Skiing With Kids: Fantasy vs Reality

I decided this would be the winter we’d become a skiing family. Or at least take the preliminary steps to eventually transform us into one.

My husband and I both skied fairly often and fairly well back in the day. It’s something that we miss personally and also want our kids to learn to do. Because, let’s face it: Winter is fucking long {especially this year, as I sit through our second school closure this week} and keeping the kids active is not easy. So, hey, let’s get them on skis and solve all of our cabin fever woes.

{Related: I have been known, from time to time, not to completely think things through.}

In my ambitious state to turn us into a skiing family, I booked an overnight stay at a smallish mountain within an acceptable driving distance. On the ride up, I had visions of charming ski weekends for years to come.

* * * * *

In these glimpses into my family’s fantasy future, it’s every winter Saturday morning and our kids are begging to get on the mountain. In their enthusiasm for our favorite snowy sport, they are up early and fully dressed in their fair isle sweaters.  As usual, they pack the entire car for us so I can prepare thermoses of hot chocolate for the familiar drive up to our beloved destination. Once on the road, we discuss upcoming school projects and then we all agree on the same radio station after gagging in unison at an old school Taylor Swift song from their childhood {Remember her? She was SO annoying. We laugh at the memory.} And of course nobody has to stop for a bathroom break — they are too excited to get on their skis. Once at our home away from home, the children carry their gear with nary a complaint. My husband and I claim our favorite seats outside the lodge — you know, the ones by the fire pit — to watch them skillfully navigate the slopes. They really are getting good, we marvel. We decide to take a few runs ourselves and then spend the rest of the afternoon delighting in the charm of the apres ski lifestyle. We clink glasses and my husband toasts the genius idea I had to pursue this sport as a family back in the winter of 2014. It really has made for some great memories, he reminds me. I can’t help but agree. I am sort of a genius.

* * * * *

“Mommmmm, how much lonnngerrrrr?”

I am jolted from my Future Ski Family fantasy as the highway zips by and my kids grow restless.

I know the bucolic ski trip days in my mind’s eye are pretty far away, but hey, we are taking the first step, I tell myself. We are on our way.

“Mommmmmmm, I have to pee. These socks hurt. Mommmm!”

On our way, indeed. Well, with some caveats.

Rather than go into detail about how the weekend played out, let me provide you with the alternate titles of this blog post:

  • Minivan Jenga: Ski Trip Edition
  • “Theeeeese Booooots Feeeeeeel Baaaaaad,” and Other Cries Heard at Ski School Drop-Off
  • Public Restrooms, Kids & 74 Layers of Clothing:  A Cautionary Tale
  • Cardio Blast: How to Keep a Baby Occupied in a Ski Lodge for Six Hours
  • Why Won’t the Bar Open Before Noon?
  • Five Easy Steps to Filing a Stolen Skis Report
  • The Art of Selecting the Right Hip Flask
  • A Jackass’ Guide to Choosing the Only Ski Day with Rain in 2014


OK, I’ll admit, I’m being a little dramatic. Except for the Minivan Jenga, stolen skis and all references to the bar. Never mind that the total number of adults in my family to actually ski equaled zero. The important thing is that my six and four year-old made it through ski school without any major fallout.



If you ask them, though, that was not the important thing at all. The important thing to them was clearly the fact that our hotel had a TV in the bathroom. If you want to blow my kids’ minds, apparently all you need to do is let them watch Disney Jr. while taking care of business. Somehow this detail escaped me when dreaming up my family’s future winter getaways.

So we’re not a ski family yet. We’re still more of a TV-in-any-location people.

But we’ll get there. Maybe.



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Tell Chicago I Said Hi

Right now, a few thousand bloggers are fretting about some pretty big questions. Like what to wear. And who to meet “in real life.” And if their business cards should or should not include their Pinterest handles.

Yes, friends, it’s time for BlogHer 2013. Just an intimate gathering of 4,000 souls who like to overshare on the Internet.

I went last year, when it was held in New York, and I had a great time.

This year, it’s in Chicago, and I won’t be going.

I’d love to, but it’s not a great plan with a 6 week-old.

I’ve known for many months that I wouldn’t be able to attend this year, given the timing.

And then a few things happened that made me reconsider.

