may or may not have been banned at the schools less than an hour away to our west, across the border in South Africa. We talked regularly about Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment. Why he was there. What freedom really meant. Why children were shot and killed protesting their right to be taught in a language they understood. I was astonished. They were killed? Police shot students because of this??

I sat there and I listened. At first appalled. As if MY country would ever do such a thing. (Well. It had.) And then I accepted it. And then I absorbed it. And then I found my place in it. There was a fight for freedom happening around me. There was hope and anger and so much passion for change.

At every assembly, I sat and considered all of it. Equal rights were not given, they were a chance happening. A roulette table of skin pigment, culture and nationality. Oh look, she landed on “white girl from America!” So at the border crossing, SHE gets to go to the diplomatic line and get a friendly nod and a smile from the police man with the dog. My friend’s chance at luck got her “black South African,” and she went to the back of a very different line. And I waited and watched and the dog watched her and none of it made any sense. Madness. And never equal.

Nelson Mandela being released from prison was a far-fetched dream in my mind. I’m not sure I thought it would ever happen, let alone witness him become president or live a very very long life afterall. But let’s be real, I’m not sure I fully grasped all of it anyway. I was 15. And while it would be nice to say I was deeply engrossed in political conversation at every moment of every day while I lived in Africa, I was not. I was a privileged white American girl who got to escape to her lovely embassy-issue home after school and watch VHS tapes of MTV and Twin Peaks and drink soda and have sleep overs. I cared deeply, I really did. But… oh my God you guys, TWIN PEAKS. I was 15.

A couple years later, there were rumors. There was excitement and hope at school. Discussion, wonder, it could happen. I don’t know what the reason was but I was in Johannesburg with my family in February of 1990. I was in a fancy hotel downtown and our room was on the 30th floor. It was night, after dinner and I was probably willing my parents to evaporate on the spot while I lost myself in another Stephen King book. But suddenly it happened. The world exploded. I went to the window and looked out. With my forehead pressed flat against the cold, I peered down from my silent glass tower and watched the streets FILL entirely with joy and dancing and people, so many people. And then I could hear them through that thick, extra-paned, super fancy glass. I could hear them! It was true, Nelson Mandela had been released.

Sometime soon after that, Nelson Mandela came to our school. It was a surprise visit and I believe he came to see his grandson (a student there at the time). I secretly like to think he came to thank us for our writing, and learning, and singing so so loudly every week. I think he came on a Sunday. But guess what. I wasn’t there that day. Yep, back home, probably chomping on some newly shipped-over M&Ms and teasing my bangs and… oh my god you guys, TWIN PEAKS. Sigh. I cringe deeply now.

Nelson Mandela wasn’t my leader and he didn’t fight for me. The roulette wheel had spun and already offered me the privilege to chomp on M&Ms and watch TV without one damn care in the world. But he WAS my teacher. He snapped my hair-sprayed, peroxided little blond head to attention and taught me what I had and what others did not and that every single 14 year old girl had the right to NOT have one damn care in the world, no matter which way that roulette wheel turned. He taught me grace, humility and patience. He taught me the power of words. He taught me the power of faith and hope — his release was the first time I saw the truly impossible happen.

Nelson Mandela passed today. I deeply respect the enormous impact he played on this world, even on my humble little easy life in the midst of it all. I wrote a message on my art teacher’s Facebook page today (one of my all time favorite teachers now a world away, still back in Africa) and told her I wish I was there with her mourning this loss. She wrote back and said, “But you were there when he was released and we celebrated!”

I am proud that I witnessed such an important time of transition in southern Africa. I am so proud to have understood the enormous impact of Nelson Mandela’s release. And I am so proud to feel the pain of his loss today, even here in this little home, buried deep in Florida suburbia, so very far from the place where I was taught, the community that changed me and our teacher, Madiba, who has passed away today.

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika!

