You all right, Mate? Doing Great, thanks!

Keeping busy….keeping busy.

A little over a week ago, the boys and I tagged along with Hubby to England. It was the boys’ first trip back since we moved home in 2008.  I was really surprised how little T&M remembered. During the short ride from Manchester Airport to our town, T&M would say over and over “I never saw this!”  I turned around and said “BUT YOU HAVE!! Instead, please say, ‘I don’t remember’.”

It was a short trip–about 5 days. During those days, Hubby was working, so the boys and I were “on our own.” We stayed with a lovely family who we didn’t know very well. But that has now changed. During our short stay, our host family has become one of our closest friends.  T’s best friend’s mom (or should I say “mum”?) was kind enough to host a party with our closest friends. EVERYBODY showed up–all my friends, their husbands, and all the children. I think there were about 40 people total.  It was an amazing, amazing party.  I bought 8 bottles of champagne to celebrate our friendships.

On Monday, T&M attended class in their former school. I was overcome by the warm welcome we received.  Although at the start T&M didn’t remember some of their classmates, they had a fabulous time.  We have a few more addresses, and will be sending more letters!

When we arrived in the UK, I sent a FB message “Hellooooooo UK Friends!!”  One responded “Welcome Home!”  It really amazed me how much like “home” it felt, and how seamless our transition back was.  It was hard to believe it had been 3 years. When seeing all those wonderful people again, it felt like it was 3 weeks.

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I am now the proud mum (yes, the Britishness hasn’t left) of a pair of 5th graders and a 1st grader.  The boys are done with school, and I am so proud of how well they did this past year!

The other morning, I watched from my bed as Little Guy was brushing his teeth, and had already dressed himself. All without me asking or reminding him. 

“Little Guy—come here and give your mommy a hug!” 

“Why, mommy?”

“Because I’m so proud of you for getting dressed and brushing your teeth all by yourself today!”

“MOMMMMMMM……I’m a FIRST GRADER now. Of course you don’t have to tell me.  But those 5th graders, you still have to tell them!”

I love that Little Guy!

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I’m baby-sitting 4 goldfish this week.  I haven’t done the best job remembering to feed them. Their feeding schedule is slightly off–both in time and quantity. One day I fed them WAY TOO MUCH. The next feeding, barely anything. I’m also not sure how much time I should be spending with them.  Do they prefer human companionship? Should I sing to them? Toss a ball into the tank? DO they care?

I’ll have one of those!

The members of Thomas Inc recently returned from a short, but much-needed, get-away to Aruba. (It was fantastic!) We stayed at an all-inclusive, which had a swim up bar.  I can’t tell you how much T-Man enjoyed the concept of a all-you-can-drink Swim-Up Bar—pure heaven for him!!  During our trip, we let all 3 boys enjoy non-alcoholic tropical concoctions—pina coladas, (non) rum punch i.e. “Pirate Punch”, and strawberry daquiris.

On our 3rd night, we ate one of the fancier restaurants (as a treat for the VP).  Even the kid menu was “grown up.” When the waiter arrived, M-Man placed his order for dinner. 

“I’ll have a Fill-et Mig-non (pronounced phonetically…not the french pronunciation) and a Strawberry Dickory.”

LOVED IT!

I want to be free…..

A line by Freddie Mercury in one of the Queen’s songs. (sorry, I’m on vaca, so the brain is not fully functioning).

Free from what? you ask…..

Ahhhh, civilization. Responsibilities. Worries.

Do you remember being a kid? Or do you have kids now (or even dogs) and enjoy watching them be FREE? Maybe the better description is CAREFREE.  It looks like so much fun!!

Unfortunately, in our little five-some, I’m the responsible, somewhat uptight one. I’m watching out that no one gets hurt (and w/ 3 adventuresome boys, there is always that risk), making sure everyone is behaving, following rules, etc. I can’t imagine I represent “fun” to them.

This week we are enjoying some R&R at Sebago Lake, Maine. I visited Sebago Lake when I was 18-20 and I always felt at peace here. Last summer we spent a week at Point Sebago and had a great time.  But with being boat owners this year, we (i?) decided we should try to rent a house with a dock. (I found an absolute winner!) 

