tired but smiling

 

Ever need a vacation after a vacation? As much as we love our time on Block Island, we do tend to come home a bit worn out – especially after the Fourth of July. Picture 19 people, four dogs, sand, Scrabble, fireworks, a parade, loads of food and a whole lot of wine.

Although we are all there for four or five days, we act like our hours are limited. It’s the only time each year that all of us Torrey/Perry/Pastores are together and we fill the time with memories – some a little blurry, but always wonderful.

Thank you PopPop and Nanna Sue (and Block Island) for a particularly lovely holiday. We came home tired but smiling. See you in August!!!

Love, Jess

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Welcome Home.

I walked into my house Tuesday night and was greeted by Anna with a warm hug and dogs licking my face. Then I ran upstairs to see if Jack was still awake. The smile on his face lit up his room. Going away is great, but coming home is even better. Usually.

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Three days in Mexico with good friends and the warm sun, and I was relaxed and happy. It wasn’t until the morning that reality set in. Big time.

Dan is in Asia on business, so I arrived home to being a single parent this week. No worries – I was just in sunny Mexico – how can I complain? I was a little tired from vacationing, but nine hours of sleep and I woke up in the morning recharged and ready to get stuff done. I had my list of to-dos, breakfast for the kids organized and I walked upstairs to start our morning routine. I opened the door to Jack’s room and the first wave of reality hit me. Poop.

It wasn’t Jack. It was poor Keegan that had covered the floor with liquid gifts. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough hands or minutes to add dog-clean-up-duty to my morning, so I quickly grabbed my boy, shut the door and continued with our routine  – shower, teeth, yell at Anna to get downstairs, clothes, medicine, breakfast, hydration, leg braces.

I kept Keegan close to us as we went through the morning motions and he seemed happy and comfortable. My Mexican attitude kept me calm. I managed to get the kids out the door and by 9:00 am I had cleaned up the poop, mopped the floor, and had started the laundry. I was ready to start fresh. No problema.

I made a healthy breakfast and sat down. It wasn’t until I had the first bite of my toast that I realized there was something wrong with me. Did I hurt my mouth? It didn’t feel right. Then I put my hand to my jaw and felt that it was swollen. I ran to the bathroom mirror and saw that my cheek and jaw was so swollen that I couldn’t see the ear on my right side. And it was growing.

I was forced to throw my entire day aside and raced to Urgent Care.

Apparently your salivary gland duct can actually get blocked. Often times it’s connected to an infection, but not in my case  (I’m just lucky).  It looks like the mumps, but only one side is affected so it’s extra startling to look at me. And, the pressure on my teeth, my ear and my head are intense. I go to another doctor today to find out when/if/how to treat this. Until then I will try to remember the sun on my shoulders and stay away from the mirror. Tan chipmunk is my current look.

 

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Monday

 

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Wednesday

I am trying really hard to keep a good attitude, but if one more thing gets added to my plate or my face, I may have a full blown nervous breakdown.

Love, Jess

P.S. Keegan seems much better. He did have one more episode, but has been good now for about 20 hours – although he is currently mad at me for only feeding him rice for his last two meals.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DANO (AKA FATHER OF THE YEAR/GREATEST HUSBAND ON THE PLANET)! PLEASE HURRY HOME. WE NEED YOU!!!!!!!!

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GOODBYE 2016!

I’m pretty sure all of us feel that 2016 hasn’t been quite what we expected. Years rarely live up to their promises, but this year has been particularly tough. So many heartbreaking losses. And, I don’t just mean the folks … Continue reading

What I realized while in Paris

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Sitting at a dinner table in the heart of Paris I watched my mother and daughter debate everything from single-sex college dorms to the definition of rape. Suddenly it occurred to me that I was watching two extraordinary women. Two of my closest friends.

I’ve always been close to my mother – first as a daughter and then as a friend. I remember when our relationship turned from mother/daughter to friend/friend. I was older than Anna. I needed to be older than Anna. I needed guidance well into my twenties (okay – I still need guidance, but my mother is much better at slipping her advice into polite conversation – usually).

It’s strange when your mother becomes your friend because she becomes human. She’s no longer the person behind a curtain who you fear but can’t really see. This new person makes mistakes and bad decisions (not you, Mymom – I’m just trying to describe most mothers). She goes from telling you what to do, to what she did and how she learned. This women asks you for advice and helps you without needing to take over. I loved when our relationship switched, but I was an adult when my mother’s curtain fell. My curtain seemed to fall off without me even noticing.

