Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reality Knocks...Are You There, Janeen?

This week has been a hurricane of back-to-school madness, soccer practices that we never seemed to make, re-convening the carpool and refereeing from the front seat, negotiating and nearly snapping over two ungodly early wake-ups (a la Ben, of course), ending with two meltdowns at the pool, a heel split open (Ben's, of course), a missed opening day of soccer due to the heel, an ear-full from the ex and one major puke from the dog.

On Saturday night, I pulled out the Legos, fired up my best calming Napster playlist, grilled some chicken and lit a candle. Ben and I assembled Legos, we played three rounds of a game, I served up dinner and everything seemed to come into balance, at last.

And then I caught Ben slipping the dog chunks of his chicken ("Because it's not nuggets and it tastes like slime!")

And then the dog began to hack.

And then I said, "Quick, get her outside before she throws up again!"

And then the dog started to puke.

And Ben said, "No, keep her in! I want to watch! I don't want to miss this!"

And then, after the dog reconciled her stomach issues and the world settled down again and Ben ate the rest of his "slime" chicken, he somehow convinced me to have a sleepover.

The sleepover that consists of him.

And me.

And endless games of 'rock, paper, scissors' and a claw that got interjected into the framework of the game and wound up Ben to no end.

Was I really in Malibu at this time last week? Staring at a moonlit ocean, surrounded by beautiful people, with a strong cocktail in my hand?

Last Saturday night, it was a super comfy Marriott bed and black-out shades.

Tonight: ear plugs and Ambien.

And please God, no more dog puke.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Pact

Summer of 2010, thank you for kicking my ass. Now go away and let me properly compose myself before I go and turn 40.

It's time to re-group, take stock, do some laundry, walk the dog, color my hair, pay the Visa bill, read a book and set some good pre-40 resolutions.

Enter The Pact.

I'm always so inspired by my friend, Michelle, who is a sage in my eyes and quite possibly the most God-like creature on this earth, that I've decided to borrow some of her ideas. You all have heard me rave about Michelle; here she is in "real" (or virtual?) life:

I am going to spend less time blogging for awhile and more time actually writing about things that really matter to the rest of the world. Or at least the things that I think should matter, like good nutrition and health.

My beloved and wise friend, Michelle, has dropped the word, "busy," as in: "I'm sooooo busy and that's why I have seen/talked/emailed in ages." I'm doing the same. So, from here on out, consider me not busy. In fact, I might be so not busy that I could be bored. Which just might be a good thing.

I'm also abandoning my own personal favorite daily mantra: "I'm SO tired" just to see if maybe I don't say it out loud, if perhaps I might just feel a bit more rested.

Also, Michelle has a good point in that the word "like" is totally misused. Like, I totally agree.
Right. What am I? 14? Unless I like something, I'm not using that word. "Totally" is just going to have to go away, too. Like right now. Can I still say that? Totally. Last time; that's it. Gone also is "stoked." I was re-introduced to that word earlier this summer and I'm done with it. What happened to just plain "excited?"

Along with not saying things, Michelle has taken a vow not to talk about other people. As in not to GOSSIP about them. As someone who enjoys spreading a good story, I've noticed that recently, being the victim of inappropriate gossip (isn't all gossip inappropriate?) is no bueno. It hurts, it's shallow, there's no reason for it. So it might be a little quiet around my house and quieter still on the phone line. I'm again following Michelle's lead on this one.

Along with my great pact, I promise to post pictures from Lego Land and the wedding (not mine, did you skip a few blog posts???). I vow to write one more entry about my lovely and amazing sister (because she is so worthy and she needs to hear what I'm going to tell her).

Lastly, I need to write up my birthday list in a post (as in what I think I need to properly turn 40, aside from good eye cream and a smaller butt) so that the Universe can properly deliver all my requests on time (I'm calling on the Universe in this instance because there's no way that God will grant even half the list!).

And last, last, last...I absolutely will try my hardest to not talk about Florida anymore or any of its after effects. There, I said it. That's my own closure on the topic.

Please don't challenge me to give up coffee, or vodka, sleeping pills or false eyelashes. I really don't want to give up carbs again either because I'm rather enjoying my brown rice and my oatmeal.

