Guess I’ll have to learn

Leaving the hospital with a newborn baby I was vividly aware that I didn’t know how to be a mom.  The nurse helping us leave the hospital knew it too. I was so proud of my car seat!  Too bad it was for a forward, facing toddler and not a 7lb newborn baby!!  Breaking one of my cardinal rules ‘I won’t be one of THOSE moms who sits in the back with her baby’ I sat in the back so I could hold his head up for the ride home. The arm of the car seat was over his little head! I am still amazed that they let us leave.

The first solo trip I packed a diaper bag with everything but the kitchen sink, changed him, feed him, got dressed and was ready to leave.  It took me so long to get everything ready that he had to eat AGAIN before I could leave the house.  By the time I re-fed him, re-changed him, re-dressed myself and got out the door AGAIN, I was so flustered that I backed out of the garage without putting the garage door up!

I had no idea what I was doing. But I learned. And I loved it.

Next came a little sister.  I didn’t know how to parent 2 of them!  Navigating a newborn and a rambunctious 3 year old is not a piece of cake.

I had no idea what I was doing. But I learned. And I loved it.

I loved his little hand in mine as he toddled along beside me.  One day he didn’t want to hold my hand anymore. He wanted to ‘dood it hisself’.  He didn’t want me walking him into school that first day, but I did.

Soon she didn’t want to wear bows in her hair.  She didn’t want me holding her too long or trying to feed her.

I had no idea what I was doing. Parenting older babies is different than parenting baby-babies.  But I learned.  I didn’t love it at first.  I missed the little hands in mine, I missed the cuddles and the one-on-one time.

But I learned and I learned to love the different way they needed me.

It wasn’t long before he didn’t want to make hand-made valentines anymore.  That made me sad.  But she still liked doing them so I wasn’t sad long.  Friends invaded our little world. They both got bigger and grew a little more independent.

Phones were introduced.  That changed the parenting role.  I didn’t know how to navigate friend drama.  I didn’t know how to parent a smart phone.  I didn’t know how to punish in a way that was meaningful.  I didn’t know how to decide what battles to fight and which to leave alone.

But I learned.

I learned the world didn’t come to an end if she wore pink cowboy boots and a red pair of shorts and a purple t-shirt.  I learned that fighting to have her wear a girly little dress and a matching bow just made us both late, left us both in tears and wasn’t a very good way to start a day.

I learned you had to start conversations by asking, “What was the best part of your day?” and “what was the worst part?” to get any real information.  Asking, “how was school?” got you an OKAY.  Asking what they learned gained a single NOTHING. To get details you had to ask some questions and you had to ask them more than once.

It look me awhile but I finally learned that he was always going to have a spot on his dog or a clip in the yellow for talking.  That didn’t make him a bad kid, it made him a talkative one.  I learned that some of the battles had to be waged at school while I fought some of the larger ones. Move a clip for talking in the cafeteria…let the school field that one.  Don’t turn in homework, AGAIN, mom better step in and figure out what is going on.

He needed more help with her homework then she did.  It took me awhile but I learned that.  She was a slob and he wasn’t neat but kept things in the vicinity of where they went.

I learned that.I had to learn to punish.  That isn’t an inherent skill.  No TV worked for him but not for her. Sending her to her room when the family was together sort of worked for her.  Keeping him at the table until he ate his vegetables was painful, took hours and did no good.  She, on the other hand, didn’t need bribing to eat well.

At each stage I had to re-learn how to parent.  It’s not a one size fits all type of thing.  Parenting morphs and grows with the child.  What worked one day won’t work the next.  What they need one day is vastly different in the next week.

But you learn.  And, if you are lucky, you love it.  If you don’t love it—that stage—just wait it out because another one is right around the bend. Just when you think “okay-I’ve got this” they change or the circumstances change or they start a new phase in life and BAM!  You are right back to square one trying to figure it all out.

And you think it just goes on and on and one. You think this bond you’ve built, this repoire you have developed, the affection…you think it will always be there no matter what stage or phase they are in.

Once a parent-always a parent.  It’s a job that never ends.  I heard my dad tell my 8 year old just this weekend, “you will always be your mamma’s little girl.”  She asked ‘even when I am a teenager?’ he said yes.  “Even when I am old” she asked.  He answered yes.  “Even when I am 100?” she asked.  He said yes.  And it’s true.  I’ll always be their momma.

