Sunday, August 31, 2008

The long and short of it.

So the Libuttis hit the road last week and spent a week in Cape Cod. Here are some of the highlights.

All that's old is new again. We have been to the Cape before for vacations both before and after we had Michaela, but this is the first time we stayed for a week, stayed in a house, went to three new beaches, tried to entertain two young daughters who declared they were "beached out" by Tuesday afternoon, and stayed in a new town on the Cape.

Eastham, my love. We stayed in a ranch-style house in Eastham, which is further out- hence it's called the Outer Cape- than we usually stay. It is a rural, unpolished, and absolutely beautiful. It is just raw, wild beauty to me. Lots of ocean beaches, bay beaches, locally owned restaurants and ice cream stands, all which are named some derivative of "The Lobster Shack", it seems, and totally lacking in pretense. In the middle of town was the Eastham Superette which is everything you imagine a little supermarket on the Cape would be. (A little dirty, very local, and covered in grayed cedar shakes.) I loved stopping there on our way home each day and grabbing a newspaper. I could go to Eastham every summer for the rest of my life and be perfectly happy.

Casualties of vacationing. We lost our cooler somewhere and didn't realize it until we were packing up to leave on Saturday. We tried searching through our pictures to see the last time we had it but I think we just forgot to carry it back to the car one day. Our camera also broke after I exposed it to water at a water slide park. I mean, what's a few drops of water to a sensitive electronic device?? We also lost several years off of our lives on Sunday when Jenna wandered down the beach as the ocean's high tide was coming in and couldn't find her for about three minutes. I thought she had been swept out to sea and Dan thought someone had taken her. Thankfully, the moms and lifeguards on the beach united in an unstoppable force and found her right away. She had no idea she was even lost so she was fine. We were basket cases. I think that was the day we lost the cooler.

Beaches, beaches and more beaches. We explored an ocean beach, a Cape Cod Bay beach, and a beach on Nantucket Sound. Each had their own charm. The girls were less than thrilled with the ocean: Jenna said it sounded like thunder. We met the fabulous Strauss boys and their parents for a day (they were in Plymouth, MA and we met halfway) and then had a super-yummy dinner at Baxter's Fish 'N' Chips in Hyannis. A pretty much perfect day.

Souvenirs. Total non-food items purchased: three.

1. "Welcome to Eastham" refrigerator magnet: $2.99 in the tackiest souvenir shop I've been in over the last 25 years.

2. One stuffed kitten toy covered in rabbit hair, taxidermist-style: $12.99 in Chatham in a little gift shop we found. Jenna picked it out.

3. One Whoopee Cushion: $2.99 in the store mentioned in #1. Michaela picked it out and could not have been more pleased with her purchase. Now every time Jenna hears a farting noise, she asks, "Was dat a whoopee tushion?"

4. The two that got away: a lobster belt for $19.99 in a store in Chatham that I encouraged Dan to buy but he didn't and a t-shirt in the same store that said "Wicked pissah" on it. Sooo Massachusetts. I loved it.

Always on the move. We hiked. We biked. We went to a children's museum and played. We sailed on a pirate ship and found the treasure. (We also took aboard a castaway named Splash- he was part of the pirate schtick- who Michaela was extremely suspicious of. At the end he helped to distribute the Pirate's Grog, which tasted a lot like grape soda, and she whispered in my ear with astounding seriousness, "Don't drink the grog... it could be poisonous." I mean, it was like she was a detective from Law and Order: Special Pirates Unit. She was all over him.) We swam. We searched for shells. We mini-golfed.

Here's Michaela and Jenna sitting in the bow of the pirate ship.

Unforgettable. We watched the high tide come in over the Bay beach at First Encounter Beach (Ahh, for the history buffs: this is where the Pilgrims came ashore and had their first encounter with the native Wampanoags in the area. I think the word "encounter" is a bit euphemistic as it brings to my mind exchanges of a colorful wampum belt for a really good bottle of English wine, a nice red, perhaps, but if you read the fine print in the Cape Cod informational brochures, the Wampanoags shot arrows, the Pilgrims returned with gunfire and then hightailed it out of there.). We saw the sunset over the beach one night. And on our last night we watched fireworks over Wellfleet Harbor while huddled together sitting on a beautiful beach. The breeze was gorgeous, the scenery breathtaking and being together to see it was a moment I just wanted to bottle up and save in my heart forever.

