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Over the weekend, we went (extreme) apple picking and had a chance to enjoy the fall foliage and hang out with a bunch of friends. Because everyone in Northern NJ and Manhattan had the same idea, we sat in Country Critters!grueling traffic all afternoon on our way to the orchard. Masker Orchards, tucked away in the Hudson Valley in Warwick, NY is our “usual spot.” As the crowd has grown, so has the penchant for all things extreme.
Because, you know, it’s not enough to just drive up to a serene apple orchard and pick quietly. To fully grasp the whole experience, one should offroad in the orchard, sometimes picking apples through the sunroof. This is one of the 5 times a year that we actually get use out of our 4wd—-money well spent. Apple picking is always a good time, and I’m so glad we were able to go.

Jack had a playmate, which was so awesome. Jack loved Tommy, our good friends’ 2 year old nephew. The two kids didn’t do as much apple picking, but had fun turning baby apples into makeshift balls. Jack felt the need to slobber and bite every single apple that was within reach, leaving his little baby bite marks on one too many apples!
Tommy and JackTommy and Jack

extremeapplepicking 049Surrounded by so many buildings and not enough trees, I always forget what the landscape outside of the city environment looks like. Despite the headache-inducing traffic, it was well worth the drive to take in the fall festivities and spend time with good friends.

Now, it’s time to bake with all those apples with bite marks!

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With everything that’s going on in the world right now, it’s hard not to ignore the cacophony and reality of buzzwords–crisis, doom and gloom, economic downturn, recession, depression.

Times are rapidly changing—unemployment is in freefall, various companies are going belly up, the government is bailing out corrupted financial firms. I even had a heart-to-heart with a cabdriver last night about the stock market tanking. On a good day, cabbies limit the small talk to one question: “Where you going?” (No time for complete sentences.)

It’s hard not to ignore. But, whatever you do, don’t panic.
I’m no financial guru, but things will work themselves out; it has to, right?
It’s the time for frugality. We’re all making cuts; it’s imperative at this point.

For our family, as the price of gas teeters between outrageous and ridonkulous, we’re browsing for a more economical vehicle. We’re planning on traveling home for one holiday, instead of all of them. I spend Friday nights scouring sale pages for the best deals. I buy 3 different newspapers on Sundays, instead of 2—for the coupons. (Aside from the journalistic enlightenment, of course.)
Now is the time to reassess priorities.

…which is why we assessed that our family is always our number one priority. At a time when joblessness is at a high and people are losing jobs byway of layoffs, I’m quitting mine.

But this isn’t the time to panic.

After feeling so broken and defeated after 11 fruitless interviews for 9 different companies, I have to hold it together. As I often tell Jeff, if I crack, who is going to drive me to the crazy house? (There is a possibility of a carpool if anyone needs a ride.)

In all seriousness, even though I’m holding on by a thread, when push comes to shove, there’s got to be a better way. Thanks to Jeff’s faith in me, the stability in his career (not to mention his kickass bosses for acknowledging his sickening brilliance/hillbillyness {those characteristics, at least for my husband, are interchangeable}) and the moral support from friends and family, I’m taking the Leap.

Visualize Jack clapping and flashing that toothy grin.

When my career became a job, and the job became a source of too much anxiety and angst, I knew in my heart that having it all didn’t necessarily mean doing it here. As always, I have lots of ideas and I can’t wait to pursue them.

I’ve been writing a lot of goodbye emails to colleagues this week who, in return, have wished me well on The Next Big Thing. Once I get my act together–hopefully by next week–I will have some exciting announcements about The Next Big Thing.

I can’t wait to share, so please stay tuned!

Jack’s slowly but surely shaking this URI, though still hacking and sneezing more often than not. He lost a few pounds, but is definitely working back to that hearty appetite of his.

I finally got around to organizing my photos and thoughts about Jack’s first birthday, so I thought I’d share.

Jack's 1st Birthday Party

The boy’s birthday itself was definitely a momentous occasion for our little family. It not only marked a year into this funny adventure called parenthood, but it was a time to reflect on Jack’s colorful first year.

As we do for big holidays and occasions, we did the 350 mile trek down to VA to celebrate with family and friends. Because our life here in NJ has been so hectic with work and the pending transition, I quite honestly didn’t do too much to prepare for this shindig. While I love entertaining and partying in general, Jeff and I agreed that we are in that school of thought where over-the-top orchestrated parties should be reserved for bigger kids aka the non-shoe-eating crowd. To each his own, but for us, the drive down, alone, was a financial and time investment, not to mention a physical and mental sacrifice for the three of us.