But I don’t know how to parent now.

I don’t know how to parent a child that is starting a life of their own. I don’t know how to not get my feelings hurt when I am not the first person they want to see, the first person they hug in a room or the first person they want to leave when they get into their college apartment for the first time.

When did I become an idiot? It wasn’t long ago I was kissing every boo-boo because momma’s kisses fixed everything.  It wasn’t so long ago my advice was sought out and sometimes, not always, adhered to.  It wasn’t long ago that what I said went.  And that my rules were THE rules and you didn’t disobey them. When did it become okay to pretend that my rules mattered but you did want you wanted to?  How do I parent when my rules no longer matter?  How do you parent when what you-the mom- say, think or feel is no longer important?

Used to be that privileges were earned and that extras meant extra effort.  Now privileges are expected and extra effort is considered mean.

How do you parent your way back to the basics? I have to learn.

I wanted my little ones around me…all the time. They delighted me as little ones and entertained me as kids.  I enjoy and WANT their company as teens.  I didn’t know how to transition from the mom that entertained to the mom that gets entertained.  But I learned.

Moving from being the center to being allowed on the outside isn’t easy.  But I learned, or thought I did.

Every stage of parenting has to be learned.  And, in my experience, it has to be learned after the stage starts.  It’s nothing you can prepare for ahead of time—not with any real success.  And like all other aspects of parenting what you think you are prepared for is rarely how it goes.

When they were little and they fell I instinctively knew to pick them up, hug them and assure them it would be okay.  I learned about Neosporin.  I learned that Band-Aids cure everything and that putting a Spiderman or Barbie Band-Aid on it—even if it doesn’t need it—makes tears dry faster.

When they got a little older I learned to ask, “Where are you going, what are you going to do and who will be there?”

I learned to ask, “That sounds like a problem. What is your idea for a solution?” They didn’t always have one but I learned to ask so that they started to learn to solve things on their own.

I didn’t learn how to NOT be the one they called when they were hurt.  I didn’t understand that one day they wouldn’t have to tell me the who-why-what-when and how of their plans.  And I didn’t realize that they only solution they would want from me one day was the financial kind.

I have no idea about how to parent at this new stage of life.  And…I don’t seem to be learning very well.  I don’t know how to do it but I am pretty sure I don’t like it.

  • I have to learn that I am no longer always wanted or needed.
  • I have to learn that I am still the mom and that I can’t be afraid to act like the mom just because they have the ability to withdraw.  The good old days of working it out—loudly—don’t exist anymore.
  • They have to learn that I am a mom but I have feelings and those feelings get hurt.  As babies that didn’t matter.  As adults/young adults it does.
  • I have to learn to not ask too many questions or have too many opinions.
  • I have to learn to continue to teach to those that no longer want to learn.
  • I have to ask some questions knowing I won’t get all the answers.
  • I have to let the mistakes happen and pray they aren’t too big.
  • I have to hope that the lessons I taught are there somewhere…deep down.
  • I have to let go but not give up.
  • They have to learn I am more than a bank.  Or a punching bag (figuratively).
  • They have to learn it’s not all about them but in all honesty I guess I need to learn that as well.
  • I have to learn to love and parent from 90 minutes away.
  • I have to learn to listen and not judge
  • I have to learn to advise and not tell
  • I have to learn to parent at 3 very distinct stages of life

He may be the one starting college but I am the one who needs to start learning.

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What you build

I’ve given you the strongest, best foundation I knew how.

I can’t wait to see what you build on it!

If I could rebuild knowing what I know now there are a few places I’d shore up. A few wonky boards I’d replace and one or two areas I’d make a little more square.

But we don’t get to rebuild. The foundation is set. Now it’s all up to you to design.

You aren’t alone. I’ll always have an opinion (which I will share without you having to ask, don’t worry.) I’ll always be your biggest fan. You can continue to count on me for support.

There will be times when I overstep and try and re-do what you are building because I see weak areas or areas that need more support. Don’t hate me for those times.

There will be times you let me help and you heed my advice. There will be other times you won’t.

