My Real Life

January 16, 2017

Culture Shock

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

At the beginning of each school year, the 8th grade social studies teachers do a lesson on historical thinking.

It’s an activity that trains the 8th graders to think like an historian.

In order to create the lesson, we bring in “artifacts” from our lives and place them at a variety of stations throughout the room.

The students rotate through the stations and have to make observations about what they find and then draw some conclusions.

The students aren’t given the information that the artifacts are pieces of my life. They have to put it all together and decipher the identity of the subject based on the clues that they find, much like an archaeologist.

At the end, they write a biography of my life based on the info, which is always highly entertaining.

Some of the artifacts that I use at my stations is a wedding picture of my Great Grandparents from Denmark, my high school yearbook, an Archie comic, an album, an antique book, a glucose monitor and many other items.

Some of the kids struggle to make meaning of the items, others are able to see connections, and even others are able to weave a fairly accurate biography based on what they observed.

However, my favorite part of the entire process, every year, is listening to the students try to guess what a few of the objects are.

For example, even though I’ve heard that vinyl is making a comeback, the students hold the album in their hands and don’t even realize that there is something inside.

“What is this? Who is this a picture of? Do you think it’s her brother? Wait, is this a list of poems on the back? What IS this?”

Then, when someone in the group discovers that the side of the cardboard opens and there is a vinyl treasure inside, I hear…

“Oh! It’s a case for this frisbee!”

Students who have a dim recollection of seeing one of these artifacts at their grandparents homes ask questions like “This plays music, right? Is there only one song on this thing? How does it work? I don’t understand how the music comes off of here if it isn’t digital?”

Some of the items are fairly straightforward, and still, they struggle.

My Great Grandparent’s wedding picture is from the 1890’s. It is obviously from the 1890’s.

And yet…

“Do you think this is her wedding picture?”

Gee. Thanks, guys.

Then, the students pick up the glucose monitor.

“Oh, I know this! I saw it in a vintage shop. I think it’s a Yarakuchi. No, a Kapalanchy. Wait…it’s a Tamagachi! It’s like a virtual pet that you have to take care of or it dies.”

Yep. That’s it, kid.

And then comes the Archie comic.

Not a vintage Archie comic, mind you. One that I bought at ShopRite last summer.

“OMG…this is, like, one of the original comic books.”

“You think?”

“Yeah, totally. Look at what they are wearing. That’s like, clothes from the 1800’s.”

“I don’t think so. I’ve heard of this comic. This isn’t the original comic. The original comic was Scooby Doo.”

“Wait, the dog that solves mysteries?”

“Yeah. Scooby Doo came first. This is a total rip off of Scooby Doo. I think they go around and solve mysteries but without the dog.”

“Lame.”

—–

I share this, not because I think my students are anything less than brilliant, but because it amazes me, sometimes, how little today’s kids know about the items from their parents generation, much less their grandparent’s.

I feel like, when I was a kid, I knew all about my parent’s childhoods.

I knew the toys they played with, the music they listened to, the celebrities they worshiped, and understood their cultural references.

But my students, my own children, don’t seem to have those cultural connections.

They live in their world and have blinders on to anything outside their own experience.

Is it technology? Does it fill their every waking moment so much that they don’t have space to learn about the items and experiences from the past?

I don’t know.

But I truly hope that it this doesn’t become the new normal; that each new generation exists in a vacuum.

Although, it wouldn’t be a huge loss if the next generation were ignorant of all things Justin Bieber.

I just think that the sharing of culture is an important rite of passage between generations, and as the ancients shared their traditions with their children to preserve their civilization, so should modern adults continue the process, and modern children be willing to receive it.

Because, if they don’t, Corey Hart and his nocturnal sunglasses could disappear forever.

And that, my friends, would be a real tragedy.

January 4, 2017

Websites I Loved in 2016

We’ve all got bookmarks on our computers.

The places we go, immediately, when we get online.

If you are like me, yours are probably your email, social media, a news site, any sites you may need for work, and any shopping sites you visit.

Below are two of my favorite bookmarked sites that you might find useful in 2017.

Swagbucks

I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t do some sort of shopping online, these days, myself included. Amazon is my BFF and I order from other websites when I can’t find what I want at Amazon. Sometimes, I think I could totally channel my inner Sandra Bullock, from The Net (an old movie that I would DEFINITELY recommend), and never leave the house and do everything online. However, if I can get something for my shopping efforts, other than the thing I am purchasing, I’m on board. So…enter Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a website where you log in there before doing your online shopping.

