Monday, September 26, 2011

Summer Rewind

The leaves are beginning to turn. Shades of red, orange, and yellow highlight the surroundings as autumn slowly creeps in. The days feel shorter, as the darkness rolls in earlier and summer becomes a beloved memory.
Stasha at the Good Life inspired us this week to compose our Monday Listicle with Summer as our topic.
So without further adieu,

Ten Battles of the Summer of 2011

1. Our Sanity vs. The Fresh Beat Band in Concert
So technically, the concert at Sesame Place starring Kiki, Shout, (new) Marina, & Twist was at the tail end of spring, but that show in the middle of May really started the summer for us. We waited an hour and half in the drizzle, and then another half hour in our seats.  Maeve tethered to the stroller attempting to free herself from the restraints, while Mo asking over and over, "Is it time yet?". Our sanity on the brink. Thankfully we came with reinforcements. Two juice boxes, a zip lock baggie of craisins, a plethora of goldfish crackers and a few lollipops later: 
 Front Row seats!
Do you see that pigtailed girl jumping in front of the stage?
Yes, that's Mo.
And that wait?
, Worth. Every.Single.Minute.

2. Maeve vs. the Grass
A love/hate relationship evolved with Maeve and our backyard. She loved to run, walk, and play, but the moment she lost her balance and her hands would come near the grass, she would cry. Her hands would tighten into little fists, and she would look up, as if she was in pain. I swear I could hear her subconscious yelling "mommy, please!". Luckily, Maeve's fear of the grass diminished by July, but it made for an interesting beginning to our summer.

Everything is fine until....she falls!
Look at that face!
Complete and utter disgust

3. Mo vs. the Roller Coaster
There is a small roller coaster at Sesame Place. A roller coaster safe for children three and up. With a smile on her face, and a skip in her step, Mo walked through the metal turnstile and onto the Vapor Trail. She seemed happy, eager and excited. She laughed as we took a moment to smile at the camera. We repeated this adventure two more times on two separate visits.
Imagine my surprise when, on our fourth trip she suddenly was terrified.
"I no like the roller coaster mommy." she said as the tears fell.
I don't get it? 
I'd love to be able to share that eventually she overcame this fear,
but unfortunately that never happened.
She says, "Next year, when I'm four I'll ride it."
I'm holding her to it, cause Mama loves her roller coasters.

I know. I know.
I'm way too excited while Mo looks terrified.
 4. Maeve vs. The Sprayground

This summer had it's ungodly hot days. We sought refuge a number of times at the sprayground. Her imagination in full swing, the sprayground park became Mo's private Wipeout arena. She dodged. She ducked. She covered. She weaved. She had to be carried out kicking and screaming.
Then there was Maeve.
Nothing could get her to like the sprayground.
Mo with a smile pasted on her face

No tears on trip 3, as long as she was in my arms
5. Jackie vs. The Heat
It is widely known that I don't like winter. Snow is not nice. While sweaters and warm coats are nice on a crisp fall evening, I hate the gloves, hat, and boots that become necessary in the Northeast when winter storms have hit. I formerly would refer to myself as a summer girl.
Then this past two summers happened.
The heat kicked my ass.
Perhaps it's the lack of air conditioning, or the fact we had to make numerous treks to my parents house a.k.a. Summer Camp for relief, but this summer filled with quite a few days where the temperature hit near 100* was enough.
In the heat's defense, it did provide opportunities for us to visit the local sprayground, YMCA, playdates with one of our favorite families, and spend quality time with Gram & Popsie.

Dinner at Gram & Popsie's during one of our many stays
6. The Kids vs. The Strawberry, Cherry & Blueberry Patches
D and I thought it would be a great idea to take our four little cherubs on a trip to the farm to pick strawberries, cherries, & blueberries.
In the end, it was a massacre.
Read about it here.
I swear the farm will never be the same.

