New England Days

We’ve been here, there and everywhere since the post many weeks ago.

Before we hit the road for our summer travels, Katie and her two sidekicks came to visit. Our last several visits with them were riddled with sickness, so we started prayers and elderberry early to boost our immune systems. Annabelle was skeptical about how successful their visit would be.
“Remember when Kezi visited and she pushed me over when I was reading a book?”
“You were 11 months old and she was giving you a hug because she loved you.”
“But remember when she visited and then she cried and tried to run away to Colorado?”
“You were both 6 and now you’re 9. You’ve both grown as people.”
”But remember when—.”
There were a few bumps in the road, but the first full day they played together for a solid eight hours without issue so overall it was a win. As I said to Katie, it’s hard work forcing people to be best friends. There’s no forcing with us. We’re on year 31 and still going strong.

Next it was time for our annual summer trip to Massachusetts. There was a kerfuffle and delay upon delay at the airport so we screeched into Gate B23 as the first passengers were boarding. I HATE arriving to the gate that late. I want time to get coffee and snacks, wander around Hudson News and listen in on the phone conversations of fellow passengers. I started a sinus infection the morning before the flight so the change in air pressure was a real delight, but the Lord gave us the gift of the only empty seat on the plane being in our row so I could spread out and moan without disturbing anyone. It’s the little things.

The next morning I was reunited with my favorite baby boy, Oliver. He was not as thrilled to see me and barely looked in my direction. My questions about what a cow says interfered with his train playing and throwing wooden soldiers. It wasn’t until I gave him chips (my favorite form of bribery) and played with him in a puddle that he really came around. I also sang him an original composition called “Oh, If I was a Koliver” about a little boy named Oliver who wears a koala costume. Tune into the Top 10 hits to hear it for yourself.

This year was the seventh annual Aunt Camp. The campers are 9, 7, and 2.
We went to the zoo which had a deer petting area. I could have stayed there for hours.
I took Koliver on the train and carousel as part of my mission to win him over. We talked about “up and down and ’round and ’round” which are words that speak to his heart.

Grandma’s health is really going downhill, so I spent a few overnights with her to help with some basic needs and calm her anxiety.

She can’t drive anymore which means she is constantly asking for others to take her from drives around town. When I called to tell her we were coming, she asked specifically that Christopher take her for a drive. She didn’t know that he’s a terrible driver. Or maybe she does and that’s how she wants to go. Either way, we all went for a drive together and stopped at an Italian bakery where Grandpa used to buy us pastries many years ago. Grandma’s go-to game is Rummy. All her children and grandchildren know how to play. I can’t begin to count the number of games I’ve played with her. She was feeling so bad it didn’t seem like we’d play this visit. I don’t know how many more times we’ll see her so I came to terms with the fact that AB would never play it with her. Miracle of miracles, she perked up after a nap and they got to play a few rounds. It was so special.By the last night of our visit, Koilver had been completely won over. He was so deliriously tired he couldn’t remember our names but I’ll forgive him. Elizabeth and I had been having a funnest aunt competition and he was the lucky recipient of our affections. It takes a lot of energy to be the center of everyones world. He waved his arms in our general direction and sadly said, “Those names go home?” I wanted to stuck him in my suitcase and take him home.

party like you were born in 1928

My smallest and most talkative travel buddy and I returned very late last night for a quick trip home for Grandma’s 95th birthday.

It seems like two months ago we were celebrating her 90th birthday; now she’s five years from 100. After her horrible summer in and out of the ICU and months in rehab, we didn’t think she’d make it, but she’s still alive and as funny as ever. She can barely hear which makes conversations even funnier, but she loves to chat and piece together what she can hear. All 6 children, most of the grandchildren, and 6 of the 10 great-grandchildren were in town. She was as thrilled as could be with each new person who came through the door. She told Carol she “didn’t want a party but she did want to be celebrated.” She didn’t know we had planned a surprise gathering with her old lady friends (“the young girls” since they’re mostly in their 80s), cousins she seldom sees, and friends from church. Her little brother planned on coming from Maine but sadly had to cancel the day of due to a cold. She didn’t know he was coming so she wasn’t disappointed. She probably would have forgotten anyway as she has the short-term memory of a gnat. She takes naps every two hours or less, but that extrovert and her walker held court for hours with her guests. She was so happy. It made me so happy to see her surrounded by everyone she loves.

Instead of gifts, Grandma asked for donations to the food pantry she volunteers at. My contribution was the healthy and organic snack she and I like to eat when we play cards.

