Jingles and Signs

I admitted that these past few weeks have been challenging in terms of emotional well-being. Six weeks sitting on my butt is not helpful to someone who stays busy to keep mind and body from getting bored. 

If you’re not following Awesomely Luuvie on social media, you need to stop everything and do so right now. She frequently discusses mental health. Her quote about keeping busy as an avoidance technique resonates with me. She understands why I feel like I cannot just sit, which is what I’ve done for the past six weeks.

I have been trying to keep my mind as occupied as possible, reading books and watching so much television. This week, I had the meltdown that has been brewing. While I’ve been watching mindless movies, The Starling came through after a rom-com finished. I got sucked in, resulting in sobs. Between these sobs, I realized that I had not yet received the sign from my mom I usually get whenever I’m having a rough time. This made me feel even more alone. 

When Michael came home from school, he was doing something he never does. He was singing commercial jingles. All afternoon, he sang the jingles to Nestle Crunch and a few other products. When Mike asked him why he was doing it, Michael explained that he “just felt like it.” It hit me that my mom used to do this all the time. She’d often do so in public, which embarrassed me to no end. I called my sister, who agreed, “I can hear her saying ‘you wanted a sign. Here’s your sign, asshole.'”

I went to bed assuming that I had my small, passive-aggressive sign that my mom was not going to make me sit on the couch recovering for eight weeks by myself. The following morning, while scrolling Facebook, I noticed something in the background of a post by a local consignment shop. It was a ceramic Christmas tree like the one my mom had when I was growing up. I’ve looked for one for years, able to find one similar, but not exactly like the one of my youth. I immediately called the story, gushing about how much finding this means to me. The owner listened, explaining that she enjoyed this part of the job, and she would put the tree aside until my husband could pick it up that evening. When I called Mike to tell him, he offered to pick it up at lunch.

Eleven years after losing my mom, it does not get easier. I wonder what her relationship with Michael would be like. When I was pregnant, I called her every afternoon to update what he had been doing in my tummy during the day. When he was an infant, she would be perfectly content staying on the phone listening to Michael drink his bottles. Eleven years later, wondering remains between reminders that she will look out for me when I need her. 

My Best Vacation Idea Ever!

The week before holiday break, I stalked the weather, hoping for a few warm days to go hiking or visit the zoo.  Each day revealed another unseasonably cold day.  I panicked, wondering what to do with Liam.  The three of us were home most of the week.  Anyplace indoors to entertain kids would be insanely busy.  (Not so secret information about me: I have zero patience for crowds.)  I looked into visiting Cape Cod during the week and decided to stay closer to home in Newport.  We were able to rent a room at the Holiday Inn Express at a very reasonable rate.  They had an indoor pool and free breakfast.  We splurged on a room with a jacuzzi, which Liam immediately at to explore.

We headed to Newport early and walked around Thames St, expecting to pretty much have the area to ourselves.  It was surprisingly busy!  After driving around a few minutes, I gave up and paid to park.  We had a nice lunch, walked around, and headed to the hotel for check-in.

We immediately changed and headed to the pool.  Liam was beyond excited to burn off energy.  We swam for over an hour and headed back to the room.  Since Mike and I really cracked down on extra expences and started watching our budget, we stopped ordering food and going out to eat.  That evening, we ordered Dominos for the first time in 2017.  Liam was amazed that we could have pizza delivered right to our hotel room.

Liam has minimum experience in hotels.  We often stay with relatives or go camping.   There were a few features he loved, such as the free soap and notebook.

“Can I keep the notepad?”

“You can.”

“And the pen?”

“Yes, buddy.”

“This is the nicest hotel ever!’

While waiting for dinner, we played Ticket to Ride. We bought it for Liam for Christmas.   It is a rare board game that I don’t mind playing.  Liam and I often play games at our favorite coffee shop; it’s nice to have a fun game at home.  After dinner, we headed back to the hotel.  This time, we had the pool to ourselves the entire time.  The depth varied from three to four feet, making it better for Liam, who could touch the bottom everywhere.

