Thursday, July 28, 2011

Yet Another Birthday

Birthdays are usually a kind of non-event for me these days.  I don't usually like to give much more than a cursory nod of acknowledgement to the day on which I become a Whole Year Older.  Granted, I've spend a whole year becoming this Whole Year Older, but it's just hearing that number that gets to me.  As the mother of a 5 year old, sometimes I think my birthday should actually be harder on my parents.  I mean, sheesh, they're the parents of a (gasp!) 43 year old.  How must that make them feel?  Older?  Sad?  Wondering how their baby got so old so quickly?  I think I mentioned before how I struggled with Sammi turning 5.  It's such a BIG number in my mind.  Okay, well, struggled isn't exactly the word I should use there, more like had to acknowledge that my baby is not a baby anymore.  I'm thrilled that she's 5!  I'm not, however, thrilled that I'm 43. 

But this year my birthday was actually a really fun day!  It fell on a Sunday, making it the perfect day to actually do stuff.  The morning started out with a family trip to IHOP, Sammi's favorite "estauwant" (oh, how she struggles with those "r" words...).  Gramma (did I get that spelling right, Mom?) and Grampa came over in the afternoon to play with Samantha while Steve and I went to see Harry Potter in 3D.  I have never seen a 3D movie, and thought I might find the glasses annoying and the images overwhelming, kind of what it's like when you put on someone's prescription lenses and try to walk around (channelling my inner 5-year old here), but I was pleasantly surprised!  Even the non-action sequences were so much more well-rounded, full of a depth I couldn't have imagined possible.  Everything on the screen suddenly became so much more interesting.  And the dementors, well, those bad boys were just made for 3D.  Let me say, however, that any movie, no matter what it is, is only as good as the jerks you've got sitting directly behind you in the theater.  And boy, did we hit the jackpot.  A family of 5, each with the noisiest, most rattle-y, nerve-shredding packaging for their popcorn/raisinettes/jujubes/whatever, each with the inability to chew with their mouths closed, each with the insatiable appetites of people who waited a week for this just. so. they. could. eat. through. the. entire. movie., each with the overwhelming desire to slurp the bottom of their drink cup when it's obviously this close to being empty, each waiting until the absolute quietest moments of dialogue to stuff their faces and pass the boxes around...  Well, you get the picture.  Omg...  At one point Steve even lowered his glasses down on his nose, turned around, and gave them the death stare.  Which silenced them for exactly...4 minutes.  4 minutes in which we were able to listen to the movie.  Eventually, about an hour and a quarter into the film, they decided they'd eaten enough, and with one final move to squish the popcorn bag into the tiniest ball possible, fell silent. 

That's when someone's cell phone went off.  Really?

Okay, so other than that, the film was great!  When we returned home, we had delicious cupcakes that my mother had made from scratch that morning and sang Happy Birthday to Me (which Samantha was just fine with, given the smaller group and the lower volume with which everyone sang).  Several times throughout the day, Samantha, unsolicited, said, "Happy birthday, Mommy!  Blow out the candles!"  Hehehe, my little cutie...  Speaking of Samantha and her beautiful birthday wishes, I just love how she signed her card to me (below)!!  Steve helped her hand-over-hand with the "S," but she did the rest of the letters of her name all by herself. 

The day was topped off by a fantastic dinner of my choice, Spaghetti Carbonara, cooked by my amazing husband, accompanied by a glass of wine, followed by some lemon merengue pie (not cooked by him, but still delicious!).  After my high-calorie adventures that day, it was early to bed, passed-out cold in seconds. 

Just as a happy birthday should be.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Facelift, Anyone?

Samantha's latest responses to the request to smile. 


Hope this latest version doesn't last too long...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Dress

I know I have mentioned before about how this journey has brought us so many new friends and made us so many new connections in the most random places.  People seem to be completely drawn to Samantha, and I don't know if it's a Ds thing, or a cute little girl thing, but from what I can tell, we have never, ever, in 5 years, had any kind of negative response to her - no odd stares (either we're really lucky, or really oblivious...), no insensitive comments, nothing but love and affection.  Certainly the area in which we live plays a big part in this.  Certainly Samantha herself plays a big part in this, as well.  I mean, who could resist?