Fair enough?

Good. Pact on!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Where To Go From Here? Malibu, Of Course.

Ben and I arrived home yesterday with a trunk full of sand and the shortest of tempers. I blazed through my afternoon - unpacking, starting laundry, sorting mail and calling clients. I finally took a few moments to get into bed with him and talk about our trip. He was too tired to talk. So was I.

This morning found me with back-to-back clients and a general feeling of being completely overwhelmed.

I'm compressing my clients into four work days so that I can leave again this weekend. More on that later.

Mostly, I'm feeling overwhelmed because I'm emotionally tired.

I haven't quite sifted through my thoughts on Chris yet and am trying to muster up the courage to write the final chapter on Florida. Which basically goes something like this: "You're there, I'm here. It doesn't seem like we want the same things. Call me if you wind up on the West Coast."

That should be easy enough to compose, right?

Then, there are my regrets over this recent vacation with Ben. Did I ever have a relaxing moment with him? Was I so dialed up that I sabotaged my own happiness on the trip? Could he sense that?

My only take-aways from our road trip are: Six-year-olds are, by and large, too young for long road trips. Six-year-olds like long stints on sandy beaches and they only need a bucket and one or two shovels to be completely happy. Southern California sucks. Who can relax with all that damn traffic?

And my take-away on Chris is that it's probably not going to work out. At least not in any way that I would like.

To add another layer to the complications of my already delicate emotional state, my mom signed me up for eharmony. Actually, she didn't sign me up but she did pay for it, in hopes that I can actually revive my dating life and meet some quality guys. Who live here.

So now I have all this eharmony distraction. If you know anything about eharmony, you're aware of the "Guided Communication" process which is a really lengthy way of getting to the stage of "Open Communication," where actual email messages can be traded. The whole thing makes me tired.

I finished my work day today in a bit of a daze. I ran through Target. I ran through Trader Joe's. I returned a Redbox movie. I thought about going to the bank and decided that it was too much output.

I let myself miss Ben for a bit. The laundry sat, unfolded. I allowed myself to feel a little displaced.

Then, I let go of all of that nonsense and thought about what's happening on Friday.

My best friend and I are getting on an airplane, bound for LA. That's already a good sign, right? No driving!

We're picking up a car and headed to South Pasadena to a super, super, super cool reception dinner for my super, super, super long-time friend's daughter's (did you catch all that?) pre-wedding dinner. Our hotel is in stumbling distance of the super, super, super cool champagne bar.

The next day, we are checking into the Renaissance in Agoura where we will catch a shuttle to the wedding site, which is in Malibu. And when I say "in Malibu," I mean directly on the PCH at a private residence, with tons of ocean and, I'm told, the best food possible.

The shuttle will take us back, so again, I'm super, super, super thrilled about no LA driving! But the highlights will be seeing my old friend's daughter get married (finally, after 10 long years!) and facilitating (in part) my best friend's escape from her children, who have never been apart from their mother (not one single night, except when she was giving birth to each of the others!).

Oh, and I'm super, super, super excited about seeing my old friend! I haven't seen her in over two years.

By the time I get home, it will be time to kick into 1st grade mode, drive to soccer practices, re-organize my work schedule to allow for back and forth driving to school and stock up on ham, cheese, white bread and juice boxes. Oh, and I have to turn 40 eventually, too.

But for now, there's Malibu!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Road Trips: Overrated.

We're on the home stretch and we're about to kill each other.

The day started with very little sleep (thanks to Ben being a complete maniac last night for no good reason).

I packed up the bedroom, the kitchen, the freshly folded laundry, the towels, the beach toys, the electronics, the legos, the books. I packed it all down the stairs, across the courtyard and into the car. Ben watched me from the stairs and yelled frantically, "MOMMY! WHERE ARE YOU? I CAN'T SEE YOU!" This went on for about eighteen rounds of up the stairs, gather a load, go down the stairs, hear Ben's shriek, tell him to shut up - for the love of God - most of North County is still sleeping! I didn't exactly use those words.

Then I packed the vodka bottle in the back corner of the ice chest. What was I thinking?

