Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I just finished reading "Eat, Love, Pray" and I would recommend it to anyone. Loved it! It's about the author's desire to find out who she is (at the age of 35) and she travels to three different countries for three different reasons.

I love this book because of the different remarks she had on life and what gives it meaning. While I didn't agree with some of her thoughts, I was very impressed by others. This one, on happiness, stuck out to me.

"...People universally think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you're fortunate enough. But that's not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And, once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don't, you will leak away your innate contentment. It's easy enough to pray when you're in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments."

I've been talking to a lot of people recently about the word "happiness" and what happiness really is. It's different for everyone, but I think Elizabeth Gilbert nailed an important point. I make my own happiness and I am in charge of maintaining it. Life happens. Some good, some bad, but it's all in maintaining the happiness I know I have felt at times when it's hard to do so. That's one of my new quests in life!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

If driving was a sport in the Oylmpics, I won two gold medals this week!

A note about this post: It might be a bit boring for someone who's never done the drive from MA to PA, but I had to blog about it for those who have and for my posterity. I'll sharing my training secrets and game plan with anyone who's interested if you contact me :)

There's something about me that doesn't take long to figure out. I have a love/hate relationship with driving!! I'm okay with being a passenger in the car, but being behind the wheel is another story.

I had forgotten this fact about me while I worked at Harvard and was able to take the "T" everyday. Oh - I do miss those days. Not the job. The commute. I took the "T" one stop. Some days I could have walked it faster. I loved being able to read or listen to music. I loved watching people and trying to create their life story (this is weird, I know, but fun to do if you want to pass the time!) But, because I am never satisfied, I complained at that time about the "T" being late, or the subway cars that had no air conditioning, or how some days I felt like I was in a can of sardines and it smelled just as bad. And, then at night or on the weekends I drove everywhere even if I could take the "T" because I missed my car!! I loved the freedom it allowed me even though driving on the streets of Boston requires a completely different post!

Then, my love relationship with my car turned to a hate relationship when I started school and my internship. School was a 25 minute drive and my internship school was a 55 minute drive at 7 AM when I could barely keep my eyes open because I was burning the candle at both ends (trying to get my classwork done and still get my lesson plans done for school at night). Those drives seemed soooooooo long. When I got home for the day, the thought of getting back in my car was torture. I felt like I lived in it. I also hate traffic, bad drivers, slow drivers, too cautious drivers, the list goes on an on.... I know it's my patience and "niceness" that I need to work on, but I LOVE drivers who obey these Boston rules (as noted in a post by my friend, Aleigh)! I do all three of these things and am proud of it! http://simplymarvy.blogspot.com/2008/08/boston-driving-customs-vs-laws.html
Great post Aleigh!

This past year my school that I worked at was about 30 minutes away, but I still hate the traffic and the commute. I've tried so many different things to enjoy the drive. It's not as bad as my internship drive, but I still envy those who either a.) have a traveling companion and can be the passenger some days or b.) take public transportation. Basically, I think I just want my commute to Harvard back, but still keep my current job! (However, if anyone has any good suggestions on what I can do to enjoy the drive, let me know!)

Anyway, this hate relationship with my car spurned my desire to get a bike this past summer and to start walking places as soon as it was warm enough to come out of hibernation from the winter cold! It's been FABULOUS! I never thought I would buy a bike in this city because I thought bikers were risking their lives riding on the road. And, they are. And, now I am too. But, hey, it saves me from getting behind the wheel!

Back to the Olympics. This past week I decided to go to visit my mom in PA for a few days. It was a last minute trip so of course plane tickets were crazy expensive. My other options were taking Amtrak or driving. A train ticket these days is not a lot cheaper than a flight and Amtrak is NEVER, EVER on time. Also, I wanted to stop in RI to see my dad and go to the beach on Saturday as I drove down (which I am SO glad I did b/c the weather was beautiful!!)

Well, here's the moment you've all been waiting for (and will be envious of if you've ever done the drive!) Okay - my family record for driving from Westerly, RI to Audubon, PA (and this drive has been done more times than any of my family members care to think about!) is a little over 5 hours. But, on Saturday evening, August 9, I completed the drive in a few minutes shy of 4.5 hours!!!! Incredible. I even stopped once to go to the bathroom! Yes, I was going faster than the posted speed limit, but no, I wasn't the fastest on the road and went speeds similar to other cars. There was just no traffic or accident to slow me up and I have no doubt the Lord was watching over me!!