After three hours, this is all we came home with

7. Jackie vs. The Fudgie Wudgie Man

We are very blessed.
My mother in law lives on the outskirts of the beach. At least once a week for the majority of July and August, we head down. Upon arrival to her home, the girls consume a quick snack, we change and apply ample sunscreen, pack back into the car, and head to our favorite beach. This year, my girls became true beach bunnies. Digging in the sand and jumping waves like pros.
The voice could be heard in the distance. He quick cadence, "Ice cream sandwiches, Water Ice, Popsicles" filling the salty air with promises of sweet, cold treats.
I made the mistake of telling Mo about the Fudgie Wudgie Man.
"He's a man who brings a bunch of treats to the beach for people to buy and eat".
Finishing that sentence I knew there was no hope.
My mother in law then continued that while growing up, she always carried money to the beach for Bry and his brother to get their treats.
The Fudgie Wudgie Man became a integral part of our summer conversation.
Mo repeatedly asking with each trek to the shore, "Will HE be there?" and "Do you have money?"
Oh, Fudgie Wudgie man you won this battle!
Her face after her frozen Dora pop

8. Jackie vs. her bathing suits

I have mentioned before that I have some issues with a specific part of my anatomy. My belly area is a hot mess. (Sorry Aunt Nancy Jo, but it is!) If you saw it, you would agree. Short of a tummy tuck, I doubt there is much that can be done for this extra skin.
I brought a fabulously cute tankini from Athleta, thinking the two pieces would camouflage the area.
It does, as long as I don't move or if I'm sitting.
However, that's not happening too much when I'm at the beach with two kids under four.
The only one piece I own, was okay. My boobs were a little squished (not the good way) and the pattern not my favorite, but it worked better then constantly picking up my bottoms.
Next year, I WILL find a good fitting one piece that keeps things in check.

There is no need for a photo.

9. Moira vs. Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillie
The poor guy never had a chance.
It was photo day. Citizen's Bank Park was filled with fans and phanatics. Cameras in hand, they called out his name, hoping for that one on one picture. He came over just as she finished with her beloved Chase Utley. Popsie called out his name "Domonic, my granddaughter's a huge fan". Gingerly he hands the small three year old over to the professional ball player and
she loses it.
Poor Mo, and poor Domonic.

10. Our Kitchen vs. Our Bank Account

There were quite a few crazy days this summer. This day was one I'd love to forget.
First, we realized the dishwasher was no longer doing it's job. Upon ordering the first stainless steel appliance, two more unexpected issues came up.

Pretty, Stainless, & Functional
Who knew this was an option?
 The refrigerator went first. When you notice the quiet buzz seems to be more quiet then buzzing, you know something is wrong. Four hundred plus dollars for repairs, dumping food, and five days later, it was fixed.

Just in time for our stove to break.
I cannot make this up.
Having gas, we were able to use the stove top with a lighter, but no oven.
Another four hundred dollars, and five days later, our stove was back.
Honestly, you can't even tell it's fixed.

The only thing that made this worse was when it occurred.
Those days leading up to my thirty-third birthday were quite memorable.

In retrospect, this summer was quite a memorable one, and mostly for the good.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Package

