For people who rarely go to carnivals or amusement parks, we've been to a bunch of carousels this week. Two, to be exact. Which is two more than we've been to in the past I don't know how long. If I had a chart where I checked off fun things to do, we'd definitely be good to go in the merry-go-round category. (Maybe I should have a list like that. I love (love!) checking things off of lists.)
Both of the carousels we visited are on Staten Island, which also weird, because I grew up there and was not aware that there were any carousels on Staten Island, let alone two of them.
The first merry-go-round we visited is called the Carousel for All Children - and it really is. It's accessible to all types of children, no matter their developmental issues - or how cranky they are. What can I say - some days, my kids are more special than other days.
One of my kids - who shall remain nameless so as not to embarrass him or her (see what I did there?) - is terrified of things that go up and down. Like, for example, 90% of the horses on the merry-go-round. She/he will not sit on any of the horses, cows, unicorns, elephants, it doesn't matter what the animal is - even if it is does not go up and down, and just stays where it is.
You know those merry-go-round animals that don't go up and down? The stationary ones? The ones you're forced to sit on when you're the last through the gate and all the other horses are taken? So those. This child won't even sit there. No, he/she will only sit on the bench, preferably one that is not shaped like a dragon because we are scared of those too. So she/he runs for a bench, which, lucky for said child, are always empty. Except if someone's great-grandma or very pregnant wife is riding the merry-go-round, then she/he has to share the bench. Such is the life of the kid who insists on riding the merry-go-round, but not really riding it.
This very well-maintained carousel is also right in the middle of a beautiful park called Willowbrook Park, with hiking trails, a lake (pond? river? we're not as outdoorsy as we like to pretend we are when we're wearing sneakers), a playground, picnic tables and just lots of green, outdoor type things. And benches. Lots of benches. My family really enjoys sitting on a bench. In my head, we'll visit the park again and hike around the water with the kids, but who I am kidding? My kids run screaming from the bathroom if they so much as hear the bzzz from a fly.
The other merry-go-round is inside the Staten Island Zoo. Again, who knew? I've been to that zoo many times, especially as a kid. I clearly remember riding the ponies and climbing aboard the hay rides (with the accompanying straw in the underwear problem), but I have no memories of a merry-go-round. None. The only saving grace is that my mom doesn't remember it either, so maybe it really is new.
At the zoo, in an attempt to work with the personalities of children who were up way too late last night, I tried to make the zoo more fun with a kind-of-scavenger-hunt I printed off of my good friend, Pinterest.
In retrospect, I should have printed four copies, one for each kid, instead of being cheap with the printer ink, but you know, printer ink, that stuff costs a lot of dollars.
The scavenger hunt listed the ABC's with a line next to each letter, where one might fill in the name of an animal that starts with that letter, as you come across that animal in the zoo. My kids started filling in the lines in the parking lot, before we even crossed the street to the zoo. And the fighting over holding the pen... some summer days are easier than others, that's for dang sure.
We didn't fill in all the lines on the page, but we also didn't make it through the whole zoo, because - you know what, I don't need to explain why, if you've been reading here before, you already know why we didn't make it through the whole zoo. In their defense though, it was really hot out and also, a weird number of animals start with the letter S and T, so we tripled up on some lines.
The merry-go-round winner though?
According to my kids, the Carousel for All Children in the park was way better. My mother agrees. She rode both with my bench-sitting child and the merry-go-round in the zoo is smaller, meaning it makes a tighter circle as it goes around, which also means my mom was slightly dizzy when she came off the second one.
So lesson learned. I'm sorry, Ma!
I think I have a magical tank of gas.
I really debated even mentioning it because you know how you're never ever supposed to tell anyone when your baby starts sleeping through the night because then that baby will stop sleeping through the night? Well, that's kind of how I feel about my tank of gas.
Josh filled up the van for me last Sunday, and I have driven all over NJ this week, but not just like back and forth school driving, but for real, I have been all over the place - and I even drove into the city once too. But I don't like to talk about that because I couldn't find a spot and I had to park in a garage. Except I didn't know where one was, so while I was waiting for what seemed like hours behind yet another delivery truck, I asked a cop standing on the corner where I might find a parking lot. She looked at me for a long time before she said, do you mean a garage? Garage. Yes. I mean a garage. Parking lots only exist in suburbia. Where I'd always rather be.
