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Summer Vacation Used to be Longer

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I swear when I was a kid, summer vacation was longer. I mean, it was always shorter than we wanted, because let’s face it, no kid is ever truly ready to go back to school, but I’m pretty sure we had more time. Of course, I have no physical proof of this. I’ve even looked online to find out when school started and ended, but I’ve had no luck. Suffice it to say, we start school in less than TWO weeks, and it seems like just yesterday I said, “Have a good summer!” to my first graders.

In reality, it’s been 9 weeks, and despite not going to the beach this year, which has been a wonderful get-away the last several years, we’ve managed to pack a lot of punch into our summer this year!

We started the summer celebrating a few things – our youngest promoted from 8th grade, our son graduated from high school, and my middle daughter turned 16.


She baked her own vegan cake!

A week later, we were on our way to the East Coast. We visited Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City.

Here’s just a little snippet of what we did – Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, riding the Metro, National Portrait Gallery, Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol, & the Hamilton. (We did a LOT, but I don’t want to overload the post.)

In Philadelphia, we saw the Liberty Bell, the Eastern State Penitentiary with our good friends, saw the Museum of Art, Love (Kennedy) Park, and Independence Hall (not pictured, the Franklin Institute, the Ben Franklin Museum, and the Constitution Center).

And of course, we discovered food… we loved the Reading Terminal Market and


Water Ice!!

In NYC, we rode the subway many, many times, went to several museums, walked through Central Park and the Highline, went on the Vessel, visited Rockefeller Plaza and the Empire State Building.


We all saw our first *official* Broadway show.

In all 3 cities we ate a LOT of food. We did a lot of walking, and we saw as many sights as we could fit. We were home just in time to watch fireworks with friends and wash all of our vacation clothes before heading on another short vacation to one of our favorite places- Ashland, Oregon.

We saw 3 (well, 2.5) plays, did an Escape Room, lots of shopping, and finally tried Dutch Bros coffee! My husband also set up a cool activity for us. Archery!

Lastly, the kids and I had an adventure that has been our tradition for the last several years, San Diego Comic-Con.

All in all, in the short time we had for summer, we made the best of it. I do lament not going to the beach, but hey… we live in Southern California. We can go to the beach after school starts if we’re really needing to see the ocean.

For everyone getting ready to go back to school – both the students and the teachers – I hope you enjoyed the heck out of your break, and I hope the impending school year is a great one!


Finding Nemo and Parenthood

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Every Friday night at our house, we watch a movie. (Well, every Friday unless we’re watching one of our kids perform.) Last Saturday (after watching our youngest in “Bye Bye Birdie on Friday), we watched “Avengers, Infinity Wars” despite our youngest insisting on “Finding Nemo.” I promised we’d watch it this week, so tonight we got take out and put in the movie.

Immediately, I was flooded with memories. “Finding Nemo” was the first movie we took our son to see in a theater. Our middle child was just a few days old, when my mom offered to watch her so we could take our little guy to the movies and spend some time with him. He sat on my lap in wonder for the whole movie.


What he looked like when we first saw “Nemo”

My son was 2 1/2 when the movie was released. He is now 18. He wouldn’t start pre-school for another year in 2003. Now, he’s weeks away from graduating high school, getting ready to choose where he’ll study for the next four years.

It happened in the blink of an eye.

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One minute he was a baby, and the next he was old enough to vote

Of course, the theme of the movie didn’t help my sentimentality. A parent’s feelings of worry, pride, and love for his child? Forget it! I cried through far too much of the movie. I really tried to reign it in, because I could have just broken down into an ugly cry.

When my son was a toddler, he was curious, adventurous, and stubborn. He was my little buddy, and when he stopped talking altogether at 19 months, it was worrisome. After the doctor pulled a giant piece of wax from his ear and he could finally hear his own voice clearly again, when he resumed talking he’d lost several sounds he’d previously been able to make. He went to speech therapy at the age of 2, and continued til 2nd grade. I’ll never forget how nervous I was when he started kindergarten. Like Marlon worried about Nemo and his “gimpy fin” I worried that other kids wouldn’t be able to understand him. Thankfully, 5- and 6-year-olds are much more accepting than adults can be, and he made some great friends, who never made fun of him. Some of those kids he’s still friends with today.