First, 15 of the funny ladies from the book I was fortunate enough to be a part of are doing a book signing and reading in Chicago to coincide with the conference. How fun is that? I would love to meet all of them. I feel like I already know them. It would be great to have an evening laughing with them and celebrating the success of this great project.

Then, very unexpectedly, I found out that I was one of just 25 bloggers chosen as a 2013 Humor Voice of the Year by BlogHer. How cool is that?

So I started to think about pulling the logistics together for just 24 hours in Chicago.

I booked a hotel room. I started researching flights. I got excited about the possibility of a quick trip to BlogHer. The blog world is both massive and small. It is both anonymous and filled with friendships. And it probably sounds ridiculous to many, but we spend so much time interacting with each other online that the thrill of meeting up in person, just once a year, is really a treat.

I was *this close* to going but, in the end, it was just too much to leave a newborn at home. Could I have made it work? Yes. Was it stressing me out? Yes.

So I’ll be home. Hanging out with a cute 10 pound milk aficianado. And that’s totally OK.

But I have to bust out some I’m Missing BlogHer Coping Mechanisms. This mostly entails removing myself from social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the next few days, where the constant stream of BlogHer photos and updates would taunt me.

And then I have to block out the insane fact that Friday night’s Voices of the Year ceremony is going to be hosted by Queen Latifah.

Queen Latifah.


Will she call out all of the honorees? Will Queen Latifah speak my name? And I’ll miss it?

I can’t think about it. I can’t.

But you guys. QUEEN LATIFAH.


So, to my blogging friends, save me a pretend seat at the bar, have a great time and bring me back some good information. Or gossip. Or both. And tell Chicago — and Queen Latifah — I said hello.

Oh wait — you’re not reading this. Because you’ve already redeemed all of your conference drink tickets. Just as I would have done.

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Target Always Wins

You know when you get all boastful and high-horsey about something and then you totally live to regret it? Or how about those times when you completely underestimate your adversary’s capacity for revenge?

Anyone? Bueller?

Well. It happened to me. And, as most well-intentioned-but-poorly-executed things in my life go, it started on Facebook.

Yeah, I recently bragged on Facebook about my medal-worthy performance at Target.

It went like this:

  • I went in to return some items.
  • I completed the return.
  • And then: I walked the fuck out. Without buying another single item.

Yes, that’s right. I left Target in the black.


{Brief applause break.}

I felt victorious. Invincible. It was clear that my life’s work in the retail sector was done.

But my joy was premature. Naive, even. Because, about a week later, Target had the last laugh.

It happened in the baby aisle, unexpectedly. I wasn’t there to shop for my unborn child. I was just looking for something very specific that I, uh, can’t seem to recall at the moment. Because, hell no, I was not just browsing aimlessly — that would be reckless.

But then, it began — the pull of Target. Before I knew what was happening, I was standing in the middle of the newborn supplies. This seemed harmless enough at first. I mean, it couldn’t hurt to have a quick look. After all, I’m about seven-ish weeks away from delivery and, while I have two children already, there are probably a few key supplies that might need replenishing or updating.

And that’s when things started to get weird. At first it appeared to be a straightforward case of simple Parental Amnesia. I realized that I didn’t even know what I needed. We hadn’t even looked in the attic to see what gear and clothing we still owned. Did I have the essentials? OMG, what are the essentials? I couldn’t remember but my options seemed to be displayed in an enticing array in front of me.

Out of nowhere, there was a sleek red empty Target cart right there in the aisle. It was in mint condition. All wheels intact and functioning. Very clean surfaces. All it was missing was the requisite 46 lb coating of hand sanitizer. Like a zombie, I abandoned the smaller, hand-held shopping basket.

I. Need. To. Buy. Things.

Many. Things.

What was going on? I was supposed to be in control. I was the woman who pulled off the Return-and-Run move just a week earlier. I wasn’t sure what was happ — oooohhhhh, look at those new bouncy seats. So much more compact than the one we had before.

But still, the rational side of my brain, though diminishing by the minute, tried to prevail. It pressed me to ask myself: Where the hell was all of our baby gear at home?

And then, like a bad flashback, I remembered what probably happened to everything: The Fordeville Garage Sale of 2010. The one where we made half-assed family planning decisions in the driveway at 6am, all in the name of profiteering.

“Should we sell the bouncy seat?”

“I don’t know. Do you think we’ll have another kid?”

“No clue. I haven’t even had coffee yet but someone wants to buy any and all baby gear we have. Should we keep it?”

