No Bad Days

EAD9485A-CDA3-4C72-B462-D99769FC21D2When friends inquire about our spring break vacation, I should just show them my Google search history to help provide some insight:

things to do in Maui when it rains
address Maui urgent care center
cancellation policy, Molokini snorkel tour
how to get a trapped bird out of a house
how to photoshop six-pack abs
can I buy Koloa Coconut Rum in California

Turns out, Ono is not only a fish commonly found off the coast in Hawaii, it’s also a good mascot for our recent vacation, albeit with a slight spelling modification: Oh. No.

Oh no, the weather forecast calls for rain the entire week we’re here. Oh no, the kid woke up with an eye infection. Oh no, the kid now appears to have both an eye infection and strep throat. Oh no, the other kid squished my arm while I was wearing a sleeveless dress and started calling me ‘Lil Beefer.

It would have been easy to slip into a sullen mood when I was greeted every morning by grey skies, steady rain, and hunched palm trees seeking protection from the pummeling wind. But I was in Hawaii, dammit, and there are no bad days in Hawaii.

So I forced myself to be happy.

I would cut myself off mid-thought if I was going negative. It felt ridiculous at first, but then it became a weird little game. Something like:

I can’t believe I’m sitting on the beach under a cloud cover so thick, it makes my skin look blue. But… think of how happy the dermatologist will be when I show up for my next skin cancer check without a hint of a tan. Besides, my pale skin would sizzle like a slice of spam on a flattop if I were outside in the tropical sunshine on a cloudless day. It’s better this way.

Undeterred, I floated in saltwater while being pelted with rainwater, all while keeping an eye out for lightening because with the way things were going, I couldn’t be too careful. Fortunately, the ocean was warm and the giant sea turtle that surfaced for a breath right next to me was friendly. Good things happen all the time. Even in the rain.

I learned that my new wide-brimmed sun hat also works well as an umbrella, that rum cocktails are delicious in any weather, and that the sound of ocean waves can still shush you to sleep even after the stormiest of days.

Despite the minor disasters that befell us, most things worked out in the end. Antibiotics got my daughter feeling better and back on the beach in less than a day. The wayward bird found his way out of the house with minimal drama. The canceled snorkel tour was replaced by an epic hiking adventure involving waterfalls and rope swings. Lunardi’s carries my new favorite rum. And I’ve only been called ‘Lil Beefer once since returning to the mainland.

The trick will be learning to apply my stubborn cheerfulness back in the real world. It can be harder to look for the good amidst the mundane, but I’m trying. Just as I was grateful to be waking up on a tropical island, I’m also trying to be grateful waking up to a life filled with laundry, carpools and orthodontist appointments. It’s all a gift and it’s all fleeting.

Enough days have passed that I’m only dwelling on the good memories from our trip. Ono is once again a fish instead of a vacation catch phrase. And as I search for the moments of joy in my everyday life, I realize that although I didn’t leave the island with a deep dark tan, I did leave with a change in perspective that will hopefully last longer than bronzed skin.

The Fine Art of Slothing

csc_0533After quickly Googling “are sloths nocturnal?” I’ve quasi-scientifically determined that we are indeed turning into a family of sloths.  Just like last Christmas vacation and the one before that.

I blame it on the fun new Wii games all four of us end up playing at night, nudging bedtimes later and later.  I blame it on the fact that we turn the heater off before we go to bed, making it frigid in the morning and pretty much impossible to get out from under our toasty covers – especially when we don’t have anything urgent waiting for us when we get up.

I adore the slow pace that follows the Christmas frenzy.  New toys keep everyone happily occupied while the fact that thank you notes must be written adds a modicum of structure and brainwork to the day.  All sports, dance and art classes are mercifully suspended, freeing up the last few days of vacation for a little unstructured meandering.  The neighborhood kids bounce from house to house while the adults stop by to happily help get rid of the random beer or odd bottle of champagne left lingering in the fridge and taking up space that really should be reserved for vegetables this time of year.

While I’m already starting to feel the pull of next week’s return to busy, I’m reminding myself to savor the camaraderie and calm of unscheduled family life – perhaps the best gift the holiday season can offer people and sloths alike.

