Monthly Archives: July 2011

Beach Buddies


Robbie and Pete have known each other since they were two months old. Their forced friendship has been blossoming for the past two years, over play dates (really an excuse for the moms to get together and take a collective breath, hoping to survive motherhood until the next play date) and four months of playing together on Mondays at day care.

Unfortunately, as they have gotten older, the boys have seen each other less and less. Life happens, and people don’t get together as often as they should. It’s days like today, though, that remind me how important lifelong friends are. I still have a few of them, and I want to do whatever I can to make sure Robbie does, too.

The boys were beyond excited to see each other. I had to cajole Robbie into his swim diaper before he was allowed to greet Pete with all the enthusiasm of a pent-up puppy. They babbled incoherently, playing with the cats and dog. They squealed with excitement when they realized they got to ride in a car next to each other.

Then they hit the beach, flying through the sand and making a mad dash for the water. And went their separate ways. They played around each other for the better part of an hour, sharing shovels and watering cans. Suddenly, though, they were right there together, arms around each other. Smiling and “cheesing” for the camera.

Rob and Pete crowded together on the beach towel for a dinner of pizza and Diet Coke (I know, I know. No judging!). Then it happened. They were off, pieces of pizza in hand, running across the field, shrieking in delight. They chased each other up the hill and down the hill, around the other beach-goers, and, much to Rob’s delight, to the parking lot gate.

The entire way home, all we heard was, “Pete. Fun. Water. Fun. Pete.” I guess that means Rebecca and I are just going to have to suck it up and get together more often. Fabulous, isn’t it, when a forced friendship blossoms into something beautiful?


Lessons in Ice Cream


Ice cream is ice cream, right? A delicious frozen treat no matter how it is served? Not necessarily. Especially when one Robert Gaetano Manna is involved.

In the past, we’ve had melt downs (pun totally intended) over ice cream when Justin shared his vanilla-based ice cream and I didn’t share my coffee-based ice cream. I figured I would stay ahead of the game this time by ordering a kid’s scoop of coffee cookie ice cream in a cup. The sizes are generous, and I got an extra cup and spoon. It was perfect. Robbie, Justin, and I would all sit around and enjoy our treat.

Except Robbie didn’t want his ice cream. He told me it was yucky and tried to throw it. I was confused; the entire way down, Robbie had been talking about ‘cream. He didn’t want any sort of taste of the deliciousness. After five minutes, I was ready to lose my mind. Who has a two-year-old throw a temper tantrum while out for ice cream?

And then, as I looked around to point out all the kids being good with their ‘cream, it occurred to me. They were all being good with their ‘cream CONES. I bolted to the counter, grabbed a cone, and spooned the ice cream into it. And to my immediate left? A very happy little boy, grinning from ear to ear. He looked at me as I offered the cone and said, “‘Cream, Mama. Tank you.”

Lesson learned. Ice cream in bowls is for babies and grown-ups. Kids eat ice cream in cones. And, since I don’t have a baby any more, I’ll be ordering an extra cone from now on.



I’m sure I’ve mentioned Robbie’s love of all things coffee. At least once or twice. Right? Well, just in case you forgot… He loves it. Absolutely loves it. It’s actually gotten to the point where we order him his own coffee if we go to Dunkin’ Donuts (a small and, of course, decaf – when Justin remembers). It’s so much easier than trying to wrestle our own drinks away from him.

So, after church this past Sunday, we stopped by Dunkin’ Donuts for a little mid-morning pick-me-up. Young Robert decided his own coffee wasn’t enough. He toured the backyard with his cup, my cup, and a sippy cup of juice.

The Long Drive Home…


Since Justin had flown back to Boston for class and work, Mom drove home with Robbie, Barkley, and me. We left Lexington at 7:45 Thursday morning and, according to the GPS, would arrive at home by 11:35 that night. At least, that was the plan…

After our first stop, Mom discovered that she had lost her watch. A watch she had, actually, just found after several months of being lost. So, we turned around, drove back to the gas station, and, miraculously, found the watch. Despite my knocking an hour off our arrival time before the stop, we were back to 11:35.

A few hours later, the check engine light came on. Before you panic, let me tell you it was user error. I had the car on cruise control and hit the decelerate button too quickly. We pulled over at the next exit and managed to find a gas station. Full service. With a mechanic on duty. At 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon. $6.36 later, we were on the road with a new quart of oil and a cleared car.

