Tiny Tim?

Mia and Noah at Universal Studios

For the last ten years or so, we’ve been blessed to be able to spend a couple of weeks in Cortez, Florida over Christmas. My brother Michael and I use to visit for a month every summer with our grandparents in Sarasota. The trips always feel very nostalgic. My uncle lives there, Mom flies down and we are able to eat, fish and make memories at the ‘Mullet House.’

Malia has always been a huge Harry Potter fan, so one year we promised to take her and Noah to Universal Studios. Joe and I prefer a quiet beach over tourist traps, so Noahs never really experienced anything like the Magic Kingdom!

We started at the entrance, and as any parent of a special needs child knows, you get a ‘cut to the front of the line’ pass. We had a plan of dividing our time between Noah’s two loves: Transformers and dinosaurs and Malia’s obsession.

It just so happened that Bumblebee was walking around patrolling the perimeter. He came up to Noah, who was blown away by seeing his seven foot tall hero in action. He was giddy when the Deceptacon arrived on the scene to do battle. Watching life through Noah’s eyes is always so refreshing. He gets swept up into the story and is absorbed in every detail. It’s contagious!

We witnessed parades, stegosaurus coming to life, Hogwart’s Castle and a dragon breathing real fire! When we stopped for lunch, Noah declared that he was too tired to walk anymore. Joe looked at me and shook his head. There was no way he was going to carry Noah on his shoulders on a sunny day in Florida. Joe sweats…a lot! Noah was pushing a hundred pounds…I couldn’t carry him! Malia, started to panic thinking that we would have to leave. Finally I decided I would go back to guest relations and ask for a wheelchair! Problem solved.

Noah was beyond content. He was able to see the park without exerting the least bit of effort. He had a drink, a snack, and his windbreaker covering his legs…life was good.

We watched men on stilts and followed the crowd to a alleyway. We came out on the streets of New York City? There was a huge crowd surrounding a waitress who was singing the blues. The crowd looked at poor Noah in his wheelchair and began to part so that he could see the stage. Joe and I sheepishly pushed his chariot wheelchair close to the action.

Mable, the waitress and Jazz the sax player were unbelievable. The crowd was clapping and singing along, it was a great break from Bumblebee and the rides.

No sooner did Mabel finish her song when a police car drove up Delancey Street. Out of the Bluesmobile came Jake and Elwood—wearing their trademark black suits, porkpie hats, and dark shades. Gimme Some Lovin started playing and the crowd went wild. The Blues Brothers started shimming around and everyone was dancing and twisting.

All of a sudden, Noah threw off the windbreaker from his legs, jumped down in front of the stage and started cutting loose. People began pointing, they whispered to one another. Everyone was looking from Noah’s dancing legs to us. Were they witnessing a miracle?

Just as I was about to grab Noah, Joe and the wheelchair…Jake jumped from the stage and started dancing with Malia and Noah. The crowd’s attention was on the stars, so Joe and I slinked to the back row.

From behind everyone we could still see a few people pointing to Noah and his very capable legs and pantomime pushing a wheelchair…

After the song, Noah pushed through the crowd, grabbed his drink from my hand and jumped back into his chariot and covered his legs.

We waved goodbye to ‘the boys’ and left the Big Apple. Noah wanted to visit the Transformers….again…

It’s funny, after almost a decade, the thing I remember most about our Universal trip is the street party with Jake, Elwood!

Word of the Year

New Years Eve Cortez, Florida

It’s the end of 2022, I’m hoping to finish softly. For the past decade or so I God has chosen a word of the year for me. Some years, the word comes fast and furious, I’m looking at you overcomer.

As I am debating on what word to choose, the phrase ‘Begin Again’ keeps coming to me. What am I beginning, again?

I know not to dig too hard or question too much. Things are always revealed in due time. As I was climbing into bed tonight, thinking about my word, I realized with a start, that my word last year was adventure! I even got a bracelet stamped with the word on it.

Adventure….Noahscaping Adventure! When I finally landed on the word NYE 2021, I was envisioning a year of shark fishing, ceynote exploring, manatee petting escapades. While that was a part of last year’s legacy, adventure has manifested itself in a much more personal way.

Without consciously thinking of my word of the year, I stepped out in faith and began writing about my perspective on life with Noah. Having three adult children, their story is just that, theirs. Opening up to strangers, family and friends, this guarded part of my heart, has been hard. Vulnerability has never been my strong suit. Essentially, I’m learning about myself through writing.

