Day 105 – New York on the brain

Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing.

And this is where the words get stuck. It’s getting late, the kids are barely in bed, my eyes are heavy, and I just can’t get my brain to cooperate and put these swirling thoughts in any sort of sensible order.

If you want to know the truth of it, I’ve got New York on the brain. We booked tickets for a trip this summer. It will be our first trip out East since Richie & Diane’s house was sold, since we wrapped up the details of the estate and said our goodbyes. I think we’ve sort of been avoiding a trip because we both know it’s going to be hard–going for a visit and not having the old house to go back to. And honestly it’s been easier than it should have been to avoid the trip. We’ve just been so busy. Isn’t that always a great excuse?

But now we’re going. It’s going to be fun, because we’re heading back to Concordia for a Band Bash reunion. Stevie’s getting some of the old bandmates back together, and we’re excited to see everyone and be back on campus for awhile and to get a chance to tap back into the place we love so much and miss every day.

Every damn day.

But it’s always bittersweet to go back too. I mean, we’re not surprised. We’ve been 12 years gone. But somehow everything has changed and nothing has changed. We just left yesterday, but we’ve been gone a lifetime.

And even if it’s a little painful, it’s always good to go back. It’s a homecoming. I crane my neck to catch that first glimpse of New York City in the tiny airplane window, and my heart keeps a beat every time.

And walking around campus–that place where I celebrated the best days and survived the worst days and learned more about myself than any other place before or since–I always get this feeling that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, surrounded by the people who love me and supported me and taught me how to be my very best self.

Let the countdown begin.

Day 15 – Something fun is brewing

I’m not going to say much just yet (because quite frankly, I don’t want to speak too soon and jinx it), but something fun is brewing. Send us some positive vibes and I’ll post an update when the plans take shape. Until then, there’s this…

Drummer Boy

Anyone who knows Stevie and me has probably heard the looooooong story of how we met and how looooooong it took us to actually start dating and eventually end up where we are today–married in this house full of mayhem, with hound dog and kids and a whole lot of laughter.

I won’t say it was love at first sight. I believe that falling in love with someone is eventual, something that happens over time. It can happen quickly for some. For others, it might take years. But love, real love, isn’t just a feeling that can wash over you the first moment you lay eyes on someone. Instead, it is a deep and unbreakable bond that forms with that one person who just seems to fit into your life in a way that no one else ever could.

So no, I didn’t fall in love with Stevie the first time I saw him. That was a gradual (albeit quick) development over the course of my freshman year. But from that very first moment I watch him jump up onto the stage in Schoenfeld Campus Center and start heckling the Orientation crowd, I was completely in awe of him. I didn’t even know him, yet somehow it felt as though I’d known him forever.

And by the time he sat down to treat the audience to a typical Steven Romano badass drum solo, I was hooked.

Drums were always a big part of my life. My Uncle Tim was a drummer, and I remember always feeling drawn to his drumset in my grandparents’ basement. I knew I wasn’t supposed to touch them, but I couldn’t help myself. I’d sneak a pair of his drumsticks out of the bag and tap them on the drum heads and cymbals, lightly so that no one upstairs could hear me.

Band started in 3rd grade at Cheylin Elementary, and the students had a chance to try out different instruments over the course of a few weeks until the figured out which one caught their interest.

There was no “trying out” for me. I picked up a snare drum and never put it down again.

By 5th grade, I’d played every percussion instrument there was, and was saving up my lawn mowing money to buy my own drum set. If memory serves, I bought it from a high school kid named Jason Elijah for $350. It was damn near perfect, didn’t even need new heads. I set it up in my room immediately and, much to my sister’s dismay, took to practicing regularly.

Through middle and high school I was in marching band, pep band, jazz band. I even played with a few groups at church when they needed a drummer. I played bass, snare, cymbals. I marched with tenor drums in parades and field shows, earning my nickname Tenorchick from a guy named Jason who came through town with the traveling Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps. Music and drums were always a major part of my life, so sitting there in the crowd, watching Stevie lose himself in an epic drum solo that rattled the windows of the gym and made my heart feel like it was skipping beats with every BOOM…BOOM…BOOMing echo of the bass, it felt for a moment like I might be getting my first real glimpse of heaven.

Take my love of drums and music and double it and you might come close to understanding Stevie’s obsession. For me, playing in bands steadily declined when I left my set behind and moved 2,000 miles to start college. For Stevie, Concordia opened up an endless line of doors. He was one of the only drummers on campus, and was always up for any jam session, performance, or gig anyone threw at him. One year, at a Band-Aid event, Stevie played for 12 hours with something like 7 different bands, only sitting out for one set when one of the other bands actually had their own drummer. In his years at Concordia, he played everything from tympani for a symphony orchestra and pit percussion for on-campus musical productions to covers of Fleetwood Mac and Type O Negative.

