First Day Of School

Today my kiddos went back to school. My son is in his Junior year (gasp!) and my daughter and her classmates are ruling the school as mighty 8th graders.


My own Junior year doesn’t exactly feel like yesterday, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel like I am old enough to be the mother of an 11th grader. Then again, 1990 feels like it was 10 (maybe 15) years ago. My brain simply cannot wrap around the fact that I graduated high school 22 years ago!

This was me in 8th grade.

My son’s Junior year brings up a whole slew of new stresses and worries for me. Driver’s license, SATs, college applications, a car, moving out…ugh I can’t even. I will have to make myself a list and take one thing at a time.

Neither my husband nor I were given the option to go away to college. For my parents, “going away” meant driving on the interstate for 12 miles each day to the University of South Florida – and I wasn’t allowed to do that either. It was understood that I would go to the community college a whole 2.5 miles away from my parents’ house. Then (and only then), when I was at least 20 years old, would I have “permission” to drive on the freeway to USF. My husband’s parents weren’t as strict, but his horrific grades and extreme lack of motivation meant he’d, too, go on to 13th grade, our affectionate term for the local community college.

Here we are. I was a high school Junior and my husband was a Senior. Do we look like our kids?

(Side note: we both eventually graduated from the University of South Florida {GO BULLS!} with excellent grades, highly regarded by our professors, and with a fair amount of student loan debt, but I digress…)

We don’t want the same fate for our kids. They’ve always known that if they want to go away to school, and their grades and behavior are on track, we will do everything in our power to get them there. It’s just that up until recently, all of that seemed like it would happen in the far, far away distant future, not like in two short years.

UGH. I’m giving myself a stomach ache.

20 years ago, when my husband’s cousin (who is our age, and also wasn’t allowed to go away to college) got married at the tender age of 21, her mom became extremely ill on the day she left for her honeymoon. It was as though after 21 years of keeping her daughter neatly tucked under her wing, some boy came around and ripped her right out of her mother’s protective embrace. Tía was stoic throughout the wedding, forbidding herself to cry, but the moment her daughter drove off with her new spouse, she broke down. I remember thinking how ridiculous it was for her to get so upset. Her daughter and new son-in-law would be back in 5 days, and was moving less than 10 minutes away.

It took me 20 years, and two children of my own to understand.

It’s going to take a crap load of breathing exercises and some strong prescription medication to get me through the day my first child goes away to college. Just the idea of it makes me nauseated.

Two years. Two. Short. Years.

Things I Will Not Hesitate To Eat During The Zombie Apocalypse

I’ve always been somewhat of a picky eater. However, I have recently found myself considering the edibility of certain items in the case of an emergency. I have decided that if and when the zombie apocalypse occurs, there are quite a few things I will eat without a second thought.

  1. The mysterious jar of pickled artichokes in my pantry.
  2. Leftover packages of ketchup from inside my car’s glove compartment.
  3. The gummy bears and cheerios stuck behind the couch’s seat cushion.
  4. My son’s pet goldfish.
  5. The macaroni necklace my daughter gave me for Mother’s Day.
  6. The cough drops I found in the pocket of my deceased grandpa’s suit jacket.
  7. The cinnamon Christmas ornaments I made in 1981.
  8. My daughter’s hermit crab.
  9. The homemade sugar scrub my neighbor gave me for my birthday.
  10. The 20-year-old gourmet popcorn from the tin I thought contained old high school love letters.


image via AMC

The Amazing Mom Is Totally On Fire

Twenty-four hours ago, I had really only known Amazing Phil and DanIsNotOnFire as the background noise with a British accent coming from my daughter’s bedroom. I knew that they had co-authored a book, and that were YouTube stars who had become friends and collaborated (this was information I learned after asking, “What could possibly be so funny?” when the peals of laughter echoed down the hall).

A few months ago, Dan and Phil had announced that they were going on tour, and my daughter anxiously awaited their tour schedule. She was thrilled to learn that they would be coming to our area and, when just a few days later, I received my daily text from my favorite performing arts theater with a presale code for The Amazing Tour Is Not On Fire, I knew I had to get tickets.#bestmomever


Fast forward to last night.

