When we transplanted our New England family to Tampa eight years ago, I thought our family’s love for the Red Sox would transplant easily, too. Nope. Like something grown from his own sandy garden of Floridian soil, my 9 year old son has tended his love for the Rays for most of his life. He has a poster of The Trop on his wall, Longoria’s T-shirts are stuffed into his drawers and he carries an old, worn Rays backpack everyday to school. The Rays are something he has adopted, watched loyally on TV and emulated in our backyard with wiffle balls, pop flies over the house and whispered replays.
So, when I got an email from the marketing folks at the Rays asking if I would come to Opening Day and watch the game from their Blogger’s Suite, all I could think of was my son. And how perfect this match was, really.
I kept the secret though. I didn’t tell him that I was going to spring him from school on Tuesday afternoon. Dressing him in his favorite Rays t-shirt that morning was nothing new. But finding his mom dressed in her Rays t-shirt, in the school’s front office in the middle of the day, was most definitely something new.
He asked hurried details and reread the day’s itnerary all the way down to the game. We got there 2 hours early, and that was fine by him. We circled the park and laughed at the booming music, the tail-gating, the sea of blue jerseys and smiling faces. Once inside, he wanted to go directly to the suite. So, we did. And, once we were there, my son wanted nothing to do with any socializing. He wanted to watch the game and take in every single detail on the field. Forget the chit-chat. Opening Day? For the Rays? Come on, people. It’s not Spring Training any longer. This is serious business. He sat front and center and ignored everything but the game.
They didn’t win, as much as I hoped that they would. But that was OK. My 9 year old assured himself me that there were so many more games left in the season. And we would be back (“Right? Right, mom?”) and we would see a win. Because that’s the best part about baseball. There are enough games that there’s time to sit and savor the experience. We can munch our popcorn and watch the flow and appreciate it’s calm process and deliberate order.
Tampa has become a very comfortable spot to raise my family. But, for my son,Tampa is home. And The Trop is a familiar, magical spot that he comes back to every season. A place that he knows and studies on TV and remembers from seasons before. On Opening Day, my son was back in his element. A home I never anticipated–but his home, still.
On our way out the door, the very kind folks at The Trop gave us some fun giveaways that will be available to fans at future games.
The David Prive Cy Young Figurine will be given away on April 6th when the Rays play the Cleveland Indians.
The Astro Bobblehead will be given away on April 21st when the Rays play the Oakland Athletics.
The Joe Maddon Garden Gnome (MY personal favorite, love it!) will be given away on April 24th when the Rays play the Yankees.
All opinions in this blog post are my own. The Rays gave me two tickets to the Opening Day game and a few giveaways but I was not given any paid compensation for my blog post or tweets.
So, Isaac didn’t amount to much here. I just went outside to see if I could even find a branch down or something impressive to post but… nope. Just a puddle. And a light breeze. Wow. We were VERY lucky. My thoughts go out to those who were affected. And to those who may still be in danger.
Back here in the bay area, it seems that Tampa and the GOP are faring JUST FINE according to this article published this morning.
I may have been panicking over nothing, really. But panicking is what I do here, I suppose. Especially if I’ve devoted an entire blog category to it. Ahem.
So, game on. The GOP can get back to losing their ever-loving minds and I can go back to wringing my hands over this election.
Thanks to our county and my office erring on the side of caution, the boys and I are home today. I’m working at my laptop while they tear apart the costume box and eat fig newtons from our hurricane food supply and play with the flashlights we had out in case of a power outage. Pretty sure forts are in their near future.
We’re safe and sound and out of any danger.
I’d like to think this guy may have had something to do with it. Costume box, FTW!
I’m looking out of my window right now, watching the first few light sprinkles of Hurricane Isaac begin. Folks aren’t expecting this storm to be as bad as it could be, but preparations are being made anyway. We have water, canned food, ice, batteries, a weather radio, board games at the ready, beer (hurricane party!) and our back porch cleared of projectiles.
While we anticipate this storm coming in, 50,000 GOP delegates are also arriving into Tampa for the RNC. Yep, 50,000 republicans are arriving into my little city while a hurricane gathers strength just south of here and city officials and security folks scramble, on high alert, madly shutting things down and battening down hatches and trying to make this place welcoming ALL at the same time.
How do I feel about all this?
I’m not from Tampa originally, but it has been my home for seven years. And right now I am feeling strangely over-protective of it.
I know. Florida gets a lot of crap for being… well… Florida. We are the butt of endless jokes. Some are deserved, many are not. I’m not sure what the hate is about, exactly. Every U.S. city and state has its nasty bits and its beautiful bits. But it’s as if Florida, almost like New Jersey, is allowed to be crapped on.
So, there’s that.
