Category Archives: family

Reflections of Disney

DSC_0188Well, we survived our theme park adventures relatively unscathed.  Quinn has a bit of a cold he picked up as a souvenir, along with the small tower of maps, used tickets and a Disney-esque handbook and completed passport.  He wore his new Mickey Mouse shirt yesterday and absolutely rocked it.  Good boy, good trip, good memories.

The past couple of times we’ve gone to Orlando, we’ve rented an offsite condo.  If you’re on a budget, it truly is the way to go, in my opinion. For just under $400 we had a one bedroom, second story unit in a resort approximately 15 minutes from Disney World.  There was a nice pool area, washer and dryer in the unit, a full kitchen and sleeping accommodations for 4.  I’ve been lucky using Craigslist for this sort of thing but, of course,  I always check reviews and feedback before committing.  This experience was really positive and I wouldn’t hesitate to book it again.

During past visits to Disney, I remember being put off by the expense of food and merchandise.  I don’t really know what’s changed (perhaps traveling with only 1 child rather than 3?), but things didn’t seem too outrageously priced to me this time around.  We generally ate breakfast at “home” and went with a late lunch at whichever park we happened to be in.  I usually got a decent salad for about $8 and Quinn dominated chicken tenders wherever we went.  We actually had a sit down meal in “China” while in Epcot and that was our biggest indulgence at $53, sans alcohol.  The quality of the food was better than decent but less than stellar.  I think Disney knows their market.
DSC_0035Here’s the thing about Disney – it pretty damn expensive.  Two days of park hopping set me back nearly $500 and that was with Quinn still considered a child at nine-years of age.  But…once you’re in, there are no additional charges for entertainment or rides.  We went to Universal for a day and their “fast pass” system comes with a hefty additional fee, while Disney’s is included with your admission.  The employees/ cast members were, with only one exception (yeah, you Ms. Norway),  were helpful and friendly, the bathrooms were clean and well stocked and there were plenty of spots to escape the heat of the day.  I do think they should consider a new attraction, though, something I’m calling the Cat Napper.  The way I envision it is a boat ride a la It’s a Small World, but silent and dark with individual reclining seats and eye masks scented with lavender.  It will last 20 minutes and will only be available to adults 25+. Build that, Disney World, and I won’t hesitate to come back again in August.

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Family, lost and found

DSC_0195One of the highlights of my Florida trip was a brief get together with one of the three women I consider to be my true mothers.  Our reunion was surprisingly emotional for me – you know I’m no crier, yet that’s exactly who I became in her embrace.  I can’t help but wonder if the sense of comfort and safety I feel with her is what most people receive from their own mothers. I’ll never really know for sure unfortunately, but how blessed am I to find it with someone else?  Very.

Growing up, Sandy was my mother’s friend.  Our families spent holidays together, eating Italian and Jewish and German specialties and playing backgammon for Marlboros.  I’d never known a family like Sandy’s – around the table at Christmas you’d find she and her husband and their daughter.  Also present would her two children from her previous marriage, as well as her husband’s son from his first marriage.  Often, the father of Sandy’s older children would be there, too, with his son from his second marriage.  There were Italians and Jews and my own little German threesome and it was the most wonderful thing imaginable.

Maybe that’s where I learned that the word “family” defies definition.  I grew to understand that people came together because of love and that love evolves,  sometimes changing form, but unfailingly remaining a force.  Love was powerful and unifying, not destructive nor isolating.  Love trumped anger and envy and was to be respected.  That being said, I always thought that Sandy’s older daughter wished her mom was more like mine – structured, reliable and consistent.  Naturally, I wished for a mom who was like Sandy, emotional, inspired by passion and inclined to relaxing in a bathtub with bubbles and maybe a joint.

As I got older, Sandy provided me with what my own mother could not – a roof over my head when our house burned down, encouragement to end a stagnating relationship, the confidence to believe that I could do anything.  She convinced me that I was beautiful and smart and good and the trill of her laughter remains one of my favorite sounds.

We’ve been separated by hundreds of miles for many years now.  There have been occasions, including a Thanksgiving decades ago when Sandy prepared an entire traditional dinner, threw it into the car and served it on a picnic table at the beach, when we’ve gotten together, but this recent visit was the first in far too long.  For the first time ever I was able to take care of her. I selected the hotel knowing that she would get a kick out of staying at the Hilton on the beach.  There was lunch poolside and talk and more talk. We caught up and found we were, despite all the changes and challenges we’ve each faced, as always, family.  She’s truly the mother of my heart.

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Haunted Disney

imageYesterday was a long day. I mean like really long. Quinn and I did a 12-hour marathon tour of Disney beginning with the Magic Kingdom, hopping over to Epcot and then finishing our night back at the Magic Kingdom. We had fun even though the unrelenting sun began to make me feel like I was literally being baked by about 4:00.