Being a parent is watching your baby turn into an independent person. It’s going from holding a helpless, tiny infant and doing everything for them to slowly letting them take control… first, sitting up, then crawling, then walking, until you watch them walk away from you on that first day of school, hoping that they’re ready. Hoping that you’ve done what you can to help them be ready for that independence away from you for 6 hours a day. Hoping they make friends and follow directions and learn and be excited about all the new things they’ll be doing.

Being a parent is watching your child get hurt – physically and emotionally. It’s comforting them when they’re sick and sleeping on an uncomfortable hospital cot when they have surgery. It’s holding their hand through blood draws and shots at their checkups. It’s wiping their tears when their first friend hurts their feelings. Or they didn’t get the part. Or they didn’t win the award.


Being a parent is 18 years of love, culminating in their “graduation” not just from high school, but in a way, from you. Knowing that if you did your job right they’ll be able to go out into the world on their own… be a contributing member of society, and a good human. In a few short months, I’ll be moving him into a dorm somewhere, trying my damnedest not to breakdown into sobs as I walk out of the room and let him go on this journey. I think we’ve done a good job and I trust that he’ll do great, but that doesn’t make it any easier.


Rachel Green is Turning 50

I read a few headlines yesterday about Jennifer Aniston turning 50. Now, with most celebrities, I don’t pay much attention to their birthdays or their ages, but when my contemporaries have MILESTONE birthdays, it just brings it home that I AM GETTING OLD.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, this is what I looked like.


(Yes. That’s a headshot. For a brief time I tried acting, but realized quickly that perhaps I didn’t have the constitution for so much rejection, so I stuck with my day job… teaching.)

When I moved up to LA, I started teaching at an elementary school in Hollywood. I was the youngest teacher there by at least 10 years. Despite being the oldest child in my family (and the oldest of 21 cousins), most of my life, honestly, I was always one of the youngest. I was one of the youngest kids in my classes all through school, and through college. I always dated older guys (though I married a younger one). I was comfortable being the youngest, and it always made me feel, well, youthful.

That changed a bit when I started classes at the Groundlings, and then started my favorite job of all time – Studio Guide at Universal Studios. There, I was still on the younger side, though I worked with several college students. Even though I was 24, I still felt like we were all contemporaries – whether my co-workers were older or younger than I was.

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My first day on the job!

Back in my 20s, I spent my time teaching, giving tours, performing improv, and going dancing at clubs with friends. We also went to several live tapings of sit-coms, which was fun. (One of those shows? “Friends.”)

karen&me friends

My friend Karen and I before going to a “Friends” taping

(While I admit I never got the Rachel cut, I did share some fashion choices with the ladies on the show, for better or worse.)

After I had my first child and he was in preschool, most of the moms I met were very close in age to me… either older or younger by just a couple of years. Most of those moms’ oldest children were the same age as my son. By the time my youngest child was in preschool, I was definitely one of the oldest moms, as she was my youngest, and the other kids were their oldest. I found I had less in common with some of those moms, because they were just beginning the journey of school with their children, when I had been through it twice already. When I was turning 40, they were still in their mid-30s, and somehow that felt like a big difference.

Then, 3 years ago, I went back to the classroom. HOLY. COW. Of course, there are teachers older than I am, or around the same age as I am, but I’m teaching with women and men in their 20s. And boy, there’s nothing quite like talking to someone in their 20s to make you feel old. The last time I was in the classroom, they could have been my students. I am *technically* old enough to be their *gasp* MOTHER.

Yet, there is something that helps ease the pain of getting older. Each year I’ve inched toward a big birthday, I am reminded that I am not alone in this. My birthday is in November, so I have the whole year to think and ruminate about how I’m turning X. And then February rolls around and I read that Jennifer Aniston just turned that same age, and somehow I feel better. I realize I haven’t aged as well as she has, and I’m certainly not in such great shape as she is, but knowing we are somehow kindred in turning some MILESTONE number makes it a little easier.