It was one of the times you realize, I am living in my own utopia.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

For those of you keeping score at home...

... add Water Wizz Water Fun Park in Wareham, MA as yet another fun place that I have nursed Jenna.

Other notable places include: Marconi Beach, Wellfleet, MA; First Encounter Beach, Eastham, MA (both of which occurred on our vacation this week... more about that later); on a rowboat on Lake Taconic, NY; the Great Escape Amusement Park, Lake George, NY while on the ride that circles above the whole park; every major mall within a 20 mile radius; the chapel at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; and- my personal favorite-

in the pod bringing us up to the top of the St. Louis Arch. And then again at the top of the Arch itself.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Trilogy by Michaela

Guess who learned how use the video function on my camera?

Film 1- "By Accident"
For some reason, I think my brother will find this first one particularly funny... I can just hear him giggling at Michaela saying, "and she woke up, by accident..."

Film 2- "Actually, Jenna, I am the boss of you."

Film 3- "The Tour"

Hope this tides y'all over for the next week. We're off for a week-long vacation: the longest vacation we've been on... ever. Yup, that's right.
Have a great week!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sleepin' off the Pez high

Here is my baby, my love.

With a Princess Jasmine Pez dispenser in her mouth as she takes a nap at Gammie and PopPop's. They were babysitting while we attended a 10th anniversary party for our friends.

We arrived home to find this scene:

More out and about with Cheryl

Sorry for the long time between posts... I have lots going on here with volunteer work for church and getting ready for our vacation. My mind is going a million miles per hour.

Anyway, here are two recent "out and about" moments for ya...
1. While shopping at Walmart the other day (where would I get stories from if it weren't for Walmart? I love it there.) I was searching the shelves for Progresso tomato rotini soup. Walmart likes to play little tricks on me by pricing the soup sooo low but changing the arrangement of the soups each time, so I am all excited to buy my soup but can't find my soup. I end up standing there, oblivious to the world around me, except to FIND CHEAP SOUP, including my own children who are usually running up and down the aisle when they notice that I am distracted or start asking for baby dolls and Littlest Pet Shop toys, searching the shelves frantically for my beloved flavor. So we're going through this whole routine and it turns out that it's Straighten Up The Shelves day at Walmart- every aisle has two or three irritated associates who are taking thing out, neatening it up, etc. A smallish male associate is standing near me, towards the other end of the soup section and I notice that he is talking. Then I realize he's talking to me.
"Excuse me?" I ask.
"Someone stole my license plates off of my motorcycle yesterday. Can you believe that?"
Stunned by his lack of context in the story- and let's face it, I'm just trying to buy some cheap soup here- I give him my standard Walmart response:"Wow!"
"Yup, just ripped them right off. How'd you like to come out of work and find your license plates ripped right off?"
"That's too bad," I answer. And move down a little further away to find my soup.

I told this story to Dan when he came home and he said, "I think I saw a sign at Walmart the other day near the entrance. It said, All associates must leave personal boundaries at the front door. "

Well put.

2. We went on Tuesday night to a water ski show on the Mohawk river. We went with our friends Tom and Angel and their girls, who are just so cute, and smart, and we grabbed a bite to eat together afterwards. The show was free and adorable and very, very corny but the water skiing was fun to watch and did I mention it was free?

Parking was very tight and being new to the water ski show we were unfamiliar with other places to park. We asked the first parking attendant and he told us the lot was full. I spied a second, older parking attendant (and I use this term loosely- they were dressed in a light blue faux-police uniform shirt and were standing around, waving their arms and looking official, but also seemed pretty marginal) and told Dan, "Let's ask this guy if there's other places to park. He'll be nicer."

So we pull up to him and very earnestly and nicely ask if there is another place to park.
And he answers, moving the minimal amount of facial muscles while staring suspiciously at us:
"Not here."

Thanks sooo much for the help.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Wild Saturday Night at the Libuttis.

Hot off the press... the girls showed me this new trick and I grabbed my camera to film it and post it for the masses.

