Montebello, Virginia Family Vacation: A Recap

Who: My mom, my dad, his sister, her husband, their dog and their daughter, her fiancee, my three kids, and myself.

When: Departed on Monday, December 26. Returned on Saturday, December 31.

What: Big old road trip family vacation.

Where: We spent one night at a Hampton Inn in Rock Hill, SC on the way up. The Three Sisters log cabin is located in Montebello, VA. We also visited Spy Rock and Crab Tree Falls while in the area. We spent a night at my aunt’s house in Hampton, VA.

Why: As a child, my family used to take road trips constantly. It’s a unique way to travel and a unique experience overall. Not to mention, the desire to disconnect, to turn things off, to be present in each other’s company. I wanted my kids to try it out and see if they liked it as much as we did as kids.

Verdict: They loved it- the whole family. The kids want to go back. Well, Eldest didn’t want to leave but settled for coming back– in the summer and again in the winter. For me? It wasn’t peaceful and it wasn’t quiet. But it was family being family and that is extremely precious as well. There was no relaxing but there was a lot of experiencing and being open to what was around me and in front of me and next to me. I didn’t once think about the future or the past. I just ate everything that was happening up. I didn’t even get into major photography mode which I find bizarre because that type of situation is the stuff photographers love. But I just didn’t care to waste my time behind a little box. Yes I took photos, we all did, and there are some great ones.

Like these (click to enlarge):

Our temporary home in Montebello, VA was an authentic log cabin from the 1800's carefully modernized and cared for.

MutantBaby stomps around the wide open area around our cabin wearing a very exclusive handmade Mutant Supermodel hat.

Kids put together a Willy Wonka Gingerbread Cottage kit. I felt building it in a log cabin was the most fitting thing in the world.

The "hardy group", as my uncle referred to us, set out on a hike to Spy Rock. It's about 2 miles up and then you have to scale a big old rock. And then you get to scrabble back down and hike 2 miles down.

My cousin and I perched on top of Spy Rock freezing our tropical tushies off. Thankfully my uncle's awesome dog is a very eager lap blanket.

The "hardy group" reached the top all together. Gorgeous views up here. I mean seriously stunning. Also seriously cold. There were frozen puddles of ice all over the place.

My uncle's dog, an English Setter, quickly became the object of my children's affections. But MutantBaby in particular developed a bond with him. The dog is a pack dog and didn't mind at all being snuggled by a three year old.

When we left the log cabin, we took a bunch of family photos. This one is by far my favorite. It was inspired by my aunt and I who started walking in a Beatles' Abbey Road style when my uncle said he wanted one of everyone walking to the cabin. Before we knew it, we got the whole clan lined up. Even the dog joined in.

My mom and I wait for my dad to catch up to us on the trail to Crab Tree Falls.

At the halfway mark, half of our group went back-- my aunt and uncle, my mom, and Baby. My dad, Eldest, Daughter, and I decided to keep going the rest of the 1.7 mile hike. At the 1.6 mile marker, Daughter wanted to throw in the towel. I gave her a little pep talk.

We reached the top meaning Daughter and Eldest completed their first official hike. I am very, very proud of them for this accomplishment.

My Dad got this shot of all of us and the beautiful view from the top overlook at Crab Tree Falls.

At my aunt's house, the kids slept in sleeping bags. The dog couldn't resist and so a new pack was born. Do you see Baby snuggled all the way down in his sleeping bag under the table?

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Newly Made in New York

Originally published on February 2, 2010 at MomsMiami.

A few weeks ago, I was in the middle of the mother of emotional rollercoasters. To sit here and tell you that separation and divorce is not an easy and smooth process is an understatement of the highest accord. There are developments constantly that just have a way of crushing your heart into jelly. Add to that my grandfather was ailing and I was just a raving nutcase. So I pleaded on Facebook for an escape and got one from my friends, E & E who now reside in the Bronx in New York. I went to my savings and bought my ticket and off I went, spending what would have been my sixth wedding anniversary in the Big Apple.