I can’t re-do, re-build or re-design anything at this point. But….I can remind you about some of the foundational things that exist in the hopes that they offer strength and stability to what you build next.

  • Don’t lose your integrity. A good man does the right thing even when no one is watching. I’ve watched your every move. I won’t be there to watch anymore.
  • It’s not the mistakes that define you…it’s how you recover from them.
  • Stay true to YOU. College is designed to challenge the definition of who YOU are. That’s okay. But makes changes you want to make-not some that someone else wants you to make.
  • You are going to face problems. And now there won’t be anyone readily handling you the solution. That’s up to you. I’ll be here for guidance and help but not a ready-made solution.
  • Work before play. I can’t say that enough.
  • Work for the life you want. That work starts now. Don’t wish for the life you want…those days are long gone.
  • Make memories you will be proud of.
  • Open up…your mind to possibilities, your heart to hope and your world to new things.
  • Know your worth. I think you’ve struggled with that this year. That worries me.
  • Learn to ask for help. Not a way out but help. There isn’t weakness or shame in that.
  • You’ve had some strong influences in your life. When in doubt ask yourself what they would do.
  • College is the job. Don’t do it well and you lose the job. That’s life.
  • Always be a gentleman.
  • Don’t forget your manners.
  • Look people in the eye when you talk to them.
  • Always shake hands.
  • You’ve always, always loved the ladies. Be sure you always respect them as well.
  • You are and always will be part of a family.
  • This is a beginning–not an end.
  • It won’t always be easy. At times it will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Don’t quit. Re-group, re-plan abs recover but don’t quit.
  • Don’t, for any reason, drink and drive. Ever.
  • Always be in control of where you are and who you are with.
  • Expand.
  • Ask questions.
  • Don’t wait until it’s too late before you ask for help or guidance.
  • Don’t let size dictate anything.
  • Learn to budget: money, time, energy
  • Learn to save.
  • Find a tribe. Have as many acquaintances as you want but invest in some really special friends.
  • Be responsible
  • Be young
  • Listen to your conscience
  • There is a life outside this small bubble you know-explore it!
  • Sometimes it is the principle!

You have a foundation. I hope you have the tools you need–if not ask for them. Measure twice and cut once. And if the cuts not right once or twice-improvise.

I am proud of you. I am hopeful about who you will be. Go out and build something you will be proud of!

Zoom out

I haven’t even finished my blogs about the wonderfully fabulous vacation and BAM! Real life is back—with a vengeance.

My dramatic middle child has been moping around like a zombie in the walking dead. She’s moody. Irritable. Downright sullen and rude.

Today I asked all of them to pitch in to help organize and arrange some things. Ahhh…the gall.

After the 3rd time of her standing there like nothing needed doing I snapped.

She snapped back.

Evidently life in this house without her brother is just more than she can imagine. Actually the idea of life with me and the bug is just abhorrent. Ahh…and when my face betrayed that I found that declaration slightly hurtful she sighed dramatically and huffed,”see I knew you would make it about you!”

Uhhhh. Wasn’t it about me?

Zoom out into my bigger, broader world. There are countless stories and blogs about the zoomed out version of life. The parts we crop out in at attempt to make our lives instragam and Facebook worthy.

I don’t live in the cropped version. I parade our lives out as they are-messy and ugly and chaotic.

And this my friends is the zoomed out version.

My son dryly said,”I do stop y’all from killing each other.”

Not helping.

So the hero of this story scoops up the bug and the drama queen to take them, in my car, to work and to play while I, the ogre, attempt to pick up the pieces of my little home.

Yes…we are all going to miss my fella when he leaves next week. My little big adores him and he dotes on her. Sometimes he’s the only one who has enough energy or patience for her.

Now the teen queen has announced that he’s the only one she can TALK TO and that all she wants to do is cry thinking about living on THIS house without him.

Me? Well…after our cruise we drove thru his new home-Georgia College and State University. It’s lovely. His new apartment is almost nicer than this home. A new life awaits him. As much as I will miss him I found myself equally excited FOR him.

