Who Wants To Go To The Beach?

My kids used to love the beach it.  Love it. We’d pack up the car and drive an hour or two to get to a beautiful beach. They couldn’t wait. And then we moved to a town right at the beach…beaches everywhere.

What happens to kids when you live near a beach?

They get spoiled.

They become selective in which beach they would like to go to and at which tide.

Sometimes, they don’t want to go to the beach at all.

They ask questions and make comments like this:

Will there be big waves?

J: I want big waves because I want to body surf!

M: I don’t want waves because I want to swim!

Will there be a sea breeze? (Really.)

What’s the tide? (True Dat.)

How much seaweed will there be?

M: I hate seaweed! (Shiver.)

J: I want to make a castle with seaweed!

Can we invite (insert names of ten friends here)?

Why not?

What am I supposed to do at the beach if (insert ten friends’ names) don’t   come?

Is he (her brother) coming?

I don’t want him with us.

I s she (his sister) coming?

I wanna play with Mia!

 

(Sigh.) Last time we went, I got SO sannnnndy. (Shiver.)

 

Can we get ice cream?

OK, I’ll go.

(Pause)

I just hope I don’t get all sandy. (Shiver.)

The aforementioned children not having fun at the beach:

IMG_4233

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This Week in Review: Mr. POTL Gets Amnesia, Not Forgot-to-Put-Down-the-Toilet-Seat-Amnesia, But Where-Do-We-Live-Amnesia

It’s true. Mr. POTL, otherwise known as Dave, got amnesia this past week.

The kids and I were so proud of him as he headed off last Saturday to do the Best Buddies Challenge, a 100-mile bike ride fundraiser from Boston to Hyannis. He had trained for months in the rain and the cold, getting up super early and riding before work or first thing on a weekend morning. He had raised almost $2,000 for people with disabilities.

We were also proud of him because it was his birthday and he chose to spend it doing something for others.

That day was the first hot day of this year. It was 95+ degrees with incredible humidity. I thought of him throughout the day as I sweated just walking to and from my car. I worried about him riding in the heat, but he’s Captain Hydration and is the one who’s constantly reminding our family to drink water. I knew he’d be on top of things.

I got a few texts from him during the race, saying that things were good. A picture of him smiling.

I got another text saying he had finished.

And then a couple of hours later, I got a text saying he was dehydrated and getting fluids. I couldn’t reach him. I tried not to worry, assuming it was poor reception.

Then I got a text from his friend, Adam, saying that Dave wasn’t bouncing back as quickly as expected but they were giving him more fluids. A number of his friends and co-workers were also in the hospital receiving care. Adam was one of the few healthy ones and he became my liaison.

Cape Cod Hospital discharged him later that night, declaring him stable.

A night of texts and phone calls. Everything seemed fine. Dave had to stay at a friend’s house at the Cape with his other dehydrated friends because they had missed the bus back to Boston.

JJ’s sixth birthday party was at 11:00 the next morning at our house. Dave was desperately trying to get home in time even though his car was in Boston, his keys were with the Best Buddies organization, and he was at the Cape.

Lots of logistical gymnastics occurred here.

Dave’s friends would drive him to his car, and he’d end up with a key (long story) and drive from there.

But, as I boy-proofed the yard for the party, removing anything that could be used as a weapon or a catapult, Adam called.

“I don’t want to alarm you, Amy. Dave’s ok, but he’s definitely acting strange. He seemed out of it for a while. We couldn’t really get his attention. He’s better now, but I thought you should know.”

So, as I stood on our front porch trying to remain calm for the kids who were now listening in, I called our neighbor. Without hesitation, she said her husband would go pick up Dave. I called Dave to tell him that he seemed confused and that we thought he shouldn’t drive. He said, “I agree. Good idea.” I told him our friend was coming to pick him up.

An hour later, just as the party was about to start, our friend pulled into the driveway with Dave. Dave waved him off and got out of the car.

As I hugged him, Dave asked, “Why’d he pick me up?”

My stomach fell.

“Remember? We talked about this. You said it was a good idea because you were confused.”