Mama Bear Friendships

Friendships — the real, legit kind — surprise me sometimes. I think I know how I will be or give or take from those friendships… but it’s not until things get real that I really do know.

My closest friend in the world has had some amazing blessings in her life. And she has also lived the worst kind of tragedy. And I have lived from afar for most of it. But still, there is this visceral reaction to her emotions and experiences that just doesn’t seem at all eased by distance. Weird.

Have you ever had a friend like that? The kind that you never see but you would jump in front of a train for without even knowing that you have?

Phone pain

On the phone, trying to stop a falling piano.

When tragedy struck for her, my reactions were unexpected but I suppose not surprising. I wanted to be exactly by her side as if there was a way I could absorb some of the pain, buffer it, distract it, just (oh God please) STOP it. I remember thinking that it felt like a piano was falling on her over and over. And while jumping in front of that piano wouldn’t protect her pain, there was a chance I could stop even the tiniest, slightest bit and share it and take some fraction of it on so that she wasn’t alone in that deep well of pain. I wanted to be right there, but I also wanted to take up the least amount of space. I didn’t want to be anything else she needed to care for or explain to or think about.

A protective, pain-sharing, invisible shield. With the very best intentions.

I don’t think I protected her one little bit. I do think I was in the way a little. But she graciously allowed me in that space. There was enough piano pain for everyone, you know.

And now, a very wonderful blessing has arrived into her life. Oh, you guys, she is the best, sweetest kind of blessing. 8 lbs, 12 ounces of joy with a helping of her mama’s dimples.

I spent a lot of time Facetiming my friend tonight, only just barely home from the hospital.

Have you had baby? If so, do you remember those first days when your milk comes in and all hell is breaking lose in your body, things no one can see but… WHOA… shit is getting real, you know? And still, everyone wants to celebrate that wee one, and be there, and “help.”

Once again, she graciously let me in. And I was with her when she really just needed alone time. And a handful of Motrin and, sweet mother of God, some sleep.

It’s funny, now that so much good is happening, I almost feel like I want to step back (which is not too hard to do this far away). Again, I am having unexpected but not surprising reactions to this GOOD. I feel like I want to leave her in it. I want to make space for as much joy as possible to come rushing in and wrap her all up. I don’t want to take ANY of it for me. I don’t want to step in front of it or stop it or experience it for her. SHE GETS IT ALL. She deserves it all.

But she gave me some, still. I watched her oldest hold her youngest in the middle of a peaceful cloud of pillows, while people fussed beyond her closed door in the kitchen. What a gift.

Of course, when your favorite loved ones experience very very good things and very very bad things, I think we ALL go “mama bear” for a little while. Something deep down bubbles to the top and acts out on love and instinct, rather than acting on “what is done.” Not that I am really doing anything a million miles away.

And not that I am acting on those feelings entirely, either. Because my feelings are telling me to throw everything to the wind and get on a plane.

But there is GOOD right now, you know? And it’s hers. And her having that good brings me peace and less anxiety about jumping on a plane. I’ll see them all eventually but… everything is (oh God, thank you) OK.

Anyway, I don’t have moments like this often. I thought “mama bear” reactions were strictly for children and husbands and parents and siblings. But friends like these are chosen family and she is so very, VERY much a part of mine.

And I am so very grateful that my closest and dear are all very GOOD right now.

All is well.

And there are dimples out there, people. DIMPLES.

Watching Us

The thing about kids growing up is that they get to be a lot less difficult to have around. And when it gets easier, I think they may be paying more attention to us than ever before. And it scares me.

ListeningI have always loved having my kids around but, you know, when they are 3 and tantruming up a tornado of crazy, they might just be a bit more “work” than they are at 10. When they are 3, you are on duty and always watching with your guard up and, when you put them to bed at night, you admit so much relief because you have a few hours to be you and not some hard-core routine enforcer.