We have been going to our local IHOP for breakfast from time to time for about a year now.  For most of that time, we have had one server in particular, whose station we always request.  She is one of those people who was hopelessly drawn to Sammi, and Sammi to her.  She spends time talking to Samantha, enjoying her company.  Lili's got one of those personalities that children can't help but love.  Through the conversations we've had, we have discovered that Lili has a sewing business, making clothes.  And she loves making clothes for children.

A few weeks ago, she asked if she could take Sammi's measurements to make a dress for her.  She asked us some questions about preferences, and whipped out her measuring tape.  Samantha stood still, wondering what on earth she was doing, but was patient.  When we told her that Lili was making her a new dress, she got very upset (I still can't understand why telling her something is going to be "new" or "changed" affects her so much, but I suspect it has something to do with a fear of change - certainly owing to her transition issues).  Sammi's words:  "No new dress!  I don't want new shirt - (points to shirt she's wearing) I like this shirt!"  We had to stifle our giggles.

On Sunday Lili greeted us at our table with this beautiful floral woven cotton creation, in colors just perfect for my earth-princess.  The drop-waist is perfect to contain her little tummy, and I am always drawn to longer lengths because I think they look so flowy and natural, and are still easy to run and play in for the most part.  Samantha was even going down her slide head first while I shot these pics. 

If any of you are interested in having something made for yourself or your child, please contact Lili at or let me know.  She doesn't have a website yet, but I believe her rates are very reasonable, and she can work with you to find styles and patterns you'll like, as well as walk you through the measurements (unless you happen to be local).  Lili has 25 years of experience in custom-designing clothing.  Now to help her get that Etsy site up and running...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Curses - Foiled Again!

Curses - foiled again!! 

Hopefully that's what some photo thieves in Brazil are thinking today.  A while back I posted this, about how some kind of freaky communications I received on Flickr by them begging me to let them use some of my photos on their Orkut pages caused me to make my Flickr pages private (I haven't gone back since, although I'm still maintaining my Pro account until I feel comfortable enough to go back and open it all up again).  After I privatized my Flickr account, I began to get some similar comments on my blog.  Of course they had been smart enough to copy my blog address from my Flickr profile before I pulled it...  I know it's not a Ds thing, because from what I can gather from the bogus profile pages of the people who contacted me on Flickr, they just gather pictures of cute little girls.  I suppose I could be flattered, but, uh, thanks but no thanks...

I keep my Feedjit live blog visit feed open on my desktop at work all day so I can see who's coming and going, and I make a quick check of my analytics every morning, just to see what was up with the previous day.  Over the last 8 or 9 months, however, I have seen large numbers of visits from Brazil by way of Orkut.  It dropped off for a while, then in the last week or so I've seen a massive increase in those visits.  And on those visits, I could see that they were clicking on each. and. every. photo. in my blog, systematically.  Likely copying them. 

To say I felt helpless as I watched them is an understatement.  I had no idea what to do to stop them in their tracks as I watched Feedjit continually flaunt their activities.  Finally, on Friday, I couldn't take it any more.  I pulled my blog and made it private.  Just temporarily, until I could figure out what to do.  I remembered that someone had recently sent me instructions on how to change the code in each photo, individually, to make it non-copyable.  Daunting, to say the least, as I couldn't venture to guess how many photos I actually had on my blog.  Not to mention, the thought of actually deleting code scared the pants off of me, but once I got into the swing of things, there was no stopping me!  I managed to make my blog public again on Friday evening, and had finished fixing all of my photos by Saturday morning.  Granted, they've probably already stolen just about all of them already (they had left off at October 2010 when I stopped them on Friday), but I think there are several different entities doing the same thing, from the same source, so I've at least put a stop to any future activity.  No clue what they're doing with the pics.

On Saturday afternoon and again on Sunday, I got several hits from Brazil (different locations, different IP addresses) but instead of sticking around and clicking on photos, they tried a couple of different pages and gave up.

And damn, that felt good!!!

In the meantime, I invite them to go ahead and try to steal one of these...  (insert sound of blowing raspberries)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Bye Bye Birdie

I just love nature this time of year.  I discovered this half of a robin's egg yesterday in our front yard, happy to see that there was a nice, intact nest just above it, and that there were no signs of foul (fowl) play.  I just wish the nest were a teeny tiny bit closer so I could see the happy family inside, but I guess that's the point of nests being up in trees, out of reach...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Friendships That Last a Lifetime

The world is a small place. The internet has made it that way. But I had a sudden realization the other day about how HUGE it would suddenly become again if the internet suddenly just. went. away...packed up, just like that. We'd completely panic, running around in circles, totally, hopelessly lost.