It is my goal this week to be more…….carefree. I attempted to ride the torpedo with T-man. I’m not very good on those type of things. And T was yapping the whole time (before hubby started the boat) and was wiggling around making be nervous. I decided to bail on that endeavor. One of those times where I just know what my comfort-zone is. But today, I surprised the boys by swimming around the dock, even jumping off the dock, and then jumping off the boat for a swim.

I’m also trying to just let the boys be boys—especially since this place is great for that–lots of exlporing.  But then…..being boys…..they do….stupid things. Little Guy decided to jump off the dock (with his life vest on, thankfully!) when there was no adult on the dock with him. I was nearby on the grass, and hubby came running out and got him out of the water.

Later that day, T decided to get the hose and spray the screened-porch. What do you think happens when the hose hits the screen? EVERYTHING INSIDE GETS WET!!!! (oooh, I was not happy)

And then, there’s Aspen.  Yes, we brought both dogs.  Aspen is now 13 1/2 years old. She hasn’t swam in 6 years. She is arthritic and has trouble with stairs. She has decided that she will go on a daily swim.  OOOOOHHHHHH—-KAYYYY.  Apsen has never shied away from adventure. But she is nearly giving me a heart attack, because she can’t get out due to the slippery, jagged rocks. She needs to be HEAVED out (with her soaking wet heavy fur) by myself or hubby.

The look of happiness afterwards is totally worth it. She can’t walk for the next 2 hrs, but man, is she happy.

And Miss Lily is having fun too. My “cat-in-dog-clothing” actually dipped her paws in the water today. She still won’t walk on the dock (unless we make her with a leash). She can see the water through the wood planks and she DOES NOT LIKE IT.  She will occassionally bark at the boys, who swim out to this massive flat rock about 30 feet out, saying “Hi Guys, are you sure your safe out there?”

And finally the boat.  Still no name for the boat. We’ve had a few problems with it.  The three times we used it (prior to this week), it would hiccup/burp/sneeze/fart (whatever you want to call it) after running for about an hour and temporarily lose power.  Last year, when we put it into storage, we had the marine shop give it a tune up. After our first time out this year, hubby called them, described the problem, and they suggested vapor-lock in the engine (i.e, needs more ventilation). After the 2nd outing this season, we took the boat back to the marine shop because we didn’t want to be concerned about being on Sebago Lake with a malfunctioning boat. They changed the fuel valve because it was totally clogged, thus explaining the hiccups/burps/etc. 

Yesterday, we ran the boat on and off for over 4 hours. And it ran so BEAUTIFULLY!! Hubby said “It runs like a deer” (the John Deere slogan). I laughed, because our boat is green and it would make cute name…Runs Like a Deer (or Dear). 

And then…..a burp. And a slight loss in power. Sigh.  Today, after an hour of running, it happened again.  Not a big deal, but a little unsettling.

So here’s hoping that I will continue the week in peace, tranquility, relaxation, and free of cares…….

A new frontier

Do you know where I am? I am onboard Virgin America, just entering Kansas airspace. VA is providing free WiFi access to its travelers during the Holiday Season.

Absolutely amazing.

When I was growing up, I thoroughly enjoyed watching The Jetsons. I loved the idea of “driving” around in a space pod, or pressing a button in my “kitchen” and having a full-course dinner prepared by a machine. I know we are far away from that “reality” (or are we?) but I am amazed as to how far our world has come in the last 15 or so years.

I was one of the first people I knew to own a cell-phone. I was only in college, and actually it was a “brick-in-a-bag” by Motorola. In 1994/1995, while working for Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a (then-start-up) biotech company, who was cutting-edge in everything, did I learn about “the internet” and email. One of the VP’s introduced me to Mozilla and then later Netscape. I remember when hubby (before we started dating) told me that “one day everything you want to or need to know will be found on the internet.” And I took his word. I can browse the internet for information like nobody I know.

And here I am, at 35000 feet, blogging on my computer on the internet. Freakin’ amazing!

So, as you’ve figured out…..we are on our way home to Boston after our fabulous West Coast Christmas.

Yesterday we spent another day with Ciocia and Chio. We took the boys to UCLA. Might as well introduce them now, since they are both totally enamoured with all-things-California. We then went to Santa Monica and the Pier. What a fantastic day….77 degrees!! And no smog. I can’t tell you the last time I could see downtown LA buildings or the HOLLYWOOD sign clearly!