The summer program is designed to take care of him. He will be allowed to ease into college life. He will be free of the burdens that weigh him down here. I found myself excited for him and all that awaits him. Being saddled with my sad isn’t right nor fair. So I’ve found myself happy. Happy for him. Proud for him. The worry of how I am going to make it work and the sadness I will feel without him here got shelved. To quote Scarlett tomorrow is another day. I had decided how I feel was going to have to wait until the day after he wasn’t here.

But not now. Now I have drama girl sucking the positive energy right out of the very room she claims she can’t be in.

What the hell do I do now????

This week isn’t about her. It’s about him. But her emotions, her moods are like a black hole or the infamous Bremuda Triangle. Get too close and they will suck you up and crush you.

I need a manual.

I’ve never navigated these waters. I don’t know how to keep him excited and engaged while navigating HER.

For years I’ve lived off the mantra suck it up buttercup because that’s all I could do. She didn’t inherit the suck it up gene.

So zoom out from the sun filled, happy days of just a week ago and see inside the un-cropped version of our lives.

Pretty, isn’t it?

I’ve got a truck in the shop, a boy who just realized he’s got 4 major novels on utopia to read before classes start, a bored and busted 8 year old who is manic from the lack of a schedule and a hormonal, emotional teen on the brink of a breakdown. I am losing a chauffeur at most in opportune time. And I am grappling with my own emotions of packing my beloved fella off for college.

And I have a daughter who has publicly announced she doesn’t want to live here without her brother.

I am open to advice here.

#nowifi #actualconversation#myteenslikeME

“If you could do something on your bucket list-what would it be?” I asked my fella before his 18th birthday.

He named a few impossible things. Then he said the possible. “Cuba.” We’d just seen the Fast and Furious movie that took place in Cuba. I’d just seen promotions of cruises to the same place.

I reached out to my personal travel angel at Joyful Journey’s who, as usual, found the perfect trip. With birthdays 3 days apart it was easy enough to find a trip that had us celebrating 15 and 18 at sea!

Hurricane Irma had other ideas. She hit Key West and Cuba the week or so before we were to go.

Again Joyful Journey’s to the rescue.

The birthday trip became a graduation trip.

I love cruising. I love cruising with my teen babies even more. 3-4 days of glorious wi-fi freedom. I get to see more then the top of their heads. After a brief detox period the hand that is used to holding the phone quits seizing and the most amazing thing happens—they remember how to interact and communicate. That alone is worth the price of the ticket.

To my absolute glee my teens didn’t just sit in the sidelines. They got right in there and participated. They were the life of the pool party. At one point during the sexiest man on the boat contest I spied my sons signature pink hat…AS A PARTICIPANT! He didn’t win. He was robbed. If you don’t believe me just ask him. Or his new bestie who competed with him.

My work was done. All I had to do, literally, was sit back and enjoy the ride–and the cocktails and the book.

And that is exactly what happened. We’d breakfast together and then off they’d do to find the friends they’d made. I’d grab a chair, a Bloody Mary (my dad’s are waaayyyy better) or a mojito (depending on the time of day) crack open my book and sigh–sip and read. There were brief interruptions—“another drink pretty lady?” Or “hi mom!”

By the 3rd day I had about 5 kiddos calling,”Hi mom!” My bigs had their own posse! I loved it.

The first night we re-joined for dinner where we enjoyed 3 courses AND CONVERSATIONS. That was part of my bucket list. The 2nd night we missed out dinner. Lesson learned. When you have late day shore excursions it’s best to do a late dinner. But we still gathered, ate and talked at one of the cafes.

They’d indulge me with stories of their fascinating new friends: the kid that had been an exchange student in Poland, the cutie Kinsley has to slow dance with at the teen club, the mean girls they were avoiding…I heard it all. We ate, talked and then, after a quick kiss on the check and a hurried “love ya mom” they were gone. Back to exploring and ordering alcohol free daiquiris and hanging out with their new crew.

At my leisure I was free to take advantage of the ship sales, lose money at the penny slots (which I managed to do every night), try new drinks at the adult club. Spiced daiquiris are good. Pedro Collins are better. The Floridian is the best. For research purposes I tried them all!

