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.)
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.”
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!!
Raise your hand if your family really IS as angelic and Hallmark-worthy as your carefully ordered Tiny Prints Christmas cards?
OK. Raise your hand if your family will never look anywhere remotely angelic for a Christmas card and you feel the judgey eyes of the world upon you as you can NOT get your kid to smile and remotely fear that this will end up on some “Crappy Christmas Pictures from the 2010s!” website or Tumblr (or whatever’s cool for stuff like that) someday.
I thought so.
Christmas cards are rough. Expectations are high and kids are over it the minute you start shellacking down their hair.
Speaking of hair catastrophes, last year my then 5 year old had a rip-roaring, mind-numbing, temper tantrum rager just minutes before our Christmas picture was to be taken in our backyard. We were all dressed up, my husband had a half hour before he had to leave for some coaching event (and was already pacing), our friend was there ready to shoot and the sale on Christmas card orders ended THAT DAY. However, my kid decided to flip the frock out at that very moment. I found out why later. You won’t believe this.
HE WAS CRYING BECAUSE HE THOUGHT I HAD COMBED HIS HAIR LIKE JUSTIN BIEBER.
But we got one smile. Barely. Blood from a stone, people. Blood from a fricking stone…
This year, we had no one around to take a picture. So, I thought it was time to whip out yee old, traditional camera self-timer. Isn’t that how it used to be done? Everyone lined up in front of the tree with a self-timer blinking madly and your dad screaming at everyone to “SMILE GODDAMMIT!!!”
Yep, that sounded perfect for this year.
So we all lined up in front of our door. My camera on a tripod and everyone’s hair combed. (No Justin Bieber look-alikes this year, I can assure you.) However. Before we got started, I used my super serious eyes and quiet “don’t ‘F’ with me” mom voice to demand a smile. Only true success, I swore coolly, would grant them each a milkshake afterwards.
Now. Here’s the really crazy part… It worked. A couple shots and we were done.
Kind of anti-climactic, really
So. We took some more. And I thought I would share them with you. No filtered, perfectly-posed, matchy-matchy, one-shot-in-a-million Christmas cards from us. Uh-uh. THIS is how my family rolls for Christmas card time. Folks, I think we’ve started a new tradition.
And that was only a few. I think we could have done that ALL day. I recommend you do the same. You’ll get some less than traditional, memory-worthy winners, I promise.
One year ago today, my best friend’s third daughter was born. During her 40 days of life, she inspired and gathered more love than many do in an entire lifetime. My time with her and her family during those weeks changed me forever.
She was a beautiful, sweet, wee thing. I remember being so deeply struck by her warmth. She was this perfect bundle of warm love, watching us and being just such a cute, CUTE, CUUUTE baby.
Today, loved ones released balloons in her memory. I watched on Facebook as people honored her with words and pictures (in between charging down my work to-do list). I wanted to release balloons, too. I wanted to celebrate her day, too. It was a beautiful day and she was a beautiful girl and both needed to be acknowledged.
So, I arrived home late tonight, dropped my bag and wandered over to my cupboard. I found a candle. Well. She needs a birthday candle, right?
It seems fitting. Her life began during a time of family and thanks and holidays that twinkle and sparkle. She shone as brightly; she was a gift. Today is a celebration of her life, her love, the light she brought us all. So, that candle sits across from me. Lit.
I remember your beautiful eyes, watching us all.
I remember your mother’s nose on your face.
I remember your sweet sounds.
I remember how we could tuck you away on our chests and feel you breathe and find peace.
I remember how people gathered for you, and loved you.
It seems all sorts of folks have been speaking on my behalf about a few things. And I am referring to myself in the general “just your average mom” kind of way. But as a typical, average mom who believes in equality, choice and, well, love (I know, sooooo feminist of me), these folks seem to have me wildly misinterpreted and misrepresented. And that’s not OK.
Let’s start with a group that subtly titles itself “One Million Moms.” (I’m not linking to them because I don’t want to. Go find them for yourself if you wish.) People look at that name, however, and say, “Oh hey, that’s a whole lot of moms! That must be every mom! Let’s hear what all these moms think.” Ok. Well, this group of a “million moms” has recently waged war against JC Penney. Why? Here’s why:
“Recently JC Penney announced that comedian Ellen Degeneres will be the company’s new spokesperson. Funny that JC Penney thinks hiring an open homosexual spokesperson will help their business when most of their customers are traditional families… By jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon, JC Penney is attempting to gain a new target market and in the process will lose customers with traditional values that have been faithful to them over all these years.”
Wait a second. I’m a traditional family. I mean, I have kids and a mortgage and I want them raised to be nice, lawful people. So, JC Penney is going to LOSE customers with these values because their new spokeswoman is a woman who loves another woman?
