LBI


Apparently Nablopomo bloggers get a pseudo-pass on Wednesdays as long as they post some photos.  Cool.

I’m still smarting a bit from the “official” move out this week.  So in an attempt to stay positive and in love with LBI, I have turned my attention to holiday decorating using a beach theme.  I continually add to my list of reasons to love living here, and here’s the latest:

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 Everything on the tree is handmade or straight from nature.  The majority of it comes from up the street, at my favorite “shop”–the beach.  The end result (it’s still a work in progress–hope to finish before next Christmas) will be our least expensive and most beautiful Christmas tree yet. 

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I’m working on some garland for the mantle, and the girls are making some “snowflakes” with pipe cleaners and tri-beads. 

Christmas at the shore is shaping up to be one of the best ones ever.

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The clouds parted for me today, both literally and figuratively.  I woke up still feeling funky and the weather mirrored my mood.  I hadn’t slept well and so, as soon as I put the kids on the bus, I climbed back in bed.  The gentle patter of raindrops and the dark skies made it easy to fall back to sleep, as did the warm body of my husband next to me.  I suppose somewhere in the hour between leaving the bus stop and waking up a second time this morning, the dreariness of the weather transformed itself into nothing more than some passing clouds that gave me a good excuse to snuggle up under the quilt.  I awoke (again) feeling as though the rain had washed out my stubborn foul mood somehow.  It rinsed off that slate…clean now, I could start my day anew.

Sorry Kitty, no bitchfest from me today after all. 

The day was nothing short of a surreal delight.  Matt and I shared a nice morning of laughter and relaxation (and nice change of pace from the usual fatigue-fueled bickering we usally share).  He left for work as I left for the girls’ school…today was the big Teacher Conference Day. (dum dah dum dum dummmm!)   And once again, this school’s faculty blow me away with their kindness, warmth and downright inhuman sincerity!  Oddly, it makes me feel even more the outsider, simply because this is not the sort of atmosphere I’m used to.  I’m sure much of it is precisely because I am an outsider–people tend to go out of their way to make me feel welcome here.  This is simultaneously wonderful and scary to someone with my pathetic brand of social anxiety.

Regardless, it was such an amazing feeling to hear my children’s teachers shower them with praise.  Sophia’s teacher said she “can’t say enough about her”  and Emma’s teacher kept saying that I should be very proud.  Well indeed I am!  I don’t often brag about my kids, but this is my blog dammit and I will PUT IT IN ALL CAPS IF I WANT!  MY KIDS ARE AWESOME!  The fact that in just 3 short months, these girls have managed to make themselves feel so at home in a strange new school, amazes me.  From that first, nerve-filled day of unknowns, to today, when Emma directed me to her classroom with pride and confidence, well, words can’t express how cool that is!  Both my girls are happy here, and to hear their teachers reiterate that fact, along with the glowing report on each girls’ abilities and accomplishments, well, let’s just say, I couldn’t be more proud. 

My heart was soaring after that, and I think the same could be said for Emma and Sophia when I told them what I’d heard.  Oh, and their official report cards?  Straight A’s.  (Well, for kindergardeners, it’s ‘S’s) This called for a celebratory trip to the Dollar Store!  (Another thing that makes me happy–the girls are still young enough to think the Dollar Store is on par with a trip to the Nordstrom shoe department.)   How could I be anything less than elated when a ceramic hippo and a crappy magic kit are enough to appease my kids?  Throw in the fact that they managed to be incredibly well behaved for the duration (including the 30 minutes of conference time too) and you’ve got yourself one blissed out mommy. 

Wow.  Yesterday I was biting my tongue while retreating from a 5 year old’s screams of “I HATE YOU”!  It’s amazing what 24 hours (and a kit of plastic magic tricks) can do.  It will behoove me to keep this fact in mind as I get ready to embark on another day into the unknown.

As for today, I am good.  My kids rock.  My husband is my rock.  And once again, I am feeling good.

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It went right on the fridge. (Those are "O's", not zeroes btw. As in "Outstanding". 🙂

Mommy! Stop weeping and take the damn picture already!

My baby started kindergarden last week.  

Her level of confidence and pride was impressive.  Sophia’s was too.

Home!

Home!

well, technically it’s been almost two weeks, but that wouldn’t have made for as cute a title. (and Hot Damn! have I ever missed having a computer!  We just got one yesterday.  I’m still coming off the withdrawal effects, so please forgive me any typos or disconnected thoughts.  Still got the shakes.)