But we were still saying the world was a small place, even before the internet. Even in the land of snail mail, the world was shrinking as the airline and cable television industries boomed.

I lived in Germany in my 15th year. I lived on the economy, but went to an American school populated primarily by military children, children who learned at a young age that the world is large, time is precious, and friendships come and go in the blink of an eye. Children who learned to make good, long-lasting friendships quickly. No time to waste. I think the friendships I made that year were probably among the most solid I ever had as a teenager, the ones that you knew would last, if only you could find everyone again...

Now, with the power of Facebook, all of that is so much easier.  I have found many of those friends from my circle in Germany, and it's so great to reconnect.  However, Karen, my closest friend in the group, was a truly random find, many years before Facebook, and I think the story deserves to be retold. 

Karen and I stayed in touch for a few years after returning from Germany in 1984, but eventually time and everyday life stood in the way as it always does, and we lost each other again.  Fast-forward a bit to about 1997 or '98, and I found myself in a career in retail store management.  I was a co-manager at bebe (back before the hoochie-mama line took over, back when they actually sold suits, with a variety of skirt lengths, ranging from law-firm-appropriate to downright scandalous) in a DC suburb.  One day, someone took an order over the phone for a pair of black pants, then left it for me to pack up and send out the next day.

I couldn't believe my eyes.

There was Karen's name, accompanied by a Virginia address!  It couldn't be her - why would she be living in VA?  As far as I knew, she had no ties to the area.  Maybe it was a different Karen G., but her last name was unusual enough that the liklihood would be pretty slim.  I wrote a carefully-crafted thank-you note to accompany the package, making sure to include my first and last name and contact number at the store very clearly at the end.  And sure enough, I got the call soon after.  Oh, coincidence of coincidences!!!  What if the person taking the order had packed it up themselves?  What if she had called a different store location?  What if...? 

We continued to stay in touch from that point on, and she even moved up into my area, working at some of the same stores in which I had worked (although we never managed to work for the same company at the same time, oddly enough).

Then time and life got in the way yet again, and we lost touch again, this time finding her through a mutual friend after hearing that she was living in Florida and had just had a baby boy.  I happened to be 6 months pregnant at this time, as well.  Finally, only just this past weekend, 5 1/2 years later, we were able to get together when she was back in PA visiting her parents.

Samantha, only just over the stomach flu from the day before, was a real trooper, and weathered the 2-hour drive (twice, as we drove up and back in one day) into the absolutely gorgeous cornfield-filled heart of America really well. I would absolutely make that drive again and again, just to experience the rolling hills, tiny, diner-dotted main streets and flag-festooned front porches. I love the nostalgic feel of small towns and the countryside.  I was thrilled to be able to see Karen and her parents again, and to meet her handsome little boy.  I'm telling you folks, this woman has a true heart of gold.  I'm lucky to know her, and so glad fate has brought us back together.

Sorry, couldn't resist adding a bit of fairy dust to this one...

Sammi, still on the mend from her previous day's stomach flu

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

No Words Necessary...(but I just couldn't help myself)

What's been lurking in my friend's parents' basement for the last 37 years (along with 2 large, dead spiders)...

LOVE it!

Camper, in all it's flowery, woodgrainy goodness

Ken with some super-stylin' 70s hair (and a super-nifty 1-piece sleeveless number...)


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Broken Weekend

Feeling rough

I can probably count on one hand the number of times Samantha has actually been sick and vomited in her 5 years.  I'm not counting all the reflux episodes that plagued us during her first 2, as they required absolutely no effort or discomfort on her part, believe it or not.  But of course, on the weekend that we have wonderful plans in another state, she wakes up doing just that.  Poor little thing put on a brave face through most of it, but then, eventually, it was through tears that she obediently took the bowl from my hands and brought it up to her face, and asked me to put the cool, damp washcloth on her forehead, a small but effective effort towards relief.  And unlike her sick episodes of the past, where once it was all out, she was just fine and dandy and ravenous, like nothing had ever happened, this one went on and on, for hours and hours.  For this child to actually tell me she wanted to lie in her room instead of on the couch in front of the tv, she had to be feeling pretty rancid.

