Heading Home

We’re heading home today. I’d normally say we are heading back to reality at this point in a vacation, but this time reality never really left us. Or maybe it didn’t leave me. I was keenly aware, all day, everyday, of the realities of life. That masks were necessary, and that even in outdoor events, social distancing is key. It wasn’t part of the original plan to leave so soon, but plans change. You get new information, you make educated decisions. Our new information came like this: 1. Jerimiah was suddenly thrust into a large corporate deal (think a bidding contract worth millions) that he needs to be “present” for. “Present” here doesn’t mean in actual person, as of now anyway, but there’s a chance. He does need high-speed internet though, an issue we’ve been battling out here in the country, and he needs a shirt with a tie, and some semblance of an office (he’s currently working with a large, blow-up dartboard behind him). 2. This global pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Not sure if you’ve seen, but uhh, it’s here to stay awhile, and things are changing daily. A week ago, the state we live in (Georgia) was “steady” and the state we are currently in (Missouri) was on the decline. Now, two weeks later, things have changed drastically. Covid-19 is running rampant again, in both states, and the truth of the matter is I need to be at home, socially distancing from others, in the safety of our bubble, with my immune-compromised husband and my asthmatic kid. It’s the only way. The way of life here is too lackadaisical, and that’s okay for some people, but not for us. The risk, in this case, is not worth it.

So goodbye Table Rock Lake. Goodbye family! Thanks to those of you who were able to visit with us. Thanks for self-isolating for a couple of weeks, thanks for taking our safety concerns seriously. Thanks for the late-night talks, the boat rides, the floating and laughing and singing. Thanks for the best version of a summer vacation we could ask for this year, hopefully we will see you all soon, but if not that’s okay. Your safety, our safety, the collective safety is the most important, and besides, one day life might be back to normal, isn’t that neat? Something to look forward to!

M.

Hashtag Blessed

Woke up this morning thinking that I’m too stressed to feel blessed. You read that right: I’m too stressed to feel blessed. My stress level is off the charts. I’m not home during a global pandemic. I’ve got my kid traveling all over, seeing people who have not been taking this pandemic seriously. The lack of masks, social distancing, and isolation here is crazy. People are totally pretending like the numbers aren’t spiking. They think wearing a mask is sufficient. What the what? I want to be back at my house, alone, ordering my groceries again. I’m scared. I’m stressed. And if you aren’t, you are not paying attention.

Don’t get me wrong I’m having a good time, occasionally. Occasionally I forget that the world is a shitbag, upside place. Occasionally I drink so much wine with my husband and best friend that I forget. Or I’m on the lake, enjoying a boat ride. Like yesterday when we rolled up at the marina to get gas and snacks. It’s called “What’s Up Dock” and it’s cute, and lively, and had all the gas, Sprite, and potato chips we needed. They also has a ton of people. People walking around aimlessly, asking about jet ski rentals, and trying on “Table Rock” t-shirts, buy one, get one free. For a split second I forgot about Covid-19. It all seemed so normal. So free. So every, other summer of my life. Then I remembered.

I saw a bumper sticker on a car coming up here: “Too Blessed to be Stressed.” I smiled and thought, wouldn’t that be nice.

M.

The Portrait

This is a short, necessary story. Yesterday my husband and son made a quick trip over to the Tulsa area to meet up with my father-in-law. I didn’t go for a multitude of reasons, which means I wasn’t there to see my son drive his papa’s 1970 Chevy Blazer all over Hell’s creation. I wasn’t there to see him shoot the 45-magnum revolver. But I did get to hear about how his ears were still ringing when he got home. And lastly I wasn’t there to say, “Ohhh, no thanks,” when Jerimiah was sent off with this creepy portrait that his Uncle JR (Jackson and Jerimiah’s namesake) had commissioned of a preschool Jerimiah in 1985. What’s that? Yeah, that’s a for real thing.

There you go. Now we have this portrait, the same one I had nightmares of the first time I saw, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to hang it over our fireplace because why not? Why not indeed.

Have a safe, creepy-portrait-free day, y’all.

M.

Wordsmiths

I’ve officially been at the lake for a week now. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel being away from home this long, but so far so good. I’m not missing my bed yet and I’m certainly not missing cleaning my house. In fact, I’m not missing anything except maybe the fact that I can have take-out delivered to all day. Oh city living, you’re a fun time. We’ve been staying busy, but not too busy. You know, the right kind of busy. For instance yesterday we went out on the boat for most of the day, which really takes it out of you, but if you don’t go on the boat you don’t get pics like these:

And everyone wants pics like these.