There were salsa lessons (not cocktails in this world for me to do that), karaoke (again-NO), lectures, jewelry shows with free gifts (oh yes I did) and people watching to keep me entertained. If that wasn’t enough I also managed to have a front chaise for the nightly movie at sea with a little waiter to make sure I stay hydrated. Every once in awhile I’d get a “Hi mom” or quick hug. It was nice to have some freedom but equally nice to be checked in on from time to time.

After my Island misadventure highlighted Here in the MOPED story I even was able to shuffle off to bed when my pride abs or my leg started aching. And I could do so without crimping on the style of my teens. Even my newly adopted gang of kids knew the tale and asked about my leg and my pride every-time they saw me.

If they told me once they told me 1500 times “THANK YOU MAMA!” They needn’t have…their smiles and laughs were thanks enough.

As a single mom I have to say,”no” or “we can’t” a lot. For 4 days I didn’t have to say no. For 3 days I didn’t have to do anything but enjoy. Enjoy their company, the sea air, the festivities, the cocktails and the scenery. That’s all I had to do. And, I can’t lie, I also enjoyed their happiness and appreciation. For 4 days I was able to be in the moment–not worried about the next thing or the thing thereafter. I was able to enjoy not 1 but 2 books. I was able to sit stilly and watch the sun set without worrying about where I had to be or what I needed to be doing.

It was their birthday/graduation present but the prize was all mine!

So much so that I’ve already reached out to my favorite travel person at Joyful Journey’s about another bucket list item: Mayan Ruins!

La Milagrosa

In our Cuban tour we stopped at the national cemetery. At first I was a bit disappointed at the stop. Spending 45 minutes on a single day of adventure in a graveyard seemed like a lackluster waste of time.

I was wrong. It turned into one of my favorite stops.

The gate itself was gloriously detailed, ornate and beautiful. After some of the sites we’d seen thus far it was surprising to see something just appear in such magnificence.

Inside I was surprised to see so many people! They were mingling everyone. Most of them held fresh flowers. They weren’t with tours-they were local people. Just hanging out like they were picnicking at a park.

Our guide gathered is up and we starting walking. It took a bit for me to understand his rapid fire English. He spoke with a cadence like I’d never heard.

The first stop was at this tomb. It was for a former bartender who concocted some of the favored rim drinks of Cuba. People flocked to pay tribute. Each year (birthday or death anniversary I couldn’t understand) people gathered, reinvented his cocktails and left them at the grave.

This one? One of the founders of a Cuban beer.

The graves were ornate and pristine–over 76 blocks of it–all in the middle of a city virtually falling in around it. Workers were everywhere!

This one symbolized firefighters who’d lost their lives fighting a fire in one of Havana’s squares. An angel held a fallen fighter in its arms as it was taking him to heaven. Each fallen man had his face memorialized in marble around the base of the statue. Each man was buried there. It was touching to see hero’s treated with such reverence.

Each tomb held and told it’s own story. Each tomb had visitors and showed careful care.

I learned it was customary to bury in the tombs, await decomposing and then dig up the loved one, put the bones in a chest in the center of the space and reuse plot. Tombs centuries old had plaques and makers from those recently deceased. The guide talked of how families would come and gather with the old and newly departed. It seemed like less of a place to grieve and more of a place to celebrate life.

In a city where a kilo of cement cost most then most made in several months their dwellings were, quite literally, falling in around them. Yet here everything was pristine. Marble has been imported and kept clean and maintained. As far as the eye could see were squares of geometric perfection. Often so close that grass didn’t have room to grow between them.

On one tomb I spotted a dog lying nestled against a burial area. Staying cool? Mourning a master? I didn’t know but it felt like I was witnessing something very intimate.

And then we came to this….

Fresh, colorful flowers-most of them graceful and statuesque like gladiolus caught my attention. The colors saturated the white marble surface. A woman was carved and seem to be looking down a the blooms. They were tributes.

This was La Milagrosa. The guide told us in life her name was Amelia. She was 23. She developed what we now know as pre-clampsia causing her and her unborn child to die. They were buried together-he at her feet. When, as is custom, they unearthed her the child was in her arms and they were both perfectly preserved. A miracle. Hence her title is La Milagrosa.

It was a beautiful story.

