Category Archives: Being a Kid

A Portrait in Words

The mail is inundated with them this time of year: the family Christmas photo. Your collection starts in the beginning of December and is a tapestry of information come Christmas Day. How much have we all grown or changed? Who’s missing from the photo and who’s been added in? So many implications from this one capture.

Real talk: We’re all smiles in those Petrizzo family pictures, but what you aren’t aware of is the cacophony of emotions surrounding that split second shutter click. The groans, sometimes silent and sometimes audible, when Mom or Dad announced that tonight we’d all dress in black sweaters and khakis, or when we were younger, matching Christmas dresses, to shoot our picture. The positioning, the trying not to laugh, oh, wait, the lighting is wrong, move over a smidge, stop fidgeting, cut it out! stop pinching your sister, knock it off! look this way, did you at least try to fix your hair, do we have to hold hands, your eyes were closed, I’m hungry, try again, I have to go to the bathroom, hmm not sure, stand here, your eyes were closed again…(If you look closely in one of our pictures, you’ll see I have red watery eyes from crying. Leah and I had gotten into a fight right before taking the picture. Oh, the teen angst!)

But that’s the funny and great thing about families, isn’t it. The groans and annoyances give way to smiles, put on at first, but then real, as you remember that these people are your greatest source of love and forgiveness on this earth, apart from God.

So, here is a word version of the 2014 Petrizzo/Sutherland Family Christmas Portrait. I’ll leave the camera work to my dad.

Dad – Affirming; intimidating exterior, but more sensitive than people give him credit for; provider; one of the funniest people I know; giver of practical life advice.

Mom – Affirming; sensitive to the needs of her children, physical, mental and spiritual; proves love with giving actions; a Renaissance woman; funny as ever.

Leah – The best encourager I know; a wise counselor; a caring, attentive mother; the first person I call when I’m in a panic about baking/cooking something.

Joe – The kindest brother-in-law; handyman to the extreme; generous giver of his time; probably up  there in the genius category with Einstein.

Evie – Firecracker; impish; curious; thoughtful; affectionate; matter-of-fact; intelligent.

Desmond – Sweet; sensitive; happy; puppy dog cute.

Natalie – Classy; great taste; sensible conversationalist; skilled at empathizing with others; sarcastically hilarious.

James – A welcome addition to a gaggle of sisters; complimentary; hard worker; helpful; a solid friend; knowledgeable.

———-

As the lovely Brits say, Happy Christmas. I am overwhelmed with the blessings God has given me.

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Let’s talk about Disney World.

So, several months ago, my older sister Leah contacted our entire family and asked if we’d all be interested in meeting at Disney World to help celebrate her and my brother-in-law’s 30th birthdays. We told her we’d think about it and then replied within .87 seconds with a resounding yes. I just got back, and I think I can speak for my family when I say we all had a blast together. I think I slept a cumulative 3.5 hours the whole trip (not really), fell asleep on the bus back to the airport and was catching up on rest for days afterward. Signs of an excellent vacation (for me anyway)!

I have a few thoughts and observations:

1. FastPasses are worth their weight in gold. Not going to lie, it was hard for me not to feel smug walking past a two-hour line to meet Anna and Elsa because my sister had reserved a time in advance. And so forms the Disney Black Market: how much would harried parents pay for an Anna/Elsa FastPass? I can’t pretend and say this thought didn’t cross my mind.

2. The Christmas decorations at Disney World are like already having the most delicious mocha fudge ice cream sundae and topping it with your favorite salted caramel cheesecake. Magic upon magic!

3. Some food highlights:

  • The Dole Whip at Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland – creamy and pineapple-y. Definitely refreshing.
  • The mushroom pizza at Mama Melrose’s in Hollywood Studios – seriously so good. I tried my mom’s vodka pasta which was also scrumptious.
  • The brioche ice cream sandwiches from L’Artisan des Glaces in Epcot’s France Pavilion – I mean, come on!
  • The dinner buffet at Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge – lots of unique dishes and new culinary experiences. I’m still talking about the curried pasta salad and corn pudding.
  • The breakfast buffet at Fort Wilderness’ Trail’s End Restaurant – we got a little turned around trying to get here, so when we finally did, it was like we’d reached the Promised Land. My family did an excellent pillage job on the buffet, which included items like French Toast Bread Pudding with Pecan Praline Syrup and Smoked Brisket Eggs Benedict. What.