“Uh, well, what are your thoughts on a third child?”

“Don’t know.”

“Me neither. But I hate clutter. Let’s sell what we can and deal with it another day.”

It can be said that, at times, we lack a certain finesse for long-term planning.

Back in the present day at Target, in front of my shiny red cart, I held my hand over my mouth and gasped audibly at the memory reeling back at me, while staring at 637 varieties of pacifiers in front of me.

What is that in my cart? Oh, well, it’s just a Target circular with the words SPRING BABY SALE all over the front.

I knew then that I was in an epic battle. It was Me Versus Target.

Every fiber of my being told me that, with our third child, we really don’t need much. Not like the first two times when we had checklists and tons of baby items. No, no. This time, there were probably about five things we needed to purchase — and would probably do so en route to the hospital.

But it was abundantly clear that Target was fucking with me. Like a Jedi mind trick on steroids.

Target is bigger than me.

Bigger than all of us.

You can’t play Target, people.

Target always wins.

Surely I don’t need most of this stuff. Although, everything has seemingly become smaller, slicker and more efficient in the four years since I was last pregnant. Wow. And, look, there’s the friendliest Target employee I’ve ever met, standing squarely in front of me. She claimed to be there for assistance but it seemed more like she was trying to prevent my escape.

I was overwhelmed with choices. With pre-emptive retail guilt. And, most importantly, with the aroma of the in-store Starbucks near the check-out lines.

And ultimately, that is where I went — with my impeccable cart and my nearly-personalized circular — to clear my head with a mind-crushing dose of caffeine. I needed a safe haven in which to regroup. I clasped my latte and slowly began to feel like myself again.

In the end, I held my ground. Mostly. My cart wasn’t empty when I left by any stretch, but it wasn’t a newborn supply overdose either.

But we all know that this was just one battle in the bigger war. Target is on to me and they won’t rest until they recoup the cash from my previously returned item.


I see their mascot dog with the bullseye on TV and wonder if some rabid version of him is outside my door.

It’s on, Target.

And the sad truth is, I’ll be back.

{Tip: Don’t ever sell all of your baby stuff at a garage sale unless you’ve really thought it through first. Or until you’ve had some coffee. Just saying.}



* * *

In other news, I survived my first published Q&A session as part of my participation in the upcoming production of Listen to Your Mother. As you might expect, my answers are full of deep thoughts and meaningful insights. {You all know better than to believe that, right?}

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Post-Vacation Adjustment Disorder: Know the Signs


Ohmygod, guess what? Turns out that it’s totally possible to type while pinned under a pile of laundry that can be seen from space. I didn’t think it was — I figured I’d suffocate down here — but I’m pretty psyched to have found this air pocket.

That’s pretty much how post-vacation adjustment to real life goes.

I’m not complaining. I’m so glad we got away. But I do think that there is a clear and compelling business opportunity to help people slowly acclimate back to reality. It would entail someone unpacking your bags, cleaning the clothes, reintroducing you to the basics of driving and then cooking a few initial starter meals. For an additional fee, the Deluxe Surrender to Reality Package would also include Hazmat removal of the contents of the fridge and putting the kids through a medically-approved sugar detox program. Homework help would be billed on a per-assignment basis.

Yes, my kids are disoriented back at home and totally confused by the concept of structure. And sleep. And protein.

Iioulruiwoarjoejiuyby. Wetow[pei  Uiyualrjpf

{Sorry, I was trapped under the unlaundered socks and briefly lost the oxygen supply to my brain.}

Of course, it’s nice to be back in my own bed. And, hell, I’m lucky that, with this weekend’s snowy temperatures, I barely had to adjust from the Orlando climate we experienced. But still, Disney is a tough place to come down from. I thought I was doing pretty well but then I realized it’s a process and I have to be patient.

It’s important to recognize the signs of Post-Disney Adjustment Disorder:

  • You wait outside your house for the monorail to pick you up.
  • You continue to attempt to use your room key as currency.
  • You call any outings going “off property.”
  • You try to use your Fast Pass to get to the front of the school pick-up line.
  • You are continually disappointed that your meals are not in the shape of a mouse’s head.
  • You look for a “wait time” sign over the grocery store check-out lines.
  • You are shell shocked that nobody has wished you a “magical day.”
  • You look for the nearest Stroller Parking sign.
  • You assume that trash on the floor is going to magically disappear.
  • You steel yourself for the inevitable Rascal scooter running over your foot.

