This is me...

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

Friday, April 3, 2015

Debt-Free Disney

I am not a Pinterest mom.  I am not a soccer mom.  And I am not a PTA mom.  I have never cut my kids’ sandwiches into little teddy bears, or made caterpillars out of grapes, or recreated an impressionist’s painting with their broccoli, mashed potatoes, and grilled chicken.  I often use sarcasm and Bugs Bunny like dialogue when speaking to my kids, and they understand it.  I am sometimes quick to anger.  Our house often looks like a scene out of the movie Animal House instead of Martha Stewart Living or a Pottery Barn catalog. I feed them highly-processed, near fluorescent, mac & cheese alongside their antibiotic free pork chops, because they like it and because it is cheap and easy.  I use harsh chemicals to remove the stains from their clothes and virtually every other surface in our home because it works.  I let them watch TV because I watch TV.  I let them stay up late and sleep late every weekend because I stay up late and sleep late every weekend.  All four of them have hand-held electronic devices that they could spend hours on, and if homework is done and they’re not on restriction, I let them. 

It works for us.  I should be okay with that.  Instead, I find myself constantly feeling inadequate.  But I finally did something that all parents (whether they admit it or not) aspire to – I took my kids to Disneyworld. 


My husband and I were blessed to receive a week in a condo in Kissimmee, FL from my parents for Christmas (my mom told me at the end of October), we booked it for the week of Spring break, and I set off to plan the most magical vacation ever. 

I started on the Disney website – with its bright colors and cheerful music and bibbity-bobbity-booing all over the place.  I found the tickets, went to add 7-day “Park-Hopper” tickets to my cart for 2 adults and 4 kids, and was prompted to enter their ages.  My cart showed 4 adults and 2 kids and the total was 3-months-worth of mortgage payments, a week’s worth of groceries, and the blood of a virgin.  I was certain that there had to be a mistake.  I didn’t want accommodations, I didn’t have a dining plan or a personal guided tour from Mickey Mouse – we were only buying tickets.  They were calling my 11-year old an “adult.”  So I did a little research and discovered, sadly, that there was no mistake and that children 9 years old and older are considered adults by Disney.  I mean, I guess I sort of get it; the average 9-year old is tall enough to ride everything in the park, so they should pay full-price, but holy crap.  My 11-year old daughter is tiny!  I will admit that the idea of fibbing about her age crossed my mind, but I didn’t.  I did, however, call the reservations people to try and use my awesome negotiating skills to try for a better deal.  I had worked in corporate sales for years before I had kids, and I have successfully gotten a stubborn group of 4 kids to eat their vegetables, brush their teeth, and take a bath almost every night, Disney reservations should be putty in my hands. 

Here’s the thing:  Disney has more people wanting to give them money than they can allow in the parks at one time, so they don’t negotiate.  They don’t have to.  They will, however, help you find the best deal.  I learned that I could get the 7-day tickets that I wanted, a Memory-Maker package, AND add a single night at a Disney Value resort with a dining plan to get Magic Bands for all 6 of us for only about $50 more than I was going to pay for just tickets.  So that’s what I did.  They even let us pay for it over time (which felt a lot like debt, so I freaked out about 6 weeks later and paid the whole thing off rather than following the original plan).  I was so excited to tell the kids about it Christmas morning. 

Of course, the snoopy little 9-year old found out early, but she kept her mouth shut. 

About 2 months before we were scheduled to leave, I had a freak-out moment about the cost.  I called Disney to see how much we could save if we dropped a day or 2 at the parks.  Maybe we should just get  5 or 6-day tickets instead of  7-day tickets – if I averaged things out, it should save us about $500 or so.  Nope.  Because this is where the genius of Disney comes into play.  Every day of tickets that you buy, the price drops considerably.  So I asked about dropping one day and discovered that we’d only save $6 a ticket, or $36 total.  Drop 2-days? We’d save less than $100.  See, Orlando is chock-full of family-friendly attractions like Lego land, Universal Studios, and Sea World (if your family is into animal torture).  Disney does not want you go and spend any money at any other park – they want all of your money – so, they make it very expensive for you to leave their park and go somewhere else during your average 7-day stay. 

My kids’ current obsession with Harry Potter meant that I had to look into Universal Studios for their Harry Potter world.  I discovered that there are actually 2 Universal Parks and that they have Harry Potter World in one and Marvel Universe in the other.  Obviously, we’d need to go to both.  A 2-day Park-Hopper ticket for the 6 of us would be about $1,800, but going from a 7-day ticket to a 5-day ticket at Disney would only save us about $100.  I was too cheap to pull the trigger and decided that this would be a Disney-ONLY trip.  When we told the kids, they were completely over the moon excited. 

