What Do You Remember From Your Childhood Vacations?

After spending a lovely, expensive week on Florida’s Gulf Coast, I was surprised to hear my children talk about the vacation memories they’ll cherish.

For a glorious week, we slept in, swam in the pool, played in the ocean waves, fought like the Kardashians, built sandcastles, read great books and spent time with family and friends. We even visited Winter the famous, tailess dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, something we’ve been wanting to do ever since watching the movie Dolphin Tale.

Will my kids remember Winter?

Will my kids remember Winter?

What did my kids say they enjoyed most?

Ava (9 yo):  Playing with my cousins and having a TV in my room.

Rhys (4 yo):  Having a TV in my room and playing with my cousins.

Basically, they would have been happy at home. After a trip to Costco for televisions. Good to know.

TVs are more memorable than this? "Yes, Mom!"

TVs are more memorable than this? “Yes, Mom!”

My strongest memories of family vacations as a kid involve swimming pools and free sweet rolls at a little pancake restaurant called Wolfie’s. No matter where we went, as long as we had a pool (and free mini cinnamon buns to wash down my pancakes) I was happy.

A good friend recalls traveling as a child with her parents to European cities many of us would consider dream destinations. Her most vivid memory?

Frosted Flakes.

She clearly remembers the sugary cereal she wasn’t allowed to eat at home. Apparently, hotels around the world are familiar with Tony the Tiger’s innumerable charms.

Photo courtesty of Kellogg.com

Photo courtesty of Kellogg.com

What memories stand out to you from your childhood vacations?

A highlight of this family vacation for me was unexpectedly running into an old friend on the beach …

I haven’t seen Laura since she moved away to the Chicago suburbs years ago. She has three beautiful children ranging from 11 to 6 years old who I haven’t seen since they were babies. Imagine walking on the beach in Florida and running into a long-lost friend. Serendipity!

Laura and I caught up on our non-spring break lives while our kids built sand castles together. Laura mentioned that her son, the oldest, asks her to hang out with him at night before he falls asleep. She doesn’t always want to, but because she knows he won’t be asking for much longer, she’s says yes. And she’s discovered they have their best conversations as he’s drifting off.

Her words really stuck in my head. I’ve been saying no to Ava a lot lately when she asks me to hold her as she falls asleep. We read together every night and by the time we’re done, I’m usually ready to have my own down time. Reasonable? Of course.

But last night when she asked me, I remembered Laura’s words and said yes. We cuddled and for a few minutes I experienced one of the purest joys of motherhood – cuddles and kisses from my not-so-little girl.

Soon my daughter won’t want me around as much. I already see her wanting to spend more and more time with her friends. I celebrate and support her friendships, yet I’m more aware of the precious, fleeting moments we spend together. At least some of the time.

My kids are so much a part of my life today I can’t imagine a time when they won’t want my undivided attention. But that time is quickly approaching. And I plan to enjoy every moment we have left.

So, move over, kids. Mama needs to cuddle.

From my favorite daily affirmation site:  Notes from The Universe (www.tut.com)

From my favorite daily affirmation site: Notes from The Universe (www.tut.com)

Thigh Master

I was good last week. I didn’t eat any bread, and I asked my mom to make me a salad with lemon juice instead of dressing, just like the book says. My face still squeezes up at the lemony taste, but the beauty book I found in our basement says I’ll get used to it soon.

As long as I keep doing everything the book says, I’ll have skinny thighs and be more beautiful in 21 days. Eileen Ford promises. She should know. She wrote the book.  And she has skinny thighs.

Photo via Amazon,com

Photo via Amazon,com

Only 15 more days to go.

If I stand on the bathroom counter and bend my knees, I can see my thighs in the mirror. When I looked yesterday, I stood up too fast and slammed my head on the ceiling. Good thing I “have a hard head” as my dad likes to say. He says our house has “low ceilings,” but all I want is to see if the leg lifts are doing any good.

I don’t see any difference yet.

The pictures in the book make the exercises look easy. I’m supposed to do 45 leg lifts on each side every night. I do 75 so my thighs will get extra skinny. I wish my thighs looked like the pictures in the book. Or like Alison’s, my best friend. She’s 11 years old like me and her legs are as long and skinny as a grasshopper’s. She thinks her legs look like string beans but I think they look perfect, exactly like the legs in my book. I wish my thighs looked like hers.

