Robert Zuckerman 1947- 2014

It’s been ten months since my dad passed away suddenly of a stroke and there hasn’t been a day since that he hasn’t been present in my life. I didn’t realize how much I would miss him until he was gone. I didn’t realize how close we were until he was gone. I know I’m not the first person to lose a parent, but in his absence, I have an obligation to keep his memory alive. And it’s an easy task because he was a memorable man.

Today, I got a little package from someone from our past that told me how important my family was to him during the time he lived with us at The Blackberry River Inn. In reminiscing with his own family, he found out my Dad had passed and was sending a note of condolences and remembrance. He described dad perfectly as:

“…a courageous and creative man. He was strangely pragmatic even in his impracticalities.”

Although my dad’s life was cut short and extremely suddenly by a stroke at age 67, it’s amazing to remember what a full, exciting and interesting life he lived. I like to think that I inherited some of his eccentricities and creativity, but also some of his valor and compassion. Our family was not perfect and I am sure there were many that turned their noise at my parents untraditional family life; heck, I even did here and there. However, it shaped me into who I am today.

There were always people coming through our lives and my dad made friends with just about everyone. Whether it was a lost soul needing a few bucks for food or an wayfaring artist looking for a place to gather his thoughts for a while, my family always had space. Literally, we had plenty of space and we could always use another set of hands, whether at Pinecrest Country Club or later on at The Blackberry River Inn.

But, you didn’t just wind up with the Zuckermans for a job, it was always more. Someone at dad’s memorial told the story that when you graduated, my dad didn’t give you a raise, you got a demotion because it was time to get a ‘real’ job. My dad wanted everyone to be their best, reach their goals, pursue their passions. He saw the good in everyone even if they didn’t see it in themself … yet.

The stories of my parents encouragement and support during those weird awkward years of a young person’s life come up often and every time I get to connect with one of those grown people (usually just a bit older than myself), I know my father would be smiling down, proud to have helped grace someone’s life in a positive way. He would also be happy to know that my network is always growing with good people that he included in our lives.

If you were graced by Bob Zuckerman, you were probably graced with positive vibes and destined for good things. And if you are googling Robert Zuckerman and found me, I probably want to know you. Thanks for being part of the Zuckerman extended family. And thanks Dad for always living with a “this is the life” attitude.

 

robert zuckerman obituary

My First Knitting Project

On our 1st vacation together to New Zealand, I told Ethan I would knit him a hat. At the time, we lived in a tropical climate and continued to live in warm weather for another 10 years. When we finally moved to a cold climate and my mom passed me back my wool (and her wool), I started knitting again.

Ten yrs later, here it is, my first knitting project into 10 years – complete with a Taj inside.

I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of a ten -year-in-the-making hat. Ethan is the force in my life that makes me complete projects and get things done. Thanks honey! Hopefully the next project won’t take this long 🙂

Watched a House Burn to the Ground

It was a planned burn. This vacant house across the street from our favorite playground was up in flames just as I was on my way to pick Taj up at school. So, as a fun faalavelave (Samoan word for break from the ordinary routine), we stopped to watch the house burn with a crowd of other people.

The coolest part was the fire chief came over and let the kids ask questions. Taj was right there asking about how they protected the trees and why they were doing it. They did 8 practice drills with area fire fighters that day and we were watching them finally let it burn to the ground.

Taj has officially declared his latest grownup profession – firefighter.

 

The Endless Summer: Taj’s Ninja Turtle Themed 5th Birthday Pig Roast

We like to party. We also don’t like ordinary, so when Ethan said he wanted to roast a pig before the winter, we decided to combine his pig roast with Taj’s 5th birthday. We also wanted to get to know some neighbors and invite them, so we did.

Last weekend was 70, unfortunately it was 40 degrees the day of Taj’s party. We hosted the party in the barn. Ethan put the pig on by 8am as planned. By 11am, the bouncy house was up, the food was out and Taj was so happy to have all his friends over.

We asked that people bring canned goods instead of gifts and although I think Taj might have been too young to grasp this concept, our real goal was to let people know that they didn’t have to bring a gift to come. He got plenty of gifts and we’ll be dropping a good amount of canned goods to Green Harvest food pantry.

canned good birthday party drive

 

excited birthday boy with pinata

Taj was so excited for the pinata. Thanks to Reggie for making it go a little faster.

