We Go All Out for Groundhog Day

Why?

Because I believe that holidays that mean absolutely nothing should be celebrated with all of the exuberance and creativity of Christmas morning.

Really, I’m just looking for an excuse to eat more desserts.

“I’m sorry [insert personal trainer name], but you know how it is around Groundhog Day.

There are sweets everywhere. Cookies, fruit cakes, figgy pudding…

And with all the stress of the family in town, and the uncertainty surrounding the weather….

I just eat and eat and eat….”

To celebrate, Colt and I read about groundhogs (a titillating subject), watched a YouTube video of a groundhog emerging from his burrow (30,000 times until I finally pried the phone from his 5-year-old fingers), and went outside to see our shadows.

And we made cupcakes.

My Pinterest search yielded 13,000 recipes for “Groundhog Day desserts.”

Seriously people?

The first photo was of a homemade dark chocolate cupcake with a tiny groundhog whittled from a Milano cookie.

It’s buck teeth were made from white chiclets – adhered with some kind of organic groundhog denture cream.

Our version (seen here) uses a Betty Crocker box mix and teddy Graham’s (which are not ground hogs at all, rather bears.) Sitting atop “dirt piles” of brown sugar.

Also, the “groundhog” in the front (and one in the back) is missing an ear.

They may not be pretty, but they sure did taste delicious!

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By the way, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this morning.

Which is great because I am SICK and TIRED of these blustery 75-degree days, here in Florida.

Thanks to a small beaver-like rodent’s keen sense of meteorology, I look forward to packing up my lightweight cardigans, and busting out my 24-hour clinical protection deodorant.

Happy Groundhog Day!

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Dear Treadmill. It’s Over.

Dear Cadence 840,

I’m sorry to do this.

But it’s time to break up.

When we first got together it was hot and heavy.

We were together at least three nights a week.

FullSizeRenderBut I’m just not that into you anymore.

Sure, when I see you over there in the corner, I feel bad.

I really do.

And when we meet up now and then, you always leave me in a sweat.

But let’s be honest – I’m not committed to this.

I find myself annoyed with all of your idiosyncrasies.

You get really loud when you’re turned on.

You’re kind of an eye sore.

And you’re just not that interesting!

At least not compared to all these younger models with giant…

Video screens.

From what I’ve heard, they know how to take a lady to places she’s never been before – like the Grand Canyon or the Swiss Alps.

Honestly, I’m not leaving you for another treadmill.

It’s just that I’d rather sit on the couch with a tub of ice cream than be with you.

I hope you can understand.

I’m sure there’s another woman out who’s a little bit fat, and cares.

And she will love you just as much as I once did.

I’m going to help you find her on Craigslist.

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Holiday – Up in Smoke

Our little city hosts several fun family events throughout the year – Sunday in the Park, the 4th of July Parade…

The annual Christmas Tree Bonfire.

At nightfall, families gather at the park to watch the city’s hottest firefighters set our dead trees ablaze.

And I literally mean hottest firefighters. This blaze gets so hot, you might as well wear your bathing suit under your parka.

(I imagine the guys that work the “bonfire” shift drew the short end of the match.)

People bring lawn chairs, coolers, golf carts, picnic baskets, etc., and set up camp near the caution-taped pit.

Note: This is one event I would not suggest being front and center for, unless you want your eyebrows singed off.

For more then 50 minutes, tree after tree goes up in flames.

The children squeal in delight as the fire gets taller and taller.

The adults stare in horror as they realize the tree that just exploded had been sitting in their living room wrapped in electric lights – plugged into the wall.

These type of events attract the entire city, so you can expect to see everyone you’ve known since kindergarten. (This means makeup, hair, maybe even a new outfit.)

The good thing about knowing everyone is that when you lose your child (which will inevitably happen at some point during the night) the  whole city is there to help you find him.

Losing my child, among hundreds of children, at night, is actually my worst nightmare – second only to my newest fear of my house burning down from a Christmas tree fire.

But I digress.

The city’s finest toss in a small table top tree that must have been doused in kerosene because it turns all sorts of technicolors, along with a medium sized tree still covered in silver tinsel.

Wait, tinsel?

Somewhere in China the devil himself still owns a tinsel factory. (He makes Easter grass and packing peanuts in the off-season.)