Which means today we are taking it slower. In fact, I’ve been up for a couple of hours. Jerimiah and Jackson left for Tulsa early this morning, so I’ve been laying in bed. I’m slowly drinking my coffee, and I’m playing a rousing game of Wordscapes with Madi and Rachel. The fun thing about this game is that I’m winning! Ha! Just kidding, the fun thing is we can all play on our own phones, help each other out (if we want to), and most importantly lay in bed while we play. It’s a win-win-win. Oh, and did I mention that I’m winning? For now anyway…

I hope you all have the most relaxing of days!

M.

My Best…

It’s Thursday. I know, I know, it’s actually Friday, but I’m writing this yesterday, so it’s Thursday. I’m writing this yesterday? Yeah, that’s a thing I said. Let me start over, it’s Thursday morning. About nine o’clock. I’m sitting at one of my best spots, a pavilion that overlooks Table Rock Lake, and I’m drinking coffee. I just got off the phone with one of my best friends, Beth. We’ve been trying our best to stay connected. Writing cards, texting hello, catching up on little calls here or there. It’s working. I think. It’s helping. I know.

But it’s Thursday and I’m sitting in one of the best spots. Today is the day my best friends, Rachel and her daughter Madi, come join us at the lake. Today is the day I get to see one of my best little buddies, Nashville. He’s my best friend Melody’s son. Melody can’t make it down here, but her parents were able to and they brought Nash and we get him for the afternoon. Today is a best day, no doubt. But for now, for just this little moment in time, it’s quiet. It’s calm. I’m alone, and I’m having the best time.

Hope you have the best day today. Here’s my view.

M.

Yeah, that’s a mule. Good eye! 😉

First Four Days

I’ve only been on Table Rock Lake for four days, but the adventures are constant. First, there’s my damn dogs and their “quirks.” The bribing them to be on their best behavior, the training collar (which arrived today), the constant picking up of dog poop, and the ever-present sad eyes when I’m eating a burger. Le sigh. Adventures, yes adventures. Look at these damn dogs.

Then there is the lake. It’s pretty high right now, and it’s recently turned over so there’s an occasional fish odor, but you know, that’s lake life. Still, Jackson and his buddy Tate have been kayaking up a storm!

Then there’s the food. My mother-in-law loves to cook and I love to eat, so it’s a pretty good deal. Not to mention the sunrise and sunset walks with my husband while we wax intellectual on how to save the world.

It’s an interesting dichotomy, this place. A little bit country, a little bit lake. Not at all how I remember it, but also exactly the same as it always is.

I hope you are having a splendid week, friends. Stay safe and sane.

M.

Coming Home Again

We got to Table Rock Lake Saturday night, just before dinner time. Well, our family’s dinner time, nearly 8:30 pm. We were welcomed by my mother-in-law, her husband Tom, her brother (Uncle Jim), and some big, juicy homemade cheeseburgers. We didn’t mean to get here so late, but the eleven-hour drive turned out to be a 13-hour drive, with two stops for a vomiting puppy, a long walk to stretch our legs at Elvis’ Birthplace, and three or four potty breaks. It was worth it though, as soon as we hit the familiar roll of the Ozark Mountains, we smiled our relief.

It’s been so long since we have been away from our house, I thought I’d be a little sad. Homesick, even. But no, turns out I was just homesick for this place, as the flicker of the lightening bugs on the freshly cut field and the starry sky soon reminded me. I’ve been away for so long, that I’ve forgotten how the stars look way out here, away from the bustle, away from the lights, and the sirens, and the stress of the city. You never know about going home. It can be nice, it can be tough, I’m usually ambivalent at best, but not this time. Not in the state we find ourselves. Things smell and feel different.

I hope you are all well today, and you are taking care of yourself and each other. But most importantly, I hope you get to go home again sometime soon.

❤️

M.

On the Road Again

If you’re reading this, I’m loading up the truck with Jerimiah, while Jackson walks around in circles complaining that he is tired, and the dogs bark from inside the house because they think we are leaving them, and going on a super, cool vacation in the tropics. Probably. Most likely. It’s Saturday morning and we are headed on an 11-hour road trip this morning and I’m already stressed about all the things. Things like: Where will we use the bathroom, how bad are the places we are headed into, is it safer to use gloves at the gas pump or not, will Winnie vomit all over everyone like she usually does, why do we have to go anywhere near Little Rock, and should we have just packed food and not relied on drive-thrus? But the motion has already started, and like most things in life we will just have to wait and see.

That doesn’t stop the mind from wandering though. That’s what medication is for, so damn it I hope I remembered to pack the Klonopin, and where did I put those “Relieve Stress” Gummies?

There you have it, 11 hours through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, a teeny bit of Tennessee (not the good part), and Arkansas. I mean, under normal circumstance this isn’t a worrisome trip. Whenever you’re going to pass Elvis’s birthplace AND Johnny Cash’s in the same trip, well, Lord help us all.