A few years ago, we stayed at a local Holiday Inn Express while getting through the local floods.  Each morning, Mike and I shared a tray of their cinnamon rolls.  Add some scrambled eggs and sausage, and we didn’t need to eat again until dinner.  We wondered why we worked fifteen hours a day in the basement and didn’t lose a pound.  Then we discovered that the cinnamon rolls have over 600 calories each.  We were eating a day’s worth of calories in the morning!  At the time, it was worth it to have the energy to work all day.  This time, we were much better, each eating only one.

We were able to hit the pool one more time in the morning.  There were two kids Liam’s age there; he was happy to have kids to play with.

This was such a great way to spend a day during a cold vacation!  We didn’t have to deal with crowds and it cost us less than going to dinner and a movie.  I’m so glad we decided to get away locally!

Random Happy Thoughts

I’m thankful that I decided to share my writing, even though it sometimes makes me nervous to hit the “Publish” button knowing that people will be reading my thoughts.  I once compared sharing writing to trying on bath suiting publicly; all of your flaws are visible for all to see.  However, I’ve received such a positive response, letting me know that maybe I do have something to say or offer to the world

Yesterday, I ran to the mall to return a pair of boots.  Searching for a replacement for my six-year-old riding boots is the epitome of a first-world problem.  I thought I had a pair to fit my calves, only to discover they were far too tall and hit the back of my calves when I walked.  The customer at the register was an older woman, apparently confused about the sale flyer and asking numerous questions about items throughout the store.  I was slightly annoyed because I paying for Liam’s afterschool care and waiting for ten minutes to return the boots.  While the lady behind me sighed loudly due to the wait, the cashier happily answered all of the questions.  At this moment, my attitude changed.  Instead of being annoyed at the delay, I was pleased to see a woman with so much patience helping someone purchase Christmas gifts.  After (finally) making my return, I found a manager to report the heartwarming account of exceptional customer service.

I love Liam’s second-grade teacher! She is the perfect mixture of kind and strict.  She had Liam redo his homework because he put it in his backpack instead of his folder.  When he added his lunchbox and hat, it crumbled and ripped his paper.  He came home grumbling that he already did it and it wasn’t fair.  It led to a short conversation about responsibility and taking pride in his work.  I love that, in addition to academics, she is teaching him essential life skills.  She is reinforcing life skills that will make school easier for Liam as he gets older.   Words cannot describe how happy I am that she is his second-grade teacher!

My school loops students through the grades.  Because of this arrangement, I am able to teach my students throughout their high school years.  We develop relationships and don’t have to spend the first half of year trying figuring each other out.  I know how they work and what makes them successful. After three years of using the Summit Learning Platform, everything seems to really click.  They’re growing and becoming self-directed learners.  They’re flourishing during Socratic Seminars.  When we first held Socratic Seminars, they were awkward, with students simply asking and answering prepared questions.  Now, they’re using I Am Malala as a starting point for engaging conversations, such as whether the United States should be invading other countries, even in the name of stopping the Taliban.  While discussing the inequalities of women in Pakistan, students connected the book to the wage gap, Harvey Weinstein, and the sexual abuse scandals currently in the news.  I love that my students demonstrate the ability to think critically, not just regurgitate facts.

Harvest Kitchen Corner Store and Cafe opened next to my school.  They sell a variety of locally made foods, including the best applesauce you’ll ever eat!  During the summer, my husband requests trips to our local farmer’s market just to stock up on the sauce.  The program provides job-training to youths involved in the Juvenile Corrections Services.  The products are a delicious way to support the local community.  I was able to pick up a few stocking stuffers and great a cup of mint tea on a chilly Friday morning.