Nick, Molly, and I left the party to pick up soda. Nick drove us and Molly sat in the passenger seat complaining about applying for college. I never feel so old as when the children I used to babysit are doing adult things. I changed those kids’ diapers and carried them around for hours upon hours. For years, my entire life revolved around when I’d get to play with then babysit them and Zack. Now all three are taller than me. I knew I should have put heavier bricks on their heads to stop the growth!

The night we arrived in Massachusetts, AB went to Grammy’s house and I stayed at a hotel for the night. Alone! A hotel all to myself! No one but me! Elizabeth and Erika orchestrated it for my Christmas gift and it was delightful. I ordered room service and ate pasta and pie on the bed. I had brunch at 11:30 like a rich lady without a care in the world. When she saw I was eating alone, the waitress gave me a 14-page double-sided informational printout about the history of the hotel and restaurant. I learned so much. I never learn anything when I eat at Olive Garden. The Kennedys often stayed at that hotel and I ate at the table where they got engaged. I too got engaged at a restaurant so I can only assume the trajectory of my life will be the same. Vote for me as First Lady in the election of 2032!

We had the briefest Aunt Camp in history- a one-night sleepover on Saturday. Annabelle had a tough time in general when we visited Massachusetts in the summer and that Aunt Camp was not the most successful. I was worried about how she’d do on this trip, but thanks to lots of prayers it went so smoothly. The girls disappeared into the basement and wrote a three-scene play we were all forced invited to attend. Oliver is the cutest little boy you’ve ever seen. He’s so precious. He doesn’t talk much, but that doesn’t stop me from repeatedly asking him, “Can you say Auntie Sarah? Do you remember my name? It’s Auntie Sarah! Can you say it? Don’t you want to try? I’m your favorite aunt! Auntie Sarah!” to which he responds with a firetruck noise and points to whatever food is within sight. We’ll keep working on it for summer Aunt Camp.

Aunt Camp Twenty-Two

We barely squeezed in Aunt Camp at the end of our Massachusetts visit but we got it done. We’re like the USPS. Neither snow nor rain nor a shmandemic or a grandmother in the ICU will keep us from our tradition.

Last year Oliver was but a newborn in a Snoo. This year he was touching dead rabbits out in the yard and he ate a dead worm. Some people these days don’t like to hear this, but I file that under BOYS WILL BE BOYS. We never dealt with such shenanigans when we only had girls at Aunt Camp. Annabelle made it her goal to give him “safety and civilization lessons.”

He doesn’t sit still for long but he does love reading. I read him both Where’s Baby? and Harvard Business Review.

It took the girls a little while to get back into their groove of how to play together, but once they did they had fun. We went to the children’s science museum, I brought crafts and we went out for a girls-only lunch. We went to the farm to visit the goats. Oliver was more interested in checking out who was in the ladies’ bathroom which was not in line with the civilization portion of AB’s classes.

I wanted to make the kids custom shirts but I didn’t order them in time so I had this made into a pin made instead. You need a magnifying glass to see that it has one of their names in each scoop of ice cream.

I don’t know how long they’ll wear matching dresses but we’re going to embrace it for as long as we can.

December recap. vol.3

When we finally landed in CT for Aaron’s wedding, it was nearly midnight. Annabelle heard an announcement about the designated smoking area and wondered allowed why someone would leave their home to go to the airport and just to smoke. I kept saying they would go to the designated smoking area only if they were already at the airport but she didn’t understand. “But Mama, do they like, drive to the airport to smoke here instead of at their house? And why are they smoking anyway? Don’t they know that makes your lungs black? Oh, I like those soap dispensers. Do they have soap dispensers in the smoking area?” You know what I don’t have after a long day of packing, science fairs, “random” security checks that I always get chosen for and turbulence? The energy to explain why some people smoke. I was so relieved when we made it to the hotel.

All we had scheduled for the next morning was a hair appointment for me and trip to a genuine Dunkin Donuts. We were to meet Mom and Elizabeth at the rehearsal dinner venue that afternoon to decorate before the wedding rehearsal. Elizabeth had things to decorate the room with and I had ordered several centerpiece decorations from Amazon that were supposed to arrive at Elizabeth’s house Thursday morning. Elizabeth texted me Friday morning and said no delivery had been made. Not one item had arrived. I checked the order information and it was delayed until Tuesday. I’M LAYING ALL THE BLAME ON YOU, JEFF BAZOS. If you weren’t so busy trying to become a bazillionaire maybe I wouldn’t have had to rush around to six stores in a town I didn’t know the week before Christmas looking for classy Christmas decor. This is why I boycotted Amazon for six months a few years ago. I didn’t like Jeff and his attitude. I feel another boycott coming on. I know my boycott will make .00000000000000000000000000000000% difference in his bank account but it will make me feel better. I’ll start the boycott after I order the new shoes I saw last week.


