Dear Johnny Angel

Johnny Angel how I love YOU.  The song that my late Mother would sing to you when you would cry at night during the first few weeks on earth.  Our first born son came to us one day before we celebrated our two year wedding anniversary on March 30,2002.  An early Easter Bunny and a reminder of the foundation of our Christian faith. The resurrection established Jesus as the powerful Son of God and now I have given birth to my first son.  Easter includes some of the most ancient and universal symbols of birth, nature, fertility, birth and re-birth, hence the rabbit and the egg.   In the Old Testament, the firstborn son was the one who normally received a double inheritance, and was the one who would inherit his father’s role as head of the family.  I’m not so sure about the double inheritance  thing, but you are certainly  in the early learning stages of making your way to take on you’re Father’s role as the family head.

Now right about now Johnny is reading this saying why is my Mom writing about ME?  The answer is simply I am in constant awe of your accomplishments and the young man you are.  My son you are a:

Deep critical thinker

Dependable

Have a thirst for knowledge beyond anyone I’ve known

Have deep empathy for others

Honest

Passionate

Curious

Creative

Confident

Humble

To name a few.

I have met many fathers who want their boys to follow in their athletic footsteps. Either to potentially fill the void they were not able to fill when it was their time to shine or to continue the legacy they started years beforehand.  There are also many Mothers like myself that wanted to have all sons and have them follow in the footsteps I started years ago.  You see I believed that children learned to be confident on the field.  I never realized you can feel just as confident on the stage.  I knew that being a part of a team sport helped children learn to  reach a common goals and help develop communication skills and problem solving skills.  I never knew the comradeship that is built in clubs like the drama club could do the same.  I’ve also learned through you that like sports these clubs develop tight bonds and provide fantastic support systems.  In fact you have taught me that there is a close kinship between art and sport.  The more that I digest what you have taught me the more I think baseball is the best kinda drama around!  See we DO have something in common!  Remember when I made you come with me to the 2016 opening day game at Yankee stadium?  We danced on my favorite stage to Frank Sinatra’s New York New York.  Do you remember when I forced you to watch a post season Yankee game this year?  There was real drama there for sure.

I began writing this blog in November 2017 when I had been home from my most recent surgery.  A lovely Achilles tendon rupture due to the fact that I can’t sit still!  I found myself unable to finish until today January 10, 2018 when an early morning text went kinda like this…

AGAIN you have done it.  Made me cry.  Made me proud.

When the ultrasound wand confirmed you in my belly on September 11, 2001 I and your Father cried at the loss of life that day and cried for the new life we were bringing into this world.  I once held you in my arms rocking my sweet baby boy to sleep and before I knew it we stood eyeball to eyeball.  Today growing too fast I now look up to you both literally and figuratively.  Nearly every day for the past 15.5 years you have touched my soul in some way.  If you didn’t do another thing, win another award, get another A,  I want you to know I’m proud of the young man you’ve become. I love the way you love your brothers (most days). I love the way you are a good friend and listener to others. I love the way you give generously. I am proud of you, son.

So lets get on stage again my son.  My kinda stage or you’re kinda stage we can start spreading the news cause I find your king of the hill, top of the heap.

My Light Janice

During the winter season, the trees, the grass, my garden all look so cold, lonely and depressing. People tend to stay inside, walks to the park are rare and it is so dark so early in the day. Even the ground below my feet seems to gain metaphoric qualities as I walk anywhere I constantly stumble along the uneven pavement. That dirty and sandy snow covered pavement.  There is power outages, buried cars, thermal leg hair and thick socks that can’t fit into my boots.  Sure there is hot chocolate but there is also flu viruses, dry skin and an increasing amount of daily laundry.  It’s a feeling that I can only explain as my life being off balance.  Often for me in the winter that cold world grabs a hold of me, a part of me feels like giving up my efforts for the search for light.  Often because the open platform ahead just seems too impossible to reach. I know in my head that the cold dark days always bring light, I know that but on that cold February night in 2003 the light of my life walked a path to the other side.  My beautiful Mother left this earth at the age of 50 and the cold dark days of February are now only a harsh reminder of my hatred for winter.  Today as I write this that walk seems so parallel to what I am currently experiencing.  Continuing on is currently feeling like a hopeless walk.  Searching endlessly for the light I lay awake last night (due to Donald’s snoring) telling myself that I wasn’t giving up.  Tonight I find it hard to imagine that this earth could ever look beautiful again.

There is a season approaching where the trees will be full of life, the flower buds will begin to grow on my beloved garden and the sun will be warm on my face.  I know that, I keep telling myself it is on its way but as the day approaches and I am up on my computer unable to sleep it seems so far away.  The days approaching the anniversary of my Mother’s passing are always the longest and anxiety filled  hardest days.  Once the day passes the fog seems to clear and the hope for that light is within my reach.

Thankfully I don’t have to walk down this uneven path alone.  I have my beloved siblings that I could not live a day without.  We were babies, at least in my eyes and now all Motherless, forced to continue experiencing life without our Mother.  I have my children to share the stories with.  Mine and Donald’s huge extended family that I am thankful for every single day of my life.  I have the most dedicated friends that never let me walk alone.  Then there is my best friend Donald John.  Donald always is able to fix my problems with logical answers or with his tools.  I knew he couldn’t fix this back then and he certainly can’t fix it now.  Back then his hugs couldn’t make it get better and his encouragement could not help.   Today with the painful acceptance of this new life those hugs and encouragement actually were and still are my saving grace.

I understand that life is not forever and the circle of life continues, just wish I could have gotten to ride that wave just a little longer with Mom by my side.  When you have lost and overcome something as important as this you are a forever changed human.