I think I’ve done the Disney thing about 5 or 6 times. The composition of each of those visits has been different – with a friend and her family, with one child, my husband and his mother, with two children and my husband, etc. I don’t think two trips have been the same.

It’s impossible to walk around the park without encountering memories from past visits. There was the time Liam melted down on It’s a Small World because the stimulation overwhelmed his senses and his Dad had to hold him down. A favorite family* story to retell is about Griffin’s freak out on Splash Mountain when I had to hold him with all of my might to prevent him from climbing out of the log flume in terror. When the ride came to a stop, the first thing he said in a normal tone was “Can we do that again?” I don’t think so.

Yesterday confirmed for me that Quinn really doesn’t like rides – and I’m okay with that. We stuck to the tame stuff, not venturing anywhere near Space Mountain or that runaway railroad. We rode the carousel together and in my mind’s eye, I saw one of the few photos of myself from a previous trip. The nearby Dumbo ride immediately conjured an image of Liam and his Dad aloft. Good memories.

image

Mid-afternoon we caught the monorail to Epcot and that’s where he really shined. We went directly to the World Showcase and Quinn traveled around collecting stamps for his passport. Liam had displayed the same enthusiasm during one of our times there and I could picture him, passport in hand.  I could almost taste the margaritas in Mexico, remembered from a previous trip, along with England’s fish and chips. I finally indulged myself in Germany, or Deutschland as Quinn likes to say, with an incredibly refreshing wheat beer flavored with grapefruit. I won’t forget that taste soon.

Around 7:30, as the skies began to darken with an impending shower, we returned to the Magic Kingdom. We were traveling against the tide as people made a dash for their cars before the skies opened up. I remembered being caught in a downpour years ago and smiled knowing I had packed plastic bags to protect my camera, a lesson learned that long ago day. We got a little wet, but the last hours of our day were the most comfortable temperature-wise. The lines were short and we quickly hit three more attractions before the fireworks commenced. Naturally, one was the Haunted Mansion.  Quinn loved it.

*I say “family” because that’s what we’ll always be.  Divorce changes it, but certainly doesn’t end it.

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Some Girls

image: amiright.com

In the sweet old country
Where I come from
Nobody ever works
Nothing ever gets done.”

There was a summer a long time ago, in the mythical (to some) town where I grew up, when it seemed that the Rolling Stones’ album “Some Girls” was in constant airplay. It didn’t seem possible that so many good songs could all be on a single piece of vinyl, but they were.

When I look back at that particular summer, it seems like I spent a lot of time hanging out in a gas station right in town. Those were the days when gas stations were places where the bays were devoted to car repairs rather than being set up as mini markets. There was an office with a big desk, a cash register, a phone which rang a surprising number of times a day and an old (even then) soda machine that had been jerry-rigged to dispense nips of beer instead cans of cola. I absolutely cherish these memories.

Over the years, the gas station was owned by the fathers of two different friends, I still am uncertain of the order. One of those fathers lost his child, my friend, to a motorcycle and a sense of invincibility decades ago. The other is now close to being lost to his daughter, and his other children, at what still seems to be too soon. It’s made me sadder than I ever imagined.

You should know that fathers were a bit scarce amongst my friends and me. Many of them were absent in one way or another, something we never explicitly questioned or discussed until years later. This particular Dad, though? This man was present. I came to know him and the quiet and amused manner in which he accepted me, always made me feel comfortable in his presence.

Although it has been many years since those days, I’ll never forget them. Time passes and life changes. It all becomes much less simple. Parents get divorced, they get sick and a future without them to look to guidance and validation becomes imminent. The memories though, the feelings of happiness and appreciation that can be summoned by a song on the radio, will be there always.

Some girls are really lucky.

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Adirondack Tubing Adventures

image: lakegeorgeguide.com

The other day, Quinn and I cashed in a Living Social offer I had purchased for Adirondack Tubing Adventures in Lake Luzerne. Summer seems unrelenting in its march towards Labor Day and the return to school and I knew that Monday’s forecast was the best one of the week. We made a reservation and up the Northway we went.

We arrived at the rustically modest shop after about 75 minutes on the road. We had been warned that we should print our voucher in advance because we wouldn’t have cell phone service. Good call. We checked in and at the appropriate time received our life vests and boarded the bus for a bouncy 15 minute ride to the “putting in” spot. Once we arrived, we were given our tubes (we went with the basic, un-upgraded model) and a few simple directions and then, as a group, we were off.

The pristine waters of the upper Hudson were fantastic. The water temperature was reported to be about 68 degrees, but when the sun was shining, it felt even warmer. The water was soft and without clouds, never getting deeper than about 5 feet, from what I could tell. The fresh smell of the air, faintly cedarish with an occasional whiff of campfire wood smoke, was lovely.