At 10 (and even 7), it’s different. You can relax some. Suddenly you can sleep in, and your kids can get what they need out of the frig. The tantrums come less often and conversations become more two-sided. In fact, your kids aren’t as much work as they were before and you can kind of “do you” while they hang out do their thing.

You let your guard down some. You don’t feel so “parent-ish” ALL the time. When the kids are quiet and cool, it feels OK to be more true to who you are and what you do. And suddenly, in that moment when you are most relaxed and laughing and talking to the people around you, you look over and realize that they are watching and listening to you more than they ever have before.

Oh shit.

We recently went to the beach with a group of friends for an over-night. We had a great time and the kids tagged right along. I was saying to my husband later that it didn’t even feel like we had “kids” there because it just wasn’t hard work. They never complained, they laughed along with us, they enjoyed the beach, the hung out with our circle of friends in the water, they watched TV when we did, they came along to dinner and sat patiently (ish) when dinner was late, and they went to bed quietly, probably listening to all the grown-up talk outside the window just like I did when I was a kid.

But here’s the thing. We all sweared. And enjoyed a few “adult beverages” around them. We said what we said and I am not sure we censored ourselves drastically. I don’t think we talked about too much that was very inappropriate but what if I said something off-handed about a person’s really bad tattoo as they were walking by. (I’m not sure that I did but I know I have, the beach has some bad tat art, it’s always something to behold.) What if I was a little bit mean? My kids were there, saying very little, careful to be considered part of the group, and they were eves-dropping the entire time.

I think now is a time when we need to be very, VERY careful.

If I think that I am my most influential as a parent when I am lecturing them about the ideals of right and wrong in the car while we go to the grocery store… I AM WRONG. That’s the stuff that they tune it out.

My kids are watching how I treat people when they serve us dinner in a restaurant. Or when I lose my temper over a broken grocery bag and swear. Or when I talk on the phone about another person on the porch and they are beside me reading a book. They are watching every move, drawing so much less attention to themselves now and getting closer to the person I REALLY am. And they are archiving it all away as an example of how to be.

People, when your kids get older, they see you for who you are, to the core. You won’t be able to bullshit them. Don’t think that you can. Don’t think you can tell them some tale of how kids should be and adults should be and try to convince them that you don’t swear or make fun of people’s bad tattoos WHEN YOU DO.

I love that my kids are more grown up. I love getting to know them as older people who suddenly have opinions and reasonable suggestions and remind me about appointment dates and know directions to places. That’s cool! They are so much less work and so much more fun.

But I can’t let the fun fool me. And I had BETTER not let my guard down and try to play the “my kids are my best friends” routine. It’s easy to do, they want you to be their friends. And you kind of can be. But, ultimately, you are their example and their compass for right and wrong. As they grow, I can NOT take this for granted or forget that when they are good, and sitting nicely… they are listening to and watching everything. EVERYTHING. So I had better make it count. And be the person I want them to be. I can’t tell them how to be good human. I can only show them how to do it. And showing someone how to be GOOD, when parents are so damn fallible in every way, is a very scary reality to face.

So, maybe it isn’t easier. This is a stage of parenting that challenges the person I have decided to be. And I think that’s how it always will be, even when they are adults.

OK then.

*Checking moral center and game face in the mirror.*

This whole parenting thing just got real.


Back-To-School with Westfield Brandon

Sponsored post.

I’m not sure if it is the flashbacks from my childhood or the fact that my kids will be rid of their video game temptations, but back-to-school time gives me warm fuzzies way down deep. New backpacks, new pencil cases, new shoes, new educational ways to keep my kids’ brains from atrophying from prolonged exposure of “The Regular Show”– yay for back-to-school time!

This year, I was once again invited by Westfield Brandon to do some back-to-school shopping on Florida’s tax-free weekend. (Cue happy dance!) And, let me tell you, I had a serious must-get a list: shoes, backpacks, clothes, socks (HOW do they manage to wear so many holes in socks?), and jackets all needed to be bought.