This ragtag collection of one million moms need to check their hate and get the hell off my lawn. My values are about equality and love and I’d like to think those values are pretty damn traditional in a certain “What Would Jesus Do” kind of way.
But wait, there’s more.
I choose to use birth control. Funniest thing, that. If I don’t, I get pregnant. I’ve tried it, twice. So, I know I cannot afford to pull the goalie because we can’t feed more mouths, we need me working and, dammit, I’m getting kind of old for that stuff. Deciding to provide for my family is far more productive than reproduction — but apparently this is questionable.
One of the current GOP candidates running for President (of the United States, yep, the whole country), Santorum, has said this:
“One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”
AND PEOPLE ARE VOTING FOR HIM.
And people are supporting him. Like this bozo, Santorum’s billionaire backer, who actually informed us that:
“Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”
Yep. He said that.
People are bringing Santorum’s views on contraception up, why? Because our President thought that maybe women might need some help affording birth control. You know, since healthcare is kind of expensive? And because poor women are more than 3 times as likely as middle class women to have an unintentional pregnancy due to birth control costs. So, every woman has the same rights as I do to choose NOT to have babies and go back to work, right?
Ask the GOP. They are scratching their heads and aren’t really sure how to respond. And democratic folks on Capitol Hill like Senator Boxer are left reminding us that “This is the 21st Century.” And:
“Ninety-nine percent of women, including 98 percent of Catholic women have used birth control. And 77 percent of Catholic women voters support requiring insurance plans to cover contraception for free.”
Who care more about their gods and fathers than whether or not their wives have the right to choose when they want to have a family. Or go back to work. Or help pick their families up out of the financial hole this country dug us all into.
These guys HAVE to stop speaking for me.
Because none of this is about equality or choice.
And I’m in the middle of my own local school politics war about a potential 4 day school week in my county. An “impartial” task force was formed to discuss the possibility. At last night’s meeting, it seems this group is speaking for me, too. They seem quite ready to neatly — and fairly quietly — nudge this option along and sweep the deficit under the carpet by taking away my children’s school time.
Oh you guys had better stop speaking for me. AND my children.
I’m all kinds of fed up. Because people are speaking for me and treating my values — equality, choice and love — as if they were outrageous, anti-family values, and something that actually needs fixing.
Our political leaders speak for all of us. Because we hired them and we put them there. Write your congressperson, make noise and take this opportunity to speak for yourself before we’re left with a bottle of Bayer aspirin and so many fewer rights than we thought we had in (what century? Oh that’s right, the 21st, thanks Senator) the first place.
I made this on the beach while I was sitting next to my husband. Little did he know that I was making his Valentine.
Now, don’t start eye-rolling on me. This is about as good as it gets. Because the only other things he’s getting from me this year are a man-scaper trimming device (that he really, reeeeally needs) dropped in a gift bag and maybe a sleep-breathy, semi-muffled, super rumpled “g’night” from the depths of my blankets when he gets home LATE from his game tonight.
Ah, the romance of an 11 year marriage. Be jealous.
But this beach heart picture is pretty cool, anyway. That day was wonderful.
Do you ever wonder how you can keep things from going wrong? Just stop everything and hold on and push and shove the bad away? When you love something so much, you have so damn much to lose.
A couple weekends ago, we decided to go to the beach. In January. Of course, that’s not a big deal in Florida. It’s 75 and sunny this time of year as opposed to 95 and scorching. So we brought a lunch and I sprawled out on the blanket while my husband and kids went looking for shells.
I remember lying there and thinking — desperately acknowledging, really — that THIS IS UTTER PERFECTION. The water. The sun. The day. And watching them.
I am so grateful, it almost hurts.
When bad things happen around you to people you love, you try very hard to rationalize it.
A lot of bad things have happened to people I love recently. Cancer, death, lost jobs, broken relationships, bad stuff.
Bad stuff just keeps happening to good people. For no reason. For no purpose.
But there I lay under the sun that day, I lay there in total perfection with sun and clear water and my entire family and love and health and laughter and ease.
I am so grateful.
In fact gratitude has become my superstition, my religion, my lucky rabbit’s foot and my four leaf clover.
I keep thinking that if I say thank you silently (or, ahem, not so silently… like on a blog or something), the powers that determine good and bad will think… “OH. Well. She knows what she has. She is thankful for it. She isn’t taking it for granted. We’ll let the bad stuff slide. For now.”
Ha. As if that’s really how it works.
But when bad stuff happens to good people and there is no rhyme or reason… well, whispering my desperate thanks aloud over and over and over again makes just about as much sense.
So I am clutching my own kind of rosary beads, linked together with every single thing I love, and worrying over it and and treasuring it and giving it such careful focus…
Thank you for this day. Thank you for my boys. Thank for my life and our health and my thriving boys and that I can afford to put gas in my car and that I love the person on the couch next to me and that the sun is out and all is fine, fine, fine.