He’s played in bands called, El Pollo Loco, Foerthcore, John Stamos, Kelly and her Friends, The Phantom Menace, and various other groups that may or may not have had names. To this day, there are rumblings of a Foerthcore reunion, and who knows, maybe one day we’ll get Jay, Andy, Kuder, Josh, Scott, and their namesake Foerth out here to Lincoln for an epic event.

You all don’t even understand how much that would rock.

Since moving to the new house, Stevie has been itching to get his drums set up and start playing again. He had both of our sets all set up in the basement, right before the freak summer storm left us with water seeping up through cracks in the concrete floor. We quickly moved the drums to higher ground, and there they’ve sat.

I can’t even tell you when Stevie made the passing comment about the awesome set of miniature drums our friend Tracey had made and posted pictures of on his Facebook page. I know it was shortly after Henry was born, because I was still very much in the newborn fog, running on little more than instincts and adrenaline. But somehow that comment made it through and a little light bulb lit up in my brain that this might be a fun gift to surprise Stevie with for his birthday, and a few days later I found myself searching around on Facebook and trying to find where Tracey got his replica set.

I finally tracked down a page for ANT Mini Drums, and by November I was reaching out to the fellow in Indonesia to inquire about ordering a set for Stevie.

Keeping the secret was difficult. I spent a couple lunch hours poking around in the basement and trying to take pictures of all the pieces of Stevie’s set, and then putting the drums and the hardware back on the shelves just like he had them, so I didn’t arouse suspicion. Then, I scored Stevie’s facebook and some of our old photo boxes for pictures of his drums actually set up to play. I even drew a sketch of the setup and emailed them to the guy, wanting to make sure I got everything right.

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Now paying for it, that was a bit trickier. See, way back when Stevie and I first started dating, he let it be known that if we ever got married, he would be solely in charge of our finances. It’s not really a control thing…it’s more the simple fact that the way I do my banking and budgeting makes the blood vessels in his brain bulge and threaten to burst and, well, I love him too much to be the cause of his aneurysm.

See, I’m the type who always knows approximately what I have in the bank. I round everything up, and make sure I have at least $100 spare dollars sitting around at all times in case of an emergency. Stevie, on the other hand, is the type who needs to balance everything down the last penny. The first thing he does each morning is log onto our bank and credit card accounts to reconcile and account for every dime that we spend, save, and donate. Most times, he knows how much I charged at the store for groceries before I even have a chance to get home and empty the bags. And while I absolutely love that he has taken full responsibility and I don’t have to worry at all about dealing with the finances, it does make buying surprise gifts for him rather difficult.

I managed to squirrel away the amount I needed in my Paypal account and sent off the order in mid-November. The artist assured me the drums would arrive before Christmas, and I would be able to surprise Stevie on his birthday. Unfortunately there were a few delays, and I’m pretty sure that Stevie either gave up on a gift from me this year, or thought I was lying every time I told him his gift was on its way.

Then yesterday, it finally arrived, and boy was it worth it! Stevie’s face lit up, and I watched as he carefully inspected each piece of the tiny drums, saying, “Hell yeah, this is awesome babe. It looks just like my set!”

Mission accomplished. Thanks ANT Mini Drums! You rock, almost as much as my husband.

Happy belated Birthday Stevie!

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Elf on the Shelf 2013 – Day 6

Oh Foerth. Our favorite little Foerthykins. You know Stevie and I love you when we give you crap (and boy do we give you a whooooooole lot of it).

If you’re new to the blog, or haven’t had a chance to meet Foerth in person, do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to read through some of the greatest hits…

But…I Looked It Up Online

A Fistful of Condiments

Go Fish

Antiquing

I Have Seen the Devil, and His Name is Indiana

NY Trip Photo Bomb, part 2

Elf on the Shelf 2012, Day 11

And wouldn’t you know, even Cosette has decided to join in the fun.

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Come visit soon, Foerth! We miss you!!!

NY Trip Photo Bomb (part 4)

After spending most of the week on Long Island, having fun and cooling off in the pool, it was time to head back to Westchester for Gary and Liz’s wedding. We loaded up in Pop-Pop’s “Shaggin’ Wagon”, as Steven calls it (which is straight out of National Lampoon’s Vacation with the wood paneling on the sides). Cadence loved hollering out the colors of cars and trucks passing on the expressway, and screeched with delight every time she spotted an airplane in the sky.