I am going back to sleep now, I have no regrets I was a good daughter to my Mother.  Someday’ s are better than others and today was a particularly rough day for me.  For no reason in particular other than I longed for her voice and because Monday will be 14 years that I have not heard that voice.   I keep hearing this song tonight in my head and they are some of the most quoted words of the Bible :

“For everything there is a season, and
a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up
what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to
build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a
time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to
refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to
throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to
speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

This sacred list represents all the seasons and the important matters of our lives. Some are happy times, others sad; some are productive while others seem wasteful; some inspire peace and others bring pain.

Tonight I allowed myself to feel the pain and to miss her.  Tomorrow I will continue to laugh and love deeply like Janice would want me to.  Tonight my gremlins surely made a commotion.  But I won’t let that stop me, I will firmly stand looking for that light and in the end it will only allow me to shine brighter.

Janice Christine Vesloski Marvullo

12/5/52-2/20/2003

Spring Training Countdown

It’s the middle of February, Janice and Joe have a fire going in the den and they are watching the Sopranos. Mom loves the series and can’t wait to see what happens in the life of her favorite mobsters. Dad seems interested however, he looks at the photo above the couch of Shea Stadium and he asks Mom, “How many days till pitchers and catchers?” Well, without Google in those days, I am not really sure how she knew how many days – But she knew. Today I just ask Siri or google it.  At 8 Maple Street the TV really only had a few channels on at any given time; it was the weather, news or baseball. My parents and my entire family’s love for the sport has made me this baseball nut that I am today.

Baseball comes along every spring, and with baseball comes sunshine; two of my favorite things. Baseball signifies the end of the dreaded winter and the rebirth of my beloved garden. Today I am dreaming of the marathon of the long season. This marathon gives a man a chance to prove himself or redeem himself. I love baseball’s ups and downs- it’s my very favorite kind of soap opera.  We can find a story in almost anything, and it allows me to evaluate, speculate, and like a true friend, it’s there for me (almost) every day.

I attended North Shore High School in Glen Head where I was a part of a senior year experience called Long Island Studies. We were immersed in all things Long Island. We had to choose a project that we were passionate about, and my choice was the history of baseball on the Island. My friend Brett Clancy’s grandfather is Whitey Ford. Edward Ford, or as the Yankees called him, “Chairman of the Board,” was a pitcher for the Yankees for his entire career. He grew up in Queens and mastered the sport on the streets. Brett took me to her grandfather’s home with my teacher, Dr. Stark, and we sat for a day speaking to the beloved Yankee. In 1993, the Major League Baseball expansion added the Florida Marlins and the Colorado Rockies to Major League Baseball. While on my visit with Whitey, which was during Christmas time, the pitcher took a call from Mickey Mantle, of which I was fortunate enough to be sitting in on. Mantle was calling to see if Whitey wanted to get the expansion team Christmas ornaments for his Christmas tree. As he cracked open his beer, this Cy Young award winner leaned back in his chair chatting away with Mickey Mantle, I was in awe. This was history in front of me and I was honored to be there. Whitey spoke about signing for the Yankees for an amount of money that would only buy me a backyard patio set these days.  The first thing he did with the money, he told me, was he purchased an “ice box” for his Mother whom had to go out and get ice each day, and now she can have a real refrigerator. Soon after, he was able to get her all new kitchen equipment. He spoke in depth about his years of playing stickball on the street and his endless workouts running around the neighborhood.  He recounted stories of Joe D and Yogi and the antics they would get into on the road. He told me all about the 1974 induction into the Hall of Fame and when the Yankees retired the number 16. I was in my glory and at that moment my love for the game exploded.

Today, I get to enjoy the game through the eyes of a mom. I am watching my young son fall in love with the game, much like I did in the 1980s. I am the mom with the huge camera trying to capture every single moment of this time, as I never want to see it end! I am also the screaming mom. My vocal cords have a built-in microphone with fully charged batteries. To say that I am a tad vocal is the understatement of the season. People from miles away can hear me yelling, “Danny Boy!”, yelling at the umpires, the coaches, the concession stand workers, the grounds crew and occasionally Jesus Christ. Speaking of sounds….

Ever really listened to the sounds of baseball? When I arrive to the ball field, inevitably the boys will begin batting and pitching practice. Have you ever closed your eyes standing next to a batting cage?  Have you listened to that bat “crack?” You can hear a good hit from the sound of that contact with the ball. Ever sat next to the bullpen at a major league game and listened to the snap of the ball as it reaches the catcher’s mitt? Or how about a shortstop trying to keep the runner on second base? Can you hear him slap his glove? How do you know there is a man on first base? Donald is sometimes the first base coach, and I can hear him, even while chatting it up with other moms. I hear him talking to the runner leading off, saying, “You’re good, you’re good, you’re good, back back back back!” That is the sound of a man on first. Ever hear the sound of the pitcher looking back a runner? You hear his deep breath then you watch as the pitcher turns and wheels around to throw to first. Then there is that sound of the runner diving back into first base.

Have you ever experienced the smell of baseball? Can you smell the fresh cut grass as you make your way onto the field? The gloves are leather and bats are wooden. Well, at least in the major leagues they are. Chewing big, fat, sugary bubble gum is a favorite of the young boys. How about the chalk used to mark baselines and the batter’s box? I love the fresh air smell mixed with the pine tar that gives a batter a good grip on his bat. Can you smell the oil used to condition a young man’s new glove? My kids’ favorite are the food scents, smells from the concession stands, hotdogs, popcorn and hot pretzels. I think Danny Boy would say that baseball also smells like Gatorade and sunflower seeds, the local snack-of-choice.

