Friday, July 31, 2009


"Did you see where he went?"

I quickly scanned our group and counted my kids and our neighbor.


She was referring to her 18 month old son. We were in the National Museum of History in NYC on what must have been the busiest day in history - the place was packed.

The 9-year old neighbor was left in charge of three 3 year olds and Tyler T while my friend and I split up looking for the little guy. After 2 loops around the dinosaur room, I was feeling panicked. After 2 more loops I was frantic. My friend looked calm, but her eyes told a different story.

It was one of those situations where 10 minutes feels like 2 hours. On my last loop it felt so real - he was gone. I thought about his cute little smile and how trusting and open he is. As I went to find my friend to suggest looking for security, a woman came around the corner with him. I snatched him out of her arms, said a quick thank you, and ran for the middle of the room screaming my friends name at the top of my lungs.

Once we were all reunited, we both exhaled, she hugged the little guy and we acted nonchalant.

But I saw her eyes.

Maybe it happens to everyone, a parenting right of passage - a little reminder to keep them close.

It worked, I will.

photo courtesy of here

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Something about....

....nudey bums that gets me every time!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I'm glad Melissa broached the topic of our Grandmother Connie. Drew, Ella, and Tyler had never gotten the chance to meet her, but they will undoubtedly hear about her. Born in a house in Hoboken in Oct 1914, the first of 10 children, she was the matriarch of the family, and if you think about a family tree….what a large one it was (filled with plenty of Michael's and Marietta's as that was their parents names) She did not have much of a formal education, but a life of experience had made her wise beyond her years. I was lucky enough to live in the same house with her my whole life. I have vivid memories of my time with Gram as well as thoughts/ideas/concepts from her that I will strive to pass on to the children.

One of those is pride…she was always so proud of herself, the things she accomplished, her family, and her community. Another is the ability to be happy. She always told me that you alone can always be happy no matter what the circumstance. She lived through a Depression and a World War where all of her brothers and husband were fighting and she always said that she could find something to be happy about. I've never seen anyone with the ability to glean so much pleasure from the sound of music, the taste of food, a breathe of fresh air, or the feel of sunlight on her face. She always told me to focus on what I have, not what I don't have. Lastly, one of the things she told me most often……. "Michael, when you say your prayers at night, always thank the Lord that you were born in America" Gram loved this country, with all its faults, she always felt lucky to live here.

Drew/Ella/Ty, be prepared for me to talk about Gram and her stories. She was awesome. A legend. I'm not sure if it was in honor of Gram or my own pride in the USA…but when Drew and Ella were born, I wanted to have Aunt Melissa paint a saying on the wall….but my wife quickly vetoed it. So I think I shall put it here for you to read when you are older.

Twins by luck,
Dargan by birth,
American by the grace of God……


Monday, July 27, 2009

Ella's View

Ella grabbed the camera a few times during our vacation and Im impressed with the pictures she captured. I love the way my parent's smile for her. It was also great to see adults and kids alike cooperate with Ella and her camera. There were no complaints, no hair fixing, or hands up with embarrassment. Just love. We should all cooperate a little better with cameras. They give us a window back in time to see ourselves as we were. I think when I am 70 and looking at these pictures with my grandchildren, I won't be examining my wrinkles or a few extra pounds. I will look at the joy on our faces and remember being together.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Caca & Drew

My dad gets Drew. The best part is that Drew knows it, or more importantly he feels it.

Not that he isn't equally as awesome to all of the grandkids. Story after story, waking him up from every deserved nap, calling him "caca" for goodness sakes.

It is just the best to watch my little guy when he is around my dad.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Mile

Once upon a time there was a teeny city in the shadow of a great big one. It was filled with history and tiny shops, outdoor restaurants and expansive views. A young woman and a man would walk hand in hand as so many did around them. It was a fun time and place for this new couple and they soaked it in. Soon their dreams came true, times two and little babies were born. They walked to the hospital and walked with those babies everyday for over 2 years. Those little babies knew that little city as well as anyone.

It was the perfect place.

Ella and Drew are into stories big time these days, mostly do to the hundreds my dad told them while swinging in the hammock. I think a lot of mine will be set in Hoboken. As I was driving through last night my attention was drawn to all of the young couples and young families. It is an ideal place for starting a family and Im thrilled that we had that experience. Filled with romance and energy, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Looking Up

Ella had a whole week of her big cousin Sid. She watched her closely, trying to emulate her poses and follow her games. Of course, Sid is the ideal big cousin full of manners, sweetness and smarts. This year they stuck to making cakes in the sand and chatting about princesses, but I imagine them in the years to come whispering about make up and boys.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vacation Memories

Vacations are just a blip in your history...a week here and there nestled into the day to day that make up all those years of your life. So it really is amazing that they stand out so prominently, in your memory and in photo albums. Amazing what you can pack into a week or two.

Our week at Lake Winnipesaukee provided it's share of memories that Im sure will last for years to come. We all did our best to catch them with our camera's, but sometimes you leave the cameras aside and drink it in with all 5 senses.