E & E have a tiny beautiful baby so they were sorry to inform me they would largely be unable to escort me around the city. No matter. I got my MetroCard, an MTA map, and bought a NYC guide book and was on my own. I went to the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and looked at stunning dresses and clothes and marveled over how some outfits over fifty years old could easily be sported today. I walked all over the place and ended up in Times Square taking in the lights and the movement. There really is a pulse to that city and it’s so easy to just sit and feel it. That night, we had a comedy of errors that resulted in my being foiled by a tricky NYC lock on their apartment and them sleeping that completely exhausted new parent sleep and having to resort to quick thinking. I ended up with a friend’s brother-in-law in Brooklyn who, with the assistance of his two friends, whisked me away to Sugarland, a gay bar in his neighborhood. Highlight of the evening was when one adorable man told me I was “too fierce for Brooklyn.” Thank you. I think.

The next day, I rested a little bit and made my way to Central Park West. After strolling the area, I found Le Pain Quotidien (494 Amsterdam Ave) where I had one of the most heavenly meals in New York. This was comfort food at its best– a Belgian Hot Chocolate ($3.95) with a little pitcher of extra chocolate, an open face Tuna & Hummus sandwich ($9.75) that was so incredibly fresh and delicious I wanted to hug someone, and the most amazingly decadent Dark Chocolate Brioche Bread Pudding ($4.50) I have ever imagined. Le Pain Quotidien uses fresh and organic ingredients and you can tell. This super delicious and somewhat good for you meal cost me about $20 which impressed me big time. In case you can’t tell, I cannot recommend this place enough and boy do I wish we were lucky enough to have one.

After blissfully eating, I went to the Museum of Natural History where I got quite homesick and missed my children too much to really enjoy it so I left and vowed to return with the tribe at a future date. At this point, my leg was really starting to hurt from all of the walking the day before and earlier so I went back to the apartment and dined on some delicious Chinese food with my fantastic hosts and watched television until I fell asleep early.

Next day was a yucky rainy windy kind of day. It took me forever to get motivated to head out and when I did, I hid away in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a few hours. After swooning over this, that, and the other and wishing I had more time (always seemed to be wishing for that), I met up with another friend who lives in the city and did some wandering of our own which placed me in H&M and led to the discovery that my poor behind is just a little too Cuban to sport any of their really cute (and cheap) dresses. To recover from the dismay, we made a visit to Dylan’s Candy Bar which is a really fun experience. My kids would LOVE this place but I wasn’t so nostalgic as I was earlier. I really just had a great time looking at everything and snapping away with my camera. After all the tantalizing sugaryness, we went off to have dinner. I decided it was high time that my friend try some amazing Indian food and we ended up at this restaurant I had endlessly heard about called Chola. Oh my god. I hadn’t had really great Indian food since I lived in California a few years ago. Chola fixed that. We totally overindulged and ordered heaps of food like the Tamarind Eggplant and AMAZING Dosas (they really should just name them that). My friend had the Chicken Tikka Masala and I feasted on the Chicken Chutneywala. Throw in some Paneer Cheese Naam and we were figuring out how to roll ourselves out the door and back to the Subway.

The next day was shopping day but not before I started my day with a classic (overpriced) New York bagel and coffee at Murray’s that I happily munched on in Central Park. Once I was ready to go, it was off to SoHo where I paid homage to KidRobot and went absolutely bonkers at Pearl River Mart. Then, I went trekking along Canal Street and wandered through ChinaTown where I feasted on Dim Sum. Later that night, I met up with my friend again and we strolled through Little Italy where I bought a box of pastries to take back to my awesome hosts. When I went back, we had coffee and pastries (after I consumed my leftovers) and watched more television until it was sleepy time.

My last day was a short one and so I ran around to do some last minute shopping but also some last minute sightseeing. You see, my son was obsessed with the Empire State Building. So, I ran to the Top of the Rock and snagged some amazing photos just for him. After that, I ran to the famous Magnolia Bakery for some legendary cupcakes I could bring home (they sell a dozen mini cupcakes in an egg carton that are PERFECT for transporting, $20) but also snagged one I could enjoy myself after my lunch of chicken and rice from one of the street vendors.