The good vibes from our easy car repair lasted a while. We were able to find a McDonald’s with a play place (despite entering the wrong street in the GPS, which my mom patiently accepted). Robbie went crazy! And, I’ll admit, it was pretty awesome. The slide (piano keys, of course) played as he slid down. There was a guitar that played when climbed on and computer stations. It was pretty impressive. And, after an hour of running around like a mad man, Robbie was willing to get into his car seat, refuse to eat his hamburger, scarf his apple slices, and watch more Elmo. As a side note, how is this possibly my kid? Refuse the burger and scarf the apple? Really?

We drove through Newark as the sun set, and, much to Robbie’s delight, dozens of planes were taking off and landing. There was a full moon over New York City as we passed, a sight I have never seen before that trip. It was breath-taking. And none of my cameras were able to capture a good picture. Of course.

Things were going so well. Too well. Just as we’d made our way across the George Washington Bridge, Mom commented on how smoothly the trip had been. You know, Robbie behaving, getting lucky with finding her watch and a mechanic, no traffic. And then it happened. We hit a bump. And all of a sudden, all we heard was “bum-bum-bum”. It sounded like a flat tire.

Fortunately, there was an exit up ahead. But, really, what were the chances there would be a gas station? Or a service station? At 9:45 at night? Apparently, pretty good. There was a full-service gas station. With someone willing to get on the ground and look at our car. Amazing!

He said it looked like we had a frayed cable and something was leaking, which did not bode well for the 200 miles we still had to drive. What’s a girl to do in a situation like that, you ask? Well, luck continued to be on our side. Justin’s aunt and uncle lived off the next exit. I know, I know. Incredible luck!

We pulled into Tom and Chris’ house around 10:30 that night and received a warm welcome. Mom got to meet Chris for the first time. We enjoyed the full moon over Long Island Sound. We got a good night’s rest. Barkley got to play with another dog. And, even though we got home 17 hours later than anticipated, it was well worth it.

Oh, about the car repairs… We went to the mechanic early the next morning. Ironically, he had worked as a mechanic for Jeep for 20 years. It turns out the bump knocked my emergency brake cable loose and it was hitting against the rear axle. The liquid? Well, that was more of a problem… Turns out the seal in the rear differential was bad and needed to be replaced. I still feel like we got off pretty easy with a bill of $225 (I needed all my fluids flushed, too. Apparently something that should be done every 15,000 miles. Shockingly, I’d put it off for almost 90,000.).

I have to tell you. Pulling into that driveway never felt so good.

Vacation – Without Robbie


Justin and I needed some time without Robbie, so we did what any good parents would do and left him with my parents for five days. I flew to New York, where Justin picked me up at the airport, and we went on a cruise to St. John, New Brunswick.

It was strange to be alone at first; it had been so long since we’d been without Robbie for more than a few hours. What in the world were we going to talk about? Would it be too quiet?

No. Not at all. It was amazing. Brilliant. Inspired. Definitely worth doing once a year. After all, as my mom reminds me, even kids need a break from their parents. And, she happily runs “Grand Camp” during the summer, wearing Robbie out to the point of him sleeping until 9:15 in the morning.

Justin sprung for a balcony, something we’ve never had in our previous four cruises. And it was so worth it. Our view from New York was staggering.

Unfortunately, so was the fog we faced the entire first day.

And the rain for almost the entire second day, our one day in port. We took a trolley tour of the city, stopping to see the reversing rapids which were, unfortunately, going the normal way while we were there. However, when we woke up from our nap (yes, nap!), the sun was out, so Justin and I took off for the hot tub on the top deck and had a perfect view as we pulled out of port.

The third day of the cruise was gorgeous. I spent the entire day outside, half of it (stupidly) without sunscreen. I know, I know… But I’d forgotten to pack any and figured the clear weather would only last an hour or so. I smartened up after a few hours and went to buy some. Miraculously, I only burned my chest.

The day the cruise ended, my flight didn’t leave until 8:00 at night, leaving me the entire day in New York City. All. By. Myself. I’m not going to lie; I was intimidated and not entirely sure that I wanted to do anything but go straight to the airport and wait. But, I put my big girl panties on and explored the city.

Justin dropped me off at Central Park, and I wandered for the better part of two hours. I made my way down Fifth Avenue, where I stopped in Saint Patrick’s for Mass and then had my make-up done at Saks. I walked to Times Square. I went to Macy’s. I moseyed and took my time. And, after twenty minutes, managed to hail a cab, which Justin (wrongly) assured me would be the easiest part of the day.