After work, my daughter and I headed down to show. I really hadn’t known what to expect. My daughter was a fan, but not one other person that I knew had any clue who these guys were. I half-expected to show up to a partially empty theater, where I would commiserate with a few other confused parents as we watched a couple of guys play video games, or talk about cats or something.

My daughter’s enormous smile would be worth it.

The cat assumption was due to the whiskers my daughter drew on her face before leaving to the show. I actually asked her if she’d rather wait until we got there to decide if she wanted to paint on the whiskers. But, no. This was their thing, I guess. She had also picked out the “perfect outfit” several days before: skinny jeans, her white chucks, a tee shirt we had made at a local custom tee shop, and a red flannel tied around the waist.

AquaHeader2016When I pulled into the theater parking lot I was shocked to see, not a handful, but hundreds of teenage girls. They were almost all wearing skinny jeans, various licensed and handmade Dan and Phil tee shirts, red flannels, and painted-on whiskers. My girl had found her tribe.

After realizing that the line for Dan and Phil merchandise went around the entire theater, we went inside and took our seats. The theater was blasting Panic! At the Disco, My Chemical Romance, Britney Spears, 5 Seconds of Summer, and even some High School Musical. All the girls sang and danced along. Apparently, these were Dan and Phil’s favorite songs.


When the lights went out and these two skinny, tall, adorable young men stepped on stage, the crowd erupted and my daughter burst into tears–the kind of tears that reminded me of being 13 and seeing New Kids On The Block. I knew exactly how she felt. As I comforted her, I remembered that feeling of seeing, in person, someone you idolize, whose bio you know by heart. You almost feel like it’s a real relationship, and that feeling is emotional and overwhelming.

I understand how celebrities can get overwhelmed by fame. Imagine millions of people knowing almost everything about you, when you could never possibly even meet all of them. It’s overwhelming enough to have an acquaintance who has never “liked” nor commented on any of my writing tell me that a particular piece resonated with them, or that they have been following my work. How many more people “know” me?


Anyway…Dan and Phil put on such an entertaining show! They were funny, they were silly and they are talented. I was so pleasantly surprised at what a great time I had. I definitely don’t want to give anything away. I suspect the ban on phones and cameras while the show was going on is to maintain the surprises for future shows. It was also nice to see a thousand teenage girls enjoying themselves and interacting without a screen in front of their faces.


I had such a great time hanging with my daughter! I loved being part of such a formative teenage experience in her life. She will never forget last night, and neither will I.

P.S. I’ll be milking that “Best Mom Ever” title for awhile.

Early Easter Celebration

I was compensated by Evite for my time in developing this post. All opinions are my own.

Much of our family travels during Spring Break, so it is difficult to get together for Easter. One of the ways we are able to spend time together, and take advantage of traveling while the kids have time off of school is to celebrate the holidays early.

The first thing I do when planning my early holiday parties is to visit Evite and choose the perfect invitation.They have such an extensive selection of free and premium cards that I never again have to run to the store to pick up invitations. I love that you can even personalize your cards with photos!

EviteEasterIsn’t this invitation super adorable?? It makes me sad that my kids have outgrown Easter egg hunts!

Next, I decide on the perfect decorations.

This Rag Ribbon Table Skirt is a staple at all of my spring events!




Hubby usually decides on the main course, but I get to choose the appetizers and the desserts!

I made this dessert tower several years ago using thrift store plates and tea cups. It was such a fun DIY, and has seen me through many Easter Sundays!

Finally, our family arrives and we all get to eat, drink and be merry while the little ones hunt for eggs.


Spending time with our loved ones during the holidays is so important to us! I’m so happy that we are able to have early celebrations so that everyone can be included. Life is always better together!

Thank you to Evite for kindly sponsoring this post. All opinions are 100% honest & completely my own.

Kiss Me, I’m (10%) Irish!

For my 40th, hubby bought me something I have been wanting since the first time I watched an episode of Who Do You Think You Are: a DNA testing kit from Ancestry DNA.