Then, you search for the online store you need and they will let you know if that is a store that they partner with and how many Swagbucks per dollar you can earn there.

Then, simply press “Shop Now” and it will take you to the site through their site and when you make your purchase, Swagbucks will add it to your “Shop and Earn” section and after 30 days, you will get Swagbucks for it, which you can cash in for gift cards or other goods in their “Reward Store.”

There are other ways to earn SwagBucks, like taking surveys or watching videos, but quite frankly, I don’t have time for that, so I just stick with shopping through the website. I’ve earned many a gift card through shopping with Swagbucks, which, as I’ve said, is always helpful.

If you decide to try it out, here is my referral link: http://www.swagbucks.com/p/register?rb=18073356

Frugal SOS Forums

About 16 and 1/2 years ago, when I discovered I was pregnant with Monkey Girl, Real Man and I realized that I was about to be out of work for 9 months on maternity leave and that was going to cut our income in half. We were newlyweds (okay, married three years, but still babies) and living in our first home. Half a salary wasn’t going to cut it.

So, I started reading everything I could get my hands on about living frugally.

I devoured The Tightwad Gazette. I read all three volumes of the book and started doing everything I could to save. I had articles published in couponing and frugal living magazines, and scoured the internet (which was still fairly new) for anything I could find on frugality.

In my searching, I stumbled across a message board that was in it’s infancy…The Frugal Village.  And I quickly began spending the majority of my time after work waiting for Real Man to get home from his job (he worked the late shift in those days) reading posts, joining challenges, and leading my own threads. The Frugal Village became a lifeline for me, and I became a moderator for the site and made many friends, some of whom I stay in contact with today.

Over the past 15 years, I have visited the site, on and off, always going back when I felt that I needed a kick in the frugal pants and some inspiration. However, a few years ago, the site owner, Sara, sold the site, and it didn’t quite feel the same. So, you can imagine my joy when Sara and I were talking, one day, and she told me that she had a new site, in it’s infancy, and invited me to come and check it out.

So, I invite you to come and check it out. Maybe you don’t need to. That’s okay. but, maybe you do. And if that is the case, I’d love for you to come and support Sara and see what it’s all about. As I said, it is still pretty new and there are only a few of us there, but the more the merrier.

Frugal SOS

January 3, 2017

At 45

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

Today I turn 45.

Even with super long life expectancies, I’m guessing that this means that, at this point, I am officially moving into the second half of my life.

45 doesn’t feel that different from 44 which wasn’t that different from 43 and so on and so on.

Yet, 45 feels quite different from 35 and oh so much different from 25.

At 45, I don’t worry so much if people like me because I like me.

At 45, I see a baby and I pick it up and hold it and snuggle it and kiss it and love it and then I give it back and no longer feel the emptiness in my arms and wish for “just one more.”

At 45, I haven’t been to the hair salon in ages to cover up the gray because I kinda like those silver strands that are peeking in and feel like I’ve earned them.

At 45, while I am working hard to get in shape, it is only so that I can be healthy enough in the second half of my life to do all the things I have yet to experience.

At 45, I realize that “in shape” doesn’t mean “bikini-ready.”

At 45, I regret nothing I have ever done and only regret the things I was never brave enough to do.

At 45, I treasure my friends that have been with me since I was a child and I love the friends I have made as an adult.

At 45, I recognize how precious it is to have been married for 18 years to someone I have known for 29 years and still likes me anyway.

At 45, I enjoy my kids.

At 45, I realize my house doesn’t have to be perfect to invite a slew of people over. It’s the people that matter. Not the building.

At 45, I realize that I am an acquired taste and not everyone is going to like it and I will not apologize for being me.

At 45, I’m happy to be 45 because 45 is so much more than so many people ever get to see.

At 45…not every day, because let’s be real…but today, at 45,  I am happy.

January 2, 2017

Television I Loved in 2016

 

 

2016 kinda sucked in the real world.

But on tv?

2016 was totally rocking.

So, in an effort to help you find something you might thoroughly enjoy in 2017, here are some of my top picks.

Westworld: I’ll be honest…Real Man and I tried to watch this show together, but because of it’s time slot, I kept falling asleep within the first few minutes.

So, I decided to make it a treadmill show (until the treadmill died…another casualty of 2016) and found myself quickly spending ALL of my time on the treadmill making my way through Westworld.