4. Disney World takes food allergies very seriously, which frankly, I found embarrassing, but I suppose it’s for the best. I tried to whisper to the waitress at Boma what I was allergic to, and she immediately went and got the chef to come walk me through the buffet. I was mortified, but my family thought it was cool. Again, I suppose it’s for the best. How terrible would it be to have to cause a scene with an EpiPen at Disney World?!

5. OK, what I’m about to say here will sound negative or that I didn’t have a good time, but bear with me. Despite being the most magical place in the world, Disney World can sometimes be a breeding ground for agitation and discord. We saw a guy full out yelling at his wife/girlfriend in the middle of a walkway; my mom saw a lady chew out her wheelchair-bound mother, berating her to not ruin her son’s day. Kids don’t magically behave and not scream their heads off just because they’re at Disney World (for the record, my niece and nephew were champs, and I’m not just saying that). The Monorail is often packed, as are the buses. And sometimes it seemed like the only moment’s peace you could get was in a bathroom stall. So, I say, pack some flexibility and a sense of humor! Find a seat and sit down. Get an ice cream or a coffee (there are fully operating Starbucks in Magic Kingdom and Epcot). Find a water feature and listen to the soothing sound of trickling water. Get plenty of sleep (kind of hard, but do your best!), drink plenty of water and eat snacks. Again, I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture at all. Just trying to keep it real.

6. When traveling, we all want perfect weather, perfect circumstances, perfect schedules, perfect everything. But this obviously never happens. That doesn’t mean “the entire trip is ruined.” Instead, we embraced the conditions as part of our experience. The night we had Extra Magic Hours in the Magic Kingdom, it was rainy and a little chilly, but, not to be deterred from a night of fun, I bought myself a Mickey Mouse hat and walked on basically every ride without a wait. My sister bought one of those emergency ponchos, which opened up the doors for a plethora of jokes at her expense. My dad was in his photography glory as he walked around the park shooting the castle and its reflections on the wet sidewalk. We headed back to the hotel that night with wet pants butts and some great memories.

In conclusion, I think Disney World has become Nostalgia Heaven for my 27-year-old self. Disney puts on some great shows, fireworks displays, rides and parades, and how could we not sing along at the tops of our lungs to some of our favorite songs from childhood. I loved spending time with my favorite people in the world in a place that is pretty universally appealing for all of my family members. Great idea, Leah!! So glad you suggested it.

(If you’re looking for more info, there are about a million other blog posts with very specific tips and tricks on how to navigate the parks, when to visit, what to eat, etc. Just hit up Google!)

9/11/01

When I was in tenth grade, my health teacher had us document our days in half-hour intervals. I did things like watch a Bonanza marathon on TV, play computer games, go shopping with my mom and drink Diet Coke (loved it even then).

I happened to find this assignment when I was going through a bunch of junk (albeit nostalgic) when my parents moved and decided to save it because the assignment started on September 8, 2001 and ended on SEPTEMBER 11, 2001. So, I have recorded in half-hour intervals most of what I did that day: “watch broadcast.”

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Right there in between 9 and 9:30 was when the world as we knew it changed. To think my teacher assigned this without any idea what was to come. I suppose I don’t need this assignment to remember that day or where I was when I found out, but I’m going to keep it all the same.

Fourth of July.

My childhood summers didn’t offer much in the way of schedules and structure, because isn’t that how it should be? But the Fourth of July was undoubtedly one of the best and most scheduled days of my summer, with several outfit and scene changes, places to go and people to see!

Breakfast, of course, but a quick one, because I had to don my meticulously prepared patriotic outfit and then make sure that my knee pads, wrist guards and roller blades were in sound working order for the neighborhood parade. Over we trekked a couple streets to join the growing Falmouth Heights crowd, complete with streamered bikes and costumed dogs, all in the colors of our flag, of course. Some announcements and the National Anthem and some instructions, and at this point I just wanted to get the show on the road. And then it would start and we’d weave in and out of the streets and onto Grand Avenue, which ran along the beach. Up Montgomery and past the gnome house, where the nice man would hand out entire Hershey’s Bars to all the kids.

The parade would begin to disperse, and I’d head home to change into my bathing suit, and most likely today we’d pack lunch to eat on the beach. Towels, chairs, toys, wagon, check! And off we’d go, waving to Bill on the way.

The beach was a crowded collection of even more towels, chairs and toys, with hardly a blank space of sand to be found. While I didn’t prefer it to be this crowded every day (where would we play pickle?), this is exactly how it was supposed to be on Independence Day. Hot sand and cool New England water, back and forth, back and forth. And then the ding of the ice cream truck, and then back to the water.