I am of Cuban descent. Because it is very unlikely that the Cuban government has any of my family’s records, and my grandparents have long since passed, I have always been curious to learn more about my roots. I knew that my dad’s paternal side was from Spain, and there had been rumors that one of my mom’s grandparents was of Lebanese descent, but other than that, I had no clue who my ancestors are…

…that is, until this week! Yesterday morning I finally received my DNA results:

dna2 Here’s the complete breakdown:

76% European
–53% Iberian Peninsula
–10% Ireland
–4% European Jewish
–3% Italy/Greece
–2% Scandinavia/NW Russia
–1% Europe West
–<1% Great Britain

15% Middle East

6% Africa
–4% North Africa
–2% Benin/Togo
–<1% Ivory Coast/Ghana

 2% Native American

 <1% Asia South


I love knowing that I am a mix of so many ethnicities!

IrishMy biggest shock was finding out that I am 10% Irish. After so many years of singing along at the pub, and feeling such a connection to characters such as Ellis Lacey from the film Brooklyn, I finally understand why I love the Irish so much, we are kin!  Now I want to adopt a little redhead and name her Saoirse (pronounced Sersha, except my Cubanos would most likely call her Soraisa.)

I was also stoked to learn that I am 2% Native American! Now I need to learn if I am Ciboney, the Guanahatabey or Taíno.

My biggest DNA makeup comes from the Iberian Peninsula (my Spaniard roots), the Middle East and Africa. I even learned that I am 4% European Jewish. I love every single part of my DNA!

Have you had your DNA tested? If so, I would love to know who your ancestors are. If you haven’t yet taken the leap, Ancestry DNA sent me this link to share with my friends, and it will save you $10 off the regular price of a DNA testing kit. That’s even less than what hubby paid!

(Full disclosure: for every kit my friends order using this link, Ancestry DNA will send me a $10 gift card to Amazon which will promptly use to download Irish drinking songs!)

Peeking Out Of The 40 Fog

Most of my friends are turning 40 this year. This was supposed to be a comment to a friend’s status update, but it turned into a novel, and I didn’t want to hijack her post, so instead you guys get a new blog post…enjoy!

Turning 40 was hard for me. Really hard. I spent several months before and the whole month after really coming to grips with it. I’m just now, 33 days later, beginning to peek out of my “40 Fog”. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel like every day on this earth is a blessing, I just pictured myself having accomplished certain things and gone certain places by now.

I am facing my mortality a bit more. I’m afraid that I am going to die and never have seen or done the things that I keep putting off for financial or logistical reasons. The 10 years between 30 and 40 FLEW by for me. I blinked and they were gone. I don’t want my 40s to go that fast.

Dress: H&M; Leggings: Forever 21, Boots: Target

I also think that turning 40 made me aware of just how much I do (and have done for the last 18 years) for others, and how little I’ve done that was just for me. For years, while my husband traveled for work, I held down the fort, while longingly wishing that I could be with him in San Francisco, Spain, Portugal, Montreal or whatever other place I still haven’t had the chance to visit instead of spending my evenings at “meet the teacher nights” or “curriculum fairs.”

I am constantly back and forth with the kids at school and their activities. I work, take care of the house, take care of the pets. And, while I love it all, sometimes I want to do something that’s just for Yvette.

It’s hard as a mom to focus on yourself without seeming selfish. Moms are constantly having to justify their career or lack thereof. But, if you don’t make yourself a priority, you may wake up one morning and realize that you are turning 40 and you’re still waiting to take that trip, or buy that purse, or get those highlights, or join that gym or whatever else you’ve been putting off because it’s something that only benefits you.

That is what I want to accomplish most in my 40s, to stop putting myself last all the time. That doesn’t mean I’m going to put my family last (see what I did there? Always making sure to justify my actions less the sanctimommies–and daddies–come out of the woods with pitchforks…) It just means that sometimes Mom is going to get on that plane with Dad, and Abuela will hold down the fort for us, and that is OK.

Car Loop Fashion Show


For the last 12 years I have been subjected to the bi-daily ritual known as the School Drop-Off/Pick-Up Line, aka: The Car Loop. As someone who has spent an estimated 2100 hours of her life—the equivalent of three whole months—sitting in a car waiting for the PE coach to frantically direct cars to “pull up all the way to the front,” I have had more than enough time to study the fashion habits of my fellow Car Loop Mamas.