I understand that the original Westworld was a 1973 film, and while I am usually totally into checking out the originals of things, this time, I want to stick with the current version.

This is one of the most creative shows I have seen in a very long time and it keeps you guessing throughout the entire first season.

I was so disappointed when I realized that we were at the end of the season and that, because it was an HBO show, I probably wouldn’t get to see it again for another year, but then Real Man reminded me that we can just go back and watch it again, because we certainly missed a lot the first time around. Hindsight, and all that.

This is my #1 cable pick for anyone looking for a show to watch.

The OA

Disclaimer: I have been typing this post for awhile and edited it right before posting because, OMG, DH and I just binge-watched this over the past two nights and I need other people to watch this so that I have someone to bounce ideas and theories off of!

The OA completely capitvated me and messed with my mind. I really loved this story and am partially hoping for a season 2 and at the same time thinking that any addition to the story will be like all of James Patterson’s novels that he writes with other people after his early success…just in it for the money.

The Crown

I started The Crown after a recommendation from a friend and devoured the first episode with my phone in hand, open to Safari, so I could Google everything I was seeing to find out what was true and what was Hollywood.

I am a total Anglophile and love all things British and royal. I get it from my Mom who had us stop everything when we were at my grandparents one summer so we could all sit and watch the wedding of Charles and Diana along with the rest of the world.

The Crown begins with the story of Queen Elizabeth II when she was a young woman in the days before her father died and she became the Queen of England. The historian in me ate every piece of it up, and the person who loves to be entertained was thoroughly so.

Timeless

The fact that I’m an enormous Dr. Who fan can be my precursor to recommending Timeless. I could also mention that one of my favorite movies of all time, despite the fact that it was poorly acted and poorly executed, was Time Cop. I’m a sucker for time travel.

Timeless has a group of people who were recruited to travel through time to stop this man who seems intent on changing the future. Throughout the season, so far, we are given clues as to what he is trying to do, but not the full picture. While, at times, I wish they would just tell us what the heck is going on, it is definitely the continued mystery that keeps me coming back in conjunction with the different eras of history that continue to be depicted.

DC Legends of Tomorrow

Sticking with the theme of time travel, but in a much less mature, but highly entertaining fashion, is the CW’s DC Legends of Tomorrow. Unlikely superheroes team up to go through history and try to change a desolate future.  Pretty bad acting, not great story line, but I am hooked. I think I watched Season 1 in a matter of days, and they are in the middle of Season 2, right now, so you have plenty of time to catch up.

This is Us

I have yet to watch one episode of This is Us without crying. Not silent, gentle tears. Big, sobby ones. It has been a wonderful replacement for Parenthood, which I thought I would never say, because I loved everything about that show. But, This is Us has likeable characters, plausible storylines, and does a an amazing job at making you care about the characters.

Lucifer

I’m a sucker for a show or movie about demons, angels, devils, gods.

This is a good one.

It’s about Lucifer…yes, the actual Devil, who has escaped from Hell and has come to Earth.

And he is the protagonist of the show.

Which is a fantastic concept.

The show makes me laugh and it makes me think, as they show Lucifer struggle with his developing humanity and fall in love.

If you’ve seen anything in 2016 that you think I would enjoy, please, leave it in the comments! I’m always looking for something new to watch while I exercise!

 

January 1, 2017

Apps I Loved in 2016

Filed under: Reviews — Amy @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

My phone is my lifeline.

I keep in contact with my kids and husband with my phone, I get my news on my phone, I check my email on my phone, all of my social media is on my phone, and my music and photos are on my phone.

I’m almost embarrassed to say, I’d be very lost without my phone.

In 2016, outside of the activities I mentioned above, there are four apps that I used consistently.

I’m sharing them with you, below, in case you are looking for an app or two that may help you improve yourself or improve your wallet.

iBotta

I think everyone is always looking for ways to save money when grocery shopping. For a family of 6 that includes 3 boys who are always hungry, I spend an enormous amount of time trying to figure out ways to make grocery shopping less of a pain in the wallet. I clip coupons and I check sales, but I also use some grocery apps on my phone. iBotta is one of those apps that doesn’t necessarily take money off of the purchases I make, but gives me money back that I can have deposited into PayPal or turned into gift cards for millions of retailers.  All you have to do is check the app before you go shopping, select any items they are rewarding that are also on your list, and when you are done shopping, reopen the app, take a photo of your receipt with your smart phone, scan in the barcodes of the products you purchased that you previously selected and hit submit. Sounds like a lot of work, but the whole thing takes maybe 5 minutes, and I only joined in September and was able to get $50 in gift cards to help with my Christmas shopping by the beginning of December. It’s so easy to use and worth it to let your rewards quietly accumulate until you are ready to cash them in.

