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If you were to think about large-scale efforts – mapping the human genome, searching for monster prime numbers, developing the TESLA, you would be wise to add planning a family Caribbean vacation to your list.

There’s the organizing, packing, passport-checking, last-minute snack shopping, the rounding up of coloring books, crayons, headphones, medication, sunscreen and whatever sand-caked plastic shovels that can be found from the last vacation.

Rodney imposed house rules against me asking him to exfoliate my back and apply sunless tanner the night before a trip, so now I leave that job to the professionals. Which of course never gets done. Time, who? what?

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This year I got my act together and scheduled an appointment that I promised I wouldn’t break. I stuck to my guns, shed my clothes in front of a woman whose name sounded like Mary but wasn’t, and stepped into the booth. After a few passes of her spray gun, she declared that I looked “owa-some” and I skipped back home, a burnished shade of bronze.

My kids weren’t impressed. Over the sobs of one child, another demanded to know what happened to my “other skin”. The third was found later, hiding in a closet. This pre-tan effort, I imagine, won’t happen again.

It was the least I could do to get ready for what promised to be the trip of a lifetime.

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When traveling with kids, Rodney and I have always leaned towards big hotels with big pools, big restaurants, and a bigger set of amenities. The kind of place where a kid can race around and find plenty of entertainment.

This year though, we booked our trip through Inspirato. After looking through their list of properties, we found a house that seemed like it would be a great fit for our family: our own pool, an empty beach, ocean-facing bedrooms, and the icing on our Tortuga rum cake….a well-stocked kitchen.

I’m not sure how many times the word “idyllic” was dropped into the conversation during our stay, but I’m pretty certain that were in three-digit territory.

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When I was a kid, I cherished the start of the school year. Fresh crayons; the faintly chemical scent of new markers; stiff, chalk-white notebooks that suggested hard work and promise. That feeling lasted for a few short weeks, until the binders no longer held their intended single subject and my locker filled with stray paperclips. And so began the long, slow march until June.

My kids didn’t inherit the same love-of-back-to-school gene. They don’t light up at the first sounds of back-to-school jingles in late August. Those August days are lazy days. Days when the big decision is whether to swim in the lake or snoop around the backyard for bugs. Anything that puts a damper on that lifestyle isn’t welcome, no matter how good the markers smell.

School means a lot of things. Of course there are friendships to rekindle and shiny new teachers, but there are also schedules, after-school classes, and the mad rush for dinner. It’s busy season, no way around it. At least for nine more months.

Last week, as I watched as friends post Facebook pictures of eager faces with hand-painted signs (First day of K!), I had a looming sense of dread that my three little ones’ spirits might not be so bright. Although spending a Summer at the lake – which held little in terms of structured activity – took some patience, it was a bonding experience for all. 

So it was with equal parts sadness, excitement, and trepidation that I walked the kids to their new classes last week. Brand new outfits had been laid out the night before to dampen the nerves. If crayons couldn’t get them going, maybe new cotton could.

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With a big hug, I kissed Lauren and Sam goodbye…

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And snuck off with Emma to a local French bakery.

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It’ll be our little secret that Preschool doesn’t start until next week. The backpack? Let’s assume that it was more of a training backpack. Her choice, not mine. Next week she’ll be a full-blown Preschooler, backpack and all; until then, we hang…

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Sam had a test last week. A standard issue Kindergarten prep test, a necessary evil, on par with a trip to the dentist. There’s only so much you can do to get a 4-year old ready for something like this. All you can do is hope is that your kid is in a good mood, well rested, and has eaten breakfast.

I did what I could to check the boxes. Starting the night before with a trip to 16 Handles. Sam clowned around, pretending to be a lobster and seeking attention. Emma was an easy target and was more than willing to pet him in between each bite. “Good lobster…”
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Fortunately, he did sleep well that night and ate a big breakfast in the morning.

“Sam”, I said, “what would you like as a treat when you’ve finished with The Puzzler?” The Puzzler of course being the Scary Test Lady, but those words are never uttered. We opened the door to the school.