“No. Confused about what?”

“Probably confused from being dehydrated.”

“Why would I be dehydrated?”

“From the race?” (getting more panicked)

“What race?”

And that’s when I knew how bad things were.

I helped Dave into the house and had him lie down. I called my dad, who is the first person you’d want with you in an emergency. Calm and cool.

I told him I needed him to take Dave to the hospital because Dave had no memory and JJ’s party was starting. I didn’t want to call an ambulance because I didn’t want to scare the kids.

My dad got to our house, just as guests started arriving. Kids ran, screamed, and jumped on the trampoline. I didn’t know many of the parents and here they were, standing in my house, as I tried to herd my confused husband out the door to the hospital.

It took my dad and I almost an hour to get Dave out the door because he was so confused.  All he wanted to do was lie down.

Two hours later, I had made it through the party, without ever really knowing what I was doing or saying. My neighbors came and took over. They threw balls; they played games. I don’t know what else they did, but I know they saved us.

After the cake, I left my neighbors to finish the party (and clean and take care of the kids) and met my dad and Dave at the hospital. As a physical therapist, a majority of my work was with neurological patients. I knew way too much about all of the things that could cause memory loss.

When I saw Dave, his eyes lit up. He told me later that he always knew who I was but that each time he saw me, it was like we were falling in love all over again. I could feel that connection, and it kept me going.

My breathing stopped when Dave said, “Your dad told me I did this race. What race? Your dad told me I coach soccer. Whose soccer? When?”

So now the memory loss had spread to long-term events, not just the day of the race. He had coached JJ’s soccer team for weeks and had no idea.

As the doctor worked on ruling out brain tumors, strokes, and seizures, I prayed.

“Please, please, please. Please do not let him die.”

And then, I added more. “Please, please, please, God, please do not let him have a tumor. At least not a malignant tumor. At least not something we can’t survive. Give us anything, as long as we can survive it.” And then I wondered if you could pray too much. Was I getting greedy, asking for too many specifics? I hoped not. I hoped that God would take into account my desperation.

I’m going to stop here and write more later, but I’ll give you the ending so you don’t worry:

The doctors ruled out all of the “bad stuff:” tumors, strokes, brain diseases, seizure disorders.

They think he had low blood perfusion to the brain for a long time because of the race, which had caused low blood pressure, dehydration, and low sodium.

It’s been just over a week, and Dave has gotten back more memories every day. The doctors expect him to make a full recovery with his memories, although maybe not the day of the race.

I’m so proud of him for doing the race and for getting through the horror of this week.

I hope we can start looking forward and make some new memories that we’ll never forget.

 

wedding (6)

 

There is so much I want to write about: the overwhelming kindness and support, the way people have lifted and carried us through this,medical care (the good, the bad, and the dicks), how this has affected our relationship, the kids, even the dog…see why I couldn’t keep writing? I’ll write more soon.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Maybe

Many of you, ok, all of you, have heard me complain about bedtime. It is not my favorite time of day. Usually, I just want the children to Go. To. Sleep.

The other night, though, I understood what the parents who speak of bedtime as a precious time are talking about.

M. is about to be in her first performance of Annie this week. She has been singing Maybe, Tomorrow, and NYC in the shower, during dinner, and when she goes to bed.

As I tucked her in, she looked up at me with her huge green eyes and asked, “Mommy, do you ever hear a song that makes your heart hurt so much that you could cry?”

I nodded.

She continued, “Because when Annie sings,

‘Betcha my life is gonna be swell.

Looking at them it’s easy to tell.

And maybe I’ll forget how nice he was to me,

And how I was almost his baby…’

I can’t help but cry. I know Annie’s going to stay with Daddy Warbucks,and I know she’s going to be happy, but it makes me cry anyway. And, Annie’s not even Annie. She’s my friend, Katie. I know she is happy, and I know she’s not getting taken away from Daddy Warbucks, but I still feel so sad. I asked some of my friends if that happens to them, and they didn’t know what I was talking about.”

I told her that I knew exactly what she was talking about because music has always had that effect on me, too.

