Category Archives: Family

Y is for Youth… Man, I miss having that… #atozchallenge #blogging #writing

Ahh, to be young again… to not feel the aches and pains of age, or notice the little gray hairs starting to come in at my temples. To be able to look at the world with all the excitement and vigor of a child… what a neat thing that would be, eh?

Now, if I were truly pressed, and had to choose to go back and live my childhood again or stay where I am now, Im not sure I would really go back. I mean, heck, there were a lot of hard life lessons between then and now, some of which I have absolutely no desire to see again. But, there are some moments in my youth, if given the choice, I would decide to live in forever and ever. I would agree to never grow up if I could just experience what I did on a particular day, or feel what I felt at a particular moment.

Then I take a look at my children. My oldest is grown and on his own now, starting a life with his girlfriend and my job where he is concerned is done. My two daughters are still home with me, but the oldest, Casey is 17 and a senior in HS — off to college in the fall and on to adulthood. My youngest daughter, Shelby is 11 (12 June 1st) going on 35, and while she is the one I will get to experience childhood with for just a little longer, soon she will find Mom as boring as the other two did when they got a bit older. But, each time I look at what they have each grown to become, I smile — I am so proud of them, and of me for all the things we overcame and did together.

Being a single parent isn’t easy, and some days I feel a hell of a lot older than my mere 42 years, but when things get hard and I start to feel old, I just look at my kids, spend a bit a time with them, and that youth each of the oozes seems to rub off on me just a little bit, and once more I feel like a little kid, excited by a new sunrise and the prospects of a play date after school.

Thank God enthusiasm and feeling young is contagious! I may never grow up at this rate 🙂

For fun, I thought I would share some before and after pics with you — an illustration of youth, as it were.

This is my very special gang 🙂

STEVEN:

CASEY:

SHELBY:

WHERE THEY ARE NOW — TIME FLIES!!!

Me and My Little Gang of Youthful Exuberance!!

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T is for Take Over: My Daughter, Casey Takes Over The Blog #atozchallenge #blogging #poetry

I am a proud Mama today because T is for Take Over, and my 17yr old daughter, Casey Hart has agreed to be the taker.

Casey is a high school senior heading to college in the fall. Besides being an amazing daughter, she’s a budding poet, and has graciously agreed to let me feature one of her original poems on the blog today.

This particular poem is aptly named Taken Over  (see what we did there?) 😛

TAKEN OVER
by Casey Hart
The initial blow is nothing compared to the ache,
You fall even though you put everything at stake,
They don’t care they just take it all away,
Until you feel as though you must stay.
You think that maybe it’s just a phase,
But, years later you discover that it has lasted way too many days.
Suddenly, it gets pushed back into the depths of your brain,
But, you will always feel the pain.
You find yourself crying as you go to sleep,
It’s hard to understand how words could cut you so deep,
You cringe every time he walks through the door,
But, you cannot run; you’re stuck to the floor.
After months of waiting for the pain to go away,
You start to live life day by day,
That’s when you finally begin to dream again,
But, he pushes and prods you until you despise all men.
It was fun when it started but now you’re just scared,
You can’t remember the last time you even cared.
This situation engulfs your entire life,
‘Til you’re ready to end it; all it takes is a knife.
That’s when your brain shuts right down,
Nothing cheers you up; you’re always wearing a frown.
Thoughts of suicide take over your brain,
You convince yourself that you would feel no more pain.
Your life is over; your heart just won’t quit beating,
Your insides feel like they’re always bleeding.
Your liver, your heart, your kidneys, your spleen,
Are yearning to end this wretched scene.
It never goes away, even when you’re free,
It’s waiting for you,
it’s waiting…
for me.
Feel free to share your thoughts and comments on the poem. Casey was looking forward to knowing what “real people” thought about the piece.
Happy Monday!

The Clan Takes Boston (Part Deux)… Still just kinda :P #beantown #travel

I promised you all last week when I started to give you a peek at my family trip to Boston in late February that I would return to post the rest of the excellent family adventure.

Welp, here I am. (You were waiting with baited breath, weren’t you?)

Best bet is to start where I finished off on the last posting, right? Right.

The Salty Dog… where anything can happen…

We had a nice lunch there and then the family decided to head out for a bit more exploration. We also wanted to be sure the restaurant we had prebooked a reservation at (Union Street Oyster House) was really within walking distance. As soon as we got outside, my youngest daughter, Shelby noticed a vendor selling silly balloon hats outside at Quincy Market. She, of course, HAD TO HAVE ONE!!