The party was much like family parties that we’ve had in the past, except this one was all about our boy! There wasn’t really a theme per se—well unless you count exuberant chaos as a theme. I invited family members from both sides and a handful of friends in the area. Overall, it was an overwhelming turnout. From high school buddies and their kids to various giggling aunts, so many people came out to celebrate. The food, like most of our family parties, was abundant. We all ate, drank, watched Jack play with cake and cheered for cool little boy toys.

The birthday boy, much like his mom, was not the greatest at being the center of attention. Ok, so he hated all the attention. He whined and cried more times than I care to admit, but he absolutely adored being around all those kids. I know it’s so cliche to say, but Jack really wasn’t himself on his birthday. As I tried to grasp his crankiness, I told friends that he “realized” how much he missed my mom, which could’ve been the reason he lost his mind every time she left the room. Or, it could’ve been the big crowd or it could’ve been he was exhausted from the drive down. Who knows? There were times when I couldn’t even console him! He didn’t cry the whole day, he was just obviously having an “off” day.

Cranky pants aside, it was a fun day, thanks to our many friends and family. (Thanks again to all of you that came out! As I’ve learned over this past year: always expect the unexpected, even if it includes a sometimes uncooperative birthday boy. I’ll say it again, but I definitely look forward to celebrating holidays and birthdays in the state that we reside—wherever we end up! Wouldn’t that be something to celebrate?

I haven’t done Wordless Wednesday in awhile, so I thought this week would be a great opportunity to share an image that my friend passed along to me.

on track

on track

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Even though Jeff and I grew up at the beach, we rarely, if ever, make it down to the shore (for non-NJ people: the shore=the beach) in the summer.  There are tons of factors for this, but this year the main factor is, like most of you know, gas is so damn expensive.  I’m so sad we had to back out of plans to visit my friend/Jeff’s cousin and her family.  They’re our only family in NJ and they happen to live close to the shore.  Though I wish we could’ve made an exclusive trip to go see them, the silver lining is that we’ll get to see them at our big family trip in less than 2 weeks.  With the exorbitant increase in fuel prices, and the chain of reaction that goes with it, we are definitely starting to feel the crunch.  How about everyone else?  I mean, for crying out loud, I just paid $23 for a bag of rice!  Less than 2 years ago that same bag used to cost $8.  I keep talking about this, but I just can’t get over it.

Crazy gas prices thankfully don’t get in the way with us enjoying our church and neighborhood’s annual feast.  It’s that time of year again when we have way too many zeppoles and chow on street meat.  This year, or course, is so different because we’re not solely hanging out in the beer garden, like in years past.  We’re actually going to mass almost every night, enjoying the music and eating way more food than we should!  It’s been hot, sticky and crowded, but still a good time. Jack’s been such a trooper through the nightly novenas we’ve attended, but it’s almost like he knows he’ll be rewarded with live music afterwards.  Last night after the service, we met up with friends in time to see a fun NJ cover band. Festivals are fun, sure.  But when it’s your church’s festival, walking distance from your home, it’s even more fun.  Needless to say, Jack rocked out to various tunes by the Nerds and was a hit with all the ladies.  We, too, channeled our own inner rock stars (along with many others) by belting out the NJ anthem (Bon Jovi) at the top of our lungs.

My summers as a kid back home in Virginia Beach consisted of swimming in our pool all day or going to the beach as often as our parents would allow. The same went for Jeff. Beach, pool, play– that was the life.

But once in a blue moon, we’d go to the waterpark which, back then, was called Wild Water Rapids. There’s nothing like swimming and splashing around in a public chlorinated germfest.

Even at 32, I still love it–which is exactly why I wanted to bring the boy to the waterpark, which is now know as OceanBreeze.

So, the night before, I spent the evening stocking up on snacks, Swimmies and locating beach towels. On Saturday, we made our way to the waterpark early enough to snag a front row spot.
We marched up to the entrance, snack-filled bags in tow, to be greeted by a short line. After we bought our tickets we had to get our bags checked by one of two bag checkers. Like we would on the NJ Turnpike, we foolishly and unknowingly chose the asshole line.

We had 2 bags: the diaper bag with all of Jack’s paraphernalia and a reusable tote with our towels and snacks. Having not visited this park in 15 years or so, it never even occurred to me that outside food wouldn’t be allowed. And just as we got up to the bag checker guy, even before he could open my snack bag, like the crappy poker player I am, I revealed all of my cards: “So, I’m assuming outside food isn’t allowed in the park.”

“Sorry, no, it’s not.”