And so it was that my trip to NYC came to an end. It was much needed decompression, distraction, and delight. It did make me homesick at times, but to explore the city on my own was an incredible and liberating experience unlike anything else. This wasn’t my first time in NYC but it was the first time I really attacked it completely at my discretion, indulging whatever the heck it was I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. Of course, you don’t have to go all the way up there for this sort of thing, but if you do make sure to check out some of the above places. They really made my stay special.

Computer Day

I've spent a huge chunk of today with my buttcheeks firmly smooshed against this chair. And in a way I have learned that I am actually getting used to NOT being on here and that's nice. I wanted to get up and leave the computer so many times today. I usually want the opposite you know? But I couldn't. I had so much stuff for the store to take care of. The holiday rush ravaged my poor little store and I'm trying to pick up the pieces. My inventory is a disaster. I am trying to look into getting Zen Cart but I'm clueless about these things. Ooooh real time inventory how I NEED you so. My inventory is so bare it's embarrassing. So I'm checking stock on some new stuff. Yay new stuff. Lots of berries and apples and mushies. ^_^

I figured while working I'd also play around so I've put in a new layout and a new avatar and they mesh well together. J rented the first season of Weeds for us to watch after nearly a million or so people told us it was a must-see. We loved it. They are getting really good at television let me tell you. I only have two cons. One is easy one not so much. Let's do the easy one first and get it out of the way. Every man the main character (played by Mary Louise Parker) meets falls in love with her in a big way. It's laughable but also annoying.

My other con has to do with something that didn't even bother me until someone else mentioned it and it's not so much with the show just in general. I read the reviews on the DVD on Amazon and was shocked to find some people upset because Nancy (Mary Louise's character) buys her pot from what they call the stereotype which is in this show a black woman and her pregnant daughter. Now other than the fact they're black I thought it was really stupid to call it a stereotype. If it was a sleazy hustler type yes. A stupid gangsta type yes. But the fact is it's another single woman doing what she's doing. I actually thought it was kinda neat to have the parallels run like that. Whatever. What REALLY got me is how these different reviews all yapped on and on about the black stereotype and yet no one mentioned the Hispanic stereotypes that are in the show that are truly really stereotypes. Nancy's housekeeper is Hispanic, Lupita. And a rival dealer who later falls in love with her after a good hot romp in an alley and becomes her muscle is also Hispanic. Perfect. The (nosy) Hispanic housekeeper and the Latin Lover Dealer. Those are original. Completely. Really. *eyeroll* I haven't seen Season Two so I don't know if these characters develop at all but I highly doubt it. At least the black characters have interesting angles. I think so at least. I'm just sayin' if you're gonna knock one, knock all of them ok? I have to say that's one of the reasons I love the Gabrielle and Carlos partnership on Desperate Housewives. It's just not often Hispanics get cast in those roles– not on American TV at least. They get those roles on Univision and Telemundo ALL the time though =P

I'm off my box now. Just wanted to lay that out there. The show's great. Watch it. My favorite character, Celia (played by Elizabeth Perkins) knits at soccer games. Oh and in case you were wondering, this is absolutely positively not for children unless you're totally ok with them seeing softcore sex scenes and much consumption of drugs in which case, have fun.

I'd like to say thanks some more for the comments and emails you've all taken the time to write to me. You guys are so sweet. I got a lovely letterset from a swap and I have lots of stationery and I'm in a letter writing mood again so I think I might send some letters to some of you. I'm pretty much sure that this is definitely some form of mild depression and my guess is that it has to do with the hormones from nursing. I sort of went through this with Eldest but it was more when I weaned him off nursing at five months (I was on honeymoon and lost my milk). I guess since in that case the hormones went away it didn't last as long. I have lots of support from my family my friends and my husband most of all. So I think all will be well in the end.

