Have Kids, Will…Enjoy a Winery (With Kids!)


For as much as I love exploring new places on my own, especially those that offer something wonderfully adult (like wine and no whining), I do love to do things with my family.  It gets harder and harder to convince my two teenagers that our togetherness is important and time well spent.  They don’t buy it.

We were recently invited to a local winery that’s beginning to expand and offer fun events, like 5k races and paint nights.  Knowing it welcomes families, I made sure we all showed up.  The older two drove separately–just in case.

What a nice surprise to find a water slide!  And a playground!  And live music in a barn!  And picnic tables under tents!  I was in heaven!  Where were my children?

Seeing there were no other teenagers, my two darling, pubescent beasts sat in the bed of their pickup truck, likely grumbling about the lame family outing mom forced them into.  Again.  Perched in the back of my minivan, the younger two were raiding the contents of the cooler: fresh baguettes, cheese and prosciutto.  WTF?

Rather than forfeiting my own enjoyment, I let the big boys go home and sent the little boys out to the water slide.  We had a ball!  The wine was fantastic, the bluegrass  music was awesome, and we could relax with our friends, surrounded by the vineyard.  As the sun went down after a gloriously warm day, the kids were running up and down the lush rows of expertly trellised vines, playing a game of tag.

Of course, the water slide that had seemed like such a wonderful feature earlier, left me with two kids that looked like this:


I won’t complain.



Have Kids, Will…Act Like a Crazy Sports Fan

Are you a crazy sports fan?  It’s okay if you are–there are plenty of you out there–and you know who you are.  You’re the very enthusiastic spectator who wears the team colors either in clothing or body paint, often from head to toe.  You enter a stadium with your heart racing and feet bouncing.  You jump up from the sofa and scream at the TV when you’re home watching a game.  You cry when your team loses.  You do cartwheels and beer bongs when they win.  Okay, maybe not beer bongs, but you feel a very real and personal connection to your favorite players.  I get it.

Normally, I am not one of you.  I clap and cheer, but without any real attachment to a specific team or player of any sport.  Well, yesterday I crossed over to your world.  My son’s high school lacrosse team played for the state championship title of their division, and it was an awesome game!  Wearing my team colors, I was jumping up, arms raised, shouting until I had to gasp for air.  Another son who was sitting beside me giggled a “Mom…”

There’s something about witnessing the intensity of competition among a bunch of capable athletes that is truly impressive.  The boys, many of whom I’ve known since they were eight, were playing hard and playing well.  It was wonderful!  When they won, 8-4, there were tears of joy in many parents’ eyes, lots of hugging and high-fiving in the stadium and on the field. While I can’t say I’m a complete convert, I will embrace my crazy sports fan personna any time my kids are part of the game, and I will love it!

Have Kids, Will… Be Grateful

 To say that motherhood changes everything is to make a blanket statement that smothers all the sparkle, magic, and heart-bursting emotion that motherhood brings.  It also skirts around the frustration, sleep deprivation, and agonizing self-doubt that mothers experience.  The statement is essentially true, but so incredibly vague that it doesn’t come close to touching the all-consuming changes that do take place when we become mothers.

In the fabulous book, Glitter and Glue, Kelly Corrigan writes, “Raising people is not some lark.  It’s serious work with serious repercussions.”  Can you feel the gravity of that statement?  There are serious repercussions if we screw this up. On the other hand, there are serious perks to providing our children with the love, support, and compassion that, frankly, is their birthright.  

Anne Morrow Lindbergh once wrote, “I am most anxious to give my own children enough love and understanding so that they won’t grow up with an aching void in them…”  What both of these ladies emphasize is so important.  It’s our duty as parents to make sure our kids become the best versions of themselves when they are adults–kind, ethical, responsible, loving, socially conscious people.  What an enormous task that is!

So, this Mothers’ Day, I want to express my sincerest gratitude for all the women out there who work tirelessly and with awareness of the task at hand.  I consider myself to be in great company as I parent alongside some of the most  incredible moms in the world.  Ladies, you rock!

Have Kids, Will…Fall in Love

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On my recent Spring Break trip to Savannah, I fell madly in love with the Savannah Bee Company.  You can check them out at www.savannahbee.com.  Not only do they have an assortment of local Georgia honeys, they also bottle honey from other parts of the country, and allow you to try them all before making a purchase.  If your experience in tasting honey has been limited to the bottles of clover honey from the grocery store, I’d like to invite you to expand your honey palate.  Just like wine, honey has layers of flavors that are determined by the nectar source, the terroir, and the weather.  You’ll visually notice these differences when bottles from different regions are lined up next to each other and the colors vary from pale golden to very dark amber or brown.  Most people are pleasantly surprised to actually taste the differences.  It feels magical!

