visitors here and visitors there

Evidently, this has turned into a once-a-season blog. It’s been so long since I logged in that I’m shocked I got the password correct on the first try.

I can barely remember what has happened in the last few months. School starts in under two weeks which is absurd. It feels like we did nothing but I know we did things. I’ve told Christopher several times that this was the fastest summer and I don’t think we’ve ever had a shorter summer vacation. He tells me that summer is the same length every year. Thank you, Mr. Calendar. Don’t bring up realistic timelines when I’m discussing my sad feelings about lazy summer days being almost over.

The Texas relatives come up for a visit and the cousins went to Winshape camp together. Annabelle didn’t want to hold my hand but she was all about holding Emory’s hand.

Sesame was thrilled that all the cousins came. She talked about it for months and has asked several times when they can come back.

Immediately after that excitement, we went north for our summer visit. No trip home is complete without a stop At the Sign of the Lemon. It’s the best frozen lemonade in all the land.

We went to the beach twice. I hate the taste of salt water with a passion and am perfectly content to not get water on any part of my body above my waist, but I could spend all day at the beach. We found the best purple shells and bits of sea glass. Annabelle found a piece of sea glass the size of my palm that I am fairly certain hasn’t crossed the line from a chunk of broken glass to sea glass, but she’s so proud of it that we brought it home anyway.

Erika’s brother Wesley has reached moderate tiktok “fame” on his account. He recently was at a convention where he was frequently recognized. With a great amount of flair, dramatics, and a dash of exaggeration, he told Erika, “People would come up to me and try telling me they like my work but they’d get flustered being in my presence and stumble over their words. Someone in my shoes needs to reassure them that I too am human. I am happy to share an elevator with them and answer their questions. I’ll spend time with anyone.” That’s how it can feel when I go home. There are so many people to see and I have to spend as much time with as many as I can.

I was reunited with baby Oliver. We hadn’t seen him since Aaron’s wedding in December so I had to make him like me again in the best way I know how: I bribed him with food. It worked great until Grammy asked me to put sunscreen on his face and he was NOT PLEASED. I handed over a lot of crackers to make up for that offense.


All the sibs and grandchildren got together. Daniel missed the bearded brother memo. Last month Grandma fell and broke a few bones. She’s bounced back and forth between rehab and the hospital for the last few weeks. We got to see her once in rehab and I planned several more visits, but they all got canceled when she was rushed back to the ICU. She was there for several days and every time I tried to visit something came up and I couldn’t. I thought she was going to die before I got to see her. After several days Mom and I were able to visit for a few hours. She was far from her normal chipper self. I brushed her hair (she hasn’t been able to see Christine the hairdresser in several weeks and her hair needed some TLC) and lotioned her up. I found out later she didn’t remember we were there, but it’s a sweet memory for me.
We were able to see her back at rehab the day before we left and she looked so much better. She had no recollection of her time in the hospital, but she could remember all the details of the trip she thought she had taken to Africa in that time. She’s always wanted to visit Africa but never made it there. While she was really in a hospital in New England, she was visiting an African village in her head. “They were such nice people. So nice! I wasn’t sure if they’d like me since I have such an Italian last name, but we got along so well! Everyone in Africa is so nice!”

The Single Ladies Club had a get-together to celebrate Joanna’s birthday.

I didn’t know this guy would be my seatmate when I volunteered to sit in the back of Autumn’s car on the way to the restaurant. He didn’t find any of our jokes humerus. What a bonehead.

spring break ’22

This is the first school year that Annabelle has started with the “my friends are_________ so can we” talk. She’s seldom flustered if they do or have something she doesn’t, but it was very obvious that she wanted to do something for spring break when she found out the others were all going on vacation. I had no plans for spring break beyond sleeping in. That was the extent of my planning. When I realized AB thought I had Big Plans I tried to up my game. I talked to my grandmother in Florida about visiting her but that didn’t work out. I had to come up with something else. I wrote activities on popsicle sticks and put them in a jar for her to pick out each morning. Every morning we’d do yard work or a spring cleaning inside then we’d do the special activity in the afternoon. We went to the arcade and did a scavenger hunt in our backyard. We had a morning movie marathon. We had a playdate. One day we went to a drive-through safari. We did get to sleep in too. Every morning Sesame would come into my bed for snuggles. “MAMA! I’m here for snugs!” It’s was my favorite part of the week.