But don’t worry, we’re doing OK. I’m back to SUV road rage and excessive profanity, which are comforting signs. And my kids have finally stopped asking which characters are showing up to breakfast. Probably when they realized that Non-Caffeinated Pregnant Mom was other-worldly enough, and possibly material for a horror movie.

If someone could just send about 784 dryer sheets down to me in the basement — along with a plate of Mickey waffles — I’ll be all set.



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It’s Vacation — What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

We’re pretty excited about going to Disney World in a few days.

And while I have been using the word vacation, I think it’s widely understood that the presence of children — even in the world’s happiest fucking place — still does not a vacation make.  Let’s call a spade a spade, because you know and I know that this whole trip is more accurately called An Overpriced Change of Scenery.

But still, it will be a world away from laundry, dishes, homework and the like.  So I am totally looking forward to it.

I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, if I’m being honest, I do have a few possibilities on my mind.

1) We could be detained by the Department of Homeland Security. My son has announced his intentions to bring his pirate sword onto the plane. When a simple explanation of “no weapons allowed on commercial aircraft” didn’t suffice, he considered the various ways to smuggle it on board, undetected — ninja-style. I really didn’t feel like getting into a discussion of anti-terrorism and The Patriot Act with him, so if you guys see my picture on the news with a headline like “Family of Four Placed on No-Fly List For Sword Possession,” you’ll know what happened.

2) We could end our non-vomiting streak.  This is always a concern of mine, given that my kids have puked in every state down the Eastern Seaboard in the past two years. After a brief and miraculous respite from the Vacation Travel Gods last year at Disney, I fear we are overdue for some Fordeville public vomiting. After all, it’s what we do best.  The real question is where.  I’m thinking either on the plane, in the buffet line or in a full hotel elevator.  Or maybe on Cinderella.  Because we don’t mess around.

3) We could waste a shit-ton of money.  If the past two years prove to be any indicator, my son will be obsessed with the only thing at Disney that is free — the monorail. This would be great news if we hadn’t already purchased all of our park passes at the cost of a home mortgage.  Now, endless monorail loops will fall under the Setting Money on Fire category.  I keep telling myself he’ll be over it this year.  But, the reality is that he may want to spend several consecutive days — again — just circling the perimeter of the actual money-sucking attractions. Damn it, kid, you will enjoy the rides that cost me some money. Now go check out the New Fantasyland before I ground you.

4) We could set a world record.  Not a good one.  Yeah, Orlando is going to be — in official meteorology terms — unseasonably cool.  As in, 30s and 40s overnight. My unofficial terminology for this temperature range is Fuuuccck, That’s Too Cold For Our Winter Vacation. Damn you, central Florida in March. So fickle, so unpredictable.  You think that gets us off the hook for sunscreen, don’t you?  Bwahahaha. You poor, naive souls. My husband will fall into the same trap, lulled into the comfort of frosty mornings and laughing at me for breaking out the SPF 5 million.  He will forget that we are freaks of nature and apparently lacking any and all melanin cells. And then, at least one of my kids, and probably me, will somehow become the first person on record to sustain an ER-level sunburn in 55-degree weather. While wearing long pants and a fleece.

5)  We could be mistaken for swingers.  At the end of the Disney stint, we’re heading over to visit my aunt and uncle in The Villages.  If you’re not familiar with this place, it’s basically a micro-city for the active 55+ population.  And I do mean active.  Not only do they have music piped into the streets and have a bar on every corner, but they also have the prestigious distinction of having one of the country’s highest STD rates.  And if I wear the wrong shoes on the wrong day, I may inadvertently send a signal to someone cruising in a golf cart that my husband and I are, uh, looking around.  This will be my first trip to The Villages, but something tells me it is begging for a future blog entry. Or a documentary.


So, as I pack our shorts and sandals jackets, sneakers and family pack of Dramamine, I’m hoping for the best. I probably won’t blog while I’m away, but you can find out if we’ve been incarcerated or picked up by swingers by following the fun on Facebook and Instagram.

Or, worst case scenario, look for us on CNN.


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Paradise {By the Dashboard Light}

I need a vacation.

Don’t we all?