So, in addition to offering great varieties of honey, the Savannah Bee Company also makes (or has made under their label) some fabulous products like Royal Jelly Body Butter, lotions, lip balm and lip gloss, hair products, and very cool tee shirts–my favorite ones said, “She works hard for the honey” and “I got my mind on my honey and my honey on my mind”.  To say that I was like a kid in a candy store is an understatement.  I was able to totally nerd out, especially when Usher, one of the employees, gave me a tour of their on-site apiary.  I had my younger two boys with me, so it felt like a really fun Mr. Rogers field trip.  But that was only one of their locations!  We headed to their downtown store where I was able to sample (and buy, of course) some meads, melomels, and metheglins.  In case that sounds like jibberjabber, those are all alcoholic wine-like beverages made with fermented honey.

When the boys and I came home after a 13-hour car ride (hell), the first thing they wanted to do was cut into our block of comb honey.  I’m so glad they’re almost as enthusiastic about keeping bees as I am.  Ben even volunteered to be my beekeeping helper this year…but he also wanted to trade in our chickens and cat for a house in Georgia.

Have Kids, Will…Spring Forward

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Is it normal to nearly hyperventilate at the sight of emerging leaf buds?  This is the effect spring has on me every year.  Never mind that the weather forcast is showing a possibility of snow this Friday.  Never mind that.  We’re not discussing such vile things.  I’m just jumping-out-of-my-skin happy to see little buds on the trees and to hear the sweet song of spring peepers as I drive into my neighborhood.

What is it about the season that elicits such elation?  It’s still cold outside and it tends to rain a lot.  The ground is squishy, the trees are bare, and the time change has everyone out of sorts, grumbling to sleep just a little bit longer.  But the days are stretching out, providing enough light to let us know we’re almost there…the gloom, the chill, the darkness…it’s almost over.  There’s hope!

Hope is one of those feelings that elude some and rule others.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  When a situation feels hopeful, I experience a flutter in my chest and a hop in my step.  It’s a feeling to savor and appreciate because, damn it, life can be hard.  So, despite needing to slip on my rubber mud boots and jacket to leave the house, I’m going to enjoy the emergence of new life, the freshness of the air, and the hope of even warmer days to come.

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Attend a Funeral.

Yes, that’s right.  This is not a funny post.  I had to attend the funeral of a former classmate today.  He was 40 years old.  At the funeral, the priest talked about our purpose in life.  Sometimes we’re called “home” before anyone else thinks we’re ready, and sometimes we live agonizingly long lives that can’t end soon enough.  It’s usually not up to us, but it’s how we live that matters.

In this one short day I’ve realized there is something terribly wrong with how we, as a general American population, are living.  I’m not talking about the shallow made-for-TV-crap that we can easily remove ourselves from.  I’m talking about the day-to-day chaos that I, at least in this moment, am completely overwhelmed by.  Without much notice, it sneaks up on us in the most insidious way.

I attended today’s funeral and visited with some old friends afterwards.  I really wanted to enjoy catching up with people I haven’t seen in ages, but while doing so, I ordered Dominos pizza to be delivered to my boys at home and made sure they weren’t killing each other.  Then, I filtered through no less than 13 group text messages that had to do with sledding in this morning’s snow fall.  On top of that, I had messages coming in that the candy I donated for this weekend’s play was MIA, as was the payment for the “love note” I sent in for the play’s program.  I was also sent a reminder that both my 2nd and 4th graders had “snow day” work to turn in tomorrow–because kids just can’t have snow days anymore.  Then, a friendly request to see how pictures were going for the school fundraising auction, which includes coordinating pictures of some 65 sets of elementary and high school siblings during snow days, exams, field trips, confessions, play practice, sports orientation, and more….has sent me over the EDGE!

Tonight I was talking with people about a mutual friend who has completely removed herself from society.  We talked about it like it was the weirdest thing in the world, and the circumstances surrounding her decision are kind of weird, but really–who can blame her?  Shit piles up on us before we can even think to say “no”.  Our friend died at 40.  How many times did he think “I really wish I was doing something else right now”?

I’m not about to remove myself from volunteer work, or helping a friend in need or attending to my family, but sometimes–just sometimes–I would like the rest of the world to disappear and let me enjoy a moment.  Without anxiety.  Without requests.  Without demands.  And just be.