It sits collecting dust I assume, on the top of the cabinet in our dining room. Wrapped in crayon marked paper, the Father's Day gift we will never be able to give.
I walk past it countless times during the day. Sometimes, passing without notice, other times my eyes fixate on it, and I pause.
Thinking of the "should haves" and "could haves".
The days leading up to Father's Day this past June, we prepared handmade gifts. for Bry and the grandfathers.
Entering Michael's we found the aisle easily. An array of t-shirts stood in nice piles before her. White, grey, yellow, blue, red, green, and black sitting in their size specific spots. Of course, without delay she reached for two red shirts, her favorite color for some time. Placing them into the cart, I turned my attention to the variety of fonts available of iron-on letters.
Unfortunately my procrastination in purchasing the items led to a depleted supply. Instead of uniform color choices, I was forced to be creative.  In desperation, I was able to create a black & white pattern. Two P's, One O, One S, One I, and One E for Popsie, and Two D's, One B, One U, and One Y for Buddy. Luckily, the fabric paints had not been picked over. I decided on a variety pack of squeeze bottle paints and placed them into the cart.
I remember vividly taking the items to check out. I looked to Mo. Her smile gleamed as she eagerly offered, "I cannot wait to make these shirts for Popsie and Buddy! Them are going to LOVE them!"
I agreed. It would be the perfect gift for the two grandfathers, personalized t-shirts with hand prints of their two granddaughters.
Just perfect.
We returned home with our supplies and I went to work. Dusting off the iron, I easily attached the letters to the t-shirt. Waiting for the little hands to mark below.
Upon waking from their nap, we eagerly worked. First painting Mo's hand with black paint, then carefully placing it on the red shirt. Slowly removing the hand, her print perfect. We repeated the process again on the corresponding shirt, and then repeated the process with Maeve.
The shirts were completed with the addition of the girls' names under their respective hand prints.
The days passed, and Father's day was approaching. It was time to wrap the gifts. Giving the girls crayons and old paper made specifically for wrapping valuables during moving, they created personalized wrapping paper.
Their hand strokes evident as I wrapped the shirts for Popsie and Buddy.
Father's Day arrived.
At a small picnic at my brother's house, Mo eagerly offered her gift to my my father. It was just as I had imagined. Meticulously, he unwrapped the paper, mentioning to Mo the beauty of her art work. Finding the t-shirt, he held it up for all to see. She looked to him, jumping up and down with excitement. While sitting in the living room, he removed his standard Phillies shirt and replaced it. The new red Popsie shirt displayed for all to see.
He wore the shirt for the remainder of the picnic, making comments throughout the day about it to both Mo and Maeve.
We had initially planned to visit Buddy the following weekend. But as is customary in life, things come up and so the package sat on our table. The shirt hidden beneath it's paper covering.
As his health made a turn for the worse, a visit with the girls was out of the question.
We just assumed, like always, his health would improve and we would have the chance to have that visit.
But it never did.
I wish he had never gotten sick.
He missed out on so much.
He never really got a chance to know my kids. He never got a chance to run around the dining room table, or sit on the couch and read a book. He never was able to walk the perimeter of our property with Bry, examining the exterior of the house nor offer advice on old house maintenance.
He never got to unwrap that package.
And so that package remains.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wish for the Kids

Monday = Fun Day over at the Good Life with Stasha and her famous Listicles.
This week's theme:

10 things you wish kids could do like back in the day

1. Play without Play dates
We would have friends come over, but I don't remember the term "play date" ever being used. We would just go outside and play. Most of the time, we would meet up with other kids in our neighborhood, sometimes in a backyard or the neighborhood playground. There would be little interaction with our parents until one set would remind us it was time to eat, or come in for bed.
What a foreign concept today, lettting the kids just play without structure or formality.
2. Learn how to lose
There weren't any trophies, ribbons, or awards just for finishing. If you won, you won- You got the ribbon! The big trophy was yours. If you lost, then you licked your wounds, maybe wiped away a few tears, and got on with it. In those instances, the losers learned how to lose gracefully, to accept (eventually) that someone or some group was that much better. The winners got to enjoy the spotlight.
Everyone doesn't win, and that's okay.

3. Lose the plug
The Nintendo NES game system came out in 1985. (link) For years, we begged my parents to have a gaming system. They refused. Christmas lists and repeated mentions that others had it, did nothing. Left to our own devices, we played. Life went on. Then in 1989, our school district went on strike. My parents finally budged as the thought of an extra month of us home, without the local swimming pool as entertainment, scared them.
When I taught a special education Kindergarten, I remember quite a number of parents commenting on how well their five year olds were on the computer or their personal gaming system. The speech therapist I was working with at the time made a comment which to this day has been influential in my own view of parenting.
For every minute a child spends engaged with a computer, gaming system or television, that's one less minute they have to engage with real people and learn socially acceptable behavior.
So true, so very true.

4. Know our history
My family has been in the United States for five generations, thus many of cultural celebrations have all but disappeared. While I don't have memories of my great grandparents, the older members of our Catholic Church hold a special place in my heart.
I grew up in a Catholic town. There were five Catholic Churches within five miles, and each had a ethnic group primarily associated with it.
My Church was Slovak.
Which was perfect, as I was a Slovak, Polish, and sliver of Irish/Welsh kid!
On Christmas and Easter, the older members would always sing at least one hymn in Slovak. Easter baskets were brought to the Church to be blessed, with its contents for Easter dinner inside. Occasionally, a prayer or some phrase would be overheard. Yearly Church picnics were filled with piergoies, stuffed cabbages, & haluski.
Over time, the cultural ties to our Slovak heritage became less and less evident, as these members passed.
With new membership, the retirement of the Pastor, the Church is no longer the same, and gone are many of those traditions I held dear.