Since I’m not taking one any time soon, I have decided to lower the bar and revise the definition of vacation.  Just to see me through and preserve my sanity.

  • Hot sun?  Nah.
  • Hotel room service?  Optional.
  • Getting on a plane?  Doesn’t matter.

What I really am looking for in a vacation — like any mom with young kids — is some quiet.  Some time to myself.  I mean, not too much — I’m not looking to hike in solitude or to meditate.  I merely want just enough alone time and silence to complete a few consecutive thoughts.

Turns out, these nouveau vacation opportunities are right under my nose.  It’s really amazing what starts to feel like a getaway when you lower your standards enough.  For example:

1)  Getting a hair cut.  The only effort involved here is speaking for about 30 seconds to make my intentions clear.  This generally entails pointing to my hair, shrugging in defeat and mumbling something about minimal change.  Again.  And then — it’s vacation time!  I fall asleep while my hair is being washed — despite the tough angle of my neck resting on an awkward ceramic sink cut-out.  Because, if given the chance, I could fall asleep on a nuclear warhead.  Then, I check my email and read bad magazines while I sit under the blasting white noise of hair dryers.  Ah, white noise = it’s too loud for anyone to speak to me.

Bonus:  I do not have to attempt to carve out time at home to wash my hair.

2)  Grocery shopping.  Alone.  Without two children screaming in my ear, crashing the cart, begging to purchase every snack in sight and breaking merchandise, it’s amazing how relaxing — even downright enjoyable — this outing can be.  I am no longer “that crazy mom” yelling across the store to prevent such accidents.  No, no.  I am calm.  I am able to actually cross-reference a shopping list, instead of the desperate “grab, run and get out now, now, NOW” approach.  I am able to look at my options and have full control of the cart without fearing for the safety of fellow patrons.  I can say hello to people I know without throwing Teddy Grahams at my kids to keep them quiet.  I may even find myself singing along to the bad soundtrack .

{Related: I think we should have grocery store DJs.  Because what is with the amount of Sheena Easton and Billy Ocean playing at the Shop Rite?  Are they in a legally binding partnership to torture shoppers?}

3)  My car.  Clearly, it’s not a luxury destination — with the snack wrappers and empty water bottles all over the floor, as well as a potentially hazardous mold scenario growing on old Goldfish crackers trapped under the seat.  But, when left to myself, it is indeed a private oasis.  Driving with any music I please {screw you, Fresh Beat Band}, at any volume I like.  Complete freedom to exercise my road rage — using my full range of profanity — against any inept drivers in my path.  Sitting in a parking lot between school pick-ups and checking email without simultaneously fielding a series of 89 questions on the history of super heroes.  It’s like a vacation cabin with four-wheel drive.

4)  Dental cleaning.  Yeah, OK, this one is unlikely, but hear me out — because I just had my cleaning done last week and it turned out to be strangely relaxing.  I was forced to recline for 45 minutes in the middle of the day — when was the last time that happened?  I had a TV over my head. I was physically prevented from speaking {everyone wins here}.  OK, so the bright lights and humming of dental equipment were not spa-like, per se.  But nobody judged me for drooling — and I got a goody bag and a quick snooze, which is more than I can say for my time at home on any given afternoon.

See? No need to squeeze into that bathing suit.  Or pack.  Or leave town.

Paradise is right here.  If you are desperate enough.

I’ll just keep telling myself this until the flights to Somewhere Else Far Away go on sale.


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A Tale of Two Kims

Because I was born in the 70s, I’ve never been the only Kim in any given room.  There have been many Kims over the years {Jennifers, I know you can relate}.

But I do have a favorite Kim.  Sadly, she lives clear across the country.  However, she has a job that sends her to New York a few times a year.

I never know when she’s going to be here or how to make plans with her.  It’s always sort of like this:

Favorite Kim:  Hey, I just found out I’m coming to New York next Tuesday.  I’ll be there for 18 hours but they haven’t told me what time I have to work, and I won’t find out until I get there.  Hope we can get together!

Me {in pretend casual mode}:  Great — we’ll figure it out.  Can’t wait!

{My true Type A-ness sets in.}

Me:  Sooo, you have no idea what hours you have to work?  A window?

Favorite Kim:  Not yet.  I’ll let you know as soon as I get there!

Me:  OK.  I will find us a restaurant for brunch.  Will it be brunch?  Or you think maybe late lunch?  Or dinner?  What time is your flight?  Maybe we can have a hot pretzel in the cab on your way to the airport.