After the sunset on Santa Monica, we went out to dinner to celebrate Cicoca and Chio’s 1st Wedding Anniversary. Since they got married at City Hall last year, with no family or friends, we decided to make it up to them. Hubby served as Best Man and made a lovely speech to the happy couple, and I was wedding photographer. I clinked the glass several times to get them to kiss. We all had a fabulous evening out together!

This morning, as we were getting ready to head to the airport,  the weather-lady informed us the temp would be near 80 again….and we’re heading to a snow “event” , temps in the teens with a negative windchill. The boys desparetely wanted to stay an extra day. Who could blame them??

the trip

This is a west-coast Christmas year. The members of Thomas Inc. go to Southern California every other year to spend Christmas with hubby’s family.

Preparing for this year’s trip was extremely tiring. I started packing about 4 days ahead of time, which is unusual for me….I’m a last minute packer. The other factor was that instead of putting the dogs in a kennel, as we usually do, we asked our babysitter if she’d be willing to house/dog sit for us. So I spent the week prior to departure cleaning the house—decluttering and de-furring. Holy Cow. Exhausting!

And are things going smoothly? Almost.

I realized on the airplane that we left Little Guy’s booster seat back in Boston. It didn’t cross my mind or hubby’s to bring it. So as soon as we got our rental car, we found a Target near LAX and went and bought a booster seat. Then I realized I didn’t have a phone charger (and IPhones drain battery life VERY QUICKLY I’ve noticed). So, off to an electronics store.

We totally messed up our first day in S. Cali! The weather was absolutely beautiful—70 deg and sunny, and instead of ENJOYING it, we spent most of the time in the car due to LA traffic. The 2 mile ride to Target took 40 minutes. Every intersection had a traffic light. And every traffic light had a line of cars 8 deep. And it’s NOT because it was the day before Christmas. IT IS LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME!

We then decided to drop our bags and check-in at the hotel. Problem: the hotel was on the OTHER side of LA, and we had to drive through downtown….the highway was a parking lot. It took us an hour to get there. The room at the hotel wasn’t ready, we had to wait a 1/2 hour. However, on a very exciting side-note, the Holiday Inn we stayed at chooses a “guest of the day”….I WAS IT!!! We got a free room upgrade to a “Family Suite” and a gift goody bag….and a keepsake certificate. Not too shabby!

But then it took us another hour to go to my cousin’s house. By the time we arrived, it was nearly dark—no trip to UCLA. Silly stupid us.

Yesterday we drove out to the family. I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since we’ve been here. The kids are having a great time playing with their cousins, and hubby is enjoying catching up with is family, and I am enjoying relaxing and seeing that everyone is happy.

Merry Christmas!

What shoes to pack?

I’ve *never* been a shoe fanatic–always just had the basics. But when it comes to packing for a trip, I am all over the place when it comes to shoes!

This is a West Coast Christmas year, so in my head, I need to be “stylish” for the 2 days I spend in LA, casual for the days I’m with the in-laws, but dress-up a little for Christmas. And be prepared for a hike. And it doesn’t help that mentally I am in a winter-state of mind (living in Boston….with a blizzard on its way!) where boots are an appropriate, stylish seasonal choice. But boots take up too much suitcase space! And I don’t want to wear them on the airplane…because they are a PITA to deal with at airport security.

So, as I’m blogging in bed (much warmer in here), I am looking at my to-be-packed clothes pile, and thinking about the above-listed criteria. I think I’ll wear my black mules (cloggy things…..I have no idea what shoes are called beyond the basic Sneaker, Boot, flat, and heel), pack my brown “outdoorsy” shoe for the hike/casual days, and my pair of tall black boots.  As much as I’d like to pack my brown “cowboy” boots, they just might have to stay  home. (unless of course, I’m a *really* good packer!)

NOT Cheese Toast

Before I get to the “meat” of today’s blog entry, I need to give you some background info.

For starters…..what is “cheese toast”?

 I’m sure most of you out there have a “secret saying” with your S.O. Something that only the 2 of you know the meaning of.  “Cheese Toast” is what hubby and I use to describe something from our past (i.e. childhood) that we remember as being wicked awesome, but now, as grown-ups, it’s not so great. 