So here we are.  We made it.  We reunited with my long lost husband and then hit the road.  It’s so nice to have my family whole once again.  Even if it is in New Jersey.  (just kidding, all you natives.)

Now we are ready to begin The Next Chapter of our lives.  Matt however, prefers to call this “The Bookmark” of our lives, since we are really only between chapters, so to speak.  LBI is more like a luxurious halfway house than a place we are settling down.  We are incredibly fortunate to have a free place to stay for now, but this lovely town is only home until our other home sells. (Although the way things are looking in that department, we may be here for the next decade.)  At that point, we will be looking for a permanant place to settle down, preferably in a town that is at least in the same area code as Matt’s job.  Right now he is commuting 90 minutes each way to work.  Not fun.  Thank God for the free rent though, cause we are probably paying a fair rental price on just the gas money.

So that’s where we stand these days.  We are bookmarked.  What’s been the story for these past couple weeks then?  Well, if we’re sticking to the literary comparison, it might look a bit like this:

Prologue:  The Long, Sad, Goodbyes

That was the worst of it.  It was very hard to pull out of that driveway for the last time.  I can’t write much about it now, but the week leading up to our departure from Kelly Park Circle was very strange for me.  It deserves its own post.

The Introduction:  Island Life

Emphasis on the word “Life”.  We live here now.  This is NOT a vacation.  I just wish my brain could accept that fact.  Now where’s the cabana boy?  I need my Daquiri.

Chapter 1:  How not to worry when a Tropical Storm threatens to turn your island into Atlantis

See above reference to cabana boy.  Pour daquiri and sit on the porch for a front row seat.  Realize that meteorologists are just hogging the airwaves with hyperbole.

Chapter 2:  How to de-stress after the move

  1. Unpack suitcase containing swimwear.
  2. Put on bathing suit.
  3. Put on sunscreen.
  4. Walk across the street. 
  5. Remove shoes and feel the sand between your toes.
  6. Sit ass in beach chair and don’t move unless absolutely necessary (i.e.  you need to cool off in the ocean waves, or go get the cabana boy.)

Repeat as needed until stress dissipates.

Chapter 3:  If dogs could text message 

Maggie: 

WTF?!!  M so confused.  Fell asleep in back of Jeep.  Woke up in strange place devoid of grass.  No idea where im supposed to take a shit.

Sammy:

OMG! where m i?? lovin it tho.  my peeps walk me like 4X/day now.  i think they need me to sniff out where the grass is located.  have yet to find it.  no desire to poop on pebbles and sand.  m not a cat.

To be continued…

Ok, so pretend that you have an extra $2000 or so, and you have a week’s vacation coming up.  Where would you go?  Florida maybe?  Take the kids to Disney?  Maybe drive to the mountains for a week?  The possibilities aren’t exactly limitless, but you have options for sure.  Which leads to my next question…do you go someplace you’ve already been a bazillion times?  If so, WHY?  Why do so many of us, given the choice, end up returning to the same spot?  (Time-share and condo ownership notwithstanding.)  What is it about a place that draws us back time and time again?  Why are some of us born with wanderlust, like my parents, who never want to go someplace twice?   They want to see the world, and while they may have favorite places they’d go to again, they always go somewhere different whenever they have time and money to do so.  Then there are the rest of us, who are (vacation) creatures of habit.   We have a week and we go to the same old place we always go.

 I was thinking about this as we were packing for our trip to the beach a couple of weeks ago.  We are spending a small fortune to go to the same place we always go when we have time off.  I thought, “Why aren’t we going somewhere new?  We could go to Florida, or the mountains or someplace. Hell, why don’t we just bring my husband home for week?  That would be a treat by itself, and we’d save about a grand!” 

But, we aren’t those people.  We are LBI junkies.  We don’t even try to break that habit.

 So, why LBI? (That’s Long Beach Island, NJ for the uninitiated.)   Why not be adventurous and go somewhere new?  I was wondering this myself as I endured yet another harrowing 9 hour drive up hell’s highway, a.k.a. I-95.  Why was I putting myself through the torture of kids whining “Are we there yet???”  umpteen times, only to end up in New Jersey???  [Insert obnoxious but true NJ stereotype joke here] 

 And then.  Then I hit Exit 63.  (I hope the aforementioned joke was the one about how everyone in NJ tells you where they are from by giving you an Exit number.)

