One last hurrah at the beach

Since I last posted, my family and I have taken two mini-vacations to the beach. My husband has declared that he is officially “beached out.” (For me, there is no such thing. What a weirdo.) Our trips were filled with family, friends, long beach days, swims in the ocean, outdoor dining, and some serious lack of sleep. While that last part I could do without, the trips were really quite wonderful. Our most recent trip was to a place called Stone Harbor, which is about 30 minutes (and a world) away from Atlantic City. It was my first time being there, and I can say that I’m a huge fan. It is such a charming and chic town. We obvoiusly went for the beach, but I really fell in love with the downtown. The flower and tree-lined streets are filled with great boutiques, cafes, bakeries and bookstores, and the people are as friendly as can be. Truly, a quite picturesque and lovely place. Here’s a look at our time there:

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It’s a good thing that that I didn’t have my wallet when I stumbled upon a few of these places. Zoe and I spent some time browsing around a boutique called Skirt (how cute is that?), and it really was a practice in self-restraint. That was followed by finding some delicious mararons (thankfully by then I was reunited with my wallet) and treats for all (my son is covered in his.) I hope to visit this charming town again soon.

Until then, I plan on enjoying the rest of our summer at home. We’ll spend lots of time at the pool and our backyard, go the movies and the park and enjoy NOT packing our suitcases again.  I love going away, but I love coming home just as much. But man, the laundry sucks.

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A day fit for a princess

Yesterday, my baby girl turned four. She’s growing up so fast right before my eyes, and it’s both amazing and bittersweet to see. I long for the days when I could cradle her in my arms for hours, yet I marvel at the things she’s learning to do and at her growing independence. We were at the park the other day, and she mastered a piece of playground equipment that in the past, she always needed help with. She turned to me and said “I don’t need you anymore, mommy!!” I told her how wonderful that was, and then turned away and cried a little bit. Watching your children grow up is so amazing, yet at every step you long for them to stop growing.  It’s quite a mixed bag.

This was the first year that my daughter was pretty specific about the kind of birthday she wanted. In the past, I could decorate with whatever I thought was cute and buy her some sweet gifts, and no matter what they were, she would be happy as can be. However, this year, she was clear. She wanted princesses for her birthday. And a tea party. And princess balloons, and princess streamers, and princess cups and plates, and well, you get the idea. It’s really funny just how  much a girly-girl she’s become, and it’s not like these are things I really introduced or pushed onto her. Since my children were newborns, I went about dressing them/decorating their room/buying toys in a rather unisex way. I didn’t go crazy on pink or blue with anything, and bought things that could be enjoyed by either a girl or a boy. Yet despite all of those things, my little girl is crazy about all things girly-princesses, dolls, anything pink/purple/sparkly, ballet, and dresses. And my little boy is all about cars, trucks, dinosaurs, superheroes, and anything that has a motor. It just happened naturally.  So yesterday, along with my parents, we had a lovely tea party at a place called Alice’s Tea Cup in NYC’s upper east side. It is a charming little place with a sort of Alice in Wonderland theme. (my favorite Disney movie) It was absolutely adorable and everyone loved it. It was my first time sampling different types of tea; I’m more of a coffee gal, but this was delicious. There were also yummy little sandwiches and scones, and a little birthday cupcake for Zoe. Tea was followed by dinner, cake and presents at our house with family. It truly was a day fit for a princess.

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The day truly was a success as Zoe told me it was her “most amazing birthday ever!!” I can’t wait to see what this coming year will bring for my amazing little princess.

Check out Alice’s Tea Cup here: http://alicesteacup.com/

flowers and popsicles

I’m struggling this week. Getting back to normal after vacation is difficult. I can’t seem to catch up on cleaning. I haven’t really cooked much this week and I just finally got back to the gym today. It’s not like I flew to Europe and have major jet lag. I’m just being lazy and want to be sitting on the beach, and not doing that every day just plain sucks. Sigh.

I did do a couple cool things this week. Sort of. Well, I did a couple things. I finally made one of the 3,000 recipes I have pinned on my Pinterest account. (I always pin these awesome looking recipes thinking “I’ll totally make that”, only to never, ever do it.) But I didn’t set my goal too high-I made popsicles. They’re something I thought my kids would love, so we went out and bought the popsicle molds and all the fixins. They were so excited and the chant of “posicles!!! popsicles!!” went on all day. However, I had forgotten that a blade from my blender had broken, and I don’t own a food processor (gasp!), and the popsicles called for pureed fruit. So….first I tried doing it with a hand mixer. Ever do that? Well, don’t. Fruit basically flew everywhere, all over me, and both kids. The option I had left was to hand mash all the fruit. That’s 2 cups of blueberries and 2 cups of strawberries. Not fun. Not fun at all. But whatever, they came out cute and here’s the results:

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That happy face is because I told the kids they could have popsicles for breakfast. They weren’t ready until this morning, and there’s only strawberries, blueberries, yogurt and honey in them, so totally appropriate, I thought. And fun. But after only 3 licks, Brody decided he didn’t like them. Zoe took about 7. Fail. Well, I liked them. You can find the recipe here: http://www.thenourishista.com/2012/06/red-white-and-blueberry-popsicles-for.html.