The only Christmas decorations we could find were either overpriced or glitzy. HobLob already had spring items out so they were no help. We ended up with pine tree pipe cleaners that I made into wreaths and we filled in with berries and greenery that Elizabeth got from the woods. The little lanterns were from Stephanie. We didn’t get to use the darling gold deer candle holders I ordered (hashtag still bitter) but it turned out ok. Who needs Jeff anyway. This is one of three photos I have documenting the entire evening and the three hours we spent decorating.

A few fashion notes from the wedding. Elizabeth looked amazing. I did her makeup so of course that looked good but besides that she looked wonderful. She always cuts her own hair but splurged on a real hairdresser which I’ve been telling her to do for 12 years now. I’m going to use this picture for her online dating profile.Speaking of hair, Mom has never once in my 32 years had her hair straightened her hair. She walked in from Emma’s hairdresser having done her hair and the intake of our collective aww and wow almost knocked her off her new high heels.BABY OLIVER WORE A BABY TUXEDO AND BABY DRESS SHOES. AND A BABY BOWTIE!

The wedding was at a carousel museum and at two points during the event we could ride a little carousel downstairs. There was also a puppet theater the kids could play with, a player piano and a vintage firefighting museum. There was plenty to look at and entertain the guests. We weren’t sure if Grandma would make it because she’s been so tired lately (“I am 94, you know. These body parts are quite old.”) but she did and she and Aaron cuddled up on the carousel bench and went for a twirl. Seeing them do that together was so special. (Aaron looked very dapper, but I’m pretty sure Autumn and I had jumpers made out of the same pattern fabric as his tie when we were little.) I call this series a behind-the-scenes of a fashion blogger photoshoot.A sweet girls picture…with two weird circus guys in the background.

Congratulations, lovebirds. We love you kids.
PS. I will not be ordering your first anniversary gift from Jeffy B.

visiting log

While we were in Massachusetts, Mom put together a family picnic when we were in town so all the siblings and all the cousins got to visit.I got a “fun aunt” hat specifically so Oliver would know that’s who I am. He needs to understand that I’m the party bus driver right from the beginning. He wore his best Hawaiian shirt so I know he’s onboard the party bus with me.

Aunt Camped 2021 almost didn’t happen this year. AB had a 103* fever and a variety of symptoms the day before Aunt Camp was supposed to start. We were devastated and shed some tears. Aunt Camp is a highlight of our year and it really seemed like we were going to lose the opportunity. She stayed on the couch for a day before the fever broke then we had to wait another 24 hours to be sure it didn’t come back before seeing the cousins. We didn’t get our usual three-night sleepover with long days of playing like normal, but some Aunt Camp was better than none.
I can never decide if I like the mountains or the ocean best. This view puts a lot of points in the ocean category.

I spent an afternoon with Carol, Brian and the kids. Carol could not get over the fact that Molly and Zack chose to visit with me for several hours instead of being on their phones or with their friends. “They don’t do this for just anyone. I don’t think you understand how rare this is.” This is the reward for my seven years of babysitting them. We did Silly Suppers, went to Boston, made endless crafts, had sleepovers, built villages with every toy they owned, and ate popsicles in the blowup pool. We made animals out of egg cartons and set traps for the leprechaun. Molly talked 48 miles an hour which prepared me for parenting AB. There was the time we got lost on the way to the “states best petting zoo.” When we finally got there, all the signs said we weren’t allowed to touch any animals nor were we allowed to stand within a few feet of their fence. This caused much sobbing and sorrow. To top off the day, we got rear-ended on the way home. In summary, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows but of all the memories I have with my many cousins, watching those two crazy cats are some of my favorite memories. ALL THAT TO SAY. Molly got her permit last month. I still think of her as six years old so I’m not sure what the DMV was thinking when they gave it to her.
Zack and I sat in the backseat while Molly drove around the parking lot and attempted to back up. He kept up a running commentary from the backseat of how she could improve. ”You have to turn the wheel the other way when you’re backing up. Why are you so jerky with the steering wheel? I’ve had my license for a year now so I feel confident in handling a vehicle. Molly! Gosh. Chill out. We’re trying to stay alive back here.”

I know what backseat driver to call when I resurrect my babysitting career.

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.

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.