Okay, how much are they? She tells me, four dollars. Welp, I have no cash, so I truck over to an ATM and pull a bit out and tell her, “Sure, you can have one, but you have to wear it.”

So, Shelby sits herself down with the vendor and he makes her a wonderful “Very Shelby” hat.

As you can see in the photos, it was a rather blustery afternoon and Shelby, besides being cold, is trying like heck to ensure her cool new hat is not going to fly off her little head at any moment.

She even managed to gather herself a little crowd of curious passersby (Shelby is quite good at that).

Here you see the glorious finished product, the Most Fantastical Silly Hat of All Time!

Tada!!

Once Shelby was properly attired in her fancy new hat, it was time to continue our walk to the restaurant. This went without a hitch as the place was indeed just a short walk from the hotel on the other side of Quincy Market.

Once we’d assured ourselves of this fact, we decided to head back to the Market area and take a walk down the second row of shops. As we traversed, it became clear that there were far too many cool places to poke in for a drink (more a draw for Pete and I than the girls, but still). Not to mention shops full of interesting souvenirs and knick knacks.

My eldest daughter, Casey decided she needed the lobster beanie… (yes, she is 17 and yes, it looked silly — absolutely I made her wear it all the way back to our hotel. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a pic of this fancy lobster hat, but trust me, it is exactly as you would picture it might look. While I was there I also grabbed a T-shirt for my son (who didn’t take the trip with us). Purchases made, we decided to head back to the hotel to relax for a bit before our dinner reservation.

On the way back to the hotel, we came across one of those board things with head cut outs and I had to make the girls poke their little faces in it so I could get their picture.

Well worth it, right? Sometimes my daughters are just too cute and accommodating.

So back to the hotel we go. I spend the next hour or so taking pictures out the window at the view from our room, while Pete relaxes and the girls head up a few floors to check out the hotel’s “arcade” and “family activity center”.

I don’t have a heights thing, so when I had booked the room, I asked for a high floor.

Definitely worth asking. I had not expected the amazing views we got from our bedroom window.

See? Unbeatable. It looked even more amazing at night, to be frank, but I am not capable of taking night pics without blurring them beyond hope, so you will not be getting to see that view. I guess you will just have to go to Boston for that one 😛

So evening comes and it’s time for dinner. So the gang heads back out into the Boston evening. We make the short walk to Union Street Oyster House, which Pete has been excited about since we left New York. And dinner is on him, what could be sweeter? Not much, I can tell ya.

The dinner… didn’t quite live up to the lofty expectations on any front. The food was fine, but super expensive for what you got from a portion and taste standpoint. The tables were small and you sorta felt packed in. I can’t remember what Pete ordered, but I had the American Bouillabaisse, Casey ordered a steak and fries, and Shelby had Butterfly Shrimp. My meal looked GORGEOUS!!
The taste was pretty good too, frankly. I was a bit disappointed in the amount of lobster contained in the meal, being it cost $36.00 for the bowl and only had half a lobster in it. But, overall, tasty vittles.

Here are my attempts to take a lovely picture of Shelby (reminding you she refuses to take “normal” pictures). Yes, she is a trip… (to where, I’m not quite sure)

After dinner, we walked back to the hotel for the evening. The girls headed back up to the arcade with a pocket full of quarters and Pete and I relaxed in the room.

This is when I started talking pics of the room and Pete decided to don the “Fabulous Silly Hat” and prance about the room in his tightie whities and toast me in each and every pic. Here’s an example of what my room pics all look like. (Some areas blocked out to keep things G-rated – but you get the idea).

Is it any wonder I am as strange as I appear sometimes? I mean, look at what I put up with 😛 Love that man of mine… really!

So, after some fun with wine and silly hats, we retired for the evening. The plan: get an early start, grab something for breakfast and be at the gates of the Aquarium at 9am opening time. Why so early?

The penguin feeding at 9:15am. Gotta be there for that! Plans made. The evening was a bit rough for me. Not sure if it was the wine or that gorgeous bowl of boulliabaise, but I had to get up about an hour after going to bed to empty my stomach into the fancy toilet. Wee… there goes that $35 dollar meal… Once I was on empty, my tummy felt great. A quick teeth brushing later, I was back in bed and feeling sooooo much better. Fell right to sleep, and had a quiet rest of the night.

We managed to get up on time, but Pete was having some muscle issues, so I took the girls across the street to Dunkin Donuts to grab a quick breakfast before we went and dragged Pete out of bed.