We finally loaded up and landed in Laguna where I drove through to see if the best restaurant in the world from the worst date of all time still existed (it does). We made a brief stop at the 24 Hour Fitness in Laguna Niguel where I logged the shortest workout in history. The sea of tanned, augmented bodies was a bit much, even for me!

On to Laguna. Guess everyone else in LA planned on coming to Laguna today too because there were cars and people everywhere. We finally found parking and the meter took credit cards! How cool is that? I gave Ben 90 minutes.

Although I should have given him 60 minutes because then we would have missed the tidal wave that took out my entire set up of magazines, towels, misc beach toys, camera, purse (and contents), and cell phone. As I was thinking of wrapping up Ben's sand transport mission, I heard a shriek next to me and looked up from behind the camera - where I was snapping candids of Ben - to notice that I was utterly enveloped by water. And so were all my belongings. Right now, I have a purse full of sand, a sticky Blackberry that has keys that are not working so well, and two soaked beach towels.

On the long drive to Bakersfield where we encountered traffic in every single city you can mention along the I-5 corridor, Ben went on a mission to find MORE sand and announced several sources that I really didn't need to know about. Back to the traffic: what should have taken maybe four hours, took six.

I was so hashed when the sign "Welcome to Bakersfield" popped into my vision.

My visions of a leisurely swim and a nice dinner out were gone. It was already 6pm and Ben was begging for McDonald's. So he had his nuggets, I had ice cream and we found our hotel.

I don't think I should be this tired at the end of the vacation. This is not a good sign.

After an hour of swimming, we needed more sustenance. Thank God the good people at the Sheraton sell Zone bars at the front desk.

I just found out that the car has to be returned by 1pm so we are going to be beating feet tomorrow with minimal bathroom stops.

I say we wait a few years before trying the long road trip again. I'm thinking that an airplane, a quiet place free of amusement parks and a much, much slower pace is the way to go!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

God Said "You"...

...and then he pointed right to me.

That's how I feel about parenting Ben right now.

This has been brewing for awhile. I'm out of my element with Ben. He confuses me, he frustrates me, he makes my head ache.

I'm all for honesty. This is just how it is right now.

Actually, it's been this way since he turned one. I remember the early months of parenthood being remarkably - and surprisingly - easy. Even though my ex wasn't around much, I embraced the process of being Ben's primary caretaker and I became really, really good at it.

And then the years slid by and my confidence began to falter.

I told my sister today: "I don't know what I'm doing half the time. There's no one to bounce things off of; no one to tell me that I should have done this, could have done that."

And of course these issues become terribly underscored when you are on vacation. Alone. 400 miles from home. With a long agenda of things to do and short nights of sleep.

I was never under the illusion that Ben was (is) an easy child. At three, his pediatrician had him tested for autism. The psychologists concurred: no autism, but a highly sensitive and remarkably bright child.

During Ben's preschool years, it was rare that I could leave the school. For two years, we practiced effective separation tactics. I sat in the parking lot. His teacher gave me the thumbs-up through the window to leave. But not in my car. Oh no. I could only go for a walk. With my cell phone in hand. In case he melted. Which he did. Often.

My girlfriends dropped their preschoolers off for school and then met each other for coffee. That was so out of my element. Ben has always kept me on the shortest of leashes.

Then on to two years of Kindergarten. Issues with anxiety. More sensitivity. Suggestions from the teachers to keep things as routine as possible; to promote predictability at home. We did the two year plan for Kindergarten. It was the only possible choice.

Now I am dealing with the fact that Ben can tell time and will not leave the house (or the vacation rental) without his beloved watch. He can tell time to the minute, which is great, and he can also tell you when you are a minute late from coming out of the restroom, which is not great. He can time the trip - mile by mile - and he's a ticking bomb when traffic on I-5 in San Diego comes to a screeching halt and any idea of being anywhere at any time is out the window.

Tonight, when we finally arrived back at our rental condo, he yelled to me no less than forty times: "Mommmy! Where are you?"

We are not staying in a mansion. It's a small one bedroom condo. I could only be in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the bedroom or on the porch. But still, the panic: "MOMMY!"

