Three little words

Three little words mean so much. Maybe you hear them, or say them – or both – all the time. You guessed it. “I love you.”

So much emphasis placed on those three little words. They’re the marker for a new level of commitment in a new relationship. Who said it first? A check-in reminder for an established couple; Love you, bye. What you say to warm, sleepy babies drifting off to sleep or bigger ones running into school, backpacks swinging. Three words that you whisper as you say goodbye, sometimes forever. It’s the catch phrase professed by the teenager who doesn’t even understand what it means, then takes it back. I’m not sure… Three little words carry weight and make or break hearts. So versatile.

What’s more important than words is action. As the adage goes, and let’s be cliche for a minute, actions speak louder than words. What you have to give more than love, that intangible, subjectively definable thing that means one thing to me and another to you, is you, your time. Three little words just as important as “I love you” are “I’ll be there.”

These three little words mean that I’ll show up when I say I will. I won’t make plans with you and break them, then BS you and say how much I miss you. They mean call me, day or night. Send me never ending text messages asking the most ridiculous questions and run some crazy what-if scenarios. I’ll listen. You can talk. Tell me a story. I’ll look at the pictures you drew me, the notes you’re learning to write for me, I’ll come to your performances and your games. We can walk for some extra time together, because when it comes down to it, all we have and all we are is time. I’ll put my phone away. Yes, the rest can wait. We’ll make the time and keep it, because I know being alone isn’t something you like to be. I’ll hold your hand. Stay up late with you. Hear good and bad news with you. Be happy, sad and really pissed for you as we’re sitting on a park bench when you tell me about your week from hell. I’ll be action and not all talk. I won’t flake out, I promise. I love you, yes, and I’ll be there. 

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Florida –> dawn till dusk + some fireworks!

Can 3 kids under age 6 endure a 22 hour drive with the promise of unlimited sunshine, swimming, bike rides, time with family and a visit to Disney? They can, and they did.

These images aren’t all from the same day, but I chose them because they crystallize moments of our trip, and I’m arranging them dawn to dusk (and a lot in between) for the sake of narration.

Below is my grandma’s back yard around 6:45 am. I tiptoed out at sunrise one morning before anyone was up, including the fire ants. I haven’t seen the sunrise (without a baby in my arms who didn’t realize that only vampires like to be up all night) in I don’t know how long! This morning will stay with me for a long, long time:

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Behold the textbook toddler. This little man learned that he could escape outside into the warm air as soon as he opened his eyes, which he did in his pj’s around 7 am every day. He learned how to free dogs from their pen, drive his cousin’s Barbie jeep like a boss, pin the pedal on an electric golf cart, and how to commandeer his great-grandma’s Jazzy.

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This is the ONE and only Disney photo of the pumpkins and their cousins. We went the day after Christmas, undeniably the busiest day in the ENTIRE year to go. “The” camera was under wraps (meaning Phil had to lug it around in his lap top bag all day) since I could have zero distractions. No children were temporarily lost during this visit. Win! Oh, and if you visit, don’t take small children to the Haunted Mansion first. Parenting learning curve.

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Oh palm trees, how I love you.

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All hail the Punta Gorda splash park!

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The Peace River

 

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This little girl learned how to swim in the “deep deep” end of her great-grandma’s pool. She was very, very proud of her new skills, and we are too. She wanted “everyone” to know she can swim, so now you know!

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Green plants and flowers: northerners, do you remember what this looks like!?2014-132014-12

This kiddo told her Daddy to take off her training wheels without ever having them off before. He did, and she took off without looking back. (Insert tear emoticon!)

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Sanibel Island seashells

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Sanibel Island mermaids!

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These two little ladies are part of mom’s dachshund collection that made the NJ –> Florida trip. Ginger and Bella soaked up the rays.

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Oranges and grapefruit all picked from my grandma’s yard!

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Christmas lights sewn to a sunset.

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~ Clouds on fire ~

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New Year’s Eve sparkled on its way out.

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…And 2015 came in with a BANG! (Many bangs because Phil and my cousin put on QUITE a show.) Good thing the neighbors like my grandma.

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We filled our paper lanterns with wishes and sent them up, up and away into the night sky. Here’s to hoping all of yours come true too.

Perspective and sunset swim

Let it go, let it go…sorry. Now it’s in your head, I know. I had to. It’s relevant, I promise. Not the song, but the sentiment. Bear with me. I’ve always been a bit…how shall I put it…uptight. Those who know me best would nod. My sister is probably laughing. (And you can stop now.) It’s been a life long struggle to go with the flow, to be carefree – well maybe not carefree, but more like bamboo  – bendable – and less like concrete. I’m a work hard, line-up-the-dominoes and watch them all go down my way type of girl. Motherhood (life itself) continues teaching me that I can’t control it all, or sometimes anything at all!

And that sometimes…sometimes it’s just plain fun to take my hands off the wheel, keep my mouth shut, shove that neurosis under wraps and sit back and watch life in front of me instead of meddle with it. Actually, it’s a lot of fun.

Recently, we spent an evening with our friends on their private beach in the lake community we live in and took some photos of their little one for her birthday at the “golden hour” (all photographers drool now.) The sun was setting, the light was perfect, the air was balmy and the water equally as inviting. In birth order, Gwen, Teagan then Hudson dipped in their little toes, feet, legs, and then the rest, fully clothed. Splash into the sunset. Who could resist?