In the 10 years I lived in New York, I must have traveled these roads a hundred times, and I have to admit, I got a little sentimental as we drove.

We crossed the Whitestone, laughing about the road construction that seemed to have taken up exactly where it left off the last time we visited three years ago. And, as always, I couldn’t help but to stare at the New York City skyline, rising up out of the heat and smog, as we passed. Yeah, I saw the sign about cameras being strictly prohibited, but it was worth the risk to get just a couple quick shots of my favorite city in the world.

As we crossed into the Bronx, we passed Co-op City, where I taught high school English for two years at Truman High School. Ah, the memories! I was hoping I’d have time to see a few of my old colleagues, but our whirlwind trip went by too fast. Next time for sure.

And then, we were making the last familiar turns, taking us back to a place that, even after all these years, feels like my second home…

It’s safe to say that Cadence felt immediately comfortable. We’d barely been there an hour and she was trying to take over the reception desk in Feth Hall and answer incoming calls.

Then, she tried knocking when I pointed out Dr. Nakhai’s office door. Unfortunately, we had to miss her on this trip, since she was spending the summer with her family in Iran.

But, we did manage to break and enter and snap a few photos in Dr. Nakhai’s office to surprise her with when she returns. I don’t know about you, but I think Cadence looks right at home.

By that time, we were starving, and decided to take another short roadtrip to our favorite restaurant in Westchester County–the Candlelight Inn in Scarsdale. I’m telling you folks, I’ve eaten a lot of hot wings in my day, but the Candlelight’s are, without a doubt, the best wings in the world. Yes, the world. I know that’s a bold statement, but I’ll stand by it. If you think you’ve got better wings, feel free to send me a sample for comparison, and until I find better hot wings, I’ll remain a staunch endorser of the Candlelight.

This little land yacht was parked in the lot when we arrived, and I had to snap a picture because I love it, and I want one.

Just one quick pic, and then we headed inside. It had been three years since our last order of Candlelight wings, and that was two years and 364 days too long!

Mmmm…

Please excuse me while I lick my computer screen.

Later that evening, we met up with the Kennedy’s and the Palkewick’s back on campus. We ate our fill of New York pizza in the air-conditioned bliss of Joan and Mike’s apartment, before strolling across the street with the kiddos so they could play a bit before bedtime. And tell me, is it just me, or do these pics look like they could be on the movie poster for “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”?

The kids gave the playground equipment some half-hearted attention before ditching it altogether in favor of the water hose Joan found behind the building. It was after 6 pm, still in the 90’s, and huuuuuumid! Little Josh tore off his shirt and Cadence immediately followed suit. Katie tried, but Joan put a stop to it before she could lose her sundress. We all had a blast watching our kiddos play and thinking that it didn’t seem all that long ago that we were the ones “playing” on campus. Time sure flies when you’re having fun!

And I was super excited that we were able to find some time for a late evening playdate with my old friend Anette, her hubby Alex, and beautiful daughter Ella. Miss Ella is just a month older than Cadence, and the two of them are peas in a pod. They both love singing and dancing, especially to Karmin. They enjoy cartoons like American Dad. And they can both work an Ipad better and faster than 97% of adults. After so many years, it was great to catch up with an old friend and finally meet the amazing little girl I’d heard so much about!

The next morning, we headed over to the Meyers’ house for breakfast. Aaron and Alissa made us waffles and the kiddos had a blast playing. Even having a playdate earlier in the week and then having breakfast, I only managed a handful of photos and completely missed getting pictures of Alissa and beautiful baby Elle, since she was down for a nap. I’m bad about forgetting my camera when I’m having fun. I gotta work on that!

After dropping Steven at the campus so he could meet up with Gary and the groomsmen to get ready for the wedding, Cat, Nathan, and I headed over to the Filippelli house for some good old-fashioned fun. We only managed to get slightly lost on the way, but made it there in plenty of time for the kiddos to play and have a blast in their very own self-made bounce house, right in Christin’s living room. All you need is a well-inflated air mattress and an end table capable of holding the weight of three young children. Instant fun!

After thoroughly exhausting herself playing the the Meyers, the Fillipellis and the Grayboschs, I was shocked that Cadence actually made it through the wedding without some sort of meltdown. But she held on like a champ and didn’t fall asleep until I strapped her in her carseat after the ceremony. I told Foerth to hang on for a long ride. The reception didn’t start for almost an hour and a half, and I planned to drive around as long as Cadence kept sleeping. We cruised through the familiar streets of Bronxville, Tuckahoe, Eastchester, Mount Vernon and Yonkers, reminiscing about our college and after-college days as we drove through our old stomping grounds. We drove past old apartments, past the Cross County Mall, which had received a major (and much-needed) facelift, past the old bars and restaurants and movie theaters and grocery stores we used to frequent. Somehow, things had changed, and yet, remained very much the same.