On Saturday we drove to Florida and visited the outdoor Tallahassee Museum. We couldn’t have asked for a prettier day.

Annabelle went on the kids zipline. She was so serious the whole time and didn’t appreciate it when I let out the smallest amount of cheerleader. She’s starting to get embarrassed when I’m too enthusiastic which makes me want to pull out the confetti cannons and be all the more enthusiastic.

They had several animals in enclosures very similar to the animals’ natural habitats. They were so much nicer than cement and iron fence exhibits. There was a red fox hanging out in a tree and a black bear swimming in the lake.

There was a caterpillar on a leaf that captured AB’s attention. We drove several hours and spent several dollars for her to latch onto something we could have seen for free at home.

If only I had known that all she needed for spring break entertainment was a caterpillar! I’m writing that on a popsicle stick next year.

long weekend

On Saturday I insisted we all visit the playground. Annabelle doesn’t ask to go to the playground nearly as much as she used to and I’m so afraid that her last playground visit will pass without me knowing it. I got so tired of going to the playground a million and one times when she was smaller but the visits are farther apart now. The poem I first read 17 years ago about not knowing when you last pick up your child or hold their hand has haunted me all these years and I make myself sick worrying about what last I’ll miss. No wonder I am getting new wrinkles on a weekly basis. I talked about the playground all week and tried to hype everyone up but there was not as much enthusiasm from the other two. I made them go anyway. Mother’s emotional and mental health were on the line. Not at all to my surprise, Annabelle had a great time and ask to go to the playground again after church.

I think this is the second picture we’ve taken together in 2021 which means it for sure will be on our Christmas card this year.

We had plans to drive to Tallahassee after church and spend Monday dress shopping for Aaron’s wedding and have a quick visit to the beach. I assumed we’d make a hotel reservation ahead of time when it was cheap, but he who shall not be named so as not to throw him under the bus thought we should wait until Sunday afternoon to get a better last-minute deal. I won’t say who was right, but I will say that we didn’t go to Tallahassee because the cheapest hotel was $237 and I don’t pay that kind of money for a hotel that doesn’t include a view of the Italian coast. My friend Neighbor Doctor Sarah has a live-in nanny who came over Sunday night so we could go on a date since we were staying at home. There’s not much to do in our town, but we’ve been wanting to go to the ax-throwing place so we reserved a lane for 5 o’clock. I went a few years ago for a work party but Christopher has never been. As it turns out, the reservation was unnecessary. We got there 10 minutes early and it was closed. The sign on the door said they opened for reservations, which we had, but 5 o’clock came and went and still no one showed up. We had no backup plan because again, we do not live in a bustling metropolis. The only other option was mini golf which everyone else was at. We ended up going to a new brewery and sitting outside to play cards. It was nice to visit without a small chatterbox around but it came with a hefty babysitter bill for not a lot date.

Since Tallahassee was a bust, we went to Columbus instead. We went to the mall to see what wedding-appropriate dresses they had to offer. The department stores had dresses that were either matronly or skimpy and the size of a dishtowel that wouldn’t cover one of my shoulders. It was looking like the third strike of the weekend but we found a possibility in JCPenney. TBD whether I wear that dress or continue to agonize over dresses until the eleventh hour before the wedding. AB couldn’t get over the mall. She kept saying, “I love this place. It’s so cool! Look at all the stores! Look at all the people!” I was surprised she was so impressed until I realized that the only mall she has memory of visiting is the tiny half-dead mall here that has more closed stores than open and one end is being demolished as we speak. I did not plan for her to grow up as a small-town girl but here we are.