A Goodbye and a Promise

The routine never wavered – head to the beach and stay until the ocean swallowed the sun, always hoping to wring out 30 more minutes from the day.

We emptied five bottles of sunscreen that week, yet emerged with tans dark enough to make a dermatologist wail.  The kids’ hair bleached white by the sun, framed eyebrows so light they disappeared into golden faces.

We tried to slow the last sunset – for just one more wave, one more sand castle, one more walk along the shore.  When at last it was time to go, we paused, whispering both a goodbye and a promise: we’ll be back…

Flip Flop Tans and Lounging Pajamas


Signs We’re Heading Into the Last Weeks of Summer Vacation

 I’ve watched so much TV with the kids, I may have developed a crush on one of the Wizards of Waverly Place.

 During a bout of boredom, the kids discussed the merits of playing, “Let’s lock ourselves in a room, fart and blame it on the other person.”

I have an awesome flip flop tan.

Image We’ve made s’mores with a kitchen torch.

 The kids got so bored, I walked into the kitchen to find one with peanut butter smeared all over his face and the other throwing Rice Krispies at him, trying to make them stick to form a Rice Krispie peanut butter beard.

 I’ve found my summer cocktail. Why do I need a summer cocktail?  See: Rice Krispie peanut butter beard.

 We’ve built a house of cards the size of Rhode Island, using every deck of cards we own.


We’ve hosted a double sleepover and lived to tell the tale.

 Changing out of “sleeping pajamas” and into “lounging pajamas” now counts as getting dressed around here.

Happy August!

Flaming Marshmallows

Perhaps the best byproducts of a good road trip are the epic tales of adventure that get told again and again, becoming family legend.  Here’s a peek into our first camping trip and the nicknames that everyone earned along the way…


Nothing good could come of his two favorite camping activities: whittling a stick with a pocketknife and poking roaring fires.  This kid seemed bound and determined to finish our trip with one less eye or finger than he started with.  Near misses included: pulling the knife straight towards his face while whittling; flipping a flaming log completely outside of the fire pit onto a pile of dry pine needles; and purposefully igniting his marshmallows so he could wave his hands and shout “IT’S ON FIRE, IT’S ON FIRE!”  I’m packing bubble wrap and safety goggles for our next trip.


Happy Camper

We were floored to discover the vegetarian who’s afraid of spiders is a rock star camper.  She embraced it all — the dirt, the wildlife, the meat cooked on sticks (especially the meat cooked on sticks).  She dug through the dirt to choose the perfect worm, created a 9-hole pine cone golf course on our campsite, and happily sprinted for a bucket of water when Firestarter flipped the flaming log onto the pine needles.  Most impressive was the extreme skill with which she roasted marshmallows: fifteen minutes of patiently rotating the skewer to create the most perfect golden, melty treat.  She’s found her calling.


The first morning of our trip, my husband left for what has to be the camping equivalent of a Saturday morning tee time: the early morning fly fishing expedition.  The kids and I ate cereal, played cards and wandered to the camp store to buy postcards.  Our intrepid fisherman returned home happy but sorely lacking in fish.

Later that afternoon it was the kids’ turn to fish and they each plucked two from the lake.  Emboldened by the adrenaline from hooking their first fish, they started talking smack.  “Wow, we both caught two fish, how many did you catch this morning, dad?”  “Zero fish.  We should call you bagel.  No, we should call you donut.”  “Do-nut.  Do-nut.  Do-nut.”  With the donut chant ringing through the pine trees, he grabbed a pole, added a worm and bobber, and a few minutes later, caught a fish.  It didn’t matter, the nickname stuck.


The family decided my name had to be Cookie, as in the grizzled character who made the camp food in all the old Westerns.  Turns out, I love cooking in a cast iron skillet over an open fire.  I don’t know if it was the smoke or the abundance of bacon grease, but everything tasted so good and was so much fun to make.  I considered it training for when we undergo a kitchen remodel and are cooking on a hotplate for two months.  I think we’ll be ok…

After four days we headed home a changed family.  We were campers, nature lovers, fish hunters and hikers.  We were Firestarter, Happy Camper, Donut and Cookie.