 

To be at a baseball game is to be outside of the confines of time. In particular, I love that baseball has no time clock. You can’t just get a lead in the game and wait for time to run out on the other team. In order to win you have to get 27 outs one way or another.

“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the goddamn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” – Earl Weaver

 

A baseball game is chicken soup for my soul, with its sights and smells and sounds. As they say in the movie, “Bull Durham,” “Baseball is a simple game: you throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And sometimes, it rains.”

How many days till pitchers and catchers?

Merry Christmas 2016

Dearest friends and family:

Here we are again at the end of another year.  I must admit as I have reached what has been deemed mid-life, I am both terrified and excited by the thought of time passing.  I haven’t been able to invent something that acts as a break on the movement of time, so I will just have to roll with it.  I am not looking forward to the fact that my Johnny will be headed to college in just 3.5 years from now and the other boys shortly thereafter.  Secretly however, I am looking forward to it in some ways.  I am looking forward to a cleaner home, a significant drop in my grocery bill, exotic travel, extra income, and naps.  I really like naps.  But for now Donald and I will continue on with the world’s most challenging unpaid job. We will work to raise boys who are smart and observant, sensitive and kind, whom listens well and are remarkably honest and articulate about the way they feel.  I mean let’s be honest, woman of the future are counting on us to bring up happy, kind, and well-rounded husbands-to-be.

While we have been working on pursuing this goal of raising these well rounded young fellows we are constantly reminded by all three of them that we are “the worst parents ever.”  So I will attempt to share with you some of the reasons why we have been given this prestigious title from all three Alexander Boys.

“I hate this house” – The three of you live with both parents in a lovely home on the prestigious North Shore of Long Island.  You live within walking distance of the water where there are yachts that cost more than all of the homes on the block we live on.  You live 30 miles from the greatest city in the world and twenty minutes from the ocean.  I am so sorry we will definitely consider moving.

 

“There is nothing to ever eat in this house”- Are you talking about the house that constantly has a snack selection that rivals the average Target store? There is nothing here to drink? You want me to get you your ergonomic thermos to fill with cold filtered water from the fridge? Sorry, but I’m too busy right now, lost in fond memories.  Memories of the lukewarm tap water, served in cups my Nanny and Poppy got for free at the local gas station. What’s that Christian? Your organic, $99.99 a bag chicken nuggets are to bumpy and is to squishy? I am sorry, again lost in the memory of my Mother’s pan fried ham steak or the TV dinner of Salisbury Steak with warm chocolate pudding served in a plastic tray with plastic wrap stuck on my steak.

 

“This house is too cold/hot” – I am so sorry that we have a no heat until November rule and no AC until June rule.  You can pout and complain all you want. I spent many a night inhaling the fumes of Virginia Slim cigarettes in my parent’s bedroom where we all had to sleep on the floor in the summer because that was the only room that had air conditioning.  I feel so bad for you and your central air conditioned bedroom where you get to sleep in your own bed and not have to share a sleeping bag with your younger sibling.

 

“There is nothing fun here to do”- I feel horrible that you are mad because I won’t take you to the bouncy castle place, Disney World, and the US Virgin Islands on a weekly basis. When I was your age, my siblings and I spent our weekends roaming around our Grandparents upstate home in the woods by an old camp site. As long as none of us caught rabies from a woodland creature, lost too much blood or more than one finger, it was considered a darn good time. I’m reasonably certain you can entertain yourselves with minimal bloodshed/infectious disease somewhere in the vicinity of this home for free!

 

What do you mean there’s nothing on the 444,000 channels playing on the two 60 plus inch flat screen TVs you are currently reclined in front of while I wash yet another load of dishes/laundry/household filth you accumulated? We didn’t even have a remote for the TV growing up – I WAS THE REMOTE! I too would have hated to grow up in a toy-filled, high-tech, sports-equipment-strewn, climate-controlled, love-saturated home and you’re proclaiming you’re bored!  I must say your lives are quite the hardship.

 

So for now my swollen vocal cords have produced a voice of a two pack a day smoker and the end result is the screaming really doesn’t work and we are kinda enjoying the title of worst parents ever.  We now find ourselves in awe of our boy’s energy, curiosity, innocence and wonder every single day of our lives.  Our thoughts many years ago of what parenthood would have been like may not match what we are living today but what we have done has surpassed our wildest dreams.  Today’s vision looks like this:

 

It is John’s performance on stage at the school play or the kindness he emulates to every person he meets.  Its Danny Boy’s achievements on the baseball field that leave us grinning after each game or the giggles he produces from his baby cousins when he plays with them.  Its Chrissy Mac’s incredible Lego creations that give us a sneak peek into the mind of one of the most creative and one-of-a-kind humans I have ever met.  It’s the good night kiss Christian sneaks in to his Mom and Dad each night before bed.  These are the moments and Donald and I have three amazing boys to thank for that.

 

Wishing you all a healthy and blessed 2017.

The House That Built Me ~ John J. Alexander

IMG_1616

The House That Built Me

“Won’t take nothing but a memory from the house that built me.” These words from Miranda Lambert’s country song “The House That Built Me” speak volumes for me as it defines what my house means to me. In my entire life, I don’t think that I have ever encountered a more warm and welcoming home than my own. If we were to ever move, it would be devastating for me, as I have grown emotionally attached to my home. There is no place in the whole world that I’d rather live than 23 Graywood Road, the home of the Alexander Family.

My house has changed in many ways over the years, but the core foundation that is built upon family and friendship still lives on. Some changes included the color, the driveway, or even when we made it larger in what my family calls The Construction in 2009. Despite the changes, my house stayed the same welcoming and fun family home that everyone knows and loves.