Have Kids, Will…Hide My Tweezers!

I’m not sure what it is about my kids and tweezers, but good God, I can’t keep a decent set of them around here to save my life.  My eyebrows are such that if I go more than two days without plucking and tweezing them, I could easily be mistaken for Frida Kahlo.  Or Groucho Marx.  They’re unsightly!

On top of that, the males in my household seem determined to either ruin or confiscate every pair I buy.  They use them as some sort of tool that is not related to grooming.  Sure, they can be used to remove ticks–but please, not from the dog!  One of the grossest things I’ve found was a semi-smooshed dog tick impaled at the end of my tweezers just as I was about to remove the offending hairs above my eyes.  I don’t mind if my tweezers are used for removing splinters either, but no one around here likes to have their splinters pulled.  They’d rather use the soak and fester method.

So, how in the world my tweezers disappear, have the ends blunted and burred, or become pulled apart and warped, is beyond me.  These people confess to nothing.  It’s a mystery, and a terribly annoying one.  It’s not like they’re taking the cheap drugstore brand pairs either.  No, no, those aren’t good enough for their nefarious deeds.  They’re taking the $20 Tweezermans.

When I was in Germany last summer, I splurged on a really great pair of tweezers that I had kept hidden from everyone.  They were perfect in all their beautiful, German engineering…sharp, angled just right, and with a grip that exactly matched my preferred finger placement.  Wouldn’t you guess that the one time I left that supremely important instrument out, one of the boys took them, used them in some plot for destruction, and left them, useless, on the bathroom floor.  I cried.

No one admitted to any wrongdoing, and they all looked at me like I’m crazy when I started gesticulating with my arms about the importance of my having a decent set of tweezers.  “Don’t you know,” I pleaded, “that I will develop wooly caterpillars across my forehead if you all keep taking my tweezers?!”  They just don’t get it.

I’ve decided I need to buy a lock box or a safe for my prized possessions.  Some women safeguard their jewelry.  I covet my tweezers.

Have Kids, Will…Go RVing

Where has the time gone?  Is it Groundhog’s Day already?  This past Christmas (2014), I took my family on an RV trip for the first time ever.  Despite having four boys and a fairly outdoors-oriented husband, we are not much of a camping family.  And let’s face it, staying in an RV is just camping on wheels.  I used to actually like camping and worked really hard to convince the hub to go along with it.  He called it “pretending to be homeless” and saw zero appeal.  Somewhere in our 19 years of marriage, he came around (sort of), just as I was giving it up.  Being perpetually sleep deprived is not conducive to sleeping on a hard ground. In a tent.  With a toddler (or two) and a snoring man.  But, I am cheap.  (I mean, frugal.)

When I was thinking about what to give my boys for Christmas, knowing they really don’t need anything and we are limited on space, I immediately thought of a trip.  The prospect of travel is always appealing to me, but paying for six plane tickets is not.  So, after some research, I decided it was high time we tried out an RV.

It turned out to be not so bad.  In fact, the traveling part was quite nice!  We were able to pop popcorn in the microwave, get cold drinks out of the refrigerator, take naps, and use the toilet…all without stopping.  It got to smell a little bit funky, but there was a TV with satellite channels, a card table, a bigger table for games of Scrabble, and plenty of space to stretch out and read.  Lots of distractions!  Of course, my intention was to split the driving as equally as possible, but I somehow managed to scrape a shrub, get stuck in a parking lot, nearly side swipe a guard rail, and generally make my husband nervous every time I drove.  So instead, I did a lot of reading and game playing with the boys.

We made our way from Maryland to Florida within a two-day time frame.  Santa delivered tickets to Universal Studios, where we spent two and a half days exploring Harry Potter’s world, riding roller coasters, and eating crappy, expensive food.  It was wonderful!  Then we went to Gatorland (the best, weirdest amusement/animal park EVER), and into St. Augustine.  During this time, we spent the nights in our rented RV at a few different RV parks.  I had looked into KOAs ahead of time and reserved spaces at a couple in Florida.  They were all clean–impressively so–and family friendly.  We found some great nearby restaurants, which saved me from having to buy groceries and cook on the RV stove (my Christmas gift).

As far as camping goes, this was definitely the way to do it.  We’ve stayed in tents, camping cabins, and deluxe cabins.  But for the distance we traveled, camping in the RV was a fun and fairly stress-free experience.  Can you really ever call family vacations stress-free?  I think we did okay.  It felt really good to come home and take a private shower, get some time away from the constant spell casting, courtesy of Olivander’s wands, and to sleep in my own bed.  But, we made some really good memories for a bunch of die-hard Harry Potter fans, and satisfied my itch to go RVing.  Being in 75 degree weather didn’t hurt, either.