I was so happy about my first gold medal that I didn't think about the even more dreaded drive from PA back to Boston. I have never driven this far by myself and I was NOT looking forward to it. I was actually anticipating that I might have to pull over and nap or do something active to keep going. Hoping to make the trip as short as possible, I had also mapped out a new route that I thought might save me some time and avoid toll roads. IT WORKED!!!

My mom and others have done this drive many, many times as well and the record thus far is just over 6.25 hours. But, I pulled onto Hancock Street in 5 hours 42 minutes!!!! I was so excited! I had timed my departure from PA perfectly to avoid all traffic times around the big cities and again, no accidents on the road to hold me up! But, yet again, I surely can't take the credit. I was definitely blessed by the Lord. I was amazed at how quickly the time passed (of course, talking to a few friends on the way helped the time pass even quicker!)

And, it was a great reminder to me that the Lord does hear and answer my prayers, even as silly as asking for help on a long drive up and down the east coast!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"Take me out to the Ball Game"... But, WAIT! It's the Yankees!

Yes, that's right. I have yet to be to a RED SOX game this summer, but I was at a Yankees game last week (mostly because I didn't pay for the ticket!)

If you're read my previous post you know that I was on the Cape with Papa Bob, Milly and the kids. Well, the family LOVES baseball and Charlotte and Lila live in NYC. Papa Bob is more of a Red Sox fan, but he wanted to take his grandkids to Yankee Stadium once before it was torn down.

So, we loaded up the two cars and traveled from Chatham, MA to NYC, NY all for ONE baseball game. My family and some friends thought I was crazy because I had the three kids with me on this five ours trip... but you know what? It was worth it!

Their family car is equipped with a DVD player, so that HELPED a LOT! We didn't hit any traffic until we got close to the GW bridge, but by that pt the kids were just excited to get to the game so they held out.

The kids had made "Go Yankee" signs our last night in Chatham and we were all set for the game.

Our car dropped us off right at our gate, so it was perfect. We arrived just as the first pitch was being thrown. I don't know where good seats are in a stadium... we were pretty high up, but I was just glad to be there!!

I just had to get a picture of THE most HATED sign in ALL of RED SOX Nation!
It was a beautiful night and I got my fill of a hot dog, pretzel and then some dippn' dots ice cream! YUM! The kids were very excited. And, honestly. I was too. There's just a thrill that comes from sitting in a baseball stadium with people you have fun with and laugh/joke around. Baseball is America's pastime and I just felt so peaceful and calm chillin' at the game.

In order to not betray the Red Sox even more I cheered for both the Yankees and the Angels. Not as loud as some of the folks around us... but I was definitely happy when the Angels won by quite a few!

We got these cool baseball hat cup things with out ice cream. And, Jeremiah was such a trooper. This had been a VERY long and napless day for him. We didn't get home until 11 PM and he was awake the entire time!

We just ahd to stay until the 7th inning when they sing "Take me out to the Ball Game". This is Jeremiah's favorite song and he sings it OVER and OVER. Seriously, all week long, he would sing it not even realizing he was going to a ball game later in the week. His parents and others have sung it to him and he gets a reaction from people when he sings it... so he loves signing it. He knows ALL the words too. It's so DANG cute!

Seeing the look on his eyes when the entire stadium was singing his song was PRICELESS.

I was beyond exhausted when we got back to the room. I had laid out the kids pajamas and toothbrush. They were in bed within five minutes of arriving home and I was in bed within ten minutes. Sleep.... ahhhhh.

But, I was determined to wake up and run in Central Park in the morning. I didn't realize at that time how wonderful this run would be and it was a struggle to get up at 7 AM, but I forced myself because I wanted to say I DID it!! And, IT WAS THE BEST RUN EVER!!!