One of the first things I did this week was to make a beautiful flower arrangement. When I’m kinda feeling like I’m in a funk, I like to buy flowers. They just make me happy. So I bought some mums, hydrangeas, and lilies, all in white. I usually cut the stems down pretty short and make several short arrangements, but this time I wanted to make one tall one. DSC_0289

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I love that my daughter has taken such a liking to flowers. She always asks to have some put in her room, which I think is so sweet. She can also identify many different types. (Much like my son can do with cars. So funny.) I really wish I knew what I was doing when it comes to arranging flowers. I’ve read a few little things, but would love to get really good at it. I’ve been considering taking a class at some point with all the free time I have. (Please note sarcasm.) I just found this one and love the idea of doing it from home: http://nicolesclasses.com/portfolio/floral-arranging-101/

Other than that, the kids and I went to the movies, went swimming, and did lots of little things. This weekend is my daughter’s 4th birthday, and it’s the first year when she’s had a real wish list. And it all involves princesses. So I’m up to my eyeballs in princesses. I’m really looking forward to it and cannot wait to see how much she likes everything we have planed.

Until Monday!!

Back to reality

So, we’re back from our vacation. Every year, I’m excited yet hesitant about our trips. Historically, they’ve been a bit rough. There have been a lot of sleepless nights, tantrums, unfortunate swim diaper incidents and much, much more. But this year, we didn’t pack one bottle or diaper. Both of my kids have dropped their naps (which means no trips back to the house, but a mixed blessing), and both kids are out of cribs. So I was pretty excited. But still hesitant. However, this week turned out to be really, really nice. Every year, my family and I go to Long Beach Island, which is part of the Jersey Shore. I have been going there all my life, as has my mother. It makes me so happy to now bring my own children there. Despite the wonderful time had by all, it was hard not to notice how Hurricane Sandy affected the island. We saw many closed businesses, and the island almost seemed deserted compared to how it normally is. On the flip side, it was nice to see how LBI rebuilt and came back. As the saying around here goes, “We are stronger than the storm.” Seeing this rebuilt community made me proud to be a Jersey Girl.

We had a week full of beach time, ice cream, great food, rides for the kids, bike rides for all, and runs and long walks on the beach. Coming home sucked. Just really, really sucked. I always get a little down after coming home from vacation. And because of crappy planning, my husband and I had a triathlon planned for the following day. Although the race went great, we are nearly comatose right now and I’m really not even sure how I’m able to type at the moment.

I just wanted to share one of my favorite nights from our trip. We went onto the beach around sunset, which is actually my favorite time of day to be there. The sand is nice and cool and feels so good on your toes, the beach is deserted, and the light and colors are spectacular. There was a nice breeze going, so we took the kids down to fly kites. Try as we may, the kites didn’t stay up for too long, but the kids were thrilled. So naturally, so were we.

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Batman and Barbie may not have had a lot of flight time, but it was  pretty fun while it lasted. But now, it’s back to reality. Sigh.

beginnings and endings

It is officially summer. I so love this time of year; the possibilities of the season seem endless. We are spending lots of time at the pool, taking long walks and bike rides nightly, and our beach vacation is right around the corner. I plan on taking lots of day trips to the beach, having cocktails on our porch with my love by candlelight, and snuggling up with my babies to watch fireworks. It’s the beginning of a magical time. However, this weekend also marked an ending for us. Our babysitter just moved to Florida. She had been with us since my son was only 3 months old-and he’s nearly 3 now.  It was an emotional goodbye, as she and my kids have really formed a very special bond. I know they don’t really understand the finality of it just yet, but I feel sad for them nonetheless. They adore her, and she adores them. You can find a babysitter anywhere; they’re a dime a dozen. But to find someone who loves your kids-truly loves your kids-well, that’s something special. She made the kids a very sentimental farewell gift-a homemade story book. One of the things she always did with them was to tell them fairy tales-some that were familiar,  and some that she made up. She wrote out all their favorite stories and drew pictures for all of them. (She also always draws with them.)  In the book, she also included a message for both the kids that was so sweet, it brought me to tears. It was one of the most sweet and thoughtful gifts I have ever seen and better than any store-bought gift she ever could have bought. Just precious. So that is where I find our family right now-at the end of something special, and at the beginning of a wonderful time.

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Some moments from their last day together.

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Some pages from the book she made.

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On our nightly walk/bike ride.

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And the end of a beautiful summer day. I’m looking forward to many, many more summer beginnings.

Father’s day at the shore

The Jersey shore holds a very special place in my heart. My fondest childhood memories involve spending summers there with my family. I have vivid memories of my grandfather teaching me how to jump over waves. Of my brother and I being so excited to go to the waterslide park (in Long Beach Island) that we could barely stand it. Of warm cinnamon donuts from our favorite bakery for breakfast. Of spending a full day at the beach, going back to the house for a barbecue, and then going back to the beach to fly kites. Of nightly walks to go get ice cream. Of walks on the boardwalk. To me, the Jersey Shore is not all about booze and fist-pumping. To me, the Jersey Shore is all about family. So when it came time to plan out what we should do for Father’s Day, spending some time down the shore (that’s Jersey speak for the beach) just seemed right. It’s still early in the season, so the water isn’t exactly warm enough for swimming (at least not for my little ones), but it’s perfect for a day on the Boardwalk. The day called for going on rides, getting ice cream/funnel cakes/any other crappy yet delicious food, followed by a dinner on the bay at sunset.