For the grand finale, the firefighters lug a huge 10-foot Frasier fir into the fire, courtesy of the Griswold family.

The crowd cheers as the flames roar.

Embers fall over us like shooting stars, and a great cloud of smoke looms overhead.

As Colt and his friends run around the smoldering remains of our holiday season, I can’t help but feel grateful to live in such a good ole fashioned hometown with events such as this one.

Also, thank God we have a fake tree.

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Thank you for the Megaphone

IMG_5123Dear Mother-in-Law,

I’d like to publicly thank you for all of Colt’s wonderful Christmas gifts.

Specifically, the megaphone/bullhorn with siren.

We love it for so many reasons.

For one, I find that I am generally more alert now, and I wake up much faster.

When Colt sounds the siren, I actually LEAP out of bed in the morning!

We used to have to walk over to the neighbors to borrow a cup of sugar, but now we can use the megaphone right from our very own kitchen!

It’s exactly what we needed to help Colt prepare for his future career as a carnival barker.

Some of my friends’ kids received drum sets – literally child’s play compared to your gift!

Next year I can only hope for fireworks, live grenades or perhaps a cannon?

We hope to hear from you soon (if we have any hearing left.)

If you’re in the neighborhood, give us a shout.

Actually, we’ll give YOU a shout!

Love,

Your Grateful (and slightly deaf) Daughter-in-Law

 

 

 

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Oh, What a Wonderful Year

Below you’ll find some of my favorite moments from the past year.

So many wonderful memories!

Thanks for following me on this crazy journey…here’s to an exciting 2016!

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Beach Babe or Bag Lady?

There are many blog posts on what to bring on a family beach trip.

Posts like “How to Pack the Perfect Beach Bag in under 30 minutes” and “The Ultimate 10-Item Beach Packing List” and “7 Essentials for A Family Day at the Beach.”

We took our son to the beach the week after Christmas (because it’s 90 degrees in the dead of winter) and I can tell you, all of these articles are…ahem…crap.

If you are over the age of 18 and/or married with children, then the truth is, you’ll take 27 tote bags of sh&t with you on your next beach trip.

It will not take you 30 minutes to pack.

It will take you 7 hours, and you will still forget something.

You will venture to the shore with saddle bags of:

bathing suits, sandals, hats, protective eyewear, diapers, underwear, change of clothes (or two, or three, or ten) snacks, water, sippy cups, pacifiers, shade screen, stuffed-animal lovey, baby blanket, umbrella, sunscreen, face-sunscreen, snorkel, flippers, surf board, volleyball net, frisbee, asthma puffer and medication refills, baby-sensitive-skin sunscreen, sand toys, seashell-collection-bag, kite, 57 beach towels, sheet, hair tie, baby powder, bug spray, bandaids, tampons, change for the parking meter, cash for the snack bar, lawn chairs, cooler, fishing pole, your phone with the fancy new all-weather case, the Nikon…

My husband parks the car, and leads the way to the perfect spot.

He scouts out this spot like a hound dog on a crime scene.

No, no… not here.

Sniff. Sniff.

Yes, that’s it… 15 more miles in that direction.

He is a sleuth, and I am his bag lady.

I am out of breath from carrying so much sh&t across the Sahara desert, and also from being a little fat (it’s the week after Christmas, remember.)

However, I am wearing a Spanx bathing suit, which is very flattering, thank you very much.

I am also wearing a tunic, sandals and large sun hat.

Suddenly, like a flock of seagulls, a dozen barefoot teenage girls flutter past me.

I am blinded by their glistening tan skin.

Do you know what they are carrying?

Nothing.

They are prancing about without so much as a cover up.

I take that back, one of them was carrying a radio.

Because the only thing one really needs at the beach is Nick Jonas.

(Incidentally, I forgot “music” in my above-mentioned packing list.)

Why do I have 1,000 things, and they are drip drying half-naked in the warm winter sun?

Because they aren’t afraid of anything, and I am afraid of everything.

I am afraid that someone will get hungry, or tired, or melanoma (or bored God forbid) during the 2-4 hours we will actually be at the beach.

I get so caught up in preparation, I sometimes forget the entire point of going to the beach is to HAVE FUN.