And you want to be the best mother you can be, right?  You want to be the caring, nurturing, nurse-mommy that brings comfort and reassurance to the sick little one so the memories of these times are all good.  Memories of childhood are so important.  And I hope I could be that mom.  And I think I was.  To be honest, I don't actually know how not to be that mom, which is a relief to me (my own mother taught me well with my own positive memories).  Seeing my little girl so sad brings me pain, too, brings out every last molecule of empathy (if empathy were molecular in nature, of course) in me to want to make her feel better.  And that's what being a mommy is all about.

Sleeping it off

So I decided to take advantage of Samantha's state of captive-audience-ness and teach her a thing or two about germs.  Maybe I can scare her into doing a better job of soaping up her hands when she washes them...  I told her that germs are teeny, tiny little bugs that are so small we can't see them, and they're what made her sick.  I told her that washing our hands when we come in from outside, or after using the potty is what makes germs go away (couldn't bring myself to have to explain the concept of kill just yet...) and help you to not get sick.  She recapped what I said, and nodded her understanding, but I think that now that the seed has been planted I'll be able to nurture it and allow it to grow and blossom into full comprehension soon enough.  Her receptive and expressive language skills are pretty astounding, and I have to remember not to sell her short sometimes by not explaining something.  Maybe she won't grasp the full concept right away, but she does hear what I'm saying, and remembers it for when everything comes together and she has an "Ah hah!" moment.

Sammi began to feel better on Saturday evening, so we managed to salvage half of the weekend by making our trip out of state just a day trip on Sunday, which I'll talk about in another post.  Adding insult to injury (and further reinforcing the importance of efficient hand-washing), I discovered on the ride home that Samantha had full-blown pinkeye.  In both eyes.  A double whammy.

And on Monday morning, in true Dr. Sammi fashion (yes, she tells her dolls she's Dr. Sammi and that she's going to make them feel all better), she had her bear puppet that she named Jack leaning over the bathroom waste basket, opening up his mouth, and telling him it's okay to be sick in the trash can.  Hey, I used what was available at the time, alright? 

Broken child, broken weekend, both mercifully fixable.

Only One of the Many Reasons I Love Shutterfly

I love Shutterfly.  :-)
Blank Project Collage Mug
Click here to see graduation announcements by Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cereal Benefits and Breakfast Choices (Plus One Final Giveaway and an Awesome Recipe...)

Behold!  My fourth and final post about cereal.  Well, not necessarily, as I tend to blog about stuff I like, and since I happen to like cereal very much, you may find me mentioning it again from time to time.  Like every time I feel like telling the world I had cereal for dinner again.  Or like when I want to tell everyone that Samantha has finally decided to eat cereal in milk.  Oh, actually, I can say that now, I think, since I was just informed that at school the other day her teacher was eating a bowl of cereal and walked away for a moment.  When she returned, Samantha had taken her spoon and was eating it herself!  Not like I condone this behavior, but I am secretly pleased...

Cereal benefits, especially those that I have discovered while writing this intriguing series of posts, definitely impact my family's breakfast choices.  Well, maybe not Steve's, but mine and my choices for Samantha (she gets minimal choice in the matter) are impacted.  Before I start in on the facts, I would like to tell you all about the amazing pancakes I have made twice now!  You may ask, "Pancakes?  In a post about cereal?"  Why, yes, indeed.  After reading about how incredible the nutrient content is in a bowl of Cheerios, I decided to try to get those same nutrients into Samantha's favorite breakfast food, pancakes.  Note that I am not a cook in any way, shape or form, and have only once made pancakes on my own, but I figured, eh, they're easy, and if they fail miserably, I still have the frozen kind in the fridge just waiting to be popped into the toaster.

Here's the recipe, the basic portion of which was mostly stolen off the web, but modified with my two perfect additions:

Blueberry Cheerio Pancakes

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup crushed Cheerios (I mercilessly rolled them in wax paper with a rolling pin)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk (we use skim)
crushed (mushed) fresh blueberries (just put in however much you like)
1 egg
2 - 3 tablespoons oil

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the milk, oil and eggs. Mix well and try to get some of the lumps out of the batter. Don't worry about making it perfectly smooth. It will be fine.  Stir in blueberries.