After the sad realization of having to part with my brand new tube of Sour Cream and Onion Pringles, I quickly went into mom mode. I deflected the bag checker’s Gestapo-like attitude as he peeled all of my unopened delicious chips out of my bag and asked defensively, “UM So, how is my baby going to eat?”

As he dangled Jack’s ripened banana all he could say was, “Well, what we do is put your items in a baggie with your name on it and hold at guest relations.”

I rolled my eyes and mumbled under my breath, just like one of those pain in the ass moms I swore I’d never become.

What I once considered such a joy became a huge pain in the ass.

As usual, Jeff volunteered to bring our delicious snacks back to the car. Jack and I wandered into the park and made our way to the kiddie area. And within a few seconds, as we sat admiring the Buccaneer Cove, I was excited again.

I inspected our goods in the disheveled bag after Mr. bag checker had his way with our stuff. I realized that he missed Jack’s lunch– frozen green beans. Score!

Once Jeff re-joined us, I broke out the swim diaper and sunblock. We stripped down the kid and did what we could to minimize the screaming as we pulled the diaper up over his bubble butt. After we applied the first layer of sunscreen, we were off to splash and play in the ankle deep water.
sunblock

The three of us had a wonderful time being together again. It was a great way to reunite and share our childhood summertime fun with our own kid. The sprays, waterfalls, lazy river were such a blast.

Later in the afternoon, on our 57th lap around the Lazy River, Jeff pushed Jack in his inner tube as I paddle behind on my own too-small inner tube. Just as I yelled to Jack, “I’m gonna getchyou,” I heard someone say, “Jeff and Jen??” on the other side of the gate, just next to the entrance of the park.
It turns out, it was our friend Lisa, who was there with her mom, sister and her kids. I always forget what a big, but small town Va. Beach really is.

lazy river

As we rounded out lap 64 on the Lazy River, with Jack on my lap, my legs started to fall asleep. As I pulled jack off and gave him to Jeff, I noticed a strange sight on my swim skirt.

Oh please no.

We walked over to the little pirate ship in the middle of the kiddie area. As Jeff held Jack, I peeked into his swim diaper AKA a septic tea bag and saw exactly what I feared.

Crap. Literally.

I have this single friend at work who loves telling me stories about his joys of going swimming at his local pool on Friday nights. “Friday nights are the best because there are no families there,” he’ll say. “Well, you know, because every weekend if one kid isn’t barfing in the pool, another is pooping in it. And of course, my time is always cut short thanks to them!”

Those are always the kind of conversations that I’d smile, nod and chuckle and go about my day. And then, I’d think to myself, “my kid won’t ever be one of those.”

If you know where I’m going with this, here’s your warning: do not pass go if you don’t want to read about well…you know.

Per usual, I’m sure I went about this whole thing the wrong way. But once I realized that Jack went #2, I immediately whisked him off to the bathroom to change and disinfect ourselves. I plopped him on his travel changing mat, atop one of those bathroom changing stations and foolishly tried to pull off the diaper exposing a scattered mess in my haste.

Experienced moms should warn you about these things. But then again, this is probably common sense– something I definitely did not tout at that particular moment.

As luck would have it, my kid wants to run and flail, just as a busload of people decide to come in and change next to us, while a curious little boy wants to make conversation with Jack.

Surely, they were all mocking the novice spectacle that just exploded in front of us.

As I mouthed obscenities to myself, I scraped and wiped and shook my head, as I tried to disclose the grossness that occurred in our corner of the shower area. After using almost every single wipe in our travel container, I put on a fresh new swim diaper and rinsed off Jack’s swim shorts. After wiping down the disgusting mess on the changing table, I sprinted back to Jeff to drop off the kid with the swiftness of a baton transfer in a relay race.

It was time to clean me and our travel mat! Thankfully, I carry around prepackaged alcohol towelettes in the diaper bag. I was able to scrub the soiled travel mat, as well as myself, as a long line of stall-waiting females could gawk and question what I was doing.

Swim diapers are designed to catch poo, and that’s about it. Apparently, they’re not designed to come off of your movable child too easily, nor contain the poo if the diaper is recklessly peeled off your child.

Baby BungeeAfter the whole diaper debacle, the rest of the day was breezy. As Jeff “hid” from the sun, Jack napped for almost 2 hours and I was able to run off and escape into the various slides and tubes.

Needless to say, the waterpark with a kid is much more work but definitely a different kind of fun!

I’m exhausted, busy and so worn out today. It sounds like a typical Monday morning, but it’s not–we’re still baby-less, we just got back from our houseboating extravaganza and I’m packing up for a quick business trip.

