This Memorial Day began with a weird (“oh my God it’s going to explode!”) whirring sound from my air conditioner. A frantic call and one responsive emergency repairman about an hour later revealed our worst fears. Our 14 year old unit, which has suffered through surface-of-the-sun summers and an endless beating from my son’s wiffle balls, was about to die a slow, stuttering, somehow honorable death in our back yard.
We get a new one on Tuesday. And I don’t want to TALK about what this will set us back. At all. I’m actually thrilled that I won’t even be here when the entire switch happens because – gag – it’s a lot of money and I just can’t bear to look. So anyway…
Our holiday weekend has meant piecing together episodes of functioning A/C moments. But when the weird, unnatural whirring begins, we turn it off.
And it’s late May. In Florida. We have heat here, people. Much, much stifling heat.
So if you were expecting some very insightful, super thought-out post about some wonderfully witty topic crafted by moi (*fluffing my hair*)… well, don’t. I’ve got nothing for you. With my t-shirt knotted very unbecomingly at my middle, I can’t really come up with much to say.
My mind has stuttered to a stop along with my enormous R2D2-looking air conditioning unit right outside my open window. I hear locusts. And a few birds chirping. And hot. I hear hot.
My computer’s fan is whirring like a mother right now.
So I will leave you with this. The best part of my weekend was spent with friends at the beach enjoying a fantastic Gulf of Mexico sunset. It was spectacular. And here is our crew fishing and wading and snorkeling away our over-heated hearts last night.
I’ll be back later – all cooled off, far FAR perkier, and way broker. (Shush. I’m allowing “broker” to be a word right now.)
If you live in the Tampa Bay area, tell me you have already saved the date, right? Yep, Saturday, June 26th is coming up and The Motherhood, Hebrew National and all of the blogger co-hosts have a very fun picnic planned for that day. And we really reeeeally want you and your family to come.
And why should you? Well, here are my top five reasons WHY you MUST come.
1) Get your grub on. Who wants to think up lunch for the whole family when it’s already there waiting for you? With fun and games too. It’s a lunch no brainer.
2) Be one with nature.E. G. Simmons Park is located in Ruskin on Tampa Bay. You’ll enjoy all that is beautiful about our local environs. Our coastline is so damn beautiful it will make you weepy – and you know it. Don’t forget the camera!
3) Watch me wrangle three boys. They aren’t all mine but I will be parenting them that day. And they like to fight. You might want to grab food from reason #1, park yourself on a bench and watch them have at it. I promise to try and keep my scolding G rated. It’s a family event after all.
4) The Mechanical bull. Ride ‘em cowboy. And you think I’m kidding? Check out the video taken by Mommy Words at her local Hebrew National picnic!
5) The Oil Spill. That’s right, here’s your chance to DO SOMETHING. A representative from the National Wildlife Federation will be there to answer questions. And we will be hosting a service activity aimed at giving children a chance to assist with the oil spill. We will also be collecting donated items which can help oil spill relief. The organizations we are supporting have donation lists here:
When I woke up yesterday morning with no particular plan for my family, I sat down with my cereal at the computer and happened to read this article. The headline read:
“Oil Spill: DEP says it will hit Florida’s beaches mid-week”
I immediately felt ill. Ever since hearing the news about this spill, I have felt desperately ill. It has seeped into my conscious and I can’t seem to shake it. Last week, when I read the Governor’s reaction upon seeing the spill from the air, my stomach lurched once again.
“Until you actually see it, I don’t know how you can comprehend and appreciate the sheer magnitude of that thing.”
And it’s still spilling out. It’s not capped. Just erupting into the Gulf ceaselessly and oozing its way across the Gulf’s expanse. And now, it will hit our shores this week.
So without thinking twice, I announced to my family that a trip to the beach was in order. We better go enjoy it. We better spend a whole day appreciating what a fantastic slice of the natural world we have 45 minutes away from our front door.
And of course I packed my camera.