Oh one last thing. I am leaving to Texas for vacation this Saturday. We will be in San Antonio for a couple of days and then we will be in Houston. We keep going back and forth on Houston but my gut tells me to just check it out. If anyone lives in either area and would like to tell me some places worth checking out, hit me up. Maybe you know some nice neighborhoods with good schools for instance. I actually have a family friend in San Antonio who's going to take us around but we're on our own in Houston. I hear Moshi Moshi Imports is in Houston so I might have to see if I can pop in. That'd be fun 🙂 Alright guys I'm going to get some rest. I'm exhausted. I'll talk to you soon ^_^

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Here is a really great little swap to join. Cost? A little crafting time plus shipping. Think you can handle that? JOIN!
I had major Tord victory today and I didn’t even go to the Target I got my garland at! I hit up two Targets today and picked up a few garlands. I’m going to spread the love to my fellow lovers of pretty paper things. If you want one, let me know. I also scored the window clings! These look SO neat. I’m fighting the urge to put them up right now. If you want one of those, I have extras too. See how thoughtful I am? Anything leftover that I don’t use I’ll just ebay. I also picked up four mugs, two mutil colored ones and two gold ones. So pretty.

I have decided that the mugs I own are very boring and dreary. I have begun a mission to create a collection of mugs I enjoy drinking from. I have a really cute red one from Starbucks that has a devil on it and says boo at the very bottom. Starbucks has ANOTHER one I haven’t bought yet for whatever idiot reason. It’s a deep purple that almost looks brown in some lights and has beautiful designs on it. I love it. It’s not on their website. I really need to buy it. I’m thrilled that the mugs I bought today will be added to my new collection. Because I don’t have enough collections…

The Office today was spectacular. Am I the only one out there who could care less about Pam and Jim? I love Karen!! And really who cares about that rivalry when there’s Dwight and Andy!?!?! I ate it up I really did.

I went to New York and all I took pictures of was the plane ride up there.

Speaking of New York I do believe I promised you pictures of the cuties I snagged at KidRobot didn’t I? Well here they are. I snagged the two Sonny Angels (Panda and Cock- according to the package I SWEAR) and the two Sket Bots! And for those of you clueless out there, they’re the four figurines up front. Doesn’t it look like the yellow Sket Bot is freaking out about standing next to an anatomically correct little naked boy?

I think I’m done here for tonight. 🙂

And we’re back!

I'm trying to think of how to start and really can't come up with anything cohesive. So let's just jump in randomly.

These business trips to New York are always incredibly exciting, busy, and over way too fast. I always have a million things I want to do in the city and usually I only get to do one because it happens to be in my boss' favorite shopping district. That would be visiting KidRobot and picking up a few new playthings for my collection which I did but I have to photograph them still. I haven't had much time. I came home LATE Friday night and Saturday was really hard for me. I just had a really tough time transitioning back into fulltime Mommy mode. But it's ok. It's coming together finally.

I love my new hair. I love the lightness of it and the freedom. I love that blowdrying it is actually kind of fun and not some crazy chore that takes forever and ever and I still have WET hair not even moist.

On the flight up I finished reading Running With Scissors. Pretty crazy book. Wow.

I went shopping at Wild Oats today. It's like a 20 minute drive from here. I was dizzy in the produce section. So many luscious veggies and fruits. EEK! And J told me today he loves this raw food a girl at work's been making. So I bought a cookbook online. One raw and one vegetarian. I'm trying to get healthy food into these tummies.

There was something else I meant to say. Many somethings. But honestly the new Home Companion is on my desk and it's twinkling and shining and begging me to take it into the bath upstairs. What you don't hear it? Plus there's a baby asleep across my lap who needs to get back into her crib. You haven't seen the last of me!

Ciao Bellas

First things first. I have to thank all 49 entrants for the raffle. You were all incredibly kind and thoughtful. You took the time and really helped me out. I appreciated it immensely! I am going to reply to every single one of you this weekend because if you took the time to talk to me, you deserve my time for a reply! As for the raffle we do have a winner! A big congratulations are in order for the lovely Maki. You can find her on MySpace!! But really you guys are all wonderful and I’m really encouraged to work extra hard for you guys.

Otherwise I’m just popping in to say I’m jumping on a jet plane (in seven and a half hours ouch) for NYC. I’ve got a meeting there tomorrow and I’ll be back late tomorrow night. I’m taking my camera with me again. Hopefully I’ll have time to take pictures. I’m also taking some swapee information to see if maybe I get a moment to shop. It’s just me and my boss heading up there. That’s right I’m babyless. I can’t make up my mind how I feel about that! EEK! I have got to go. I have to wake up in 3.5 hours. GROSS.