5. Sit for three hours worth of Saturday Morning Cartoons
I remember going to bed Friday night and being excited for cartoons on Saturday morning. Sitting in the couch, three hours of cartoons were at my disposal and then the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, GLOW. There was no DVR to tape episodes of Backyardigans or Fresh Beat Band, and no Sprout or Nick Junior to pump twenty fours straight of kid friendly fare across to the masses.
We had three hours on Saturday. That was it.

6. The Vastness of the World
I may wax nostalgic as I write of how large I thought the world when I was a child. But I did! I thought Florida was so far away, and the thought of another country, like Australia or Taiwan, ridiculous. We never called my mom's friend in Australia because the phone bill would be crazy. Now, with the Internet, cell phones, and Skype, it's easy to communicate.
The world seems that much smaller.

7. Eat
When we moved into our new house when I was going into fifth grade, our next door neighbor brought over a plate full of cookies.
"They're all organic" she proudly informed, "no processed food for us". The smile gleaming as she continued. Informing my mother of the dangers of most of the food we purchased at our local supermarket, my mom nodded along. I think she may have thrown in an eyeroll when the neighbor wasn't looking.
It was 1989. "Organic" was not part of our family's vocabulary. Taking a bite of that cookie, I almost choked. My sister and brother's responses were similar. After our shared complaints, the cookies ended up in the garbage. Knowing now what I do about organic, I can only imagine the price tag for that dozen?
We ate without worry of high fructose corn syrup, or pesticides, or arsenic in our apple juice.

8. Know the Extended Family
I grew up in the same town as virtually all of my family. My father had seven brothers and sisters, and my mom had five, all but one lived within a twenty minute car ride. Our family tree was expansive to say the least, and we were close. Great Aunts and Uncles around every corner. The running joke in my circle of friends was that no place was safe in our town, because we were bound to run into one of my relatives. It seemed as if everyone was a cousin. We had large family picnics three times a year, and most attended our Church. As a child I knew all these faces.
My girls don't have that.
Many of these faces, these relatives, they only see once or twice a year and so they're virtually strangers. 
While I cannot imagine living in my hometown as an adult, I do wish my girls knew more of our family.  

9. Girl Power
Where's Punky Brewster, Cyndi Lauper, & the Spice Girls when we need them?

10. Write
The beauty of a postcard, the heartfelt emotion put into a thank you note,
the seductiveness of a well written love letter,(maybe when they're older),
 these things are slowly falling out of fashion.
The art of the pen and paper, replaced by the immediacy of email and texting.
Bring it back, I say! Bring it back!
Plus, the post office will thank you for the work.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sweet Dreams

Last night I had a dream.
I was back at my school. Teaching, I assume, however I don't remember any children's faces. I looked to the row of windows, to the table there sat my friend Kathie.
She had been my classroom assistant for a number of years.
We had a ball together, sharing the ups and downs of teaching Kindergarten and First Grade together. She was so much more then just my assistant. She was my confidant, offered an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. She gave me the confidence through her words of wisdom, on the days when I needed it. She would share stories of her four daughters to lighten my mood.  We shared a lot in that classroom, tears and laughter. Most days, we could just look to each other and without a word, she knew what needed to be done.
She was fabulous.
She passed away after a courageous fight with breast cancer a little over two years ago. Gone much too soon.
I miss her and I know I am not alone.
In my dream, she was there, healthy. Her hair shoulder length and the natural shade of reddish blond many seek to recreate with a bottle. She was laughing, throwing her head back and smiling. The way she used to when something would amuse her. She was leaning against the table, as I stood in the front of the classroom. The way we usually would start our day. I remember smiling back and waving.
My memory of this dream is fleeting, only lasting a few moments, however, waking up my mind immediately went to Kathie. Seeing her again made me think that wherever she is now, I hope she is at peace and happy. I hope she has been returned to her former fabulous self, with a smile on her face.
I still miss her.