We were right in Lincoln Center so I was two blocks from the parks entrance on 67th street. It was a beautiful morning and there were lots of runners, bikers, walkers, what-ever's everywhere. I couldn't believe I was in NYC. Central Park is gorgeous... and beside the occassional smells every now and then, I wouldn't have believed it myself. I ran the 6 miles and felt like I could have run it again (which NEVER happens to me). It was so peaceful and calm... I'd go back and run it again any chance I got.

Well, I am also glad I went running that morning because the drive back was pretty much the next thing to DEATH by TORTURE that I could imagine. Traffic. Terrible traffic and the kids had had it. Done. They were short on sleep and patience. And, so was I. And, I don't do well sitting in traffic that's not moving either!

So, after a lovely morning, we packed up and left. It took us 3 (count that) THREE hours to get to New Haven. I think I could have walked faster! (And, told the kids they should test it and see. I challenged Leo to get out of the car and walk and see if he could make more progress... but he declined)

So, it was a rough ride back... but there was ONE cool part! I had told the kids about the carousel I used to ride when I was young (the one with the golden ring... see previous post) and since we were driving right by the exit, we got off.

My dad was so nice to drop us off in the little town b/c parking is a BEAST in the summer (and it was great to see my dad, even for only ten minutes!). We had lunch at my favorite ice cream place, rode the carousel a few times, and walked over to the Watch Hill Yacht Club to see the boats.

I love sharing a part of my childhood with them. And, they loved seeing and experiencing it as well. They kept asking me questions about what I loved most and what I would do during my summers there and I loved telling them! No one got the gold ring, but we all felt like we had memories to treasure as we headed back to Boston.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A week spent in my dreams

This past week was incredible. Magical, almost. I was given the opportunity to spend a week at the luxurious Chatham Bars Inn with the kids, their two cousins (Lila & Charlotte, ages 8 & 10) and their two grandparents (known as Noni and Papa Bob... so that's what I called them as well!

Because I have known this family for a few years now, I have gotten to know the grandparents fairly well. They are two of the most generous people I know and just genuinely nice. This is their 2nd year taking the grandkids on this trip for a week, but last year Jeremiah only got to go down with me for an overnight because he was so little. This year they had all the kids stay all week (but had me come as well!). I'll call is a "working vacation" because it was A LOT of work managing and caring for five active children, but it was more fun than I could ever have dreamed of!

Here are a few pictures of the resort.

They had these beautiful flowers everywhere. I don't know what they're called, but they were in full bloom and just gorgeous! I love sunsets and sunrises as well and because we had the best weather (it never rained during the day or evening!!) we were not limited in any activities. (although, I had packed the kids for rain everyday... so I had brought many indoor games, crafts, DVD, etc., just in case! Needless to say, the car had every inch of space packed!)

I was also VERY fortunate to have my own room in the main lodge. The grandparents stayed with all five kids in one of the glorious cottages, and I would arrive in the morning before the kids woke up and leave for my room after they were in bed at night. My room was also the "nap" location in the afternoons for Leo and Jeremiah. It was a treat to be able to nap with them and then go out on my deck to soak up some sun and read while they finished their naps! They came and turned down my bed EVERY night!

One a side note: The way I got the boys to nap (because who wants to nap when it's sunny and you know there's a pool just outside the building!) I would try and make it fun to lie down. We would start with eating the chocolate the hotel left on our beds each day after they made it. Then, we would have these running games where we would start in the hall and take a flying leap onto the bed. I would lift Jeremiah up and throw him on the VERY soft bed and Leo would run and jump with me. Literally, after one or two minutes each day the boys were "out for the count" and I was too! I just didn't sleep as long as they did. These boys RUN everywhere. Walking is unknown to them. So, they were TIRED!

Jeremiah - EXHAUSTED

On a side note about the inn: They had the nicest staff. From the door holders to waiters to the maids. No matter what you asked for there was never a "no". Always a "YES". And an enthusiastic one as well. No matter what the request... even as bizarre as it may be. And, sometimes, they would jump in an help me with the kids or do something without being asked. I was in awe of being treated in such a way but very grateful and appreciative. Very family friendly. They would come and clean your room two or three times a day and always ask if there was anything you needed. We got to know some of the staff pretty well and it was a pleasure. They would share information about their lives, or recommendations about what to do, etc. I would give each staff person a 5 star rating if I had the chance.