Then when he does find me, it's usually with the force of physical exertion. A body slam, a punch to the arm, a death grip on my ankle to get me to fall.

I don't know why Ben pushes me as hard as he does. In the past, he knew that he could. But I've made it pretty clear in the last few months, that those days are long gone. We've introduced "consequences" and he has a firm grasp on the "bad choices" program (especially when the DS is involved).

While we were at the museum today, he again pushed. I got down on my knees, grabbed his face and said, "I just spent $40 for you to come here! Get ride of that attitude or the vacation is over." I meant it. He was being that difficult.

There were a million other six-year-olds running around the museum, captivated with the science exhibits, and mine was having his own personal soap opera - with pouting, sniveling and a complete sense of entitlement. My blood pressure was high. My patience was at an all time low. I swatted him - hard - in the back of the head as the uber-liberal San Diego moms looked on in surprise (disgust?).

My sister suggested that I go to the cafe and have a cup of coffee.

While I totally appreciated her offer, I also felt like I was once again failing at whatever it takes to be Ben's caretaker. I did get the cup of coffee. I came back. My sister had him engaged in an exhibit involving a spinning wheel and disks. We saw the new IMAX film. The day was salvaged.

Then, the death march up I-5 and the battle to get him into his pajamas. He snapped his t-shirt at me - hard - and I grabbed him and hit him as hard as I could. Knee-jerk reaction, I know. But still. He physically hurt me and my instinct was to hurt him back. Which I did. He talked about it today. We both talked about it. I doubt he'll do it again. I feel horrible, yet I don't regret doing it.

The fact of the matter is that I have to parent Ben alone for now. I don't have the benefit of having input, suggestions, validation. I also know that this is what I was meant to do. At this point in my life, I'm not supposed to be a stellar wife, I'm not intended to have a killer career. God picked me for this child and I have to rise up to the challenge. And he is a wicked challenge.

But today, we went to the beach. He skipped rocks in the tide for hours. He delighted in my reaction. We collected shells. And ate frozen yogurt. He sat through an entire Pilates class, while I participated. We watched two movies. I packed up our things for the next leg of our journey. We played a Lego pirate game. He didn't snap me with his t-shirt. He willingly allowed me to brush his teeth. I drank my Grey Goose. He ate all his carrots. I didn't yell. Not once. I can't begin to articulate how peaceful it was. Today, I realized how much I appreciate days like these.

So I was given a difficult child. So I'm a single mom. So vacations might feel like a death march, on some days. So this might be my most challenging task in life. So I may likely pray the same prayer every night: "God, grant me the wisdom to do this right."

So, yes. Always with eyes wide open - looking square at the face of reality - I know this all to be true.

But it still doesn't make it any less hard.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Way Vacations Are Meant To Be

I was having some serious misgivings on Monday. About this whole solo vacation thing. I don't know how the ex totes the child to Italy and around the world. Three days in So Cal and I was feeling all my pre-botoxed lines begin to deepen considerably. And that is not good.

On Monday, I was exhausted. Grainy-eyed. Short. Irritable. Wanting to put a big piece of packing tape over Ben's ever moving mouth for just a few short moments.

Enter Aunt Alisa on Monday night.

Ahhh. Bliss.

Alisa jumped in the backseat with Ben and had him laughing hysterically on the 40 minute drive to Carslbad. She bought me a beer and she cut up his pizza.

At 5am, she took him into her bed with her. And they both snuggled up and slept until 9am! 9AM!!! Ben never sleeps past 6am. I hid in the bedroom and prayed silent prayers of gratitude (whilst surfing the internet!).

I went to the gym and left the two of them with a Lego set. When I came back, they were ready to go to LegoLand on their own which was truly a beautiful thing because I have done my time at LegoLand over the last two days and I was ready for a break from the crowds and all those damn Legos.

Off they went and I went off to the local boutique where the lovely 20-somethings outfitted me for next weekend's wedding festivities in Southern California. I grabbed a coffee, a frozen yogurt and enjoyed the quiet solitude of the warm sun and the quiet moments.