I want to share with you what we have here – what one small section of beach in Florida looks like.
This beach is in Tarpon Springs, a small town north of Tampa. This beach is in a park actually and we pay nothing to be there. The water is shifting, rolling glass – clear, blue and breathtaking. The wildlife rivals any aquarium. Locals fish on the beaches edge and pull up striped, gulping species that I certainly can’t name. And it is nothing new to find dolphins swimming around the periphery hoping to snag a fish escaping a line. I got so close to a dolphin once I could have reached out and pet it. There are stingrays and birds and starfish and sand dollars and hermit crabs and horseshoe crabs and regular crabs. There are these small sand colored fish that nibble at your toes in the surf. There are beautiful tiny white shells lining the shore. And powder fine sand, like nothing I’ve seen, that you sink your feet into and then swear you’ll give up your job and your life in suburbia so that you never ever have to leave.
And it’s all up and down this entire coast. A resource like nothing else. A resource we take for granted.
So what can I do? As if some super sentimental post about my favorite beach will do anything at all. The oil is coming and we are all sitting aside, waiting and watching. Powerless.
Obama calls this “a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster”.
I don’t even know what to say to that.
I hate oil. I hate that we need it for our cars. I hate that we haven’t worked harder to harness other fuel resources. I hate that this kind of crap gets tied up in politics and partisanship and money and power and who has whose back. Our coasts and livelihoods and amazing wildlife care nothing about all that. But they will certainly pay dearly for it.
So why don’t we leave this post on a humorous note, shall we?? Because I think we could all use a good laugh right about now. And whose better at inspiring a giggle or two than our good buddy Sarah Palin? Here’s what she had to say to Biden about drilling during the Vice Presidential debate over a year ago (via The Huffington Post):
“You even called drilling — safe, environmentally-friendly drilling offshore — as raping the outer continental shelf. There — with new technology, with tiny footprints even on land, it is safe to drill and we need to do more of that.”
I suppose my friend and I should have known the beach was going to be crowded yesterday. Spring Break. In Florida. I mean, c’mon. A crowded beach is a given. We arrived with our kids – four of them – and pushed through the crowds with our chairs and bags and stuff that seemed not to be all that much back home. After corralling and coaxing kids to keep up, we finally found a spot and settled in. Wall to wall bodies or not, the beach is always a welcome day of activity for our kids.
So we set up our chairs, slathered SPF on our kids, nervously trained our eagle eyes on all four children and sat back, watching, biting into our homemade sandwiches. Ok. Ah. Spring break.
Would the couple RIGHT in front of me blocking one of my children please move, for crying out loud? Wow, its crowded. Well. Ok. I see him. Pass the cheetoes.
And it was about then when I heard that certain tone in a mother’s voice somewhere behind me. I know that sound: panic. I caught sight of a mom near us, wide-eyed, pacing in circles. And then she moved down to the water.
“Where is she?!?!? ELLLA!!!!! Where is SHE??? ELLLLLLAAAAA!!!! OH MY GOD WHAT IF SHES OUT THERE SOMEWHERE?!?!?!!!” And she pointed out to the water.
By this point other mothers, friends, people were surrounding her, touching her elbow, reaching out, eyes searching too, questioning, holding their breaths, just as panicked.
“What was she wearing?”
“How old is she?”
“What color hair?”
My friend and I leapt up. She called the boys in from the water and kept them at our seats. I started moving down the beach.
“A four year old girl is missing. Blond hair. Purple shorts. Floral top. Four year old girl. Blond hair. Purple shorts. Floral top. Four year old girl. Blond hair. Purple shorts. Floral top.”
More parents leapt up. More people yelling her description. Children were gathered close. All eyes were searching.
And Ella’s mother behind me. I could hear her panic. Her voice. She was screaming her name. My heart pulled tight.
“Four year old girl. Blond hair. Purple shorts. Floral top.”
Ella’s mom tore past me, she was crying now, searching searching searching down the beach.