We managed to do that, but also managed to miss the penguin feeding.

Oh well, stuff happens. We got to the Aquarium at about 10am and got our tickets.

Right behind the ticket booth is the tank where they have the harbor seals, so we beelined there to see them swimming back and forth (upside down – though I have no idea why).

Shelby LOVED these guys. If she could have, I have no doubt she would have climbed right into the big tank area with them if the wall surrounding them wasn’t so high. The tank was neat because you could see them above and below the surface swimming.

We managed to drag Shelby from the tank to actually go INSIDE the Aquarium, but didn’t make it more than a few steps before we found a penguin statue where we had to take another picture of the girls. In this particular picture, we find Casey giving us her best “ghetto pose”. She looks so intimidating, doesn’t she?

Yeah… I know. She tries, really, but I don’t think Casey could be “bad” even if she had a lifetime to practice. Pete calls her “a saint” for a reason.

After the photo op, we finally made it into the actual Aquarium. I took oodles of pictures while we were there, but I will spare you the loin’s share of them, because, well, some of them are only exciting to me.

Instead, I will just share with you a few of my absolute favorites. You can thank me for that later. 😀

When you first enter the Aquarium, you are greeted by a massive tank of penguins… like the entire bottom floor of the place surrounds the massive penguin tank.  Let me tell you, I could have spent the ENTIRE day right there. That is how much I love watching the little suckers. Here are just a few of the snaps I grabbed of the little cuties:

It wasn’t until I started going through these pics that I actually realized how many I took of penguins. Probably about a third of all my pics… oops 😛

Once I managed to drag myself away — or rather the family managed to drag me away from the penguins, we explored the rest of the three floors of aquatic exhibits. We saw everything from Atlantic Salmon to … I can’t think of an aquatic exhibit that ends in Z… but you get the idea.

Shelby was a bit disappointed they didnt have a manatee or any dolphins, but she adored hanging in the back pool with the seals and sealions. And I did manage to grab a few cool pics of the little cuties.

This little fuzzy guy was probably my favorite. He just seemed so laid back and unimpressed with everything going on around him. Shelby’s favorite was the sealion she said was named Zoey. I am taking her word on that one, since she was glued to the presenter doing the talking during the presentation, so she would know. I gotta admit, she was a cutie too.

The family and I spent the next four or so hours wandering around in the Aquarium and then we found the Giant Ocean Tank…

Let me tell you, a person could spend the entire day staring into that thing and would probably never get bored. Between the giant sea turtle, the massive sharks, and the stingray… not to mention the parrot fish, groupers, angelfish… well, you name it and it was probably in that tank someplace. I took another million pictures of the tank, though some came out, and others didn’t. It is hard to take a picture through glass with no flash and actually get it to come out. But, in this effort, I got some amazing pics of my girls in the glass reflections.

Check these out. (pay close attention to the expressions on their faces).

This one is Shelby checking out the giant octopus (in the top corner of the tank, stuck to the glass). She is just enthralled but the big guy.

In this one of Casey, I don’t even know what it was she was looking at, but I just love how I captured her complete amazement at whatever it was she was looking at in the Giant Tank.

The last is Shelby again, this time she is checking out the massive shark, also in the Giant Ocean tank.

I just love seeing my girls so engrossed in something that is also so educational.

So, as you can see, the gang had quite an excellent time in Boston and especially at the New England Aquarium.

If you are from the Northeast, and have never been there, I would highly recommend it. It is the perfect day trip for anyone who has kids that love ocean creatures as much as my girls seem to.

Thanks for stopping by. I would love to know what you think about the trip or any of the pictures posted in either this or last weeks Part 1 of “The Clan Takes Boston”.

Happy Friday, everyone!

The Clan Takes Boston… Kinda. (part 1) #travel

As I promised earlier today, it’s time to share the deets on the Harko/Hart/Sharp (sorry, we’re a modern family) gang’s recent sojourn to the great and historically rich city of Boston, MA.

With my full-time job and my two daughters in school, we don’t find much time for “family vacations”. with my two daughters off from school this week, I decided to treat them and take the week off from work as well.

We discussed options for short trips (ones we could afford) and the Boston Aquarium came up as an option. Pete and I booked a room at the Marriott Custom House which according to Google maps was smack next to the Aquarium and Quincy Market. Plus it was better for Pet and I than a standard hotel room with two double beds, as it was a suite. Private bedroom with king and a fold out queen bed for the girls. Kitchenette for breakfast. I’m now thinking mini fridge and microwave. Rock on. I can make good coffee when I get up. Book it, baby!