Heat a non-stick skillet on medium heat. When heated, scoop the pancake batter recipe into the frying pan with a large spoon to make individual pancakes. The pan will probably only take 1 or two pancakes at a time. Cook on one side until the top begins to bubble, then flip over and cook briefly on the other side.

Because of the Cheerios these pancakes will not be light and fluffy, but thinner and denser, but still very delicious.  :-)

And voila!  I swear, these were soooooooo good.

Now back to the facts...

I may have mentioned this before, but cereal eaters tend to have healthier body weights.  This includes people who eat the sweetened cereal varieties, so there should be no guilt attached to those.  Samantha actually had Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast this morning (dry, of course...).  Oh, and did you know that Honey Nut Cheerios was just named America's Favorite Cereal?  Yum.

And I know you hear a lot about whole grains and that they're important, but did you know why they're important?  They contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and hundreds of other phytonutrients (from Wikipedia:  phytonutrients = plant-based micronutrients that contain protective, disease-preventing compounds).  General Mills cereals contain at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving, and more than 20 GM cereals contain 16 grams or more (with a recommended daily allowance of 48).  An excellent way to start your day.

Okay, I got you to read to the bottom of my post, and hopefully inspired at least a few of you - now it's time for the giveaway!!  One of my oh-so-lucky readers will win a Stay Fit DLX Cereal to Go - EZ Freeze container, provided by General Mills through  Just leave a comment before Monday and tell me if any of the information I've posted about cereal benefits was a surprise to you, and if this information will change the way you think about your children's breakfast!   
By the way, congratulations to Lacey, winner of the last giveaway!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

(Updated): Malware Alerts?

I just wanted to post a quick note for any of you who may be trying to access my blog and getting an error stating that it contains Malware from have removed their guest post which contained links to their site, and have removed them from my blogroll until I can figure this out.  Hopefully that has resolved the issue. 

Funny that it just showed up today, though, as the post has been up since early June.  I sent them a message, and hope they can fix it!

Please let me know if you're able to view this!

***Update***  I heard back from the folks at and they said they got hacked.  They're looking into correcting the issues, so I'll re-post their guest post and put them back up in my blogroll soon.

Who the Heck Are You, Anyway?


Reluctantly, I will admit it...on July 1st Steve and I attended my (cough, cough25th high school reunion.  I think that makes me officially middle aged.  I have absolutely no idea how that many years could have possibly passed by so quickly without me noticing, but I'm relatively certain that I have not been comatose all this time and the grey hair hasn't just miraculously (malevolently) appeared overnight, so I think it's all legit.  No Dallas moments here (okay, I think I have just proven it, because nobody under the age of 40 living in a dream world could have come up with that reference...). 

Way back when, we had attended my 10 year reunion.  There was no 15, and I couldn't attend the 20th because I had just given birth 3 weeks before.  I was really looking forward to this, but knew that because it was combining 1985, 1986 (yeah, that's me) and 1987, there was a pretty strong liklihood that I wouldn't know more than a small handful of people, even though there were 618 graduating Seniors in 1986 alone.  It's just the nature of a "small" town, once people graduate, they leave and never look back, so getting a strong turnout becomes quite a challenge. 

As Steve had predicted, the DJ played horribly cheesy 80s pop, completely unlike the alternative selection I and my friends listened to, and also as predicted, there were the expected silicone and Clostridium botulinum (that's Botox to you) adjustments.  What I did not expect was what was completely missing from the event.  Nametags.

It should have been a no-brainer, right?  I mean, think about it...25 years have passed.  Not only have we all changed physically, but our memories tend to stink as we get older.  For the very few people I did remember, I couldn't think of what context I knew them in - did we have classes together?  did we sit together at lunch?  did we hang out socially?  what?  what?  WHAT?  And I sure as heck couldn't risk being a jerk by asking (Heaven forbid!), so I did the usual playing it off (is that a strictly 80s term, or do we still use it today?) and hoping against hope that after the cursory "Hi!!!  How are you?!" I could eke some additional details out of the conversation.  But those were the ones whose names I did remember.  There were so many I didn't, and who I completely did not recognize at all.  And there were no class pictures around, no nametags, no nothing.  And the only things to distinguish the classes of 85, 86 or 87 were 3 different color wristbands (nearly impossible to tell apart in the dim light).  Wristbands that did not discriminate between classmate and spouse/significant other/friend of classmate.  So who were the classmates, who were the spouses, who were 85/86/87? 