So after making dad and the kids breakfast and giving dad his gifts and cards, we packed up and headed south. Lucky for us, we are only about an hour from the beach. My parents came along with us too, which made the kids so giddy I thought they would pop. We got off to a rocky start with both kids crying and having to be taken off a ride right before it started, but after much-needed ice cream cones, they both perked up and we had a great day. Here’s how it went:

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We truly had a wonderful day-one that was really special. The true sign of a great day? No one wanted to go home.

I have to say, I am a very, very blessed woman. I was blessed with a wonderful father. One who I thought of as a Superman of sorts. Growing up, there was nothing he didn’t know. Nothing he couldn’t fix or figure out. Nothing he couldn’t do. He had everything but a red cape. And now, I am blessed enough to have married a man who is a wonderful father to our children. I have no doubt that they will look at their dad the way that I looked at mine. Like a superhero. Because after all, isn’t that what fathers really are?

how to save a life

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Imagine this. Your child is lying in a hospital bed and a doctor tells you that without an organ transplant, your child will die. Your child-who you brought into this world. Who you would lay your own life down for. What would you say? Well, of course, you would say yes. Yes to to the transplant that would save his or her life. It’s a no-brainer. Insert into this story your husband. Your wife. Your mother, father, brother, sister. In all of those instances, you would say yes. But in order for your loved one to get that life-saving organ, someone else has to say yes. Someone else has to say yes on the most horrible day of their lives. Somewhere else, in another hospital, another conversation is going on. But this one is quite different. Those doctors are telling family members that their loved one is dead. That nothing will save him or her. Their child/husband/wife/mother/father/brother/sister is gone. And then they are asked to say yes-to donating their loved one’s organs. They are asked to say yes to giving the gift of life. An immeasurable and incomparable gift. Maybe it’s the family member of the deceased that decides, or maybe it’s the donor himself that made his or her wishes known. Either way, there is a yes. And because of that yes, that child lying in that hospital bed will get a miracle. That child will live to see her high school graduation. That husband will live to see his son play varsity football. That mother will live to see her daughter get married. All because of a little three letter word.

Today, my family and I participated in the New Jersey Sharing Netowrk’s 5k. The NJ Sharing Network is a non-profit organization that is responsible for finding life-saving organs and tissue for the over 5,000 NJ residents awaiting transplant. Think about that-over 5,000 people waiting for a yes-and that’s just in New Jersey. Their event today was nothing short of amazing. It’s not your typical 5K. Many of the participants are either family members of someone who lost their life and donated their organs, or recipients of those organs and their families. It’s touching, beautiful, heartbreaking, uplifting, and inspirational. After my husband and I completed the run (with strollers in tow), we walked around for a a bit. I spent a good deal of time among the donor families. They formed teams in honor of their loved ones and set up tents with banners, signs and pictures. It was impossible to walk amongst all of that and not feel touched. As I walked by one in particular, I asked if I could take a picture. The man I spoke to said yes, and this it what struck me:

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That face. I just couldn’t stop looking at it. There was just something about her.  I took the picture, and then went off to find my husband, as we had to be at my daughter’s dance school for her recital pictures. We started to walk out, and then I told him I had to go back-I knew then I really wanted to write about today. And I wanted to go back to talk to the family of that beautiful little girl. The little girl who won’t ever have any more dance recitals. I met her parents, and they were lovely. We talked a little bit about “Tori”, and I got a picture of the family and team-“Team Tori”. Tori’s parents made the decision to give the gift of life. On the worst day of their lives, someone asked them to give. And they said yes. And because of that, another child (or children) gets to live. My heart broke for these people. And yet I found them so amazingly inspiring. They walked today to remember their hero. Their Tori.

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They’re not alone. There were so many teams today walking or running in remembrance. And to honor. And to give thanks. And to support.

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I was in complete awe of these amazing human beings. In awe of the loved ones they lost and of the families they left behind. Their strength was nothing short of amazing.

The Sharing Network puts together “Donor Remembrance Quilts” to honor the donors. Family members are asked to make a quilt square honoring their loved ones and to decorate it however they would like. The results are so, so beautiful. Each one tells a story.

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Ironically, Tori’s quilt was the first one I went to.

I was a part of this organization for a few years before baby #2 unexpectedly came along, and I can tell you that they perform miracles every single day.  But they can’t do it without you. They can’t do their job if no one says yes. Right before the race started, a speaker said “If you are willing to receive, you should be willing to give.” Truer words have not been spoken. Be willing to give the gift of life. You never know if you just may need to accept it some day.

To register as an organ donor in New Jersey, you can go here: http://www.njsharingnetwork.org/page.aspx?pid=560. Other states can do it here: http://donatelife.net/register-now/.

Say yes.

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