I am going to be real with you, however. Sure, this is a sponsored post, but there are legit reasons why I love shopping at Westfield Town Centers. Here they are:

Westfield Town Centers put families first. I was impressed by that fact last year and I continue to be this year, too. We went in the Family Playhouse space three times over the course of the day. There is a quiet atmosphere, comfortable couches, a TV, a kitchen area, private nursing areas and a family bathroom. Shopping is exhausting and over-stimulating, especially on a tax-free weekend. We needed to power down in there, it had to happen and this was the perfect spot.

Westfield also has a bunch of play areas for younger kids. And who can forget the AMAZING carousel in the middle of the Center, and even the bungee fun being offered, too. You can shop, play, shop, play, eat, shop, play. I don’t think my boys could have lasted as long without that general activity pattern.

Westfield also offers programming for families on a regular basis. Check out what’s happening here.

Westfield Town Centers give you options and sales. I am always amazed by how many stores there are at Westfield Brandon. That place goes on and on and on. And then we were pleasantly surprised by certain stores. For instance, our first stop was at The Children’s Place because I needed to buy a gift. Hold on, there were clothes big enough for my 7 and 10 year old! I didn’t know that! We wound up buying my 10 year old the COZIEST zip-up hoodie with this fuzzy lining that will be perfect for winters here and trips north. It was, by far, his favorite purchase of the day (even if he was too cool to pose for it so here’s my seven year old holding the bag).

Westfield Town Centers have fun. While we were there, they were offering fun contests, games and make-overs. I saw lots of people involved and trying them out. The staff there were fun and welcoming and nice to kids when their $5 bill wouldn’t go into the token-making machine. (Thanks for the exchange for a crisper one!) Even the security guard tried to make my husband his new buddy while he poured over the map.

Westfield Town Centers offer you more than a food court. I have no beef with a food court, sometimes a quick stop has to happen. But I love how their restaurants are slightly separated from the Center and set in a pretty, landscaped area. It’s a nice reprieve and it is right there on site. We inhaled our food at Red Robin and got right back to it.

Westfield Town Centers give away shopping sprees! Westfield Brandon is currently offering families a chance to win a $1,000 back-to-school shopping spree! Hello, can you imagine how much that could help a family out? Be sure to enter here!

So, sure, our day utterly exhausted us (yes, the crowds were something to behold, as expected) and after five hours of hard-core shopping, I thought I broke my family.

But we really had a great time. My seven year adores his new Ninjago hoodie and Perry the Platypus shoes. My ten year old will be rocking an awesome backpack sure to withstand the rigors of fifth grade and really nice sneakers that won’t disintegrate on week one. There’s something to be said for “having fun” while you go back-to-school shopping, and we did.

Disclosure: I am working directly with Westfield. I am being compensated as an independent blogger. All opinions expressed in this content are mine.

Cat Lives

I woke up this morning with a to-do list a mile long and a sick cat. She was having… bathroom issues. (Nope, I won’t go into detail, you’re welcome.)

And then we couldn’t find the cat carrier. And I didn’t get out the door as early as I wanted to. And then there was a huge bird poop on my windsheild that took forever to get off and totally grossed me out. And then the Starbucks carline was so long it made a “Y” with cars trying to push their way in and then I realized my contacts were drying my eyes out and I probably should have changed them. And then work got more “worky” and while I had a half-day today, that to-do list and various technical issues made all of us there feel more “Monday” than “Friday.”

But, oh yeah, my cat was still sick. I called and got an appointment for 2:30pm.

So much for grabbing the kids and heading to the beach, which had been my original plan.

Yes, my day was filled with “first world problems” — that stuff you feel guilty getting irritated by but let it get to you anyway and storm around and secretly feel sorry for yourself. Could that Starbucks line be ANY longer? Did that bird poop have to smear like that? My life is awful.