But look more closely at the picture:

As I watched a man, his wife gently lifted what appeared to be a newborn child into their arms. They gently covered it on a yellow blanket and stood at the head of the grave. It appeared as if they were praying. I couldn’t hear a single word but the emotions of the man were palpable. I found myself teary eyed and touched without even knowing what I was witnessing. I stood in reverence in the light breeze under the protection of the lacy leaves and watched. The tour moved on. I stayed. I don’t not take a picture…I had too much respect for the moment.

After a bit the man and woman lifted their heads. The man reached up and lovingly touched the baby in the arms of the woman. I couldn’t help it. I took a picture. I didn’t know what was happening but I knew it was real and powerful. As I watched the man gently tucked the light blanket around his child and kissed the baby in his wife’s arms. There was such a fierce sense of respect and gratitude being displayed. I heard the crystal clear chime of a bell–not once but 3 times. I swear it sounded angelic.

Once that was done and Once the baby was settled to the mans satisfaction he placed a protective hand on his wife’s shoulder and they backed out of the tomb area. His eyes stayed locked on the eyes of the statue of Amelia. The woman, his wife, looked demurely down.

I didn’t notice my daughter had stayed to watch. “Look mom-they never turn their back on her” she whispered .

It was the most amazing act of respect and gratefulness that I’d ever witnessed. The energy of the moment touched me though I was several feet away and never heard a single word or understood what I was seeing.

Later, back in the bus, the guide said that Ameila was believed to be a saint and that she was a miracle worker. Many came to pray for the conception of child or for the health of their unborn. After a healthy birth they came back to give thanks for her gift.

Google explains it like this:

Touch the foot of the baby. Tap the marble slab three times. Consider your wish. Many say those wishes come true. They believe that from a tragic death comes something beautiful to those with faith who show reverence to this symbol of tragedy.

It is not always necessary to speak the same language to understand. Often in traveling it’s the unplanned, unexpected moments that bring the most joy. This was that for me. I saw a culture full of grace and love and tender appreciation like I’ve rarely witnessed or felt elsewhere. I felt honored and blessed to have been a part of the moment.

Not all it’s cracked up to be

It was meant to be a 15 and 18 year birthday present. Hurricane Irma changes it to a high school graduation cruise. A few days, together, at sea. Limited wi-fi, a bucket list stop on Cuba. An adventure. What’s not to love?

Not all it’s cracked up to be.

Being super mom I pre-rented mopeds in our first stop, key west. I’d done it before in the keys-25 or so years ago. I’d loved it! I was actually more excited about this leg of the journey than Cuba. Here I knew what to expect. Couldn’t wait to revisit an adventure I’d had years before. I knew my son would love it. Knew my daughter would adore the hidden beach we would find. I couldn’t wait.

We had to dock at the navy yard so we had to shuttle off the boat. The cruise line was handing out tickets for shuttles. I’d sent big boy early to stand in line for our tickets so we would be early off to boat. We only had 6 hours in the keys and I wanted to savor every second.

We were on shuttle 3. At the appointed time we made our way to the proper deck. I went to get my tickets out. I couldn’t find them. I dumped out my bag. My kids huffed and puffed. I asked one to go to the buffet while I re-traced my steps on the pool deck. They bitched. So I took off to do it myself. Overhead they called shuttle 2. “You’ll never make it,” they shouted. “Well I have to try!” I shouted back.

Guest services didn’t have them. I stopped by the lounge. No one had turned them in. They have me 3 more—for shuttle 23. Crap! That was on deck 4. The elevators were packed. So I ran. Up to deck 11. Via the stairs.

Not under the pool chair I’d lounged on all morning.

Not at the bar where I’d visited several times that morning. And no, that has nothing to do with the lost tickets…really.

To the buffet. Not downstairs. I ran up another flight of stairs. Deck 12. The Waiter couldn’t understand my inquiry. I am choosing to believe it was a language barrier and NOT the fact that could barely breathe, much less talk, after running 8 flights of stairs.

He got his manager. The delay gave me a moment to catch my breathe-at least to the point where I could try and say “lost…” huff…”3″ puff..”tick”…huff “ets” puff. I added in sign language for good measure.

After the second attempt he nodded,”ahhhhh, yes” and held out my coveted, now crumpled, shuttle 3 tickets.

I took off at a dead run just as they announced the boarding of shuttle 3.