******

For years I taught Malia and her friends high school English. One year I was challenging them to choose a word to reflect their heart for the upcoming year. In the class I began showing them how powerful words were. I had them write on separate pieces of paper the name of their favorite food, show, friend and the name of their mother. We went through each category and as they revealed the answer to the question, I had them crunch the paper up and throw it into the fireplace.

Food: pizza, tacos, sushi…read and then torched. Shows: The Office, Adventure Time, Dr. Who, again burned. Then we read the names of our mother’s. When it came time to burn the papers, no one could do it. Why? Words are powerful.

Whether we like to believe it or not, our subconscious mind is the driver of our decision-making and action-taking.The brain is constantly looking to solve the problem, fill the void. So when we choose our word, or it is given to us in neon flashing lights, pay attention!! Commit to it.

Resolutions are great, but they are often confining, we set ourselves up to fail. A word of the year allows for fluidity.

If you are having trouble narrowing down your word, here are some ideas:

  • What could I use more of in my life?
  • What could I use less of in my life?
  • What characteristics would I like to have?
  • By the end of the day, I feel (fill in the blank).
  • How do I want to feel?

The most beautiful part of choosing a word is there is no mistake! Perhaps it will take you a whole year as it has taken me to discover the why behind the word. Keep pressing in, it will become apparent.

As we entered into the last week of 2022 my new word was already working it’s way into my vernacular. Sicknesses, hospitalizations, old traumas resurfacing, had left me feeling shaky and emotional. Each day mistakes were made, things were said…and through it all, begin again kept swirling around in my head.

Apologize, and begin again. Make the call, and begin again. Prepare the soup, and begin again. For a just (wo)man falls six but rises seven, Proverbs 24:16. The older I get, the more I realize that failing isn’t the problem, I’m going to fail. It’s the not trying.

It’s impossible to get through life without having your heart broken. Marriages end, friendship fade, we grow older and more feeble, kids grow up…and we begin again.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” If you read my post, The Wedding you know Abe and I have a life connection so anything he says I take as gospel truth.

May we be surprised by joy and steadied by peace. May we trust in the dark what we know to be true in the Light, and may we never stop watching for redemption. May we dare to laugh, long and loud. May we rest without prerequisites. May we learn to build altars in the ruins and may we always find a hand reaching out when all falls apart. -Kaitlyn Bouchillion

I’d love to know if you choose a word of the year. If so, what is it? Please share in the comments.

Baby Shark… do, do, do…

Assateague Island 2012

Floor 22 left all of us badly shaken. Yet the day was young, the weather balmy, and the beach was beckoning. We loaded everyone up and headed down to the private beach.

Malia our resident mayor went in search of seashells. On her expedition, she began a conversation with a diver. He started to explain all the intricacies of the sport. Next thing we knew, she was out with a mask and snorkel, finding beautiful sea treasures.

The gentleman gave Malia a bag to dive with, waved and set her loose!

Mom and I were taking shifts with Noah, shift taking still goes on to this day! I was ‘on duty’. All of a sudden, I heard commotion up the beach. People were scrambling out of the water and a black fin was swimming parallel to the shore!

I looked down the beach at Mia who was about fifty feet off shore, grabbed Noah and started running! She of course was diving and clueless to what was happening on the beach. I’m running, screaming at her, dragging Noah behind me.

This next part sounds like it’s made up, but Boy Scout promise, I assure you it’s not! Three stoners came up to me with guitar, and ask what I was yelling about. I pointed to the ominous black fin slowly making its way up the shoreline, and told them it’s a shark! They don’t miss a beat and the three of them began strumming the Jaws theme. Yes, yes they did.

My fight or flight had already been depleted from the floor 22 experience. Now it was in overdrive because a shark was coming after my baby girl. What world was I living in???

Malia finally heard my screams, saw my panic, and used all her swim prowess to swim to shore. At that moment a six foot shadow passed us, it’s tail swishing, it’s fin gliding through the waves. We just stared at each other wide eyed.

We walked back to our compound, and our family was completely unaware of the mayhem we just endured. We began retelling them about the shark, the musicians, Malia swimming to avoid being eaten! No one believes us! My twinsie, Mia and I both speak in superlative, this always makes for interesting storytelling, but our kin always take us with a grain of salt.

The musicians walked past us, still playing the Jaws theme ✔️ then, the ‘shadow’ turned and started making its way up the coast in the opposite direction, Mom and the kids saw the fin with their own eyes. ✔️

I called Joe, for the second time that day with another outlandish but true tale. My husband, the forever realist, told me it was probably a tarpon or at the very most a benign sand shark!