It’s even better when you realize your own friends not only are turning the same age as you will be, but are going through a lot of the same challenges, changes, and insecurities as you are. It’s nice to feel like you’re in this together, and aren’t alone. So, while I’m not super excited to be turning 50, and I’m feeling SUPER OLD and starting to wonder how long I’ve got left on this earth, I realize that it’s not THAT old, and I will be okay. There’s a lot of life still to live, and as long as I take care of myself, I’ll hopefully have a great life ahead of me.

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So, Happy Birthday Jennifer Aniston! Happy FIVE OH. I hope this is a stellar year for both of us! I’m just mere months behind you.



Travelogue: Day 15 & 16. London Sights

Day 15 started out with pancakes and ended with a trip to a local pub to watch England beat Columbia in a World Cup game. Talk about excitement!


On the wall in London




“Where the pancakes are” was yummy, and they brought the check in a book.


I had a hard time NOT singing “London Bridge is falling down, falling down…”

We met my brother Terry at the Tower of London, and went on a Beefeater tour.


This grassy area used to be the moat.


Our Beefeater was great!


This was the line to see the Crown Jewels. They were pretty spectacular, but we couldn’t take pictures.


This guy was marching back and forth. He looked about 19.


Uncle and Nephew


A recreation of one of the rooms




We met my parents and brother for dinner at an Indian restaurant named “Mango.” The papadums were in this crafty little bowl.




We had a great time at dinner, and it was very yummy! Afterwards, the 5 of us found a pub to catch the last bit of the England/Colombia game of the World Cup. Needless to say, the pub atmosphere was charged, and everyone was elated at the result. (England won with penalty kicks.)

The next day was July 4th. Typically, we spend this day watching a local parade and having fireworks at some point. This year, in England, you wouldn’t know it was the case… not surprising, considering it was America’s Independence from England that is celebrated.

We decided to celebrate by going to Westminster Abbey.


The line was long, but they passed out water.



One of the stained glass window clusters, as seen from the staircase going up to the Queen’s Jubille Gallery


The details are really remarkable!


The courtyard reminded me of Hogwarts. 🙂

We walked through the Abbey, listening to the audiotour being narrated by Jeremy Irons (side note- he also narrated the tram tour at Disney Paris). We had lunch in their restaurant and followed it with a tour of the Queen’s Jubilee gallery, which was pretty great. We then headed toward Trafalgar Square, and hopped on a tour bus.


Trafalgar Square


Touring London in a double decker bus


Family Selfie!

A Scottish friend of mine highly recommended to me that we visit a place called Tattershall Castle, which is a boat that remains docked on the Thames. She suggested I go and have a Pimm’s, looking out at the London Eye, so we made sure it happened.

To my husband’s dismay, there was no room on the upper deck, so we went down below. It was a bit windy that day, so the boat did sway a bit. (My husband gets very seasick.) He knew this was something I really wanted to do, so he withstood it for me, and we discovered that Pimm’s is quite enjoyable.



view from our table


On the deck




We found a pub to have dinner not too far away. Sadly, it was NOT delicious, nor was the service at all good. Needless to say, I won’t be giving the name. We walked around for a bit, looking for a place to have some dessert on our way to the train. I was fascinated by the London Eye, as you can see.

It was a long, full few days in London. Up next – exploring on our own, Buckingham Palace, and heading home.



Travelogue: Days 13 & 14. From Croatia to London

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We left my great-grandmother’s village early Sunday Morning, July 1st, and headed for the ferry. It was officially the summer season for Croatia, and the day before we saw how crowded and crazy the line for the ferry gets, so we wanted to be sure we didn’t get left behind.

We got there at a good time, and had enough time, in fact, to eat some delicious pastries and one last Brač cappuccino for me. (Scratch that – I had one last cappuccino on the ferry!)