See you on the other side.

Be safe!

M.

Road Trip To-do List

  • Shave the dog
    • But do I really want to shave the dog?
      • Yeah, I need to shave the dog
  • Bathe both dogs
  • Order dog food
  • Why is my whole damn life about dogs?
    • I mean, like, why do we even have two dogs?
      • What happened to me as a child that I need to overcompensate with animals?
  • Laundry
  • Order the dogs waterproof collars
    • I swear to Baby Jesus, I am so tired of getting the dogs new collars for different occasions
  • Pick up that giant llama float I saw in that ad one time from one of the stores that sells large llama floats
    • Wait, I don’t want to go inside one of the stores
      • Did I even look to see if they had a poodle float instead?
        • STOP IT WITH THE POODLE SHIT!
  • Tires for truck
    • Already did that
  • Floating cooler?
  • Print out map of trip and circle all bathrooms I suspect might be the “cleanest”
    • Print out directions? What is this 2005? I’m not MapQuesting that shit
      • The dogs would eat the map
  • Wait, we are going through Memphis and Little Rock?!
    • We will need to pee on the side of the road at all times
  • Gloves
  • Maybe we should drive at night so no one will see me pee in the bushes? What if I have to poop?
    • Quik Trip?
  • Fill up the dog’s poop bag satchel
    • Could I poop in a poop bag if I needed to?
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Where will I get coffee?!
    • I can’t get coffee or I will have to poop!
  • Can you ship wine?
  • Books
  • Burn a Road Trip CD
    • What the what?! Burn a CD?!
      • Make a Road Trip Playlist, make sure it has enough Suzy Bogguss
        • “I don’t wanna be standing here, and I don’t want to be talking here, and I don’t really care who’s to blame…”
  • You blame the dogs, even if it was you
    • Oh shit, is that why I have dogs?
  • Swim trunks for Jackson

Tentative, Stressful Vaca

The Goodnights are going on vacation! Woohoo, us! If you have been around awhile you might know we are travelers. Nothing soothes our wandering souls like a good road trip out West, or a quick flight to NYC to get some pizza and see a show. But this Covid-19 has put a real damper on traveling plans. As it sits we have five airline flights to anywhere in the US, but we are a little too risk-averse to fly right now, and well, all the places we love to visit are/were hotbeds for the Coronavirus, all except one: Table Rock Lake.

We lived on Table Rock Lake for five years in our early twenties. It was the place I first learned to swim (I was terrified most of my life to swim), it was the place we got married, got pregnant with Jackson. It’s a big lake, surrounded by small towns on the Arkansas/Missouri line, and it just so happens that my MIL owns a place right on the water. We try to get down there every summer, and for awhile it looked like we wouldn’t be able to pull it off this year, then well, we decided to try. So, I guess what I mean to say is the Goodnights are tentatively going on vacation! We are planning, but we won’t know for sure until we hit the road the day we are slated to leave. Wish us luck that things don’t change too drastically as of June 30th.

In preparation we invited the regular crew down to hang with us, including my best friend Rachel and her daughter Madi. Rachel and Madi and the rest of their family have been quarantining like us for the last 80 days or so, and are happy to continue to do so until they meet us at the lake. But because we are coming from DeKalb County, Georgia (a hotbed for the virus) and going to Southern Missouri, with family from Kansas (both places with low incidence rates of the virus) we are preparing by getting tested before we leave. The idea of even possibly putting anyone is danger horrifies us.

Because of the high-rates in our county and state (about 3,500 cases/45,000 cases) and the fact that we are not trending down (wait, what?! You guys opened like a month ago and the ‘Rona didn’t disappear?) Le sigh. Where was I? Because of high rates in our county and state, drive-thru testing is open to all residents. You don’t have to be showing symptoms, or have been exposed to anyone. All I had to do was call DeKalb County. They gave me a website to pre-register. I did it. Picked a date and time, June 5th, and boom, we are registered. We were sent a confirmation email with a QR code for each of us to bring with us to our appointment, which is actually just a ride through a church parking lot on the other side of town and boom, we are done.

We picked June 5th because we plan on leaving at the end of the month. That gives us a weekend before the test to stock up on food and essentials so we don’t have to leave the house until we head for Missouri. We have scoured the CDC and WHO websites, and we think this a “low-risk vacation,” but a little extra caution never hurt anyone. Honestly the scariest parts for me are the drive (it’s a ten-hour drive, so at least two stops for gas), the risk that we will be exposed by a family member or friend who stops by unannounced (don’t be surprised if we just wave and walk away, we love ya, but we didn’t quarantine for 80 days for you to roll up and hug us without a mask on), and/or exposing the people back home to something we picked up along the way. So this isn’t really a stress-free vacation, but it’s the best we can muster at this point.