The book says to eat grapefruit for breakfast, cottage cheese for lunch and broiled chicken with lemon for dinner. We don’t have any grapefruits but my mom drinks grapefruit juice every morning before breakfast to help her poop, and I’ve been drinking it too. I think it’s helping, but my mom keeps making stuff like pasta and fried eggplant for dinner and packs me ham and cheese sandwiches and cookies every day for lunch. I wish she would buy cottage cheese.

I throw my lunch out in the cafeteria garbage can every day and drink a bunch of water instead but sometimes I peek at the cookies before I throw them away. Sometimes my stomach growls during art class. I don’t mind feeling hungry as long as my thighs get skinny.

I don’t know what “thunder thighs” are but I know I have them. Mike Cherback says so. He laughs at me every day in gym. Mom says I have her genes. Not the kind of jeans like my favorite pair with the rainbow stitching up the leg, but the kind you’re born with in your blood that give you chubby, hairy legs like mine instead of “slim” legs like the models in my book.

Mom says my legs will grow soon, but I can’t wait. I want to be pretty now. I’m gonna do 100 leg lifts tonight. Just to be sure.

Linking up with Yeah Write this week. Click on the badge to read some wonderful writing from people who have made peace with their thighs. Come back on Thursday to vote for your favorites.

If You’re Happy & You Know It …

While I’m tramping around Florida vacationing with my family, I’m re-running this post from last year detailing our family’s Spring Break exploits. Not much has changed this year … but there’s still time. Enjoy!

… Drag Your Feet:

Does anyone else find it hard to relax on vacation? It likely won’t come as a surprise to hear that I have a hard time relaxing and easing into the rhythm of unfettered free time. I say unfettered but as any parent knows, vacationing with two pint-sized people is hardly the definition of carefree bliss. Our vacations are a lot like weekend family time at home (albeit with more sunscreen): fun family activities intermingled with standard-issue parenting/care-giving tasks. On vacation, we aim to spend more time slathering the girls with sunscreen than actually playing in the sun.

Somehow our attitudes and dispositions followed us to Florida (along with enough luggage to clothe a small nation). And for the first several days of our trip, I found it hard to relax. Not that I had expectations or anything? Moi?

While I thought I signed up for the Von Trapp family vacation (picture-perfect family cruising through Florida, singing our hearts out and casting loving glances at one another circa The Sound of Music), apparently I booked the Modern Family version (overpacked, clueless, loveable family bickering, crying and vomiting across Florida). Who do I talk to at Expedia about this?

…Have Fun, Damn It:

For the first few days of our trip, my need to control morphed from accomplishment mode to memory-making mode: “Family, it is time to make some memories! Have fun. Now.”

I was scared to let go of orchestrating our “good time,” fearing we’d sit in our condo rental for a week staring at each other (our apathy interspersed with lively bickering bouts, of course). Once I let go, I experienced my favorite Florida memory so far: watching in awe arm-in-arm with Ava as a flock of pelicans dive bombed for fish and a mom and baby dolphin danced in the ocean off Naples Pier. Pure bliss.

… Take a Nap:

This trip has shown me it’s hard for me to be a fun, engaged mom for more than ten minutes at a time without a nap. Ava brought along her massive paper doll collection (it was that or the entire American Girl doll contingent). And while Southwest Airlines is generous in its baggage allowances, it did balk at giving Samantha and Kanani (Ava’s dolls) their own seats and carryon bags.

When we’ve played with the paper dolls on this trip, for some reason I’ve been assigned the dog character. After pretending to pee on everything in sight (a YouTube-quality giggle maker with my girls), my role has been to follow Ava and Rhys’ characters around and not say anything. Ever. Not exactly the Tony-award winning role my agent usually negotiates for me.

As any dog knows, when in doubt, take a nap. And nap I have. Apparently, I’m getting the hang of this relaxing thing. I hope to find some balance between constant motion and comatose before it’s time to go home.

… Avoid Your Husband:

In addition to my expectations of familial bliss on this vacation, I also imagined romance, intimacy and connection with Mike beyond our wildest dreams. Months of missed connections at home were supposed to magically transform into lustful, heartfelt interactions on the Paradise Coast. Yet, I’m finding it hard to connect with him. I’d like to blame the kids (an easy out), but really, it’s just hard for me to connect. Period. My preferred state is fight or avoid. Apparently, the saying ringing intermittently in my head “would you rather be right or be happy?” doesn’t apply to me. Right? Happy?