So here are my girls, fresh from the tub, whooping it up on a Saturday night.

They are beautiful and perfect and lots and lots of fun.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thankful for what I don't have.

Back in the early spring, Dan and I were watching a Yankees game together and some commercials came on. One that tends to play in heavy rotation is an ad for Valtrex, a medication to help control genital herpes.

I watched the ad, turned to Dan and said,"I am REALLY glad I don't have herpes."

Dan's response:"WHAT?!?"

So I try to explain: "I mean, just think about how horrible it is... it's a terrible virus, it never goes away and then you have to think about it for the rest of your life: am I having an outbreak (I learned this terminology from the ad- your pharmaceutical dollars at work!)? Am I in the clear? Is it okay for me to have 'contact' with my partner or should I wait until my outbreak calms down? Think about when you're dating someone... what if you have herpes and have to tell them? What an embarrassing conversation to have... here you are at a nice restaurant, just finishing up your glass of a really nice Merlot and you have to say, 'Uh, I really like you and think you should know before we go any further that I have a permanent disease that affects my, um, private parts and I could possibly give it to you, you know, if we, uh, proceed any further...soooooo, are you cool with that? Or... not?'
It's just so awful.
Every time I see these ads I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I don't have herpes."

Dan stared at me in a stunned silence and then busted out laughing, which is hard for him because he doesn't make any noise when he laughs. "I have seen that commercial a hundred times and never, ever thought about it."

"Well", I say,"maybe you should be a little more grateful that we don't have to think about it."

I feel the same way about the NYS Smoker's Quitline ads. The stories they profile are so sad, and you can just feel how badly people want to stop smoking yet they are seemingly powerless over the grip that nicotine has over them. The smokers look so helpless and bereft.

The next time that ad comes on, I say to Dan: "And smoking, too... I'm really glad I don't have to quit smoking."

I think I am going through empathy withdrawal... too many years as a social worker sitting with people who were sick and hurting and dying and now I don't have enough sad things in my own life to empathize with, so I am left with the nice looking, white, middle class, conservative couple in the Valtrex ad who say as they smile and look directly into the camera without a hint of embarrassment:
"I have herpes..."
"... and I don't. So we use Valtrex to control outbreaks..."

Makes me shudder with gratitude.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Turn, Turn, Turn...

It's no wonder my girls struggle with the seasons, month and time: today- August 14th- we were on our way to get professional pictures taken at the mall, wearing our Fourth of July outfits and listening to the soundtrack from Polar Express.
Merry Christmas... can you turn up the air conditioning?

(And the really ironic thing is when I posted this the first time, I had August 13th as today's date. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Michaela and Uncle Michael's Excellent Adventures

On Sunday Michaela and her family went down to visit her Uncle Michael and Aunt Jaime and see their awesome new digs.

Michaela had a most excellent time with her uncle.
First, Michaela and Jenna have a little lunch: Cheetos and Capri Sun. Michaela and Jenna think that Uncle Michael and Aunt Jaime are really, really fun. And lenient for letting them eat Cheetos on a fairly new couch.

Michaela convinces both Michael and Jaime to go into a very nice but not very warm pool at their complex.

See Michaela race Uncle Michael from one end of the pool to the other. Michaela won.

See Michaela and Uncle Michael lounge, quite casually, poolside.

Michaela brought Guitar Hero on her DS to their house and challenged Uncle Michael to a duel.

Then she upped the ante by betting him two bucks that she could beat him. (How quickly a new apartment turns into an illegal gambling den.)

First she shows him how to play.

Then Uncle Michael plays.

At first, he tells her he has won. But then it is revealed that Michaela is indeed the winner.

Michaela celebrates.
Michaela grabs her four bucks from Paga, who was the banker, and screams, "IN YOUR FACE!!" in a most lady-like fashion.

Uncle Michael then finds his old Nintendo game console and he and Michaela play a boxing game. Michaela insists on calling it "punching". Michaela is surprisingly good.

Jenna and Michaela are thrilled when Cousin Olivia comes on the scene.

It was a wonderful day full of fun.

Thank you Uncle Michael and Aunt Jaime!!! We love you (and your new place)!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Umm, something like that.

