This is me...

This is me...
I'm having a mom moment....

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Trail Mix

Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis already knows that I am not very much like my mother and yet I love and admire her.  They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, but in my world, if I poke fun at you, it means that I am in awe of you.  So to honor my mom today, I will dedicate this post to her.  It is an account of our trip to the mountains, with a little fun poked at our differences along the way....

When we went to North Carolina with my mom, I knew that it would be a challenge -- for both of us.  She is structured, I am not.  She plans meticulously and I sort of wing it.  It has been a while since she has dealt with little kids on a daily basis and I have 4.  So although I was excited about the trip, I was apprehensive about whether or not we could make it 4 days without an argument.  I was convinced that there would be trouble from the moment that my mother informed me that she wanted to pull out Tuesday morning by 7:00am, stop for breakfast around 9:00 at a specific Cracker Barrel in Tennessee, be to Roan Mountain by 2:00 our time, to the hotel by 4:00 our time to check in and make it to dinner and to see Horn of the West (a Revolutionary War drama about Daniel Boone) by 7:00.  Whoa.  That was a lot of deadlines to meet.  We made the first one -- on the road by 7:00 (or at least within 15 minutes of it) and got to the Cracker Barrel in Tennessee before 9:30.  Then the fun began.  We sit and they bring menus and take drink orders and it went something like this:
Me: "William, what do you want to drink?"
William: "Can I have Coke?"
Me: "No."
William: "Can I have sweet tea?"
Me:  "No, not for breakfast.  You can have apple juice, orange juice, milk, or chocolate milk."
William: "Can I have hot chocolate?"
Me: "No.  You can have apple juice, orange juice, milk, or chocolate milk."
William: "I'll have orange juice."
Me: "Bella, what do you want to drink?"
Bella: "Can I have Coke?...."

You get the idea.  So we ordered the drinks, and then set about having the same type of conversation with all 4 kids about what they wanted for breakfast.  About the time I figured out what the 4 of them wanted to eat and I was ready to look at the menu to see what I wanted, the waitress shows up to take our order.  My husband and my mother, of course, have spent all of this time figuring out what they wanted and I haven't looked at the menu yet.  I order for the kids and my mother and husband order and then it is my turn.  So I stall to give myself time to read more than the first choice or 2 and I see my mother roll her eyes because I am taking too long.  Finally, after we eat and take 4 kids to the bathroom and peel them away from the toys and candy in the store part, it's time to hit the road.  I walk out with the 2 youngest to find that my mother already has the 2 oldest in her car, strapped in and engine idling.  As soon as she sees me, she assumes it is safe to leave since we will obviously be right behind her.  She has zero understanding of what it takes to get a 2 and 4 year old strapped into the car, put on their movie, get them their stuffed animals and toys to keep them happy for the next 200 miles and get myself in the car.  So by the time I get all of that taken care of, she has left us....and we have no idea where we are going. I call her cell phone and figure out where we are headed and take off.  I also called my dad at work to tell him that mom was already driving me nuts with the whole rush, rush, rush routine.  (I found out later that right before I called him, my mother had called him to complain about how slow I was ordering -- she didn't realize that I ordered very fast since I spent all of my time determining what to order for the kids.  This became a constant theme, by the way, every time we ate out.)

We get to Roan Mountain and to the visitor's center at its base, about on time, despite the fact that we had to stop several times for the little ones to pee with my mom growing more and more impatient every time and trying to leave us every time.  About the time that we get there, it starts raining.  Not a gentle mountain rain, but a full-out downpour.  We decide NOT to go up the mountain today to see the flowers, but we do sit and watch the rain and have a snack -- or lunch to my mother -- of trail mix and a soda and chips for the kids.  When the rain lets up, we head to our hotel which is about 30-35 minutes away in North Carolina.  We get there, check in, get all of our stuff inside and head out to eat dinner.  Our first choice for dinner has too long of a wait, so we head into Boone to find somewhere else and settle on a bar-be-que place called "Bandanna's."  Repeat scene from breakfast, but this time my mother says "Come on now, its just drinks!  It isn't hard!"  Indicating that this is taking too long.  I look at her and calmly say "Yes, but it is drinks for 4 kids under 10, who will fuss and complain if they do not get what they want to drink.  We do this all the time, let us handle it."  And we do.  After the waitress leaves, my mother says "All of that is unnecessary.  Your sister just orders Sprite for her kids and is done with it."  Wow.  I hadn't expected the comparisons to my sister to start so soon, nor had I expected them in this department.  My sister sometimes forgets that her kids haven't had lunch if they don't ask her for it, she and I are very different mothers.  I chose not to respond to that remark.  When we ordered the food, I knew what my 9 year old had ordered was not going to be enough for him.  He can out eat me and he had opted to split a rib plate with his sister.  So after he inhaled his 3 ribs, I gave him half of my food to try and keep him from getting hungry.  My mother, of course, said "Why didn't he get his own rib plate then?"  I told her as tactfully as I knew how, that it was because William understands that SHE is paying for this trip, and the rib plate was $9.99 and NOT on the kid menu.  He was trying to save her money.  She didn't say anything back.

We proceeded to the show.  It really is a wonderful drama and I suggest that if you are in or around Boone, North Carolina that you go and see it.  It is an outdoor drama about Daniel Boone and a group of settlers during the beginnings of the Revolutionary War.  They fire muskets and cannons, have fight scenes, and a hanging, but there is also a lot of dialog, dancing, and political rhetoric that went right over my kids' heads.  The 2 year old LOVED the battle scenes, but during the long dialog he kept saying, "When are they gonna shoot each other already?"  Bella was frightened by the gunshots, and I think the only kid who really knew what was going on was William.  Honestly, I really enjoyed it, but it was beyond my kids' grasp.  But Grandmother wanted to take them to see it and so we went.  The tickets were NOT cheap -- just one more example of how my mom and I are different.  I never would have spent that kind of money on a play that the kids wouldn't get.

After the play, we headed back to our hotel to go to bed because our next day was to start early.  My husband and I got the little ones to bed and the older ones were with my mom in her room.  We knew that my mom's plan for the next day was to eat breakfast in our rooms and then head back to Roan Mountain to see the Rhododendrons, so we all went to sleep before midnight.  When we got up the next morning, I went down to my mom's room to get breakfast for me and the husband.  Mom had brought individual cereal packets and had stopped and bought 2 small containers of milk.  Unfortunately, she had not counted on my 2 oldest drinking most of that milk themselves, so there was only enough milk for one small bowl of cereal.  Now, I don't know about the rest of you, but when I eat cereal, I do not eat 1/4 cup.  I generally fill my bowl.  So does my husband.  So when mom said that there was enough milk for one bowl of cereal, that immediately meant to me that he and I would need to find something else to eat.  The hotel had a restaurant and they had a breakfast special for $5.99 that included 2 eggs, bacon, biscuit, potatoes, and coffee.  We decided that we would go have that.  My mother disapproved.  It was an unnecessary expenditure in her opinion.  To me, it was insurance against a bad morning.  If I want my husband to be in a pissy mood I underfeed him.  Giving him a 1/4 of a cup of cereal and telling him that is it until later when we might have some chips and trail mix would have been a very bad start to the day.  So we had our $12 breakfast and set out for Roan Mountain with full, happy bellies.  (Part of it was that this breakfast out did not fit into my mother's schedule, but luckily the breakfast was fast and did not put us too far behind schedule.)

Up on Roan Mountain, my oldest had a meltdown that I have already covered in a previous post about the bees.  Once I got him calmed down and we left the flower gardens, we took a short hike up a different section of the mountain.  It was beautiful.  Everything was so green -- a big difference from Texas.  And cool.  We hiked about 30 minutes with all 4 kids and then my mother and I took the 2 youngest and headed back down so that the husband could take the older 2 up the rest of the way.  At one point, Jackson just sat down in the middle of the path and decided that he wasn't going any further.  He's almost 3 and this hike was a little rough on him.  So I carried him.  This slowed us down to the point that all 7 of us reached the bottom at roughly the same time.  By this point, we had been on the mountain for about 2 1/2 hours.  SO naturally, the younger ones needed to stop to use the bathroom.  Unfortunately, my mother took off down the mountain, leaving us in her dust and the cell phones had no signal.  We took off after her, with the husband driving and me staring at my phone waiting for at least one bar to appear so I could call her to let her know that we needed to stop.  When I finally got her and let her know that we needed to stop, she said "Why didn't you just stop at the visitor's center?!"  I politely pointed out (again) that she was ahead of us and that we had no idea where we were going.  After we got that all taken care of, we headed to "Tweetsie Railroad." 

"Tweetsie Railroad" is an ammusement park.  They have rides, shops, and a train.  We got there about 3:00 and they close at 6:00, so our tickets (which were VERY expensive) were good for the next day as well.  We rode the chair lift, let the kids ride a few rides, the older ones did a little gem mining that netted a bag full of glorified rocks, and we rode the train.  After the husband saw how much my mom paid for the tickets, he declared that we WOULD come back tomorrow to be sure that we got our money's worth.  The kids loved that idea, but I could see my mom calculating her schedule in her head....she was quick to say "If we have time."  Now, we hadn't eaten since breakfast at this point and I mention to mom that we are getting hungry.  She informs me that she has eaten some trail mix in the car and that she had planned on waiting to eat until dinner.  I was sure to remind her that WE had not had any trail mix and that we were hungry.  So she gave us some trail mix....