So I gathered the kids after work and told them we were “going on an adventure to the vet!!! Oooooh.” They bought it, they were excited. Yay, we get to stuff the cat into a carrier and poke our fingers at her while she howls all the way there. Best day ever.

(Cue more feeling sorry for myself.)

My cat got poked and prodded. And then, when they took her in the back, that 16 year old granny-cat threw a hissy fit and King Fu chopped and hissed and lunged at anyone until they finally sedated her. I secretly cheered her on. That will be another $100.

It was a couple hours later, after the kids had enjoyed Frosties at the Wendy’s next door and then met about 10 different dogs (the vet may actually be better than a petting zoo), that I got my wake-up call.

The doctor talked to me about my cat. She is sick. And this medicine may work. But it may not. And it may be something bad. And there is more potential testing. Oh and today’s visit is about half a paycheck, thank you very much. But your cat needs to be treated so… what are you going to do?

He then gently said the dreaded, “Let’s see how this goes but we may need to have a conversation about testing and what it means for a 16 year old cat.”

I would trade a hundred “Y” shaped lines at Stabucks for conversations like those and dropping money like that.

Because I feel horrible about all of it. Yes, that’s my responsibility as a pet owner. But that money!! But what kind of person AM I to think about money when her life depends on this care?

When, as a pet owner, do you decide that your animal’s life is not worth the cost? When are the treatments and the money not going to give her a better quality of life? When do you arrive at that point? What is humane? When I am being selfish, when am I being reasonable? What is RIGHT?

That is an answer I have to arrive at.

With humans, you treat them until there is no treating left. No question, who cares what it costs, you do it. Not with pets. There comes a point when they won’t get better and cost matters and it’s up to you to “do the right thing” for both your family AND that animal.

I don’t like having to make decisions about money and health and whether a family member (because my animals always are family members) lives or dies.

Nope. I don’t like it one bit.

My cat and I go way back, after all. My husband and I picked her up in a fit of nesting after we first moved in together in… wait for it… 1997.

Times goes by and our cat is aging and decisions need to be made.

It’s funny how perspective kicks you in the ass and tells you to stop obsessing over to-do lists and Starbucks. It’s funny how your soul checks itself when it considers the very real possibility of choosing to end a life.

Compared to your children, it’s just a cat. It’s more than a cat, it’s family. Round and round I go.

Let’s hope these antibiotics work so I can go back to worrying about the little stuff.

(What a luxury to worry about the little stuff!)

For now.

16 Years.

The Priviledge of 40

I am turning 40.

Yeah, yeah. I know.

“Do not regret growing older. It is a priviledge denied by many.”

I’m on Pinterest. I see that quote all the time. And I agree with it 100%. But still, you guys. I’m staring at 40.

In the months leading up to this, I’ve been very resigned about it. It’s no big deal. Just an age. But now… IT’S HERE. You know as well as I do that all the “40th birthday” decorations in the Party Store involve being over a particular hill and gravestones and senior-related things. It’s totally dumb and I’m far from gravestones. But this birthday has a certain reputation still. So, before I freak out unnecesarily, it’s time to write myself a list of why 40 is juuuust fine. No biggee.

1. I am very much alive and well. My ticker runs well enough, my mammograms have been clear, all systems are status quo and I am actually somewhat in shape (ish). (Don’t count the chips and wine and cookies and shit I enjoy daily from time to time.) I count my lucky stars for all of this.

2. I have been bountiful. I’m not saying I’m some supah-stah and I certainly haven’t found a cure for cancer and I’m not saving starving children around the world. But… I have produced two children. From my body. And I they have been fed food everyday and they are potty-trained and can read books. Excuse me while I go take my victory lap. That stuff is BIG.

3. I am a productive member of society. Again, I know I am not shooting out the lights as some big-wig exec, nor is my name actually IN lights, but I am in the process of rebuilding my career after 8 years at home, I am doing something I enjoy and I am providing for my family the best way I know how. Boom.