Okay, so about the week and what we did.

The pool was the number one hot spot. It was located right on the beach. There was a restaurant to one side and a grassy playing field to the left of it. We spent most mornings in the pool till lunch. Occasionally, we would take a break and play some of the organized games they had like "Family Kickball" or soccer or whatever. They had different activities every hour all day long for the kids! The pool was heated and that was nice because the ocean water was about 60 degrees!

As I mentioned, the resort has activities all day long for the kids. One was a pirate adventure on a boat! I went with Papa Bob, Leo and Jeremiah and they loved it. I loved it! We all got out faces painted and these pirate bandanas when we got there (and Noni had bought the boys these pirate shirts as well.) We practiced our pirate language... like Arrrr! or "Booty" or "Avast" which was a new one to me. It means " 'stop', but it is also a piratey exclamation of surprise. Then we set off to find our treasure on the boat using the clues we were given.
One the way we sang some pirate songs, practiced our new pirate language and saw some beautiful beaches. :)
Jeremiah - The Pirate.... Arrrrrr!!!!!!!

Well, I loved the pirate adventure, but along the way we saw an extra special treat! Hundreds of seals live in the water there and they came so close to our boat. They're friendly and beautiful!

I could have watched them for hours... but my fellow pirates wanted to find the treasure! Soon enough we found all the clues and ran into the treasure! We loaded our water guns and fired away!! We fought hard, but this "landlubber" surrendered and we took the booty!!
Leo LOVES sports. Anything that involves a ball and/or running. The cottage was next to a golf course and Papa Bob promised Leo he could play his first nine holes one afternoon. He was exstatic! Fortunately, the club house had golf clubs his size. So, Papa Bob, Leo and I played. Honestly, it was my first time as well playing nine holes, and we definitely fudged the rules of golf a little (with a ten stroke limit... or just carry your ball after you tee off to the green) so we didn't hold up EVERYONE behind us! Leo was SOOO happy and it made me so happy seeing him play!

The Kayyem's on our way to dinner...
The girls and Jeremiah

Well, not only was the resort incredible, but the food was AMAZING. Everything tasted good... even if I usually don't like it. Lobster rolls, fish and meat of all kinds, beautiful salads, etc... and then they had all the mac and cheese/pizza/fries for the kids! (and for me!) Dessert was a buffet and all I can say is "YUM!" One night we went into town for pizza and ice cream, but the other nights we went down to the beach-side restaurant for their themed dinners. One night was Pirate night! They gave the kids pirate stuff and were able to take a picture with a pirate!

Jeremiah was Terrified with a capital "T!" so, Noni told him to cover his eyes when the pirate would start walking over towards us. The pirate quickly learned (b/c of Jeremiah's screams) that he needed to stay away, but Jeremiah didn't stop looking for him the ENTIRE evening! It was so cute to see him cover his eyes, but peak through!
Everytime we ate here Jeremiah loved looking at this ship!
The dinner set-up was great because the kids would walk to the back and play in the sand with the counselors while the parents enjoyed some time eating more slowly and relaxing as the sun set. They had games like tag, tug of war, etc. At the end of the day, to have someone entertain the kids for an hour and then build a bonfire for smores was more than I could dream of and I was so appreciative!
Jeremiah was the judge in the middle and the boys kept loosing!

My top ten of the week:

10. Morning runs at 5:30 am while the sun was just rising
9. Eating. Food. Good FOOD. ANYTIME I wanted it :)
8. Swimming with the kids and playing water games
7. Sitting in the cabanas with the group, talking and laughing
6. Having my own room with a balcony!
5. Naps with Leo and Jeremiah. Cuddle time.
4. Seeing the looks on the kids faces all week. Happiness
3. Being treated like I was someone important. (Well, I am important... but just don't deserve to be treated as such!) :)
2. Jeremiah saying: "Cawa... come with me" as we would run through the water spouts holding hands or his continuous hugs and kisses... or just his smile lights up my face!
1. Knowing and feeling that my help made it possible for the grandparents to enjoy special and quality time with their grandchildren. Family is what it's all about :)