For dinner that night, we just picked up some Subway sandwiches and ate them in the room and we awoke the next morning to rain.  In an attempt to kill a little time to see if the rain would blow over, we went into Banner Elk and had breakfast at a small cafe.  The kids were all cold so they ordered hot chocolate.  Now, maybe its just because I am a mom, but when a KID orders a cup of hot chocolate, common sense would tell me that perhaps I should inform the parents that the hot chocolates cost $5 each and come in a cup that is about the size of a small mixing bowl, but our server did not apparently think that this would be a problem and so my kids had enough hot chocolate to swim in and therefore only ate about half of thir food.  When breakfast was over, the rain had not stopped, but it had worsened.  SO we decided to go to a historic General store called "The Mast General Store" and look around before heading on to Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain.  Well, the kids loved it.  THey wanted to buy EVERYTHING and William and Bella kept bringing me stuff and saying things like "Look!  It's ONLY $12...." Jackson and Lorelei just thought that the stuff was free so we had to keep making them put things back -- like the $40 velour top hat the Lorelei REALLY wanted.  After about an hour or so at the store, my mother called Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain to check on weather conditions and we headed out -- Blowing Rock first, then back to Tweetsie, and finally Grandfather Mountian.

My husband is not necessarily afraid of heights, but he DOES have a healthy respect for them and when you involve small children who run around like ours do he can get pretty freaked out.  Blowing Rock freaked him out a little.  Huge drop offs onto rocks, decks with widely spaced railings, overlooks with no railings at all -- he wanted to have hold of the little ones' hands at all times.  My mother wanted him to relax and let the kids run around and have fun, but all he could picture was one of our daredevil children taking a header off of a cliff.  My mother said privately to me that if this was bothering him, he was going to flip out at Grandfather Mountain.  She was almost right.  After going back to Tweetsie long enough to ride a few rides and have the picture made that I refered to in a previous post, we went to Grandfather Mountain.  We wound round and round the mountain on our way to the summit.  About 2/3 of the way up, we start seeing signs for the "Swinging Bridge."  This, prompts my husband to begin his protests that he WILL NOT take our kids out on a swinging bridge across a chasm of death.  I am laughing on the inside but keeping a very solemn outward appearance.  I have a healthy respect for heights -- I have no desire to dangle my feet over the edge of a cliff, but I also know that there is no way they would allow people on a bridge of any kind that wasn't safe because they would be sued.  When we reach the top, the views are brethtaking.  The wind is strong and it is pushing the clouds through the gorge below us.  We get to the "Swinging Bridge" to discover that it isn't really a swinging bridge at all.  It is a suspension bridge, and it does move a little in the strong winds, but it is not the death trap that my husband was envisioning.  We go across, take a picture, and cross back.  Then, we head back down the mountain a little ways to the nature center to see if we can see the animals in their "natural" (caged) habitats.  We are in luck -- we see bear, mountain lion, otter, and deer, after which Jackson looks at us and says "Now let's go see the DINOSAURS!!"  We had to explain that this particular nature center did not, unfortunately, have any dinosaurs.  After a brief stop at the snack bar where everyone shares some fries (my mom's idea of lunch) we let the kids browse through the gift shop. 

One thing you should know if you ever go to the mountains with kids is that every gift store you will ever enter sells polished rocks.  We do NOT buy polished rocks because I have no desire to pay $5.99 for something that I will vacuum up next month.  So after being told that they could not have rocks, I was shocked to discover after we left that Lorelei had pocketed a rock.  I immediately made her go back into the store and give the rock to the clerk and apologize for stealing.  She was upset, and the clerk (who was probably about 17) said "That's okay, everyone takes those rocks."  WHAT?  Why would you say that??!  I am obviously trying to teach my kid an important lesson here:  stealing is wrong and has consequences.  So why would you tell her "Oh, that's okay, everyone does it."??  If everyone does it then why doesn't the sign say "Polished Rocks: $5.99 per bag -- individual rocks FREE"??  Now that this 17 year old clerk has undermined the seriousness of stealing to my 4 year old, we get ready to head back to the hotel.  My mother had planned to send us out to eat at a fancy resturant while she and the kids ate pizza at the hotel.  (There will be an entirely different post on that later -- it was awesome).

We had, luckily, brought our GPS with us, so being left by my mother was becoming less of a problem.  We simply entered the hotel address and followed that instead of following my mom.  When we got back to the hotel, my mother handed me her room key and asked me to put her stuff in the room while she went to get the pizza.  No big deal.  Except that when I went to go get into her room, the security lock had somehow been flipped on the inside and I could not get in.  She was gone for about 20 minutes and it took me that entire time to break into her room -- and I ruined her key card in the process.  We got the kids eating, and got ready to go out to eat.  Our plan was to return to Alabama the following morning. 

The next morning, I awoke and immediately began packing up our stuff so that we could hit the road as soon as my mom was ready to go.  She had decided that it would be fun to stop at this Trout Farm and let the kids fish.  Since the cooler was almost empty, we could take our catch back with us.  So we did.  We got the hooks baited and the lines cast, and the 2 little ones caught a fish on their first casts.  Then we let the 2 older ones each catch a fish and mom decided that the 2 older ones could catch another one.  Jackson, couldn't care less -- he'd caught a fish and he was having fun just walking around looking at everything.  But Lorelei wanted to catch another fish.  She sat down on a rock and began to wail and moan.  Mom didn't know what to do.  We had to pay for the fish that we caught AND take them with us.  But she eventually let Lorelei catch another fish and she was happy.  And we ended up with about 13 pounds of trout....

After that, we headed home, each at our own pace since we had the GPS and mom was leaving us everytime we stopped anyway.  We all had a very good time, and we are all very thankful to my mom for taking us on this trip.  But our differences were glaring.  Her rush, rush, rush attitude was a source of both giggles and extreme annoyance with me and my husband.  We joked that we weren't sure she'd really wanted us on this trip because she kept trying to lose us or starve us.  Had I been in charge, we probably would have slept until 9:00 at least every day, eaten out more, and done a whole lot less.  Luckily, I wasn't in charge because she had it planned to make the most of our time and our money.  My mother is an amazing woman and I admire her.  I may not be very much like her, but I admire her.  I've also started to really like trail mix.... 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


So just for kicks yesterday, I kept a running tally of how many times my kids said "Mom" or any form of that word (Mom, Mama, Momma, Mommy, etc.)  I got up to 978 before I quit counting.  I love my kids.  I really do, but HOLY CRAP, SERIOUSLY???!  I mean, I have said a million times "If I had a dollar for every time I hear 'Mama' in a day, I could write full time and hire a nanny."  I always thought that was a joke, but I could hire a damn good nanny for half of that per day.  What really sucks is that very few of the things that were preceded by "Mama" were necessary.  Just a few examples include:

"Mom, where's my other shoe?"
"Mom, I need a band-aid."
"Mama, can we go to the Baby Store and get another baby?"
"Mama, I'm mad at you!'
"Mooooooom!  William sat on my head!"
"Mama, William is telling everyone bad things about me and now they are all being mean to me."
"Mama, can I take flying lessons?  Like a bird, or a bee, or a super hero without a cape?"
"Mama, what's for lunch?"
"Mama, can we go back to Texas on this day?"
"Mom, why doesn't Daddy just get a job in Alabama?"
"Mama, what's for dinner?"
"Mom, do I have to eat ALL the chicken?"
"Mom, I just threw up again."
"Mama, Lorelei scratched me"
"Mama, Jackson scratched me."
"Mama, I got a big giant booger!  Wanna see it?"
"Mama, when do I get boobs?"
"Maaaaaaa-maaaaaaaa!  I neeeeeeeed you to wipe my buuuuuuuuutt!"
"Mom?  Mama?  Mom?  Mom?  Mama?  Hey Mama, I'm trying to ask you something...."

However, if you're a mom, then you know that this is absolutely normal and you are probably wondering what the heck I'm complaining about.  You're right, of course.  The only time I hear it less is when they are in school.  (Sigh)  So enough about that.....I'll share a few stories from our mountain trip instead.

When we were in the mountains last week, the weather was wonderful.  It was in the low 60's in the mornings and up on the mountain tops and I loved it since the day I left Arlington it was 105.  But my kids were cold.  We only brought 1 pair of jeans each since it is Summer, and they had already worn them twice.  The last day that we were there, we went to breakfast and Lorelei kept saying something that we were having trouble understanding.  Finally, it clicked:  "Mama, I want my pants to be long-sleeved."  When we went to Roan Mountain, she saw an old man sitting on the porch of the visitor's center where we stopped to use the bathroom.  She walked by him, raised her hand in a half wave and said casually "Hey Pa" because she thought it was my dad.  My dad didn't come with us.  While we were up there in North Carolina, we went to this amusement park called "Tweetsie Railroad."  It was extremely overpriced, but the kids had a blast.  They got to ride on the rides.  We thought that Jackson was going to be too short for the "Tilt-A-Whirl" type ride, but when we saw by how much Lorelei cleared the red line, we decided to check.  His head juuuuuuuust cleared the red line -- barely.  He did a little happy dance.  When we were waiting our turn, the ride operator came over and said "Hey folks, just a few quick rules...." and Jackson was interrupting him saying "I'm tall enough!!  Hey, I'm tall enough.  Guess what?  I'm tall enough."  Then after the ride was over, where he laughed so hard that his whole head turned red, and I laughed at him having such a great time that my belly hurt, the ride stopped and he started saying all over again "I was tall enough!"   I had to sweet talk to get Bella on a ride called "The Tornado" because she was about an inch too short.  She helped by standing there, tears streaming down her cheeks, lip quivering, as I begged the operator to let her on it.  Eventually, once I agreed to ride with her, he caved.  It was staggering how quickly she recovered once she got her way....