Hours would turn into minutes, and then the bright sun would begin to soften into that magic light of a late Cape Cod afternoon. The beachgoers were thinning out. Maybe we could squeeze in a game of pickle? Dad usually stayed at the beach the latest, and at his cue, I’d head home.

Cleaned up, wet hair post shower and another outfit, red, white and blue (if I was lucky enough to have kept it clean, the parade one). Dinner was seafood and steak and maybe strawberry pie for dessert. Back outside to play until we instinctively knew it was time. Time to grab your windbreaker or sweatshirt, something to sit on and our glow bracelets. Fireworks, fireworks, fireworks–it was time. We’d walk back to the beach to join the ten thousand others, waiting. Hold someone’s hand until I was old enough to walk on my own. Find a spot, find your neighbors. The sand was cold, but I didn’t care. There was the barge, there were the boats. And then we waited.

The first whistle, the first comet. Silence. Then, “the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air.” I loved the weeping willow ones, the golden sparks flowing down into the ocean. I could feel the boom in my heart, that pounding sound accompanying the colored stars. Everyone clapped and cheered when it was over; all the boats blew their horns. I loved the spent gunpowder aroma in my nose.

Gather the blankets, and head back home. Walk straight among the crowds, and you’d eventually find your way. And then, s’mores! Whose house this year? We alternated between the neighbor’s and ours. How many would I eat? I preferred my marshmallows well done, burnt crispy but gooey. Some preferred theirs toasted a light golden brown. But there were plenty of grahams and chocolate for everyone.

And then the day’s buzz would start to dwindle as the sounds of firecrackers grew further and further apart. That salty night air replaced the smoke smell, and I’d begin to fade. Time to head to my bed. I was already excited for next year.

This was a Cape Cod Fourth of July, and today I miss everything about it.

Jeanne Petrizzo, Age 27

One of my favorite books growing up was Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Not about anything particularly grand or epic, the book describes the antics and issues of a normal little girl who is a member of a normal family. I think that’s why I like it so much. Throughout the book, the parents face car trouble, financial problems and job insecurity, and these adult stresses translate into their own set of worries for Ramona. At the end the family is cooped up together in the house on a rainy Sunday afternoon; they’re cross with each either and antsy. Finally, the father demands that the family get in the car and go to a restaurant so they can be together and enjoy a delicious meal, while temporarily setting their stresses and anxieties aside. The book describes Ramona’s sheer enjoyment of her juicy burger and crispy fries as she sits with her kind family. The relief and warmth is tangible compared to the stress and rain at the beginning of the chapter. On the way home, “Ramona snuggled inside her car coat, feeling cozy enclosed in the car with the heater breathing warm air on her nice family. She was a member of a nice sticking-together family.” I admit, as a little girl myself, I cried when I read the ending.

On Saturday, Cara, my traveling buddy and blogger over at Trip Crush, and I ventured to Charleston for the day. We had only two things on the agenda: eat at Jeni’s new Charleston scoop shop (a bucket list item for me), and visit the Rifle Paper Company’s pop-up shop. The rest we could fill in with whatever suited our whims. I had the Purple Goat at Glazed on King Street–it’s a berry-and-goat-cheese-filled donut with a lavender glaze. We browsed the stands at the city’s lovely and large farmer’s market, where we stumbled upon some of the most delicious pickles and okra at Fresh Pickle Works. We went to Jeni’s as soon as it opened at 11–I ordered a scoop of the Wildberry Lavender and the Goat Cheese with Cherries. In addition to really creative and masterfully paired flavors, the ice cream itself is the richest, creamiest consistency. King Street is one long line of both actual luxury shops, like Louis Vuitton, and stores that are luxurious in my book, like Madewell and Lucky Brand. We browsed and made purchases and then stopped for a BBQ taco snack. OK, I admit, we went back to Jeni’s for more ice cream.

Now, I don’t have nearly the list of problems that Ramona’s parents had (right now, anyway). But like most normal adults, there are the demands and responsibilities of simply waking up every day. Not that I’m necessarily overwhelmed, but I must say, a meandering day in a pretty place is just what I didn’t realize I needed. I’m not advocating irresponsibility, but I (obviously) disregarded my normal daily caloric concerns and readily spent a little more money than I usually do. And to be honest, it felt GREAT. I highly recommend a break every now and then, whatever that might look like for you.

P.S. On our fun little trip, we frequently quoted Donna and Tom from Parks and Rec: “Treat. Yo. Self.” They’re definitely onto something with their annual tradition.

Girl on a Boat.

Scene opens on the earth from outer space. Zoom in to the Western Hemisphere, North America, the United States, the Northeast, New England, Massachusetts, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Lambert’s Cove. There’s a boat anchored there, and I’m sitting on the stern with my feet in the ocean.