As I stroll up the familiar brick walkway, covered with weeds sprouting from the cracks in between the bricks, and glance at the flowers, especially the hydrangeas, my mother’s favorites, that my mother had planted on the left and right in celebration of Spring’s arrival. Already I can hear the people inside talking, laughing, and yelling inside of the blue building, as one comes to expect when arriving at the house.

People walk in and out of our house every single day. If a detective were to check the front door for fingerprints for a case, he would have tons of trouble finding the suspect’s fingerprint. We have our cousin Nicholas next door, so he is always over and smiling enough to light up an entire room, as usual. Five minutes away, the exuberant, ever playful, and curious Michael and calm, doll-like newborn Antonio can’t wait to play at Aunt Tina, Uncle Donald, John, Daniel, and Christian’s house. The babies bring joy to everyone around them. The boys love the insanity and fun that goes on inside of the safety of my house’s walls.

Entering the front door, you can already smell the sweet scent of the candles that my mother has left out and lit, away from the reach of possible babies, of course. The famou wooden table sits proudly in my dining room, parallel to the kitchen, which is everyone’s favorite room. The dining room table has been in our family for as long as I can remember, and running your hand along it will allow you to feel the scratches and wear all over it, but I know that if the table could talk, it would say that everything we have put it through was all worth it. In the kitchen, my mother is always cooking something, and it is always enough to feed an entire army and definitely a hoard of hungry Italians. A pot of tomato sauce is guaranteed to be simmering on the black electric stove if you were to make a bet. Family and friends are a key element to our home, so we have to have enough food to entertain. The glossy wooden cabinets that house the plates and other eating utensils sit proudly above our heads as if to say, “take these plates! Use them! Enjoy!”

Our living room, the next room over, is a bright, airy, and fun room. Obviously, it’s the go-to spot for gatherings. The green walls provide for a calming experience, and the soft, grey couch is just asking for someone to sit on it. The white shag carpet is a favorite when Michael, Antonio, and Nicholas come over, as it is a perfect surface to play with their toys on. Behind the couch is the second half of the long room that is almost like the Room of Requirement from Harry Potter. It serves as a laundry folding room, a mudroom, a snack room for parties, and the home of our Christmas tree in December. It has a door to the backyard, with steps going to the left and right. Standing on that platform makes you feel like a King overlooking his loyal subjects. We have all sorts of photos in the Back Room, as we know it by.

Up the stairs is my parent’s fairly large bedroom with the beautiful window overlooking the backyard, and the windows above their bed that can show you Manhattan through the barren trees during the Winter, and the white vaulted ceilings. Next is my favorite room of all- my room. While it may be the smallest bedroom on the planet, it is my own. I love my blue walls, the pirate ship wheel on the wall, and my sand like carpets. As you can see, when I first moved into my new room, I gave it a nautical theme. The scent of my room is not yet categorized in my mind as to what it smells like yet, but I’d know the comforting and sweet smell anywhere. My room is covered in books and clothes- my two favorite possessions. While it may be a very small room, I love having my own private safe haven to relax in.

I did not touch on every room and part of my house, but that does not mean that those places aren’t special to me. One interesting story about my house that I love telling is that my dad grew up in our current house, and now owns it. In fact, that’s what I hope to do in the future. I like to call it my own “Full House to Fuller House” if it were to work out the way I’d like it to. I hope to one day own my house, just like my dad does now. Miranda Lambert says that she “won’t take nothing but a memory,” but I hope I get to take the house itself when the time comes.Who says you can’t go back home?

Are we there yet?

 

I think it was Clark W. Griswold who famously said  “I think you’re all f-ed in the head. We’re ten hours from the f-ing fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun… We’re all gonna have so much f-ing fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes! I must be crazy! I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy Shit!”

April 2016 brought the Alexander and our cousins the Cappa family on a pilgrimage of sorts.  One may call it more of an adventure seeking out some good ole fashion family fun.  Here is a bit of how the adventure went….

Nothing quite takes the pleasure out of heading to a vacation like a delayed flight, flat tire or a broken down auto train.  You know, kinda like the auto train we just took on our pilgrimage to see a mouse.  A 17 hour overnight trip turned into 25 hour trip, and Mommy forgot to pack the cooler with adult beverages.  This was a traveling calamity that was simply out of our control.  So, we took over the bar car and had rather expensive Amtrak beverages, played the iPod (loudly) and had a dance party.  There were charged iPads, iPods, laptops and DSs. There was wifi, and all of the boys and girls were happy people.  Maria and I decided to keep our eyes out of the second floor train window and watch as the miles went by.  There really is a “behind the scenes” view of America which the train ride exposes.  Mostly of the poor folks in America and the amount of over consumption we have grown to not even realize we are doing.  Rundown homes and junk yards were all along the route.  Elsewhere in the train, people were hunkered down watching films on their laptops, sleeping, and playing catch-up with their kids. Unlike the commuter trains, there was our own private bathroom and shower combo and a place to rest our heads.  Daniel was fixated on our bathroom and the fact that you could both use the toilet and take a shower at the same time.  Dinner time!

We head to the dining car for our exciting dining experience.  We are welcomed to a lovely table set with Amtrak plastic china, a carafe of ice water and unsweetened ice tea.  We are so excited for a change of scenery and a nice hot meal.  I suppose we have become a bit of the food snob as the short ribs were disappointing on the train. Go figure.  I order a half of a bottle of Pino so things were looking up.  The nice waitress gave us our dessert options we could choose from sugar free jello, tiramisu, ice cream or cheese cake.  Kids all got the ice cream and I just could not decide.  “Is the cheesecake Italian?, I asked”  She looked puzzled so I explained further.  “Is it the one with the ricotta cheese?”  Well you would think I asked her if she spoke Cantonese.  She stares at me and says its Philadelphia cream cheese.  Donald blurts out “What the hell do you think? Nonna is in the belly of the train making Italian cheesecake?”  So I got the tiramisu.