“Mommy, why are you rolling down the windows?”  comes the latest whiny question from the back seat.

 “Just inhale” I reply.

 “Whaaaaat?” they return in unison.

 “Can’t you smell that?”  I ask.

 “Did you fart or something mommy?”

 Sigh. 

 “Just listen then,” I say.

As I approach the causeway connecting the mainland to Long Beach Island, I slow enough for the sounds and smells to waft in the open windows. 

 “Oh mommy!  I hear  seagulls!”

“Oh Wow!  I see the water!  Are we there NOW mom?!”

“Ooh, I can smell the salty air momma!”

 And just like that, the memory of nine traffic-filled, whine-infused, cranky hours in the minivan is dissipating.  The cries of the gull, the scent of sea spray, and the sight of sandy salvation on the other side of the bridge are keeping those thoughts back on I-95 where they belong.  The causeway becomes my connection to a place where much better memories reside.

 THIS is what keeps me coming back time and again.  It is the fact that a simple thing,  crossing that causeway, can simultaneously open a floodgate of happy memories and the promise of new memories to be made.   I first crossed over that bridge in 1988.  Twenty years ago my new college boyfriend drove me to LBI in his old Mustang.  We didn’t know it then, as we rumbled onto that island, but we were about to fall in love.  Twenty years later, that boyfriend is now my husband.  Our love was born on that island, and over the years, each subsequent visit there has only served to enhance it.  Now we are bringing our children there, and watching them build not only sand castles, but happy memories of their own.

Matt’s family owns a house that is exactly 6 houses from the ocean.  That alone makes it a no-brainer when we want to get away for a few days.  But even if we could go somewhere else for vacation,  why should we?  The town is called Beach Haven.  No misnomer there.  As soon as the minivan wheels touch the island, we have left not only the mainland behind, but also all its stresses and bills and responsibilities.   We are on the island now.  We are instantly transformed.  We feel lighter, more at ease,  ready to plop our butts in a beach chair and not move for week…and not feel guilty about it either.

We pass the place where Matt and I had our first date twenty years ago.  (I don’t even have to say it out loud anymore.  My girls say it before I can.)  Down the road a bit we drive past the street where Matt and I rented our first place together after college.  It was scheduled for demo once the summer was over, so we got it dirt cheap and were able to go crazy and paint the rooms purple and orange.  We had the best summer of our lives in that shack.  We didn’t care that there was no indoor shower or that the kitchen was falling apart. The house was a dump, but we were starting our lives together, it was at the beach and we couldn’t have been happier.

Driving on down this little island (just about 18 miles long or so) we pass lots of places that hold a special place in my heart.  I begin to feel a bit like an addle-brained old woman who can only communicate with statements that include “well in MY day…”  But I’m not old and bitter.  I sometimes miss those days of carefree youth, but being on this island only makes me serenely happy.  Here I am still carefree.  That I can share this feeling with my children, and watch them grow attached to this same place gives me such a thrill.

We’re almost to the beach house now.  The temperature reading on the dashboard has dropped about 15 degrees.  Another wonderful aspect of island life.  Not only can you leave your worries behind, but the heat and humidity too.  The breeze is cool, courtesy of 58 degree ocean temperatures, and I can’t wait to don my swimsuit in the morning and a cozy sweatshirt at night.  As I’m appreciating this, we drive by the little shop where I can pick up that $10 LBI sweatshirt for me and cheap and cheesy souvenirs for the kids.  Not far past that is the spot that elicits squeals of delight and anticipation from the backseat.  The girls see the big ferris wheel that announces “You have arrived in Beach Haven and you certainly don’t plan to leave town without first dropping mondo cash at Fantasy Island Amusement Park do you???”  We do indeed plan to spend one thrill-seeking, nausea-filled, midway game losing night there, giving away wads of cash, but getting back tons of fun and great memories for the kids.

Before we know it, we’ve arrived at our haven in Beach Haven.  The crunch of the pebble driveway beneath the tires is the final, auditory signal:  vacation has officially begun.   As we clamor out of the car, shaking off 9 butt-aching hours , we are ready.  We shudder the last bits of mainland living off  as we prepare to be island beach bums.  We don’t even bother to unpack the car just yet.

“MOM…lets run up to the beach first!”

“Right now?  Why?”

“I want to see it again.  I can hear it.  So now I have to see it.  Come on mom.  Don’t you want to stick your tootsies in the sand again?”

Yes.

Again.   And again.