Anna learned early in life that I am human. I blame ALD for the weakened grip on my motherhood curtain. ALD has a way of stripping down resilience. Too much energy is taken with worry and late nights. It been quite a while since I was careful with my answers to even the most “adult” questions and I’m certainly not great at hiding four-letter words or less-than-perfect mother behavior. Fortunately, Anna has always loved me unconditionally and she seems to know which of her mother’s characteristics to emulate and which to stay away from . . . She has grown into a remarkable young woman. Anna’s not just a good student, but she’s smart – not always the same thing. And, she’s funny and kind. I’ve known all this for a while, but in Paris while sitting at the dinner table covered with a thin white tablecloth, I gained an appreciation that she has also become incredibly self-assured and well-spoken. Watching her with my mother, debating rather inappropriate topics for a sixteen-year-old and her grandmother, I thought WOW I want to be just like Anna when I grow up.

Anna and I have talked about going to Paris since she was a little girl – a girl’s trip to celebrate her sweet-sixteen. We invited all the women in the family to join us, but life is complicated for everyone and Mymom was the only taker. As disappointed as we were not to have the whole crew, it was lovely to have just the three of us on this adventure. Museums, long walks through the city, elegant meals, even a Segway tour (don’t ask Mymom about it – she’s still recovering). It was all perfection, but my favorite part was watching these two people that I adore debating each night at dinner. I came from one and created the other. Nothing is more amazing than that.

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This week has been busy with Smiles and Duct Tape getting out there. I’ve been distracted with marketing strategies and thank yous and begging for reviews on Amazon (not that I am doing that here), but I keep thinking about our magical weekend in Paris. I have two such strong, impressive (opinionated) women in my life. Lucky me.

Love, Jess

PS Anna still has a curfew. She might be mature and amazing, but she’s still only sixteen.

I’m gonna say it. It’s not appropriate or good parenting by any stretch. I can’t believe I am going to put this in writing, but her it goes — my daughter is my best friend.

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Traveling is like childbirth

Traveling is like childbirth. Once you look at the result, you forget about the pain.

When my parents announced last year that they were buying a house in Santa Fe, I thought they had lost their minds. “Santa Fe? All the way in New Mexico?”. They pointed out that it was closer and easier to get to than Chile (where we have a family home). They didn’t seem to appreciate how ridiculous that sounded, so I gave up. I assumed it was some sort of late mid-life crisis and that they would come to their senses.

Thank goodness they didn’t.

Getting to Santa Fe was a journey. We left the house before 7:00 am with three suitcases, two carry-ons and a diaper bag. An Uber took us to Newark Airport where we flew to Denver, took a tram to grab our luggage, found a bus to get our rental car, and drove to Taos, NM. In Santa Fe’s defense, we did add Taos to the trip and we did drive the long way through Colorado. Sounds like an odd choice for us and our diaper-wearing/medication-needing boy, but we wanted to see as much as we could. It was worth it. Colorado is spectacular. The layers of mountains and color made for a bearable six hour drive and some pretty amazing photographs (of corse, I only drove for an hour . . . ).

 

We arrived to Taos around 8:30 pm and found a local restaurant. We were exhausted, but did enjoy a nice dinner before finding our hotel and collapsing quickly into bed. Unfortunately, I drew the short straw and had to share a bed with Jack. It’s not something I would recommend, especially when you’re really tired. He wiggles and kicks and pees. A trifecta that doesn’t lead to a great night’s sleep. I woke up cranky, wondering why my parents couldn’t have gotten a house at the Jersey Shore like everyone else. Santa Fe is really, really far away.

We had a light breakfast at the hotel and did our best to see as much as we could around Taos. Then we had lunch and, between the food and the charm of Taos, I started thinking that maybe New Mexico wasn’t so bad. But, we still had a couple of hours before reaching our final destination. Why is Santa Fe so far?

 

Back in the car heading to Santa Fe we enjoyed the landscape, but had our fingers tightly crossed that we would’t need any emergency diaper stops. Our journey just kept going on and on, until finally WAZE told us that our exit was in .5 miles. We’ve never been so excited.

We pulled off the exit and suddenly the interminable trek to get there seemed to evaporate.

Santa Fe is not the easiest place to get to, but once you arrive, it’s breathtaking. A perfect combination of art and food and shopping and hiking and really good spa treatments. If only it were closer to the ocean, it would be called heaven.

 

So now I get it. My parents aren’t nuts. There is something magical about Santa Fe (New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment). It also looks a lot like Chile and the quiet pace of life out there is a wonderful balance to my parent’s busy lives in New York.

We had a wonderful weekend celebrating 50 years of Juan and Jean. Although there were hours and hours of planes, trams, and automobiles to get there, it was worth it. And, Jack managed to NOT create any sort of funny/awkward/smelly stories along the way – or no more than in a normal day in Maplewood.