Back of deck 4 I yelled, in triumph, “this is why you always TRY!”

The kids put away their phones (note to self-no more cruising on US soil) and grabbed their bags. They met me mid-run and we descended to deck 1–via the stairs.

On the way I called the moped rental place and told them we were late but to hold my rental. We were coming! He gave me directions .

Literally 3 seconds BEFORE

Title this picture BEFORE

We made it!

I paid my $100…with the suggested “insurance”. Which I never normally take!

After assuring the moped boy (confidently) that I’d driven one before we listened to his warning that inexperienced people mistakenly gunned it leaving the parking lot. He explained the dangers of that as the road immediately outside the parking lot was a 2 way street with parking on one side. He left. I asked my son again how to get it off the kickstand and how to start it.

Guy got his own. Girl was with me as I feared he would be more reckless than I. We prepared to head out. I told my girl to don her helmet assuring her that once we were out of sight she could chose to leave it on or take it off.

My son got on and expertly zoomed away. I got on and prepared to follow.

We got in. I started it. We moved. I gassed it a bit more. We zoomed out onto the street. I think my daughter yelled, “Moooommmm BRAKE,” but I can’t be sure. We zoomed ahead-over big lanes and straight into a parked car. BAM! Crack!

Luckily I hit the tire. Unluckily I saw pieces of the moped shatter to the pavement. I joined them second later. Pavement in key west is HOT! I know because I was laying on it. “Mooooooommmmm,” my embarrassed girl was saying as I lay there laughing.

Guess it isn’t like riding a bike.

I got up, picked up the pieces-literally-tucked my tail in and feebly make my way-all 4 ft-the the rental desk. The desk that held the attendant that hadn’t even had time to put away my fresh, crisp $100 bill yet. I laid the 4 pieces of front end remaining of the moped on the counter and said,”I need a piece of paper.”

“Uh…are you alright?!” He asked. I eyed the bleeding cut on my ankle, ignored the pain in my thigh, and assured him I was fine. Explained that I needed a piece of paper to write the car owner a note. He looked skeptical. “It’s the right thing to do. I hit his car,” I refrained from saying HARD.

“You sure you a’right?” He dubiously asked again. I again assured him that that only thing wounded was my pride. I am not sure he knew what mortified meant.

Across the street 2 very large men wearing SECURITY T-shirts had gathered, 2 more headed towards, the car I’d just t-boned. “It was me. I am leaving my information,” I said as I hobbled across the street.

“Da car be fine. How’d you be?” One asked. Again I admitted to being embarrassed but fine. By this time I suspected I was lying.

A man and his friends came flying around the crowd gathered by his car. He didn’t look happy. “Sir-I am so sorry! I ran into your car with my moped. I was leaving my information,” and held up the neon sticky note with my name, number and itinerary. I repeated,” I am so sorry.”

He looked at my face, his tire well, my face again and stuck out his hand, “thanks for being honest. We are good.”

“Please take my number.” Considering the number of pieces I had just picked up I couldn’t imagine his car was fine.

Again. My face-his car and then,”we are good. You are honest—it’s cool.” He must have spent that day in the Hogs Breath Saloon.

I turned back to the rental dude. “Now what do I need to do for you?”

“You sure you are okay?” He asked, scratching his scraggly face. I nodded. “Uhhh…the insurance? It covers two-fiddy. That front end….could be more.” I handed him the sticky I’d written for the car owner. “Let me know. I am so sorry. So embarrassed…”

My son, still in his idling moped and my daughter, from the sidewalk looked at my questioning our next move .

“Go. Have fun. We will meet.” I took off walking. My daughter is not one to let things go.

“WHERE ARE WE GOING? Why are we going this way? Moommmmm! Why didn’t you brake? I TOLD YOU TO BRAKE!!!”

“Go,”I said to my son. “Back here 3:30.” To my girl I said,”you can go with him or you can go with me but I am walking.”

“BUT WHY ARE WE WALKING THIS WAY?”

She screamed.

I didn’t look at her. “I need to get away from here!” I hissed. “I am embarrassed. My leg hurts. I need to go.”

I limped off toward the nearest side street I saw. My upper thigh hurt. My lower leg hurt. My pride hurt. I didn’t want to cry in front of the rental dude.