Thursday, September 15, 2011


Once in a while, there are moments in time where I wish I could press the pause button.
Where everything is absolutely perfect.
 Moments that are luckily captured on film,
To cherish and enjoy.
To look back longingly at the smiles and happiness.

Those happy moments make it so much easier to deal with...

these type of days.

Join Shell & I as we share our Magic Moments over at Things I Can't Say

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

School Days

For days she asked, when she could go,
Off to school like a big kid, to learn, to grow.
A backpack she picked, red and grey,
Waiting patiently for that first day.
She told me she'd miss me, with a smile on her face.
I told her no way, she'll love that place.
We picked out her dress, with loving care,
That morning I fought tears as I put up her hair.
With a smile, and a giggle and a hug, she turned.
She was ready to go, ready to learn.
With a wave of her hand, up to the classroom she went,
And like that all my worry, my fears were all spent.
All smiles, and giggles, not even one tear,
Here's to a fabulous and happy first school year!

Monday, September 12, 2011


My brain is tested yet again!
Deborah at Mananhattanmamma chose this week's listicle: CHANGES.
If you're like me, that David Bowie song may be running around your head. "Chhhhanges", This week I'm looking at it in terms of my kiddos, things I don't mind they change.
Thanks again to Stasha at the Good Life for hosting. Feel free to join in!

1. Potty Training
How can one not appreciate giving up changing diapers?
Making the change from diapers to big girl panties in our house signified so much change. The change from baby to kid, being ready for school & soccer. My girl's growing up!

Someday she'll hate me for this picture.

2. Breastfeeding
There are mamas out there that love breastfeeding. Terms like "child-led weaning" and "extended feeding" are in constant rotation in their lexicon.
Then there's me.
Not that I hated it, but...
I like having my boobs back in their normal state not rock hard, milk filled and gigantic.
 Remember how Selma Hayek breastfed some African baby?  The joke in our house was I could have fed the entire village. Supply was never an issue but that change, from the boob to the cup, was welcome on all fronts.

3. Hair
This might just be a mother of little girls thing. There is a magic moment when a little girl's hair suddenly becomes long enough to do this:


4. Mobility
Slowly they learn to sit up, then crawl, the pull up, then walk.
 For some, like Mo it's crazy early: walking at 8.5 months.

While Maeve waited a little longer, 10 months to start walking and climbing.

5. Playtime
Slowly, they went from just sitting next to each other to actually playing together. I can only imagine it will get better (and worse) as they get older, but for now it's golden. Simply wonderful!

First Tea Party
Jan. 2011
6. Bicycle
We're working on that one. At the moment, she can climb on and manages to pedal a half rotation.
Lance Armstrong, you're safe...for now.

7. Talking
Mo is like her mother:
 she likes to talk, sing (terribly off-key), whisper.
Her mouth is always moving, and she has no problem telling you what exactly she prefers,
often in song.
There are moments I wish I had a mute button.

8. Dress 
This is one that can go both ways. Currently Maeve will wear whatever I put on her, love 19 month olds! Mo, however, has an opinion on just about everything: too tight, too loose, too blue?, too yucky.
If it were up to her, a numbers shirt (a shirt with a number either on the back or front) and comfy shorts/pants everyday. She's working on the idea of matching, but it's great when she comes up with outfits like this:
Stripes match Stripes

Can I wear these to the store? Please?!?
9. Fun Stuff
While at times the loss of babyhood can pull at the heartstrings,
 being able to do some fun stuff makes up for it.

Phillies Games with Popsie
Soccer with daddy

Trips to Sesame Place

Rides on the Boardwalk

10. Family
Before Mo and Maeve, we were just Us: Bry and Jackie, a couple. A terrible twosome who would dine late on a Friday night, sleep in on Saturday mornings, and leisurely make our way through the day.
Then we had kids,
And everything changed.

Magically, we turned into a family. 
 First with the addition of Moira.

 Along came Maeve,

And suddenly, Sisters. 