“WHERE IS SHE?????? ELLLLLLAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!”
I couldn’t help but stop and turn around. I looked out into the water. Lots of people. Did I see blond hair, purple shorts and a floral top? What was that!?!? No. Birds.
I moved back to our spot on the beach. My friend and I looked at each other.
“So am I.”
The kids were confused.
“Why can’t we go swimming?”
“Stay RIGHT HERE.”
It could have been one of ours. Ella’s mother could have been either of us. Just like that. In one impossibly fast moment. A child could be gone.
So we stood there. We couldn’t SIT. A little girl was missing. I’m not sure how long we stood there. It reminded me of Zebras I used to watch in Africa. During danger, they gather their young and surround them, pointing their rumps to them, facing out, stopped, searching, ready for anything. And that’s what we did. She looked one way and I another, with all four children sitting at our ankles.
“…..they found her!”
Someone yelled in the distance that they found her.
“That’s what I heard. Someone just yelled it down the beach.”
“Did they find her?”
“That’s what I just heard.”
And then, in the distance, I saw Ella’s mother. In her arms, wrapped around her body, was a little girl with blond hair, purple shorts and a floral shirt. Ella’s face was buried in her mother’s neck. Her mother had her hand on the back of her little girl’s head – pressing Ella to her – and was walking slowly back down the beach. Sobbing. Smiling. Nodding to people she passed.
“Yes. I got her. Thank you. Yes, I am very relieved.” Shuddering, crying, laughing.
When she got to us, I fought back tears. Along with all the mothers around us, we stepped forward to reach out again.
“Ella, are you ok?”
She lifted her face from her mother’s neck, her big wet blue eyes stared back. She nodded. She held tightly on to her mother.
Oh thank God. She was ok. Oh thank God.
My friend and I started breathing again. We laughed nervously. Regrouped a bit. We herded the kids back down to the water, gave them back their shovels and sat gratefully back into our seats. Eyes locked on all four heads.
“So am I. Holy crap.”
“Where are those Cheetoes.”
Children go missing on beaches all the time. I am not sure what it was about this moment that struck a chord so deeply. Well, maybe I do. I couldn’t help but think of Maddie for some reason. Not another little girl. Gone. Just like that. I couldn’t help but put myself in that mother’s position, like I have with Heather. But like the events after Maddie’s passing, I was amazed to watch mothers in action. Those moms dropped everything to get the word out Ella was gone. They searched, they comforted, they worried. Yesterday and since Maddie has passed, my heart has been so touched to watch the incredible act of mothers taking care of other mothers. It is a powerful and stunning example of beauty, kindness, empathy and love.
So once again, I know to bring my boys closer and appreciate their craziness and all that comes with it. All is well in our life. We are fine. No zebra circling today. And since all is well with our lives, we can look out for and reach out to other mothers who need our support right now.
Heather Spohr’s family must raise $7,000 for her daughter Maddie’s funeral. Donations may be sent to a paypal account in her name at: email@example.com . Services will be held for Maddie on Tuesday, April 14th at 2:30pm at Old North Church, Forest Lawn, in Hollywood Hills. All are welcome to attend. Please wear purple in her honor. Also, a website with links and information about Maddie have been set up here.
The only bit of knowledge I dare share with you this evening is my formula for complete and total brain nummage. This formula is hardly unique - and I fear many of you have enjoyed and subsequently suffered from this sort of forumla on many occasions. But here it goes anyway. Who knows. Maybe your brain is firing on all cylinders, and thats just boring, and you would like to figure out a way to make it stop. Read away, this plan should reeeeally do the trick.
(Note: Definition of the Caroline word “Nummage”: Having been numbed to a point of total neural failure.)
1 five year old birthday party for T. At home. With games, a star wars theme, self-frosted box cake, pinata, sprinklers, candy, music, beers, balloons, streamers, heat, wet kids, costumed kids, light sabering kids, screaming kids, and exhausted kids.