The calm inlet water laps against the boat, rocking it and lulling me into a dozy reverie encouraged by the ocean air I love so much. “Aren’t you going to jump in? The water feels great!” My dad and brother are submerged and then not, turning the water into foam as they swim back and forth.

I look toward the beach where the water is shallow, the sand visible and the ocean safe. I like where I’m sitting. I glance down past the boat stern and only see the sun’s and my watery reflection and not the elusive ocean floor. Should I jump? I can’t see the bottom.

But then I’m standing up and leaping through the air and with a splash, I’m in. I resurface, soaked in salt with the sea air refilling my lungs, and I’m laughing and happy because how could I not be?

It’s OK If You Still Write Checks And Other Items

Being in my roaring 20s, having a job (dare I say career?) and just being ALIVE makes me qualified to share some life hacks and pro tips, right? Meh. Just roll with me!

1. You will be ravenous when you come home from work, even if you sit at a desk all day. Fight the urge to gnaw on the kitchen counter while dinner cooks, and always keep a box of cereal and milk in stock. A quick, easy and delicious pre-dinner snack as soon as you get home from working in the fields staring at a computer screen all day. (Two to three bowls can qualify as dinner.)

2. If you are paying property tax and don’t have a library card, please stop reading immediately and head to your local branch to procure one.

3. Credit cards have a terrible reputation as Satan’s preferred payment method, and yes, they can be very dangerous. BUT. If you can control yourself (and that’s very, very important), get a credit card with decent incentives and work the rewards to your advantage.

4. Don’t be pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do. You can say no. Do accept the help of others if they offer. You can say yes.

5. Go to a community dance. Not a club or skeez city, but a square or contra dance. You’ll meet all kinds of people, and better yet, there’s no pretense. You’ll be having the time of your life without even realizing you’re undergoing a fantastic social exercise. (Oh, and you’ll get an amazing workout without even knowing, which is the best kind, amiright?!?)

6. Watch all the movies you loved as a kid. You might end up laughing harder or even shedding a tear because you understand it far more. Or you’ll sit there scratching your head like, “I thought this was cool?”

7. Be confident about what you like. If it’s not the same as everyone else, who cares? If it is the same as everyone else, who cares?

8. I imagine that having a baby is the craziest, most amazing thing that can happen to anyone, so let’s give new parents a little slack when they start sharing all sorts of pictures and videos. (I will say I could go without knowing about your kid’s blowout.)

9. Before you buy ANYTHING besides necessities, don’t. You’ll end up with far less clutter and more money. A win-win! Unless it’s reservations for a travel adventure, then don’t think twice.

10. If you’re frustrated with your finances, lots of other people are too for what it’s worth. Most people don’t ever think, Well, I have enough now, so I guess I’ll just stop worrying. Everything costs more than you think it will, and just when you feel like you’re ahead, something comes up. If you’re smart, careful and patient, the dust will settle from the fray. My dad would recite this quote to us as kids: “Watch your pennies, and your dollars will take care of themselves.” It’s taken me a while to get it (and I’m still working on it), but it’s true. How many times do I think, Oh it’s just five bucks. But multiply how many times I think that over the course of a couple months, and it’s not just five bucks anymore.

11. Chocolate milk is still delicious even though you’re not a little kid, so enjoy a glass every now and then.

Bill.

He was aptly named Bill, and he reminded me of my grandpa; I think it was the thick white silver hair and playful sarcasm.

The beach runs perpendicular to the streets that lead up to it, so down we walked, almost daily, towing a Radio Flyer wagon filled with salty beach chairs, sandy towels, whatever buckets, shovels and masks we hadn’t already lost that summer and my little brother, depending on whether or not the wagon’s maximum capacity had been reached.8e9b0a64f5ca11e183fd123138106140_7

First it was past our neighbor’s house with the giant dog that I prayed fervently was securely fastened somewhere indoors. Past the house where the nice girl and the family who had lovingly adopted her from Russia would sometimes stay for a breezy summer week. Past the overgrown backyard of the neighbors on the next street, and then the house with the ugly green shutters. Cross the street; there’s the little house, the yellow house, Elaine’s house with hydrangeas that Martha Stewart herself couldn’t grow. Past the big house with the big family. Cross the street again, and there was the house of the lady with the same name as me, the remodeled house and the house with all the gnomes and windmills, owned by the man who passed out the best candy during the Fourth of July parades.

And then there was Bill on the porch of his white house. The nice, kind Bill who would smile and wave and tell us to save him some ocean water. I’d laugh along because of course he was just kidding, and I was old enough to understand that.