We drove around Split for awhile, looking for parking so that I could get some souvenirs. We couldn’t find parking, sadly, so we never did go back into Diocletian’s Palace. On one of our passes by the marina made one of the kids realize they’d left their sweater on the ferry. There’s a whole story about how I ran onto the ferry while my husband drove around, imagining the ferry took off with me still on it. Suffice it to say, we got lucky, because the sweater had been folded up and put away for us, and the ferry was on some sort of break, which is very unusual.

The Split airport was crazy. My husband dropped us off in the parking lot before heading to turn in the rental car. The kids and I took our luggage up to the main building and started to get in line, when my husband texted me, asking if I had the “paperwork” for the car. Panicked, I yanked the kids out of line so that we could wait for him, and hoping they’d figure out where this “paperwork” went to. About 15 minutes later, he called and said they found it (it fell between the seats), and he ran to the line as time was ticking away and we needed to get through security. (We also had to take things out of our suitcases, as they were too heavy. Thankfully, a nice guy behind us had a shopping bag he offered up!)

Of course, all that rushing was for nothing, as our flight was canceled.


When your flight is canceled at a very small airport, this is what it looks like.


Luckily, I brought my knitting

Once we were called, we were all crammed into a shuttle.

And finally got onto the plane.

A short flight to Prague, where we had a layover long enough to go through Customs, “Transfers,” have dinner, and shop. We were supposed to land at 9pm in London, but had yet another delay that got us to the UK well after 10. After going through Customs (the lengthiest process we’ve encountered thus far), getting our luggage, riding a train, getting off the train and onto another one because, “We’re sorry. We’re not going to stop there tonight,” and getting a taxi, we finally got to our flat and collapsed at around midnight.

Our first full day in London started with breakfast at Terry’s. I ordered something I thought would be very British – eggs, toast, and “bubble and squeak” – and really enjoyed it.

The girls had a spot of tea, but I just needed that cappuccino to get me going…

First stop – getting our Oyster Cards and heading to Kings Cross Station.


Kings Cross Station is quite lovely.

We found Platform 9 3/4. There was a great shop.



I adored this shop! (I may have bought myself a Platform 9 3/4 sweatshirt and purse).


There was a LONG line to take your photo with the trolley. Next time I’ll get one.

Next up – The British Museum!


The museum was quite beautiful inside.


Easter Island figure



The boys LOVED the mummies! The girls were kind of creeped out.

We also saw the Rosetta Stone. It was difficult to get a good picture, but it was something else!


This was an exhibit that represented all the medications one person might take in a LIFETIME.



Trains! Trains! Trains!


Obligatory Phone Booth pic

We ended the day with dinner in a nearby pub. The kids each tried a new drink.



Ordering dinner at the bar

It was cool to be in a neighborhood pub. Not super crowded, but filled with what appeared to be locals after work. At 7:30, there was a trivia game going on. We tried to listen to the questions to see how we would do, and because it was mostly British references, we would not have done well.

I will say that everyone we met that first day was very friendly, and it was comforting to be in a place where everyone spoke a language we easily understood.

Up Next – The Tower of London, Borough Market, Westminster Abbey, and a bus tour around London.


Travelogue: Days 11-12 Croatia- Krka Falls, Sea Organ, and more!

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After the late night adventure my son and I had the day before, we ventured back to the mainland to visit some places that were on our list of “to-dos.”

The first thing we did was look for a place to eat breakfast. We were unsuccessful, so we ended up driving to two malls and finally ending up with McDonalds because we were hungry and time was slipping away from us. After eating, we finally headed to Krka Falls. We bought tickets and boarded a bus tat took us on a windy, steep road down to the falls. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but we were rewarded with beauty.


The path through the falls was so green!

There were a lot of people and sometimes it was difficult to navigate around everyone – or have patience while they walked slower than I’d have liked, but it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. These photos do NOT do it justice.