The cop told me there was a lot at 7 and 7. Seven and seven? I was on the upper west side, and while I may not know my way around there as well as I used to, I am pretty sure the street names have not changed and that there is no corner of 7th Avenue and 7th Street on the UPPER west side. So I did what anyone would do. I called for help. And Josh said that there's a lot at 81st between Broadway and Amsterdam, but I have to go up 82nd first and come around because ugh, one way streets. Driving in the city is really too much for me in my old age. And also, seven and seven - it took me a while (like the 45 minutes I waited just for the privilege of entering the Lincoln Tunnel), but the policewoman must have meant 77th Street. I think. Whatever. I'm back on high ground here in NJ, where I have a wide street, empty sidewalks and a driveway so life is looking much better right now.
Back to my magical tank of gas. It's Friday. And there's still half a tank left! How is that even possible? I have been in Union, Essex, Morris, Somerset and Bergen counties (some of them even more than once) this week, plus a trip into the city and still, a half a tank of gas. I think it really might be magical. I wonder if it will last all summer. I can only dream.
One of the counties we visited this week - specifically Morris county - has an awesome farm called Alstede Farms in Chester, NJ. It's about an hour away from us, but is totally worth the drive. They have lots of pick-your-own stuff over the summer, but this week they still have amazing strawberries. They are red all the way through, they are super sweet and they are big, not at all like the ones you might pick up in Shoprite. Or in Fairway, if you're still stuck in the city, waiting for traffic to ease up.
The strawberries were also pretty cheap. Five kids picked strawberries for under $20. And (and!) if you go on a weekday and get there before 12pm, there is no $5 entrance fee and the hayride to the strawberry fields is free, so it's definitely worth the trip on a weekday morning.
I don't have any pictures of the actual strawberries, those were all eaten the same day we picked them, but, if you like, I can show you a picture of the ones that are now smashed into the carpet of my van. No really, Stepped on and smashed. I really have to get in there with some carpet cleaner because overnight-marinated strawberries do not make for the best smelling car in the morning. (Although, and this is so off-topic, but we were actually grateful for the awful strawberry smell yesterday when it was still able to overpower the vomit that happened on route 78 during yesterday's adventure. Isn't that such a special story?)
This is what the fields look like - so beautiful. There's no shade because strawberries do not grow on trees, but even though it was a very sunny day, there was a breeze and it was amazing. Also, the hayride comes back around every twenty minutes to these cute hayride bus stops so you don't have to wait too long if you're ready to head back. Or if you're related to me, and you have to go to the bathroom.
And this is a picture of just part of the front yard belonging to our good friends who just happen to live 20 minutes from the farm and who also happen have bathrooms. I think we may just pitch a tent in their front yard and spend the summer there.
We love the library but we never go because I hadn't gotten myself a library card since we moved back to NJ. Not because I didn't want to, but it was just easier to put books on hold at my mom's library and then get them from my mom each time. Except, I also did not get a card because it seems one might need two forms of ID with their current home address and since it took me almost a full year to make my merry way to the DMV and exchange my Florida license for a NJ one, I did not have those IDs that I needed. Also, I just knew that everyone I encountered at the DMV would ask the same question, you moved here from Florida?! Why would you do that?! And I was right. They did. That question is really getting old.
But a few weeks ago, because Josh's anxiety level about my driving around with a license with an address of a house that we do not own anymore was through the roof, I went to the DMV. And the next morning, with my shiny new NJ license, I went and got myself a library card. Except, haha on me! I did not need any forms of ID at all to get my library card because I was already in the system from the last time we lived in NJ. All I had to do was pay a dollar for my "lost" card and I was on my way.
Anywho, today I took the children for library cards.
It took way longer to get them cards than it took for me to get a card.
For starters, they each had to fill out the whole application, and boy, was it enlightening.
I now know that my 9 year old has no idea what street we live on. And that the little one was not aware of what state we live in.