We also had one of those old-timey pictures done.  I will have to see if I can scan it in or take a good enough picture of it to post it here, even though I look horrible.  I wanted to all dress like cowboys and cowgirls, but Bella wanted to be a saloon girl and she wanted me to be one too.  While my 7 year old can totally rock a saloon-girl/hooker outfit, my best hooking days are obviously beyond me.  I should have been a cowgirl like I wanted.  I was hot and pouring sweat, so I was shiny in the photo, not to mention that the photographer told us to smile, and I was the only one who did, so I look ridiculous with the rest of my stoic family -- like the fat, old, drunk, hooker at the party.  It really is pathetic, but Jackson was the cutest thing ever in his little cowboy get up, Lorelei made an awesome little cowgirl, William looked like the kid who wants to be a man, but just isn't yet, and Bella was a pretty little saloon girl.  Even the husband could pull off the cowboy look with ease.  They all love the picture and want it displayed prominently in our home, and I wish that there was a way to take me out of it.   I loathe having my picture made because it forces me to face the fact that I am not nearly as thin and good looking as I am in my own mind.  Also because every time someone takes a picture of me I look at it and am convinced that I could have done better -- that is why I rarely give up my camera.

I had better close, the minions have been in here 34 times in the last 10 minutes wanting something and the choruses of "Mom, Mamma, Mom" have started again.  It is a stormy day here in North Alabama and all I want to do is curl up with a good book -- I brought about 8 books to read and I have already found 2 more in the stacks around my mom's house.  I do not understand why this weather doesn't have the same effect on my children.  They want to run in circles squealing when it rains.  I'd like nothing more to get a blanket, a book, and a cup of coffee and sit in a comfortable chair by the window and watch entranced as sheets of rain pound the ground and the winds bend trees to their will as if demanding that they bow down to their awesome power.   A good thunderstorm in the South is a majestic, awesome, and sometimes frightening spectacle.  Never has that been more true than this year.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Road Trip!!!!

So in the past 10 days, I have driven 13 1/2 hours from Texas to Alabama, 7 1/2 hours from Alabama to North Carolina, 7 1/2 hours from North Carolina back to Alabama -- all with all 4 kids, and 7 hours round trip from Huntsville, Alabama to Tuscaloosa, Alabama with the 2 youngest kids.  That is a bit of an exaggeration, since the husband drove from Texas and on the North Carolina trip, and since on the North Carolina trip, we were with my mom in 2 cars, but still -- that is a lot of time on the road.  I have learned quite a few things on these adventures, and I will share some of them with you all so that your next trip with your kids might go more smoothly.

First of all, a portable DVD player is absolutely essential for any long car ride, as well as a plethora of movie titles so that your kids may argue over what to watch.  Make sure that the movie selections are good enough to hold their attention, but not so good that they do not want to get out of the car to go see what you came to see, or to eat, or to go to the bathroom.  Movies that they have seen too many times to count are always  a safer bet because they will be willing to leave and come back to it.  When there are 7 1/2 years between your oldest and youngest child, make sure that the oldest kid has his Nintendo DS and will therefore not care if the younger ones want to watch "Finding Nemo" and "Tangled" for 5 or 6 times in a row.  It is also a good idea to bring your own MP3 player along or else you will find yourself humming "I Have A Dream" or some other annoying song from one of their movies while trying to pee at the Flying J truck stop in Podunk, Tennessee. 

To ensure that no one gets too cramped up, be sure that no one's bladders are in sync when you leave.  That way you will be required to stop every 75 miles or so for someone to pee.  No one else will admit to needing to pee, either because they don't want to miss the show that is playing or because they will want to have their own turn in another 75 miles.  Be sure that YOU pee every time you have to stop for the kids though, because the last thing you want to tell your husband who is irrate at having to stop so much is that now you need to stop even though no one else does.  By having everyone out of sync, you will keep your trip exciting.  You will get to experience bathrooms that are a virtual petri dish of disease and how to use said facilities with little kids without them touching anything.  Nothing makes a mom's heart race more than watching in horror as your kid puts his or her hands on the nastiest toilet seat that you have ever seen or sit on a floor that obviously hasn't been cleaned since Ford was in office, and then discovering that not only does the sink barely trickle only cold water, but there is no soap and no paper towels.  There will also be edge of your seat excitement when you are sitting at a dead stop in traffic, miles from the nearest exit, and your potty training almost 3 year old who was insistent on wearing underwear today starts whining "I need to go poooooottttttyyyyyy."  Good times.....

A quick note about stopping for meals -- make sure that you bring a small dog or other animal with you so that you are required to eat in the car.  Be sure that you ask the kids what they want so that they can all 4 want something different -- at least one of which will be something ridiculous that cannot be purchased and/or eaten in the car, like when Bella wanted a peanut butter and banana sandwich or when she wanted a salad.  Argue with them for a few minutes before telling them that they are getting whatever you want them to have and then try to order the food above the moans and wails in the back seat.  After handing out the food and drinks to everyone, just try to ignore any sounds of spills behind you because you are doing 78 miles per hour to make up for lost time, and there will be nothing that you can do about it for at least another 53 miles when someone will have to stop to pee again anyway.  Don't worry about dropped food, your dog will quickly gobble that up and then regurgitate it closer to you so that you can see it. 

It is best to travel with kids who cannot read.  When they can read, they see signs for things that they want to stop and see or do.  And the highway advertisers know this -- they make large, brightly colored signs for things that they know will interest kids and place them on the interstate even if the actual attraction is hundreds of miles away.  Your kids will scream and cry to go to the aquarium, Rock City, The Lost Sea, to go zip-lining, caving, to the beach, to the amusement park, and to see the world's largest....everything.  They will beg to stop and purchase fireworks, fudge, ice cream, candy -- pretty much anything that you as a parent would NOT want them to have.  You will hear "Ooooooooh Mama!!  Can we go to blah, blah, blah??!!  Please?  Please??? Mama??!  Are you listening to me??!!  I wanna go!"  They will then  recruit their younger siblings to chant with them in unison about whatever attraction it is until your ears begin to bleed.

Most kids will, at some point during a long car ride, fall to sleep.  To make the most of your vacation time, be sure that they never all fall asleep at the same time and that the youngest and hardest to contain gets a 3-4 hour nap just before you arrive at your destination.  That way, they are good and awake at bedtime.  You are going to have to get up bright and early the next day for the planned activities of the day and the last thing you are going to want to do is make sure that everyone is well rested.  The 2 1/2 mile hike up into the mountains will burn so many more calories if you are carrying a whining toddler and dragging a crying 4 year old while trying to keep up with the 7 and 9 year old who have bounded up ahead of you like a couple of mountain goats.  And you want to make sure that your nerves are completely frazzled when you turn a corner and find them talking with a hiker who looks like Grizzly Adams and smells like he hasn't bathed in a few years.  It is a much more exciting time for everyone that way.

Hopefully, you can take these tips I have given you and make your next family vacation a much more enjoyable experience.  I also recommend doing as much traveling back to back as possible.  The kids will eventually get used to riding long periods in the car -- at least I assume they will.  I have yet to be brave enough to push it any farther than this last road trip.  As for me, I am done travelling for a while.  In fact, if anyone asks me to drive with my kids more than 20 miles for anything over the next month, I may cut them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Quick Attempt To Post

Okay, I've never tried to do a blog update from my phone, but since I am in Boone, NC without my laptop, I thought I'd give it a try. We're having a great time here in the mountains, despite the fact that my mother is A LOT more...."hyper" than we are. The husband and I are pretty laid back -- we have to be with 4 little kids.  My mom isn't used to kids as little as ours. My sister has 2 kids, but her youngest is almost 6.  It is a lot different traveling with 4 kids. They never all have to stop to pee at the same time unless wherever you stop only has one bathroom, then they all have to go RIGHT NOW. They never are all happy with where you have dinner or what they get. And they don't move fast. Ever. Unless you want them to go slow. Yesterday, we drove 30 minutes or so out of our way to go see these gardens on top of Roan Mountain just back over the Tennessee state line. It was beautiful. Rhodadenderons as far as you can see, surrounded by the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains. And there were bees EVERYWHERE.  Most of you know that I'm scared of bugs, but I'm highly allergic to bees. I carry an Epi-Pen in my purse in case I get stung. Well, my kids know this too. William, the 9 year old, reacts to mosquito bites like I do, so I have told him before that he MAY be allergic.  Of course, to him, this means that if he ever gets stung he will die a horrible death. We walked about 1/4 of the garden path to the first overlook before he flipped out and I had to take him back to the car. He was very upset. This left the husband with my mom and the 3 youngest. My mom would walk rather briskly and find herself suddenly 100 yards or so ahead of the group because they had all stopped to look at, touch, and talk about something super exciting like moss. As soon as they'd catch up, she'd take off again and they'd all stop to see why she was stopped and she'd be ahead again. 