If you think you would like to try iBotta, I am going to shamelessly ask you to use my referral code: vgylxjm  I’ve got four children with birthdays coming up in February and I’m not gonna lie…getting credit for referrals would be super helpful in saving for those birthday gifts. 🙂

MobiSave

Another app that I use, which is used in the same way as iBotta, is MobiSave. The difference is, MobiSave deposits money directly in your PayPal account, or I think you can also save it up and have them send you a check when you reach a certain point. While I don’t make as much money with MobiSave as I do with iBotta, I still use it every week because every little cent counts! 

And, as another shameless sharing of referral code, if you decide to try MobiSave, here is my referral code for this app: JFDAGCOO

My Fitness Pal

As I head into the second half of my 40’s which hurtles me toward 50 faster than a speeding bullet, I find the need to keep on top of my health to be a paramount concern of mine.

My early 40’s taught me that I can’t just eat whatever I want and still enjoy good health (and comfortably fitting clothes) so I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app.

In the app, I document everything I eat during the day.

If it is something that I’ve purchased, I can simply scan the UPC code into the app, or I can type in the name and select from a list. It has all of the nutrition information already loaded, and I can keep track of my calories, and more importantly for my diabetes control, the macronutrients, ie: carbs, sugars, protein, etc.

It pairs with my FitBit app (which I’ll discuss in a minute) and gives me exercise credit calories based on the steps I’ve taken throughout the day.

For me, this app is essential. If I’m not holding myself accountable, then I tend to go a little nutty and find myself swimming in a sea of PayDay bar wrappers, buoyed by empty Diet Coke bottles.

If you need to be accountable, then this is the app for you. There are similar apps out there, but this is the only one that I have any experience with, so it’s all I can tell you about.

I do pay for the full version, however, the free version gives most people the support they need.

FitBit

So, you need to own a FitBit for this app to do anything for you.

However, if you are considering some type of pedometer/watch device, I’d go FitBit.

First, their customer service is amazing.

They have sent me two new FitBits after mine stopped charging, free of charge and just asked me to recycle the old one at my local recycling center.

Secondly, with my FitBit app, I can friend people I know who also have FitBits and we can challenge each other to competitions.

Believe me when I tell you that the teachers at my school are the most competitive people I have ever known.

And it’s fantastic.

Because the FitBit competitions spur me to stay on my feet and exercise, even when I don’t feel like I can move another muscle.

I think there was one week when I had almost 100,000 steps, which is about 20,000 per day.

Not too shabby.

December 5, 2016

What the What???

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

I’m not into parent shaming.

I believe that, for the most part, we are all just doing the best that we can.

I recognize that we tend to see each other’s parenting skills in snapshots, and, in those small moments, it is hard to get a full picture of how a parent functions in their role as caregiver and disciplinarian.

However, every now and then, I get a glimpse of something that shocks me, rocks me, and shakes me to the core.

Let me set the scene:

My Mother spent Thanksgiving in Paris on a free trip she received as a result of an engine malfunction on a river cruise last summer.

Rough life…I know.

She came back into town at the end of this week and she and my father offered to take our family out to dinner at Friendly’s on Saturday night so we could catch up and enjoy some time together.

Restauranting with kids can be tough.

I understand.

We’ve had plenty of “SSSSSSHHHHHH!” moments throughout the years, combined with, “No, you can’t get out of your seat, we are in a restaurant,” “Please give your brother the blue crayon back before he makes a scene,” “We don’t bang our fork on the table,” and the old stand-by, “Bathroom? Again? But you’ve been three times!”

So, I get it.

As the kids have gotten older, we have had less of those incidents, but I am still sympathetic to the cause and just tell my kids not to stare when someone else’s child is having a moment.

On Saturday night, my Mom was regaling us with tales of her cruise when Real Man completely interrupts her and just starts repeating, in a low voice, “Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod.”

We all turn to him, as it is pretty out of character for him to interrupt, but it’s totally out of character for him to react in such a way to anything, and we (as well as the girls at the table next to us) follow the direction of his eyes to the booth that was behind my Dad.