{It’s not always easy to be my friend.  I know this.}

So, is Favorite Kim a spy with this secret schedule?

No.  She’s an entertainment reporter.  She flies around the world at times to screen movies and then interview the stars.

Pretty kick ass, right?

And I knew her way back when we were both in grad school.  I studied Screenwriting — which, as you can tell, has really panned out for me in huge ways — and she made a far wiser choice in Broadcast Journalism.

So she came to New York a few weeks ago under such circumstances and we were able to secure our two-hour brunch window.  During our fleeting meals together, we essentially conduct a Lightning Round version of “Tell Me Everything I Do Not Know Since The Last Time I Saw You That I Haven’t Learned Through Social Media Updates.  Go!”

Because she slept in a luxury hotel in SoHo the night before, and had to interview celebrities after our brunch, she was dressed to kill.  I, on the other hand, had two kids, one husband and a pug in my bed for four hours the night before, and then got on an early Sunday morning NJ Transit train — dressed not unlike a Lands End catalog spread from 2008.  I was also leaning at about a 30 degree angle from my recent ongoing back issues.

Sunday mornings are not my best look.

Halfway through our brunch, I realized that I never asked her which film she was here to cover.

Favorite Kim: Skyfall.

Me:  Oh, nice.  So who do you get to interview?

Favorite Kim:  Daniel Craig.

Me:  Excellent!

Favorite Kim:  And the new Bond Girls.

Me:  Oh.  I don’t know who they are.

Favorite Kim:  And Javier Bardem.


Me:  Shut the hell up.

Favorite Kim:  It’s true.  But not Dame Judi Dench.

Me:  OK, but still.  Javierrrrrr {I love a good roll of the Spanish R}  — I love him.  Probably to an inappropriate degree.  What are you going to ask him?

Favorite Kim:  Is there anything you want me to ask him?

Me:  How about what Penelope Cruz has that I don’t?

Favorite Kim:  Do you want to come with me and hang out in the lounge before the interview?

Me:  No, I’ll pass out and ruin your professional credibility.

Favorite Kim:  OK.

So after our turbo catch-up session, we went our separate ways — she to her job and me back to family stuff in New Jersey.  On this day, “family stuff” meant the highly anticipated pumpkin patch with corn maze madness.  But regardless, I was so happy to have seen Favorite Kim.  Our visits are never long enough.

And then, later on Twitter, I see this.

Which warranted this.

When Favorite Kim inexplicably returned the compliment {although the Twitterverse has lost the evidence}, I had this to say to her.


I mean, really.  Who would you rather be?  Who has the better gig?

Favorite Kim?

Or me?

It’s ok.  I’m not offended.  I get it.

My Javier vs The Corn Maze wounds resurfaced over the weekend when Favorite Kim posted the final cut of the interview on Facebook.

I’m still trying to regroup.

But hey, that was a hell of a corn maze.  With pony rides.  And cider.

Javier can wait until next time, I guess.

* * * * *

{If you want to see more of Favorite Kim’s fabulous life — from celeb interviews to wrangling her adorable kids — follow her on Twitter @kimholcomb.} 

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The Soul of New Jersey

Greetings from Post-Apocalyptic New Jersey.

Monday night’s dance with Sandy made for a very long and very stressful night.  The sound of the wind whipping at 80 miles per hour + the visual of the giant 100 year-old trees swaying and snapping around our house = family sleepover night in the basement.

This was Hurricane Camp Fordeville.

When we woke up the next morning, the fallout was intense and abundant.  Though the flooding was — thankfully —  not a big issue here, the winds and downed trees were.  Crushed cars and damaged homes are all around our town.

We are blessed that our house was unscathed and remained dry.  And, above all, our family is safe.

48 hours after the inevitable power failure, I’m sitting here typing to the deafening and constant hum of the generator.  A generator I’m beyond thankful to have.  A generator I’d consider among the best investments we’ve ever made.  This is our third extended power outage in 14 months — after the last two, and especially following a lengthy basement renovation, we decided not to mess around.

However, there is one thing that many of us with generators never really gave much thought to:  The generators need gasoline to run.  And gasoline can’t be pumped from stations with no electricity.  Over 2 million people in New Jersey have no power.

This is a bad, bad equation with no good outcome for now.