The 7 year old did know my cell phone number, which was impressive and the oldest was over-the-moon happy that someone (anyone!) had finally asked him for his email address.
Forty minutes after we arrived, we left with four shiny library cards and a 9-year-old who wanted to give his back after he learned that he'd have to pay $1 for a new card if he lost it and 10 cents a day for each book that he brought back late. I'm never reading again! (So you know, all is status quo then.)
While we waited for the cards to be ready, we did what people do in the library - we read books. Or some of us did. Three kids found books to read, two of them making themselves comfortable on the gross play-mat in the children's section while I fought the urge to run to the car, grab the Purel and dump it on their heads.
The fourth child - because there always has to be an outlier - could not find anything to read. There's nothing good to read here, he sighed, while standing between two rows of books that housed at least 500 books each. Because, you see, if it's not a Dan Gutman book, it's not really a book. So instead of reading, he did a puzzle. A toddler puzzle. He was very proud of himself afterwards and was horrified (horrified!) that I took a picture of him doing it. He also seized the opportunity of being in a super-quiet library to blow his nose like an old man in a deli might do, after polishing off a roast beef on rye with a pickle and cigar for dessert. It was loud and gross and he used all the tissues in my pocketbook - even the already used ones. I'm not sure if he was prouder of that or the puzzle, but he was sure happy with himself when we left the building.
From the library, we headed to Shoprite, where we cooled down under the lettuce water misters. A few of us may have done a rain dance too. One lady commented, "this is their entertainment for the day, and so much cheaper than going to any @*#! New Jersey beach, that's for sure!" And you know what? She's not wrong. And we learned a new word. So a win for everyone.
In the supermarket, we also learned that if you throw apples into a bag, instead of placing them inside the bag gently, you will have apples with boo-boos and you will not want to eat them. And then you'll have to carefully put those back on the shelf, look around apologetically, and start the picking-of-the-apples all over again.
And one final lesson we learned from going to the supermarket as a group? Always be aware of the old people. They are everywhere. And it's our job to not knock into them or their carts because nothing at all good can come from that. Even if you see pickles on a shelf and you really like pickles. Even then.
According to the calendar, today is the first day of summer.
I hope it's going to be a good one.
It's so cliche to say, but I really am having a hard time believing that today is the last day of school, and it's not just because it's still only the middle of June. I feel like, as a kid, school ended much later, definitely towards the later part of June.
This school year has flown for us, and at the same time, has taken forever. Forever. We had a rough start in a new school and some of us acclimated better and quicker than others, but in honesty, it has been a wonderful year and we are very lucky and grateful for all special teachers and new friends (kid and mommy) that we have made.
For me, as the school year ends, I am grateful to have a break from all the driving. And last night, as I packed the four lunchboxes for the last time - and as I sent up a silent prayer of thanks that all the zippers still zipped and all the water bottles kept it together and did not leak and made it through the year, I could not help but be undecided about how I felt about packing these last lunches.
On the one hand, I feel like dancing on the front lawn, no more packing lunches at 10pm when I should really be in bed, but on the other hand, summer means making snacks all day long. And making breakfast twice and also making interesting things for lunch because no one wants to look at tuna fish anymore. Not that I can blame them, but still.
Either way, I think we are all ready for a long break from leaving the house at 7am.
I have to think about that more.
But only for a minute because summer vacation starts in a few hours - and there's still lots to do to get ready.
Happy last day of school, y'all!
Shavuot is not a minor holiday, but Josh and I experienced a minor miracle today. Josh had the day off and the kids had school, and that almost never happens. The only other time this year that we were blessed with a day together was the day before Pesach, and while lovely, we did spend most of the day vacuuming behind large pieces of furniture.
Today, though, we went to the beach.
Without the kids.
I'll say that again, in case you might not have understood what just happened here.
Josh and I left the house, together, to go somewhere, together and that going somewhere did not involve either of us heading to the hospital to have a baby.
Also, cooking for a three day chag is overwhelming, but when you are blessed with a husband who is happy with eating the same thing for all three dinners and who is also weirdly good at delegating cleaning tasks to the help (ha! I mean the children), you can leave the messy house behind and spend an hour at the beach.
We had so much fun.