Alisa and Ben returned at dinner time with a new Lego set. We all ate dinner together, then I modeled some of my new "So Cal clothes" while they assembled the Lego set. Then, they hit the yogurt shop and I hit the local bar (yes, in my new super short romper that was waaayyyyy out of my comfort zone but so is getting a drink by myself!).

We all came home at the same time, with promises of Ben getting to sleep with Aunt Alisa in the middle of the night and something was mentioned about the two of them stealing away to the new water park. Which most certainly does not mean that I will spend more money at the local boutique. But it may mean that I'll drink many more coffees and ingest more frozen yogurt than I should!

I love my vacation.

Oh, and my mom also called and said, "Stay an extra night. I don't want you driving 10 hours home. I'll pay for it."

I'm thinkin' Harris Ranch. In the spirit of an adventurous vacation...

In the meantime, I have such respect for my sister! How did she captivate Ben so quickly? Her love for him is undeniable but his love for her is so transparent. I love it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

This Is Why We Fly

We are on Day 1 of our Southern California road trip. About two hours in, I decided that we are not going to be a road trip kinda family. Here are just a few reasons why:

Ben made it to Stockton until he decided that he had to go to the bathroom. "Now, now, now!" he yelled from the backseat. Matters escalated when he urgently cried, "I'm gonna pee my pants!" How does this happen without warning? Where does one find a safe and clean restroom in downtown Stockton? How far could I push him? Apparently, not far because then I heard this:

"My pants are wet!"

Did I mention that we were only in Stockton?

After a lengthy conversation about bodily signals and cues (which I thought we had mastered a couple of years ago), we were back on our way.

With Mario on board, of course. Ben became so animated in the game that he began kicking my seat. How annoying is that? Verrrryyyyyy. He could do that on an airplane just as easily and someone else could suffer while I pretend not to notice behind my Us Magazine. I'm just sayin'.

We made it to Coalinga and stopped in to McDonald's before lunch. Wanna silence the lunch crowd in central California on remote I-5 during the Saturday mid-day rush? Just walk in carrying your own cooler with spinach salad and grilled chicken. That outta do the trick.

What also silenced me was the line for the women's restroom. It easily wrapped around the building three times. In an effort to be efficient, I attempted to deploy the divide and conquer approach, which was more like the divide and panic approach and I will probably never hear the end of "when my Mom almost left me at some hot, dusty Mcdonald's."

Back in the car, I silenced Mario in favor of a Hot Wheels movie on the portable DVD. Not sure which was worse because Ben mastered the volume dial quite proficiently.

At some point, the battery died on the DVD player. It's old. What can I say? Not much except for, "no, we are not there yet." Ben commenced whining for a good fifteen minutes straight and I handed him a full, unopened bag of Cheetos (organic, of course) which otherwise occupied his mouth for a whole twenty minutes. At which point I realized that the bag was nearly empty. Oops. Clutching his belly, he began a new whine/mantra, "Ohhhh, my stomach hurts so bad!"

Another talk ensued about bodily cues. Functions too, because we AGAIN had to stop and deal with divide and conquer or divide and panic on the restroom front. I-5 needs more toilets. Clearly.

At the base of the grapevine, I relinquished Mario. Mario was with us for mere minutes when Ben let out a blood curdling scream and dissolved into tears. "ARE YOU HURT?" I asked. "BLEEDING?" "Nooooo," he wailed. "I lost my level." "You also just lost your Nintendo," I snapped and plucked it straight out of his hand, while careening into the next lane. "You are so done with this," and I waved the Nintendo wildly before hurling it into the opposite side of the backseat. He's damn lucky that I didn't chuck it out the window.

Oh yeah. Road trips are good times.

Things calmed down enough to have yet another long conversation about gaming and addictions and obsessive compulsive behavior.

Mid-way into the grapevine, we hit big-time traffic which pretty much put us at a stand-still next to Magic Mountain and kicked off another whine fest, entitled: "Why Aren't We Stopping There???"

Fortunately, I shut down that situation super quick by saying, "Do you see any kiddie rides or boat rides?" Ben doesn't partake in anything that moves more quickly than a kayak. A slow moving kayak on a placid lake.

We crawled into the LA basin.