In the booth was a father and two sons…if I had to guess, I’d say ages 8 and 7. Possible 7 and 6. But definitely school-aged children.

Earlier in the meal, they were loudly fighting over a tic-tac-toe game and a word find, but Friendly’s is a noisy restaurant, to begin with, so I thought nothing of it.

Actually, the younger brother was the one who was doing the arguing and yelling, and his older sibling was looking at his father waiting for an intervention that never came.

So, now, we all follow Real Man’s gaze and find the younger brother with his head thrown back, ketchup bottle firmly attached to his lips, doing a two-handed squeeze of ketchup directly into his mouth.

It lasted about 30 seconds, however, RealMan had been “ohmygodding” for about 30 seconds before we all caught on, so it’s safe to say the boy had a minute’s worth of ketchup in his mouth, and dripping down his face.

Dad looked at him, and continued to eat.

At our table, we all just looked at each other with “Did that just happen?” faces and the girls at the table next to us just stared at each other in disbelief.

And then he did it again.

And again.

And again.

We eventually got on with our dinner, pausing every time he lifted the ketchup, to silently watch the spectacle.

And then he picked up the salt.

At Friendly’s, the salt containers are glass, and you have to twist the end to crush the rocks of salt inside and then it comes out.

Head back, grinder on tongue, twisting and twisting the salt onto his tongue.

Dad watched and, again, said nothing.

Back and forth: mouthful of ketchup, bite of burger, tongueful of salt, fry.

And, lest you think there was no ketchup on his burger, he actually used a napkin to wipe all the extra ketchup off of the bun as it squished out when he squeezed it to fit in his mouth.

At one point, the boy said to his father, spitting burger and ketchup onto the table as he spoke, “I want ice cream. I’m going to get ice cream.”

And the father, finally interacting with his son, said “When the waitress gets here. Don’t get up, or you won’t get any ice cream.”

Which prompted the boy to get out of the booth and walk to to the front of the store where he disappeared for three minutes.

When he came back, he sat down and continued to eat, as did his father, who had nothing else to say.

The waitress arrived and asked if everything was okay, and the boy said “I want a scoop of plain chocolate ice cream.”

She looked at Dad who nodded, and she walked away.

He ate his ice cream without incident, other than demanding another scoop from the waitress when the one scoop he ordered arrived.

The meal ended, they paid, and left and the waitress immediately arrived with a bussing bin, spray and a washcloth.

I leaned over and said “Excuse me…you need to take the ketchup and salt off the table and throw it away, because…”

The waitress interrupted and said, with big eyes, “Oh, I know!!! I said something to the Dad early in the meal, but he didn’t do anything about it! I am throwing them away!” and then proceeded to scrub the table and booth with the zeal of a hospital custodian cleaning up a surgical suite after all of the victims of twenty-three car accident have been through.

So, if I’m not into parent shaming, why am I sharing this?

I share this because it’s one of those, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you type of stores, but I also share this so that maybe the next time you are at a restaurant with your kids and they spill their apple juice, you will remember…it could be worse!

September 3, 2016

To Pony, or Not to Pony

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 5:04 pm

It’s Back-to-School time, and this means shopping.

I’ll be honest…there wasn’t too much to buy this year.

A few things for the girl, a few for the oldest boy, then the younger two have hand-me-downs which have been washed and sewn to look like new.

We have school supplies from sales past, and a few years ago, we invested in LL Bean backpacks that last forever and are replaced for free if they don’t.

However, this year, we have someone starting Kindergarten, and we are well-aware that any backpack preferences today will not be the same in a few years, so we don’t mind hitting Target and picking up a cheap, first backpack to last this year.

So, I packed Tiny in the car and told him what we were doing.

“Isn’t this exciting?” I gushed.

“Yes! I can’t wait to get my new pack-pack!”

B’s. P’s. They’re all the same, right?

“What kind do you think you are going to look for?”

“I want a pink, My Little Pony pack-pack, Mama. I can’t wait. I hope they have one with Rainbow Dash on the front!”

And my heart sunk.


Let me be clear…

I love that he loves the ponies.

They teach lessons about kindness and acceptance and goodness, and when he plays with his pony dolls, it’s a very different game than when he plays with his trucks.

He has pony dvd’s, toys, books, and it’s all good.

And I have no issues about the whole “boy playing with a girl toy” thing, either.

Girl toy, boy toy.