Oops, mommy forgot to pack a positive attitude!

When I finally settled into my lawn chair (so comfy, with the cup holder!) and caught my breath, I watched my son fly a kite for the first time.

I realized, I love my life as a pack mule mom.

There is nothing like building sandcastles and digging tunnels to China.

Or collecting sea shells.

Or eating too much ice cream at the Twistee Treat.

Which brings me back to that Spanx bathing suit, and the cover up, and that bucket for the shells, and some extra cash….and…

Ugh, we forgot the shovel!!!!!!!!!!!

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Taking Your Child to Ybor City

Is a terrifying prospect for those of us from Tampa. But if you go on a Sunday afternoon armed with a family scavenger hunt it’s not so bad.

My son is 5, but you could change this up depending on your child’s age (or you could make it an “adult” hunt by adding line items like “local brewery”, “rainbow flag”, “panhandler” and “drag queen.”)

Colt squealed in delight every time he spied something from our list, and it was a good opportunity for us to practice his letters and numbers.

When we were done with our hunt in Ybor, we hopped on the TECO streetcar and trollied over to Channelside. (If you have a lot of time, you could go see the Florida Aquarium, but the scavenger hunt and lunch took us about three hours, so we were pooped!)

Enjoy!

Family Scavenger Hunt – Ybor City

  1. A pirate
  2. The number “7”
  3. A brick wall
  4. A cigar factory/ or cigar maker
  5. A map
  6. A streetlamp
  7. A park bench
  8. A cobblestone street
  9. A railroad
  10. A cuban sandwich
  11. A trolley
  12. A haunted building
  13. A hotel
  14. A bowl of spaghetti (we ate lunch at the Spaghetti Warehouse)
  15. A pirate
  16. An american flag
  17. A bakery

The chicks were not on our list, but they were so cute, we had to take a picture!

 

 

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How to Keep Your Friends During Election Season

sunset-flag-america-fields.jpgWith only a few days left until Christmas, it should be the happiest time of the year.

But then you check Facebook to find that your Uncle Fred has called your Aunt Luna a racist bigot, and in response, she’s posted a waving American flag .gif because she’s really more American than he is.

In the words of Ellen Griswold, “I don’t know what to say except it’s Christmas, and we’re all in misery.”

Even with more than 300 days until the 2016 presidential election, we are inundated with political news stories, blogs and social media posts. Every damn minute.

This candidate is a liar! No, that candidate is! This one hates Muslims! But that one hates God!

It’s exhausting. It’s nauseating.

It’s also easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole.

I’ll probably lose most of my thousands of devoted followers for admitting this, but I’m a registered democrat.

(Gasp!)

I also attend church fairly regularly, and I’m married to a teacher…who is a marine veteran…who owns a lot of guns.

(Gasp, gasp!)

My family is a mixed bag politically, but the majority of my friends are republican.

(Gasp, gasp, gasp!)

HOW do I survive in such chaos?

HOW do I maintain friendships with these people – when our chads dangle so differently?

I try to remember these 3 things.

Go ahead, indulge in all of those juicy articles.

“Like” them if you feel so compelled.

Comment if you must.

But whatever you do, resist the all-encompassing urge to tell your son’s baseball coach to F&ck Off because he’s voting for Bernie.

It’s so hard, I know.

He’s so dumb, and you’re so smart, and you just REALLLLLLLLLLLY want to tell him.

Don’t.

Phone a friend (but make it the right friend.)

Avoid showing-off your new Trump stamp to your sweet old lady neighbor Maria (who happens to be Mexican.)

And don’t call your cousin in college to tell her about how you were born again last night and have since given up drinking, and she should too (if she wants to get into heaven), and by the way, you ARE voting for Ted Cruz right?

It’s important to have friends for different reasons.

For example, I have mom-friends with whom I discuss poop color and antibiotics.

I have fashiony-friends with whom I discuss StitchFix and DID YOU SEE WHAT KIM KARDASHIAN just instagrammed?

I have university faculty friends with whom I discuss politics and world religion.

I have career-minded mentors with whom I discuss sales strategies.

Don’t get rid of the friends who aren’t like you in EVERY SINGLE WAY.

Even the ones who don’t vote like you.