We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder
My best friend’s baby passed away a few days after Christmas. I wrote this during the days following and was honored to then share it at her funeral this past Friday. I am posting it here since I have had a few people ask to read it again. Ultimately, I hope to share the lessons I have learned from this amazing and (to quote her mother ) oh so “remarkable” child. (Please note that I have omitted any names to protect their privacy since my blog is public.)
There is a spider that lives in my shower. I had meant to get it out of there while cleaning my bathroom months ago. But I hadn’t. So there he lived, minding his business, affecting nothing.
The day I found out that my friend’s baby had Trisomy 18, I stood soaking in my shower and hating that spider. Why? That spider was likely to outlive this new life. That seemed more unfair and impossible than any other fact of life I had ever experienced. I hated that spider with every part of me. I wanted to swat it down from there and be done with it. But I didn’t.
A handful of days later, I arrived at my friend’s apartment with my bag and my heart in hand. I stepped through the door and found the sounds and smells of warmth and home. There was joy and children laughing here. Voices, hugging, coming and going and comfort. And there, by her sleeping daddy’s side, nestled deeply in the coziest wrappings of blankets and and all of this wonderful love around her was the baby.
I was pretty selfish about her right from the get go. Give her to me. I needed to be with this baby. But I wasn’t the only one. Over the next few days, people came. Family, friends, letters, emails, phone calls, Facebook comments, small packages, enormous tin-foiled servings of food, flowers, people and more people. All of this and the love they stood for arrived to that very same apartment. We were all pulled into orbit around this perfect wonder, who stared up from her wrappings and watched us all.
I’m not sure she knew what the fuss was about. You see, this girl was more concerned about just being a baby. She slept, she cried, she fussed when she was hungry, she gulped down milk while propped up in loving arms, she needed burping, she needed changing, she smiled in her sleep, she carried on doing the very important business of a baby. She also watched her mama. In the wee hours, she (like any newborn with their sleeping and waking wildly mixed up) was wide awake and mesmerized by her mother’s voice. Alert, eyes wide open, tiny lips in an “O”, she stared up at her and punched her arms a bit and stared some more. Her mama amazed her.
So, while being very busy at the business at being baby, this child somehow stirred up all that had settled in our souls. She awoke and re-energized our hearts and brought love and joy sharply into focus. While we gathered and her heard story, our lives were forever shifted on their axes, driving us to think carefully about all that we cherish in this very moment. With dark eyes watching, she inspired everyone of us to look inward and kick the dust off our joy, reminding us what we so easily take for granted.
Did you ever notice that her fingers were crossed? Even this sweet trait of hers inspired me. “Fingers crossed that you get what I’m trying to say here, Auntie. Fingers crossed you are loving your life and all you have in it.”
So, back to that spider. I haven’t been home to see if that spider still resides in my shower but I suspect that he does. But here’s the thing about that spider. During his lifetime living in the corner of a ceiling affecting nothing, he will never EVER conjure up, create or inspire the kind of love our wonderful girl did in 40 days. In fact, how many of us could say that we have done what she has in the many years of our own lives? It doesn’t matter how long you have, it is what you do and you give that matters.
She was a precious gift. She was pure joy wrapped in a blanket. She was our reminder to love, right now and everyday after this.
In her honor, I will do everything I can to reach deep down and keep that soul of mine and the love I have in my life dusted off, held up and celebrated. 40 days, 40 years, 80 years, it is what I choose to do, not how long I have to do it. I hope I can keep this up for you, sweet baby. I will certainly do my very best. Fingers crossed.
In the past, I thought forward. I considered and dreamed about my so very dear adult-life. The man I would marry. I wrote lists of names for my children. I sighed about where we would live. I would wonder how they would look. My so very perfect, just-so life.
And I said I would take my children to The Nutcracker someday. When *I* was a mother. And they would, of course, love it as much as I did.
That day came last week. My son had seemed interested so now, at 8, I decided it was time he went. But at 38, I try not to get too caught up in romanticising what I will do with my children anymore. Things change, kids don’t like what you did a lot of the time, real-life isn’t so make-believe. But I bought the tickets and I took him. We held hands. We walked along the Riverwalk before the show. We sat and read the program and ate cough drops together and giggled about how we couldn’t stop coughing. When the lights went down and he heard the music, he smiled. And he turned to me. He got it right away. He loved it like I had. This was something special for him, too.
Suddenly I became far too aware that the future that I had day-dreamed about for so many years is happening right now. There are no more second chances, there no do-overs. This is it. My life. My adult life. And these are my children doing some of the things I dreamed and many that I didn’t.