My first inclination was to freak out…you don’t have your suits on…your clothes are going be soaked…the car seats will be soaked…blah blah…but you know what? What’s the harm? Who cares, really? REALLY? Sometimes I sit back and measure what matters and what doesn’t by remembering something my dad said a few months before he died. He was sick, and knew he wasn’t getting well. We all did, but moved through our days like that wasn’t real. I was bugging out about being late to some event for work, and called him for directions because mine were wrong. I was in full freak out mode. Screeching and all. He said, “THIS is not a problem. Cancer is a problem.” Yep.

Who was I to get in between the pumpkins and a perfect summer night? Get soaked, be happy, get dirty, giggle, swim, smile, watch the sun dip down over the treeline, get to know those warm summer nights that make the feeling between air and water invisible, twirl in the last rays of the day. Live. Know that your mother learned a lesson a while back that keeps things in perspective from a man you never met but who lives on in you.

Let it go…let it go. Sorry again. See? I promised it was relevant.

And enjoy the sunset. I did.

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Tea Tea’s chocolate party in the park

She asked for chocolate. She asked for her preschool friends. Our blue eyed girl turned 4, and we celebrated Teagan’s “chocolate in the park” (yes, her idea) themed party under sunny skies.

I wanted to incorporate everything Tea asked for, and do it low-key. I’m not low key. I want to be. I also have an awful habit of underestimating the amount time needed to complete just about every task. The man can tell you that I estimate everything to take about “ten minutes.” This is why the night before Teagan’s party, I was roaming around Michael’s (the craft store) at 8:45 pm as employee announced they’d be closing in 15 minutes, feverishly looking for the perfect ribbon to use for 40 bagged lunches that I hadn’t made at that point. (Insert insane laughter.)

Found. Done. Cake walk. Fast forward to 12 am, when the hole puncher (used to create the holes to tie said ribbon, of course) inexplicably breaks into 4 pieces (whaaa?) and smashes on the kitchen island in some slow, dramatic sequence. Low point. The man took a break from his battle in Clash of Clans and fixed it. Thank you 1,000 times, because the scissor holes I punched in two  bags to try and compensate was just not looking good. 1 am. Bagged lunches for the kiddos complete with at “T” for Teagan. Check, check, and check.

I have never seen a kid not like a Nutella sandwich, so the lunches went over big. Score again.

Picnic theme party lunch

Picnic theme party lunch

Picnic style party lunch

Picnic party

Cousin Maverick!

Picnic party

Taylor and mom, Heather

Picnic Party

Tea’s  sweet cousin Frankie and her mom, Aunt Lynda of Lyn’s Cookies!

One of my good friends/mom of Teagan’s friend looked around and the set up, looked at me and said:”You didn’t make all of this.” She’s totally right. She knows me well! I know I’ve said it before. It’s  magnificent to have family members who are caterers. I’m smiling as I type this. It’s beyond wonderful. Any locals already know about The Little Food Cafe in Pompton Plains, but Dana is in full effect there and an aaaamazing party planner. She hooked Teagan up with these (of course chocolate) zebra cupcakes:

Zebra and polka dot cupcakes

Zebra cupcakes? You bet. Why? For the past year, Teagan has religiously sported her “Oma dress” (from her Oma), which is a zebra-print tutu dress, nick-named “the uniform.” Of course the day of her party, she refused to wear zebra print but opted for horizontal stripes, since they’re “kinda like zebra stripes, see?” Fair enough. I was just happy she didn’t insist on wearing pajamas, a tutu and rain boots, one of her favorite and signature looks.

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Aunt Dana and Aunt Colleen went with cheeta print for the day! Jersey girls think alike.

The party parting gift for the kiddos, these super-fun cookies, were made by another fabulously talented family member, Lynda of Lyn’s Cookies! These were gone faster than I could hand them out:

Zebra print cookie

Happy Birthday, Teagan, my beautiful little poet! Next up: Gwen’s 6th birthday in July. Let the planning begin! (“Low key” of course.)

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blonde girl with necklace

blonde girl with necklace

 

SPRING has sprung

What did we do this Saturday? We were outside. A lot. For those of you reading from below the Mason-Dixon line, you may not be thinking that’s a big deal, but it is! What a day! It was a “Disney” Day here in New Jersey on Saturday. Sun out, birds chirping, everything about to bloom and burst in full color. I thought Aurora (Sleeping Beauty for those of you without girls under the age of 7) was going to bust out from behind a tree and start singing with woodland creatures in the background. That didn’t happen, but we did see tadpoles and squirrels.

This is the highlight reel starring the kiddos, our good friends and mother nature! Our adventure included our dear friends and their sweet little boys in central NJ, land of rolling hills, towering trees and gorgeous old estates. We had a fantastic day as we caught up and had their photo session at Cross Estate Gardens over smoothies and bagels, (see Hudson’s face) and I’m not sure how their family can get any more adorable.

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The Davids

The Davids

The Davids

Yes, this family belongs in a frame!

Tulips, Tulip Tree

Bloom!

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Mr. “All boy,” reclining as if he’s just returned from a tough game of cricket. He was really throwing rocks all day.

Blonde Boy

Blonde Boy

Post-smoothie “smoldering” face of a filthy, tired toddler. Work it.

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Teagan can fly!

Hydrangea

Smoothie time! Tea found me some hydrangea: “You’re favorite flower, Mommy.” <3

Flying

No, really. She can fly.

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Somehow, in photos, Gwenyth always manages to look way older than she is! Scary? You bet!

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 We’re oh so close to leaves and shade!

Trees and stone wall

Tulip Tree

Daffodils

 “We were together. I forget the rest.” – Walt Whitman