And Florida has had some tough times recently. Our Tea-party Governor’s approval rating is appalling (statistically, Lebron James actually fares better), funding for education has been drastically cut, empty homes are left everywhere, unemployment is a mess, on it goes… But we are trying to fight our way back and we’re seeing some good progress.
Now add 50,000 RNC delegates. And a hurricane.
Now cue MORE Florida jokes, GOP jokes and nation-wide cheers for destruction because that’s what they had coming to them. It’s FLORIDA, after all, with a bunch of republicans in it. HA HA!
Photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Times, Instagram.
Hey, I’m a democrat and I’m not super fond of what these folks stand for but, people, be nice. I even wrote a post about why I welcome this convention to our city. For crying out loud, our little city was just sitting here, hoping to host a party for one side of the political coin, trying to stake out a little spot in the national spotlight… and now all of THIS.
THIS could totally kick Tampa’s ass and give all those convention-goers a bad taste in their mouth when remembering their time here. And it could just keep the rest of the nation laughing at us and making more jokes and not taking Tampa seriously for anything. Because when you try to do something serious here, a hurricane will just wipe it out anyway. So, why bother.
Maybe the storm won’t be a big deal. Just a lot of wind and rain. Hopefully, it just makes for a good story and lots of good times and a whole bunch of hurricane parties. And the sun will come out… and everyone will cheer and see the good… and the damage won’t be so bad… and all will be well!
(My optimism = DENIAL.)
Yesterday, my family decided to spend our pre-storm time with some local beauty before it got crazy. We headed over to Clearwater Beach and took some pics in between periods of rainfall. It was beautiful. Because it IS beautiful here.
THIS IS A NICE PLACE TO LIVE.
I got your back, Tampa. Hopefully some of our visitors — and those tuning in to watch this crazy — will, too. Now, pass the warm beer and flashlights!
Behold the bounty of our school supply shopping escapades.
And this doesn’t include the pile of clothes and underpants that we bought either.
It was a tax-free weekend for school supplies here in Florida. And, since school starts in two weeks, we figured we would take advantage.
But even after so very much money spent (tax-free = throngs of shoppers out and about = price inflation, just saying), somehow it doesn’t seem like enough.
It seems so ironic, you know? A tax-free holiday offered to residents to get geared up for a year ahead at public schools that are barely intact after our governor decided to cut more than $2 billion dollars from education. Why? He doesn’t want to — GOD FORBID — raise taxes. Schools in Florida will have $700 less per student than they did before. Because, you know, their cups were just running over with spending surplus in years prior…
Ask a Florida teacher how much he or she made last year. Ask a Florida teacher how much he or she makes this year.
The education cups have never run over here. Never. And the only reason we have teachers still teaching at our schools is, well, because they don’t have much of a choice but to take the cut. Or, they are just awesome men and women who care too much about their kids to bail out and try for something else. Or maybe they aren’t teaching at all anymore, because they were fired due to these “tax-saving” budget cuts.
I’ve heard rumors of 4 day weeks. We got letters home about “many changes” expected in the coming year and to “please be understanding” as they adjust to drastic budget cuts.
So, looking over at this pile of expensive school supplies doesn’t really feel so great. Because I think we should be giving so much more. Something is very wrong with our system when cutting back on education to save a buck in our paychecks is morally acceptable.
My husband and I are hardly rolling in it. We’re upside down on our home thanks to an already shaky Florida economy. We have stacks of bills and 10 year old appliances kicking out on us just like everyone else. But if it would help our schools to buy this stack of school supplies once a month, I would.
But somehow I don’t think a monthly drop-off off clorox wipes and reams of paper will solve our budget problems.
So this tax-free weekend I don’t feel like we saved anything at all, really. I’m just afraid we’ve lost too much already.
Here we go again. I had to turn my A/C back on. I wanted it to be Fall. And it was Fall for a little while. My boys and I played in the backyard, windows wide open, humidity gone and temperatures perfectly perfect.
But no. Florida came back to remind me that all bets are off down here. Never pack your summer clothes and always keep your A/C vent clean. It was 89 degrees today.
As a kind of, former New Englander, I get asked about this time of year a lot. Don’t you miss the changing leaves? What is it like living without any seasons? Isn’t it weird to celebrate Halloween or Christmas in the warm weather?
I’ve lived in Florida for over five years now – a fact which blows my mind in its own right. And it is not the same down here. With the A/C and a tank top on right now, yeah, its hard to feel all hot cidery and crunchy leavey about this time of year.
But does that make this season any less like Halloween? Maybe its a cop out, but I argue that it’s just, well, different. And haven’t we learned from many an Afterschool Special that different IS OK, dammit?