Doing absolutely nothing.
We sat, and let our vitamin D-deficient bodies do their thing.
Don't tell anyone, but we didn't even wear suntan lotion.
It's like we were crazy 16-year-olds, or you know, 73 year olds.
One thing we did notice was the sand. Or non-sand. It seems the sand at South Beach in Staten Island has turned to gravel. See? Look.
And even weirder, and it's a little hard to see from the photo, but we also totally saw Moses this morning. On the beach. He even had a staff and you can see it if you look carefully, to his right.
It's all kind of fitting since Shavuot starts tomorrow night. One thing I will point out is that he did shave his long white beard, which makes sense because really, who said Moshe Rabeinu even had a beard. I think we Jews just kind of made that up, along with the whole absoluteness of wearing certain clothing to show that we are part of some very specific and insular community. But I won't go there, not today, that is a whole other blog post, possibly for a whole other blog. Today was for relaxing, and watching Moses walk down the beach, possibly looking for Mt. Sinai and also hedging his bets that he could cross into Brooklyn faster by foot than by taking the Verrazano Bridge. Seriously, what is up with that bridge?
And now we're back home, doing responsible things like picking people up from school and washing pots.
And cooking. Cooking is okay when you also get to go to the beach.
Wishing you a lovely and relaxing Shavuot, one where your heart, mind and soul are open to receiving the beautiful Torah, all over again, as if it were the first time.
It's been quite a week.
I won't keep you in suspense - Tani's surgery was cancelled at almost the very last moment. We arrived at the hospital bright and early on Friday morning, so early that the valet parking wasn't even open yet, much to Tani's exasperation.
First we met with a nurse who admitted us. I mentioned that Tani had a cough the night before, but she listened to her chest and didn't hear anything, so we moved on to the next phase of pre-op, the putting on of the lion themed pajamas and settling in to our own little waiting area, where we were met by Tani's new bff, Jenn, the child-life specialist, who really, thank God for her, because she wound up hanging out with Tani for the next three hours while the doctor and the anesthesiologist debated whether the surgery would happen at all that day.
Tani, of course, did not cough once while we were there, waiting. But since I had already reported it, the anesthesiologist felt she had to follow up on it. Part of me was thrilled - yay! maybe we can just go home, we don't have to do this today! Or maybe ever! But the other part of me was horrified: we spent SO much time planning, on logistics for the other kids, on packing and making sure everything was ready, how can this be happening?
But it did happen.
In the end, the anesthesiologist put the decision back in our laps. Which, honestly, I did not appreciate one bit. I'm not a doctor*, how can I make this decision?
She laid it out like this. The very kind anesthesiologist said, sure, we can go ahead with this. We do surgery on kids who may or may not have a compromised airway all the time, but why should we? If it was my child, I'd run. It's not worth it. But whatever you guys decide, we'll work with.
This might have been one of the hardest decisions we have ever made. Not because we didn't want to do the right thing for Tani. We did, desperately. But the emotional roller-coaster was almost too much, we were exhausted before the surgery even started and now we were being asked to make a medical decision. We don't even like making regular decisions. And we were starving, because we didn't eat anything in solidarity with Tani who couldn't have anything solid since midnight the night before.
So to recap, we were exhausted, overwhelmed and starving. Obviously, the perfect trifecta for making major decisions.
At the end, we opted to hold off. The anesthesiologist looked almost relieved that we did.
The doctor's residents, on the other hand, looked like they were going to cry.
As for Tani, I don't think she really gets what happened (okay, great! so we can go get breakfast?), but Josh and I are certainly grateful that we held off, because her small cough has turned into a nice big one, and recovery from any surgery, but especially back surgery, is made that much worse when you are coughing every few minutes.
And of course, almost the minute the surgery was cancelled, Tani started coughing in the hallway. And all the nurses, residents and the doctor smiled as if to say, ah, there it is, that mom isn't totally insane.
I smiled too, because no one likes to be thought of as crazy. Even me.
*I'm definitely not a doctor. But Josh is. Not a medical one. But he did graduate with his EdD last night. So so proud of you, Dr. Josh. What's a decade among friends, right? :)
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)