Regardless of the true nature of the 10 foot behemoth, we survived and lived to tell the tale! Just another family vacation, nothing to write home about!

Merry Christmas! Until next time!

The fake shark used in the movie Jaws!

Floor 22

I hate winter! Can I just get that out of the way? Anyone who knows me, knows that the beach is my happy place. Cold, winter months have me craving Florida sunshine. Knowing this, Mom would often do a winter rental somewhere in the sunshine state. This particular year it was in Miami so that we could be close to my brother and his family.

Mom got a cute little condo facing the ocean. The kids and I flew down excited to be spending a week in South Beach. When we got to the hotel, it was sprawling! A circular drive led to a forty story building with multiple pools and a private beach. The valet took our luggage and we headed up to our suite.

Noah was about 6 years old and had a propensity to wander away. With Mom, Renee, Zoe, Marley, Malia and I all taking Noah shifts, we were confident that someone would always have an eye on him.

Going up in the elevator I took the opportunity to review Noah’s numbers. We talked about how we were on floor 22, and how it was a repeating number. The elevator was pretty full, but I’m so oblivious to spectators observing our unconventional life. I asked Noah to recite our floor and to show me the number. We counted the floors as we went higher and higher.

A week of elevators was Noah’s dream, not to mention our view was of a drawbridge on the Intercoastal Waterway. The sights and sounds were a six year old’s dream!

His favorite thing about the hotel was the garbage chute. His chore each day was to walk the trash to the foyer of the floor, open the hatch and drop the bag down the conveyor.

Since there were seven of us in our condo, we were generating a lot of refuse. Noah was using the chute multiple times a day! An escort would make sure he was not attempting to slide down it himself.

One morning, Noah told me the trash needed to go out, I was the only one up. He and I walked down the corridor, I stopped at the corner, he continued a couple more yards to where he was to drop the days waste and come back.

I waited a second, nothing. I looked around the corner and Noah was gone! That quick! I ran down the hall, no sign of him. Every parents worst nightmare was flashing before my eyes.

I ran back to our suite, and screamed at everyone to wake up! Noah was lost. We all spread out, some checking our floor, others walking down the emergency staircase.

Each minute felt like days. I was having a panic attack while I was running around our hotel in my nightgown, barefoot. I asked all the service personnel if they had seen a little blond boy anywhere. Most spoke Spanish, so no one understood my question.

I ran to the front lobby which lets out on a very busy street. Could he have left the building? Do I run through the streets?

I needed to call the police, then call Joe. Shakily I got on the elevator to make two calls I dreaded. Time was of the essence.

I got off on our floor and there was a handsome gentleman holding Noah’s hand waiting in the foyer of our floor!

I rushed to Noah crying, sweeping him in my arms. The man told me the day we arrived he was in the elevator with us. As I was going over Noah’s numbers, I kept repeating that we were staying on floor 22, double digits.

He found Noah wandering the downstairs lobby. Apparently he dropped the trash in the chute, got on the elevator and escaped to the front desk, all in nanoseconds.

The kind stranger said he recognized Noah’s tow head, and almond eyes immediately and knew to bring him back to floor 22. Slowly, one by one, the rescue party came back to our suite overjoyed to find Noah was safe.

From that day forward, all the service people, front desk workers and hotel guests would call out and greet Noah by name wherever we went. Mr. Mayor took his notoriety in stride and greeted everyone with high fives and fist bumps.

Crisis 10,001 averted. Mom and I caught our breath, thanked the Lord and headed to the beach. You would think the day had enough excitement, but there was much more in store for us that day!

To be continued….

Something About Ezra

Biking in South Beach Miami

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

One of the many blessings that happened from the Little Red School House was that Noah was always surrounded by friends. Some came for the school year then drifted out of our lives, others are still friends to this day 13 years later.

Ezra and his family came into our lives from Virginia Beach. His family came up to help with a church plant we were involved in. Since Ezra and his brother Titus were about Noah’s age and homeschooled, I extended an invitation for the boys to become part of our class.

Right away Ezra became Noah’s guard. Noah was a runner. When he was little he would escape the securest of settings. We had to install keyed locks on all our doors, and if he went to any event, he would have to have a sibling or friend on Noah duty.

Noah was 4 and Ezra was 3 so most interactions were short play dates or co-op classes on Thursdays. But as the boys began to mature, sleepovers and weekends with our family became the norm.