Swimming and Girls


Robbie loves swimming. And girls. Getting to combine the two is a special treat. At first, Robbie wasn’t too sure about McCauley. After all, what did she really have to offer him, other than cool toys and cute blonde hair? Neither one really brought stimulating conversation to the table.

But McCauley did share. She shared her balls, her float, her cheese sticks and chicken tenders.

She let Robbie play with the other toys they found in the baby pool after lunch.

They did a little hugging.

And, perhaps most importantly, she let him hold her hand.

Hair Cut


We made it almost two years, but Robbie finally needed his hair cut. It was time for the rat tail to go. Time for me to have a proper little boy instead of a baby. Justin and I decided it would be good to take Robbie to the barber shop Justin went to all through college.

I’m just not sure that words can do the experience justice. The panicked screams started as soon as Justin set Robbie in the barber chair.

He usually loves combing his hair, but not in the barber chair. And not with a stranger doing it.

The thought of scissors coming toward his face threw him into a tizzy.

And as they got closer, Robbie couldn’t even bring himself to look.

Justin practically had to hold him down when they brought out the clippers.

All he really wanted was to escape.

But as soon as he had his lollipop, Robbie was all charm and smiles.



Robbie is fearless. Absolutely fearless. To the point of terrifying me. On the Fourth of July, we went to a picnic where there was an in-ground pool. Unfortunately, neither Nona, Pops, or myself had a bathing suit. Even worse, almost everyone else did. Much to the dismay of my desperate toddler.

Robbie did everything he could to get in the pool. He ran and stopped short at the edge. He dragged me to the pool, emphatically showing me, “Water! Water!”. He threw a football in the pool. He tried to climb on the diving board. And finally I broke. I got Robbie’s bathing suit from the car (you know, just in case there was a kiddie pool – I was NOT anticipating an actual pool). I found a relative I’d actually met once, and dropped my kid in the pool.

Eventually, Robbie tired of the pool, so he got out and started walking around it. Then he found it. The water slide. And he was up it in a flash. We found a kind soul willing to catch the flying child, so down Robbie went. I’ll be honest. I let him go down because I was hoping it would scare him and he wouldn’t want to go down it again. Wrong. Horribly wrong. Robbie went down the slide at least fifteen times.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t our only experience with slides. He had a blast at Southland pool on the frog slide but was devastated that he was too little to use the big kid slide. And, secretly, I was thrilled. I’m not ready to send my baby down big water slides any more than I have to. I guess diving boards are next… God help me!

Aunt Hilary’s Helper


Robbie loves his Aunt Hilary (Hiw-a-ree). There are always fun things to do at her house, like wash cars and play with sidewalk chalk. There’s also an entire house to run around outside with a big goofball chasing you (there’s no fence from the sides of the house, so Robbie can run around and around and around). There’s a hill to roll down. And Aunt Hilary let’s Robbie be a helper in ways that his terrible mom doesn’t.

She let’s him help decorate cakes.

And doesn’t worry about it turning out just so (as I might…)

She let’s him water the flowers.

And himself.

Then, at the end of the day, when he just can’t take it anymore, Robbie can curl up with Daddy for a good book and a little love.

Lake Time


Robbie likes water. Sometimes. I think he likes the idea of it better than the actual thing. When he got to my aunt’s lake house, he made a beeline for the dock. He wasn’t so sure about swimming at first, but he caught on after my cousin’s son, Will jumped into the water and started splashing around. All of a sudden, he wanted to be just like Will. And they had a blast, splashing around the lake, quacking at the ducks.

And then there was the boat ride to fireworks in the middle of the lake. I wasn’t too sure how it would go for several reasons. First, Robbie does not like to wear life jackets. At all. Although, he did much better when he saw all the other big kids were wearing them. Second, his experience on small boats has been minimal and terrifying (remember the airboat ride through the Everglades?). Third, it was nearly 10:00 at night, well past any bed time I would have hoped for him.

He fidgeted a little at first, but then the fireworks started. Robbie was enthralled, staring at them with his mouth agape. He turned to look at me, pointed to the fireworks, and, very solemnly, said, “Stars, Mama.” He sat through the entire show that way, sometimes getting a little excited when a really big one was set off, but completely enamored by them. Just like his mama.