She has our days scheduled.   This doesn't go over real big with my crew.  We're a pretty laid back group when it comes to schedules. But when we are only here for 3 days, we HAVE to have some sort of schedule. We're up by 7:30, in the car by 8:30, and off to another beautiful location. My kids are having a blast  and this kind of trip is something we could not do for them without my mom.  I'm thankful.  Incredibly so. And as much as I love to tease my mom about our differences, you have to be a little bit, well, anal to pull off what we have done in 3 days. I am certain that when I can type on a keyboard I'll share more of our trip, but right now I'm tired of typing with my thumb and I have do idea how long this is or if it flows and if it makes sense since I can only see  about 4 lines at a time.  This may not even post. What a waste of time THAT would be.   

Monday, June 20, 2011


So, I said that I would tell you about the 13 and 1/2 hours in the car with 4 kids and a dog and I will, but not today.  Today I am going to get my hair colored to cover the myriad gray that streaks from my roots screaming to the world that I am old.  (I am not old, just gray, by the way).   After my stress highlights are taken care of,  I may try to sneak off to a movie with my husband.  Alone.  Since we are in Alabama and have free childcare via 2 sets of grandparents who want to spend as much time with the 4 minions as possible, we try to take full advantage while we can.  Tomorrow we are leaving bright and early on yet another car ride to North Carolina with my mom to take the kids to Grandfather mountain for a few days, so I will probably not be posting again before Friday.  Be sure that you come back to vote everyday even though there won't be a new post because you know how important that is....

Maybe I will combine the 2 trips into ONE travel blog -- a "How To" on travelling with 4 kids.  Although it will more than likely be a "How NOT To" since we always seem to learn the best way to do things by first failing miserably.  Adding my mother into the mix, and the fact that this second trip will be in 2 cars with me bouncing back and forth between riding with my husband and 2 kids and riding with my mother and 2 kids, will give me a whole new level of experimentation on the kid-road-trip insanity.

Since arriving in Alabama, I have discovered that I have forgotten a few things in MY suitcase.  Ironically, my kids and husband got here with more than they will need, but I managed to forget my spare swimsuit, my long jeans (I only packed capris), my Sunday shoes, and my tennis shoes.  I have informed my husband that as soon as he gets back to Texas he will need to gather these things and mail them to me in a flat-rate box from the post office.  I have signed up to work as a volunteer in the clean-up efforts here in North Alabama and if I show up in flip-flops and Yoga pants, I am pretty sure that they will send me home. 

On the way here, we drove through Tuscaloosa -- just a quick loop down McFarland, down University, through my aunt's neighborhood and up 15th street.  We did not see all of the storm damage, just a small part of it.  It was unreal.  The areas I drove through and frequented during my 4 years at The University of Alabama were forever changed....some were just GONE.  I cried.  With my hand to my mouth and the phrases "Oh my God" and "Unreal" echoing in my head, I realized that the storms were more than 7 weeks ago.  So much work had already been done and yet the devastation was still staggering.  That pile of rubble -- broken brick, twisted metal, and splintered wood -- wasn't a pile on April 28th.  Then it was spread over the landscape and the road.  As we left Tuscaloosa and went through Birmingham, it was already dark.  I was certain that there would be no visible damage in Birmingham and Cullman now that the sun had sunk behind those Alabama hills I have missed so much, but I was wrong.  As we came through Birmingham, even in the darkness, it was clear where the monster tornado had crossed the Interstate.  The first clue hit my nose with a fondness before I realized it -- freshly cut pine.  Images of the woods at my grandparent's home in Shelby County flashed in my mind and I looked up.  The huge interstate light-posts that stood hundreds of feet over the road's surface, were bent over like pipe cleaners and laying down on their sides.  The endless shadowy trees that whizzed by stopped abruptly and for what seemed like a half a mile there was nothing but the silhouettes of the broken, stripped, tree trunks that hadn't been uprooted or snapped by the winds.  The freshly cut pine was from workers cutting up the downed trees to be burned or carried away. 

This afternoon, we drove through the areas nearest and dearest to me -- neighborhoods where my husband had worked when he had owned his own fencing business and others where I had babysat so many children growing up in Huntsville.  We drove through Anderson Hills and my dad pointed out how much work had been done since those first few days when he and my mother were out volunteering.  We drove down Old Railroad Bed Road, to Countyline Road, to Hwy 72 and we'd see entire small neighborhoods where every house was damaged or destroyed and so MANY huge, beautiful, old trees that were snapped, uprooted, stripped of branches and bark, either cut up for disposal or removal or waiting to be dealt with.  Occasionally, in the midst of the destruction, there would be a house that appeared untouched and all I could think was "How?!"  or "Why?"  I know the owners of that house were beyond thankful, but it drove home the illogical randomness of it -- the storm did not discriminate, but it did not get everyone.  There was no reason for why your house was destroyed and yet your neighbor's house was not.  That is just the way it is.

Facebook pages dedicated to storm recovery and assistance and seeing how many teams of people had been out every weekend, every day, since the storms hit, I assumed that there wouldn't be anything much for me to do once I got here.  I was WRONG.  These areas were devastated -- they look like war-zones.  People lost EVERYTHING.  So, as I reflect tonight, I am saying a prayer.  I pray that those who lost loved ones will be comforted.  I pray that those who were injured will be healed.  I pray that those who lost homes will find shelter.  And most importantly, I pray that you will all know, remember, and share with others that this is not "fixed" -- far from it.  If you can volunteer, I hope you will.  If you can donate, I hope you will.  But we can ALL pray.  And I hope you will.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Life's Not Fair. Thank God.

As much as I know you all want to hear the story about driving from Texas to Alabama, it's Father's Day.  So today's post is dedicated to all the great dads out there including my own, my husband, and my father-in-law.  The Driving 13 1/2 hours with 4 kids and a dog will have to wait a day or 2, but I will tell it -- promise.

My dad raised me with a firm hand, a strong sense of humor and a healthy dose of sarcasm.  Thanks to my dad, I learned early on that life is not fair.  Wait....let me rephrase that -- I BEGAN learning that life is not fair at an early age, because even at 37 I sometimes need to be reminded of that.  I am pretty sure that my dad said "Life's not fair" to me at least twice a day for 18-20 years.  When I was 8 years old, I wanted to have a Halloween party and my parents said that I could.  I immediately began imagining elaborate costumes and decorations complete with black fabric draping the walls, a coffin to use as a table for snacks, and most importantly DRY ICE.  It was essential for any good Halloween party to have copious amounts of spooky smoke on the floor.  I went to my dad with my plans and he (of course) laughed at me.  I began to scream and wail about how it wasn't fair.  I had seen Halloween parties on television and they had strobe lights and fake skeletons and SMOKE ON THE FLOOR!!  I HAD to have smoke on the floor, it wasn't fair.  My dad told me (not the first or last time) that life's not fair.  I had my party.  It was at 2:00 in the afternoon.  We bobbed for apples and ate donuts off of strings suspended from the ceiling.  There were no strobe lights and no dry ice, but we still managed to have a good time.  To this day, my family still teases me about my "smoke on the floor" party plans.  I feel a little sorry for my dad having me as a kid because Bella is ten times worse than I ever was on the whole drama level.  I foresee MANY requests for "smoke on the floor" parties from Bella in my future.  I will try to do what my dad did for me -- teach her that life isn't all about YOU and that you have so very much to be thankful for even if life isn't fair.

Because I had such a strong example of what a loving husband and father was supposed to be it was not difficult for me to recognize those same characteristics in my own husband.  I was blessed to find a man who shares my vision for our family and who is willing to put up with my often neurotic behavior and still share in the parental responsibilities.  Anyone who reads my blog knows I am half nuts most of the time and my kids are crazier than me -- it takes a very special man to put up with this crew.  He works a job he doesn't like very much to support our family of 6, backs me up, picks up as much of the load at home as he can, shares my sense of humor, and most importantly, lets me and our kids know that we are loved.  He is a wonderful husband and father and I am blessed to have him in my life and as father to our kids.  He reminds me, and helps to teach our kids that life is not fair, but that it is a gift -- everyday. 

With my husband came his family.  While they are (like the rest of us) far from perfect, they are perfect for us.  My father-in-law is easily the hardest working man that I have ever met.  He is the reason that my husband is the man that he is.  He is the reason that my husband works 10-12 hours a day, often 6 days a week to support our large family.  My father-in-law works 14 or more hours a day most days now that he is retired from the military.  He runs his own small pool company and does remodels and repairs.  He sleeps maybe 5 hours a night, and works all the time.  He once finished a swimming pool with light from his truck headlights because he had promised the customer that he would finish it by that day.  It did not matter to him that it had rained for 3 days straight making it impossible to work -- he had given his word, and if it was at all humanly possible, he was going to keep it.  My in-laws are Puerto Rican.  You need to know this to properly envision this next story.  I was working in an office when my husband and I first got married.  I do not do well in office environments full of other women.  Very few women can handle my personality.  I'm smart, I'm loud, I'm outspoken, and I'm sarcastic.  Most women don't like that -- they prefer other women to be as fake as they are.  So after dinner one night at my in-laws, I was complaining to my father-in-law about the other women in my office -- how they were nosy, busy-bodies who were gossips and I didn't want them all up in my business.  I'd probably been going on for about 15 minutes.  He was listening intently.  When I finally stopped for a breath, he reached across the table and put his hand on top of mine, looked at me very seriously, and in his rich, thick, Puerto Rican accent said "Lemme tell you whatchoo need to do.  Tomorrow, you go to work, COMPLETELY NAKED.  I guarantee nobody bother you all day."  I laughed for at least 30 minutes and I got over it.  He was, once again, reinforcing that lesson that I so often try to resist:  "Life's not fair."