At one point Ben asked me, "Why didn't we fly?" He then punctuated the issue by saying, "Daddy and I would have flown."

I replied: "C'mon, Ben. Let's think about this. Italy with Daddy or Legoland with Mommy?"

No brainer. Point taken.

Eight hours later we "I spied" the Embassy Suites, our home for the evening.

The Embassy Suites at LAX was, according to Ben, "the best hotel in the world!" He was enchanted with the lobby atrium, he swam a good, long time in the indoor pool and declared the hotel restaurant's nuggets: "amazing!"

He then proceeded to kick me all night long, causing me to wonder why in the world I got a suite when he would totally insist on being sharing my otherwise very comfy king-sized bed.

Now, we're about to get back on the road for the final sprint - or two hour haul - to Lego Land.

As I negotiated a hairpin turn out of the ridiculously engineered hotel garage structure and I told Ben for the tenth time to "please turn the voice off while Mommy gets us out of the clutches of garage structure heinous-ness, Ben piped in with one last suggestion:

"Let's park the rental car in San Diego and fly home."

He is most certainly my child.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lessons From The Gulf

I'm home from Florida. At least I'm home physically, although I think that my spirit and my heart are still adrift somewhere in mid-air between Tampa and Houston, or perhaps, they are lolling about in the Gulf of Mexico.

I'm home for a mere two days and then Ben and I will jump into the car and trek to LegoLand/San Diego for eight days.

I should have been home a couple of days earlier but a drunken conversation, followed by a drunken phone call to Expedia resulted in an extra day and a half on the Gulf Coast.

Lesson number one: I probably should have had that conversation, the one about changing the ticket, before my date and I uncorked the second bottle of wine. Before we went to a DIY wine tasting bar that operated like a DIY frozen yogurt shop, minus the yogurt. Before we hit a great restaurant for more wine and then a fun dance club for vodka concoctions.

Maybe I would have given some thought to the masses of piles of laundry that awaited me or the long list of "To Dos" that come with any and every trip involving one single parent and one six-year-old.

Perhaps my date would have had an easier week planned, one that didn't involve seminars, and graduations, and family, and parties.


I'll blame it on the Gulf.

The Gulf had me on Day One of my trip. Actually, it was the first night of my visit that the warm water enfolded me, made me buoyant, caused me to wonder why the ocean water in Maui was never this warm?

I made my way back to the Gulf each day, either in a kayak, or on a boat, or just simply laying on my back with my ears under the water, reveling in the blessed silence that lulled my body and my spirit into a dreamy existence. An existence where I did not once hear any words that had to do with Mario or horrible grilled chicken or dreaded day camp. Blissful, it was.

Can you see why I didn't want to come home?

Then, there was my friend. The one I went to see. The friend I knew so little about yet wanted to know so much more of. The friend who captivated me on a warm, Sacramento night. A chance encounter. So many words. So little time. That was nearly two months ago.

When I arrived, I felt the same gravitational pull to him. After leaving the airport, we left reality. We went straight into our own world of delicious wine, amazing food, languid afternoons by the pool, sun-on-our-backs kayaking. I escaped to bikinis (one for each day), little sundresses, glittery make-up, scented lotions, curly hair held back by the tiniest of headbands, floppy sunhats.

He held my hand constantly. I don't think I stopped smiling. Minutes blurred into hours, days slipped by. I think I was sleepy but I know I was too happy to care.

Nights were late with local bands. I told the lead singer of one band to take off her sunglasses and show her gorgeous face. We were both thrilled when she did.

We danced. We shared food. We sat on the veranda and ate the biggest Gulf shrimp I've ever had in my life.

And then it was time to come home to reality. But the logistics were scattered and I found myself with an extra day to soak up the Florida sun. I made my way to the Gulf. I sat in the shallow, warm water and covered my legs with sand. Then my arms. I laid on my stomach where my warm, salty tears met the warm, salty Gulf waters.

I called my sister. I called my friend, Ruth. I called on my internal strength to help me walk away from the Gulf. To help me fly away from this friend who I had grown, over just a few short days, to care deeply for.