Through the night, beside the rhythmic farting of John and Daniel, the rock of the train was a welcoming feeling as we were trying to call it a night.  Christian and Donald stayed in a smaller room just down the hall.  Daniel was on the top bunk and John and I got to share a full size bed for the night.  I don’t think I have ever slept in the same bed as my kids.  Not unless they were vomiting or ill with diarrhea as toddlers. Well my little Johnny Boy is now a 185 lb 6’2″ 14 year old and as you know I am certainly far from a small woman.  Sharing the bed with him proved to be more than a challenge than I could have ever imagined.  Spooning with your son is generally frowned upon so we needed to figure out how we were going to make this work.  Johnny decided that it would be best for all parties involved if he just squished as far as he could to the wall and give Mama Bear some sleeping room.  We started out great. It was somewhere about when the freight train broke down and the conductor announced that we were stopping for a short time to wait for a new engine that I lost both my patience and my ability to sleep.  For three hours, the train did not move and all that was left to do was listen to Daniel’s flatulence, the continuous bathroom breaks my neighbor would take through the night and the sweet sound of multiple strangers snoring.  At some point I fell asleep but I have must have rolled over and now was face to face with a 14 year old’s un-brushed teeth.  Johnny’s braces must have captured the Amtrak dining contents and some leftover Pringles and popcorn from the afternoon.  The aroma was intoxicating in a really bad sort of way.  God I love that kid but I am sorry ANY 14 year old, not just mine, needs to brush those suckers a minimum of twice before bed.  As I could not sleep I took the opportunity to stare this this once little boy and wonder how I was lucky enough to be his Mother.  Danny thought it would be funny to wake us by throwing all sorts of stuff at us from the top bunk.  Funny man knew I could not get up there and get him.  Breakfast time!

Carbs, carbs and more carbs were on the menu for the breakfast on the now several hours delayed train.  Our families met for what was supposed to be a quick meal before we got to Florida but now we were sadly only in North Carolina.  After some crumb cake, cereal, bagels and some high sugar drinks we were ready for several more hours on the train. Christian’s sugar intake was at an all time high and would later prove to be difficult to deal with trapped on a train. Our nice waitress served us again and I think at this point was starting to get really sick of us loud inmates.  But hey, we had to make the best of it.  I decided to ask her if there would be provisions for lunch as we were now not expected to get to our destination until about 3pm.  She quickly responded we have cans of beef stew on the train for situations like this.  My mind immediately went to a dinty more can and the Hormel logo and I thought this can’t be good.  Again Donald looks at me and makes some stupid comment about me being upset about food.

At this point I have  several more hours on a train, I am not in the sun and the beef stew for lunch is only going to cause more passenger flatulence and I just wanna get there.  The next few hours before our lunch were filled with naps, a family game of heads up and more adult beverages.  Along with hours of Christian saying I am not eating beef stew, I don’t eat beef, I wont eat anything on a train from a can.  A good time was had by all.  Off to lunch we went where we were instructed by cousin Mike that this is like survivor at this point there will be NO WASTED FOOD.  All family members are requested to provide any leftovers to the adult table as this was serious now.  We were met by our friend the lovely waitress who now has to hear Chrissy.  I am not eating this, I will not do this, you cant make me…. So I decide let me play the “my child has dietary needs.”  Excuse me lovely waitress that is feeding me meat from a can for $1000 my son is a vegetarian, do you have any other options?  She walks away and Chrissy asks the waiter if there are any chicken nuggets leftover from last nights dinner?  The man turns to ask lovely waitress lady and she looks at me with daggers in her eyes like I thought the kid was a vegetarian… Well to shut the kid up lovely waitress served Chrissy multiple plates of bread and butter and his little belly was filled.  We all enjoyed out beef stew, brown rice and vegetable medley as much as one can enjoy meat in a can on vacation.  Cousin Michael ate Christian’s unwanted bowl and there was not one starving family member.  Lovely waitress lady and I said our goodbyes and we were almost at our destination.

IMG_4594

Our quest for fun was within reach, our pilgrimage to see a mouse was almost here.  Ma are we there yet?  Yes kids I don’t give a frogs ass how we got here but its 80 degrees and the sun is shining pack your bags we are ready to break out of this train!

 

.IMG_4596

 

What’s the score?

12961466_10153794518308001_4884120917281900007_nIt has recently occurred to me that an approximate 50% of my life has been spent on some sort of ball field.  First, it was the  soccer field as a young lady traveling all over Long Island.  Later playing for Sea Cliff Little League with Mrs. Barbara Brown, our coach.  Barbara is the mother of one of my closest friends Kelli Brown, Barbara coached “Super 7 Ice Cream.”  Greatest part of being on that team was the unlimited amount of ice cream we consumed after our games.  I can still remember marching in the Sea Cliff Little League parade with my friends as that was the way we celebrated opening day.  The ceremonies at Clifton Park are vivid memories I will never forget.  I can close my eyes and smell the fresh cut grass and hear the poor loud speaker system that would announce our names.  My sister Laura and brother Joey played in the same league as well so opening day was a family affair filled with screaming and cheers from Mom and Dad looking on proudly at his ball players.  Later there was our Middle School and High School teams where we all played for what seemed like an eternity.  Mom absolutely never missing one game and Dad only missing if he had to work but showing up late with his work clothes and a fresh cup of coffee for Mom, milk one sugar of course.  I can hear Mom screaming calling out my name that sounded like ChriSTAINa and her very loud unique whistle when I made an exceptional play or smacked the crap out of the ball.  Same sort of screaming went on for  Laura and Joey on the field, Laura’s Mom scream name was LAW and Joey was just always Joey. Well here I am now some almost twenty five years later on the field screaming for my Danny Boy and my Chrissy Mac.  While John does not play sports he is very much into theater and that does not allow one to scream so I make up for it when I drop him to school screaming I love you Johnny Boy.  Don’t ever want to have him to feel that he did not get ample Mom yelling as a child that may lend to his later life therapy sessions.