If life were fair, I'd have gotten the father I deserved instead of the one who taught me humility, patience, and humor.  If life were fair, I'd have gotten a husband I deserved (or no one at all) instead of one who loves and supports me and our kids.  If life were fair, I'd have gotten the father-in-law I deserved instead of one who reinforces the lessons and values that I often need reminding of and that I want my kids to know.  Life is NOT fair.  It IS a blessing.  It IS what you make of it.  It IS a great ride.  But it is rarely (if ever) "fair."  Thank God.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I have been trying to par down the amount of crap in our house.  It is not going well.  I have decided that my entire family suffers from a severe case of "Stuffitis."  Stuffitis is a condition that results from having incredible amounts of stuff in your house.  Often times, you don't know where this stuff came from, or what it is for, or where it goes.  This is the case in my house. 

Forget the toys -- with 4 kids, we (of course) have too many of those.  I'm talking about random stuff.  Stuff like decorative boxes that serve no purpose.  They are too small to hold anything, you don't remember where they came from, you don't know if they were a gift or something you purchased because they were on clearance or just seemed like a good idea at the time.  Then there are the "inherited" items.  I have copious amounts of inherited items.  I have sheets, dishes, backpacks, knick-knacks, you name it and I probably have at least one of it somewhere in this house.  And the inherited items are giving me fits.  These sheets came from my grandmother's house, or my great-aunts house, or my mom's house.  These knick-knacks were the same.  My grandmother made or decorated this basket.  These books were my grandfather's.  Never mind that I will never use these sheets, that I HATE knick-knacks, or that I will NEVER read these books -- they belonged to someone that meant the world to me and I don't want to get rid of them.  Boxing up their stuff and taking it to Goodwill seems heartless and mean.  But honestly, I don't want them.  When my grandparents died, I wanted to surround myself with their things because I wanted them back and having their things close to me was a way to comfort myself.  But as time has passed, and I have moved forward in the grieving process, I no longer need to have all of their stuff, yet I don't know what to do with it.  My grandmother was a crafter -- she sewed, she painted ceramics, and she made things.  She died almost 13 years ago.  How do I box up something she painted and give it away?  I don't think I can.  I just have to get rid of something else.  The "practical" items like sheets are easier to let go because they wear out, and there really isn't anything sentimental about a sheet set.

Then there are the "I might need this SOMEDAY" items.  These are also here in abundance.  With 4 little kids, I do very little entertaining.  No dinner parties or receptions, more like backyard barbecues 2-3 times a year.  Yet I have china, silver, serving platters, crystal stemware, tablecloths, napkins, etc. that I not only don't use and have to find places to store, but I also have to keep my deviant minions from breaking these items or using the linens for super hero capes.  See, I'm Southern.  It is a requirement when you get married to register for all of these things.  Even if you don't register for them, you get them.  I hope to need these items at some point in my life because I do enjoy entertaining, but I haven't actually had most of them out of their bubble-wrap since 1999.  I am telling my girls to be more practical and realistic when they get married -- register for gift cards and a Costco membership.  You can always go and get those items when you get to that point in your life, but getting them at a point when you and your husband are living in a studio apartment is a little ridiculous.  But fancy dishes and stuff are not the only problem.  Our garage is full of items like lawn chairs and coolers.  We are NOT outdoorsy people.  Yet we have a ton of camping equipment type items -- including a 10 man tent and at least 4 coolers.  We don't want to get rid of these items because should there be a Zombie Apocalypse and we have to go on the road to stay alive, we need to be prepared.  We also have enough tools and scrap wood in the garage to build a small addition.  Unfortunately, with the husband working 6 days a week on second shift, he hasn't actually built anything since we moved out here.  But, should we ever need 7 2X4's and some scrap plywood, we've got it covered.

Along the same lines of the "someday" is my closet.  My closet has basically 4 sections.  It has the normal section -- for the size I usually am; the fat section -- for those days after I eat a bag of Rolos and have 2 cokes; and the skinny section -- for when I make it to the gym more than once a week and drink the water instead of the coke.  Most women have these 3 sections in their closets.  I also have the "I have a dream section."  This is where the jeans that I wore in 1993 await me.  I know that they will NEVER fit me again.  I have had 4 kids (and the last one was over 10 pounds).  Even if I lose enough weight, the loose skin around my belly means that I will always have a muffin-top.  But I hold onto them just in case I am wrong, and the monster mid-section that my kids have given me proves more elastic than I think it is.

There are also MANY things that I have purchased over the years.  I have DVD's that I own because I love the movie, but I honestly hardly ever watch the movies that I own.  In fact, I rented 2 movies last night.  I got rid of about 200 movies before we moved here from Georgia, just to trim things down.  However, if there is one thing I love more than movies, its books.  I am a reader, and I have a serious problem with getting rid of books.  Most people read books.  I devour them.  I read Stephen King's "It" in one sitting.  Same thing with "The Stand," "Gone With The Wind," every one of the "Harry Potter" books, and just about every other book I ever sat down with.  Up until last year, I still had all of my college text books and a few from high school.  I donated more than 300 books to the local library and at least that many before we moved here 4 years ago.   

Then there is the random other crap that piles up -- the plastic grocery sacks that I keep meaning to go turn in but haven't yet, the magazines that I was going to recycle, the junk mail that pours into this house with unrelenting consistency, and the kid's stuff.  My kids have to pick up random crap from other people's houses, it's the only explanation for some of the things I discover.  A few weeks ago, I found a t-shirt in my 7-year old's drawer from a 5K in Oregon.  We have never been to Oregon.  Nor have any of us ever participated in a 5K.  I have also found toys that I have no idea where they came from.  Small stuffed animals that the 4 year old has named and formed an unnatural attachment to like the small stuffed horse named "Cloppy" that I don't know where she got it.  Where does this STUFF come from???

As I was procrastinating (before I started writing the blog for today) I was watching TV.  And I think that I have the problem figured's not our fault that we have all of this stuff.  Television is full of advertisements for "stuff" that you "need."  Then there are more advertisements for items to clean your stuff, store your stuff, display your stuff, etc.  There are shows on reality TV telling you that you can sell your stuff so that you can go out and buy MORE stuff.  There is "new and improved" stuff to replace the stuff that you already have.  There are attachments and accessories for your stuff that make it better.  Stuffitis is not a problem in just my house -- it is a nationwide epidemic. 

I have put my kids on notice.  We are getting rid of stuff.  LOTS of stuff.  Some of the stuff that is going, they are NOT want to see go, but it doesn't matter.  Our house will NEVER be clean because all of the stuff is in the way.  We HAVE to get out from under all of this stuff because it is bogging us down.  Since my husband and I got married 13 years ago, we have moved 6 times.  Our first apartment was 900 square feet, and this house is about 2,000.  So although we have more than doubled the size of our domicile, we have TRIPLED the size of our family.  We don't need this stuff.  I'm tired of picking this stuff up, cleaning this stuff, moving this stuff around, and trying to find places to put this stuff.  I don't know if I have it in me to do a yard sale, but I will be selling some of this stuff on Craigslist and the money will not be used to buy more stuff.  It will be put into a college fund, or a vacation account, or emergency fund.  Or maybe I'll use the money for a spa day.....

Friday, June 10, 2011

I am Not, Nor Have I Ever Been, THAT Mom

I went to Wal-Mart with all 4 kids today.  I survived, I only got a few condescending looks, and Lorelei didn't call anyone old and fat.  While we were there, I was standing in an aisle trying to compute in my head which size of cereal was cheaper since my kids consume cereal like oxygen and my kids were running in circles around the cart behind me.  A Pearl Clutcher passed by us with her 2.5 kids (one in ballet clothes and one in soccer cleats and infant in tow in what looked like a brand new car seat) and I kid you not, the woman had on HEELS in Wal-Mart (and it isn't Sunday so I know she wasn't stopping by after church, and they weren't stripper heels so I know she wasn't coming from her low-class job at Badda Bing).  Nope, she was THAT mom. You know the one -- she gets up at 6:00 in the Summer to execute her meticulously planned out days for her kids complete with Summer lessons and play-time, she makes organic meals from scratch, grows her own herbs, has Summer workbooks for her kids to keep the things that they learned in the school year fresh on their minds, her house is spotless, and she wears a bra everyday even if she knows she isn't leaving the house.  She has a bulletin board or chalkboard on her kitchen wall with meals planned out for the rest of the month, she coupons, gets her hair and nails done, and wears make up...daily.   Her cart was full of fruits and vegetables -- not a boxed meal at all.  She reached around me to get some oatmeal.  Not the instant envelope kind, the old-fashioned kind that requires a pot and use of the stove.  She smiled politely and said "Kids certainly keep you young!" and then click-click-clicked herself on down the aisle.  I just stood there.  Slack-jawed, too stunned to reply.  "Kids certainly keep you young??!"  Was she serious?  Was this some sort of twisted sarcasm that even I didn't get? 