We made it a block down the street—an alley actually that was undergoing construction before I let myself limp and cry. “I ruined our whole day!”

“Well it’s ruined if you act like that!” Said the girl. She’d obviously heard such a lecture before. I sniffed. “I yelled for you to brake,” she admonished. My girl doesn’t have great timing. I started to cry. She dropped behind. Later she told me she had to hang back so I wouldn’t see her laughing.

“I wanted to shop anyway,” she said. After composing herself I suppose.

So we wandered in and out of stores. Diet be damned I splurged on a chocolate dipped slice of key lime pie.

We found the handmade leather sandal store I’d visited 25 years before. I tried to ignore my leg and my wounded pride.

TITLE THIS ONE: by god we are going to do everything on the list!

Soon my son called and asked where we were. Guess he was lonely mopeding around the island solo. As soon as he saw me he quipped, “sooo…guess key west isn’t all it’s ‘cracked up’ to be huh.” My daughter laughed. I didn’t. “Too soon?” He brilliantly deduced.

“Now what?” He’s not the most adventurous traveler.

“Beach. I promised Kinsley the beach.”

“Uhhh…you can’t walk and we have no wheels—sorry momma—“ I ignored the snickers.

“I can walk and I will,” I googled beach. “It’s only a mile away.”

He immediately began groaning. It was hot but I’d be damned if I’d tuck my tail between my legs (even if I could) and go back to the boat. I started walking. Determined not to limp.

It was a loonnggg mile. We didn’t get to the beach I’d intended either. Instead we made it to a concrete pier and a stanky, and I do mean stanky, swath of water. I started to take off my shorts. “You are going in that?!!” My daughter asked, incredulous.

“Damn right I am. I promised you the beach. We are going into the ocean!”

My son not-so-politely declined. My daughter wrinkled her nose but put down her backpack.

I got my shorts off and holy mother of god. There was a foot long jumbo hot dog sized welted bruise wound that was swollen and hot to the touch. “Mom?!?! Oh my god, mom!” I waved a hand and dismissed her concern and waded into the lukewarm beach/cesspool.

Day 1

Title: day 1

That lasted about 10 minutes. I limped out and met my bigs back in the other side of the rotting seaweed. Where I promptly took 2 Advil.

We made preparations to trek back towards the meeting point. We had an hour until the last conch train took us back to the navy pier where our ship waited. It would take all of that to get back there with me dragging my leg.

A few silent blocks later my kids both laughed and said,”at least we have a great story!”

A great story indeed. One they proceeded to tell…much to my dismay…to anyone who would listen for the rest of the cruise.

My pride and my leg still hurt but at least my kids have learned the find the silver lining-and a funny story—in everything.

Night of day 1

Title this one: night of day 1

Storm before the calm

There is one thing I can count on at the start of a vacation. And no, it’s not panicking that I didn’t turn off the oven, that’s the ONE thing I DONT worry about.

Everything else is free game.

As the vacation starts I have episodes of sheer panic, fear and emotion. To the point of physically feeling a panic attack waiting just under the surface.

  • Is it that I am solely responsible for little humans in a foreign country?
  • Is it panic about spending the money?
  • Is it loneliness? Vacations tend to be full of shiny,happy PARTNERED people.
  • Is it that I don’t know how to let loose and just BE?
  • Is it worry that it won’t live up to expectations? Worry that the little humans will be disappointed?
  • Is it that I am worried I am not capable of navigating the unknown?
  • Is it the worry that the “what was” or what I thought would be will sneak in and strangle me if I let down my guard and loosen my grip?

What if…what if…what if…

It’s all racing through my mind…all of it. At once. At the same time.

It’s stupid, it’s silly but it’s real.

Tonight I’ll grab a beer. I’ll enjoy my big babies and I’ll smile like I am calm, cool and collected.

Tomorrow I’ll be fine. We will board the boat. The kids will take off. I’ll grab a book, a drink and a pool chair and finally, finally take a deep breath. It will we okay. It will.

It’s an adventure. We are together. We will make memories. I’ll find my groove. I’ll find my brave and I’ll embrace it all. Tomorrow. Tomorrow it will all be okay.