While preschool and elementary mamas generally shared a similar underslept/over-volunteered style, middle school mamas have upped their morning fashion game.  Granted, I only observe them from the shoulder up, but this is what I imagine they are wearing.

Power Suit Mama. This mama always has her hair tied back in a slick professional ponytail, not one baby hair to be found. At 6:45 a.m., her mascara and lipliner are on point, she already has a Starbucks in hand and is 20 minutes into a conference call through her car’s Bluetooth speakers. Through her darkly tinted windows I can just make out her amazing business wardrobe and know she is in 4 inch designer heels, perfect for a swanky business lunch.

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Activewear Mama. This mama looks like she’s headed to the gym in her yoga pants, stretchy tank with built-in sports bra and messy top knot, but I know better. Her expertly winged eyeliner and carefully filled-in brows tell me that she’s meeting her friends for breakfast and pedicures where they will talk about maybe taking a yoga class one of these days. Afterward, she will pop into Target with the intention of pricing out yoga mats, but will instead wander around the store for the next two hours. She will buy a throw pillow, a lip balm and a 12-pack of diet soda before grabbing an iced caramel macchiato and pulling back into the car loop.

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Marathon Runner Mama. This mama is definitely going to work out today. Her hair is in that kind of pony/bun hybrid, which looks as though you never quite finished pulling the ponytail through the last loop of your hair tie. She’s wearing an old 5K tee shirt, running shorts, and not a stitch of makeup. If the oval “26.2” sticker on the back of her SUV doesn’t prove her commitment, seeing her jog passed your front door 8 times a day surely does.

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I Woke Up Like This Mama. This mama is tricky. Is she going to work? Shopping? On a date? She’s always wearing a nice blouse, cute skinny jeans, tall boots, natural-looking make-up and an adorable coif. She looks as though she has been getting ready for hours, even though the sun is just beginning to rise. From where do you come, oh Magical Parking Lot Beyonce?

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And, then, there’s me.

Pajama Mama. This mama prays every morning that she is not put into a situation which will require her to exit the vehicle. She is definitely wearing pajama pants, but may have thrown on a bra or sweatshirt just in case. She doesn’t see the point in putting on street clothes when she is simply going to turn around and drive straight home. Whether she has a later work shift, telecommutes to the office, or spends her days cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry (in some cases, all of the above) there is no way this mama is going through the whole primping process at 6 a.m.

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Maybe, if school started later, I could get my act together. If I had an extra hour or two, I could look as put together as the CEO Mom or as hot as Queen Bey Mom.  Maybe….

….Just kidding, I would totally use that time to sleep. Pajama Mama 4-Life!

All images sourced through

A Year-By-Year Guide to Your 30s

30: When you turn 30, you realize that age is just a number. Thirty pretty much feels like 29, which felt like 28, which felt like 27…. The truth is that 30 feels like 22 with a mortgage payment.

31: When you are 31, you worry that you didn’t take as many risks or have as much fun as you should have in your 20s. You talk about taking a month off and backpacking Europe, or diving off of a cliff in Santorini. Then you finish changing that diaper, hand the baby to your husband, and go wash your hair for the first time in a week.

32: When you are 32, you decide that you can totally still pass for 25. You take your 1-year-old out in the jogging stroller and do sit-ups while he naps. Your body begins to look better than it did in high school. Your 30s are AWESOME! Holy crap? When was my last period?

33: When you are 33, your baby is four days overdue, and you haven’t seen your feet or bikini area in 15 weeks. You wonder if you can trust your husband to do some mom-scaping, or if you should just go to the hospital in all your 1970s glory. Your mom keeps dusting the nursery and your 2-year-old is strewing train tracks around your living room. You really couldn’t care less about your natural birth plan because Pitocin, followed by an epidural and a third-degree episiotomy sound freaking delicious right now. Get. This. Baby. Out. Of. Me.

34: When you are 34, you accomplish the biggest feat of your life. You take your 1-year-old and your 3-year-old to Disney World. Mission accomplished.