This Christmas season has brought lots of difficult news. Apart from some things that I have written about, two friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer (one being one of my closet college friends), there are friends with very sick relatives, some with new concerns about their children, others who have had miscarriages, and others who have lost jobs. And while things remain blessedly peaceful and healthy in my life, there is a lot of coping and getting through the season happening all around me.
Again, it is very clear to me that every hope and dream for the future is so very very uncertain.
So, I don’t want to look forward so much anymore. I don’t want to think about what will happen in my dreamy little grown-up world. And I don’t want to think about what could have been or how things used to be. I want to grab hold of the present and BE entirely in it.
I want to tie myself to this very moment and experience it and let every taste and sound and feeling sink right on in. I don’t want to miss a thing, I want my eyes wide open to it all.
There will never be another first time I get to take my oldest child to The Nutcracker. So I sat in the theater and held his hand and watched him watch and laugh and listen and clap loudly. It was perfect and everything right now needs to be.
This, my life, is happening right now. This Christmas, this time when both of my children still believe in Santa and shamelessly dance “Christmas is almost here” dances in the hallway together, in Spider-man jammies… this is happening RIGHT NOW. 8 and 5 turns into 9 and 6 next year. And on it goes.
I cherish every Christmas past. I hope for many Christmases in the future. But I am living and breathing this Christmas present. I have what I have right now — and it is a gift.
To inspire little boy smiles for our family Christmas card, we pretended to pick my 8yo’s nose.
(Now I kind of wish I had “picked” this one for our card… har har.)
It’s almost to the point where I can’t turn on the news any longer because it might terrify my kids. Or. It might terrify me.
I put $10 in my tank at a time. Not like that’s the smartest strategy. Because there are reports that it will climb to $4.00 at anytime. So gas is actually “cheap” now. But $10 is what I can do sometimes.
My front yard grass won’t grow. It’s a lot of dirt. It gets tracked into the house all the time. I’m trying to fix it. But there are bugs trying to eat it and the stupid chemicals I don’t want to use aren’t really working so far.
Speaking of bugs, I think we have termites.
We left out the huge barrel of meat sauce that I made and my kids love. That was supposed to be our leftovers for awhile. Into the trash.
My best friends live far faaaar away. And I really need miss them.
I think my hot water heater is about to die. Along with my garage door opener that already died in a puff of smoke a couple months ago. And I am whistling past the graveyard that is my refrigerator. Let’s not even talk about it.
And you should see the peeling paint on the front bumper of my car. Long story, came that way, not our fault, hassle to deal and I just haven’t been mean enough to get someone to pay for it. So there it peels.
I’m not patient enough with my children. Just because they track dirt in or toss the chicken I cooked for them or tackle me from behind while I’m tying some one’s shoe or fight fight FIGHT over who gets to play Club Penguin. Just because they do those things does NOT in ANY way mean I should be so pissy with them.
Little things tweak me and poke me and nudge me into a scowling, grumbling, totally self-involved, bad mood.
But what a waste. They are only LITTLE things.
We are actually so good, really.
Why, WHY waste energy on the things that don’t really define my life at all?
Last weekend I was with my brother. I woke up in a state because a small freelancing job I am highly underpaid for was driving me batty. And, while screaming little boys with very little sleep tore madly around the house, we still had a Chuck E. Cheese party for my nephew to get ready for. Dark clouds had gathered over my head.
But leave it to my brother, who knows me and knows how to make it better. He rescued me from the kids and had me come get the birthday cake with him. He said we have to go find our sense of humor. Along the way, we picked up a box of Girl Scout Cookies. And he played old school R&B like Keith Sweat and KC and JoJo and we crooned and ate cookies and LAUGHED and took our time.
This morning, I was very lucky to happen upon a fantastic Ani Difranco concert posted on her Facebook page. If you need a little Ani, go here. It’s great. Really. But I also heard the song “Smiling Underneath” for the first time in awhile. Once again, her lyrics get me where I’m at.
And I thought of my brother and I, without the kids, eating Girl Scout Cookies in his car, singing badly, just being, noticing that the sun was shining and that life was fine.
It seems, even when it is practically against my will, I can shake it off and recognize the small stuff for what it is. Just… small.
I don’t mind waiting in line
I don’t mind if the bills pile up and the work is slow
I don’t mind the gas or the groceries or the drive
As long as I’m with you I’m having a good time…
…I don’t mind spilling my hot sauce on my white shirt
I don’t mind that twinge when I walk in that knee that I hurt
I don’t mind my gums peeling back or my hair getting thin
long as I’m with you, I win
long as I’m with you
We could be stuck in traffic for over a week
with a car full of Quintuplets who are all cutting teeth
and around my neck could be a flaming Christmas wreath
and I’d be smiling under
Screw the termites. Seek out your most loved ones. Then find cookies.