Jeff and I had an incredible time floating around, eating, laughing and relaxing with friends all weekend. Though, we barely had one on one time, we had a lot of time just being Jeff and Jen again, as opposed to Jack’s mom and dad who are constantly on call. I highly recommend relaxing weekends to all new parents.

I have yet to unpack our damp bathing suits and towels, but I have one foot out the door as I’m packing another overnight bag with suits and dress shoes. I’m heading out in a few hours for a business trip, so, for the first time since Jack was born, I’ll be without either of my boys. On the bright side, this quick trip will make the time away from Jack go by MUCH faster, which is a definite plus. It’ll be nice to be traveling and doing the journalist thing, especially since I haven’t done much of it since having Jack.

Speaking of Jack, I’ll talk more about him being gone later, but Jeff and I sorely miss him. He’s in absolutely great hands; however, I can’t not think about him. Every time I saw a kid while we were at the lake, I wondered if Jack learned any new “tricks” while he’s been gone. I don’t worry about him in their care, what I do worry about is him losing his sleep routine that has involved months of sleepless nights trying to regulate. 

My mom sounded like a broken record by punctuating every conservation with, “don’t worry, he’ll be fine.”

Fine? Of course he’ll be fine.

Now his sleeping schedule? The one that I’ve tried so hard synchronize since returning to work in December? Yeah. That’s so gone—I’m sure of it.

Honestly, as fun as it was/is living with somewhat wreckless abandon, Jack is so much a part of our life that things that were once fun when it was just the 2 of us, just aren’t the same anymore.   We both feel so much emptiness without him. And it’s only been 3 days.

More updates as soon as I get back!  And for those from the houseboating flotilla, I hope to post pictures by Tues night!

After a week of back to back meetings and deadlines, it’s finally here! Today’s the day I’ve been dreading and anxiously awaiting for weeks now.

Tonight, sometime after we get out of work and finish packing, we’re heading off– but into different directions. As I send Jack off with my parents–for what could be the first of many week-long summer trips to Va.– Jeff and I are packing our citified selves, along with our dusty outdoor gear to go play Jack Sparrow with our friends.

Booze, books and boats–sounds like a day in the life of Jen x 10. Oh, what an interesting weekend it’ll be.

And of course, as if I needed anything else to make me feel guilty about leaving the kid for a week at this age, Jack came down with a fever for the first time yesterday. Jack, who is extra clingy when teething, greeted me yesterday with a half smile, followed by a big barf. He seemed fine all night, but moaned and whined in his sleep, which, as you can imagine, made my heart crumble with guilt.

For months I’ve been telling myself, Jeff and anyone who asked, that WE need this week. As in, Jack needs to “know” Va. just as much as Jeff and I need this time together to unwind. Fortunately for all of us, there are many relatives in Va. just waiting for Jack’s arrival. Fourth of July is synonymous with freedom, and this sort of “freedom,” like the one we’re celebrating, comes with a price.

When it comes down to it, I love our daily routine and cringe at the thought of racing home, only to be greeted by an empty apartment. I’ll miss my baby immensely; I’ll miss our family of 3. I’ll live with this guilt of leaving him for the first time. Being in the position to be able to provide him with the opportunity to get to know our roots, but more importantly, the time to actually enjoy his extended family, will certainly pay its dividends in the end. (my sanity notwithstanding)

As for Jack’s freedom, let’s all cross our fingers that his crying is minimal, sleeps in his crib, stays healthy and doesn’t eat steak and ice cream all week.

Have safe and happy 4th, everyone.

…time to sit back and unwind.

If there was one, considering the repetitious plays on the radio, that old Fresh Prince song must be the official anthem for summer.
Ah! Summertime.

We started the first official weekend of summer like we do other weekends– with tons of activities–and ended on a relaxing note– with naps all around.

cupcakefest

After running our usual, tedious errands, we had a chance to experience the joy that was Cupcakefest. Jack rocked out to the tunes of our friend’s band, Junkpunch, while I inhaled a handful of delicious cupcakes courtesy of one of the event’s hosts– Sweet Avenue Bake Shop. As a huge cupcake fan, I have to say, those cupcakes were damn good. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the oversized trays of freshly baked mini cupcakes that they kept bringing out. Delicious.