And this happened for years. And he’d see us grow taller, tall enough to walk down that street without parental supervision. Then summer jobs at bagel shops and bakeries called some away, or the boat would beckon others to the open sea. Maybe it was just one or two of us walking down for a quick swim or quiet afternoon read. But for all that time, Bill was still there, waving, saying hi. From the perspective of his front porch, he watched a family grow and then become a collection of individuals, exploring new opportunities and venturing out, but not too far away to still occasionally make it home to that beach.

And then one summer, Bill wasn’t there anymore. And how I wished he was. I wanted him to joke about the ocean water one more time.

And now when I visit home and make that walk as soon as I can, I don’t do it without wishing Bill is on his porch, smiling, waving.

This was a Cape Cod summer, and today I miss everything about it.

Snow Sound.

The absence of life noise is its own sound, heard best underneath falling snow. The twilight stars wink as the sky sprinkles me and my home with the frozen flakes. I hear the silence and think of nothing but what I see, the frosted ground, dusted trees and the Christmas lights covered now in drops of water, shining and glowing. I’m warm in my coat, cold on my face and happy in my head and heart.

Leah.

Once upon a time my sister Leah got married. I was really nervous about having to remember the specific times I was supposed to arrange her train, fluff out her dress, hold the flowers and hand over the ring, while also simultaneously worrying about the possibility of evil black mascara streaks on my face from crying as I watched my dad walk her down the aisle.

In hindsight, it wasn’t that bad.

Except for one thing: I didn’t give a toast to her at the reception. A basic responsibility, am I right? Well, it was one basic, obvious, standard Maid of Honor duty I completely shirked, and to this day, I regret that. (I don’t even have a good reason either.)

Well, today’s her birthday. Here’s the speech I should’ve given 6 years and 4 months ago. Except now I have the benefit of a little more perspective, more time and room and the existence of a personal blog where I can write such things. So here goes: The Birth-Wed-day-ing Toast.

(Clink. Clink. Throat clear.)

“Leah:

I could recount the time(s) you hogged the sheets when we shared a hotel bed and all I had to keep me warm was the laundry instructions tag. Or the time I hyperextended my knee at the Big E and you laughed at me. There was the time (or times…who am I kidding?) we played school and you were the teacher and I was the rambunctious student. Or we played the The Ten Commandments and you were the Nile princess and I was the slave (Notice a trend?). Flavorice, tang-gee and “Oona-kasoona-katoona.” Better Cheddars. Air conducting that song from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

While the memories are great and (mostly) funny, I don’t think they define you. While children, siblings bicker and play together and act silly while not completely aware of the aspects that make each kid an individual. However, that’s the great thing about family members. We all grow up in this front row seat watching each other become who we were created to be, and with maturity we can recognize and appreciate each other’s qualities. So here goes:

1. You are your family’s and friends’ biggest fan. When something good happens to us, you take a no-holds-barred approach in expressing your excitement (KSJFHLKSFDHGFDLKJHG!!!!!!!!!!). When something bad happens, you ask what you can do, how you can help, if we’d like something to eat; you pick up the phone, send a message or get on an airplane. I appreciate your genuineness.

2. In regards to the eating…I love how baking is one of your tangible expressions of love. How you grant my requests for those Italian almond cookies that I’m not supposed to eat or that rich chocolate cake that’s to die for. I know the heart behind these delicious treats, and how they play a dual role of both tasting good and making people feel good, and that’s why they mean a lot to me. Similarly, I like how you make things look pretty in your home for the benefit and welcoming of others. The time you spend speaks of your hospitality and wish for people to enjoy themselves and leave your house encouraged. It works, by the way.

3. I’m glad that we have cooperative senses of humor, that your outlook on life things is straight up, that you say outlandish things that make me gasp and then crack up, that you snicker when you laugh, that you say, “LOLZZZ!!!” a lot and that you make me feel like a comedian.

4. Hindsight is 20/20, which is why I can say this now as opposed to 6 years ago: You are a great mother. You genuinely enjoy the company of your daughter, spend time with her and always speak well of her. I especially love how you love the little things, the crunchy diapers, the mini bite marks in her food, the silly little words, the play time. You’re like a big kid yourself a lot of the time, but PLEASE don’t change that about yourself.

5. We were supposed to be asleep that one December night, but instead you told me about Jesus, the Greatest of All Loves, and then you helped me pray. Because you loved me so much, that you wanted me to know too.

I love you, Leah, and I’m so thankful we are sisters and friends.”