Mike told me the other day that he didn’t find my pissy self much fun to be with. Harrumph. And ouch. (And please. We all know my pissy self is nothing if not fun!). After first getting defensive, I asked him to tell me what he was feeling rather than what he was thinking. He owned that he was feeling lonely. Hey, me too!!! Lonely! That’s what this feeling is! A hug, a kiss, a breakthrough. We’ve got this connection thing down! Check “connect with Mike” off my vacation to do list! Seriously, while our connections are messy and imperfect, I’m grateful we know how to come back together.

… Enjoy the Moment:

I’ve not felt like writing all week, yet I’ve had a hard time letting myself off the hook. A real writer would write while on vacation, I’ve admonished myself. Shut the fuck up, I’ve answered. And when I finally let go and decided not to blog until I got back home, I woke up this morning happy, relaxed and itching to write. Go figure! And then, go home.

What do you think? Fill in the blank: If you’re happy and you know it, __________________.

Spring Break, Family Vacations, Family Memories

Life Patterns

Our four year old is learning about patterns in preschool and beginning to notice the many patterns of life all around her. Seemingly overnight, our budding student (who has yet to embrace the useful pattern of play, play, clean up) is attuned to the various patterns she witnesses in nature, in her artwork, in books and in our daily routines and interactions.

“Mom, did you know that the sun has a pattern?” she asked recently, her mouth full of Goldfish crackers. “It rises in the East and sets in the West. And when we get up, get dressed, and brush our teeth in the morning, that’s a pattern too!”

At first I was impressed by her keen observation skills, now I’m panicked that she’ll pick up on some of my less-than-flattering patterns; ones I’d rather keep under wraps, or least out of her classroom. I can picture it now:

Rhys:  “Teacher, I have some patterns to share with the class!

Teacher:  “Great! Go ahead, Rhys.”

Rhys:  “Small, small, big. That’s the pattern of bumps on my mom’s ass chin.”

Rhys:  “She also yells at us every morning for running late. And throws away our artwork and stuff without asking. Those are patterns, right?”

Teacher:  “They sure are, Rhys. Thanks for sharing!”

Before Rhys has the following conversation with certain people, “Did you know that every time you call, my mom lets the answering machine pick up? It’s a pattern,” I’ve decided to feed her some patterns I made up am okay with her sharing:

How about:

life patterns, patterns of life, behavior patterns

Yesterday as we were cuddling on the couch, I reminded Rhys of two of my favorite parenting patterns:

“Rhys, did you know that my reading to you every afternoon is a pattern? Our daily dance breaks are a pattern, too.”

“I guess so,” she said, staring at me. “Mom, I see a pattern on your face. You have crinkles next to your eyes. Short, short, long. Short, short, long.”

“Those, my love, are called smile lines. And they’re my best feature.”

Smiles Lines. My best feature.

Smiles Lines. My best feature.

Maybe I’d be smart to steer her toward some of my husband’s patterns instead …

What patterns of yours do you hope your children don’t notice?

Guess Who’s Having a One-Year Blog Anniversary?

I planned to write a wise, funny yet gripping one-year blog anniversary post featuring a riveting celebrity-type interview (think Vanity Fair or Oprah Magazine) of me (playing the celebrity) by my daughters (playing the adoring interviewers). Here’s how that worked out:

Plan A:  The Celebrity Interview-Style Post

Me:  “Ava, it’s time for the interview. What questions do you want to ask me about blogging for my one-year anniversary post?”

Ava (9 yo):  “What’s your favorite subject to write about?”

Me:  “Great question! I love writing about the lessons I learn from you and Rhys about …”

Ava:  “Mom, the right answer is ‘Ava.'”

Me:  “I love to write about you, honey!”

Ava:  “Good. Are we done yet? I don’t have any more questions.”

Me:  “None? Don’t you want to ask me what I love about blogging or when I started writing or what I wanted to be when I was a little kid?”

Ava:  “No. I really want to go back to reading my book.”

Me:  “Okay … Rhys, honey. You know how I told you it’s my one-year blogging birthday. What questions do you want to ask me?”

Rhys (4 yo):  “What is three plus three?”

