Thursday, August 29, 2013


Today we spent hours with paint and googly eyes and rubber cement and scissors.

It was the first time in a long time that I could breathe.

I think it's because everything I was meant to be was right at the kitchen table.  There were no worries, no competition, no way I could mess things up. Just me. Just Yoda. Just being a mom.

It's pretty impossible to mess up a paper plate shark.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

how we do it

I've had a lot of people ask how we roadtrip.  Not the logistics of packing, and eating and keeping three kids happy in a van for seven hour stretches, but how we can do it - how do we make this fit into our lives.

The short answer is that we are both teachers - one at a college, one at arts center, but it's more complex than that. The long answer is that neither of us ever stops working, so that we can stop when we need to.

Convoluted, I know, but it's something like this:

Rico and I both own our own businesses.  It's a blessing and a curse.  It means we set our own schedules, but it also means that there is nobody to pick up the phone when we're gone, nobody to answer emails, nobody to collect money.  So we do it on the road.  For me that means, emails, scheduling, creating ads while Rico drives.  For him it means taking calls, processing orders, and cell phone meetings while traveling across I-80.

What this really means, is that even though it appears we took a month off to travel, in reality, we probably had a total of 5 days without emails, calls, or putting out fires of some sort.  It was a crazy life - but it gave us moments like this:

Who can complain.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


  I wish there was more to write about the last two days.  It would be easy to say that we did nothing but speed through the Midwest towards home, but that would only be partially true.  

There was a stop at Tony Packo's in Cleveland where we had fabulous chili-dogs and Kooka and I ended our search for the world's best mac&cheese (truly, that good), an overnight in Utica, Illinois at Grizzly Jack's resort, home of an adorable waterpark and the sketchiest amusment park I have seen in all of my days. There were hours of playing Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Hercules in Hotel pools (casting by Yoda who  always placed Kooka as the sea witch, Punk as Hades, me as the Beast and herself as the beautiful princess). There is much singing of Matilda songs, and much playing of name that tune via satelite radio. 

The real reason that there is not much to say, is that I am finally exhausted. It has been exactly one month since we left home. We miss our house, our beds, our neighbors, our dog. But the reality of a new school year is stating us in the face, and none of us are happy about it. 

Homeschooling, we miss you.

Monday, August 12, 2013

road trip video

For whatever reason, I can't embed this video from the hotel computer (or hit the space bar enough times to make it actually work).  But if you've been following our adventures, here is a two minute video taste:

road trip chronicles nyc

  I don't know if I have the mental fortitude to delve into my love/hate relationship with NYC. It's been almost a month on the road and it may take me that long again to process everything we've done. 

While I do that, here are some of our highlights:

A ride on the Statten Island Ferry - a free cruise past the city and the Statue of Liberty. 

Dinner in Chinatown and dessert in Little Italy with Rico's sister's family. (The limo was not our transportation, just a handy backdrop). We ate chow fun, spare ribs and rice noodles at Big Wong's - oh yes we did, and forget about hoping that would go right over the kid's heads. Punk couldn't wait to get there so he could text his friends a picture of the sign.

An afternoon on Broadway, where we saw Matilda. We ended up sitting next to Matilda's mom and family during the show, which made it even more meaningful. Even though we chose this show more for Kooka, Punk is the one who sat rapt, studying everything, memorizing all of the funny lines, and trying to figure out all of the special effects. They'd both seen Broadway Tours before, but this was their first show in New York, and they both loved it.

A tour of the American Museum of Natural History. (Home of Night at the Musem). We saw Rexy (which Punk and Kooka have a special love for, since their art tutor's daughter created Rexy for the movie), the fake Easter Island head, a real pachycephalosaurus skull, and a stuffed Dexter the Monkey.

Punk outfitting every historical figure he could find with and iPod. This one even stopped the sidewalk traffic while other people took photos:

A stop in Washington Park where we played in the fountains, watched street performers and had our minds read.

Lunch at Katz's deli, where we discovered that Punk loves pastrami, rye bagels look just like chocolate donuts, and two sandwiches and a hot dog can cost about $60.

Friday, August 9, 2013

road trip chronicles NYC


 So here we are, in the crush of humanity that is NYC. There are downsides - air that smells like cigarettes, exhaust and every disgusting human smell imaginable, garbage all over the place, the fact that traffic lights and crosswalks are pointless - you just cram yourself into the middle hoping that the other people provide some sort of cushion for the taxis that will inevitably hit pedestrians.

But there are upsides too: cheap pizza, playing in FAO Schwartz, and best of all, Kooka getting to take a class at Broadway Dance Center. The age limit at BDC is 13, but they let Kooka into a second level theatrical jazz class and she was thrilled. She was the youngest in the class by at least a decade, but held her own, had a great sense of style, and most of all a great time. Whomever her dance teacher is, is probably very proud. Her teacher Liz P., was awesome and performs on Broadway in West Side Story. We had to snap a sweaty picture for posterity:

Tomorrow is more of NYC. I've been a few times now, and well - we'll just see what tomorrow brings.

road trip chronicles - Woodstock, ny


 Days 20-23 were spent with what Rico and I like to call "chosen family". For the past three years we've celebrated major birthday milestones with Uncle Frank, Aunt Sharon, "Ick" and "Ruff." They are all such kind, gracious and fun people to be with. Kaia adores them, Noah says they are "really cool" and aside from the crazy nicknames she's doled out to Eric and Stephanie, Yoda is in love with "Daddy's friends."