We even had the forethought to make an online reservation (omg, I’m such a net geek sometimes) at the nearby, and supposedly famous, Union Oyster House, also within walking distance of the Custom House the night of our arrival in Beantown.

Now for the fun part, the actual trip. (Fasten your seatbelts)

The first thing I have to say about Boston, is this. Never, EVER, drive in Boston. I cannot even begin to explain the maze that makes up the streets of this city. Before I went, I thought, “How hard can it be? I’m from New York.” Welp… it was NOT pretty. Picture Pete driving, me looking at a pittance half marked piece of map we got off the hotel site in a maze of one way streets curving and merging from every conceivable direction. The girls did mention they saw two vagrants, and were disturbingly excited by this apparent coup. They went on to explain that we didn’t see them “because you were too busy yelling at Pete.” (In my defense, he had just almost run over a pedestrian taking his life in his hands by crossing against the light)

We literally spent an hour driving in circles trying to find State Street, only to finally find it but it’s a one way street leading away from the part of it we needed to be on. Are you freaking kidding me?

The gang was quite pleased to finally manage to find the traversable end of State Street and were able to find our lodgings at the Custom House. YAY!

I have to tell you, the place was GORGEOUS. Far beyond my expectations based on the website information. Turns out, a “resort” facility. As you can see in this first pic, it comes complete with its own clock tower. The green strip above the clock face is the lookout. More on that later.

 Our room was on the 19th floor and check in was a breeze. Valet parking. You had to pay extra for parking, by the way ($39 for the overnight). The lobby was beautiful, with a three-story domed ceiling. The girls nabbed a snap of that. Check it out.

Sweet, right? It was what I would imagine the inside of the White House dome might look like.

The hotel is also quite secure. You needed your room key to operate the elevator up. Smart and helped ease my concerns on the choice we had made sight unseen (basically).

I mentioned earlier we were on the 19th floor, right? Well, let me tell you, the view from the windows of the suite was killer! Here’s a quick menage.

Yup. Jackpot.

The room itself was just as impressive.  I would show you nice pics of that, but apparently I didn’t take any that didn’t contain my dear, Pete in his undies and Shelby’s Silly Balloon Hat (more on that later, too). This is the only one I managed free of rated PG-13 material. It’s the view of the room from its entrance foyer (yes, it had its own posh little foyer inside the door).

View from Room Entrance Foyer

Oh, there’s the Silly Hat I mentioned. I promise we are almost to that part of the trip. Patience, eh? 

Once we arrived in Beantown and settled out stuff, the gang headed out to explore Quincy Market and see if we could really reach the restaurant we’d made reservations at on foot. I did not relish the idea of more city driving. been there, done that.

Considering it was the dead of winter in the Northeast, the weather was wonderfully accommodating. A cold brisk wind, but certainly not the chilling temps expected in the region (like the rest of this winter has been). We toured a row of shops and indoor carts, not really paying too much attention. Just getting a lay of the land, as it were.

Pete was ready for a beer and I wanted some sort of snack, having only had sandwiches we’d packed for the drive. A beer sounded pretty good to me, too.

We headed into the Salty Dog Tavern. It seems we entered the bar side, so we were directed through the think kitchen area in the center (dish station, I believe) into the back where the tables were located. It was small but quaint, and the gang took a load off and had a bit of fun.

I didn’t tell you I had a normal family or anything, right? I should tell you all now — if you didn’t know this already — my daughter, Shelby is quite unique. She refuses to take a “normal” picture. So, you will not see one here.

Pete had a beer, but they didn’t have Corona, so I opted for a soda. The girls had sodas as well. We ordered a bucket of clams to share and Casey (who doesn’t eat seafood, really) had an order of fries. Pete added some Oyster Stew and I had a bowl of New England Chowder. I guess, technically, Boston Chowder in this case. ($65 for the whole kaboodle) Tasty vittles and the server was friendly and efficient. Casey and Shelby came up with a saying while we were there, though I couldn’t tell you now why. The Salty Dog, Where Anything Can Happen. (*shrugs* not sure – they’re kids, after all)

That’s all for now. I’ll finish up the fantastic clan adventure in another post tomorrow. I can’t be hogging all your time with my silly family slide shows.

If you have been to these places and have experiences to share, or just want to post a comment or question on the trip so far, just drop me a line. 🙂

Until, tomorrow… and the saga continues.

Children and Technology: The Truth About Social Media?