Kids do a lot of things, but they do NOT keep you young.  They drive you crazy, they make you sleep deprived, they make you fat, and they turn you into a raving lunatic whenever you feel they are being mistreated or threatened, but they DO NOT keep you young.  Maybe I'm missing something.  Maybe this is what all those Tiger Moms have discovered:  They stay young by forcing their kids to do all of the crap that they wish they had done when they were younger, and live vicariously through their achievements.  They wish that they had done better in school, so they hire tutors, pay for extra classes, and push their kids to constantly do better.  They wish that they spoke a different language, or played an instrument, or that they were good at sports, so they push their kids into those things.  Well, I wish I had done all that too, but I am really glad that I didn't.  Let me explain.

If I had done better in school (and mind you, I did well), spoke another language or two, played an instrument, and convinced myself that I would only be a success if I were the world-renowned whatever, then I never would have gotten married and had kids.  I would most likely be alone, unhappy in my life though thoroughly successful in my career.  I would have not been satisfied to do what I am doing now -- staying at home with 4 little kids.  I NEVER would have married at 24, started having babies at 26, and kept doing it for the next 7 1/2 years.  But since I hated school, hated corporate America, and hated the rigid 8-5 work hours, I LOVE staying home (in fact, I don't want to go back to "work" in corporate America and I am avoiding it as long as I possibly can).  And I had an AWESOME childhood.  I did a few extra things when my parents had the time and the money and when I wanted to, but for the most part, I got to be a kid. I wasn't padding my college application at 7. 

So as much as I wish I was more like "that" mom at times, I'm really glad I'm not.  My kids are most often up and out of bed before me and are munching on cereal or Pop Tarts and watching TV.  They usually go outside to play and are back inside within about 10 minutes because it is seriously 112 degrees here in TX, and there are bugs that could carry off a small child if you aren't careful.  They then spend their days playing PlayStation, building cities out of Legos and wooden blocks, and making music videos on the digital camera that they then beg me to upload to YouTube so that they can "be discovered" like Justin Beiber.  We eat PB&J for lunch and have an orange for dessert, drink Crystal Light mixed with Sprite, and then for dinner I try to have something with a vegetable or two in it.  I rarely plan meals more than 10 or 15 minutes ahead of time.  My kids are healthy, happy, and smart and I am not driving myself nuts for them to be that way.

Perhaps my kids would be super geniuses if I had their days planned out with math and reading lessons, piano and foreign languages, violin and Tai-Chi.  But then I think about everything that they do -- building towers to reach Pop Tarts, locking me out of the house, etc. and I think, do I really WANT them to be super-geniuses??  Who knows what kind of crap they would pull if they were smarter or more stimulated.  No, I don't think they need any more stimulation -- I'm not sure I could handle it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Just Not A Good Day

I've had a rough 12 hours.  My night last night started out well enough with the only 2 kids from the neighborhood that I sincerely don't mind having over coming for a few hours so their parents could head out to Dallas.  I really do love having them over.  They are calm.  Heck, compared to my 4 they're almost catatonic.  They get a little riled up with my kids, but they also mellow my 4 out a lot.  We ordered pizza, had soda and then ice cream (because I am an awesome babysitter), and the extra kiddos headed home around 11:00.  After they left, our house was invaded by another behemoth demon roach.  I am convinced that these things collaborate outside and then send in suicide roaches just to mess with me.  So, there was a chase involved.  We chased it and it chased us and eventually the 9 year old manned up (after jumping about 4 feet straight up in the air) and stepped (landed) on it squishing it dead while I stood there screaming.  Then the adrenaline that was coursing through my veins kept me up until 3 AM and I didn't sleep well and I had to get up at 7:00 to take the dog to the vet to get groomed.  Then, of course, I was up despite having only 4 hours of sleep and couldn't go back to sleep.

Then the minions began arising from their beds one at a time.  Bella was first and had the breath of a dead dragon yet insisted upon sitting right next to me despite me telling her time and time again to go and brush her teeth.  Then Jackson got up all grumpy and went into the kitchen and helped himself to a bag of Frito's and an applesauce -- the breakfast of champions.  Next was William.  Despite the fact that I was WATCHING something on the DVR, he walks in and flips on the PlayStation like he's the only one in the room and then gets mad when he realizes that what I am watching still has 42 minutes left on it.  As punishment for his rude behavior, I didn't fast forward the commercials and made sure to pause and rewind several times to prolong how long it would take to finish.  Last, as always, was Lorelei.  That child could sleep through the apocalypse.  She slept on the couch upstairs.  For the 9th night in a row, she slept without a Pull-Up.  We shouldn't have pushed our luck because she peed all over it.  Yay.

I have been reading a lot of my friends posts about what they are doing with their kids this Summer and I have parental envy.  Since the husband is still on 2nd shift, I do most of the parenting stuff on my own.  I cannot take 4 little kids to the pool by myself because I cannot watch them all.  I cannot take them all ANYWHERE that doesn't have a cart to contain at least 2 of them because taking them anywhere is like herding cats.  So when we finally do venture out -- even to the video store or Target or the grocery store -- they are so excited to just be out of the house that they stress me out jumping around, running in 4 different directions and going nuts.  It makes me want to go home where they are easily contained.  And add to it that it is over 100 degrees, and by the time we go anywhere, I am zapped.  But I WANT to take them places and do fun things with them, so today I have been looking at easy ways to entertain them without losing my mind or screaming at them.  So far I have found NOTHING.  It would help if the heat index wasn't 115 or higher every day.  I'd get us a kiddie pool, but last year I tried that and the huge, suicidal, killed themselves in it every night and I would have to empty it and refill it everyday.  Then I got a sprinkler, but it was literally too hot to use it.  And there is a water-ban.  My jerk neighbors would no doubt turn me in for wasting water.

So I am the worst mother in the world.  I keep all the kids inside, we watch movies and eat ice cream.  We listen to music and dance around like fools.  We have fun in the only way we know how, and we occasionally clean something or hunt down a home-invading cockroach with a death wish.  But not today.  Today mamma's tired.  Today they are eating Pop Tarts for lunch and watching copious amounts of Nick Jr. and  I'm going to go take a nap.

**Please take my lack of sleep into consideration when reading today's post.  I just reread it and I haven't written something this disjointed in quite awhile.  I'll try to do better tomorrow if I get some rest.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Kids Are Awesome

I have a pretty awesome set of kids.  Today's post, instead of being about how they have broken something or destroyed the house or eaten Pop Tarts in the bathroom or something equally disturbing, will be about how awesome they are.

William is a very sweet 9 year old kid who loves Legos and builds some pretty amazing stuff out of them. He draws detailed battle scenes on a regular basis and can't spell to save his life. He also has a pretty good intuition about some pretty grown-up concepts. Like, the other day, he was staring at the motion-activated soap dispenser. I said "What are you doing?" He looked at me and said "Well, I've been thinking. You know how the commercial about that soap thing says that there are hundreds or thousands of germs on your soap dispenser?" Curious now, I said "Yeah, because you are touching it with your dirty hands." "Well," he continued, "Why does that matter, exactly?" I was confused. He knew about germs -- I am almost phobic about them. I have literally 6 different kinds of hand sanitizer in my car and purse. But then he says "I mean, you are about to wash your hands. Its not like you get soap AFTER you wash them, so whatever germs you might get from the soap thingy, you wash right off." A few moments before I was questioning his mental capacity. Now I am convinced that he is a genius. My 9-year old had spotted the flawed logic of a product that I had enthusiastically gone out and bought. Awesome.

"See this guy is from Tatooine, and this other guy is...."

Bella is my drama queen. She wants to go on America's Got Talent. She is confident that she would just have to walk on stage to get a ticket to Vegas. I'd let her do it, but I'm afraid that it would crush her confidence. She is mini-me. Poor thing. She exudes confidence yet she wants desperately to be loved and accepted. Oh, and famous. She REALLY wants to be famous. She tells me all the time that when she gets discovered, she is going to buy me a new minivan and a house in Alabama and she's going to hire her dad so that he doesn't have to work a job he hates and will instead get to spend all his time with her. And she's smart. She is in the gifted program at school and her handwriting is better than mine. The other day, she looked at something I wrote and she told me "Wow mom, your handwriting kinda sucks." I told her what a doctor had told me once -- bad handwriting is a sign of extreme intelligence. It means your brain is working so fast that your hand can't keep up. She put her hand on her hip and cocked her head to the side and said "Well that doesn't make sense. My handwriting is perfect and I'm super smart." Touche. And awesome.

I'm ready for my audition....
Lorelei is my quirky kid. We think she MAY be on the tippiest top of the Pervasive Development Disorder Spectrum....or she may just be awesome. She gets stuck on things and you have to make eye contact with her to get her to stop sometimes, and she rocks back and forth and shakes her head for comfort -- like every night she shakes her head back and forth to make herself go to sleep and it knots her hair up to her scalp. She is obsessed with animals, bugs, and all living things. She actually names the little fruit flies that get into our house things like "buggy" and "gnatty" and gets real upset if I kill them. She has no fewer than 37 stuffed cats and dogs with names like "Puppy Dog Treat" and "Mamma Cat." She doesn't use the words "today" and "tomorrow" -- instead she says "this day" and "the next day." And she has no filter. Last week, I took them all to Target and we saw an older lady on one of those motorized cart things. Lorelei walks up to her and puts her hand on the cart and says "I like your car thingy. Do you have it because you're old or because you're fat?" The woman shot me a dirty look and sped away. I told Lorelei that it was both. But then she is also incredibly sweet. Once when we were in a store, a lady was approaching us with her daughter in a wheelchair. The little girl had Cerebral Palsy. I was terrified at what might come out of Lorelei's mouth. But she looked at the little girl, put her hand on top of hers and said "You must be a princess. You're so pretty and you get to ride in a special chair." The little girl grinned at her and her mom cried. Lorelei may be quirky and have no filter, but she is awesome.