Love, Jess

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50 Years!!!! Thank you Nonno and Mymom for a wonderful weekend and sharing Santa Fe with us!

. . . dear, dear, dear, dear, Santa Fe

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I act as if we’re moving to the moon every time we’re going away on vacation. I feel the need to travel with enough medication to get us through a year, and find myself cleaning the house frantically before we leave town. Our dear friend, Maria, is holding down the fort while we’re gone, and I can’t imagine she would care of the basement closets were organized — but there I was this morning, tackling the unnecessary job. And, I kept adding to the pile of “things that need to be packed”, having no idea how we are going to manage getting everything into those suitcases (and is 5 pairs of shoes really necessary?). WHY is vacation so stressful?!?!

No one wants mom going into the trip anxious and cranky. Deep breath. It’s going to be a great vacation.

Santa Fe, New Mexico is where we are headed tomorrow. A long overdo Cappello family reunion to celebrate my parent’s 50th anniversary. 50 YEARS! We’re looking forward to being with family and finally seeing my parent’s new home-away-from-home. Having never been to that part of the country, we’re excited to explore and see as much as we can. For that reason, we decided to fly to Denver and drive to Taos on the first day of our adventure. It seemed like such a great idea months ago when we planned the trip, but now my heart is racing as I imagine a day where we added a six hour drive to the journey. I need to breathe and remember that getting there (can be) half the fun — ONLY IF I LET IT.

Deep breath.

In my defense, most of the packing and organizing is left to me, and traveling with our boy is rather complicated. Add planes and long car rides and there is a bit to think about. It’s not just our constant bathroom concerns (a theme for our family), it’s that we need to make sure that we have enough of everything necessary to get through the trip. Medicine, diapers, chucks, wipes, clothes, sunscreen, more clothes. We also can’t forget to request a wheelchair for the airport. Walking with our hop/skip/jumper (AKA JackO) through terminals is tedious AND his curiosity can be hazardous. Imagine a security line, tightly filled with people. Jack can’t help but pat unassuming heads and lick attractive arms. A wheelchair prevents some of these embarrassing exchanges and allows people to understand that we have a “special” situation. There is the added benefit that it also often expedites the security lines, but it’s tacky to discuss the benefits of putting your teenage son in a wheelchair. Shhhhhh.

So, I’ve been packing, cleaning, confirming flights/hotels/cars/wheelchairs, and primping (Jack and I both needed manicures). We’re almost ready for the trip. I’m not sure why my heart is still racing. I need to relax and focus on the wonderful adventure that lies ahead. It’s time to breathe and think about Santa Fe.

“Santa Fe, dear, dear, dear, dear, Santa Fe.” Bob Dylan

Love, Jess

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Sorry. I do have a good excuse . . . really good . . . but I will save that news for another time.

 

Is there even a word in spanish for FUNK?

images-6How can my mood NOT improve?

My mood lately has been inconsistent. One minute I’m smiling through my day and then something will hit me – hard. It’s not that I’m buried in a full blown depression (buried in piles of laundry maybe), it’s just that I’ve been in a bit of a funk.

Once I was able to acknowledge the funk, I started working out ways to make life a little less complicated. I’m trying to avoid situations that might trigger my sour moods, I’m trying to make better choices (less wine, more kale – some days I’m better than others), and I am allowing myself to let go of some of the less-than-glamorous aspects of my life. Being a good parent doesn’t need to mean changing every diaper.

Dan and I have made time alone together a priority ever since life changed. We are determined that we will stay in the 10-20% , and being able to focus on each other for a few days (especially out of our element) helps. We are blessed that we have the means to travel and generous people who are willing to help, but I recommend that all couples try it, no matter your circumstances – even just a trip to the local Holiday Inn can allow you to reconnect;)

So, with the goal of reconnecting and to help me feel less overwhelmed about life, Dan and I planned a trip to Tulum, Mexico. We are celebrating 20 years of marriage (it was in June – it took us a while to pull the trigger). We had fun picking the perfect spot and my parents quickly offered to help out with the kids. Then, it was time to sit down and start planning being away for five days.

Ironic that a trip planned to help us relax, further proves how complicated our lives are.

My parents are very capable people. Not only did they successfully raised three children, but my mother is a PHD and has worked with The Red Cross for more years than I can count and my father is brilliant and has such a connection with Jack, that Jack starts laughing as soon as my father enters the door. It should be easy to just hand over the house keys, and let my parents dive in.

Only it’s not.