Most of the U.S. celebrates holidays and seasons similarly with certain colors, temperatures, smells in the air, clothes worn and sun shifts across the sky. It’s familiar, it’s comfortable, it’s how it’s done.
But Florida plays by its own rules. It sticks out south here and tries to get all chummy with the West Indies, Mexico and Central America. Like some rebellious teen, it acts all “I’m sooo not anything like my family”. And then, after glancing northward at its sibling states, it insists “I don’t know what they’re into but I totally roll with humidity, keeerazy sun and palm trees, yo.” And it does.
But eventually Florida shrugs off its humidity and plays by the rules for a small while. The air does get “cooler” and the A/C is switched off. And while others worry about jackets over Halloween costumes, we worry about… well, nothing. Because Halloween night here almost always promises perfect, dry weather, folding chairs pulled into the driveway, pink and purple skies, laughing neighbors and temperate breezes. It is a beautiful absolutely spectacular time of year. And one we can’t help but enjoy adopting as “typical” Fall weather.
You see, after 5 years, I’ve learned to look a little closer and find that seasonal specialness that comes with this time of year. It is here. T-shirt and flip flop worthy, sure – but it is here.
Sometimes, if you look carefully in certain light, the colors of Fall are there.
Sometimes the sky is more orange than any pumpkin you will find.
After 5 years, new symbols of fall emerge. Like a drying stump in the backyard or beautiful berries on a bush.
Sunflowers come and sunflowers go. (And then come back again.)
And yes, sometimes, our leaves change too.
Happy Halloween. The beers will be on ice in our driveway on Sunday if you want to stop by…
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:
I was sitting in my dining room this morning trying to negotiate a very busy summer schedule and another blogging trip. Deep in concentration, I was still a bit groggy but vaguely keeping one ear open for my four year old playing in the other room.
When something caught my eye.
My husband had just gone out the kitchen door through the garage and was getting something out of his car. So the door was kind of open. And I think that’s how it got in.
A LONG snake.
Groggy or not, I could NOT believe my eyes. And I was suddenly very much wide awake.
With wide, slithering arcs, our new visitor was apparently trying to make his way across our kitchen floor. And quickly. And so like any calm, self-sufficient woman, I screamed for my husband to GET in here RIGHT NOW!! Confused, he rushed in – and jumped. I laughed at him jumping only to find myself standing on a dining room chair.
And the snake, even more concerned about being cornered by this new apparent predator jumping at his rear, streaked right for our oven. Under he went.
…What the hell was THAT? My husband and I stared at each other disbelieving.
But we knew we had to get him out. With what, we weren’t sure. But we had to find something, some way, to coax him out of there.
We took a look at him first. And there he was, curled up under our stove trying to get away from his potential predators and the overwhelming heat of the day. The bubble over his head clearly read:
Dude. Be cool. I just want to curl up back here awhile. I mean no harm. So as you were. Nothing to see here.
That wasn’t going to fly. Not with dinners to cook in that very stove and children about and bare feet and who knows WHERE he might wind up next.
I think it was the sudden visual of his slithery silent body making his way up through my sheets and into my bed at night that made me start shaking the oven. Violently.
So, with a fishing pole slashing around the back of the oven and my panicked careful shaking, he cautiously made his way forward. And yes, I laid on the floor with the camera to get a shot. My husband was aggravated. How I could prioritize camera angles over just getting him OUT already? Come on now. But blurry or not, I had to get some shots. HAD TO.
It felt like an hour later, after the trash truck had passed (and scared him back in) and more patient waiting, and calm whispering and much less coaxing, slashing and violent shaking in general. After some still and silence, he seemed ready to emerge.
(I should mention here that my four year old never emerged. He remained deeply engrossed in his play elsewhere. How? With all that noise and stressing and cussing? I have no idea. But he stayed put so phew to that.)
Anyway, so we sat there quietly. An inch at a time he moved forward.
And once he had come out entirely, we stood very slowly.
My husband gently reached out with the fishing pole and used the eyelet of the pole to pull the snake away from the shelving he was heading towards next.
Miraculously, the snake figured out what we were trying to do and saw his escape. He bolted with full arcing speed, and zipped back into the garage. Into a pile of boxes and toys and crap we haven’t organized.
No. I have no idea if he is still out of there.
But he’s not in my house. And in Florida, where snakes move through our lives more frequently than we’d like to admit, I’ll have to settle for a snake in our garage versus a snake in our kitchen.
In retrospect, that snake was cool as hell. No, not poisonous. And certainly not aggressive. Perhaps desperate for a bit of cool shade. As we all are right now. Because it’s damn HOT outside. So I certainly can’t blame a snake for trying. I’m just proud of us for getting him out unharmed and not flipping the frock out too badly.