Bright blue skies over an expanse of still water. Smiles that you haven't seen in weeks and months. Sandcastles bigger than the kids. Hammocks over flowing with arms and legs, stories spilling out of them for hours. Popsicle drips down chins and arms. Lobsters, fish fries, exploding grills. Boys driving boats and moms tubing behind. Bonfires and music setting the background for stories and laughs. The constant chatter of children. The quiet of an evening Kayak.

The strongest memory will certainly be of just being together.

Monday, July 20, 2009

We're Baaaackk!!

A fantastic trip much anticipated and much enjoyed is just beginning to settle in my head. Ill get back to you with more, but for now....what else - pictures!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lake Winnie

On our way for year # 3 of the Virta Family vacation at Lake Winnie in NH. Ill take the week off, so see you next week with lots of pics and stories!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Im trying to work on this summer to-do list whenever I can. So, when I heard the ice cream truck music (yes, my ears still perk up and I can detect it from blocks away) we ran out to catch him. I put aside that it was 5 PM and dangerously close to dinner, because come on - its summer!!
Ella and Drew are still novices at the ice cream truck and they had trouble making a choice. They both finally settled for an ice cream sandwich. Nice, classic choice. For Tyler I chose another classic - a rocket pop, jr

I opened Tyler's and in about 3.5 seconds he handed me back the empty stick. That kid can really eat an ice cream! He very calmly said "ma" (more) and pointed to the ice cream truck. I told him in my "cheery but you know things are about to blow" mommy voice that it was all gone. Then this happened:

In a moment of sheer generosity, Ella gave him the remainder of her ice cream sandwich. She is more excited by the idea of ice cream than the actual eating. Then this happened:

Another 4 seconds and this one was gone too. Then I got a big slobbery ice cream kiss.

Mission Accomplished.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Let's all take a little mid-week relaxing moment, courtesy of Ella.

ps. have you ever seen a melon that round?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Realty Show

Do you ever watch a realty show and think "wow, these people are going to be bummed when they watch themselves on tv!" Realty shows seem to highlight some of the worst in people. I know they didn't see themselves as that crazy, narcisstic, callous, etc before the show. Won't they be so surprised when they see themselves how others may see them?!

Sometimes I feel like Im living in my own realty show hell.

I see the worst of me get soaked up and imitated by the kids. The frustrated tone of voice. The dramatic escalation of a small injustice. The toys strewn on the floor echoing the laundry in my bedroom.

Kids learn by watching us. It doesn't matter how many times you say to be polite, if you aren't then they won't be. You can talk until you are blue in the face. But talk is cheap, very cheap, when it comes to your little shadows.

I try to remind myself that they are soaking up the good stuff too. The friendly chit chat with neighbors. The polite manners. The exceptional ability to tell a fantastic story. But it is all too easy to notice the bad.

So, I take a deep breath and resolve to be a better person. Because I want my kids to be awesome, better than me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cry Me a River

My kids cry.

Yes I know, all kids cry. It is natural and it is normal and blah blah blah. It seems, though, that they cry a lot. Over the craziest things.

Today Drew cried at the zoo because his hands were hot.

Tyler cried because he wanted to climb into the pig pen.

Ella cried because Drew said that the carousel was closed and she knew it was open.

I used to daydream about lazy days at a beach resort with a great book and an umbrella drink. Now I daydream about a day with no crying. What does that feel like? Will I even notice?

Oh, I take that back - Im sure I will!

ps. this pic is from 1 year ago at the lake...we are gearing up for our 3rd annual trip next week - woo hoo!!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Nudge

Tyler has become the nudge in the family, proudly throwing Ella from her thrown. As the NJ folks say, he loves to "bust balls." Some recent examples...

*Tyler sits next to Drew in the car and for some reason he periodically decides that he owns Drew's armrest. He pushes and pinches Drew's hand, all the while screaming his trademark scream, until Drew relents and moves his arm.

*While Ella or Drew are quietly enjoying a TV show, Tyler will stand in front of them or climb up and sit on their laps, blocking their views. They have yet to succeed in moving him and eventually move themselves.

*Reading a book? He jumps on it. Playing with a toy (quietly and off in a corner)? He takes it. Drinking from your water cup? He wants it. Snuggling with mom or dad? He needs in. Riding your bike? His turn!!

Although he is something of a tyrant, we love him anyway!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Summer To Dos

Well, it is July and Summer better stay around for awhile. What is it with all this rain?! To help mother nature feel more inspired to cooperate I thought I might post a Summer To Do:

1. Swim in the pool, at the lake, and in the ocean
2. Make a big sandcastle without the kids knocking it down before it is done
3. Walk to the farmer's market each week to see what has come into season, and for a pickle!
4. Visit the pick your own farm each time a new crop is pick-able
5. Fly a kite
6. Have a lemonade stand
7.Go to the Hot Air Balloon Festival
8. Go to an outdoor concert
9. Catch the ice cream truck (we ALWAYS miss it!)
10. Collect sea shells
11. Catch Fireflies
12. Tie Dye
13. Make Stepping Stones
14. Ride the swan boats in Boston

Ill add more when I think of them. Do you have any suggestions?