We all need each other, and we’re more alike than we like to think.

Which leads me to my last tip.

Look at the big picture

Sometimes we get too caught up in the details.

When I think about my friends and family, I know that we all want:

  1. A safe place to live.
  2. A better education for our kids.
  3. Our children to be polite, well-mannered, and grateful.
  4. Our parents and grandparents to be healthy and well cared for.
  5. To work hard and be rewarded for it.
  6. To contribute to society in a meaningful way.
  7. For poverty, suffering and unrest to end.
  8. To live a full life.

We may differ GREATLY on how to achieve these goals – but we’re all trying to get to the same finish line.

So next time you read, those ANNOYING-A$$ posts from your friend’s husband on Facebook, ask yourself…

Does he REALLY want to shut down the border because he’s an evil, racist, bigoted, non-compassionate a-hole?

Well maybe.

Or is it that he’s fearful, like many of us, and he’s offering one (of many) solutions to a bigger problem.

Oh hell, just unfollow him until after November.

 

 

 

 

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Things to Remember Next Halloween…for my Sanity.

Halloween is my favorite time of year.

It’s costumes, and theater, and dessert – all foil-wrapped into one glorious, gluttonous holiday.

Nevertheless, I seem to be making the same 3 mistakes over and over.

I’m noting them here (in chronological order), so perhaps I’ll know better for next year.

Relax About the Costume Already.

Colt said he wanted to be a green army man.

So I went all Pinterest-happy trying to create the most impressive homemade costume ever.

I spent hours Googling “how to get an authentic plastic sheen” and “how to turn your average water gun into a realistic-looking-Toy-Story-appropriate-rifle.”

Hours of my life I can’t get back.

I spent $20 in green Duck tape.

I took ten years off my husband’s lungs with too much green spray paint.

I made Colt practice army man poses for photos.

Then he decided he didn’t want to be a green army man. He wanted to be a cowboy.

Then a chef.

Then a police man.

Then a pirate because his friend Charlotte was going to be a pirate.

Fine. I’m cool. I’m flexible.

Be a pirate.

I quickly cut the bottoms off some old jeans and found a skull T-shirt in his dresser. He already had a pirate hat, bandana, and 20 toy swords, so it worked out.

Shortly before we left the house he decided he wanted to be a ninja.

That’s when I lost my sh&t.

“You WILL be a pirate,” I said through clenched teeth. And you will LIKE it!!!!!!!!!!!” I shouted.

Ahem.

Now, let’s go get some candy.

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No Accessories.

No batons, or swords, or magic wands, or fire hoses, or handcuffs, or spatulas, or earrings, or big ears, or beads, or neckties, or sun glasses, or vests, or helmets, or straw hats, or removable head pieces of any kind, or gloves, or batons, or paint brushes, or crowns or bloody appendages.

Unless you, the parent, want to carry them for THE ENTIRE TIME.

Colt made it to four houses. FOUR.

Before Todd was carrying his pirate hat, and I was holding his sword.

Which meant he went to the other 25 houses in a skull T-shirt and a do-rag.

(In his 6th costume, Colt is a gang member. Tampa EAST SIDE!)

Next year, mark my words, he’ll wear a costume that’s all one giant piece.

Like a tube of toothpaste.

Avoid the Houses with the Weirdos.

There’s this one particular house in our neighborhood where the owner sits in his drive way every year in a white lab coat and a mask that would make M. Night Shyamalan sh&t his pants.

He doesn’t speak.

He just sits in his folding chair handing out candy with razor blades and picking out children to cut up and boil.

I should have known to skip his house this year.

But no, I went back and brought our friends to boot!

Now my friends’ daughter has PTSD, and Colt keeps asking me, “But Mommy, what was that scary man supposed to be?”

I have a hard enough time explaining how rainbows are formed. But serial killers?

I also need to remember to bring water. A wagon. And wine… in a thermos.

Most of all, I need to remember to enjoy the moment. I know there aren’t many more years of this door-to-door fun.

Before I know it, Colt will be 13 and too cool for trick-or-treating.

Or he’ll want to go around without a costume as hoodlum teenagers like to do (which will be allowed over my DEAD BODY.)

Next year I vow to let him be whatever he wants to be (as long as there are no moving parts or removable appendages.)