Michaela, Jenna and I were in the car the other day and I was explaining to her that our car (or "tar", as Jenna calls it) is very safe and big and heavy and we never have to worry about getting hurt if something hits us.

(Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration... I mean, we don't drive an Army tank but our big black SUV looks pretty daunting to the outside world- Don't mess with me and the precious cargo I hold, I like to think it says to the other cars on the road. And besides, I'm all about making things simple and easy for the girls to understand.)

So Michaela thinks about this for a second and says, "You mean, like a space meteor?"

I try not to laugh and say as gently and casually as I can, "Well, I was thinking of other cars, but yeah, we'd be safe from a space meteor, too."

A little later in the car ride, Jenna, who was still smarting from a ferocious talking-to I gave both girls that morning about not talking back, listening to and doing as Mommy tells us to, etc., asks in a very quiet voice, "Are you a good mommy or a bad mommy?"


I tried to reassure her that of course I am a good mommy and that I am a mommy who wants her girls to be good listeners and show good behavior.

And even later in the car ride, Michaela asked about a spot on Dan's arm where he donated blood at work. "Do you have to give your blood when you go to work?" she asked. I reassured her again that, no, Daddy chose to do that to help someone who might be hurt and need extra blood. "But does he have enough left? Doesn't he need it?" I told her it's like if you have four cookies and you give one to your friend who is hungry: you help him out and you still have three cookies left. (Which, incidentally, is the number of cookies I was allowed to have after dinner or for a snack when I was growing up. Is that the norm? Were some moms more strict and only gave their kids two? Did more lenient ones give four? or five? I have to consult Dan on this and see what the rule in his house was.)

She was satisfied with this response and said while she shuddered, "I'm NEVER giving my blood away at work!"

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Better late than never, I guess.

My pathetic accomplishment of the day yesterday: finishing writing, addressing and mailing Jenna's thank you notes from her birthday... which was in May.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Visitors and jockeying for position

My brother Brian, his wife Beth and their daughter Kate came into town on Wednesday night of last week and we've been spending lots of time with them at my parents' house. Swimming, eating, laughing and playing with three beautiful little girls is not a bad way to spend your week!

Because Kate is such a hot commodity, there has been lots of jockeying for position as Most Favored Cousin to Play With. Kate seems to be at this point willing to smile, laugh and make raspberries at either one but my girls want to be with her, play with her, offer her toys, and generally entertain her at every moment and if I make them do something silly like EAT DINNER the other sister gets upset that I have stolen this time with Kate away from them.

This culminated (for the first time) on Thursday night on the way to Dan's softball game. Michaela was complaining and crying that Brian and Beth were HER godparents and Jenna gets to see her parents all the time and Michaela never gets to see hers and Jenna always gets to see her god-brothers and Michaela never gets to see her godsister Kate. Michaela ended her tirade by declaring with as much vehemence as she could muster: "She's trying to STEAL MY GODSISTER!!!"

So I, in a very un-social worker type tone, answered back: "Suck it up and pull it together!" and then reassured her that Jenna's godparents love her just as much as they love Jenna and noone was stealing anybody. Michaela continued to cry and so I reverted back to my "suck it up" line of parental counseling.

But we have had a wonderful time with them and watching them care for a 6 month old brings me right back to those days with each of my girls and I realize how far we've come. And it's a good feeling. I love having children who can talk and walk and sleep through the night and have senses of humor. Of course, I love six month old babies as well: their delicious smell, their rolls of baby fat, their sweetness, their joyful, smiling faces, and their inability to argue with their mom in July about their Halloween costume.

While we were all together, my mom threatened to not feed us anymore if we didn't pose for a Christmas Card picture all together. Well, that's not really true. But it did take a little wrangling on her part to get us all dressed and gussied up Friday night and we even coordinated the girls' dresses. Here are some of the results:

Brian and Beth and Kate are on a little mini-family vacation right now to Lake Placid but will be back tomorrow evening. Then they are here for another few days and then fly home Thursday. The girls will be devastated when they leave, but thankfully we have our vacation to the Cape coming up as a distraction.

More pics of the visit to come in the next few days!