35: When you are 35, you realize that you haven’t really talked to your husband in months. You both have been working hard and raising a family. Feeling tired and disconnected, you work up the courage to leave the kids with your in-laws for a week and head to Cancun. In Cancun, you hang out at the swim-up bar, laugh and get drunk on Patrón margaritas. You dress up and dance under the stars to a live band. Your husband surprises you with a boat tour through the mangroves and a snorkeling excursion. You dance on the tables at Carlos’n Charlie’s and have a romantic dinner at Lorenzillo’s. You come home tan, happy and in love.

36: When you are 36, your oldest starts kindergarten and your baby is in preschool. There are no more bottles in the sink, or rotten diaper sausages to drag out to the trash can. The crib is nicely stored in the attic and your nieces and nephews are making use of all of those outgrown baby clothes. For the first time in years, you are 100 percent sure that you are done having kids. Your biological clock has apparently turned off and it’s smooth sailing, my friend! In your head, you start mapping out that family road trip to Graceland. You are calculating how long your 3-year-old can hold her bladder when suddenly you find a rogue pacifier stuck behind a couch cushion—and then you hear it, from way down deep inside…tick, tick, tick.

37: When you are 37, you get an invitation to your 20-year high school reunion. You consider going for about a minute. But then you weigh the pros and cons of leaving the kids with your in-laws for the weekend, boarding your 1-year-old dachshund—the cure to last year’s bout of baby fever—and buying the ridiculously overpriced dinner tickets, just to be in the same room with half the people you hide from your Facebook feed. You call your best friend who agrees that you should forgo your choice of prime rib or salmon and book a weekend girl’s trip instead.

38: When you are 38, you start to freak out about 40. It’s not here yet, but it’s on its way (like a freaking freight train!). You start to notice the lines on your forehead and your old-lady hands. When did I get old-lady hands?! You keep thinking that the ’90s was ten years ago, and can’t believe it’s been 20 years since you started college. At 38 you realize that life is short, and you start to finally let go of those things you’ve been holding on to—those feelings, those worries, those fears, those people—which make you unhappy and no longer serve you.

39: When you turn 39, you realize that age is just a number. Yes, that number is only 12 months away from starting with a 4, but you aren’t freaking out about it. The truth is that 39 still feels like 22, but with experience. You look in the mirror and decide you can totally still pass for 35. You unwrap the high-waist bikini you ordered online and place it in the suitcase next to your husband’s swim trunks. You make sure your kids are still packed, and you all pile into the cab that’s headed to the airport. Next stop: Santorini.

© 2015 Yvette Manes, as first published on Scary Mommy.

Dear Reader: An Open Letter

Dear Reader,

The essay you are about to read is about me. It is about my own personal experiences and my own observations. Maybe you know me in real life. But likely, I am a stranger to you, a name on a screen attached to an article—an article to which you may relate, or may take offense.

If you know me, you know that I typically write humorous essays filled with hyperbole, exaggerated for effect and a laugh. I like to laugh; I suspect some of you do, too. If you don’t know me, maybe you take my sarcasm literally.

I promise you, I would never actually pluck my eyes out with a spoon and stab myself in the ears with a pencil to avoid sitting through another episode of Caillou. I am very much aware that it would make me a “selfish mother” never to be able to see my children’s faces or hear their voices again by purposely impaling myself in an attempt to avoid a whiny little cartoon character. It is truly not necessary for you to waste my time, and yours (but mostly mine) by chiding me for my literary embellishments.


I am sure that not knowing me and having a sense of anonymity makes it easier for you to dissect my every word, to criticize me or call me names from behind your computer screen. Maybe knowing me isn’t any easier. Perhaps you think that I am somehow making a personal gibe about you. I assure you that I am not.

I am a writer, and my professional work goes through an editor who has the authority to make changes for length or grammar. The deletion of quotation marks or italics can greatly alter the way you perceive my tone and inflection. The replacement of one word has the power to give my piece a completely different feel. Unfortunately, many personal essayists have little to no control over the editing process. I ask you to take for granted that what I write is not meant to offend, but to express my own feelings, thoughts, doubts, and worries. Writing, like all art, is at the mercy of interpretation.