Janice of 1989 is now the Christina of 2016.  There I am at each game screaming and yelling for all the boys on the field.  Albeit I am learning the sport of Lacrosse and Chrissy has a gag order on me at the moment.  As I sit and watch these games I am feeling a bit distracted and quite possibly not as focused as Janice was.  I am pretty sure I have self diagnosed attention deficit syndrome.   Here is a sample of how these games go:

1st Inning:

Go Legends!  Set up my chair and get ready to watch the game.  Say hi to all my fellow Legends families and settle in.  I am top of my game at this point, I know the batting order, who is playing what position etc.

2nd Inning:

John- Is this almost over?  Can I have a snack?  What is for dinner?

Go Danny Boy!  Good eye… Good Eye….

3rd Inning

Christian- Ma I am hungry.

There are snacks in the bag.

I want a hot dog.

I have no money on me.  Ask your Father.

Ma- Dad said he is in the dugout and he is trying to coach a game that he has no money on him for me to ask Grandpa.

So ask Grandpa.

I don’t want to ask Grandpa.

Your outta luck kid.

Ma but I am hungry and I did not eat.

Not my problem.

Fellow Legend Mom goes to her purse to politely shut Christian up and says here go get a hot dog. Grandpa gives him some money to keep the kid from asking for the one millionth time!!

What’s the score?

4th Inning

What IS for dinner?  I am so sick of the same thing.  Wonder what she is making for dinner.  She is so skinny.  I bet she is making kale and couscous and salmon.  I have chicken cutlets.  Maybe I will make them.  I really should not fry so much.  Did I put those clothes in the laundry?  Kids have to stop putting everything in the hamper.  I better take off my sunglasses I will have raccoon  eyes by the time this game is over.  GO DANNY BOY!  Nice swing!  What a shot!  GO LEGENDS!  I totally have nothing for the boys for lunch tomorrow.  Donald likes wheat bread but I think I only have white.  Really should not buy white, I bet she does NOT give her kids white.  I really need to loose weight.  I will get flax seed wraps instead.  What is a flax seed? I don’t want to go to stop in shop, I feel like I live there.  Wonder how many gas points I have earned.  Is this week a pay week?  I really should pay attention.  NOWAH!  What a hit!  RBI !!!  Come on boys lets win this game!

Ma- now I am thirsty do you have anything to drink?

What’s the score?  What inning are we in.  Go Danny Boy!

5th Inning

My legs hurt I need to move around.  DJ is shouting out the line up for the 11U Port Washington Legends.  He gives me a look like I am working here what do you want.  I stare in awe of the dedication he has to our boys.  How can I be so lucky to have married my best friend.  Oh yeah Shannon I need to call her we can never seem to get together these days.  I wonder if she is free next week? Oh no next week is the Chamber Choir for Johnny.  Does he have any shirts that fit his neck?  He is 6’2″ now and nothing fits anymore.  Maybe I have things at the dry cleaner, but Donald is smaller then him.  He really needs new sneakers I will get him new sneakers.  Hey girls like my new sneaker?  What IS for dinner?  Maybe I will make something on the BBQ.  What inning are we in?  What’s the score?  Danny Boy is at the plate again pay attention ChriSTAINa!

6th Inning

How many innings do we play again?  I forget every year.  Is there a run rule?  I think we are winning by a lot.  If I could just focus I would know the score and what inning we were in.  I think there is a time limit.  If there is a time limit we are almost done.  Who has steak on sale let me google that, I am in the mood for steak.  I turn to look at my phone and there is Christian on the swings playing with the other siblings.  Smiling laughing and despite the I hate baseball comments this morning he is having a blast.  Oh wait this is the 6th inning.  i think we are almost done.  Love watching these boys.  Love chatting with these Moms and Dads.  I need to work on my focus.  Danny Boy is on the mound.  Oh no the pressure is on.  Wait I am not sure of the score.  My little Mariano Rivera… Boy if he practiced a little more he would be some pitcher.  Look at his arm, throwing heat!  Wow he has gotten so tall.  Look at his stride.  Go Danny Boy!  With my heart in my hands and my pride on the mound I try to really focus for these last few outs.

Legends win!  Whata game.  What a team effort.  Let’s go boys pack up your things time to head home.  This is the best times of our lives, can’t wait till the next game.

Hey Don…..What WAS the score?

 

mound

Good Morning Snow Day

This is Dr. Kathleen Mooney with an important message from the Port Washington School District. Due to poor road conditions, all schools will be closed on Friday, February 5, 2016. Please exercise caution and stay safe. Ahh the sweet sound of the good Dr.’s voice is music to the ears of the three boys of Graywood. After two calls to the house, two to my cell, two to Donald’s cell, and the fire whistle blow we were all well aware that today the children will be home from school. I decided to get a jump on the day, since the good Doctor made multiple calls not allowing anyone to get back to sleep. I sent a quick text to my severely sleep deprived sister asking if, since she is on maternity leave, when the boys wake could they spend the day with her.  She was beyond excited at the thought of spending the day with five boys under the age of 13.  So off to work I went leaving the boys to sleep in with Nana upstairs and a plan in place for my day.