Where Do I Begin To Tell The Story….

Let's start at the beginning. Wednesday when I left rushed and in a flurry. The rest is cut for the courtesy of your friends' page. I made sure to include lots of images for your viewing pleasure.

Day One: Things at the airport actually went smooth as can be. Security flew us past and were incredibly nice. They helped us get two rows on the plane to ourselves too. We had to sit on the runway a bit when the plane's power suddenly shut off and wouldn't turn back on but all was restored and we were off. We landed in Newark and were picked up by J's aunt/godmother. When we got to their gorgeous house in Jersey, Eldest went to bed, and J and I were treated to a homecooked meal of spaghetti, meatballs, and pastelitos prepared by his grandmother. Delicious. Daughter slept horribly that night and basically spent the night munching on yours truly. Not fun.

Day Two: Next day we woke up and it was J's birthday. Eldest got to run around outside in their HUGE yard and played in their playground. He also tried playing with their new yorkie who's apparently never been around small children and so tended to avoid Eldest as much as she could. We had some bagels and yummy spreads and later that afternoon just before we left we had a pinepple upside down cake again prepared by his grandmother. His godmother took us into the city and dropped us off at our hotel around 4:30. The kids slept the entire way. We went for a walk around the hotel to Rockefeller Center. They have this amazing sky mirror set up there. Way cool. It was also cold enough that Daughter wore the hat I knit her when she was born. Later we met up with my boss and had dinner at China Grill. We ordered bananas in the box for J's dessert and it was delicious even after he hastily toppled it over and popped the top off all over the table. He was excited. What can I say? We stopped by the Rockefeller Center again to show my boss the Sky Mirror and to see the center at night.

 

 

Day Three: We got up and managed to take the six to SoHo so that I could visit the Kid Robot Pirate store. It was so beautiful. I said hello to Marty there on behalf of a friend of mine. He was very nice and gave Eldest as many stickers as he wanted which wasn't many because he was suddenly shy. I snatched up two Dunnys, two Fatcaps, two My Paper Crane donut keychains, and a couple of Christmas presents. In one of the Dunnys was a golden ticket which I'm very excited about. I was back at the hotel at 1:30 and met up with my boss at 2. We went over to Radio City Music Hall for the event and began set up. It was pretty good. A little nutty with some deliveries and traffic but all went well. J was having a miserable time with Daughter though. When we broke at ten my boss took me to eat dinner at Friday's and J was so stressed on the phone I just stopped eating mid burger and we left. I took Daughter with me to the fitting for the models and J went out with Eldest to a nice dinner. I ate my very cold burger when they came back but it was worth it because he was so much more relaxed. That night at the fitting I was having a seriously rough time. Here I was surrounded by tiny tiny tiny curvy gorgeous girls with perfect hair, teeth, boobs, stomachs, nails, etc. It was just, I don't know, weird. I left feeling like crap. Super insecure and that annoyed the crap outta me too. It was also rough because it was the first time I met the new assistant and she's a cutie too. Daughter modeled one of the little hats and looked perfectly silly so that made me giggle.

Day Four (Event Day): My day began at 7 in the morning. I was down at the lobby at 8 and in Radio City at 8:30. Set-up of the second, third, and fourth rooms began at nine. We had a break at about noon. I met up briefly with J just before he went to the Museum of Natural History with the kids and his family. I was so sad I couldn't go. But I did get a nice long shower by myself and took my time getting dressed and ready and even managed to eat a good sandwich. Back at the Music Hall at 2 and stayed there until about one in the morning. The event was excellent- Boost Mobile's Rock Corps. It's a program where you volunteer four hours and get a ticket to the concert. It's the only way you can get there and the show was really good especially if you're into hip-hop. All of the artists were really nice to the audience and made sure to be grateful for their work. By far the best part of the evening for me personally was when Nelly brought a girl up from the audience and had her up for the entire duet he has with Kelly Rowland. She sang Kelly's part in front of all 18,000 guests at Radio City. Talk about a lifetime moment huh? It was very sweet of him to do and everyone LOVED it. Backstage we were all cheering her on. Nick Cannon hosted the show and did a good job I think. Better than I remember him doing last year. Other guests included TI, Fabolous, Young Jeezy, Paul Wall, Taking Back Sunday (GREAT performance), Panic at the Disco, Kelis, and surprise guest Nas (J's absolute favorite part of the night was walking past them in the hallway backstage- he loves Nas). J was able to leave the kids at the hotel with his aunt and grandmother for a while as his mother had gotten Daughter to take a bottle all day (YES!!!!). He dropped by the show for a couple hours and went home.