So there you have it. Our tentative, stressful, summer vacation! I’m excited, and nervous, and prepping like mad, but I think it will be totally worth it to see our people.

Stay safe and sane, y’all!

M.

Lagniappe

We met a man last summer in Coastal Louisiana who was raised on the bayou. He used to hunt for and collect alligator eggs as a child, then hatch them and raise them in his bathtub until they got too big, then he and his brothers would take them back out to the swamp and drop them near where they found them. He spoke Louisiana-French, a creole language spoken across ethnic and racial lines, by people who consider themselves to be Cajun or Louisiana Creole, as well as Chitimacha, Houma, Biloxi, Tunica, Choctaw, Acadian, and/or French. Creole is the type of language they speak, but Cajun is derived from that. There is always a dominate language with pidgin languages known as the superstrate language, while the lesser is the substrate. In the case of the Cajun there is English, then French, then African, Spanish, and Native American. When it all converges in one person, the result can be wonderful and confusing. He told us how to “pinch the tail and suck the head,” showed us places we had never seen before, and explained that Lagniappe just means getting a little something extra than you paid for.

He would speak to the alligators primarily in French, then speak to us in English, then speak to his friend in Creole. He would codeswitch from one being to another, never skipping a beat, never missing an opportunity to tell his story to whomever would listen. Always with an eye on the alligator.

The man was our tour guide on the Atchafalaya River Basin, a combination of wetlands and river delta where the Atchafalaya and the Gulf of Mexico converge. The basin contains 70% forest habitat, and 30% open water. As far as wetland river basins go, it’s almost stable. It’s the largest contiguous block of forested wetlands left in the lower Mississippi River Valley, and the largest block of floodplain forest in the United States, with 260,000 acres of cypress-tupelo. It’s iconic, and terrifying, and a little bit surreal.

Soaring over the Atchafalaya Swamp we watched a baby and momma Osprey spread their wings from the top of a hollowed cypress. We saw a 12-foot alligator lead his blind friend to food. We overheard the story of the Louisiana Black Bear, and the floods, and the inoperable South Farm, and the ATV-traffic that threatens many of the existence there. We saw beaver dams, and otter running for their lives. We felt the slap of an alligator tail against the oiled metal of the boat. For the first time in my five years in The South, I let it grip me. Take ahold of my head and my heart. It was something I didn’t expect to happen, but something I am glad did. Like when you get an extra donut in the box.

M.

Racism in The South

I was born and raised in Kansas. But not the kind of Kansas you’re thinking of. I wasn’t Dorothy, living on a pig farm with my aunt and uncle. I didn’t know any farm hands, I didn’t run to the cellar when the twisters came (we ran to an interior closet, because we could never afford a house with a basement), and I didn’t have any ruby red shoes. Rather I grew up in Leavenworth, a small albeit diverse* town, in the statistical Kansas City-metro area. I was born in one of the two hospitals in town. I attended Leavenworth public schools (mostly Title One schools), and I graduated from Leavenworth High School with a class of about 1200 kids. My best friends in first grade were two little white girls, two little Black girls, and a boy from Pakistan whose dad was an officer in the Indian Army, and was stationed at Fort Leavenworth that year for Combined Army and Services Staff School or CAS-Cubed. So no, it wasn’t Oz or anything like that.

When I was 21, Jerimiah and I moved to Southern Missouri to live at the resort his parents bought on Table Rock Lake. Like really, really Southern Missouri. We lived about four miles from the Arkansas line, and had many run-ins with what I’ve come to know as “Hill People.” We spent five years on Table Rock Lake, where I couldn’t tell you that I ever saw a person of any skin tone other than white (other than our friends we worked with in Branson). We moved into Branson for the first five years of Jackson’s life, where at least it was a little more diverse. Still, we knew it wasn’t the place we wanted to raise our son. Southern Missouri is not reflective of real life, and we never wanted our son to stay there, so we figured we best move somewhere with a little more diversity.

We ended up in Denver, North Carolina because my brother-in-law said it was nice. And it was, but it was more of the same. White. Middle-class. Lake. Boats. Second homes. Sub-divisions. We lived there for nearly four years before we moved to Charlotte and actually lived the sort of life we wanted for our son. He finally had a diverse set of friends, he was in a Charter School during that time, but it was racially, economically, and academically diverse. We liked our little Charlotte neighborhood, and we were happy. Then we got the news we needed to move again. This time to Atlanta.