You are just jealous of my awesome kitty-cat hat.

Then there is Jackson.  I have already done an entire post on him and his exploits, so I will simply share a (rather long) video of him telling me a story.  He already knows that candy will make you fat and that the dad should "say sorry" for the kids.  Again, Awesome.

My kids drive me nuts.  Sometimes I feel like either they should be on medication, or I should be.  But, they are my whole world.  They are the only reason I get out of bed some days.  They are the reason I write this blog.  Yep, they are awesome.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Just To Clarify -- I'm Pathetic

I got another email worth talking about. It wasn't snarky, this person was just offering some opinions on things that I had said and therefore I will not be posting her email address for y'all to go after her but I will discuss it here because, honestly, it got me thinking.

She said that she enjoyed reading my blog, that I was funny, that my kids are hilarious, blah, blah, blah. Then she said that she wished that she had my "screw the world attitude" and that she wished that she "didn't care what others thought" like me. Whoa. Is that what people get from me? That I don't care what people think? 'Cause that is SO not true. I post on Facebook. I write a blog. I submit books for publication. Everything I DO screams "Like me!!! PLEASE!!" When I get yet another rejection letter from a publisher, it causes a "Sneaky Hate Spiral" to begin. When I write a status update on Facebook and no one "Likes" it, I want to create a fake profile to be my friend so that SOMEONE will like it or comment. And when I write a blog that no one comments on, or emails me about, or re-posts on Facebook, it makes me feel like the fat girl at the 8th grade school dance. I think that as much as I don't care what SOME people think, acceptance and approval are things that I seek out on a regular basis. If I like you, I want you to like me too. I want you to tell others how great I am. I want all of that -- like a prepubescent little girl.

I have applied to and been accepted by Top Mommy Blogs. I am proud to have been accepted. I am proud to be #6 out of more than 75 in the Humor Category and #19 out of more than 1,050 overall. BUT -- I hate that I have dropped from #4 in Humor and #17 overall. I check it everyday. It is almost an obsession. I want to be ranked higher. I get upset when I slip on the list. I start wondering if maybe the last post wasn't good enough...maybe people don't really like me...maybe I'm not really all that good....maybe, maybe, maybe. And the thing is, this isn't some all-inclusive site -- I mean, there are TONS of blogs not on there, and MANY of them are way funnier than mine. The votes reset every 30 days. People can only vote once every 24 hours. If I post twice in a day, or if I DON'T post for a couple of days then most people aren't just going to spontaneously come here and click on that brown button to vote (except me and a few VERY loyal friends who follow and who are as obsessed as I am). This site is great, but it's not a great measurement of....well, anything really. My logical side knows this. My 13 year old self still strives to be adored by the masses. (So I still want you to go and now).

I also measure my level of blogging success by the number of followers I have (and I have lost a few of those too). I seriously try to figure out how many individual followers I have -- you can follow through Blogger or through Networkedblogs on Facebook and some people do both. Then I know that I have people who follow by just bookmarking the page. I have no way to count them. It drives me nuts. I wonder if they're REALLY there....every once in a while I'll get a message from one of them, but there is no way to "count" them.

Then there is my "real" writing. Not that this isn't real, but these are literally just my ramblings about my life. The stuff that I submit for publication has NEVER been accepted. (Sigh) I have written 9 children's books. Unfortunately, I am not Jamie Lee Curtis or Britney Spears, so it is VERY difficult to break into the publishing world. One trip to Borders or Barnes and Noble is enough to really piss me off and send me into a sneaky hate spiral. Imagine that you have written something imaginative, funny, sweet, and exciting. You have read these stories to your kids for years and to their friends and they all LOVE them. Your parents, your friends, and even some total strangers who have heard your stories tell you their awesome. Now imagine that you, send them off full of pride to no fewer than 150 publishers and these stories -- these works of art that you have produced are rejected. 150 times. For EACH story. So that's more than 1,350 letters saying "Thanks, but no thanks" or "Good, but not good enough." Then you go to the bookstore, and there on the shelf, for $8.99 is a board book that has ONE WORD on each page. This got published??! This was chosen above my brilliance? How can this be?? Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I suck and no one has told me....maybe I am the William Hung of the writing world.  (Google him if you didn't get that...)

So I guess what I am saying is that if you all think I am this super confident person, then I have misled you all. Horribly. I am so concerned about being loved and accepted that it’s probably classified somewhere as a mental disorder (I'll add it to the list). However...that being said...if I think you are an idiot, that is when I become certain that I don't care what you think. I don't care if you vote for me, or read my blog, or like my Facebook status at all if you are a moron. Basically, I adopt the view that you must not think very much and therefore whatever you think of me is irrelevent. And I WILL throw all of my work towards being cool out the window if you attack my kids in any way. You will see the laid-back person disappear and be replaced by something quite similar to a mamma bear who feels her cubs are in danger.  The same holds true if you attack or belittle my friends or family.  Or me or my writing for that matter.  Oh, or if you think you are better than me, or my family, or my friends.  Come to think of it, there are a lot of situations where I don't care what people think.
But most of the time I am pathetic.

Monday, June 6, 2011

They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Ha.....

It has happened again.  A 2 1/2 inch flying cockroach has attacked me inside my house.  I realize that the last time that this happened in such a dramatic way, was a year ago.  Almost exactly.  So a little Google search has revealed that late May until July is these little monsters breeding season and that they are "highly active" during this time of year.  They often come inside to search for water (it hasn't rained in weeks here) and that they are aggressive, not afraid of humans or light.  I have decided that this may be normal behavior for them, but it causes highly abnormal behavior in ME.  I mean it -- I think that I have a clinical condition when it comes to bugs.  I have a phobia.  I experience extreme anxiety whenever I encounter one of these 6 legged freaks.  This happened on Friday morning as I was sitting down with my laptop to write my latest blog post.  It took me more than 24 hours to calm down.

Friday morning, I was sitting peacefully on my couch with my laptop, laughing in my head about the post I was writing about my kid's teacher, when I sneezed.  In doing so, I looked up from the screen and something was moving in my peripheral vision.  To my horror, there was a cockroach crawling on the curtains behind me and the morning sun had cast a shadow the size of a small cat on the seat beside me.  This is what it looked like: 
I let out a scream that I know sounded like a mountain lion.  It took all that I had not to throw the laptop across the room.  Instead, I got up quickly and slipped my shoes on and went to get the Raid I had bought last year after this happened out from under the kitchen sink.  I ran back into the den, took aim, and sprayed.  The little demon jumped off the curtains (he probably  fell, but in my mental state at the time, he jumped) and ran behind the couch.  Try for a moment to get the proper image in your head, of me standing there wild-eyed, with messy hair, holding a can of petroleum based bug spray with my eyes darting back and forth.  Now I start flipping the sections of couch over looking for the freaky little horror that has now successfully ruined my morning.  I saw him a couple of times and screamed like a banshee again and sprayed and sprayed. 

My husband woke up and found the den in total disarray (even more so than when the kids have been at it) with couch sections virtually piled upon one another and me crouching with bug spray looking like a feral animal who has been cornered.  He asked me what was going on and I started crying and pointing to the torn up couch.  Through all of my blubbering, all he could weed out was "I can't find it!!"  He thought I had lost something before his half asleep brain registered the bug spray.  Then, because he is the best husband in the world, he helped me hunt.  We took this opportunity to vacuum under the couch and pick up all the toys, books and papers that had accumulated under there (well, he did -- I was too freaked out to move any paper with anything but my shoe for fear of the creature running up my arm).  The amount of adrenaline coursing through my system probably could have fueled a small city.  We looked everywhere and could not find the offensive fiend. 

My husband tried to reassure me that I had gotten it with the bug spray and that it had most likely skittered up into the couch and died. This was the WRONG thing to say to me.  The thought of that THING inside my couch where I sit and type on my laptop, where my kids sit or lay down and take naps, was horrifying to me.  I wanted to rip the cloth off the bottom of the couch and search for it.  Luckily, my husband talked me out of it.  We did find the offensive creature in the kitchen, belly-up, legs curled in and dying.  He had gotten past us, but I had wounded him with the Raid, and he was a goner.  My husband picked it up in a paper towel and put it into the trash and then helped me set the den back in order, and then he went back to bed.  (The 2 and 4 year old had slept through all of the drama -- amazingly.)

I have seriously used up my crazy quotient over the past 2 weeks.  There better not be any big messes or anymore bugs for awhile or else I will be looking out for the men in white coats.  It doesn't matter how justified I think my freak outs are, because....ya' know....I'm nuts.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Hey! Teacher! Leave My Kid Alone!!

Today is my kids' last day of school.  I have been sitting on this post for months because I did not want to risk my son's stupid teacher seeing it and punishing my kid for what I am about to write.   My mother, grandmother, and 2 great aunts were all teachers.  My cousins on my mom's side are both educators.  I think MOST teachers are underpaid, under appreciated, and awesome.  Unfortunately, this is NOT my son's teacher.  Not. Even. A. Little.