Liam often dances in the kitchen.  Our Echo is there, so he asks it to play music and “rocks out!”  He was dancing to Imagine Dragons when it became quiet.  Any mother knows that silence is not always golden.  When I checked on him, he was sitting on the kitchen floor with his notebook in his lap.  He told me he was writing a story.  Liam has so much of Mike in him; it made me happy to see a little bit of me shine through!

(The kitchen floor is old.  Believe me when I tell you it is clean, just worn!)

Slowly, and Then All at Once

John Green wrote this line to describe how a character falls asleep.  It came to my mind yesterday while watching Liam.  He seemed to grow a few years in the course of a day.

We saw our first snow this weekend.  Getting Liam ready to play in the snow is usually a huge pain the neck.  Yesterday, he got himself dressed completely on his own.  He needed help with his boots, which he managed to outgrow in record time.  He was able to borrow a pair of mine.  Once we were outside, he began helping us shovel rather than playing. Watching his clear the driveway, it seemed like just yesterday that he was barely able to make his way over the pavement while he tried to clear off his Cozy Coupe.

It was a big day for Liam because he finally moved out of his five-point booster.  He made it to almost eight before he moved to a booster that uses the car’s seatbelt.  I am fanatical about car seats; Liam has always been in the safest car seat we can afford.  He stayed in his five-point booster longer than most of his friends, a source of much whining in our car.  He was very happy to make the transition out of his “baby seat.”


He’s been waiting for this moment for a long time!


While Mike watched the Eagles game, Liam and I wrapped gifts.  While I was asking him to write out his gift tags, he also insisted on wrapping his own gifts, refusing to even let me hold down edges of wrapping paper.

Every day, I watch Liam grow a little bit.  He asked me if we can listen to the “news” in the car. (Yup, my seven-year-old prefers NPR.) He starts conversations asking to discuss preferences of Elvis over the Beatles.  “Elvis is the king for a reason.”  Yesterday, he asked why people need to pay a lot of money for medicine.  “Why should we have to pay for Tylenol?  Does the government want people to die?  Isn’t it easier to just give people Tylenol when they are in pain? What about kids who are sick?  What if their parents can’t afford medicine?  You always tell me I am lucky because we have the money for the things we need.  What about the kids whose parents don’t have money?”  (“Dude, you just perfectly summed up one of the biggest debates in American politics right now.”)  I know he is constantly evolving, but yesterday hit me in all the feels.  He is turning into a young man.  My baby is still in there, but gets deeper and deeper down.  As I tucked him in last night, he wore his Ninja Turtle PJs, hugged his beloved stuffed bunny, and gave me nose rub kisses, I was happy that glimpses of the little boy remain.  I can’t wait to see the man this boy grows up to be.

Run if You Can, Otherwise Walk

This weekend, we are going to set up our Christmas tree and bring out the decorations.  Mike and I are not anticipating taking out Outlaw’s stocking.  Even four months after losing him, we miss him daily.  One of the biggest things I miss is our walks.  We walked Outtie twice a day.  Liam and I took him on his morning walks.  My favorite things about those walks were the twenty minutes of uninterrupted conversation.  I do not consider myself a bad parent or wife, but how often do we honestly get that much time with our child or spouse to just talk?  Too often, we find ourselves making lunches or putting away dishes or some other form of multitasking.

This week, Liam and I began going for walks in the morning on our own.  I love having the time to talk to him!  I love getting a glimpse of how he sees the world.  He stopped to pick up and show me a giant leaf, then put it back on the ground so “someone else can enjoy it.”  Today, he enjoyed his new gloves that he picked out at Target last night, talking about the skeleton fingers on them and wishing for a cold Halloween so he can wear them then.  I love these small little conversations.  We never solve the world’s problems, but I hope that Liam has fond memories of these walks.


If we are unable to walk in the morning, we walk in the evening, sometimes taking Mike with us.  Evening walks, while challenging to ensure being seen in the early darkness, are enjoyable with the manageable chill and many Christmas displays.  Our neighborhood is quite festive; most houses usually decorate for the holidays.  We love going for walks through the neighborhood and admiring lights.