I had a conversation with my 11 year old daughter, Shelby about Hurricane Irene last night at dinner. What she had to say made me giggle, and showed me that while the information age is great for spreading information, sometimes we need to make sure the info picked up by our children is accurate.

Here is a snipit of that informative chat:

Me: Wow, 10 inches of rain is no joke.

Shelby: They even had to evacuate New Jersey, the whole thing. That’s alot of people.

Me: No sweetie, not all of New Jersey, just the Jersey Shore.

Shelby: (with a big smile): Oh, that’s okay. They are all in Italy right now, anyway.

So there you have it. My daughter, the holder of all important news. *giggle*

Happy Monday!

Happy Independence Day Everyone!! (almost)

Getting ready to enjoy a long weekend with the family for the holidays, but also had so much I wanted to share before I went. Unfortunately, time is not my friend any more than Mr Murphy is. So I will say that I am happy and blessed to report the girls both did well in school over the past year. Casey, my oldest daughter, gave me a drawing I wanted to share. Some may see a familiar theme to the cover of a certain new book, Darkness and Light by J.A. Belfield (guest appearance on blog to come in August). That is actually purely coincidental. I named the piece Casey’s Dragon.

Nice right? That’s my girl 🙂
I hope you all have a wonderful Independence Day. (even though this post really had nothing to do with the actual celebration of the holiday despite what I named the post) To those of you that visit my blog from outside the US – have a fabulous day from the USA.
I’ll marshmallow toast you all from camp. If I ever replace my broken digital camera, I might even share pics one day.

My Mother’s Day Present: Shelby Glasses – Part 2

As my regular blog followers can attest, I have a rather unique 10year old daughter named Shelby. For Mother’s Day this year, she didn’t make me a homemade card like she usually does. Instead, she found a song to send me for Mother’s Day. According to Shelby — this is what I mean to her. (I can tell you right now — the below video is classic Shelby).

Enjoy!

I Could See This Conversation Happening At My House.

Just a little Thursday humor. This was sent to me by a co-worker who knows my daughter, Shelby. This is something I could TOTALLY see her asking me.

Enjoy 🙂

What are Shelby Glasses?

A few days ago, a writer friend of mine (Joce Adams *shout out* – Great Writer – check her stuff out. There’s a link to her blog in my sidebar somewhere) recently asked me to critique one of her stories with an eye toward the 9 year old voice.

As some of you may know, I have two daughters. The youngest of which is my ten year old, Shelby. I told Joce I’d put on my “Shelby Glasses” and see what I could find to pick at.

Just this evening, I found some of her schoolwork on the counter, a common occurrence. One of the pages had some paragraphs of writing on it, and I thought it might be a story of some kind, or a book report.

It turned out to be some kind of journal page. There are two sections. Friday and Saturday. What I read for Saturday explains Shelby Glasses perfectly. You will have to let me know if you agree.

The following is not edited in any way. It is VERBATIM what is on the page and what made me laugh today.

Saturday

On Saturday I went to my friends and slept over. Once we went on youtube we looked up Etrade baby grounded. After that we did a complete minute to win it night. I won and I got (dramatic pause) 1                 Penny!! It wasn’t worth dropping an egg on your head. I had to take 2 showers to wash it out. surprisingly it makes your skin nice and soft.

(NOTE: I wasn’t able to make the !! properly after Penny –the way shelby wrote it- because it is a smiley face using the periods as the eyes)

I was particularly impressed with the addition of the stage direction for dramatic pause and the importance it warranted to add it for her teacher to get the full affect of the story.

Shelby glasses ROCK.

Finding Time for Yourself

As a working, single parent, the idea of finding “me time” can be a bit daunting– as anyone in a similiar situation can attest. In my world, me time = writing time. It is what I want to be doing when there is nothing pressing me in another direction.

My biggest issue however, seems to be guilt. Guilt over not giving the kids enough attention when I get home. Guilt over spending the evening with my nose in a laptop knowing my retired boyfriend has been home alone all day with nothing to do BUT wait for me to get home so he can chat with someone other than the dog. Some days my fingers itch to write, but I can’t force myself to pick up the laptop because I know the look that will inevitably follow. I guess that would be self-imposed guilt?

This little dilemma got me thinking. There are a lot of you out there also carrying a workload, and a life outside writing, so I am turning the question to you all.

How do you find time to write?  Do you have a specific routine? Certain hours of the day set aside for writing? Do you feel guilty when you are shutting everything out while you pound through a new chapter?

How do you manage to juggle all the little balls without dropping any?

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