Have Kids, Will…Marvel at the Treasures Within a Dirty Car

Minivans are cool.  No, really, I mean it.  Ever since “having” to purchase one because our family could no longer fit in a normal size vehicle, I have offered mighty praise for this under appreciated set of wheels.  I like that all six of us can travel comfortably in it, along with all the gear, entertainment devices, and bags of snacks that usually travel with us.  We even have room for a couple of friends.  But, it’s all that “stuff” that tends to get left behind.

Anytime we’ve gotten a new (used, but new to us) car, I always consider it a fresh start: a chance to have a nice, clean car, and to keep it that way.  No food or drinks.  Muddy shoes in a plastic bag.  Wipe your nose on your sleeve.  That lasts about a month if I’m extra mean.  Otherwise, it’s about two weeks.

Now that we’ve had our current minivan for several years, it’s looking just as shabby as the last one did when we traded it in with a peppermint still stuck in one of the cup holders.  That thing just would not budge.  Recently, though, out of complete disgust, I cleaned that baby out, ready to take it to the car wash where they would vacuum it, clean the windows on the inside, and wipe away the inch of dust that was forming peaks on my dashboard.  Hopefully the funky smell would go away, too.

As I was sorting through the items that needed to be taken inside from the trash that needed to be tossed, I came across all sorts of treasures.  (You know it’s been awhile since you’ve cleaned out your car if you’re dividing things into piles!)  There was last week’s homework that was never turned in, a field trip permission slip that was also overdue, a library book that I had to pay for because it was thought to be forever lost, candy wrappers, cracker crumbs, juice bags: all the normal kid trash.  Then, lots of pens, pencils, and markers that are never around when we need them, rogue socks (but not a pair, naturally), a jacket, tiny rubber bands from one kid’s braces, and most surprising of all, a tooth.  A DNA crime lab could have a field day with all the hair and bitten off finger nails that were left behind, but a tooth?  Who lost a tooth and just left it in the car?

At least the tooth fairy has some money to leave whichever kid has a fresh gap in his smile with all the loose change I just found.

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Have Kids, Will…Fly!

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In my quest for more adventure (because, you know, having four boys isn’t quite adventurous enough), I looked into what it would take to earn my pilot’s license.  There is a local flight school, whose owner happens to be a dad I know, that offers introductory flights to anyone who might be interested in giving it a shot.  It’s kind of like, Here, try a bite of this delicious chocolate brownie sundae, and see if you want more.  Of course I want more!  It was awesome!

I climbed into the tiny little seat of the Cessna 172 training plane (no training pants, training bra, or training wheels included) and felt like I was in a flying version of my uncle’s old MG Midget.  Surprisingly, this plane wasn’t that old–a 2004, I think.  It was cozy, but intimidating at first.  The instrument panel reminded me that I had no idea what I was doing.  My instructor, Bryce, assured me that the plane was safe and that he would take over if anything were to happen.  He then proceeded to explain what we would do in the event of an emergency, and showed me where the fire extinguisher was located.  “And where do we go if the plane catches on fire?” I asked.  “We stay here,” he replied, “and land the plane.”  Oh.

Remembering that I did sign up for this, I swallowed my fear and listened to Bryce’s directions.  The floor pedals control the direction of the plane while it’s on the ground, as well as the brakes.  He let me swerve around the runway a little bit before we were cleared for take-off.  I wondered what is the equivalent of a DUI for flying…an FUI?

Since my only flying experience has been in the Economy section of a commercial airline, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the small plane.  I barely noticed that we had lifted off until I saw the ground falling away from us.  It was magical!  As we ascended, I marveled at the engineering required to make that happen, and safely.  Bryce talked to me a little bit about how the air gets under the wings and the flaps adjust to the pressure (this is probably a completely inaccurate description, but it’s my interpretation). I was allowed to pull back on the little steering wheel that lifted us higher and higher.  We leveled out and I was flying!  It actually felt more like floating: smoothly sailing across the sky with a beautiful view of the autumnal colors below.

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We stayed in the air for about 45 minutes, finding landmarks, specific waterways, and even my house.  It was fabulous!  Someone once warned me, a long time ago, that flying is an addictive and expensive habit if you take it up as a hobby.  That is a totally accurate statement.  Now I just need to figure out how to make it work!