My son's 3rd grade teacher is a lazy, mean, slacker of a woman who SCREAMS at the kids in the class for doing the normal things 8 and 9 year olds do -- like talking or getting distracted by shiny objects across the room.  Like most parents, I ignored the stories my kid would tell about her (he is MY kid after all, his imagination kind of rocks).  I had met her and she didn't seem that bad, a little stern maybe, but I figured that would be good for him (especially since I'm a "Sloth Mom").  I even went so far as to ground him for not turning in a few assignments even though he swore that he did them and turned them in because she said he did not.  She and I had a slight disagreement about the way she was teaching multiplication early on in the year (she was giving them 3-4 "strategies" and it was confusing William who was trying to use them all at once).  I started using flash cards to make him just memorize the times tables like Mrs. Phipps had done for me in 3rd grade.  She told me not to do that because "studies had shown that memorization did not work as an effective teaching tool."  I told her that was how I had learned multiplication 29 years ago and that I STILL could do multiplication in my head because I just knew that 8 X 8 was 64 and 12 X 12 was 144 by looking at them.  It blew over.  She quit trying to tell me what I could or couldn't teach my kid at home and I taught William how to "show his work" to make it appear that he had used one of her stupid strategies.  About the beginning of January, right after the holidays, was my first REAL indication that my son might not be exaggerating.

One of the things that 3rd graders at this school have to do, is read 100 minutes a week and write a 3-5 sentence "log" about it every week on their log sheet.  Every 6 weeks they get a new sheet, with 3 sections on each side. Well see, I was the room mom.  (See Don't Ever Agree To Be The Room Mom. EVER.) At the "Holiday Party" for Christmas, I was talking with his teacher about how I had made him do his reading but I hadn't made him write the 3-5 sentences yet.  Her response was "Oh don't worry about it.  I'm thinking I won't even grade it."  So I thought, cool, we'll skip it.  I had planned and executed that whole stupid party on my own, just gotten over surgery, we were making a 13 hour drive to Huntsville -- one less thing to worry about.  Then, after the first 3 weeks back at school, he brings home his folder with a big, red, zero on that blank reading log and 100's on the other 2.  I emailed her and asked her about our conversation at the party and she said that IF she had said that, it was a joke.  Ha. Ha.  I asked if he could re-do it and I was told that those grades had already been entered and could not be changed.  Annoying?  Yes.  But not a reason to release my mom-wrath on her.

About 3 weeks after that, we had the Valentine's Day party.  She seemed annoyed by the whole thing.  She didn't want to have the party at all because they had "too much classwork to do."  Now, don't get me wrong, I am all for working hard in school, but seriously?  These kids only get TWO parties a year and they only last 40 minutes or so.  So while I am there, she mentions to me that William has some assignment's missing.  This is news to me.  She said that she told him about them and she doesn't know why he wouldn't tell me.  (Oh, I dunno....because I am his mom and he would get into trouble?)  I asked her why she didn't send me a note, or an email, or call me, and she said that she had told William.  A little later in the party I got William by himself and asked him about these missing assignments and he said that he had done them and turned them in.  I asked him if she had told him she didn't have them and he said "Yeah, but she says that all the time and then she finds them."  I was still inclined to take the teachers side (I was turning into my mother).    I made him do the assignments over.  They were worksheets, and I did them with him that night at home and returned them the next day.  The following Tuesday, they came home in his weekly folder with grades of 90 -- 10 points off for being late.  Again, annoying since I didn't even know about them, but whatever.

Then the following week, when I got his weekly folder, it finally clicked for me that my kid was NOT exaggerating.  That SHE was most likely the problem.  Because in the weekly folder was the EXACT SAME WORKSHEETS -- all marked 100.  So naturally, I emailed her and asked her if these 100's would replace the 90's since obviously they HAD been turned in.  I did not accuse her of anything, I was not snarky, I just asked a question.  I was told that because those grades had already been recorded (the 90's) that they could not be changed.  Now I was ticked.  Don't get me wrong, my kid makes A's, and a 90 is still an A, but it was the principle of it -- she docked my kid what was essentially 40 points (10 points per worksheet) and accused him of not doing his work, when SHE was the one who had lost it.  Still though, I kept the mom-wrath in check....for now.

Looking through my kid's folder once over the next few weeks, I came upon a paper that was marked 68.  I had a momentary freak-out.  Then I started looking at the paper and found several problems that were marked wrong, that were correct.  I asked William about it because there were also 2 letters written on the bottom of the front page.
"Hey William, what does 'NR' mean?"
"Oh, those are the initials of the kid who graded my paper."
"Yeah, my teacher told us that she didn't have time to grade all of the papers so she has us swap papers a lot of the time and grade each others."
Hmmmmm.....So, of course, I emailed the teacher and let her know (in a non-snarky way) that the kid that graded William's paper had made a mistake, that 68 should have been like an 87 or something.  And, I did ask her if she double checked the papers that the students graded when the scores were low or uncharacteristic of the student's normal work.  The answer I got back, WAS snarky.  She told me that student's often change incorrect answers to correct ones after the grades had been determined and recorded and that she did not review student graded papers because the whole point of having the students grade them was to save her time.  What I got from that was "No, I don't check them because I'm lazy and your kid probably changed some (but not all) of his incorrect answers to correct ones."  Now I'm starting to pass "annoyed" -- in fact, I am moving dangerously close to "pissed."

There were several other instances -- most notable was a worksheet that only had 4 questions.  William missed one.  I looked at what he had written and it looked correct -- I think it was about products, supply, and demand, etc.  It was a fill-in-the-blank question and the teacher had written the "correct" answer above William's "wrong" one.  The correct answer did not even fit in the sentence.  It was improper English.  Tried to argue with her about this and she said that it was the way the book had it and all William had to do was copy it directly out of the book.  I sarcastically said something like "Oh, okay. So because my son was smart enough to realize that the sentence didn't make sense, and corrected it to use the word that DID make sense and still be correct, you counted it wrong?  Yeah, that makes sense."  She replied that he hadn't followed directions.  (Grit teeth, bite tongue, it's only April, just get through the rest of the school year, don't cause problems...)

At the end of April, I saw her in the carpool line and she told me that William had failed to turn in an assignment on Citizenship.  (Suuuuuuuure he did.) so I asked if he could re-do it.  She said "Yeah, just 4 pictures and 4 sentences about what it means to be a good citizen."  We went home, he got his paper and pencil and whipped it out really fast.  He said that it was because he'd already done it once.  Sent it back and the following week it came home in his weekly folder with a grade of 80 because it wasn't in color -- also included was the ORIGINAL assignment (that WAS in color).  What. The. Hell.  I wrote the first snarky email asking why, if she had wanted him to do it in color she should have mentioned it -- I had him do exactly what she had told me to have him do and that it seemed sort of pointless anyway since she had since located the one she said she never got.  Her response was that the original one had been "misplaced" and that even though she had found it, William hadn't put his name on it and he would have been counted off for that regardless.  She said that the grade couldn't be changed because (you guessed it!) the grades had already been turned in.  I called the school to make an appointment to see the principal.

In the meantime (I couldn't get a meeting with the principal for about 2 weeks due to our conflicting schedules), more things occurred -- like her counting of 20 points on his stupid reading log the week of the tornadoes in Alabama because I didn't sign it.  I sent a VERY snarky note back on that one.  I told her that she should NEVER count points off on my son's work for something that I did or didn't do since that wasn't his fault.  I told her that I had been more than a little pre-occupied with the tornadoes in my home state -- first locating all of my friends and family to make sure that they were okay, and then relaying information to those friends and family who had no other source.  I had made sure that he had completed the assignment and since he had done so EVERY WEEK SINCE AUGUST, me not signing it should not be counted against him.  The email I got from her said simply -- "These grades have already been turned in, so I will not argue over this." 

I met with the principal.  I told her all of this.  I told her that I was just trying to get through the rest of the year, but that she needed to be made aware because I was afraid that I was going to lose my temper and go off on this teacher in full view of the students, staff, and parents if things did not calm down.  I also told her that the excuse that "The grades have been turned in and therefore could not be changed" was total crap.  I think the exact thing I said was "Ferris Beuller was hacking the computer and changing his grades in 1986, you cannot seriously expect me to believe that grades cannot be changed if the teacher is willing to do it."  The principal was  sympathetic.  She was careful not to accuse her teacher of anything or say anything that could misconstrued as taking sides.  She said that she could see how me and this teacher might "clash" because of our personalities and that she wished I had come to see her earlier in the year.  I told her that I knew moving my kid for the last month was not possible, but that since I had resorted to responding like a 13 year old girl to everything this teacher did, I felt like perhaps I needed to just give it to her to handle and step away.  We ended the meeting with her assuring me that she would look into it, have a talk with the teacher, and see about getting William into a handwriting class for next year.  I felt better.  I was going to make it.  We were going to end the year without anymore incidents, and next year would be better.  Then William came home from school yesterday with his backpack full of crap.

She had sent home a stack of 14 papers stapled together yesterday (yes, the last school night of the year) with "Incomplete Assignments" written across the top of the first sheet.  What the WHAT?!  Grades have already been completed, William got a certificate for making the honor roll, what was I supposed to do with this?  She must be on crack if she thinks I am going to make my 9 year old do 14 pages of homework on the last day of school.  I figured since it was the last day of school, I'd write "To accompany the incomplete education he got from you this year" and send it back.  Since grades have already been entered and since apparently that's the same as carving them in stone, she will be unable to retaliate by taking it out on my son's grades.   So......I did.  It was immature.  It was snarky.  And it made me feel better.  She can suck it.