One day Ezra told us he was moving to Oklahoma. His father had been offered a pastoral position at a church in the area, and the family was moving. We were heartbroken! We knew that long distance friendships were hard and at such a young age, it would be almost impossible to keep the boys close.

Noah talked about Ezra daily often. Little did we know that hundreds of miles away, Ezra was doing the same thing! Ezra’s middle name is David and Noah’s is Jonathon and just like in the Bible, this friendship was destined to be for life!

My incentive to get Noah to read, was a trip to visit Ezra in Oklahoma. Everyday he would struggle with phonics and sight words, knowing if he accomplished his goal, he would get to see his friend. Months went by with little progress.

One day there was talk of the family moving back to Delaware! Could it be? Even if Ezra was somewhere in the state, that was better than half way across the county!

It turned out that Ezra moved a mere seven minutes from our farm! Reunited and it feels so good …The boys picked up their friendship as if no time had passed. They were inseparable. Ezra came everywhere with us. He knew all of our extended family and friends. I knew his likes and dislikes. When I’d do my grocery order, I’d always include Ezra’s favorites.

Trips to Miami, our beach house, birthdays, Longwood…you name it Ezra was there. He has prayed for Noah through countless hospital stays, and often modeled correct ways to handle chick buffets!

As the boys reached high school, their friendship looks completely different than it did years ago. We don’t see Ezra as often, but when we do, the visits are filled with laughter and inside jokes. For years, Ezra would go with mom, Noah and I to the beach house. we would refer to it as The Office. Soon a group chat titled the office was started between all of us. Touchdowns were shared, dates and times of games given, invitations extended.

Our last big visit with Ezra included a family dinner where Noah was presented a harmonica ( thanks Mom) soon the boys had set up stools, and were holding coat hangers (for microphones) in their toes while singing!

The Office

Minecraft camp, fishing at The Point, the infamous Jitters, Wawa run ….I could write a book filled with the boys capers. This brother from another mother will always hold a special place in our families lives. Not only did he help Noah grow up to be the amazing sixteen year old he is today, he completed our family! Ezra means helper and help he does!

Did someone say cheese?

Soon after Christmas we settled into wintertime in Delaware. as anyone who has lived here for any length of time knows, it’s a crap shoot. We can go years with just an inch or two of snow or have so much snow roofs collapse and we are snowed in for days.

Our farm has a very long driveway, the property is shaped like an axe, with the drive being the handle. Woods surround both sides. It winds between mounds of daylily, hence the name Daylily Farm. Up the drive about a quarter mile you see my house on the left. If you continue on the path, it veers around and Mom’s house sits in front of one of two pastures with ponds.

This particular winter was brutal. We seemed to have had an unusual amount of snow and bad weather. January is a notoriously bad month for homeschooling, monotony sets in and the kids are coming back from Christmas break. The weather channel was predicting a snow storm that could produce record amount of snow. Joe and the kids were beyond excited. Whenever there was a couple inches on the ground, he tied the sleds and snowboards to the back of the tractor and raced down the drive with the kids falling being pulled behind.

The days are spent with one eye on their studies, one eye on the weather. We woke up to a winter wonderland. The trees were sparkling with fresh snow. Our four horses were delighted and were galloping through the snow drifts. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

The big kids suit up, while I bundled up Noah. Joe revved up the John Deere and attached the sleds. Everyone was waiting on Noah, who couldn’t remember ever seeing so much snow. I opened the door to the deck and placed him on top of the snow, and he fell face first into the pile unable to move his arms or legs.

They were finally all on a tube, sled, trash can lid or snowboard. Everything that was not tied down is fair game for sledding. Marley built snow mounds over the picnic table and practiced his twists and turns on his board. Days seemed to go by and the snow was still as beautiful and deep. We had no idea what was going on in the outside world. Our farm is so far off the beaten track, our roads are among the last to be plowed.

Joe went back to work. Life still revolved around the snow. Wet gloves, snow pants, and hats were everywhere! The woodstove was running continuously. Mom called mid day with a slight edge of panic to her voice. They were dangerously low on propane. She called for a delivery but the would not come unless the driveway was clear. Even with Joe and the kids going up and down the drive a zillion times, there was no way a delivery truck was going to make it to deliver the fuel.

Mom and I are modern day Lucy and Ethel. We have gotten ourselves into and out of so many zany capers. When Ethel a.k.a Mom gets ramped up, it doesn’t take long for me to join in the hysterics. I call Ricky Joe and start screaming! The winter wonderland is not so wonderful anymore. Mom and I decided if the heat runs out they would come over here, and we will just have to make the best of it.