Although my folks have helped us out before, it’s been a while and the kids are at a different stage. They are teenagers. Jack is complicated and 17. It’s not just the medication and the diapers. Bathing and changing him can be a challenge – he’s strong and about as helpful as a stubborn cat. Anna is a sophomore in high school, with a busy schedule and an active social life social life. And, we have two dogs  – one goes by the name “Bad Dog”. Nothing is patricianly difficult, it’s just a lot of moving parts. Although we have our wonderful team of Jack helpers on board, it’s a lot to oversee.

I always leave a list with important information when we go out of town and this time, it’s managed to grow into a five page document. As soon as I think it’s done, I think of some other random detail about life at 26 Clinton Ave. I keep trying to walk away from it, but it keeps sucking me back.

We leave tomorrow (NOW TODAY!!) for Tulum, Mexico, which by all accounts is paradise. Five days alone with Dan on the beach is just what I need. And, as soon as our flight takes off, I’m sure I will relax, but until then I will continue to add to the never-ending list.

Thank you Nonno and Mymom for filling our shoes this week and sorry for the long list of crazy. There are really only three things that you need to remember – Jack needs his medication, Anna curfew is 11:00 and NOOOO people food for the dogs;)

Adios Amigos!!

 

 

 

Rehabilitate the Gait can wait

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I’m not going to lie. When I wrote yesterday’s post I was feeling a little blue. I was wishing that I could just snap my fingers and have Jack bust out of his new, annoying habit. But then, we went to the beach and I noticed that his gait on the sand had more steps than hops. I credit the input of the sand against my “sensory sensitive” boy’s feet, but I also think that Jack knew his mama needed a break. We had a great day and a delicious dinner overlooking the ocean. By bedtime, I had safely returned to my “glass is half full” perspective.

And, the fact is, Jack is still walking. He is completely mobile, it just requires more assistance and a lot of patience to get him around. Our family has been spoiled. Although we needed to modify our activities to make them Jack friendly, we could navigate this new life with ease. Now, it takes a lot of time — and hops. Worrying about this new complication being permanent will not help. Besides, we’re on vacation. We can refocus on Rehabilitate the Gait in September.

Attempting to avoid reopening my can of worries, when we were planning today’s activities we kept away from anything requiring many steps. A bike ride seemed like the perfect solution. Jack on a bike may sound like an unusual choice, but we have a BuddyBike and a dad who has been working hard to build his muscles so that he can manage peddling his boy around the island.

If you wonder why we are able to stay positive even when worrying about new challenges – take a peek at this video. Life is pretty darn good. The Buddybike is part of our duct tape!

Love, Jess

tiny, hairy, and perfect

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She is a gray shingled cottage with a blue door. Far smaller than our Maplewood center hall colonial, but each summer we fill her up and call her home for the month of August.

Two bedrooms and one bathroom is tight for our family of six. The dogs seem quite large when navigating around the space. And, Keegan’s hair can be considered an extra occupant, taking on a life of it’s own. Labs shed, and when contained within our small quarters, a thick layer of blond is added to everything within hours. Luckily, a benefit of a small home, it only takes a few minutes to pass the vacuum. It’s one of my only chores on Block Island.

The fridge is full of snacks and beverages and the closets are stacked with bathing suits, jeans and teeshirts. There’s always a puzzle in progress on the table and Anna has piles of summer homework littering the living room. I try to tidy up the mess, but it always looks a little chaotic. As we get into vacation mode, it bothers me less and less. On slow days, Dan often sets up a tent next to the clothes-line providing us an extra room, perfect for reading or taking an afternoon nap.

The number of guests in the cottage varies. With the exception of last summer (Dan’s magical Garden Leave), Dan is not able to come for the whole month. He dutifully goes back and forth on weekends from NJ to RI for the first two weeks. Anna opened it up further with her Outward Bound trip cutting into August. It allowed Jack, Keegan, Finn and I to have a few slow days of quiet and then Mymom (my mom) came for a visit. The following week Anna arrived with 3 of the 5 Mackays. The cottage was jumping as the amount of teenagers outnumbered the amount of old folks. Just yesterday, Anna’s friend, Natalie, arrived for her second time on Block Island. It’s great to have her here again, but Dan is now here full time and five humans gets a little tight. Thankfully, my in-laws are gracious enough to allow kids to stay in the bunk room. Five in the cottage might have just ripped the vacation mode right out of me.

The cottage is not the only house full of friends and family within the stone walls of the property. My in-laws have a house full from Memorial Day to Labor Day and we’ve gotten to overlap with tons of family. Their house is just steps away from the little cottage and it’s always full of commotion and energy. We head over for family dinners and too many cocktails on the deck. Such a treat to have some extra square footage and great family right next door.

A friend called last night and asked about our vacation, “How’s the cottage?”

I looked around the little cottage and smiled, “It’s tiny, hairy and perfect.”

Thank you PopPop and Sue for our August home.

Love, Jess