Me:  “Six. What else?”

Rhys:  “That’s all, mama. You did great!”


Plan B:  Interview Myself (with some questions I stole from a celebrity interview in Oprah Magazine.)

Best Childhood Memory:  Jumping off our home’s front stoop and biting through both sides of my tongue. It didn’t really hurt, and I still remember all the sympathy, ice cream and Italian ice I scored.

Best Childhood Memory (not involving injury or copious amounts of blood):  My mom’s homemade chocolate/strawberry/whipped cream birthday cakes. Every year for decades. The best.

Best Childhood Memory (not involving injury or copious amounts of blood or food):  Let me get back to you on this one …

Best Hidden Talent:  Holding it in. But I’m working on it.

Best Karaoke Song:  Santa Baby (I can’t carry a tune, but when I turn on my pout-y, entitled gold digger persona, ain’t nobody got nothin’ on me.)

Best Surprise:  Feeling increasingly nauseous while in a theatre watching the movie Rabbit Proof Fence with my husband in late 2002, rushing to the nearest drug store for a pregnancy test and finding out we were unexpectedly pregnant with our first child. That and this red tandem bicycle.

gift fail, tandem bicycles, romantic gestures, inexpiable gifts

My Second Best Surprise

Most Memorable Holiday Moment:  Christmas 2002:  Telling our families that we were pregnant with Ava. I wrapped a book, “The Expectant Father,” and gave it to Mike to open in front of my family on Christmas Eve, then rewrapped and presented it to him again on Christmas Day with his family.

Best Escape:  Going to Costco or Target by myself. Or perhaps you meant travel? New York City. Or anywhere I can walk/sightsee/people watch with my husband or dear friends, be inspired by great art and theatre and get a massage.

Best Keepsake:  Curls from my daughters’ first haircuts and the many blankets and sweaters my mom lovingly knit for both girls.

Best Attribute:  Willingness to own my side of the street (eventually)

I Never Miss an Episode of:  The Good Wife with my husband (And we all know what kind of trouble that causes.)

Best Parenting Tip:  When in doubt, call 911.

Best Mom Skill:  Calling 911

I’m Proud of My Kids For:  Expressing all their feelings, speaking up for themselves and knowing & asking for what they want (I didn’t say I always like it, but …)

Most Prized Possession:  Other than my laptop for digital photos, this goose (which I am now aware is, in fact, a duck). I’ll write the story someday, but until then, I’ll tell you this goose/duck went with us to the hospital for both of our daughters’ births.

Duck, Duck, Goose

Duck, Duck, Goose

Anything Else You’d Like to Add:  On the one-year anniversary of A Teachable Mom, I’m beyond grateful for the love, acceptance and inspiration you all have shown me this past year. Thank you!

–As told to me by me.


A Teachable Mom

And That’s Why God Created Doctors

Where did I get the idea that as a mother I have to be an unmitigated expert at everything?

I blame Google.


I’m honored to be guest posting over at The Mommy Mess today talking about our family’s latest trip to the emergency room, our third in the last six months. A veritable trifecta! (Surely we now qualify for the hospital’s frequent visitor program. I’m expecting discounts on medical services, complimentary valet parking and a commemorative plaque in the lobby.)

If you haven’t been following our ER saga, you can catch up here and here.

And if you aren’t familiar with the talented Adrienne Bolton and her touching, funny and poignant blog, The Mommy Mess, get thee over there pronto. You won’t be sorry.

Here’s the link again:  And That’s Why God Created Doctors.

The Mommy Mess

My Big, Wide Road …

Do you ever find yourself obsessing over decisions, turning seemingly small choices into life-altering ones? Does the entire future of your existence ever rest on choosing the right summer camp for your kids or picking the perfect nail polish color for your not-often-enough pedicure? No? Just me? Apparently all of you have actually learned not to sweat the small stuff? Miraculous!

If, like me, you lean perfectionistic and tend to talk to yourself less than lovingly (like this perhaps?) …


head over to Christine Carter’s place, The Mom Cafe, to read the rest of my guest post, My Big, Wide Roadwhere I talk about tightrope walking and what happened when I made all “wrong” choices for a day.

Christine is such a loving, inspiring woman and a talented, generous writer. I always leave The Mom Cafe feeling uplifted and encouraged. I’m confident you will too. Enjoy!