We spent four days in the town that never grew up - Woodstock.  It was exactly how I supposed it would be, quaint restaurants, guitar decor all over the town, candle shops, tie-dye, homemade ice cream stores, t-shirt shops with marijuana leaf garland, and bongs, which Punk recognized (from health class people, from HEALTH class), and Yoda asked me to buy for her. I caved and bought her a tie-dye shirt instead, which I'm sure will go over much better at pre-school show-and-tell.

Our home for the stop was Birchwood, a sprawling countryside farm house (sans farm). It was the kind of house people dream about when they say, "I'd love to live in an old farmhouse." (Because, lets face it, nobody actually wants to live in the house from Wizard of Oz.) They want to live in a place like this: 5 bedrooms, sunroom, porch, swimming pool, glorious kitchen, all updated and refinished. It was absolutely stunning, and we were so grateful to "Ick and Ruff" for sharing it with us. 

Punk and Kooka had their very own rooms, which after traveling together for over a month was a welcome respite for both.

Kooka helped Frank make his famous macaroni and meatballs, and everyone had seconds (Yoda had fourths). 

There were burgers on the grill, and ice cream cake, puzzles, swimming, hikes to waterfalls, good conversation, more pizza and and lots of laughter.

For the first time in the history of road trips, I did not feel the need to google venomous snakes of the area before we left.

My bad.

Rico decided to take us for a hike to a local swimming hole. The forest was lovely, there was a beautiful little waterfall, the water was crystal clear - so clear, that I was able to scan the entire lake up to about 4 feet deep, and assess that there was absolutely nothing swimming in it, except for two small minnows, and the picnicing family that beat us there. It quite picturesque.  I held Yoda's hand as we waded into the shallow, stony stream, and didn't think a thing of it when she said, "It is wiggling and swiggling right by us like a big snake."

Sticks wiggle in the water. 
Blades of grass wiggle in the water. 
She's three, what does she know.

But then I hear the words "snake" and "water" coming from the shore, and it all clicks. Leaving Yoda standing alone, I let go of her hand, and leap out of the water faster than Michael Phelps jumps in. I didn't actually see it, but according to reports, it was almost two feet long, and somewhere between 3-6 inches from my leg. Rico chastised me for leaving my baby behind (it was 2 inches of water), and only saving myself.  But take a look at the five other capable adults who stood on the banks and laughed while some sort of New England spitting cobra passed within a hairs breadth of us. (Rico swears it was just a northern water snake). I didn't notice any of these guy jumping in to make the sacrifice either.

 Mind you, this group includes a scientist, a nurse, a godparent and the kid's OWN FATHER! It's not like I was traveling with a women's church choir. They are all perfectly capable people. I would wrestle a bear for any of my kids, the least they could do is give me a hand with the snakes.

The rest of the day was comparatively uneventful (at least for me). We had leftover meatballs and ice cream cones, did some laundry, stayed up late and agreed that four days flew by much too soon.  

We are off to NYC today, where Punk wants to see movie spots and Kooka wants to dance on Broadway. We'll see who gets their wish.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

road trip chronicles day 20

Happy Birthday!!!!

Rico woke up a year older in Concord, New Hampshire.   After a lovely hotel breakfast (where they lock the milk cooler at precisely 9:29), we motored toward Stonewall Farm, near Keene.

I'll add photos later (we don't have great photo uploading ability here), but we loved traipsing through the rocky woods of New Hampshire, visiting alpacas, petting bunnies, and letting Neeks run around so she'd take a long map. Keene's a cute town, but we had dinner plans, so we just kept moving.

After a quick lunch in Vermont, and a stop at what I swear is the only Target in Massachusetts, we headed back to the Empire State, for a birthday dinner.

We finally landed in Woodstock, New York - our intended destination this entire time. We were greeted by some of our favorite people in the entire world - Eric, Stephanie, Frank and Sharon. We celebrated Rico, Eric and Frank's birthdays seated at at the dining room table of a gorgeous farm house chowing down on burgers, hot dogs and ice cream cake.

More adventures to come - I'm sure.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

road trip chronicles day 19

 Yesterday's late start, meant that we had to backtrack to get to one of our intended stops. I was less than thrilled about this plan,  but since it was the one piece of history that the kids were absolutely adamant about seeing, we acquiesced, left New Hampshire and headed an hour south to Salem, Massachusetts.

The Salem Witch Museum and the monument are testaments to the sad reality of religious persecution in the 1600's. As we now know, none of the people killed were guilty of witchcraft, or anything like it. 