I was pretty disappointed.  Yes, yes, I understand there's that little detail of the crap economy, but we did pay for tickets, and I really don't know what they spent it all on, to be quite honest.  What's a trip to Kinko's cost these days?  Wow, even computers exist now!  At the 10 year reunion we had nametags with our high school yearbook photos affixed.  Simple, helpful, not really all that necessary after only 10 years, but greatly appreciated all the same (if for no other reason than to get a giggle from the pictures).

Steve and I had met up beforehand with some of my friends that I've stayed in pretty constant contact with over the years, so we all went together, thankfully.  And amongst the group of us, we were able to help jolt each other's failing memories to identify more of the crowd than we'd be able to do on our own.

At the 10 year, I remember seeing a group of jock-types passing a liquor flask under the table, and I thought, "Dude, you're 28...seriously??"  This time, upon viewing the Facebook group photos posted by some of the attendees, I'm willing to bet that the recurring images of someone flipping the camera the bird while making a pathetic attempt at looking fierce and cool was one of that same group..."Dude, you're 42/43/44...seriously?"  I guess some things just don't change.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Four Generations

We got a chance to visit with my grandmother at her assisted living home last weekend when we were up in New Jersey.  These visits are few and far between, but I'm happy to be able to have them at all, and to have Samantha be able to see her great grandmother from time to time.  I'm not sure if Gammie really knows who we are anymore, but I know she's so happy to have such young, vibrant company (Samantha, not me...).

Friday, July 8, 2011

One Week Ago Today: A Child's Memories of the Seaside

...we had a beautiful morning at the beach.  Cloudless blue skies, low humidity and a light breeze set the stage for a perfect outing.

Water is fun, but sand is even better...

Except when there's water and sand joyfully mixed together...


...and Down

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I've written about the town my father grew up in and I spent so much time with my grandparents in before.  It's a little town, about the size of a postage stamp, nestled between Philadelphia and Atlantic City. And I am pretty sure it's the same town from which a certain Down syndrome publishing house gets it's name, but I can't confirm that anywhere, try as I may.

The people of this town are no strangers to disability.  The Developmental Center, opened in 1921, is a large intermediate care facility supporting developmentally disabled men and boys, and is also currently the primary source of employment in the County.  The Developmental Center's residents would and can often be seen around town, with caregivers or even on their own, working and interacting in the community.  This surprises me, because the place is so small, its population so diverse and its poverty level so high.  Not like that should really have anything to do with anything, but somehow it still surprises me.  Most of the original families who came from Russia and settled the town in the late 1800s have gone (aside from ours), replaced by new immigrants and new families struggling to keep it, its one pizza place, its one restaurant, its two blinker lights and its volunteer fire department, alive. 

This past weekend, we visited the town, making a trip to the beach and attending my high school reunion nearby.  As mentioned in my previous post, we went to pick blueberries on Saturday morning.  As we were leaving, the farm's owner shared with me that she hosts a summer program for young adults with developmental disabilities, a program that keeps them active and busy, doing something enjoyable and productive with their time, rather than sitting cooped up in a home somewhere or working a mindless, nothing-type job.  Steve spotted a young man he assumed had autism, interacting with one of the men who helps with the program.  The farm owner also revealed that she is the adoptive mother of 5, four of whom were born with fetal alcohol syndrome.  She had been drawn to Samantha for more of a reason than just seeing a cute 5 year old - she understood her

On Saturday afternoon, we went to the local ice cream stand on the main drag.  Seriously, this place has the BEST ice cream ever, and buggy picnic tables and a volleyball court outside to go and enjoy the day, enjoy the ice cream, enjoy being out in the fresh (humid) air.  As we sat at one of the tables ("Go 'way, bug!  Shoo!" said Samantha.  Then, smack!  "Got it!" - ugh, who taught her that?  Sure wasn't me, rescuer of all things creepy-crawly...), a young man in a white wifebeater and jeans, covered in tattoos (not the cool kind of tattoos, but the scary, gang-looking kind) over his arms, up his neck, onto his face, a man we would ordinarily have avoided, who we certainly avoided eye contact with, sat down at the table next to ours.  His voice was gruff as he called to someone in line, but we didn't look up to see who he was talking to (hoping for a woman or someone else less-threatening to join him), as we didn't want to attract any unwanted attention...  "Your little girl is beautiful," he said.  Huh?  You talking to us?  Crap.  I thanked him quickly, then looked back down at my vanilla peanut butter ice cream cone.  "I have a little cousin up in New York like her."  Aha!  There's that connection again!  He was then joined by another guy and two little boys, one of whom called him Dad.  Eavesdropping a bit on their conversation, I heard him tell his friend that he needed to get back to work at the Developmental Center.  Again, more connection.  I wonder how much his little cousin may have influenced his job choice...