And that bedtime was worth 1,000 crazy ones.

Now I dare you to listen to this and see if you don’t get verklempt:

Maybe Reprise

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Other People Ski. Why Don’t We? Grab a Knee.

Ahhhh, skiing. That outdoor sport where beautiful North Face families frolic in the snow, swooshing down the slopes together, only to gather fireside as the sun sets. The photographs are stunning, really. Do you have that picture in your mind?

Now picture this:

This past weekend, Mister POTL and I fired up and took the kids skiing. We thought that, at ages nine and five, they were finally ready. We arrived at the hotel and were instantly happy with our decision. The kids ran around, squealing and saying, “Look! We have a trundle bed! This is the best place ever!” Mister P. and I looked at each other. See, this was the stuff memories were made of.

Then we left for lunch. What was this? Minus thirteen not including the wind-chill? Eighty mile-per-hour wind gusts?

Let’s be clear. I am a self-declared “summer girl.” I am slightly to moderately depressed from the Winter Solstice to the Vernal Equinox. Something brings me down: be it the darkness, the frigid temperatures, the rampant norovirus, or the lack of flip-flops. I am not myself. But, I have decided to be the change. I have decided to embrace winter. I have bought fun hats, ponchos, ice skate, sleds, and downhill skis. I have decided to show my children how to love winter even if I don’t.

But Be-the-Change-Winter-Girl was nervous about these artic temperatures. Luckily, Mr. POTL, a true lover of winter, decided that skiing in -13 degree temperatures wouldn’t be good for anybody, so we lingered at our lunch restaurant, which also happened to be a bar/arcade. Everybody was happy.

As the afternoon wore on, we wondered, what could we do at a ski resort if we weren’t going to ski? We could go in the pool!

The lukewarm water was filled with pre-pubescent hockey players staying at the hotel for a tournament. Their moms sat in lounge chairs, wearing faux fur boots and form-fitting ski sweaters, talking to one another and playing on their iPads. I slunk past in my Land’s End skirted swimsuit and glowing white skin and forced my way in between the screaming boys (one of the only moms in the pool). JJ forgot that he actually knew how to swim and stood screeching on the side of the pool until we convinced him to climb in. At that point, he alternated clinging to our necks and various other body parts while thrashing violently.

Fast-forward: children crying about the cold, the wind, the wet hair, having to get changed, having to go out to dinner, having to get ready for bed…

I’ll spare you the details.

JJ is not the best sleeper, so Dave and I were excited that JJ would be in a trundle next to Mia. We knew this would make him feel happy and safe and maybe he’d actually sleep through the night. Besides, we were in an open loft, so our bed was right around the corner.

But when we finally got the kids in bed after the whining/crying/flailing about the wrong type of toothpaste, etc., JJ told us that he wanted to go home. He didn’t want to sleep anywhere but in his house. We tried to comfort him with numerous reasons why staying in this hotel would be ok and safe for everyone, but he wanted no part of it.

Mia was now mad that JJ was keeping her awake. She wanted him out of her room. And JJ wanted us in his room. Through a complicated, intricate series of musical beds, I ended up sleeping on a twin bed with the kids while Mr. POTL slept in what was to have been our bed twenty feet away.

Morning could not come fast enough. But when it came, the kids were so tired from the night’s musical beds that they were even further discombobulated. JJ declared that, not only did he not want to sleep away from home, but he also did not want to go to the bathroom away from home. The kids declared their ski socks too tight and too “seamy.” When it was time to go to breakfast, I said I wasn’t going anywhere with them (an adult tantrum). I stayed home, ate a granola bar, and tried to regain my mojo for the day ahead.

When they returned from breakfast, JJ squirmed on the floor, pleading not to go. I decided to stay with him at the hotel. He decided to go skiing.

That day, we “skied.” In other words, I schlepped ski equipment from one side of the mountain to the other while the kids tried to decide if they were going to ski or not. If they were going to do the J-bar or not. If they were too tired or not. I declared that I was leaving (another tantrum), but I had no car. I believe I also declared that I was never taking another family vacation.