Day Five: We woke up at nine I think and got ready to leave. We were on the road to Boston at 11 in the morning. Or so we thought. New York to Boston would be about 3.5 hours according to J's uncle who had been there two weeks before and gave us directions. Unfortunately his uncle confused himself and told us to be sure to take the 84 WEST. For whatever reason, I'm think sheer exhaustion, it didn't hit us that Massaschussettes was EAST (it IS on the water after all). We drove TWO HOURS in the wrong direction and ended up in Scranton, PA which is notable to mention if you love The Office like we do. I wanted to find Dunder Mifflin LOL. When I pulled up Mapquest on my phone and mapped Scranton, PA to Boston, MA it told me the estimated driving time was 5 hours and change. It was horrible. We made it to Boston at almost nine that evening. The drive itself was beautiful. I have pics of the Scranton signs on my phone. The leaves were changing colors and the 84 is incredibly scenic. But man, driving five hours knowing you'd have been there already is painful. The kids were a nightmare that night. Eldest was restless and was sniffling the whole night long intentionally. Drove us crazy. He was also telling his aunt how there were monsters in Boston and he was scared and wouldn't stop about the damn monsters until I shouted out that Boston was a monster-proof city and had been for years. He asked how and I said it was magic. He bought it and finally fell asleep. Daughter pulled another fitful night on me and pulled and yanked on my poor boobs all night long. At one point I was so damn exhausted, frustrated, and sore I just cried to sleep. It SUCKED.

Day Six: We went out to the park down the street from my sister in law's apartment. Eldest chased squirrels everywhere. It was so nice. Even thought it was cold and drizzly it was just beautiful and so entirely different than here. We also walked down Newbury street and had a nice time together until 4:30 when we headed out to the aiport with directions from the knowledgeable doorman. Or not. The theme of this trip was bad directions will ruin your damn life. The door man warned us that the mass pike was a mess and to take 93 south and follow the signs. My sister in law asked if he was SURE 93 south would get us there in a timely manner. He sure was. WRONG. UGH! We drove on 93 south for about 15 minutes and the entire time we just KNEW it was wrong. I finally told j to get the hell off and turn around. 93 south had taken us out of boston and in the complete opposite direction of the airport. Finally we were back on track though and things looked good. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 6:30 and it was about 5 as we neared the airport thanks to all of the clear detour signs. Suddenly though things got messy. Cops were directing traffic and signs were unclear. At a light we asked a cop and he said we were doing great just stay on the right. The next block as we stayed on the right we wondered aloud why the detour sign that suddenly poppped up was pointing LEFT. Yup. Wrong way. And then to turn around J made the mistake of turning into some little neighborhood with one way streets. Yadda yadda we missed the flight. And by the time we called American Airlines it was too late to transfer tickets. J's mom works at United and helped us with a standby flight for the next day but jesus we were SO pissed and stressed and everything. Eldest slept the absolute worst he had slept that whole trip that night.

Day Seven: We got to the aiport in 15 minutes thanks to a cab. Once there we were flagged for heightened security measures. Want to avoid this? Don't buy a one way ticket with less than 24 hours to your travel date. Let me put it this way. They pat down Daughter you guys. Thankfully they were uber nice to us and really things weren't too bad. We had a connection in D.C. and there they lost our $170 double stroller but we just didn't even care anymore. We got home, filed the claim at the airport, and waited for my brother to get us. He took us to my mom's house and no joke we dove into the pool. Things finally settled down. And by the way, they delivered the stroller tonight.

So there you have it. The good parts were GREAT but the bad parts were hell.