Cadence woke just as we were arriving at the Bronxville Field Club for the reception. The short sleep revived her, and she was off and running with sweet little Ella almost as soon as we let her out of the car. The two ran non-stop during the entire outdoor cocktail hour, chasing each other up and down the hill, showering each other with grass, and having races. It was adorable.

And Ella managed to sneak over and get a quick hug or two from the groom as he mingled. Aww! We love Gary!

And here’s my hubby the groomsman, looking so very handsome.

Please try to disregard the fact that his fly is hanging wide open. He’s not sure how long it was hanging open. I guess the professional wedding photos will tell.

And here’s a GQ shot with our buddy Papsin…

Of course, Cadence and Ella had to take a spin around the dance floor with Christin the minute we headed in for the reception. And the kept dancing and dancing and dancing…right up until they were so exhausted that they just laid down in the middle of the dance floor. At that point, we decided it was time to take our leave, wish the newlyweds congratulations, and head back to the hotel room for the night.

Before heading back to Long Island to spend the final day of our vacation, we made one last stop at the Candlelight to pick up an order of wings to go, and met up with my former roomie Katie and her husband Brian for a little picnic lunch and hanging out time at the campus. Cadence and Katie became fast friends…sort of like her Momma did. 🙂

The hubbies, chilllin’.

Cadence taking Katie for a walk.

Aww! I love these crazy kids!

And of course, Steven had to snap a picture of Cadence hiding behind the tree and doing her “business” before we left.

And that’s all folks. My camera was officially retired for the trip after this shot because Cadence ended up being sick and feverish our last day there. I’m glad to say though that in spite of a CRAAAAAAZY security line at the airport, we made it home, safe and sound, without any trouble.

Now, it’s time to start planning next year’s trip, because we all agreed that three years between visits is way too long to wait!

Until then, we’ll miss you New York!

NY Trip Photo Bomb (part 1)

Okay, so there I go bragging about how I’m back from vacation and ready to dive into this blog-a-day thing again and I go and disappear again. Funny how that happens. But, in my defense, I had a photo assignment for a local magazine, a 2-year-old who hasn’t been feeling 100%, and my parents in town for the weekend. So, I took a little break.

In the meantime, I’ve been uploading the thousand or so photos I took while we were in New York, sorting and processing them. Of course, I wish I’d been able to take a whole lot more, but I got some really great shots. I still have more to get through, but I figured I better break it up into a few blog posts so I don’t totally overwhelm you. So, for your viewing pleasure, here’s part 1 of the NY Trip Photo Bomb.

Enjoy!

We got to the airport in Kansas City early, so we passed the time doing a little drawing…

Then, we boarded our first flight of the day, and had a little licorice during take-off…

After landing in NY, we picked up our rental car and headed to Concordia to meet up with friends and let Cadence blow off a little pent up steam. After riding in cars and airplanes all day, she was ready to stretch her little legs. We were welcomed in grand fashion by some of our dearest college friends.

Here’s the handsome groom himself, Gary, who was kind enough to set up a picnic table and order a few pizzas. Ah, New York pizza. We’ve missed you! And Gar Bear, we missed you even more! 🙂

Tune in tomorrow to see photos from some of our Long Island adventures!

Shortly after, Joan, Mike Katie Shea, and Timothy arrived to eat and play…

And Cadence told them all about flying on two airplanes, and pointed out every one that flew over campus…

The kids had a blast playing…

Cadence and Joan became fast friends…

Cadence was starting to look a little worn out…

Until her little buddy Nay-nay (Nathan) arrived…

After a few Skype dates, she was so excited to finally meet him in person!

And Nathan was totally turning on the charm for the ladies…

As evening set in, more friends arrived–Donny, Maria, Olivia, Ella, George, Amy, Lorelei, and Audrey–and we all had a blast hanging out, just like old times…Well, old times plus a whole lot of kids! 🙂

Unfortunately, between being busy talking and chasing my kiddo and the fading light, I had to retire the camera for the night. But, as Steven, Cadence and I said our see-ya-laters to our friends and headed to Long Island, I managed to grab a few quick shots of one of my favorite cities in the whole world as we sped by in the darkness.

Hello New York! Boy, have we missed you!

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