Eight hours.  That’s how long it took my neighbor, at two different stations, to finally get gas into his canisters and ours for the generators.  It got ugly.  Grown men were fighting over gas.  And it’s going to get worse.  Because people don’t do well when structure falls apart, control seems to slip through their fingers and chaos prevails.

School is canceled for the week.  Probably longer.  Halloween is off, too.  This has all kinds of effects on everyone.  I don’t need to tell you what too much time in the house does to young kids.  And, by extension, to their parents.  Yes, the uninterrupted family time is nice in many respects.  But exhausting in others.

So, yes, I am inconvenienced and annoyed and wanting to resume normal life.

But.  I am determined to keep my perspective in check.

I know I have it good.  I know I am lucky.

And, more than anything, I am heartbroken for the shoreline of my childhood.

You can talk about the Jersey Shore and how it has become a national punch line borne of bad reality TV over the years.  You can go ahead and laugh.  But that’s not its true identity.  The truth about the Jersey Shore is that it’s the soul of this state.

It’s the place where I went for day trips with my parents as a kid.

Where my parents, some years, rented a house near the ocean for a week of family vacation.

Where I went with my dear friend Jen many times in middle school and high school and after our prom.  Where we spent time on the boardwalk, went on all the rides, took pictures in photo booths and learned to play Skee Ball like any proud Jersey Girls would.  All while the sounds of Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi were never more than a stereo speaker away.

Where I spent one college summer living with my aunt and uncle, waitressing at the bar they owned and learning to carry a full tray of drinks over my head through a crowded dance floor.

Where P and I bought a little beach house after we got married as a getaway from our city apartment.

Where we brought our kids as babies and watched them topple in the sand and dip their toes in the ocean for the first time.  Where we walked the boardwalk as a family many times — often before dawn, strollers near the sand and coffee in hand — just to get fussy infants back to sleep.





So much of it is gone now.  Damaged beyond what my mind could have imagined.  Even though we were told of a near-certain collision course for the days leading up to its impact.

Those boardwalks are ripped up and tossed aside.  The rides have been swallowed up by the ocean.  We sold the beach house a few years ago, but I fear its fate wasn’t good, just having seen the images of the surrounding homes in the neighborhood.

For every beach house gone and every piece of that boardwalk shredded, there is someone like me who holds the Jersey Shore near and dear to her heart.  Who remembers it as a huge piece of her childhood.  Who prays for its recovery.  And who cries for the people who have to rebuild their lives.

And with the hum of the generator, I think of how lucky I am.


* * *

{While the Jersey Shore sustained much damage, there were many other communities affected by Sandy as well.  Please keep them in your thoughts and, if you’re able, consider  donating to the Red Cross to help those in need.}




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The Truth About Apple Picking


Don’t you love going apple picking this time of year?  I sure do!

OK, that’s not entirely true.  I’m starting to realize that, like many things, this always seems like a great idea {nature! fresh fruit! fun for all!} but can often turn into more of a seasonal obligation.  Sort of like waiting in line for 45 minutes to meet Santa, only to find your kid traumatized for life while you hand over $25 for a photo.

But off we went last weekend on a crisp, picture-perfect autumn day with some good friends.  It was like a postcard.








Well, it was mostly like a postcard.  Except for a few details.  In your postcards, are there tons of bees swarming around the apples?  Or perhaps there are crowds and traffic.  Surely there are kids {namely, mine} whining about various things.  Like wet grass, climbing hills, carrying apples, wearing jackets, not wearing jackets, and, oh, suddenly not liking apples.  And naturally, all postcards have port-a-potties and petting zoos, with not enough Purel in the world to make them tolerable.

I’m just being honest.  Like many things, it’s never the puppies-and-unicorns scenario you had in mind once you introduce the logistics of the day to small kids.  And that’s OK.  Because, after some thought, I’ve neatly summed up why, in reality, most of us go apple picking every year.




But come on — I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have fun.  We did.  Especially when I made the discovery of the year:  A beer garden.  At the orchard.


See?  Apple picking is fun.  I love apple picking.  We’ll be back next year.

After I make and freeze 38 apple crisps.


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The Keys to My Summer

I find the day after Labor Day to be the second-most depressing day of the year.  Right behind January 2.

I have a problem with transitions.  Parting with revelry.  Going back to reality.  All of that.