“A donut”, he said.

When you’re a kid, the most highly coveted prize in the world is a donut. It’s an 89 cent wonder. But it was well-deserved, the frozen yogurt, the donut, all of it. The little guy had tried his heart out.

Lucky for Sam, I had one more surprise in store…..

“I have something special planned” I said as we wandered back home. “We’re going for a scoot around the city.”

Once home, I pulled out the pair of black and neon mittens I’d hidden in my room. “These will keep your hands warm.”

“They strap onto my scooter?!” Oh yes they do little man…

So off we went on our scooter adventure, heading down 7th Avenue.

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We’ve been looking forward to this all year: our annual visit to Macy’s to see Santa Claus. I’ve been bringing my kids to Macy’s since Lauren was 11 months old, making it 6 years running. And although there are plenty of options to see Santa in New York, you can’t beat this production. It’s over the top, from the life-sized toy trains, to the Nutcracker dancing bears. So each year, we brave the crowds and head up to 34th Street to experience a little Christmas miracle of our own.

Sam was pensive before our visit.

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ME: What’s up?

SAM: Are we going to Santa’s office?

ME: Yes.

SAM: Is Santa mad at me?

ME: Why are you asking that?

SAM: Because you were mad at me yesterday.

ME: Why did I get mad at you?

SAM: Because I was sitting on Emma.

ME: Santa probably wouldn’t like that. But I don’t think he’s going to be mad at you. What are you going to ask Santa for?

SAM: Transformers.

ME: What else?

SAM: Um, uh, Flashlight Friends?

ME: Is there anything else? I think you had a list, right? Here it is. You listed Transformers, Optimus Prime, Autobot, a Helmet, Thundercracker, Flashlight Friend, and a penguin.

SAM: And chocolate.

ME: Perfect, what do you think he’s going to say?

SAM: Um, I’m mad at you?

After promising that Santa wouldn’t be mad at him, we had a quick lunch at home. Midway through lunch Sam panicked that he’d forgotten to add Pete The Cat to his list. So he found higher ground and yelled to Santa that he also wanted “Pete the Cat Saves Christmas.”

I reminded him that we were heading up to Santa’s office shortly and that he could pass on the message in person.

So we bundled up and hit the road.

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October Pump Giveaway_FeedMeDearlyI’m being serious here, let’s talk about breasts.  And breastfeeding.  Because it’s an important topic.  Men, you may want to avert your gaze, skip over to the post about naughty tomatoes. Or feast your eyes on these well-crafted nachos.

Or keep reading of course, because I’m giving away a pretty awesome gift to one of my lucky readers. And who doesn’t need a breast pump? Men included, not for yourselves of course, that would be frightening. But even if you’re not expecting or a new mom, most of us know someone who is having a baby and could probably use one of these pumps.

I’ve teamed up with Evenflo to bring you the latest hospital-grade breast pump on the market. Because I wouldn’t be encouraging people to get their kids to eat their greens if I hadn’t tried my hardest to start them on breast milk.

Breastfeeding didn’t come easily though. As I touched on in a previous post, I was sick as a dog when Lauren came into this world. Pneumonia was kicking in, my mothering instincts hadn’t yet taken a seat at the table. Not a great combo for your first job as a mother, which is at the bare minimum, to feed your baby a thimbleful of milk.

Exhausted and barely able to move, I could hardly think of giving an ounce of energy to the little being who was wheeled in regularly to my room, swaddled within an inch of her life, eyes half-open looking for someone to latch onto.

The nurses encouraged me to try feeding her, but I lacked the strength to even hold her in my arms.

I could see the sideways glances. The secretive conversations as they left the room. It wasn’t long before I was swiftly introduced to the machine: the industrial strength breast pump that I’d be attached to for the next few days to make sure that my supply didn’t disappear before I got home.

And so began a 4+ year relationship with a variety of pumps and contraptions that would get me through a combined 18 months of nursing 3 separate children.

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