Sure, there were ups in the midst of these downs. The kids loved the lodge hot dogs. I won’t get into the other downs, but I will say that I’m going to go Google “is teaching kids to ski a cause of alcoholism?”

***

Flash forward twenty-four hours:

 

We all go to breakfast together.

 

We all go to the top of the mountain together.

 

A nice man takes this photo of us, looking like a normal family whose kids haven’t been freaking out and whose mom hasn’t been having tantrums for the past day and a half.

 

We all ski down the mountain with snowflakes falling on us, stopping to laugh and congratulate one another.

 

I don’t know what my point is, but I think I need to link a survivor song to this blog. Happy Winter, everyone!

 

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Words with Friends/ The Husband

The other night, Mr. POTL and I were having a romantic night, playing Words with Friends from different rooms in the house. Sad? Yes. But necessary.
JJ now needs someone in his room until he falls asleep, so Mr. was in JJ’s room, playing his words, while I lounged on our bed, playing my words.
The situation itself seemed sad enough, but then I noticed our words.
A sample of Mr.’s:
PUG
WIFE
TEARS
HATED
IRK
A sample of mine:
TOOT
GAGA
COOTIES
BUB
OAF
I’ll leave it at that, but I think Freud might have something to say. Interpretations, anyone?
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Some Say Puppies Are Like Babies

We got a puppy a few months ago, a snuggly little pug puppy, full of mischief and teeth.

Wherever I go, people say, “Wow, puppies are a lot of work. It’s like you have a third kid. A baby!”

Recently, another mom said, “Phew. You must be exhausted. I hear it’s like having a newborn.”

And I replied, “Ohhhhh, no. Not a third kid. ‘Cause this puppy doesn’t have colic or reflux and throw up all over me while I have to bounce him on the physio ball or bounce him in the sling while whooshing and shwooshing while he screams and screams and doesn’t stop and I think I’m going to go crazy and end up in an asylum somewhere.”

And I saw her open her eyes in what I’m pretty sure was horror.

So now I know:

1. It’s better to answer “yes, a puppy is like a baby.”

2. I still have PTSD from the colicky baby state.

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Long Live Santa

When my daughter, Mia, was three, we lived in a house without a chimney. “How’s Santa going to get in?” she asked.

“Through the door,” I said.

“Are we going to leave the door unlocked?”

“Ummm, I don’t know.”

“I don’t want it unlocked. Then robbers could come in.”

“Well, let’s lock it. Santa’s magic. He can get in.”

 

A couple of days later, Mia was back with more questions.

“He comes in when we’re sleeping, and walks around our house? That’s scary.”

“But Santa’s nice.”

“But I don’t want him in our house.”

“But he brings you presents.” (Here I was going against every safety rule I’d ever tried to instill– insisting we let a strange man into our house because he had presents.)

“I don’t want him to come in here.”

 

I was starting to precede every answer with a huge pause. “Ummm, I guess I could write him a note and tell him to leave the presents on the doorstep? Would that be better?”

“Yes.”

“Ok.”

And then I prayed that it wouldn’t rain on Christmas Eve.

But by Christmas, she had decided to “let” Santa into our home, and he was able to deliver presents and leave them under the tree.

 

Since then, my inability to lie without getting flustered and my poor recall of details have made me a consistently confused Santa. Plus, now Mia is older and has a 5-year-old brother, JJ, who joins in her questioning. For one month of the year, I am under constant cross-examination. Both of them wholeheartedly believe in The Santa but do not believe in any of the Santas that they have seen around town.

 

This year, we stood on the waterfront and watched our seaside town’s tradition of Santa and Mrs. Claus arriving by Coast Guard boat. It was so breathtaking to see our community gathered together, cheering, as the Coast Guard cutter rounded the corner that I came close to being a believer again myself. When it was over and we were back home again, Mia looked at me and said, “Well, that was nice, but that Santa was fake.”

“What? That Santa was real! Did you see how amazing he was? And Mrs. Claus?”

