Pride in Port: A Legacy

Pride in Port: A Legacy

The continuation of a legacy has always been very important to me, particularly continuing the legacy that my family has created within the Port Washington Fire Department. Starting with my grandfather, John “Jay” Alexander, joining the Protection Engine Company, with my father’s cousins, John and Bobby Gennusa, following shortly after. Next, my father, Donald Alexander, became a member, and quickly rose to the office of Captain within the company. My mother, a former firefighter from Glenwood, joined the Fire Medics Company after meeting my father in the department. Each of those names, each of those family members, all passed down a legacy, from one person to another, and have placed it in my hands today.

I was always destined to follow the legacies of those before me. Despite being named after my grandfather, John Alexander, I was also named after my father’s aforementioned cousin, John Gennusa. John passed away due to health complications while in the prime of his life, and my parents saw it fit to bestow his name upon me in his honor. John’s legacy, however, was one that was very hard for me to uphold. I wasn’t a firefighter, I didn’t have children, and I had no athletic ability. I didn’t play softball for the PWFD, as he did for many years. My father joined the team after John’s death and took on his number, 77, for his jersey. One of my brothers took on 77 for his baseball number, the other taking it on for lacrosse. I never had the necessity to have a “number,” which discouraged me: how could I possibly make him proud if I couldn’t properly follow his legacy?

In April 2019, I was sworn in as the 6th member of my family to join the Port Washington Fire Department. My photo is on the wall with that of my grandfather, my father, and my cousins. Finally, I was following John’s legacy by joining the same company that he, and all of my other family members had joined. The next day, we looked at the roster for Protection. Listed was every single active member in the company. My name, placed last on the list, as I was the newest member, came in at number 77.

My Pride in Port is passed down like a legacy. The pride that my family has in serving the community cannot be satisfied by a parade or a plaque, or even by uproarious applause. Our pride comes from the members of the Port Washington Fire Department, the members of our family, that have served before us. We pass it down to each new member of the department, the Pride in Port that exists when serving your community with your family behind you the whole time.

I never did find the BBQ Sauce

Trace Adkins Lyrics

“Your Gonna Miss This”

You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These Are Some Good Times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now 

But you’re gonna miss this

I know I know, I will indeed miss this one day.  But as the last few weeks of the end of the school year have been passing by I am struggling with the thought of missing this chaos. While I do have my wonderful husband to help me through all that life has to throw my way, is he really worrying about all this stuff?  So in the last few weeks I have jotted down the thoughts of a Mom as the end of the school year approaches.  2020 brings my oldest to graduate High School and my nephew MJ to start Kindergarten.  Good luck to my sister whom will now not only be the teacher but the parent at this end of school madness.  Can you relate?

Do you have your Math Calculator?

#2 pencil?  Is it sharpened?

A snack?

When’s your next orthodontist appointment?

Wait did you get a physical yet this year you need one to enter 9th grade.  Are you up on all your shots?

Wait is the dog up on all her shots?

I think I threw out your flash cards. Shit.

Make sure you drink enough water.

Potato chips do not provide protein, please bring another snack.

Did anyone feed the dog?

I know that your 15 and 6’ tall and the lunch lady only gives you three chicken nuggets… what do you want from me, order two lunches.

I know you have no more socks, I am tired of matching them go see if Dad has any in his dresser.

Anyone remember where I put the pool passes from last year?

I am sorry that I am not one of those “good parents” who show up to everything with bags of non-generic treats and Pinterest-style crafts in tow. Take your stop and shop brand water and stop and shop brand pretzels and get the hell to school. I bitterly assume all four grandparents live nearby to help whenever they’re needed. 

I am only gonna unload the top of the dishwasher and reload it again and turn it on, I am too tired to unload the bottom don’t tell Dad.

Do you know the end of school year bus schedule because I am not getting your ass in the middle of the day, actually you know what here is a metro card, take the bus.

Does your bathing suit still fit?  You better go try it on cause if it doesn’t your gonna end up at the pool in your boxers.

Please go get your hair cut, looks like you have a helmet on your head and graduation is next week.

I am sorry today is wear purple day in honor of something I am sure is very important but we don’t own one, ask your Grandmother it is her favorite color.

You do know if you do not pass your regents you can’t graduate High School.