We visited our favorite park before coming home. We love sliding down the rocks and every time we go AB has more fun.

I expect she’ll be having fun here for the next 32 years so I’m not going to worry about when we visit for the last time. I’ll save that worry for another day.

thus begins my yearly Massachusetts travel log

We’ve traveled thousands of miles between my last post and this. We finally went back home for a visit after a year of being away. Christopher wasn’t able to come so it was just AB and I doing our airport thing of counting dogs, popping bonine and explaining for the five hundredth time that airport snacks are very expensive.

Elizabeth happens to have an inflatable boat in her room because why not. I thought it would make a very comfortable bed for Annabelle but she disagreed. Instead of sleeping in the boat, her little bed or on the floor, she spent nearly every night of the two weeks squished up against me in the twin bed which meant I was pushed up against the cold wall. I may have been more comfortable if I took the boat out on the open sea than spending 14 nights sleeping with that octopus.

We spent an afternoon visiting with Dad and exploring a quirky garden/greenhouse/hippie giftshop. They have a large bamboo forest that I loved playing in as a child and Annabelle now loves. She and Elizabeth went off the beaten path and stomped around like elephants while yelling like banshees. I kept telling them I didn’t think they should be over there, but eventually, I decided to pretend I didn’t know them at all. Elizabeth is always toeing the line of what’s allowed so I frequently pretend I don’t know her so I won’t be guilty by association if she gets in trouble. Obviously, there’s a picture of me scaling the bamboo with ONE arm but it somehow got mysteriously lost in the cloud.We went to the beach for a few hours and AB was reunited with her surfboard. She loves the water and the closest thing we have to the ocean here is the puddle in the front yard when it rains. Is it too late to get her on the Olympic surf team? Is that sign-up sheet still floating around?
Big things are happening in Massachusetts. Aaron and Emma got engaged a few weeks ago. I told him beforehand that he should wait until I was in town so I could photograph the event (meaning I wanted to watch from the bushes) but he turned me down. Rude. No one ever invites me to their engagement.
Even bigger news! I met baby Oliver. I REPEAT. I MET BABY OLIVER THE CUTEST BABY BOY OF ALL TIME.

He was more thrilled about meeting his new favorite aunt than it looks. I had just come from an unfortunate hair appointment and he was offended I had asked everyone else’s opinion on my hair but his. We worked it out and we’re on better terms now. All I had to do was give him a pacifier, change his diaper, sing a Sarah Original song, hold him facing out then in then out again, walk around the house and stand at the window before he came back around. We’re best friends now.

Happy Camper

The years of the library reading program being our Big Summer Event are over. Gone are the days where popsicles, splash pads and picnics were all the excitement AB needed. “Mom, I love you, but is this summer going to be just me and you ALL day EVERY day? Nobody else?” She is such a motherhood morale booster.

She did a few camps and first up was VBS. AB doesn’t like situations with loud music and screaming children so she hated the first and last 20 minutes of each day while the other children danced and sang. She’d stand on the edge covering her ears or yell to the other children and ask if they also thought it was too loud. Other than that she had a great time. The theme was confidence which was very necessary for her life right now.
I was the snack lady along with another Sara. We know so many Sarah’s that each has a nickname and this particular one is Snack Sara. That is significantly more flattering than the previous nickname we’d given her- Germy Sara. She is sweet but a self-proclaimed germaphobe to the utmost degree. If I had a dollar for every germ comment she made during the week, I’d be able to buy out Johnson & Johnson’s entire supply of disinfectants. For some reason, she decided to become a school nurse which is about the most germ-ridden job you can have. She will put gloves on before helping a child at school tie their shoes because she doesn’t know where the child has worn the shoes and what might be on them. Needless to say, when it came to the division of tasks at the snack cart, she was in charge of the hand sanitizer, and I was in charge of handing out the food. I had to make 90 fish out of goldfish, Mike & Ike’s and sandwich bags. The director wasn’t able to locate a picture of how the finished project should look so it took a bit of trial and error to make them look somewhat like fish. It wasn’t until 53 fish in that I nailed it down. Christopher helped put the eyes and fins on. Most were crooked which made the fish look drunk and/or high which wasn’t a topic we wanted to bring up at this year’s VBS.