Made it to work without a problem and began to enjoy my hot coffee and my computer in silence at 6:30 am. 7AM- text from Daniel – Mom is there school today.  – No, so please go back to sleep. Nana is upstairs, call me when you wake up.  Back to work I go, concentrating on the task at hand. 8AM – phone call from Chrissy – you said to call you when I woke up and I just wanted to tell you I am awake.  OK Chrissy stay away from each other no fighting, eat something, Nana is upstairs you will be going to Aunt Laura’s when Johnny wakes up. Ok Mommy I love you.  He melts my heart and again I drift off to my project and await the teenagers call that he too is awake.

My Mother in Law called to say her job was closed and the boys could hang out with her.  So again I settle back into my project knowing this was just going to be a PJ’s and TV day for the boys. Back in the 80’s and 90’s when I had a snow day I was home with my stay at home Mom and we played with the neighborhood kids had hot chocolate and thats about it. My kids and pretty much all kids these days need to be constantly entertained. And with todays technology the rest of my day pretty much went like this….text-after-text-after-text.

Mom can I bring the XBox upstairs? Oh so the basement 52″ TV is not good enough for your game playing?

Mom can I go to my friends? No I cannot drive you.

Mom he won’t leave me alone. Please stop fighting.

Mom- Dad said i could buy a $10 game on his credit card if its ok with you. No.

Mom – Don’t forget you need to write me a one page summary for my confirmation on what the Catholic church means to you and how you will continue to raise me in my faith and keep the promises you and Dad made at my Baptism. Due this week.

Mom – What’s for dinner?

Mom- There is no more white bread only wheat and Chrissy won’t eat that.

Mom – Nana is making me farina and I love when she makes it for me.

Mom – I have a sore throat can I take an advil?

Mom – There is no food in this house!

Mom – It still hurts can I take another advil?

Mom- You did not answer what’s for dinner?

Mom- When are you going to the store there is no food here, not even any Nutella left.

On my lunch break I respond…… I AM WORKING BOYS PLEASE STOP TEXTING.

OK Mom but I want you to remember that you need to sign the sheet for my class so that you can attend my ancient Egyptian workshop next week- oh well I don’t think I can attend because your brother has a squid dissection workshop and I have an appointment with my accountant for my taxes. I will call Aunt Laura to see if she can do Egypt or the squid but my lunch is over and I gotta go.

The afternoon at work went quickly and I was headed home to grab the boys to go grocery shopping since I was placed on notice that my supplies were very low.  Well, not one of those rotten little men wanted to help me at the store, but I got them to go.  While in the store, I was roped into buying all sorts of goodies that I don’t normally buy. In fact, my cart was overflowing with food I had to have them each carry loaves of bread and such so they would not get crushed in the cart. Rolling to the finish line I ran into a woman I know from the neighborhood and I said to her “can I trade my cart for yours?”  Her’s had a few items and some dog and cat food. She told me she would take my cart any day because it means that I have a full house. She told me that she remembers well the days of the full carts and the empty wallet.  The silence in her home is deafening she told me and I should look at the large grocery bill as a blessing.

I suppose one day I will look back at the large grocery bill as a blessing for right at this very moment I would prefer the PowerBall as my blessing.

 

 

A family of Legends

Tradition, community, friendship and family. No summer league represents baseball’s virtues better than the Port Washington Youth Activities Baseball League the Legends. Since the League’s inception, several generations have come through the system. This summer it’s the Alexander’s turn to share in  the family connections and for us they have been extraordinary.   Growing up I can remember that my parents shared many a dinner and I many ice cream cone with the families Joey, Laura and I played softball/baseball with.  In fact many of those families are still in our lives sharing in the excitement of what is the new generation of ball players.  My parents made life long friends and us kids made life long friendships as well.  Now we are reliving those connections with our new found Legends family.

There are so many life lessons to be learned on the baseball field.  It teaches us so much about  qualities such as consistency, perseverance and focus and teaches us about those people who surround us, such as how they support, encourage and inspire us.   When children face a curve ball in life the skills learned on the field can translate to everyday life.  Baseball teaches us about leadership and what happens when there is a confident and consistent coach leading the team.  Baseball teaches us that hard work not only translates to improved play but improved self worth.  But to me by far the greatest lesson Baseball teaches the importance of community for both the player and the parents.

With Danny Boy away at camp, Donald and I continue to attend the Legends games to both fulfill Donald’s coaching commitment and my cheerleader commitment.  Last night the Legends played an outstanding game.  The pitching was top notch, players in unfamiliar positions due to kids out sick or at camp played their hearts out and the game ended in a heartbreaking loss in extra innings.

My Mother was always the loudest and vibrant fan for my siblings and I and I have followed in her foot steps.  You will always hear me cheering loudly for my Danny Boy and all the boys on the team.  But last night with my Danny away I asked some of the boys if I could cheer just as loudly for them.  There is another boy on the team who is named Daniel.  I asked him if I could call him Danny Boy for the night he smiled and gave me a thumbs up while Benjamin yelled “Mrs. Alexander please call me Benny Boy.”  The center fielder Ryan called me over to tell me that he had been bored in the outfield tonight but that was OK because our man Jasper was killing it on the mound.  With our  teams head dugout cheer leader Tal cheering away for his team I overhear Noah (the catcher) telling Jasper (the pitcher) his signs for setting up the ball inside or out.  All while a new member of the team Aidan is smiling ear to ear cause he normally does not play first base and he just had two nice grabs.  Next my little friend Ethan is calling me over to ask what house my Danny is in for the upcoming middle school year and all the boys are a buzz about Weber Middle School.  Then there is my man Isaac who recently had a arm injury and is on “light duty” for the Legends.  I think Isaac thinks I am one crazy Mom, anything I say he looks at me and smiles and it simply warms my heart.  After the game was over the boys were all asking us how two of the other boys were who missed the game today.   Chris who had an ankle injury and Owen who was not feeling well.  They pulled out their cell phone and were texting on their “Legends” group to let the other boys know about the disappointing loss and to see how their teammates were feeling.  They were all truly concerned with their teammates well being.  The sense of community was palpable.