“Mommy, his beard blew off when the wind blew, and he had an awful singing voice.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“He was definitely just an elf.”

“Yep,” chimed in JJ. “Definitely an elf.”

“Besides,” JJ exclaimed, “he was wearing a life vest!”

“Of course he was,” I responded. “He has to be safe.”

“The real Santa wouldn’t need a life vest because he can’t die. So why was he wearing a life vest?”

“I’m sure he wanted to show the kids how to be safe on the water.” (Question marks swirling inside my head.)

“No,” JJ sighed. “It’s because he was an elf.”

 

Did I tell them at some point that all of these faux Santas were elves? I don’t remember. I really don’t. It sounds like something I could’ve made up on the fly under cross-examination, but I am caught in my own web of lies.

I also confuse my identity with Santa’s. How am I supposed to remember who gave what to whom? Especially when I am buying the presents from me and from Santa. JJ just asked me about a Lego set he got last year. “Did you give me these, or did Santa?”

I. Have. No. Idea.

“Sannn-ta?” Hesitantly.

“I think it was you.”

“It might have been me.”

 

I sent them a video from Santa at the Portable North Pole. It was a gorgeous video, individualized for each of them and very realistic. Both of them loved the videos of Santa but then Mia said, “Can I email Santa back?”

“I don’t have his email.”

“But he emailed you. Just hit reply.”

“I don’t think it works that way.”

“Why? That doesn’t make sense. You can always reply to someone—- unless that Santa is not real.”

“Ummmm, I think Santa must just have an anonymous email account because he doesn’t have time to get back to all of that email. I mean, can you imagine all of the email?”

 

Just when I think I’ve messed up so much that there’s no way they can believe any longer, something happens to show me that they do.

 

This week, Mia told me, “Some kids on the bus said that Santa isn’t real.”

“Oh?”

“I said, ‘Just wait and see who brings your kids’ presents when you’re a grown-up!’”

 

She still believes!

 

Why do I care so much? I have the gifts from Santa, the gifts from me, the wrapping paper from Santa, the wrapping paper from me. And then, I must remember to change my handwriting and use separate Santa labels. I am there with my half-assed, shaky answers, crumbling under cross-examination. It’s quite an elaborate ruse, isn’t it?

 

I gladly continue the charade, though, because it keeps my kids young. It’s not about the presents. It’s about the magic. In this day, kids grow up way too fast. They hear about violence and sickness, death and tragedy. This week’s horrific events in Connecticut have struck us all, them included. Both of them worry a lot. They have the tendency to be anxious about many things. I love that no matter how much my kids have been exposed to at school, on the bus, or in the news–no matter how many scary stories they have heard or bad times they have experienced, they still have a few moments of peace where they believe that a smiling man in a red suit can fly around the world in one night, bringing happiness to so many.

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Sharing the Grief

I can’t wrap my mind around the horror, the anguish of Friday’s events, but I also realize that what I feel is helpless. For many tragedies, we can somehow mobilize. And we, as loving humans, are often good at mobilizing. In times of sickness, we make casseroles, and deliver them, neatly packaged and labeled, made with love. In times of natural disaster, we send clothes and food. We have hotlines to text donations to the Red Cross. We know how to care for one another. We set up meal trains, car pools, play dates, fundraisers. We can do these things.

 

What we cannot do is take away the grief of those parents. We can grieve, but our grieving does not lighten their pain.

 

My kids speak of joy in terms of bits. They have described their best days as “One thousand bits of fun.” They also love to tell me that numbers start but never end. JJ is amazed when he tells me, “Numbers start with zero but go to infinity.”

 

In my land of magical thinking, when I was lying awake last night, I wished that the 300 million people in the U.S. could each take some of that grief and share it.

I imagine those parents have grief to infinity, but if I could have one wish, it would be that we could each take on bits of grief to lighten their load.

 

The old, the young, the optimistic, the pessimistic, the healthy, the infirm, the joyful, the grumpy–I am sure that everyone would be willing to take on some bits of grief. We could spread out the bits until those parents were left with what they could manage so that they could still experience joy and smiles and laughter.