For the most part, they were all christian citizens. They were killed in brutal and horrifying ways, simply because they were accused. In many cases, they were upstanding members of the church. Both the museum presentation and monument reiterated this - which is funny, because the entire town has capitolized on a different reputation. You can't take ten steps without finding tarot readers, tacky t-shirt shops, magic shops and "witch" memorabilia. There were people on main street dressed like this:

Yeah, that's not a statue, or a manequin, just a dude hanging out on a Sunday afternoon on Essex Street in Salem. And its not a mask. It's prosthetics and makeup and lord knows what else - but he was a legit nightmare. He managed to to sneak up behind me before we took this picture (and by Rico's laughter, I can assume that's the picture we should have taken). But WHO does this for fun on a Sunday afternoon? When we walked through a dark, death-row in an abandoned prison, I expected to be a little creeped out. When I'm walking past a deli next to a daycare center at 11:00 in the morning and this Cracker Jack comes after me, it's a little messed up. And he wasn't the only one. There were witches, wizards and pilgrims all over the place. Oddly enough, the pilgrims didn't even seem to notice the spooks this time around.

 Even the chamber of commerce guy who gave us directions had a pointy-hatted witch embroidered on his polo. Rico posed by a statue of Samantha from Bewitched. Way to abolish the stereotype guys.  Seriously? 

We did make a short stop at Remember Salem,which has jack squat to do with rememberin anything in America let alone Salem. It' a shop based on the DiagonAlley shops in the Harry Potter series, so of course we stopped for cold butter beers, and toasted them outside. 

Final verdict on Salem: eh.  If you're really into the history, it's worth a stop. But it's like they're trying to dispell the rumors and push the hype all at the same time.  I couldn't wait to leave.

But I was looking forward to our next stop, Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine.  

I've wanted to visit Maine for as long as I can remember, and it was exactly the way I (and google maps) imagined. The shore near Cape Neddick was rocky and full of tide pools for the kids to explore. Neeks spent an hour "rescuing" snails by putting the dry ones into pools. We found starfish, crabs, barnacles and thousands of snails in the cold, blue water. 

We left the cape in search of a lobster roll for Rico. We found one, which soon became three, at Shore Road Restaurant in York. 

Rico says it is food of the gods, Kooka called it heavenly. Punk, who once wrote impassioned letters to the grocery store asking them to set the lobsters free, said this:

"If I were a lobster, I would be honored to die for this. It's that good. It's the best thing I've ever eaten." 

So much for activism.

I couldn't even smell it without gagging, so tried a Maine blueberry soda instead.

Tonight we are hanging out at the Fairfield Inn in Concord, New Hampshire. Tomorrow will be Rico's birthday, and the real reason we started this adventure anyway - meeting up with his childhood friends inWoodstock, New York.

I'm not sure where we'll find a cake on our 4 hour drive through the middle of nowhere (google Concord to Woodstock, I'm not exaggerating.) But with the 467 stickers Neeks has used on this trip, I'm sure there will be cards.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

road trip chronicles day 18


Some of the things we love about Boston are:
Insomnia Cookies
The deep sense of history
The funky little urban playgrounds 
The Boston Tea Party Museum

The Boston Tea Party Museum is one of those things that sounds like a total snooze fest, but was absolutely spectacular!

We were greeted with identy cards and Mowhawk feathers to use for our disguises as we were led through a rallying meeting by Sam Adams. We then traipsed out onto the bay, boarded the ship, and dumped our tea overboard amid cheers of "huzzah!" and "hip-hip!" 

We learned the reason you should keep your elbows off the table (there's a good one), the meaning behind "sleep tight", why rats on a ship were a good thing, and the real face on a bottle of Sam Adams beer (It's Paul Revere. The brewers thought Mr. Adams was too unattractive to sell brew. Not to mention that he was a Quaker, and while his father's company processed hops and grains, he never touched a drop of liquor). 

The technology in this place is fabulous (think Harry Potter's castle with a 1700's theme). Holograms, movies, talking portraits, and a genuine chest on display from the actual rebellion.

We finished up in Boston with a drive past Paul Revere's house and then headed to Lexington and Concord , Massachusetts.  The first "unofficial" battle was in Lexington at 5am. By 9am both sides had troops on Old North Bridge in Concord and I was completely awed as we stood in the very same spot that "The Shot Heard Round The World" was fired.

What Rico and I were actually wondering, was why people would just line up and shoot at each other. It seems like the battle plans of the 18th century were created by third graders. At least hide behind a tree or something.  Rico felt a little better when we passed the Meriam House (home of  Josiah Meriam). Apparently the rebel troops decided to hide behind this dude's house when they were fighting the British. Rico thought this sounded like a better plan than standing on the bridge waiting to get shot. Better plan if you're name isn't Josiah Meriam I guess. 

There are actually tributes to both British and Amercian troops on the site. After all of the "huzzah, huzzah"  "sink the king" business of this morning, it was nice to walk the same dirt paths of the troops, and have a quiet spot to remembr all of the men who never made it back home. One of the memorials says how this place was the beginning of a separation of two countries that would remain forever friends.

Right now we are chilling out in our Comfort Inn in Dover. Pizza is on the way, and I am trying to decide if braving the 17 toddlers in the pool is worth it for Yoad and Kookas sake. My first instinct is no. My second instinct is if they don't get out of the room, that's a lot of Spongebob to listen to.