Once we got to a certain point, there was an area where people could swim. We didn’t bring our bathing suits, but it didn’t matter. It was still beautiful.IMG_0120IMG_0121IMG_0129img_0132.jpg

After walking the full circle of the falls, we headed up to the Sea Organ in Zadar. My son had read about it and was really interested in seeing it.

Here’s a link to an article about it and a video. I’ve got video, but it was very windy and the sound of the wind distracts from the sound of the organ.


Tall ship in the distance – piano/organ themed bench in the foreground


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Thumbs up! What a relaxing place to sit and listen to the organ and the waves.

After enjoying the sounds of the sea and the organ for awhile, we headed back to the car. There were a lot of vendors along the seaside, including one who sold fritule (Croatian donuts). My son made these for his project, so we bought some. They were really good!



Enjoying fritule in Zadar. Not a bad day.

There were also Roman ruins that had been placed along a lawn. You don’t see that everyday.


We drove the 2 hours back to Split, and had about 30 minutes to grab dinner before the Ferry left. Having had to run to a ferry just a few days ago, and then failing to get OFF a ferry the night before, we knew we didn’t want to take any chances. We found a pasta place that was able to get us in and out quickly. I have to say – it was really good. Fun fact: they use pumpkin oil in some of their salad dressings in Croatia. Seeing as pumpkin is one of the only foods I’m allergic to, I was a little nervous to order salad in Split.


They serve cappuccinos on the ferry in real cups and saucers!


We’re all a bit tired after a full day exploring Croatia.


One of my favorite ads on the ferry

The next day, my husband and son left early to head back to the mainland and see a fortress. The girls and I were content to stay back and hang out at the villa.


My son at the Klis Fortress

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Looking out the window to the city down below

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View out the window

They decided to check out a cave not far away. My husband LOVES caves. We’ve been to many caves on our vacations to National Parks.


I’m not 100% sure, but I think it’s Vranjaca Cave.



Inside the cave

While they were spelunking, we were kayaking.


The girls and I and my brother Matt, kayaking near the villa


She was a pro, and really enjoyed being out on the water.


There were only 3 kayaks, so we shared.


That night was the last night all 12 of us were together. The next day Matt & Tere and Jeff & Candice left for the next part of their vacation – the former to sail for the next week or so and the latter to Split for a few days. We hung out with my parents and my brother Terry. We tried to get to a town called Pučišća, where my great-grandfather grew up. (We were staying in Milna, where my great-grandmother grew up.) Unfortunately the traffic to get to the ferry was so bad that we couldn’t get past it, so we turned around, had a nice lunch by the water, did some more kayaking, and had dinner. The next day the 8 of us would head off to London.

We had lunch at a resort in Supetar.


We walked past a really fun looking resort!


Doesn’t that look fun?



Note: Beach Massage

IMG_5916IMG_5917 These drinks are local favorites. The one on the right was an “herbal” cola. The one on the left was a citrus drink. Pipi was much more enjoyable than Cockta.


Not a bad view for lunch!


My kids’ dad and my own dad


Terry & Me – the oldest of the siblings


My son and my mom


The boys got their chance to kayak.


Walking to dinner in Milna

Next up – Our trip out of Croatia to the UK, and first day(s) in London.


Travelogue: Day 10. The Longest Day Ever (aka Stranded in Split)

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About a month before we left for our trip, my son asked if we were going to Dubrovnik. When we told him we were staying about 3-4 hours away from it, and on an island, he wasn’t very happy about it. He had done a report on Croatia and really wanted to visit this old city. After all, he said, “When are we going to be in Croatia again?”

Well, we found a ferry that would take us there. The ferry would leave at 8am and after stopping at 3 other islands, we would arrive in Dubrovnik at 12. We’d have about 4 hours in the city and then would take the ferry back to Milna. My brother Terry and my brother Jeff and his wife Candice decided to go as well, so we headed out for a full day of boat travel. (My husband and daughters stayed behind, having no desire to be on a boat for that long.)


Our route from Milna on Brač to Dubrovnik

The ferry was late getting to us, but once we got on, we settled in. I knit for a good chunk of the trip.