Cleaning the boys sheets this week – found three socks I was missing.  #winning

Thank GOD Johnny is driving.  We are in need of a third body to get the gang all over town, wearing whatever attire they need, with whatever they need with whatever friends are joining them. 

Oh crap Christian is graduating, did I buy him a yearbook?

Listen kids if I get a notice from any librarian that there is an overdue book fee for the end of the year YOU are paying.

For the love of God did I renew your trumpet?  What about your clarinet?  Should have bought these friggin things in the first place I think combined its cost $4000 to rent. 

Why is there microwave popcorn and a can of soda under your bed??? Late night studying??? I am guessing NOT.

Family announcement – The checkbook, debit card and American Express have come out regularly this time of year. There have been teacher gifts, graduation gifts, multiple fines for anything you kids can’t seem to find, religion teacher gifts, coach gifts, prom flowers, prom suit alterations, prom tickets, travel baseball balance due, camp balance due, deposits for next year’s trips, graduation party fee, Confirmation gown fee, Confirmation Party, AP exam fees, Renewal fees for instruments, Summer show fees etc.  So NO we are not getting new sneakers that’s what flip flops are for.

START YOUR SUMMER READING NOW.

In these final weeks of school, sorry kids you will walk around in clothes that are too small, not-quite-clean, or simply inappropriate for the weather. And I won’t find the motivation to care.  Sorry

John just texted that he wrote a total of 40 essays for his Junior year.  Where did this kid come from?  I am fairly certain that this kid is capable of doing anything in the world he wants to.

Breakfast feeds your brain please eat something Christian, test taking needs energy.

If you fail you do know you will have to attend summer school and I will not be driving so you will need to walk, or take the bus so do me a favor and don’t fail.  Thanks

I have a profound need for a nap, but I can’t I have to go clean my car before your Dad gets home.  It’s in desperate need of a car wash and I need to unload discarded food bags, muddy sports equipment, empty water bottles, jock straps, sneakers, cleats and I think some BBQ sauce I could smell yesterday. I really need to find the BBQ sauce. 

Blues and Blahs 2019

Here we are again in the long and cold New York winter.  Trying to make the best of the tail end of winter and suffering from the February Blues or ‘Blahs’. It’s the time of year when we’ve had enough of hibernating inside away from the cold and often dreary outdoors, short days and lack of sunshine.  The gloomy days of February are mirrored in my life as the month brings me much sadness, anxiety, low energy and zero motivation.  This year February brings even more sadness as I remember February 19, 2003.  You see the 19th is my Fathers birthday.  I can remember that day stopping by to see my Dad to have some birthday dinner with him with my 11 month old baby Johnny.  On the next day February 20, 2003 we lost my Mom suddenly.  My eternally youthful mother.  For years and years the birthday card she gave him sat a top of the very large 1999 projection screen TV in the den on Maple Street.  She was pulled off this earth in an instant and on June 21, 2018 so was Dad.  At age 42 I was left an orphan and February is even darker than before.

Coupled with the normal anxiety the month, I have been dealing with the after effects of MRSA that hospitalized me on and off for three months this fall.  This infection took a heavy toll on me and left pretty deep scars, physically and emotionally.  Not being in control of what is going on with your body… nothing makes you feel more helpless.  Most nights are sleepless for me.  Crippled with the terrible anxiety that the infection will return for the THIRD time. 

The snow is old, it’s cold, I mourn my Mother all over again and now my Father.  It’s the cruelest month.  But this year rather than hunkering down and waiting for the month to pass, I am trying to be present and remember the lessons this month and this past year may teach me.  So like a Mr. Punxatawney Phil the groundhog wherein we hope for the release of winter’s purgatory, I have not seen my shadow.

Yesterday the New York Yankees reported to Tampa for spring training.

The relief of spring and brighter days ahead is on the horizon.

Like an insult, I take February personally. Like an Italian, I take it to heart.

The luckiest unlucky woman on earth.

9/5/2018 What’s that scar on your leg from? Is it new ? Oh wait what is that scar on your other leg? the emergency room nurse asks. “Uhh . . . you should have seen the other guy,” I say, which is ridiculous, really, because I despise when people say that. I despise that phrase in particular and I despise clichéd cover-ups in general, but I say it anyway. I’m not going to tell this nurse the hour long story of my 43 years and my 13 surgeries. I am in too much pain. But I had to tell her my story. I pull out my phone it sadly holds a note on all my surgeries and all my medications.