And I vow to not worry about making it amazing or intricate or impressive. It’s not about me.

I also vow to avoid the wack-job neighbor, and take more pictures and give more kisses along the way.

Halloween 2016 I’m ready for you, you spooky beast!

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3 Reasons Why You Need to Go Visit a Friend Right This Minute

I just got back from visiting one of my best friends in Chicago.

It wasn’t for any particular reason other than her husband was out of town, and we missed each other.

Taking a trip alone to visit a girlfriend feels different after you’re married and have children.

It feels wonderfully exciting because it doesn’t happen very often.

And it feels terrifying because your plane could nosedive into the Atlantic at any moment leaving your child motherless forever.

Because of that last part, it also feels selfish.

A few years ago (Colt was around 18-months-old) I flew in a tiny puddle jumper to go visit my friend Carla for her annual Halloween party.

The flight attendant had to shuffle the 12 passengers around so the weight was balanced.

I remained totally calm on the outside, but on the inside I was thinking…

WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING??!!!! I am going to die on this lawn mower with wings and leave my sweet baby alone in this world – all because I wanted to wear a slutty pirate suit for a few hours, and stay up too late, and re-tell old stories with new made-up details, and drink too much.

Three muskateers (i.e. slutty pirates) at the Halloween Party

Three muskateers (i.e. slutty pirates) at the Halloween Party

But then I stopped myself.

No, I won’t.

I won’t feel guilty for visiting my friends.

I need to visit my friends.

  1. Friends are Like Insurance Policies, Only Prettier

And smarter and funnier.

You put a little of your energy into them each day, or week, or month, and when you need them – they’ll be there.

I know women who are completely devoted to their husbands, or kids, or job, or pool boy – and all of that is wonderful.

Until your husband has a mid-life crisis and leaves you for an ugly Applebees waitress. Or the pool boy.

When you put all of your eggs in the husband basket, or the boyfriend basket, or the kid basket, or the career basket, you are taking a big risk.

Here’s my advice – don’t cancel your insurance policy.

Because when you find out about the Applebees waitress, or that your mother has cancer, or that your child is being bullied at school, and you don’t know what to do…

You’ll need your friends.

To pick you up and dust you off.

To fill in your sinkholes and rebuild your foundation.

To patch up your roof and give you a shiny new coat of paint.

(For the record, I do not think my husband is going to leave me for an Applebees waitress. He is wonderful, and I am crazy, and I think he would have already left me if he were going to. Also, he loves my friends and encourages my friendships, which leads me to this short public service announcement…)

LADIES: If you are seeing, dating or “giving the goods up” to a guy who doesn’t like your friends and discourages you from spending time with them – look for the nearest exit. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

His jealousy seems endearing now, but trust me, this will end badly.

2. Friendship is a Workout for Your Mind, Body and Soul

Friends bring joy and splendor, and juiciness and laughter into our lives.

Special emphasis on the laughter.

There have been times I’ve woken up with sore cheeks from smiling so much.

And not the kind of sore cheeks I had after a week of sorority-rush-induced-fake-smiling – but the kind that’s associated with severe abdominal pain from belly laughing. And also sometimes a hangover.

I’m positive that I burn at least 20,000 calories per day when I am with my friends. Feel the burn!

Good friendships hurt so good.

3. Your Friends are Good for Your Kids

I think it’s even more important to keep your friendships in tact after you have kids.

Getting on that plane is terrifying. Do it anyway.

There’s something amazing about watching your childhood friends become parents.

Watching them love their kids so hard.

And relating to them in ways that mean more than that time you both liked Chad in high school, or when you both bought matching Backstreet Boys shirts.

I take comfort in knowing there is a pack of warrior mothers out there who care about my son just as much as I do.

He will grow up with these women swarming around him – loving him and protecting him.

And I will do the same for their children.

It’s like sister wives only without the uncomfortable husband sharing part.

To all my wonderful friends and framily,IMG_4748

My friend's daughter and I making funny faces for days!

My friend’s daughter and I making funny faces for days!

IMG_4753 IMG_4751thank you for everything you have given me, and continue to give me in this life.

I love you and your kids with all my heart.

And also, I call dibs on Carla’s guest room for next year’s Halloween party.