On the bleachers are continuously the many family members cheering on all the boys.  We all seem to share in each victory and defeat.  Grandparents and Parents, brothers and sister’s all cheering on their favorite Legend.  Recently a set of Grandparent’s were at the game and the Grandmother told me “I’m not an athletic person and I don’t even understand most the rules of the game. I’ve been clueless for years on the game of baseball, but I’ve sat and cheered for the team regardless.  My clue-less-ness has brought on plenty of laughter to those around me. ”  Another Grandmother told me she much prefers Hockey its a faster game and she gets easily bored with baseball.  My own Mother in law joins us for some games and proudly reports that she has no clue whats going on yet she looks to see when I clap and then she knows she should be clapping too. The sense of community is palpable.

Last night I found myself hugging someone else’s husband as their child missed a ball.  While last week I was hugging and jumping with another Mom as Danny Boy shot a bomb of a homer over the fence for his first out of the park home run.  At the end of last nights game I was on my hands and knees drying off the tears of a young man who’s Mom could not make the game and by my side was another Mom hugging him and letting him know it’s going to be ok that we lost. Across the field was yet another Mom jogging to that boys  car to greet him and give him a  hug before he left.  She wanted to remind him that we are a team and no win or loss is because of one person we are in this together.  The three coaches gathered the boys before we left and with arms wrapped around each other praised these little men on an outstanding performance against a club team that is made up of the best of the best ball players.  The dedication shown by these coaches has been top notch.  Coaching at all levels involves much more than making out the lineup, batting practice, or coaching third base. Coaching involves accepting the tremendous responsibility you face when parents put their children into your care.  The sense of community is palpable.

Legends

Camp Mom and Dad

Johnny Angel, Danny Boy and Chrissy Mac are all currently residing in an Upstate NY summer Camp operated by Local Union #3 IBEW called Camp Integrity.  Our kids had mixed feelings about going to camp for the first year, although it was Danny’s second year: They were excited, but also scared. “TWO WEEKS!?” Chrissy cried when I told him what, to me, was great news: They were going to summer camp! “They have kayaking and arts and crafts!” I said cheerfully, trying to drum up excitement. “And archery and fishing!  I’ve never been kayaking myself, You’ll get to do it before I do!”  For weeks we spent evenings talking with Dan asking questions about what to expect.  And for weeks Chrissy said “I am not going.”  John sat quietly during most discussions soaking in all the information and wondering if he made the right choice to attend.  All while Mommy and Daddy planned to break out of the routine, reconnect and rekindle.

The drop off went well, the packing was a nightmare yet in the end they all had what they needed.  I am already having anxiety about the amount of laundry I will need to do when they get home.  Johnny’s bunk is a short walk from where his younger brothers are.  Walking in teenagers were all over the place, throwing footballs, Frisbees and  playing music.  We settled him in and then moved to the area where the younger boys would bunk.  Donald and I settled Chris and Dan into their individual bunks and said of goodbyes.  I told Chrissy where all his items were stored so he would know what I packed for him.  I ended with these are your water shoes for the lake.  He said I told you I am not swimming in the lake.  His counselor said swim test in thirty minutes…..it was in that moment that I thought no fighting with Chrissy for two weeks.  This poor guy has to deal with his I am not doing that attitude.  I silently smiled and gave my hugs and kisses and off we went to make sure John was all settled in.  John was talking to his counselor who came all the way from England through an exchange called camp America and I was happy to see him connecting with him.  We gave our hugs and off we went to break out of the routine, reconnect and rekindle.

So why send my three boys away for two weeks.  The thing is, I believe that it is important to challenge our children in todays world. To get them truly outside of their comfort zones so that they can grow and mature.   Our desire to challenge our kids was reinforced in our belief that kids who always have problems solved for them believe that they don’t know how to solve problems.  You have to let your child ride their bike and fall.  Why? Because they need to learn how to manage that fall and get back on the bike.  We are sending them the message that we believe that they can manage those falls along with emotions like loneliness, homesickness, and anxiety. I believed that they could, at the tender ages of 13, 11 and 9, handle these difficult emotions themselves, without me standing over their shoulders telling them to relax. As awful as it sometimes feels to me, they simply don’t always need me there, telling them what to do and what to think and how to react.

UNPLUGGING!  Yet another reason we were interested in sending the boys away.  Tuning into nature is something they just are not programed to do in todays world.  I know they will have tried dozens of new activities, took on new challenges, and learned to accept their discomfort as a part of their growth without their iPods, iPad and iPhone’s!    We are all well aware of the effects of too much screen time on our own ability to concentrate and our social interactions. And we don’t want that for our Boys.

In the five short days the kids have been away reconnecting has been the theme.  Not only has this given Donald and I to reconnect as husband and wife, it has allowed us to reconnect with our “former selves.”  We have had dinner with family, drinks with our Fire Department friends, planned playdates with some old friends and set aside alone time to fall in love all over again.  Next week I have even scheduled us to do a shift at Fire Medic’s for Ambulance duty just like old times.

Sending your children away to camp requires a leap of faith and the anxiety of it all will be worth it. It requires an ability to manage the emotional discomfort that comes with not-knowing, not-controlling, not-checking—it requires just trusting. But I’m comfortable with that discomfort.  But mostly I am comfortable with the new found temporary silence, full fridge, full checking account, full tank of gas, empty laundry basket and date nights with Donald John.

FullSizeRender (2)FullSizeRender (1)FullSizeRender (3)