When I became twentysomething with an array of medical issues (umbilical hernia repair, incisional hernia repair, kidney stones – days before my sister’s wedding, hysterectomy , MRSA, torn ligaments and ruptured Achilles) to name a few – an improbable series of health crises that swiftly changed my idea of youth. And because my father, who’d had muscular dystrophy,emphysema, lung infections, asbestosis and more, I became even more aware of the ways that different people react to their bodies. Unlike my father, though, I want very much to live.

What ended being a one week stay this time found that the MRSA has returned from five years ago. The mesh in my abdominal cavity has attached to my small bowel and there is a possibility of a fistula. It was determined through Infectious disease and my general surgeon I could be released after a drain was placed in my pelvis and I’d be on massive antibiotics for three months to kill this nasty bug. Just another note in my medical history to be entered into my phone.

9/19/2018

I’m back – waking up from a nap with a 101.8 fever and an abdominal cavity that felt like a balloon ready to pop, off I went back to the emergency room. My sister in law Suzanne drove me and stayed with me as I cried and cried and cried. Why me? What’s next? The pain is unbearable, my poor husband, my kids are worried, here we go again. I want my MOMMY!!! My job – my multiple jobs, the loss of my income from my side business, my husband loosing days of work without pay, my life yet again came abruptly to a stop. She rubbed my legs and cleared the tears from my cheeks. She really had no words, nobody does. Nobody understands, nobody knows what to say or do anymore. Donald came after he finished cooking dinner and making sure all homework was done. He and his sister had no words to each-other we all just can’t believe this. Suzanne and Laura did a switch and Laura came in and Suzanne went home where my wonderful Mother in Law holds down the fort. These girls now have their own babies to care for, they both have spent many years caring for me and my children during my many sicknesses. They know the routine. I continued to cry and with each sob the pain in my belly got worse and they tried to calm me down as none of this was going to make the pain go away. As I write the tears run down my face I miss my brother he is so far away and besides my Mother he is the only one who truly knows how to calm my soul. God blessed me with wonderful siblings, my own and Donald’s we have all grown up together. They have all given me my greatest joys my nieces and nephews and nothing makes me happier then to be with them. Stephen and Kim’s daughter Ava texted me yesterday checking on me. The smile on my face forced my nurse to ask what just happened she hadn’t seen me smile. A reminder of what’s most important in life is to be surrounded by the ones you love. When trouble comes it’s the ones you love that will support you.

9/26/2018

I wake to a thunderstorm and soaking wet sheets from my bodies attempt to get rid of a fever last night. I’m attached at both arms to machines at the moment one is a pain management pump and the other is dripping a heavy duty antibiotic Vancomyocine to rid my body of the MRSA. I am also secured to a tube allowing me to use the bathroom from bed along with a wound vacuum that works to constantly clear the infection. There are drains and drawings all over my belly. It’s all so amazing that here I am 5 years later doing this again. I was able to walk to my chair yesterday and the bathroom and did a few laps around my room. A huge accomplishment being only 24 hours after my abdominal cavity was cut open for the 7th time in my 43 years.

9/27/18

Another painful night full of fevers and gas pains. When they open up your abdominal cavity one of the biggest issues patients have is the inability to get rid of gas. On top of this I had to have part of my bowel removed and put together again so we need to make sure it’s working again. I haven’t eaten in days I am not even one bit hungry.

It’s been 9 days. NINE long painful anxious days.

9/28/18 day 10 at the St. Francis hotel. While the room service is superb and the under 25 year old super cute nurses occupy my husband. I really want out. I was seen by surgery and infectious disease this morning and I’m one bowl movement away from breaking outta here. The wound vac was removed and the last dose of vancomycin is invading my central line at this moment. Tonight I should be home. Fighting for the boys to help me and kissing my puppy. It’s just where I want to be. I hope and pray that this truly is the end of a long road for me over the last 10 years and most specifically this past year. Thank you for the phone calls, texts FB messages, meals and love. My life is blessed with the best.

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

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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.

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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!

 

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