We’ve been in the Atlanta-metro area for a year now. We are in a small, diverse town on the edge of the Perimeter, which is the highway that runs around the city. We are twenty minutes from downtown. We can catch a bus, ride the MARTA, or Uber to one of the busiest airports in the world with great ease. We have everything we need here, and we are happy. But there is one little thing: Racists. And I’m not talking about the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery. That is a different kind of racism, and it is my opinion that the man who pulled the trigger should die. The others should serve life. But I am not the judge, nor am I the jury. (Don’t worry I’m not gonna pull some “Jesus is Lord” shit here, I’m saying I am not actually in charge and my opinion doesn’t matter, but I hope the GBI does right by Ahmaud.) The kind of racism I’m talking about here is the kind of racism you find up the road in a town like Cumming, Georgia. It’s covert, not overt.

Cumming has a population of less than 10,000 and no, they are not all racists. I’m sure there are some fine people in Cumming, Ga I don’t know them. I don’t know anyone there because I have never been there, because I refuse to go there because the things I know about the city are not good. I’ve heard about “Sunshine Laws” in Cumming. You might have heard of Cumming from a story that Oprah did on the town in 1987. It’s known for it’s racism around these parts, and even if it is on Lake Lanier I’m just not interested in knowing “that part of Georgia.” The problem is Cumming isn’t a stand-alone, small Georgian town full of racism and unchecked bias. Cumming seems to me, in the year I have spent traveling through the state, to be normal. And it isn’t just Georgia.

We spent six weeks last year in Louisiana. We drove down there on three separate occasions and stayed for two weeks at a time. We drove through places like Birmingham and Biloxi, sure. But we also drove through towns like Newnan, and Opelika, and Chickasaw, and D’Iberville, and Thibodaux and I promise they are all more of the same. Covert, overt, unchecked aggressions and bias, and everything in between. Here read this blog post I wrote about Baton Rouge, or this one, or this one. I tried to share what I was seeing and hearing. The rampant racism that sits just under the surface and is ALWAYS present there is present all over the South. It is present in every, single state in The South, and I’m not saying it isn’t in every state in our country, it’s just so much more pronounced here, that it is hard to look away from.

It is present in my county, DeKalb county, where statistically speaking we are minorities. The Black people in DeKalb County make a lot of money. A lot of it. We are the second richest county in the country with a predominantly Black population. But guess what is here, covert and overt racism, unchecked aggression, and bias. Cause it doesn’t matter if you have money or not. It doesn’t matter if you are educated. It doesn’t matter if you are the kindest person ever. It doesn’t matter if you are small business owner, or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in Atlanta, there are people who will hate you if you are Black and there is nothing you can do about it. And some people truly don’t know this. Some privileged white people really think racism is under control here, and they are walking around trying to save face with the rest of the country, but friends there is no face to save.

As I said, I’ve lived in some different places. Some backwards sorta places, where people chase their lost donkeys in the middle of the night, then smoke meth all day, and still the racism here, in Georgia, in The South, is the worst I have seen in any place I have ever lived. And it is sad. And scary. And unfortunately what happened to Ahmaud is not unique down here, and we all know that. And I think everyone needs to know that. We need to know it, discuss it, and deal with it.

Stay safe, y’all.

M.

*I’m not doing that thing white people do when they say “diverse” and just mean “more Black people” I mean truly diverse when I use the word. Ethnically, culturally, spiritually, educationally, and economically, and yes, varying races represented in the community. That’s the ideal place for us, and one similar to where I grew up.

Meet Ya at The Waffle House

Soooo, how’s everyone doing? Me? Oh well, thanks for asking. I’m sitting here at my desk, staring out my window at the beautiful sunny skies, listening to the birds chirping and the cars whizzing by wondering why in the hell you would actually go eat INSIDE a Waffle House today?! Yep. Uh huh. Welcome to Georgia. Where everything is made up and the points don’t matter. But, to be fair, it’s more than just the Waffle House opening up, it’s also bowling alleys and theaters. And if you do have the emotional or mental capacity to leave your house for dinner and a movie (who are these people, and what kind of anti-depressants are they on?!) then you know you are safe because you they can only sit four deep at the Waffle House counter. Whew, glad someone is taking this all seriously.

Also, just so we are clear, the servers are wearing gloves and masks at the Waffle House, but can I be real for a minute? Shouldn’t the servers at the Waffle House ALWAYS be wearing masks and gloves? I mean, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I like more than drinking so much gin that my inhibitions are way, way down, then getting turnt on some OJ and fried eggs at the Waffle House. In fact, 20-something Missy lived and died by WH. But, umm, I still always knew I ran the risk of picking up Hep-b in the bathroom while I was there, and I still used caution. Now you throw in a global pandemic and whaazzzzy, whaazzzzy, wha?!