While I know that the colder weather is going to make it much more difficult to get out and run, I’m content getting in my walks.  Yesterday, I parked my car at Liam’s school and managed a quick run before walking in to pick him up after school.  As much as I love the Boulevard, it was nice to have a change of scenery.   I live close to the airport; on Thursdays, the Army’s C-120s practice touch and goes.  The sun felt exceptionally warm, reminding me that the warmer days in New England are numbered.

One “perk” of living near the airport is knowing the schedule of certain planes and being able to identify them in the air by sound alone! 

Enjoying the warm sun on a chilly day!


Santa Panic

I’ve previously mentioned that seven is my favorite age.  If Liam could stay seven forever, I would be beyond happy.  As Mike and I talked about what we should do for Christmas, a horrible thought hit me: this might be Liam’s last Christmas believing in Santa.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that I am not a big Christmas person.  We put up a tree a decorate outside.  We bake cookies and spend a lot of time decorating them.  I take Liam to see Santa on a weekday afternoon the week after Thanksgiving so we can get in and out and avoid lines.  We leave cookies for Santa and carrots for his reindeer.  But that is as far as we go.  I will never play Christmas music or watch Christmas movies.  I have no interest in decorating extensively or using holiday dish towels.  We never did those things growing up and too many years of retail killed whatever Christmas mojo I once had.  Last year, the only picture we took on Christmas morning was of the dog.


The only picture taken last Christmas morning



On Liam’s first Christmas, I forgot to take a picture of him in front of the tree.  Thankfully, I remembered before we took down the tree!


When Liam was younger, Elf on a Shelf became popular.  I hate everything about it, referring to it as Santa’s narc.  Liam went through a phase where he thought he should earn a treat each time he acted appropriately.  This came to a head while we were on vacation.  We took a boat ride from our beach house in Jamestown to Newport.  We walked around Newport, had lunch, bought some fudge, and rode the boat back.

“Maybe because I was such a good listener I could get a special treat,” Liam suggested on the boat ride back.

“You’re spending a week at a beach house.  You took a boat ride to Newport.  We bought you lunch.  You had fudge.  That is your special treat.”

Mike and I focused on Liam doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do, not because he may get a treat.  Honestly, I know that most things in life come down to the “earn a reward/ avoid a consequence” mentality.  I want Liam to enjoy doing the right thing and not become a spoiled beast.  We never offered up Elf on a Shelf.  Liam never wanted one.

This year, Liam asked for an Elf on the Shelf.  He said that all of his friends have one and they seem like a lot of fun.  We asked him to explain the elf’s job; he’s fully aware he reports to Santa.  His classrooms in his last school did Elf on a Shelf.  I have to admit that I enjoyed looking for the little guy each morning.  It looked like a lot of work and reminded me of themes saved for teaching Lord of the Flies.  (What makes people do the right thing?  Is it because we’re actually good people or is it because we are scared some toy elf is going to snitch on us to the big guy?)

But then we remembered that the years of Liam believing in Santa are numbered.  We’ve got this one, but next year isn’t guaranteed.  I ordered the elf this morning.  I’m going to dig out all of the Christmas decorations people have given us through the years that I usually store away.  Maybe I’m lazy, but it seems like a lot of work to move everything around just for a few weeks?  It takes hours to put it all out and hours to put it all away.

This year will be different.  We will drink the Christmas Kool-Aid.  I will set an alarm on my Fitbit for 9:15 each night, reminding me to move the elf.  Mike and I decided to decorate the inside of the house this year.  I will make Liam watch the Polar Express, which I have never read nor watched myself.  We bought tickets to breakfast with Santa.  This time of Liam believing in all of the Christmas magic is dwindling; we need to keep it as long as possible.


Courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half