Who the hell cares?

If Monkey Girl and I are painting our nails, he wants to paint his and we happily let him join.

I put on makeup, he wants to try, no problem. Have at it, little man.

In my life, all I want is for my kids to be happy and safe, and that’s where the worry came in.

The backpack would make him happy.

But it might not make him safe from bullies.


As a parent and a teacher, the one thing I know is that kids are not always kind, and that there is nothing to make a child feel insecure and question themselves faster than…

The Bus.

The majority of all issues my kids have had at school have been a result of someone being unkind to them on the bus.

I have my own lingering tics as a result of riding the bus with David Hurta who used to yell, at the top of his lungs, “Amy Lawrence wears gazelles!”

Every. Single. Day.

And, what the heck were “gazelles” anyway?

I digress…

My concern with the My Little Pony backpack was two-fold.

  1. That some kid on the bus would tell Tiny that My Little Pony is for girls and that he would never love them the same way, again, because they would now be tainted with someone’s disdain, and
  2. That someone would tease him and be mean to him and call him names because he happens to be a boy who loves a show about ponies who are sweet and kind and have merchandise that happens to be primarily created in the color pink.

And yet, I’m a believer in always being yourself and being proud of who you are and what you enjoy and making no apologies (unless, of course, what you enjoy is illegal), so I was leaning toward buying that pack-pack with joy.

But, just to be sure, I decided to ask some of my friends.


The responses varied, and what I found most interesting was that they varied based on my groups of friends.

My teacher friends said things like:

“He should rock it! Maybe he can add some key chains with his other interests so he can show them to kids who aren’t into ponies? And maybe a few tips on how to say “we can still be friends even if we don’t like all the same things?”

“MLP is so popular – I say rock it! A lot of kids will love the backpack: guaranteed!”

“My daughter’s best friend (a boy) loved The Little Mermaid, wore nail polish and dresses in class and all his classmates accepted him and his interests.”

“If he can handle two older brothers he should be soooo good to go.”

My non-teacher friends said things like:

“No My Little Pony backpack. Get him one for home and play dates so it’s a special one with his special toys.” (This advice given with the disclaimer that it was coming from someone who still has PTSD from being teased badly on the bus)

“Can you steer him in another direction? Maybe take him to a place without My Little Pony backpacks for sale?”

Good advice, good ideas from everyone, and I appreciated the fact that the responses were different and looked at it from both sides.

But it got me no closer to a decision.

Tiny just kept chatting away in the backseat about his new MLP pack-pack and how it’s what he’s always wanted and then he said “My Little Pony just makes me so happy, Mama,” and that was that.

My Little Pony it would be.

Until we got to Target and he saw a Paw Patrol backpack and couldn’t live without it.


I hate that I even paused.

I hate that it I needed to consider the meanness of others when discussing something that brought my little guy such joy.

I hate that, while it has never crossed my mind once to dissuade Tiny’s love of the ponies, I balked at the thought of his outwardly displaying that love for the world to see, not because of what it said about him, but because what it would reveal about those around him.

I know I can’t protect him from everything, and I don’t actually want to, because how else will he learn to stick up for himself?

But 5 just felt too little, today, to have to learn that skill.

August 24, 2016

Beautiful Memories

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 9:57 am

On our beach vacation, Tiny spent a good deal of time collecting rocks and shells.

He called it “catching shells” because he’s five and because the beach demands terminology used at sea.

You catch fish.  Why wouldn’t you catch shells?

While I spent my time looking in the surf, picking up, throwing back, examining, and trying to find just the right one, Tiny found beauty in everything he found.

“Oh, Mama! Lookit! Dis is so beautiful!”

“Wow! It’s the prettiest!”

“I never seen one like dis!”

And, the result was that I left at the end of the week with one, beautiful stone that was naturally shaped like a heart, and Tiny left with a bag full of a mixture of half a mussel, concrete, a dirty clam shell, and a bunch of other pebbles that could have easily come from someone’s driveway.

When we came home, I soaked everything in a solution of bleach and water because, for Christmas, I plan to get him a lamp with a glass base into which we can deposit those rocks and shells, each year, and when he is grown up, he can take it with him…a tangible memory of our summers together.

And, when they came out of the solution, they looked slightly better than they had before, but the cleaning process also showed those which had no real, recognizable beauty.