Perhaps one of the best parts of the weekend was the fact that our babysitter search landed us with a very nice night out to help celebrate a friend’s 30th birthday. Over the course of a few months, we’d been interviewing potential weekend babysitters, so that we could somewhat have our social lives back. Well, I should rephrase that. Jeff and I are fortunate enough to be able to get out almost every Thursday evening. It’s sort of like our Friday night where we reconvene after a workweek where we pass like ships in the night. But besides that, understandably, we haven’t really had a chance to see our friends–together–sans Jack. I guess all of our stars were aligned on Saturday because the babysitter situation worked out perfectly.
I put Jack asleep, we repositioned the video monitor and wheeled his crib out to his closet/nursery. By 8:30, we were in a cab and made a dash for a childless evening. It was so nice to be out with friends, sipping beers and high-fiving the bday boy.

By 11:30, Jeff and I were quite anxious about the baby, knowing that he’d probably be up screaming looking for us. By then, our short-lived evening was over and we found our way back home.
I walked in to find the babysitter, who is an au pair for another family, sitting on the chair reading a book–exactly the same way we left her. I asked her if she had any problems and she said the words I was hoping for: nope, he never even woke up.
As I told Jeff earlier in the evening, the first night with a new babysitter would either go horribly wrong or really well.

I’m so glad it was the latter.

I kissed the baby
Sunday was my favorite kind– a lazy Sunday. Jack and I spent the morning at the park, but after a few laps around the playground and swing rides, the three of us were homebound for almost the rest of the day thanks to the on and off storms. We all took advantage of our plan-free day and napped intermittently. That was definitely my kind of summer weekend– enough fun with an equal mix of nothingness and naps! Let’s hope the rest of the summer can live up to that.

What does record breaking heat, a meat festival, pig hats, water sprinklers and family naps have in common?
Not much really, other than being the highlights of our scorching weekend.

interesting name, delcious sandwichesJust like last year, we went to the annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party. It was hot, crowded but of course, the festival boasted a lot of meat. Because of the heat, we spent much less time waiting in the atrocious lines. We opted to go to the much shorter lines to grab our sandwiches and hide in the shade. We ended up going with the Checkered Pig. And wouldn’t you know? They were from Va. Figures 🙂 Delicious BBQ sandwich. Their Slaw got a thumbs up from the slaw connoisseur himself.

Pig hatWhen we weren’t forcing him to wear pig hats for photo ops, Jack quietly napped in his stroller, as we trudged through the shoulder to shoulder crowds in Madison Square Park. I was fine since I’m so used to ridiculous crowds. Jeff, on the other hand, was getting frustrated because of all the intolerable variables. (who could blame him?) After we ate our meaty treats, we found our retreat in the form of a playground and water sprinkler. The two of us took our turns playing in the sprinkler with Jack and the other kids. I could see the glimmer in Jack’s eye– the forward-looking dreams of running alongside of all those big kids and splashing THEM in their faces.
admiring the sprinkler

Sunday, as I’m sure most of you experienced, was just as hot. Since we spent a majority of the day outside in the furnace that was NYC, we decided to take refuge in the AC. We hung out at Starbucks in the morning after church, where we met a prospective weekend babysitter, but other than that, my guys and I sat in front of the AC and fans.

And to think, it’s only JUNE!

Since I’m discussing weekends, I wanted to mention how I was on Google Calendar “organizing” our social calendar for the coming weeks. With a few trips coming up, some friends coming into town, various work obligations, family stuff and a few gatherings, I was mentally overbooking ourselves. But while I was going over these various dates, I realized just how much our lives have transitioned…and with whom we’re surrounding ourselves.

Social lives don’t stall with the addition of babies, like I feared it would. Instead, it goes into full gear and into offroad terrain.
We’ve found there’s so much more logistics involved when orchestrating nights out; I totally see why people stop socializing all together. Figuring out the childcare, who are we meeting and where, does it fit into bedtime schedule? It’s hard, but as much as we love to hang out, what it comes down to is that sweet, silly little boy.

Unapologetically, on the weekends, we’re a tight little unit, just the 3 of us. It’s hard for us to make plans if they don’t involve the 3 of us. Jeff and I still find time to do things together, like our weekly date at the bar around the block. We try to find time to hang out with different friends (back home and in NJ.) Maybe we don’t go out together, or maybe not the entire night, but we try to make it happen. Often times, when we’re out, just the two of us, all we do is talk about the boy. Like other parents feel about their kid(s), he’s our world. He is our fun.

Once upon a time, a fun weekend may have included lots of booze and late nights. These days, there’s still booze and late nights, just at a different degree. Enjoying a quiet afternoon and napping together at home is our idea of fun.

Lame to some? Perhaps.

Fun takes on a whole new meaning after having a kid…and there’s no apologies for that.