But, in my semi-hysterical “Summer, please don’t go — please!” state, I have to step back and say that this was the best summer I’ve had in a long, long time — both near and far.

Sometimes, I keep hotel keys in my wallet long after a trip is over.  There must be some Pinterest-y thing I can do with them at some point.  But in the meantime, they make me feel better.  Like a little piece of my travels stay with me.  Until I try to use them, weeks after my departure, to charge dinner or a round of drinks to my room.  And I’m told that hotel room keys can’t be used as real-world currency.  Which brings me back down to Earth pretty quickly.  Or kicked out of the bar.  Or both.  It’s sort of a chicken-and-egg effect.

Anyway.  The keys to this summer — here they are.



1)  Oh, Madrid.  I’ll love you forever.  The 19 year gap was worth the wait.**



2)   A sisters-only night in Atlantic City, practicing the core gambling skills of our childhood.  I won some money, which was great.  But we won’t speak of my near-miss with fortune and how my favorite roulette number betrayed me.  I was going to tell the story but A) It makes me sound like a gambling addict and B) It still stings.  Which is why I think I sound like a gambling addict.  Which, I swear, I’m not.  So let’s just drop it.**

{**Disclaimer:  These trips were part of Operation 40th Birthday Celebration and well out of scope for my normal summer vacations.  As a result, you can find me within 25 miles of my house for the next 60 summers.}



3)  And a night just across the river, in Manhattan, to attend BlogHer ’12.  To see some of my very favorite bloggers again, and to meet others for the first time.  But, mainly, to be repeatedly slapped with the blatant reminder that my blog is not even a small fish in a big pond.  It’s more like the plankton or maybe a barnacle.



I took a few other trips this summer to visit friends at their beach houses.  But I figured it would be untoward to have a copy of those keys in my possession.  We drove to Rehoboth Beach, DE; Stone Harbor, NJ; and Cape Cod, MA.  Each was a beach we hadn’t seen before, and each was magnificent.  It’s tough having friends in low places.




OH, but speaking of low places, I do have this key as part of our drive to the Cape.

They should alter the key sleeve to read: "We hope you survive your stay without contracting a communicable disease."


We left New Jersey at night and figured we’d drive about two hours with the kids asleep, pull into a hotel and get a room for the night.  Then finish up the drive early the next morning to make the most of the day.

You know.  Just get a hotel room when we got tired.  Wing it.  

In August.  The peak of summer vacation.

And this is where, if you are easily entertained by someone being traumatized for life, you’ll want to keep reading.  Especially if you are more entertained by that someone being me.

So it’s 11:30pm on a Tuesday night and Mr. and Mrs. Roadtrip Jackass decide that, yep, we’re a little tired now, so let’s just find ourselves the next hotel and call it a night.

Uh, no.  That hotel was sold out.

As was every other hotel in about a 40 mile radius.

Except for one.

Upon entering the room, I could literally see the layer of filth on the carpet.  A spider crawled across a pillow.  There was some indescribable smell — a hybrid of mold, dust, cigarettes and other unnamed carcinogens.

It looked like a place that, in the not too distant past, had been a legitimate crime scene.  Or taken from the set of Breaking Bad.  I was reasonably convinced that if you shone one of those police lights around the room in the dark, you would basically come up with nothing but blood.  And maybe some meth.

But everything else was sold out.  Ev-ery-thing.

It was well after midnight with an exhausted family.  So I had to suck it up.  I laid there and thought about lice.  And bed bugs.  And mold poisoning.  And Bubonic Plague.

I didn’t hold onto that key as a keepsake after I snapped its photo for posterity.  I was too busy researching where we could apply for a government-funded decontamination shower, a la Silkwood.

But that was a blip in an otherwise blissful summer.

A summer of big celebrations.

A summer of the road trips that took us to see friends.

A summer of day trips — to amusement parks, to Manhattan, to the pool.

And a summer of no trips at all on the lazier days — with ice cream and backyard playtime and rainy day indoor movies on the couch.




These snapshots — these moments — were the real keys to my summer.

And as I sit here today, getting school supplies (and my heart) ready for the  first day of kindergarten tomorrow, and pre-school on Thursday, I can begin to deal with my reluctant transition to fall.

Because I know we had one hell of a summer.  And I hope you all did, too.


{For more fun photos — or to merely support my addiction to Instagram — come visit me over here.}

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