4. I know more stuff. At 23, I had no idea. Yes, I was college educated and full of self-indulgent, super woman piss and vinegar. I thought I knew stuff. Kind of. But deep down I was very insecure and had no idea about bills and life and death and talking to idoits who are trying to sell you a load of crap. A lot of things that used to freak me out just don’t anymore. I LIKE not freaking out and knowing how things work.

5. I know my future. Well, for the most part. Back to my early 20s again, that was a time of all sorts of stress and fear of the unknown. What am I doing with my life? Where should I live? Shouldn’t I get married soon? When should I buy a house? How could I ever afford to buy a house? When do I have kids because I have to have kids and I am 7 years from 30 which is ANCIENT and I need to plan because I have to have kids OH MY GOD I want to have kids and I don’t know when I’m going to have kids!!! I don’t have to deal with ANY of that crap any more. I have been blessed with a great partner and kids and a house and it’s all good. (Phewphewphewphewphewphewphewphewphew. Phew.)

6. It’s a little bit, sort’ve my turn. I spent the majority of my 30s tending to my children. No complaints at all, it’s what I spent my 20s freaking out about working towards. But, now they can kind of self-sustain long enough that I can sleep in a bit on the weekends or write this blog post. I don’t expect that they will get “easier” per se. (Wait a second. Cue that 20s freak out over their upcoming teens years. And let me rethink my “I know stuff” swagger above because I’m not sure what I will do when they sneak my car keys and crash the car and say mean things and decide they don’t want to go to college. I don’t know anything about THAT stuff. At all.) But I do think there is more room for me to have a moment from time to time. Maybe with my husband. Maybe I can be a wee bit more selfish in my 40s. Maybe.

7. I waste my time less. Let’s get back to those Pinterest quote posts.

“The trouble is, we think we have time.”

Time runs out. Our time is not forever. This is an important thing to know. And it’s something I embrace and know for a fact (my mother died 23 years after she turned 40). So I try very hard not to waste my time or energy on things that just don’t matter. Or on people that suck the life right out of you. Or worry over things I can’t change. Or really care about drama. No time people. Onward.

8. The glass really is half full. No, really. People, there is a lot of stuff left to do. There is still so much to see. It’s not over! I can practically hear all of my friends and family over 40 shaking their heads and telling me this is no big deal. Get ON with living. There is so much left to go. Stop fixating on this number. It’s time to put my big girl panties on, get out of the junior section in life and proudly own the years and experience I have aquired. I lived 40 years and I did it pretty well, right?

So. What’s next?

Disney Dream Cruise: Five Cool Things and a Video

I totally don’t want to be one of those people who comes back from a cruise and talks about it to everyone she meets in some cult-like, freshly brain-washed frenzy. So. I’ll tryyyy not to here.

But we just got back from a 4-day Disney Dream cruise. And it was awesome.

I’m going to give you the short version and then the long version. You decide which works best for you.

Here’s the short version.

Five Cool Things about the Disney Dream

1. The staff. Oh my goodness. Maybe it’s because I sympathize with all that it takes to offer top of the line customer service. But the staff on this boat are amazing. Here’s the thing. It’s not just that they are good at their jobs, they LOVE that boat. They take pride in it. And they want to share with you what makes it that way. Whether it’s the food, a show, a great place to hang out, the design of the boat… whatever. They each take ownership, they each truly love what they do, and they have a crazy, wonderful kind of patience and enthusiasm while handling insane people on vacation. KUDOS, you guys. Just wow.

2. The boat. WHOOOA. That thing is insane. As one person noted, when you pull into dock, it’s the Ferrari in the parking lot. Everything on it is top of the line and sparkling and gorgeous and some sort of technological marvel. And it’s always being polished and buffed and it’s comfortable and beautiful to look at and it kind of turned into home. Even our room (which should be a claustrophobic cube for sleeping on a cruise) was so cozy and comfy and perfect (a room with a porch helps hugely, however). I was extraordinarily comfortable and wowed, even with all those other insane vacationers along for the ride, too.