Tiny was in the basement, playing with his brother, and so, I thought I’d cull his collection down to just those that will look pretty in the base of that lamp. I took the others and tossed them beside the deck, and put the rest in a baggie, to await Christmas.

When he came upstairs, he asked to see his shells (because he calls them all shells since he found them at the beach) and I pulled out the bag.

He started to take them out, one at a time, and place them on the table, “oohing” and “aahing” over each one, when he suddenly stopped.

“Mama. Where’s the rest?”

I wasn’t sure how to play this, because I had been sure he wouldn’t notice the absence of a piece of cement, a broken mussel and some pebbles, so I responded, “The rest of what?”

Smooth.

“The rest of my shells. Where they at?”

So, I explained that I kept the prettiest shells for his collection and put the rest of them outside, and I began to trip over my words as his eyes began to fill with tears.

“What’s the matter?” I asked him.

“I fink they’re ALL pretty because we caught them together.”

So, out to the yard we went, and we were able to find them all because I had dropped them right next to the front porch, and we added them to the bag, and they, too, will find their home in the base of the lamp.

I’m not sure how could I have forgotten that happy memories are always beautiful, no matter what they look like on the outside.

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August 16, 2016

Joy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 11:09 am

There are moments in life which fill you with joy.

I don’t mean happiness.

I mean joy.

Unfiltered.

Unfettered.

Unembarrassed.

Just joy.

Moments with my family can fill you with joy, for sure.

Moments of personal success can also fill me with joy.

But, I find, that often, the things that bring me  joy are the experiences that spark memories from childhood.

And my childhood wasn’t necessarily filled with joy.

But there were moments…

So, what sparked this line of thought?

Last week, my family vacationed at the beach.

New Jersey was in the middle of an intense heat wave, and the air was thick and hot and suffocating.

I don’t love the beach.

But, man, do I love the ocean.

Tiny and Baby played in the surf and Real Man, Monkey Girl, Monkey in the Middle and I went out to bob in the waves.

And, as the kids and I do, when in the water, we started searching for the perfect wave.

That wave that would drive us into the shore.

The water was rough and the waves kept coming.

Over and over again, I bodysurfed those waves.

And you just know, when you are in it, whether it will take you all the way or drop you off midway to shore.

You need to feel just the right rumble of churning water under your stomach, and that’s your signal that you are going the distance.

And when I feel that rumble, I smile.

As hard as I try to keep my mouth closed, I smile and shriek and laugh and tumble and get knocked around like a leaf in the wind and it fills me with an unparalleled glee.

Joy.

As a kid, we vacationed at the beach, and I would spend the entire day catching these waves, and even today, as an adult, I don’t care how disheveled I am as the waves deposit me on the sand.

And I am disheveled.

My hair is full of seaweed, and it covers my face as I’m gasping for air, choking, coughing, bathing suit askew, and I’m running back out to catch the next one, immediately.

I have no inhibitions in the ocean, because the ocean gives me such joy.

To be caught in a body so vast and a power so strong.

It’s exhilarating.

It’s fun.

It’s joy.

My dream has always been to open a used bookstore where people could come and exchange their books for new ones at minimal cost.

There would be an area to sit and read and drink coffee or tea, and I imagine shelves bursting with well-read, well-loved books, that would change hands again and again and again.

And I want this bookstore to exist at the beach, because what’s better than finding that vacation read while on vacation.

That’s my dream, and it just doesn’t work anywhere that isn’t the beach, because at the end of the day, when I close the door, and flip the sign to “Closed,” I want to hit the beach and get tossed around a little by nature.

Because, for me, that is joy.

April 11, 2016

Because You Make Me Laugh

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

Real Man is a serious guy.

Seriously.

I’ve known him for 28 years, and feel confident when I say Real Man is a serious guy.

But, not always.

Not if you know him…really know him.

Not if you give him a chance to collect his thoughts.

He’s not one for quick quips or fast-paced banter, but if you really care to take the time to get to know him, you’ll find out that Real Man isn’t always a serious guy and that there is a very funny side to him.

This afternoon, while searching through my email for something, I stumbled across a perfect example of this.

—–

I leave for work fairly early in the morning, and Real Man has always been responsible for getting the kids to their daycares and schools.

This has been the routine since each of them was born, and so his morning jobs, before heading off to his own job, has always been ponytails in hair, matching the socks, finding the left shoe, remembering the Show and Tell letter of the week, and all those other things that come before you can actually leave the house for school.

And I have always been very grateful.