Dear reader, consider being less cynical. Embrace the wisdom, humor, sarcasm, strength and courage of the writers before you. Be encouraging and supportive, or be still and be quiet. Be inspired to write and share your own story! I, for one, would love to hear it—and I promise to only leave positivity in the comments.

8 Unique Dates For You and Your Teenage Daughter

Author’s Note: It’s been awhile, my friends! A lot has happened in the many months since I last blogged, not the least of which has been to pursue a freelance career. I will periodically share some of my freelance work here on AquaSeventy6. Scroll below to find the original publication. Cheers and enjoy.

8 Unique Dates For You and Your Teenage Daughter

It’s summer. She’s in her room texting her friends, Instagramming selfies or pictures of her sleeping dog. I know this because I’ve been in the living room Instagramming my feet propped on the coffee table with the opening credits of the new season of Orange Is the New Black on in the background.

I knock out of courtesy, pop my head in and ask if she remembers that she has a mom. She smiles, blows me a kiss and asks me to close the door on the way out. Burn. I, too, was a teenager once and wanted very little to do with my mom. Granted, my mom wasn’t nearly as cool and connected as I am, but I get it. As much as I preach to my friends with younger kids about the importance of being a parent first, there is a place deep down in my heart that wants needs her to like me as much as she loves me.

A couple of summers ago, I started planning some strictly mother-daughter activities. Up to that point, I did everything with both of my kids. But, by the time my son started high school, he gladly opted out of our “quick” trips to the mall.

There is something indescribably special about spending one-on-one time with each of your kids. They don’t have to share your attention, and there is way less compromise when choosing activities. Here are eight mother-daughter dates that will get your teen to emerge from her room this summer, bring you closer together and help create long-lasting memories.

1. Pretend Prom Dress Shopping

We pick out an armful of prom/special occasion dresses from the junior’s section of a department store, and I take photos of her wearing each of the gowns (no matter how they look!). We started this when she was 9, and we do it every summer.

2. Binge Watch a TV Show

We love Netflix! We curl up under a blanket on a rainy summer afternoon and stream our favorite shows. This opens up a lot of dialogue on friendships, romantic relationships, parent-child relationships, drugs and sex. TV show suggestions for a teen:Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, The Wonder Years.


3. Read a Book Together

Two summers ago we read Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Last summer we read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. If reading aloud isn’t your thing, download the OverDrive app for your smart phone and check out free audiobooks from your local library. We’ve listened to books as a family on road trips such as The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series by Maryrose Wood, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli and Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

4. Listen to a Podcast

OK, this is a tricky one, considering the lure of a lot of podcasts is their no-holds-barred format. My daughter is a little older, so we listen to Gilmore Guys. But, she also loves This American Life and TED Radio Hour. There are lots of crafting, science and higher education podcasts available as well. I recommend listening to a couple of episodes of any podcast to be sure it is age-appropriate before introducing it to your daughter.

5. Get Matching Mani/Pedis (Let Her Pick the Color!)

My daughter loves to paint her nails dark, bold colors, while I tend to stick to bright pinks or neutrals. Letting her pick my nail color lets her know that I trust her and value her taste.

6. Cook a Meal Together

I let my daughter choose an interesting recipe from a cookbook or online. Together, we buy the ingredients and prepare the meal. The only rule is that it has to be something she is willing to eat (which means it’s usually some derivative of pizza!)

7. Take Photos of Her in Your Wedding Gown

I did this with my daughter when she was 9. These photos are some of my favorites ever!

8. Start a Mother-Daughter Journal

Meredith and Sophie Jacobs wrote Just Between Us: A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal for Girls and Their Moms. This is a Q&A, fill-in-the-blank journal with prompts such as: “I often dream about…” and “My biggest regret….” It also has tons of blank space to write about whatever is on your minds. My daughter has opened up so much in this journal, and I feel like I know her better than ever!


I want my daughter to look back at our summers and have specific and lasting memories of me as a young(ish) and agile mom. I want her to think of me with a fondness that carries over into adulthood, to relate to me and to trust me, not only now, but also when she becomes a mom.

I want to be the Lorelai to her Rory (or the Sarah to her Amber.) BFFs 4-ever! A girl can dream right?

© 2015 Yvette Manes, as first published on Scary Mommy.