3. The food. I know everyone goes on about the food on their cruise. But the regular ol’ everyday buffet had fresh sushi! And they brought you warm chocolate chip cookies to your room! And they would give you two entrees for dinner (because I couldn’t decide which I wanted) and then both were awesome anyway. And there was this souffle that almost made me cry. And this butternut squash soup. All of it. Just. WOW.

4. The island. Castaway Cay is paradise. I adored it. The beach was beautiful. The water was gorgeous. The water slides were awesome. They had trams to get you around (fueled by cooking oil from the ship!) and a kids club and bars and games. I loved that they offered a 5K there in the morning (even if I got utterly drenched doing it). And the ice cream machines and cookies were there, too!

5. The horn. I was a sucker for this thing. The boat’s horn didn’t just make the usual “WAAH, WAAH” horn sound. It played one of seven Disney tunes. “Be Our Guest,” “Yo Ho Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life,” “It’s a Small World.” It made me weepy every time. Especially when the Dream did a “cruise-by” of the Disney Magic docked on Castaway Cay and played ALL of the songs over and over because that boat was heading to Europe for repairs and it wanted to say “good-bye.” Sniff. That’s Disney stuff for you right there. Sniff.

Oh and yes, there were some not so cool things.

Atlantis? Meh. We hung around only about an hour or so before we headed back to the boat. It seemed touristy, the furthest thing from authentic and just one huge money-suck. We weren’t there long but I doubt we’ll go back.

And the tourists. They were OK for the most part but sometimes there were just a LOT (note how I kept mentioning “insane people on vacation.”) And please, for the love of Disney, if you spend a day at sea on the Dream, avoid the pool decks. Utter insanity. Go see a movie or check your kids into the Oceaneer’s Club and head to a quiet adult deck far from the madding crowds (that’s what we did).

So, yeah. THAT was the short version. The long version of my story can be found in my YouTube slide show here. It’s a combo of pictures and a little video here and there. I made it as a souvenir so we can remember it always. But now I wonder if it will just woo me back there… with one of those sweet, sentimental boat horn tunes (I caught two of them in the video below).

(Oh, P.S. There is not one thing sponsored about this post. We paid for the entire cruise 100% —  just real feedback, folks.)

My Disney Dream Slide Show and Video:

Mother’s Day with the Rays

So… what to do on Mother’s Day. My husband was wondering and I was just shrugging my shoulders at him when I heard from the folks at the Rays. Would we like to attend a Rays game on Mother’s Day?

*Cue high fives all around.*

Um, yes we WOULD!

It’s kind of the perfect idea. Everyone is happy, we all spend time together, some beer is involved, the kids get to run the bases after the game and there are no long waits for a fancy, shmancy over-priced brunch.

Wait. Can we go back to the high fives? Oh, my 9 year old. Going to the Trop literally makes his life. He is beyond pumped for Sunday. He’s been staring down the Rays magnet schedule on the frig.

“Mom, mom, MOM. They need to get through this series with Toronto and then it’s a three day series against the Padres and WE get to see the last game of the series and they have been playing well and Longoria is awesome so I’m thinking it’s a win FOR SURE. Mom. MOM!! Did you hear me? Mom.”

This kid is a freak for baseball. It’s like he was born with this passion.

“Five days until the game, Mom. FIVE days. Mom.”

So, that’s where we’ll be on Sunday. And while my kid is staring down the game, I will be admiring my new Rays flower pot. I’m kind of obsessed with getting one. Isn’t it super cute?

Happy Mother’s Day to all those moms out there who love their kids’ passion for something so much that a day watching them enjoy that passion truly makes your day, too.

The Rays were kind enough to provide my family with four tickets, some food and a parking pass (which we don’t technically need since parking is free for cars with four or more on Sunday anyway). Thank-you, Rays!!