My only regret? My kitchen floors. That poor guy sped out of here with a dust bunny attached to his head.
Because if unexpected wildlife wandering through my home wasn’t enough to put you off a visit sometime soon, my dirty floors may just be.
So. Cleaner floors. Fewer snakes. More friends. I’ll get right on that.
I don’t post about the Gulf as much as I think about it. Because I think about it a lot. And I think about posting about it a lot.
Honestly, I just don’t know what to say.
Somehow the words I partially piece together in my mind don’t measure up to my anger.
Screw it. Here I am. With a maddening itch to write something. Because I really don’t think enough is being said.
It’s too damn quiet. And I wonder why this is.
Maybe we feel a little guilt?
Maybe – thanks to our dependency on oil and the power oil has over our politics – we somehow allowed a bunch of oil drills to set up off our coasts, never actually requiring that they have an effective disaster plan in place. And maybe that’s bugging us a bit?
It’s all good. We just need that oil. Gulf be damned.
Sure, I’m mad at the oil giants who make heaps of money off our shores. And I’m mad at the politicians who invited them there in the first place. And I’m mad that so little focus has been given to alternative energy resources.
But my anger is directed at the rest of us. I’m disgusted at how easily we shrug our shoulders and accept our oil dependency. I’m mad that we never questioned how those rigs are run. I’m furious that we never considered making our shores and the citizens who depend on these waters a priority.
This is our fault.
Nothing. Its too quiet. We aren’t reacting to this.
Recent outrageous gas prices certainly weren’t enough to wake us up. I’m not sure the worst oil spill in American history will either.
And why is that?
Because there isn’t enough outrage. Really. There just aren’t enough fancy pictures that can clearly illustrate all of the anticipated long term damage. There aren’t any celebrity phone banks and movie stars handing over millions and cell phone numbers to call and donate to any particular cause.
And there aren’t enough families obviously affected to really concern our country. Because too many other families are affected by their own lost homes, jobs and credit. Because everyone else is just trying to afford enough gas to get to whatever job they can come by, oil spill or not.
The country is numbed out and indifferent.
There’s not enough outrage because there isn’t any energy left for it.
So the spill will be haphazardly, kind of, sort of cleaned up. Maybe. Enough so that the cameras will report back about various attempts to slop something up. And those living near the coast will get used to a new normal with oil just… everywhere. People will pick up the pieces a bit and move out of towns depending on the Gulf coast and regroup as best they can and this spill will just be part of our permanent reality.
And once the small bit of current clamoring does die down, BP will be back out there again, pumping the oil up to the surface while we are too busy trying to keep dinner on our tables to stop and reconsider other ways to power our cars and finally push oil companies off their gilded thrones.
I’m just not hopeful.
And when I’m not hopeful, I don’t really want to write.
Adventure Island in Tampa officially began its season of “Island Nights” on June 10th. And the folks at Adventure Island graciously invited me to bring my family and check it all out. Considering how much my children love water and how HOT it has been in Tampa already, we jumped at the chance to see what this water park is all about.
For three nights a week during the summer, Adventure Island opens its doors to families late into the evening. Guests are welcome to cool off at night on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from June 10th – August 14th.
And why would anyone want to hit a water park in the evening? If you’re asking that question, you’re obviously not from Florida. The sun here is HOT. Floridians are constantly concerned about sunburns and sunscreen reapplication. Also the heat of a summer day in Florida, water park or not, can be a bit overwhelming. Even when the sun sets, the air stays very warm in Florida. So being able to soak our summer weary bodies without the intense sun makes an evening visit to Adventure Island a very cool and refreshing plus.
So what did we think? My boys and I had a fantastic time. Truly. There are water rides for every age: splash pools for toddlers, age appropriate slides, climbing fun, water guns and dumping buckets for bigger kids, and then every combination of water slide for the oldest kids.
And by oldest kids I mean adults. Because there is something about a water park that makes every adult a kid again.
There are good deals for Florida and Georgia residents so check their website for ticket prices. However, be prepared to pay an extra $12.00 for parking. And if you want to rent a locker (which is very convenient) they cost $12.00 a day too. Also, I’ve heard that you need to get to the park early during the day to stake out a spot. We didn’t have any issues with a place for our things during the evening (we also rented a locker) but it is something to be aware of as the park gets busy.
Here is a quick video of our visit. It’s quick because I spent most of my time having fun. But it should give you a feel for the place during the evening. Plus my very sad seven year old at the end of the video (he did NOT want to leave, he had the time of his life, truly) cracked me up. Poor kid. But his tears are a sincere indication of how much fun he really had at Adventure Island that night.
FTC Disclosure: Adventure Island paid for my family’s parking and admission.