1 morning of sheer panic packing for a week’s vacation to the beach. Where are the UV shirts? Did you pack both blankies AND mickey mouse? Don’t forget the mega super value box of goldfish. Did we pack “Return of the Jedi”? No he doesn’t want “The Phantom Menace”, its gotta be “Return of the Jedi”, he’s ALLLLL about Luke getting away from Jabba and Boba Fett falling into the Sarlac Pit (…what?…). Wait. This place has STAIRS???? What place has STAIRS in Florida!!!! GET THE BABY GATE GET THE BABY GATE!!!
3 hours of driving to our beach destination. And we actually heard it. I thought it only happened in movies. But we heard it. The notoriously whined, in a continuous loop, starting after hour one: “Uhhhh… ARE WE THERE YET?”
7 of us – my fam, my brother, his wife, and one gloriously inquisitive and truly wonderful 18 month old - together, in a lovely townhouse, overlooking a Marina. …”GET THE BABY GATE UP!!!!! QUIIIIIICK!!!!!”
5 days of wake up, cereal everywhere, find the swim diapers, sunscreen, get the bathing suits on, find the noodles, floaties, toys, find the keys, pile in, go to pool, swim, chase, throw, catch children, pile into car, eat lunch, babies nap, we nap, everyone up, re-sunscreen, re-find everything, pile back in, go to beach, watch the undertow, watch them eat sand, stop them eating sand, pile back in car, realize someones swim diaper doesn’t smell so good, get back home, bathe, feed, play hard, to bed, parents hit the booze, eat, swear at the bug bites, appreciate how beautiful it all really is and how lucky we really are, collapse into bed and wake up and do it again.
4 hours back from our destination. There was a tanker explosion on I-75 a few days before and the traffic is fierce. It’s 99 degrees outside and my Saturn is in a full sweat keeping our A/C chugging while we crawl along. Nope, we are soooooo not there yet.
1 two year old birthday party for C. At the playground (thank God)! No games, but with a Mickey theme, another self frosted box cake, fruit, balloons, running, pushing swings, its way WAY too bloody hot, Popsicles, goopy cake, sticky kids, total baby meltdowns, and its done in less than 2 hours.
2 more birthday parties since. God help me if I have to eat another piece of frosted cake. Seriously. Birthday cake, the new white meat. It’s whats for dinner.
2 bad cases of diarrhea for both of my birthday boys. What? A diet of sand, salt water, pool water, mutual tub water, juice boxes, goldfish, and 5 lbs. of birthday cake aren’t going to keep the pipes working normally for my two boys? Soooo utterly shocking.
So yup. That’s my formula for total brain nummage. I am SHOCKED this post even got posted. I am SHOCKED I had the wits about me to move. mouse. to. box. that. says. “publish”. But I guess I did. So I must be coming around. The neurons are slowly starting to refire. I am getting feeling back in my frontal lobe. If I lay off the overscheduling-total-control-freak crack that leads to this horrid case of brain nummage, there may just be hope for me yet.
That’s right. Sun, sea, sand, some tunes, some sand toys, some beachy drinks. Swimming way out so the kids can’t get me. Scanning the horizon for dolphins. Sunblock everywhere – maybe I’ll get a ”harmless” tan …if there is such a thing. Watching the kids play, so proud they do so well with the water. Making sure no one throws sand. Building castles, yup, I’ll be right there to help. Stop throwing sand at your brother. Sand in my sandwich and sand in the CD player. Sand in a diaper. Sopping wet swimmie diapers. T. has to poop and where is the closest potty? Hauling stuff everywhere. Sunburns. Stop throwing sand at your brother. Sand crunching in C’s teeth. Hysterical crying fits when we leave the beach. Stop throwing flip flops at your brother. Wet everything. Sandy everything. Constantly hungry and everything costs 5 times what it should. Baths, showers, towels hung out to dry, a beer or 6, tuck kids in bed, and turn the tunes back on to watch the sun set.
And realize there is no internet access. Deep breaths. Its only 5 days!