The next week was Poolside Pals, the little neighborhood camp across the street. Last summer we noticed a lot of activity at Miss Cindy’s house every morning but assumed she had several grandchildren who came to visit. Upon questioning of the neighborhood rumor mill, we found out she was running a daily camp with upwards of 20 children from our and surrounding neighborhoods. She hired local teens to help her sunscreen, make crafts, supervise and hand out snacks to the children. AB rode her bike over by herself the first few days and she felt like a million bucks. Our road is never busy, but Miss Cindy lives on the corner and every morning of camp there’s a small traffic jam at the stop sign outside her house. Into the mix rode a little girl who has very little awareness of what’s happening around her and doesn’t understand the rules of the road. Every morning she’d cause a pile-up. After the first few days, she decided it was easier to walk. She meet the neighborhood self-proclaimed “Asian cowboy” who was one of the helpers. We’ve seen him driving his golf cart ever since we moved in. He always has his white shirt tucked into his jeans. He wears cowboy boots and a white cowboy hat which he tips at all the ladies. He’s a real charmer. When Kezi was over, both girls went to Poolside Pals and one day Justin drove them home in his golf cart. Annabelle was a smitten kitten. She still lights up when we talk about him.  
Finally, this past week she went to drama camp. They did a Winnie the Pooh musical and she was a green bird. We found out about it and signed up too late for her to have a main role, but she was in the animal choir. She was very excited and told me several times that she “loved being on the stage.” A bold statement from someone who had only ever been on stage for a ballet recital. The play was adorable and everything I hoped it would be. She’s already talking about next year when she “gets a real role. I don’t have to be like, the main character, but I want to have a speaking role. And I don’t want to wear an itchy mask.”Start making her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame now.

our Branson vacation according to Annabelle

“I was the first child to ride on the jet ski we had rented. It was so fun. I was very nervous to jump off the back of the boat. The water was green and I got it up my nose, I think. Dad took my hand and we swam out to Opa on the jetski. Opa is my grandpa. I like to go fast on the jet ski, but not make it tip over fast. I was very surprised when Opa and my Dad fell blup-dee-dup-dee over. Did you write the blup-dee-dup-dee part yet?”
“The first time we rode the boat it was flat on the water. The second time it was nose up in the air! Once I got used to nose up, I liked nose up better.”
“I don’t know about this picture. I don’t remember taking it.”


“I love Sadie. I also loved that big chair. It said Shepherd of the Hills on it which I know because I can read. We met a boy who was in the Shepherd of the Hills play. We met him when we were looking at some wild raspberries. I asked him if they were edible and he said yes. He was pretty nice.

“Well, you’re in this picture so you can tell us about it.”

“I was very surprised because there were TWO pearls inside my oyster instead of one. They’re pink. It’s unique, not common, to have two pink pearls. To have two different pearls in one oyster is unique.

“We went to the tiger exorbitory (National Tiger Sanctuary). I had so much fun. I got a shoulderkin stuffed animal tiger that sits on my shoulder. The tigers were so big and I heard them roar. Literally roar, Mom. I like the lions most of all. I mean also. I liked them also.”

“I was the last one to get face painted. I got face painted as a dragon. It was on the boys menu but I could still do it. I chose a bright blue dragon.”

“Me, Sadie and emory all jumped off of the deck. It was so much fun. I enjoyed it a lot. I also invented a way for people to get into their boats (kayaks) and back out again for free! No charging!”

“I was tired and homesick and I wanted to go back to the resort.” (I was hoping she’d say, “I will always treasure this memory of snuggling with my mother. She has been snuggling me on family trips for years. She is my best friend and I love her so much.”)