 

firepit and ethan's chairs

It was a chilly afternoon, but Ethan finished his adirondeck chairs last week, just in time for relaxing and warming up by the firepit.

In the barn, we had a few electric heaters going, some places for coloring, plenty of food and beverages.

 

foodtable

barn party

Ninja turtle birthday cupcakes. Meijers did most of the work, I admit 🙂

 

work buddies

Ethan and some friends from work.

While cleaning up the next morning, we found cups with ice still in them. We giggled about this and Ethan got picked on for over buying ice. I guess we still aren’t used to stateside cold parties.

 

leftovers

You know its a good party when stuff gets left behind. If you own any of these things, let us know and we’ll get them back to you.

Thanks everyone for coming! Taj had a great weekend.

 

 

 

 

Beware of the troll under the bridge and ghosts in the tree.

Halloween is my favorite time of year. From costumes to decorating the yard to Taj’s birthday, it is all one big whirl of fun.

We all know I miss living on an island, however I like to highlight the benefits of living in Suburbia and trick-or-treating and decorating your yard definitely ranks up there.

We are just starting to compile the decorations and this year, we added up lights on the tree and red lit graves. We also were in need of a bridge over the gut in our yard. When it rains, it gets a little muddy and we didn’t want trick-or-treaters to have to endure this. Besides our mailbox is over there. It became the troll bridge. Taj tells us they are make believe, but he does warn us that they live under there. Note the plastic bag ghosts in the tree.

homemade turtle shell costumehomemade Leo TMNT costume

This is the first year that Taj is totally ‘in’ to Halloween. He not only chose his costume, he got us to join along.

family ninja turtle costume

And the best part of Halloween is that it is Taj’s birthday next! It was a little more difficult to convince Taj to give up his candy for the pinata this year 🙂

 

40th Birthday Surprise Weekend to California

I’m overwhelmed and amazed at all the birthday wishes. As much as I’ve been steering clear of FB for a while, the birthday wishes are awesome.

My fabulous hubby surprised me with a trip to Cali for the weekend. Grandma Gayle came in for the weekend before heading to her highschool reunion in Virginia and we took our firest trip without Taj since well, since before he was born.

Taj even made a picture of us on the airplane to Cali in his birthday card.

#fortyandfabulous #bestbirthdayever

 

San Fran karaoke bar with island friends.

We got to spend some time with Rob and Tanya, then went to Napa and had brunch with Sam and Trint (fresh off the rock the week before) in Sonoma, then to San Fran with Kate and Russ and meeting Max and Dorie for dinner.

crucians in babylon

Brunch with Sam and Trint at Fremont Diner in Sonoma.

 

greetings from sonoma

 

cheese tasting with wine tasting

Tasting in Napa at Sterling Vineyards.

 

friends!

 

last boarding group on southwest flight

We had so much fun, we forgot to check in for our flight. And if you are flying Southwest, that means you get back of the plane and most likely not together.

 

 

Look who we found? #cruciansinbabylon

Nothing like a little one day trip to NYC and reconnecting with Jilly Bean! Hi Jill!

Also in New York, a stop to honor Dad’s favorite place, Papaya King:

papaya king nyc

 

Grand Central Station ceiling:

grand central station ceiling

 

nhm nyc

We wanted to go to the Museum of Natural History to see the big dinosaurs, however we were a bit hesitant on the price considering the size of our group and the other expenses already incurred on the NYC day already. However, anyone is welcome to go, you choose how much you want to donate for entry. The ticket later also confirmed this and thanked me for the $5pp donation that we made on behalf of each person in our group. Affordable and educational!

 

natural history museum nyc dinosaur

 

Summer Road Trip 2014

My dad died in February. And he’s been very present in my life, even more since. When we moved to Illinois, we planned to take a New England trip to see him and Josh in Brattleboro. We wanted to keep good on that plan, hoping that Josh might appreciate having us around a bit too.

My Connecticut cousins were by Leah, Josh and my side and honestly, I don’t know how we could have made it through that week without them. Part of coming back east on this pilgrimage in Dad’s honor included getting to know these cousins as adults and not in crisis mode. I really was looking forward to our families and children of the same age getting together.