However, I have also always felt like I was missing out, and I always wanted to know how the morning went so that I would know the moods they had at drop-off, so I could imagine how their day was going.

So, every morning, before we had smart phones, I would shoot him an email, asking “How was the morning?”

And his response would always be either, “Fine” or “It was a rough one.”

I’d follow up with “Fine how? Were they extra cute? Did they sing songs? What are they wearing?” or “Uh-oh…did someone bite someone? Did you remember the Scholastic order I left on the counter? What toy did he/she lose so I can be consistent with the consequence after school?”

And sometimes he’d respond, but some days, by the time the second email was sent, we were both fairly ensconced in our days, and he wouldn’t have time to respond.

Inevitably, every few weeks, we’d have it out, and I’d say “You have to give me more than ‘Fine.’ I’m a writer, I’m a reader, I’m a history teacher. I NEED information!”

And we’d argue about how he didn’t have time to send me a play-by-play and if there was anything that I really needed to know, he always made sure I heard about it, one way or another.

He wasn’t wrong.

He was really good about it.

But, I’m me.

And I can’t let things go.

So, apparently, on the evening of May 21, 2007, I must have done my bi or tri-weekly haranguing for information, because, on the morning of May 22, 2007, Real Man responded to my email question of “How was the morning?” with the following reply: (Names and locations have been edited)

There was a chill in the air this morning, but it didn’t seem to affect either Monkey Girl or Monkey Boy, who were wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Monkey Boy, with his growing-out buzz-cut was especially vulnerable to the 50 degree air, but he didn’t seem to mind. Monkey Girl, with her abundant locks tied neatly into two pony tails had some extra insulation.  After the morning ritual of wanting to sit in any seat but their own, they were clipped in where they belong.  Dad then noticed garbage strewn all over the side of the lawn. “Damn raccoons” he thought to himself as he picked up the waste.  In the truck the children wore sunglasses in the backseat while enjoying Billy Joel’s “All for Leyna”…their youthful naivety masking the mature undertones of the musical composition.  There was a man cutting tiles on the corner, the noise piquing Monkey Boy’s interest.  “Dad, I want to see the machine.” He called out.   They drove by slowly as father showed son the man cutting tiles in the driveway down the street.  Dad then noticed how long it had taken to clean up the garbage, and made the snap decision to drop off Monkey Girl first.  Would this change in routine affect the children adversely?  No, they stepped up and accepted the obstacle as if it were nothing.  After pulling up to X School, where dad had gone to kindergarten as a child as well, Monkey Girl asked permission to be unclipped.  She made a comment about how her loose tooth was almost down to her lip.  She then proceeded to kiss her brother and father good-bye and strode up to school braver and more confidant than any other 6 year old.  Although her back was to the truck, her father was sure that she was flicking her loose tooth with her tongue the entire way up to school.  She must have said something cute to the man standing by the door of the gym, because he smiled at her as she passed through the gateway.  Dad and Monkey Boy proceeded on to nursery school, another establishment that dad had attended as a child.  They walked through the parking lot hand in hand, but at the bottom of the stairs Monkey Boy broke free and raced to open the door as he does every morning.  They were greeted in the entryway by the director who said “Good morning” to both of them.  Only dad replied as Monkey Boy was a little shy.  They both signed Monkey Boy in “as a team” and went off to the Big room.  There they were greeted by the daycare teachers who also said “Good Morning”.  Once again, dad was the only voice heard as Monkey Boy buried his head in dad’s leg.  Dad proceeded to hang up Monkey Boy’s bag, which contained his lunchbox.  When they were saying their good-bye’s Monkey Boy gave dad a kiss and a hug and reassured him without prompting that he would say sorry to Mrs. B, Mrs. B2, and Z.  This apology that he was referring to stemmed from an incident last week in which Monkey Boy was disrespectful to his teachers and threw sand at a classmate.  Dad smiled, but also knew that Monkey Boy would soon be engrossed in his day and would forget the apologies.  That would be OK though, as the incident is now over.  Dad walked off and turned for one last wave good-bye at the door, then disappeared into the hallway.

Snarky?

You betcha.

But, on the morning of May 22, 2007, and as I read the email this afternoon, I laughed so hard I cried.

Real Man will say to me, “Sometimes, I just don’t get what you see in me.”

And I always reply “More things that I can count. But number one will always be, because you make me laugh.”

—–

Here’s hoping someone makes all of you laugh today.

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