 When hubby moved me out to Cali, we went to dinner to Sizzler, a not-so-fancy steak restaurant. Hubby was SOOOOO excited about the cheese toast that comes with a meal. Being from the east coast, I had never heard of cheese toast. But hubby’s enthusiasm was quite cute. When said-cheese-toast was placed in front of me, I looked at him quizzically. It was a piece of toast, buttered only on one side, sprinkled with Kraft Parmesan cheese. This is cheese toast? I just wasn’t seeing what all the excitement was about. I tasted it, and the aura of cheese toast was still alluding me. And, apparently, with hubby as well.  And hence, the Thomas term of “cheese toast” was born.

 Through the years, we have had PLENTY of cheese toast episodes, and a few have even pleasantly surprised us as actually being as cool as our memories.

 Which brings us to this week.

 When I was about 14-15 yrs old, I was invited to go to Point Sebago, Maine with a friend and her family. This was my first “week away” from my family (very huge event in my life considering how strict my upbringing was). At the time, Point Sebago was just a camp-site, mainly for trailers/campers on wheels (I don’t remember if tent sites were here). I had such a great time that week! The place had activities for kids all-day. Mr. and Mrs. H let my friend and I go to/fro the beach by ourselves and do our thing. We made friends (boyfriends, even?). It was such a great experience–level of activities and the level of freedom–for a tween.

 Well, the experience of Point Sebago stayed with me for the last 25 years.

 This year, we wanted a “relaxing” family vacation without too much travel. I suggested Point Sebago. The idea went over fairly well, and I found a cottage to rent. Yes, in the past 25 years, Point Sebago has expanded. They still have camper rental sites, but they now have cottages (basically, double wides) close to the beach and homes along an 18-hole golf course.

 On our drive up to Point Sebago, I told my sons about my experience here when I was 14, and all the activities that are included. Hubby looked at me, and said “CHEESE TOAST.” Humph.

 Today is Wednesday. We’ve been here since Saturday. I’m happy to report that this is NOT A CHEESE TOAST experience. We brought our bikes, and we’ve given T&M the freedom to ride to/fro the beach without a parent. Hubby has spent 3 days on the golf course (the most continuous days since college). We had planned that he have a day of golf, but then we found a Golf Scramble Contest for him to join, and we went to the driving range while T&M had a golf lesson. Today all 3 boys are participating in “Adventure X” Camp, and I’ll be playing Bingo. We’ve attended a “carnival” on the beach—every game you won a prize (you should see our small collection of junk). There was a band on the beach too! We bought some popcorn and listened to them play for a while.  T&M are enjoying daily Kiddie Bingo, with the prize being a free ice cream cone. Tomorrow is a sand-castle building contest. On Friday, there’s a family scavenger hunt. We’re thinking of renting a kayak or a paddle boat. There’s also lake cruises, 21+ happy hour, nightly shows, and an adult-only restaurant. If we want to participate, they have baby-sitting camp from 6-10pm. Yesterday, we rented a boat to explore the lake and do some fishing. Little Guy (my avid boat lover) got to drive the boat for a bit….talk about heaven for a little guy!

 The lake, the beach, the activities, the golf course, and even the double-wide cottage with the fire pit in front have made this a very nice family get-away. The Point Sebago brochure classifies this as “A cruise ship on land.”  Perhaps it is, because we’re not sure if we can consider this camping, since there’s a TV and a refrigerator. But for me, at least, it’s a definite improvement over our last camping experience.  And I think hubby is considering making this a Thomas Inc yearly get-away. If it was a 4-season cottage, then we might even buy up here (the houses by the golf course are 4 season) because there are some ski hills not too far away.  There is heat, but these double-wides have these huge sunrooms and no heating vent in them. It would be stinkin’ cold in here in the winter. If we come back again next year, T&M will have even a better time, because there’s so many cool activities for the 9+ ages. Unfortunately, being 8, they couldn’t participate in the flag football, whiffleball, or the Survival Factor games (a cross btwn Survivor and Fear Factor).  There’s even mom-son, and dad-son, canoe races that will have to wait until they are 9 yrs old.

 All-in-all, we are having a great time—quality family time, relaxing, fresh-air, so many activities for all ages. Definitely NOT CHEESE TOAST!

PS. Lots more hot mommas in bikinis on Wednesday. And I ventured into the water to play.