I’m picking on the WH here but it’s because this is Georgia and people literally cried when the WH closed up shop last month, but truly this is the nuttiest thing I have seen in a while. People actually leaving their house, amid 23,500 cases in our state, with nearly 1,000 deaths, and hitting up the movies and going bowling. Like, I just don’t get it. And the beaches, please don’t get me started with the beaches. Y’all know we love to travel. In fact, I’m simultaneously planning three vacations in my mind right now (a trip “home,” a trip to Southern Cali, and a long weekend in Savannah) but you can bet your ass I haven’t actually booked any airfare, or started looking at hotels. Because shit, y’all. It’s gonna be awhile.

I know there are people who are just trying to get back to work. I know that. Small business owners, or you know, Shake Shack, are really trying to cash in on that money, but it isn’t coming. But to be fair, aren’t their employees making more money on unemployment right now, then if they were working? And don’t they have a “rainy day” fund? Like, certainly they don’t want the government to keep bailing them out, that’s, that’s, SOCIALISM!

I think I’m gonna stop. Take some deep breathes. Pour myself a glass of wine at three o’clock in the afternoon, and sit on the deck and listen to the birds. And the squeal of the tires in and out of the local Waffle House. Be safe, y’all. And STAY THE FUCK AT HOME.

M.

Backyard Camping

As some of you might know, we had big plans for travel this year. We started the year out with a fun trip to New England for New Year’s, and had a trip planned to Kansas City in March, and one to Florida for Spring Break. But of course all that was cancelled because of the worldwide pandemic. So instead, during Jackson’s spring break last week, we camped out in our backyard! Well, technically we camped out in our sun porch, because, well, I’m not a “camping” kinda girl. And Jerimiah is not a “camping” kind of guy. And Jackson is not a “camping” kind of kid. But we do like s’mores, backyard games, and watching Saturday Night Live as a family, so we compromised.

The sun porch offered the shelter from the cold (it got down into the 40s the night we camped out), and the rain (there was a slight chance), and did I mention that we brought a television out to watch the SNL At Home edition? Duh. We weren’t going to miss that. But otherwise it was a lot like camping! (Except for the hot tub, our own bathroom, and the aforementioned “extras”). Yeah, we totes sun-porch camped!

First we had to set the tent up. This was all Jerimiah and Jackson, while the dogs and I supervised. I think camping is a waste of time, generally, because of the all the set-up, the tear-down, and the amount of money you spend just to “save money” camping. (I’m more of a “rent a log cabin in the woods” kinda gal, especially if you only camp for a weekend. I can see the point if you are somewhere for a week or more, but geez, it’s a lot of work to cook your food on the ground and swat away mosquitos. I can do that in my backyard.) And this was no exception. But Jackson was so pumped about it, so I was like, “Yay! Camping!” I was a little surprised we even had a tent and a blow-up. mattress.

After we were all set up in the tent, we started making dinner. Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, uh duh. Then ate on the deck. At this point it was in the mid-70s, sunny, and nice. We had big plans for the night that included a fire pit and the hot tub, so we were hoping it would cool down. Don’t worry, it did. It cooled way down.

After dinner it did start to cool down so we started the fire pit. We are not 100% sure of the “open fire” restrictions in our county, Jerimiah read them a bunch but still couldn’t decide if a fire pit was legal or not. But we would be amazed if a fire pit is illegal, so we ran with it. Only when we heard massive firetrucks whizzing by did we get frightened, but turned out it wasn’t for us. Thank goodness the neighbors didn’t call the cops on us. S’mores were a go!

As the night calmed down, we talked a lot, ate more s’mores, and enjoyed the fire. The dogs played, Jackson played with the dogs, then we had our own game of “manhunter” in which I was a fugitive hiding from the law at a national park, and Jackson had to arrest me. I wish I were kidding. Later, when Jerimiah and I were in the hot tub, Jackson even changed into what he thought an undercover National Park Ranger/Detective would wear. Hilarity ensued. I went screaming through the backyard, dogs biting at my heels, Jackson chasing me, threatening to “tase” me, and Jerimiah watching in disbelief. This is when the neighbors should have called the cops.

Finally we talked the detective/ranger into joining us in the hot tub, by promising we wouldn’t break any more laws that night. Even though I was drinking White Claws and you know what they say about that, “Ain’t no laws, when you’re drinking Claws…”

After a refreshing dip, we headed back to the yard to play Washers and talk more around the fire pit. Family bonding at it’s finest. It was like we haven’t been in the same house together for a month…

Around 10:30 we put the fire pit out and headed into the sun porch. It was cold in there. We had left the fan on, and the temperature had dropped. Couple that with my Claws buzz was wearing off, I needed some blankets. So jerimiah pulled the sun porch blinds down, stuck the canopy on the tent, and put socks on my feet. I wish I were kidding. He’s too good to me.

Then we had a dance party, because that’s what Jackson wanted to do. In it he taught us how to do “The Scarn” which is a fictitious dance, by a fictitious character, based on a fictitious movie, played by a fictitious office manager on The Office. For real.