What could be better? 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflection: Ten Years Later

The sky was filled with clouds that seemed to dance across the blue sky. Walking into the school that day, I remember the beauty. The thought that the kids had to get out and play also entered my mind.
It was the first full week of my first Kindergarten class. Luckily, I had been a student teacher the previous fall with many of the children in their inclusive preschool, so we were quite familiar with each other.
As they walked into the room that morning, we were unaware of the life changing events that were occurring only a short train ride away.
I taught in a small town in New Jersey where many of its inhabitants commuted into New York City. In my class of eight, one father worked daily while another made frequent trips. . Their children knew of the taxis and buses, crowds and chaos.
The City was part of their daily life.
It was part of all of our lives.
Being only the fourth day of school, routines were not routine. Our cadence as a group had yet to be established, and so tasks like morning circle were drawn out. In between singing the days of the week and clapping the months of the year, a fellow teacher came to the door. Excusing myself for a moment, I walked over. In hushed tones she relayed the news of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.
My heart dropped,
But I had to return back to the room.
Pasting a smile on my face, I finished. Only after, as the children were returning their chairs to the table, did I share this news with my classroom assistant.
Without more then a shared gasp, we looked to those little faces.
Their concerns at the moment involved who would sit next to whom. No knowledge of the incident had entered their mind, and that is how it would remain.
We continued on, academic tasks to perform.
On a quick trip to the restroom, I noticed a television had been set up in the teacher lounge. Pausing for a moment, I stood with a coworker. It was at that moment the first tower fell. Our arms reached for each others, an embrace as we witnessed the horror. As I stepped away, into the stall. I let out a gasp and brushed a few tears away.
I had to return to my class, to my responsibilities.
But how?
Walking back to the classroom, I thought of the father who worked in the City. Unsure of his work address, I prayed it was far from the debris.
Taking a deep breath, I walked through the door.
Small faces turned toward me, their smiles contagious, as in chorus, they said "Hello Miss L" as they finished their snack.
For the remainder of the day, I was an actor, playing the part of teacher.
Information would come throughout the day, from the principal walking the halls, to a therapist picking up a student for services. A picture emerged of the events of the day. As these pieces came together, we continued on: Reviewing colors, reading aloud, and free time. The daily activities keeping these little people busy and oblivious to the terror.
A disembodied voice echoed the classroom walls, as we prepared for lunch.
"O's mom is here to pick her up for the day." our school secretary relayed. "Can you bring her down with her things."
As I walked her down to the office. O grabbed my hand. Her mother, with a frantic look on her face, raced over and showered O with kisses and an embrace.
Hesitating, I asked.
"Have you heard from your husband?"
Thankfully, he was safe, and as a precaution she wanted her family together.
Walking back to the classroom, the principal stopped me. We were instructed to remain inside that day.
No one knew what had happened, would could happen. In addition, with the City being so close, thoughts of air pollution tainted our minds. As a precaution were to refrain from the playground during recess.
The sky remained clear, blue, beautiful.
The school day continued, at a snails pace. Dismissal could not come quick enough.
Hurrying home, but a few miles away, Bry's car was already in the drive.
Walking up the stairs to our apartment, I heard muffled voices behind the door.
Upon entering I found Bry and his friend, Jim sitting on our couch, watching the footage.
Both law school students, their classes were cancelled for the remainder of the day. Their law school overlooking the New York skyline, gave many a first hand view of the devastation.
Bry had learned of the events from a note passed amongst his classmates.
We sat watching the footage in disbelief.
I wondered how we could go on?
What would the landscape of our lives look like now?
How could we ever feel safe again?
I know I was not alone with my questions.
Life had to go on, but at what pace?
It started slowly, our recovery.
But that next day, I had school. Back to those little faces and so I continued to act.
I pretended everything was okay, so that they would feel fine, even if I did not feel the least bit fine.
Eventually, over time, I found it easier, and the act dissolved.
However, things would never be the same.

Friday, September 9, 2011


This year,
No hotel stay or plane trip.
No long car ride or overfilled luggage. 
No palm trees or fruity drinks.
Not the vacation we had in mind.
But nine daddy filled days (and one more weekend)
And one birthday for Mom
Have left us thankful for our time,
Even if rain interrupted our plans for a few days.  

A Trip to the Zoo

Haircut for the first day of School

Fun at the local Children's Museum during a Rainy Day

Finally the rain subsided,
Blue sky,
Warm Sun,
Fun at the beach.

Not the vacation we had imagined...
But exactly what we had needed.