My friend is carrying on this week - seemingly, business as usual - to graduate from his PhD program. His family arrives in town today. He'll be "capped" by his professor on Saturday with a commencement ceremony and then he will celebrate at a beach house with all of his family and his friends. They'll be together all weekend and they'll be with him next week when he turns 41.

I started to cry before I even left the Gulf. I cried in the Tampa airport. I cried on the plane. I cried in Houston. And I cried the hardest when I slipped into the passenger side of my mom's awaiting car in Sacramento.

I'm responsible for this lesson and I've told myself that all along. "You might come home in tears, Janeen." I had this conversation dozens of times with my friends before going. "No expectations, just fun."

But the fact remains that I'm horrible at compartmentalizing. If I care about you, then I want you to know it. I not only want you to know it, I want you to feel it. I want you to swim in that assurance and let it consume you, just like the warm, clear waters of the Gulf can do.

As for the future with my friend, my guess is as good - or as bad - as anyone else's

I asked the dreaded question before I left: "Do you think we'll see one another again?"

Even having to ask the question gave me a general sense of what the answer could be.

But it wasn't that clear, not clear at all.

I will say that no one pulled out their calendars to search for an opportunity to come together again. No one said, "Call me later." Maybe one of us said something about texting, or email but I'm not clear.

What I am clear on is how easily I can let myself escape and how seductive it is for me to momentarily forget my responsibilities, my day-to-day routine, my sense of who I am as a single mom to a lovely child in Sacramento, California.

And then when I "re-enter" and it all comes back, I'm keenly aware of how much I want this person - maybe not my Florida friend - but the man who pulls me close and says, "I don't want you to go, I want you to stay with me forever and we'll do whatever it takes to make it work and you're so worth it and I want to know you as a mom, as a friend, as a daughter, as the divine spirit that God put on this earth to reign down your compassion and your grace and I want to swim in that amazing, warm and deep ocean of love that flows through all the layers of your being."

Do I want too much?

It doesn't have to be my Florida friend. But I'm ready for it to be somebody.

My "somebody" for now is re-entering his own little world, fresh off a trip with his dad. He'll spend a night at home with me before we pack the car and make the journey to his own personal happiest place on earth: LegoLand.

I've added a fun side-trip to the itinerary with a stop-over at the Embassy Suites in Los Angeles for some late afternoon swimming. I already know that he'll love having dinner in the lush and tropical atrium and that I'll be ready for a cocktail before we pounce on the OC in the early AM.

He has one more surprise in the wings. His Aunt Alisa is going to fly down for a couple of days. I eluded to that fact on the phone last night and he shrieked with excitement. Bless Aunt Alisa. She knows how hard it is for me to manage Ben for days on end in an environment that is ever-changing; one that is hugely demanding for one adult to handle.

As I un-packed and re-packed for this next trip, I had to stop and laugh at how the contents had shifted. Gone were the cute Victoria Secret bikinis; instead I'm taking one Target swim suit. But it's likely that I won't need it, because unlike the 90 degree Florida heat, San Diego is weather is going to be downright chilly. Sundresses, sandals and board shorts were cast aside for khakis, jeans and not-so-cute walking shoes.

Sometimes, the best thing I can possibly do is gaze at my life with wonder. My sun-drenched Florida week, filled with anticipation, nervous energy, the cutest of things to take; to be followed with a road trip adventure with my small son, involving nine hours of drive time (at least) and mandates of "If you're good, you get to decide what we do EVERY SINGLE DAY and if you're bad, we're going to the MALL instead of Lego Land!"

Back to back.

July to August.

Extreme to extreme.

Being taken care of to being the caretaker.

Vodka to coffee.

Laughter to tears.

Tears to laughter.

Prawns to nuggets.

Backless to jackets.

Gulf to Pacific.

Single "cute" mom to single mom with a million things to juggle and "don't you dare do that one more time or so help me, that Nintendo player is going straight out the window!"

Lessons to blessings.

Lust to love.

Fantasy to reality.

Appreciation for living in two worlds for now. Two worlds that afford me two different perspectives and sometimes, two very different identities.

It's time to go being my favorite character: Ben's mom.

Au revoir, Gulf of Mexico. Until next time...