Smiley Faces and No Excuses

I started running in January. No, really, I did. And I’ve actually managed to consistently squeak in about two or three runs a week, too.

But, so what.

Sure, I’ve never, EVER been an athlete. And it has taken a lot of something deep down inside to set my alarm before anyone gets up, to stumble out the door and get a couple miles in before the day begins. I mean, if you know me, you’d know that’s entirely unexpected and… kind of weird.

But, still. So what.

Maybe it’s some sort of mid-life crisis but I think this running business is simply about me getting off my ass and doing what I probably should have half my lifetime ago. I have one life and one body. My children have one childhood each and these years, and the years to come, and years with their children (maybe, if they have them) are a gift.

How could I, with a clear conscience, keep myself from doing everything I can to maintain my health and TRY to ensure that I am allowed this gift?

I’ve known all of it for a long time — eat your veggies, get off your ass and you’ll beat back all kinds of bad mojo. There are no miracle diets or magic products that will half my muffin top and slow time. Just be healthy and stop with the excuses.

But I do have one little, ahem, excuse. I think part of NOT doing it was also making time for myself. Parents GIVE. Parents make the most efficient use of their time. Parents push self-indulgent crap like, oh, a thirty minute run by myself aside if the kids are vomiting half-digested hot dog, have a baseball game to get to or are coming unhinged over their homework.

So, I guess I’m getting a little better about taking. Oh, and setting my alarm extra early when no one is awake anyway.

I can’t wait for short-term reasons to do this, either. Putting one foot in front of the other can’t only be happening because of some upcoming race or because I am trying to keep up with anyone else. This has to be long-term.

And I can’t put it off because I don’t feel like it. Life is uncomfortable sometimes. It’s a half hour of push. Only a half hour.

But can we talk about endurance? Because sometimes I don’t want to keep going. I get really tired and seriously consider walking. But then I think about that stupid chart they give you in the hospital for pain. Smiley face for no pain, crying face for crazy pain. When I was in labor, they showed me that chart. And I couldn’t make sense of it. I mean, what IS the worst kind of pain? I couldn’t possibly know. Did I deserve a crying face… or was there more to come still? Was there worse than this? Of course there was.

(By the way, I am secretly correcting the grammar on this chart. WTH is that about?)

So, when I’m running, I think about the chart. And I think about my discomfort. And I think about what other discomfort and awful pain and strain and heartbreak there is. (No kidding, I really think this.) And I think that my discomfort must only be at about a semi-smiley face. In the grand scheme of all that we endure (as I jog past palm trees on a sunny afternoon towards my happy home of boys and normal and nice), my pain is actually just peachy. So… SHUT UP.

And I keep going.

I should add that while I promise Nike isn’t paying me to say this, the Nike + Running app is fracking amazing. I’m addicted and in constant competition with myself. Breaking my 5K record pretty much makes my life when it happens.

But, so what.

I can get jazzed about my little accomplishments but no one else should. Because I am only doing what I should be doing. What I should have been doing for years. And it’s simply my choice to do it. Bed or run? Excuses or no excuses? If I choose wrong, that’s on me. If I shut-up and get out there, then I’m just doing what is good for me. That’s all.

It’s giving back to ME. It’s upping my chances of hanging around a little longer. It’s giving my kids the best odds for decades more of my rockstar singing in the car (“Stop Mommy, you’re tooo loooud!”) and lecture-giving (“You be the person YOU want to be, blaze your own trails!”) and shameless question-asking about their body issues. (“Did you wipe… DID YOU? …No, really, DID you? I can TELL you didn’t.”)

But all this smack talk doesn’t amount to much, really. It’s just talk. And all that running has happened, but it’s no guarantee that I will run tomorrow. Or next week. It could end as fast as I started. Because it’s all about choice and whether or not that drive is there.

Is it?

It is right now. So there we go. No awards. No guarantees. No crying faces. No excuses.