We floated, Quinn and I tied together once again by a cord, doing our best to stay in the middle of the river for the best currents. Along the shore we observed 3 ducks whose remarkable camouflage kept them hidden until one moved ever so slightly revealing their presence. There were pretty wild flowers punctuating the scenery, including some tall, vivid red ones* which I don’t recall ever seeing before. I wished I could have gone closer for a better look, but going with the flow was the day’s agenda so that’s what I did.

A little more than an hour into the trip, we paused on a sandbar for a little beach time. The kids on the trip really enjoyed being out of their tubes and feeling the sensation of the river pulling them along as if it were indeed the ultimate lazy river. I appreciated the chance to stretch a bit, but as our time on land passed, I felt myself growing cold and was happy to get moving again. We reached the “taking out” spot after about another 50 minutes, I think. The times are all approximate since I didn’t wear a watch, and the old Timex one I pulled from the river’s bottom, unfortunately, took too much of a licking to still be ticking.

We were met by our bus and, after a 5 minute bus ride, returned to the shop and our vehicles. Quinn and I changed and drove over to outlets area of Lake George and grabbed a few quick slices from a place called Frank’s on Route 9. I’ve got to say I was pleasantly surprised with the pizza. The crust was crisp, the toppings generous and the sauce flavorful. I’ve had way worse pizza and I wouldn’t hesitate to stop there again. It was a good day.

*When I checked out All Over Albany’s weekly neighborhood roundup I learned exactly what they were, cardinal flowers!

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Filed under Boys, family, pizza, Recommendations, road trips, Summer, upstate New York

Trains, boats and buses

imageThose of you who have children know that a big part of parenting seems to revolve around  transportation. Like us, kids have places to be and must get to them. Whether it’s sports practice, school events or to social activities, we, as parents, are usually on the hook to drive them to where they need to be. At what age do we begin letting them get there on their own? What about when where they want to go is more distant than just a couple of miles away?

My oldest son has always had a remarkable sense of direction. When he was still preschool age I began to rely upon him for help while driving, asking him which way to turn. He’s always been obsessed with transportation, particularly trains, yet, as a city kid he has no interest in getting his driver’s license. I’m fine with that, trust me. Last year, on our first day in Amsterdam we bought 24 hour hop on/hop off passes for the canal boats. After we boarded the boat we consulted the map to determine which stops we should take and quickly determined we were interested in doing different things.

After a quick discussion, Liam and I decided to split up for a couple of hours. He would remain on the boat and loop back around to visit the Maritime Museum and I would get off at the next stop to troll through one of my favorite flea markets. We’d been in Amsterdam for less than 18 hours and were without cell phones, but I was confident that he could, in case of an emergency, find his way back to the hotel. I clambered off the boat and watched it depart, thinking that his Dad would be mighty pissed if this venture didn’t go well…

But, of course, it did go well. My 16 y/o and I met at the designated spot essentially on time and all was well. I was definitely a little apprehensive, but I knew I had to give him a little independence, even in the vice capital of Europe, and I didn’t regret it. You’ve got to start somewhere, right?

There have been other occasions when I’ve trusted the boys to get somewhere on their own. When Griffin was 13, I put him on the bus at the Port Authority to ride out to the Meadowlands to meet friends for a Jets game – on Thanksgiving afternoon. The ride home caused me more anxiety, particularly after my son disregarded the instructions to wait inside for me and instead was walking around 8th Avenue. We figured it out.

Liam has taken the train solo to NYC, switching lines at Poughkeepsie to arrive at Grand Central Station. Griffin’s latest triumph was making his way from Albany to the ferry dock in Woods Hole, via Boston. These forays can definitely be a little anxiety-inducing, but I know that teenagers need to learn to navigate their way through the world and I’m much more comfortable giving my kid a ticket to ride than a license to drive.  You?

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The story of our lives

Image: jellyjars.com

Image: jellyjars.com

As I walked past my car in our island seashell driveway, I noted the 5 consecutive years’ worth of Wellfleet beach parking stickers affixed to the rear window. It made me smile. I considered my previous car, also a wagon that had displayed at least as many years of evidence of our travels, and wondered how all of these summer road trips would be woven through the memories of my sons.

I would hope that one day my children will share the stories of their childhoods with their own families – and there are some good ones. After years of traveling together, we have a collection of moments which belong to us and can be taken out and polished countless times. Like sea glass, some began with jagged and sharp edges, but after years of repeated stroking they have softened and no longer have the ability to cut. They’ve become our treasures.

Projecting into the future, even beyond the expected years of my own life, I imagine my children telling their children these stories of us. The times spent with family, together, exploring new sights and revisiting favorite places. Ordering the same meals in the same restaurants in the same towns, not as an attempt to recapture that time, but instead, to pay those former days homage.

These days and weeks collectively combining to encompass months and months of our lives, are deserving of a chapter in our “story of our lives.” How about you, DelSo reader?  What chapters are you writing in your own life?

 

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