This trip came at the end of a fantastic month long visit with Grandma Gayle. As we dropped her off at Chicago Midway for her 7:30am flight, we just kept driving east. Like forever east. Stopping for lunch in Amherst, OH for mediocre Mexican food but at least there was a parking lot for Taj to ride his bike around for a bit. We went looking for a playground, but no go.

Back on the road, we made it as far as State College, PA. We did a quick Priceline hotel deal and wound up back near I-80 at a below subpar hotel with a heavily chlorinated pool, thank god. We had promised Taj a pool when we finally stopped. It was his reward for managing 14 hours on the road. What a trooper.

Tappen Zeeeeee bridge, we’re almost there.

 

With only 5 hours left, we left PA, headed through New Jersey and over the Tappen Z bridge through New York and into Connecticut. First stop, pick up Josh! Stop two lunch at the new organic natural food store in Huntington Center.

We made a special effort to be sure to see Adam and Allyson and Pam and Taj’s identical twin 2nd cousin before they headed out on their summer vaca.

twincuz2 identical twins

They cooked an amazing steak dinner complete with cake for Josh’s 16th birthday (a week late, but hey we’re restaurant people, dates are flexible for holidays).

raibow cake by Pam

We headed to Norwalk to stay with Amy and Ronnie and Henry and Lilah. Very comfortable to we took a nice sleep and caught up after the long trip out. Amy and Ronnie are perfect hosts! Taj and Henry had fun together and fought just like they were brothers. Taj and Lilah had some nice time together too.

kitchen bubbler

dirtbike

lanternlighting

Amy and Ronnie hosted her summer Seafood Sunday at her house. It was great to get to know some of the Krom family better. Everyone brought a seafood dish and Amy supplied the lobsters.

seafood sunday

What a feast and then what better way to wrap the kid cousins cuddle up under blankets and watch Ice Age projected into the woods on a screen.

outdoor movie projection

We took the train to NYC with Josh and Taj. It was our intent to honor Dad with a Gray’s Papaya hotdog and drink. Jill met us in Grand Central Station and we took a moment to honor him so.

grand central station ceiling

Then a quick stop at FAO Schwartz and a walk through Central Park over to the Natural History Museum. We almost skipped the museum and it’s $22pp tickets, until we were told that that is just a suggested admission price. The museum docent (is the cashier a docent) was very kind and asked me what I’d like to pay? I paused counted our party at 5 including Taj and told her I’d like to pay $5pp and she ran my card and thanked me. I like this concept, I feel good about making a donation to the Museum and at the level I’m comfortable with.

natural history museum nyc dinosaur

We then headed home with one sleeping train Taj.

We dropped off Josh at his mom ‘s house, sad to go but with a newly found friendhip with a brother I’m so honored to be blessed with.

From there, Ethan did the math and decided we were to leave CT at 3;30 am to avoid NYC rushhour traffic. Bleck. We were out of NYC and stopped for breakfast during DC rush hour.

Auntie Leah! Dinner out with our Durham fam!

Leah and Casey were more than excited to see Tajimon, ok and us too. They made us so comfortable, took Taj for a ride on the four wheeler. They took us and Justin out to their favorite reastaurant, the Brazilian Steakhouse. Wow, I didn’t know it was humanly possible to eat that much meat! So yummy. It was nice to get to know Justin too. I hadn’t seen him in years and it great for he and Ethan to meet each other.

Off to Bishop, GA next for one night with Mark and Shannon and Macon before they head out to Indiana for a horse show. Taj always loves to see the horses and we were amazed at the new barn with all it’s cool features and functionality. Taj’s favorite thing was collecting chicken eggs.
Then to mom and Harrys. First stop Nonni’s for a swim in the pool.

Then sushi with the family at an awesome sushi place. Tito even has a roll named after her. That’s pretty cool.

And a Uhaul worth of stuff to drive home with. Mom and Harry purging equals ZDubs gaining new hand-me-down furniture. We got to see Crucian friends, Eileen and kids and Kelly. And Taj made great friends with the doggies.

crucian friends tajanddogs

It was a great trip!!! I wish it could last longer.

Thanks everyone for hosting us! It was a great trip.

 

Digital Adventures of an Uncommon Mama