Afterward we got all cozied up inside the tent (well I did, with the dogs) and watched the At Home Edition of SNL, which was amazing! They did a great job. Then it was time for bed, so we all snuggled up for the night.

And then we all fell into a wonderful, quiet night of sleep! Just kidding! It was freezing cold, our air mattress apparently has a slow leak, and Jackson was unable to sleep because it was the night before Easter and the damn Easter bunny was set to come. So, yeah, it was like every, single night camping I have ever had. It was a hellish nightmare and I simply don’t want to do it again. But the next night, ahhh, we slept in our own bed again.

There you have it, backyard camping. That’s what you asked about, right? Silly me, you didn’t ask for anything. You never do. You are a giver, not a taker. And I love you. Now go forth and backyard camp. Can’t you see how fun it is?

M.

Jackson's First Trip to NYC

While I was writing my “The Breaking of Spring” blog post the other day I started to think about some of the trips we have taken during spring break in the past, and I remembered that I wanted to share about Jackson’s first time in the Big Apple. We love NYC, and are heartbroken about what they are going through right now. I don’t have words for the pain they must be feeling. And it feels upsetting to suggest “They will be okay, they always are.” Of course I know this, but it’s a sad and scary time for many New Yorkers, and for people who love New York. So I’ll instead say, we are thinking of you.

Jackson’s first time visiting NYC was not during spring break, it was the middle of February. We decided on the end of February because we because had that long break in school wherein he would only miss like one school day for the long weekend we took. It also lined up with some time that Jackson’s grandma had and was able to meet us there for the weekend. It seemed great, until the moment we got to the airport in Charlotte to leave for NYC. We were also hoping the weather had cleared enough in NYC.

Remember how we said we were hoping the weather had cleared. Well it had, in Charlotte. In NYC however, the day we were set to fly out, NYC got hit with one last snowstorm. As we were walking through security we saw the screens at American start blinking with “Cancelled” flights to NYC and the surrounding areas. It seemed that they would finish the “day flights” out, but that was it. We were lucky in that we were on one of those “day flights.” I think our plane was supposed to leave around 2:00 pm. We left Charlotte at 7:00 pm, arriving at NYC’s La Guardia around 10:00 pm. Our plane, upon landing, promptly slid off the runway into a snow bank. This was Jackson’s first trip to NYC, yes, but it was also his first flight, and he 100% though his plane sliding into a snowbank was bitchin’. “Wow, cool!” he said, as Jerimiah and I looked at each other, feeling the wheels of the plane spinning out from under us. “That’s not supposed to happen,” we told Jackson, as I grabbed my son and husband’s hands in nervous energy, and he eagerly watched the small truck tow our giant plane into the terminal. “I’m glad it did!” he said with enthusiasm. Le sigh.

Baby’s first airport security line. (He had a passport because by this point he had been on a cruise to Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and St. Maarten on the spring break before, but this was his first time flying.)

Here’s a fun story I forgot to mention. During the five or so hours we spent at the Charlotte Airport waiting for our plane to depart, all the bathroom in our concourse went down. Some sewage problem. We were in Concourse A and the nearest working restrooms were in Concourse C, which means while I battled the “nervous poops” as my husband likes to call them, I had to walk, nay run, to Concourse C and wait in a long-ass line each time. Super fun. Here is a pic Jackson eating pizza for dinner at the Charlotte Airport, gettin ready for NYC pizza, while our departure time kept getting bumped back and back and back, and I started running low on Xanax and clean underwear.

Eventually our plane did leave, as I said, and the flight was fine until the snowbank incident. But American apologized a bunch and then stopped all of their flights into La Guardia for a few more hours. Looks like we skidded in right before, pun intended.

First time on a plane, with Violet.
Jackson took this pic out of his window as we were landing.
Getting towed in from snowbank.

Because we do NYC the best way (read: cheapest) we had to then take a train through Queens, where we had to catch the subway to our hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Jackson did the most Jackson thing at this point, his first time in La Guardia, his first time in NYC, his first time for everything, he grabs his suitcase, says, “Follow me” and then just starts walking toward a bus parked outside. We were like, “What the hell man?!” Turned out it was the right bus, but that was a total fluke. Had to be. Right?

Standing up by the bus driver in Queens, probably telling him where to go… We’ve always said he’s a natural New Yorker, not sure why though.

So there we are, an hour later, schlepping our bags toward the Four Points in the center of Hell’s Kitchen, in a snowstorm, in 20 degree NYC weather, and Jackson was all, “This is FANTASTIC!” That’s when we knew he was our kid. Like, for sure. He’s always up for an adventure this one! I, was of course, cold as shit and just wanted to get to our warm hotel room. Jerimiah was worried about us walking NYC late at night with our suitcases, and Jackson was 100% taking in the sites, jumping on snowbanks, and being an all around nine-year-old. It was sorta great. Then we finally go to our hotel and all quickly passed out. End scene (for the first night).