 

I’ll take one thousand bits, please.

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Thank God for Mr. POTL, Our Family’s Own Mr. Roger’s

I’ve been putting off having The Conversation since Friday. Here I’d been thinking that it’d be so hard to the kids someday about sex or drugs, Internet predators or alcohol. Those topics now seem like banter in comparison to Friday’s events.

 

I read the advice. Stay calm. Be straightforward and simple. Try not to be too emotional. Answer questions matter-of factly.

 

Just when I thought I had the courage to tell my kids about Friday’s events last night, I decided to give them one last night of innocence. So I waited until this morning. I knew I had to tell them, not because I wanted to, not because it was my instinct, but because all of the experts have told me to. And I know that they are right. For children, hearing terrible news as a rumor on a bus is way more terrifying than hearing it in the loving arms of their parents.

 

Dave and I sat down with the kids after breakfast and suddenly I was speechless. How were we supposed to keep things simple when we’ve never come across a topic so complicated? Religious leaders, mental health professionals, the smartest people in the world have no words and no solutions. So what could we possibly do to “keep it simple?”

 

And, when I get nervous or confused, I talk more, not less. I babble. This was not a time for babbling, so I was silent. While I was pausing a long pause, Dave jumped right in.

 

To be honest, I can’t remember what he said. I was too inwardly emotional (not what I was supposed to do) at the time to remember things clearly now. All I know is that he spoke to them in the calmest, most straightforward, simple way you could ever know. He did not get too emotional. He did not veer off track. He told them facts. He reassured them without making impossible promises. I saw our daughter’s eyes open wide and scared and then relax by the end. Daddy had made her feel safe. I saw our son pay close attention at the news and then say that he’d throw pizza at a ghost if one came to his school. He didn’t quite understand, but he doesn’t quite need to. Not now. Daddy had told him what he needed to know.

 

I felt like the Dalai Lama himself, or perhaps Mr. Rogers, had just sat down and told our kids about Friday. And this same individual had just made me feel safer, too.

 

The kids went back to playing. Dave cleared away the dishes. And I thought how lucky I was. 

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Today.

I could not wait to pick up my son from preschool. I was so happy that I was able to pick him up today. Who would’ve thought I ever would’ve had to be grateful for that simple pleasure? I could not wait for that yellow bus to round the corner and see my daughter run toward me.

I don’t have words to describe the hugs and the way I soaked their essence right up into me.

But then I had to drop Mia off at a birthday party, so JJ and I were alone. I couldn’t shake my feeling of anguish over what had happened.

Rather than go home, I wanted to be around other people.

“What do you think about getting something to eat while we wait?” I asked JJ.

“Yessss! Can we go to Port Tavern?” JJ squealed.

When we were at dinner, I was in the strange position of sitting in a booth, facing both JJ and a widescreen TV with no sound. If I looked straight ahead, I could see both the coverage of the shooting and my son, smiling mischievously over a steaming bowl of mac and cheese. While other patrons and staff gathered around the TV to see the images of what had happened, I tried to focus only on JJ.

At numerous points, I couldn’t help myself from crying. The waitress knew. JJ didn’t seem to. The waitress and I, as adults, were in this together.

I had a heightened sensitivity to everything JJ did. When he touched me, I felt extra warmth. I could smell coconut shampoo on his fuzzy head. I really heard everything he said. In thirty minutes, he covered all of these topics: Mama, Sarah likes rainbows! Did you see the picture I drew of Mia? I made her have a tattoo of Frankenstein! Do you think I know more than Siri? I think birds CAN smell with their beaks. This mac and cheese is good, but I like the box kind that you make the best. Do you think it would be fun to be a dog? I do. Why can’t we take Guapo out to dinner?”

He slithered and wiggled, and I did not get exasperated.

 

My heart ached for how beautiful and innocent he is, and how lucky I was to be eating dinner with him, just like any other night. And my heart ached and ached and ached for those beautiful and innocent children who are now gone and for their parents who will not be sitting with their slithering, wiggling loves.

Here’s to really being here. Today. Tomorrow.

 

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