We attended an outdoor event in town, last year, where we were approached by a young girl who spotted Samantha and said her baby brother is like her.  The last time we were there, we spotted a young man with Down syndrome and his caregiver picking up a meal to go at the pizza place where we were having dinner.  A pizza place just down the road from the Developmental Center.  Nobody blinked an eye.  Just another day, just another customer.  Just part of everyday life in town.

Connections are everywhere, whether we see them right away or not.  If we know about those, in just this one little, tiny town, think about all those connections we never make but still exist all around us anyway.  Invisible, but comfortingly ever-present, waiting just as we are.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


As much as I had wanted to do it, Samantha and I never made it to any of the pick-your-own farms at all last year.  We had picked peaches the year before, and she had done quite well, so I decided that now, at the height of blueberry season, we should try to find a farm.  Two weekends ago, we looked a few local farms up on the internet, but for one reason or another, didn't get a chance to go.  Last weekend was just too busy.  So late on Friday night, driving back to my father's farm in New Jersey after my high school reunion, we passed a Pick-Your-Own Blueberries sign.  Excited, I made a note of the location, and decided I'd try to get there the next morning.

To me, blueberries have always been hit or miss.  I guess I had been burned by bitter berries too many times and blueberries were not high on my list of favorites.  But in the last two years, our Giant supermarket has carried New Jersey blueberries, and they have been delicious.  Truly amazing.  Completely changed my mind about them.  And to be honest, I'm not really sure if I ever really ate blueberries much as a kid growing up in New Jersey, or if I did, maybe they just weren't bred yet to be as sweet and perfect as they are today.  But I have no memories of really liking them much.

After breakfast on Saturday, we drove to where we had seen the sign.  It was a completely deserted road, leading to a seemingly deserted nursery.  We flagged down a farm worker on a tractor and asked him about the blueberries, and he pointed to an even more deserted-looking dirt road leading into the trees beyond the nursery fields.  After a few lame jokes about the movies "Wrong Turn" and "Deliverance," followed by some nervous laughter, we came to a house and the signage we'd been looking for.  Standing on the porch were three women talking.  Steve and Samantha stayed in the car while I approached them to make sure the farm was open for berry-picking today.  As I got closer, I realized that two of the women were purchasing buckets full of blueberries, and just as I opened up my mouth to say "good morning," I realized that one of the women was one of my childhood friends!  I had seen her for the first time in a while just a few months ago when Samantha and I were up for a visit before, but had decided not to contact her this time because I didn't know what our timetable was going to look like.  Oh, how I love randomness and coincidences.  Makes you realize how small the world really is.

The owner of the farm was so welcoming, showing us which field was to be used today and pointing out some fresh cake and bottled water on the porch, telling us to help ourselves.  She was particularly enamored of Samantha, engaging her in conversation, getting her to warm up immediately.  I'll write more about her in my next post... 

 Sammi started to help us pick berries, but then began to complain that she had to use the potty.  As she had just gone before we left the house, I suspected that it was all a ruse to get out of doing something she didn't want to do.  Two trips back to the house to use the bathroom there (thank you to our gracious host who allowed us to use the one inside instead of the porta-john outside), and I was satisfied that she really did have to go...  Great job, Sammi, for taking the wearing of panties very seriously (we're heading into Week 2 without pull-ups at all!  Yay, we're done!!!).

About 3 lbs. of big, sweet New Jersey blueberries and less than $4.00 later (are you kidding me???), we thanked the woman with promises to return for other crops in the near future, and departed to get Sammi back to the house for a nap.

I've been scouring the internet for some easy blueberry recipes, and have frozen a good portion of the batch (well, what's left of the batch after snacking...).  Looking forward to blueberry season next year already!