Waiting to load up in the bus at the airport right after we landed. We were so tired already!
Dog-ass tired.

Jerimiah’s mom was traveling from Kansas City to meet us and she was supposed to be there the same night, but her flight had been cancelled somewhere along the time our plane slid into a snowbank, so she wasn’t able to make it to the city until the next evening, sometime around midnight. Which means we had an unexpected day in NYC without G-Ma, that we needed to fill with things we didn’t think she’d mind missing out on, but that still kept Jackson busy. First stop, yeah, Ghostbuster’s firehouse.

This was after bagel and lox, of course, and before we headed to the Firetruck Museum (to stay on topic for sure) and walking. So much walking, in the cold, cold, cold of a NYC snow. There were some things Jackson just had to see, like NYPD Precinct #1 and lots of different NYPD vehicles.

There was his first subway ride he would remember (the night before had become a blur):

Jerimiah looking like quite the tourist with the camera strapped on him.

And of course one of these bad boys:

Pure amazement.

We also stopped by the Public Library that day (something pretty much only I wanted to see, but they gladly tagged along), and ended the day eating Waffle Dogs in Hell’s Kitchen, before Jackson promptly passed the fuck out from exhaustion at 10 pm, and Jerimiah walked from our hotel in the blistering cold to meet his mom at Penn Station.

Jerimiah sent me this picture a little after midnight to tell me all was well and he and his mom were headed back to the hotel. Grandma had finally landed, the real fun could begin!

The next few days were a blur of fun and excitement, even in the rain and blistering cold, as most of our vacations are. We did so much, and saw so much, that I forgot about most of it until I was going through the old pictures. Here, have a gander…

Breakfast.
Dinner in Little Italy!
Midnight snacks!

Oh, you know what, those are all food pics! Haha, sorry, we did eat a lot of great food, look:

Cheesecake!
Noodles!
Tick Tock Diner at The New Yorker!

Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the food. We spent one whole day in Brooklyn, where we saw the cool buildings and sites, and visited the Transportation Museum, which was obviously Jackson’s favorite and he wants to go back every time we go to NYC, and if I were to go ask him right now if he’d rather go to Disney tomorrow or the Transportation Museum in Brooklyn, he’d vote for the Transportation Museum. For real.

The Transportation Museum was actually really cool, and we all had a great time. Afterward, we walked and took the subway to a couple of other cool places, like Ground Zero, where we had a tough talk with Jackson, and then over to Little Italy (where we ate again) and Chinatown. On the way we stopped off at Wall Street and took some pics with the Bull, and also had even more tough talks with Jackson about capitalism and what not.

The next day was just as crazy, with stops at The Natural History Museum, a ferry ride to Staten Island, and a tour bus around the city to see the sites. We walked to Grand Central Station that night for a snack (Magnolia Cupcakes), then of course we ended at Times Square.

As you can see, we refused to stay inside the ferry, even though it was cold. We wanted to see the sights! Always see the sights! We ended that night walking back to our hotel, a little frozen to the core, but happy, oh so happy! And looking forward to our last night in NYC the next day!

The next day we slept in. No one set an alarm and we were tired, so it was 11:00 am before we were up and at ’em. We don’t usually like to sleep in on vacation, so much to see, but it occasionally happens. This was a more relaxing day, still packed full of sights like Central Park, Washington Square, and the New York City History Museum, but the best part of that day was the trip to the top of the Empire State Building after the sun went down.

Those views!

It certainly was a whirlwind trip, like most of our trips are, and Jackson loved every second of it! He’s been back to NYC once since then, at the beginning of this year when we took a train from Rhode Island with friends to catch a show on Broadway! His first one! And to see the “Big Christmas Tree” before they took it down. It has been a lifelong goal of his, well, you know, since he saw Home Alone 2 a few years back. 🙂

So thanks for going on this trip down memory lane for the sake of posterity. I’ve been meaning to share pictures from this trip for a long time now, and I hope you enjoyed them.

And if you haven’t been to NYC, or it’s been years, I implore you to go (once it is safe of course). You won’t regret it! And hit me up for all the good tips!

M.

Lunch at the Starlight Diner
He could navigate the subway too, duh.
He really liked the Flatiron Building!
He for sure quoted Night at the Museum here!
Lighting candles with Grandma at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Buying his first comics at a comic book store in Midtown.
Radio City Music Hall and 30 Rock
Reading Room at the NYC Public Library
Grand Central Station
Lego Store!
We stayed on the 25th floor!