No sooner were the words out of my mouth when I saw my husband coming up the driveway spraying liquid out of the hose of his truck! You know you’re a redneck when….

Every Tuesday Joe emptied the cheese waste from a little shop in town. I guess it is steaming hot and right around the corner! It was a sight to behold. Joe driving this huge truck down the winding driveway melting the colossal amount of snow with this gray concoction! I am both horrified and thankful.

He got to our entrance, tooted his horn, waved and drove to his next job. My hero?! Mom got her propane in the nick of time, crisis avoided for now. The driveway now a grey sludgy mess, no longer held the appeal it did earlier in the week. Studies resumed. To honor my hero, I made fondue for dinner!

Devil In Disguise?

Christmas Talent Show Trophy

Sometime within Noah’s first few years, we began having a family talent show on Christmas Eve. Anyone who came to dinner had to participate in the festivities. For a family that had little to no actual skill, you can imagine what we came up with. As the 24th of December loomed closer, it was all we talked about. Who would perform what with whom. Since performing was a prerequisite for eating, everyone begrudgingly brainstormed.

Ingenuity would be required for three of our family members…Gram, P-Pop and Noah. Mom decided she would incorporate Pop, Joe and I took Gram, and Zoe snagged Noah! ( the ringer)

Once you decided on your talent, it was top secret! You had to rehearse and get your props without anyone seeing or hearing you. Very, very difficult when we are all with each other 24/7. I would sneak over to Mom’s house and lock the door to Gram’s room…while Zoe and Noah would be over at our house stomping away upstairs. Malia had it easy because she could play the piano!

We celebrated the Talent Show over a decade long time period. My sister-in-law won over my heart the first year she performed, props, Toots! My son-in-law’s first Christmas with our family, was met with head shakes and guffaws. Word would spread and invites were begged for! It really was a spectacle to behold. My favorites by far: Mom crooning Santa Baby to Chris with her feather Boa and sparkly dress. Mia, Zoe and Noah changing the words to My Favorite Things , and of course my brother, Michael’s guitar strumming parody on the kid’s teenage life.

One year Marley, Noah and I taped glow sticks to our bodies, turned out the lights and went crazy to: Wild Cherry! We of course won for that one! Joe somehow managed to become prop and sound man. He rarely made his acting debut.

With Noah as mischievous as ever, he would wake up each day into everything and anything he could get his hands on. Extra locks had to be put on the doors because he was an amazing escape artist. If we were out shopping he would hide under the clothes racks, while we frantically searched for him!

When Christmas Eve finally rolled around, Zoe ingeniously incorporated this trait of Noahs into her act. The evening began with appetizers, champagne and the highly anticipated spot pick. This would determine the order the talents would be performed. Zoe and Noah’s slot was the grand finale, lucky pick.

Costumes were put on, chairs assembled, lights dimmed. Let the show begin! Pianos played, guitars strummed, Gram sang, we laughed until we cried. Finally Zoe came out dressed in a black party dress, waltzing with Noah in a cute angel costume with a halo. Everyone oohed and ahhed at out little blond cupid. Elvis crooned in the background, walked like an angel, talked like an angel….all of a sudden, Zoe ripped off the angel costume to reveal a shiny devil costume with a tail and horns! But he’s the devil in disguise, oh yes he is! Noah was dancing around, at a level ten for sure! Zoe had coached him so well, there was no denying it was the perfect act to end the night.

Secret voting began. The annual dispute of whether we were allowed to vote for ourselves was discussed. Ballots were then counted, Mom came out to announce the winner, in third place, winning a ten dollar gift card to Dunkin Donuts….Cathy and Chris! Second place with a twenty five dollar gift card to Olive Garden goes to….Kristen and Gramma Kate! Gram had a stroke in her late fifties and couldn’t speak but could sing a few bars, so I used that to my full advantage, sympathy vote, works every time! Finally the winner of the Nacrelli-Hunt-McGinnis Christmas Talent Show was…Zoe and Noah a.k.a Devil In Disguise.

Everyone sighed a relief that the show was behind us. We now had 365 days to scheme, plan and win back the coveted gnome trophy. This Christmas our family will be in Canada, St. Pete, Fort Walton Florida and Delaware.The gnome has been residing in Miami since before Covid hit. Even though we will be physically apart, the videos and memories of the Christmas Eve Talent Show live on!

Do you have a favorite memory or tradition that your family celebrates? I’d love to read about it.