Candice, Jeff, and my son on the ferry


Terry, preparing fo one of the classes he’s teaching this fall

We finally got to Dubrovnik, after some really rocky seas. It was raining and windy. Luckily it wasn’t horrible, but there was definitely some pitching back and forth and anyone susceptible to seasickness may have had a hard time. We had a quick lunch and headed to the city. We only had so much time!


View of the entrance of the old city from our restaurant

My parents went to Croatia a few years ago. When they visited Dubrovnik, they were getting ready to film some scenes of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Nothing that exciting was happening this day, but there were lots of people there.


This fountain was redressed with lights for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

We had been told by many friends that walking the walls of the city was a must do. So, we bought our tickets and headed up.


View of the fountain and the square from the steps going up to the wall


Following my brothers up the steps to walk on the outer wall surrounding the whole city


Not a bad view


Me & my boy ❤


A view of the fortress outside the city walls. Sadly, it took us too long to figure out how to get there


Parts of the old city are crumbling, and the steps of the city wall climb quite a bit


The views from the wall were pretty great.


Inside the city walls lived a LOT of cats.


Jeff, me, Terry, and my son. 4 Croatians with the Croatian flag.


My sister-in-law Candice stopped to pet one of the cats. Jeff snaps a pic.


Not a real guillotine


This reminded me of Piazza San Marco a little bit.


Pretty distraction


Apparently this staircase is famous in Game of Thrones


We had a great time exploring the city. The only thing we didn’t get to do was visit the fortress. We tried, but by the time we found the way to get there, there were only minutes before we had to leave, so we had to take photos outside it.



We can’t resist gelato!

Finally, we grabbed a taxi and headed back to the ferry. We settled in and enjoyed the long trip back. At most stops, there were several clues that we were stopping. First, there was an announcement. Secondly, lots of people started heading toward the back of the ferry. Third, we just felt that we had stopped. Most stops were about 5-10 minutes. Somehow, however, our stop wasn’t announced, and no one headed to the back. We were all in conversation and none of us noticed we’d stopped. We knew our stop was coming up, but somehow didn’t get up and start heading toward the door. Suddenly, Candice started yelling, “Are we moving? Did we miss our stop?”

And sure enough, we had. We were only feet from the shore, but they wouldn’t stop, and told us we had to ride to Split – another 45 minutes to an hour away. There was a 9pm ferry back to Supetar, but the likelihood of us making it was almost zero. Plus, we had no way of getting back from Supetar to Milna. The next ferry wasn’t until midnight. My dad was trying to convince us to find a place to stay in Split, but none of us wanted that. Candice was the only one with a working phone, so she was the one keeping everyone abreast of our situation. After some arguments of how we were getting home and who was going to pick us up, Terry finally called for a water taxi. We knew this would be expensive, but it was our best bet. Once we got to Milna, a taxi would pick us up and take us back to the hotel and the villa.

First up- finding a place to get some food (and use the restroom).


My son was really stressing out, until he got some food in his belly.

Next  – finding where we were supposed to meet the water taxi. When we relaxed a bit, we were able to do two things: 1) laugh and 2) look at how pretty our surroundings were.


Split, at night.

The taxi driver sent Terry a “pin” on the map for us to follow, and he’d pick us up. We walked to the only real place there was no boat already docked. It took a few minutes, but our savior arrived in short order. Just as it started to rain again.


Yay! We’re on our way back!


It was a little cold, and we were very tired.

The water taxi was a speed boat, basically, and we were going pretty fast. Because he was taking us straight to Milna instead of Supetar, where the other ferry drops off, it took us about 45 minutes. After the taxi dropped them off at the villa, I think we got home at around 11pm. My son went to bed and I ate some of the food Wayne had picked up for our dinner (that we missed), and I tried to explain just how we managed to miss our stop. We were exhausted, but glad to be home. We knew we had a story to tell friends when we got back.

Coming up: Krka Falls, The Sea Organ, and last days in Croatia.