Let me tell you – doing Disney “debt-free” IS possible, but it is NOT easy.  Our family gave the kids Disney gift cards that they could spend in the parks for Christmas.  I was in total save mode.  Whenever I was at the grocery store and went under budget, I would grab a Disney gift card or 2.  I had a jar on my counter that said “Disney Dough” on one side and “Mickey Money” on the other, and I would drop random change and small bills into whenever I had them.  I was determined not to dip into savings to pay for this trip, and we do not do credit. 

I am happy to say that we had an AMAZING time at Disney.  Yes, it was insanely expensive, and overly crowded, and there are “stories” that I will tell in subsequent posts (seriously – people provided a wealth of post material), but it was a great experience for our family.  Disney has a way of doing EVERYTHING right so that the pain of spending all of that money feels worth it, and you want to come back and give them more money.  And I do want to go back.  As soon and as often as possible.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hefty Accomplishments

I have been actively avoiding responsibility this week.  I was sick all weekend and although I am finally starting to feel some better, I just don’t want to do anything.  I did stuff last week.  It made me sick. (I know that it didn’t actually make me sick, but just go with it.)  Last week was all about cleaning out clutter.  I got rid of unmatched and warped Tupperware, bagged up some old clothes for donation, and set aside some items to sell (someday).  I even convinced the kids to get rid of some of the plethora of toys that they move around their rooms while looking for the toys that they actually play with.  But the biggest cleanup happened in my eight year old daughter’s room. 

I used to imagine that my kids’ rooms would look like a cross between my own childhood room and a Pottery Barn catalog.  When they were babies, keeping their stuff neatly arranged was easy – they couldn’t actually play with any of it and it stayed wherever I put it.  When they were toddlers, I just gave them a few toys at a time to play with and kept the rest out of reach.  But as they got older, they gained access to all of their stuff all of the time and my catalog dreams were shredded along with most of the paper in my house and it all ended up on the floors of their rooms.

My daughter loves her stuff.  I mean, she REALLY loves it.  She never wants to get rid of anything.  Ever.  Her favorite things are her stuffed animals.  She had probably close to 150 stuffed cats, dogs, birds, unicorns, hedgehogs, foxes, wolves, horses, etc.  Name an animal – real or imaginary – she probably had at least one of them on her bed.  She has been found asleep on her floor some nights because she has carefully arranged and tucked in 50-60 stuffed animals into her bed and there is no room for her.  When I informed her that she needed to par it down, I could see the panic in her face.  I suggested that she arrange them in a line, starting with her most favorite, going to her least favorite, and that we could start by giving her least favorites to some kids who don’t have any stuffed animals.  She liked that idea, but an hour later, I found her in her room hugging an armful of animals, and she said “I can’t.  They’re all my favorite.”  Sigh.

I was beginning to think that I would one day I’d walk into her room to discover that she had disappeared under an avalanche of poly-fill stuffing and faux fur. 

I know what you are thinking: “Well, why would you keep buying them for her if it is such a problem?”  But see, *I* don’t buy them for her.  Grandma does.  Her friends do.  Her siblings do.  Every birthday, Christmas, weekend outing, etc., she gets a new stuffed animal.  She names them all.  They have distinctive personalities with likes and dislikes.  This one prefers the shelf to the bed, that one likes to be near the window, the one on the floor is feigning sleep because he doesn’t want to play with the two under the dresser – there are entire sagas played out in her mind about these animals.  I love and admire her creativity and imagination and I didn’t want to squelch it in any way.  She wants more than anything to have a REAL animal of her very own.  Sure, we have a dog (who she loves), but she wants her OWN animal. 

As most parents will tell you, you can send your kids to “clean” their rooms all day long, but if you really want it cleaned you need to go in there with them.  So last week, I went into my daughter’s horribly cluttered room with her, and helped her clean out things so that she could manage it better.  We went through her clothes and got rid of anything that was too small, torn, or stained.  We tried on all of her shoes and eliminated the ones that were snug.  And we tackled the stuffed animals.  We had already taken 4 trash bags full of clothes and shoes out of her room, and so I used that momentum to tackle the zoo that she had collected.  We went at them with the understanding that we were going to be sending at least half of them to new homes and we used the “no touch” method.  I would pick up an animal, hold it for her to see, she would say “Keep” or “Give away” and I would either put it into her toy bin or into a garbage bag.  She didn’t have to touch them at all.  She did great.  Better than great, actually, because she got rid of 3 trash bags full of stuffed animals. 

After we had accomplished the cleanout of things to sell or give away, we had to tackle the trash that was in her room, and how an 8 year old child can have that much trash is beyond me.  There were a few broken things, and some stuff that was simply beyond donating, but the “art” was the main culprit.  You know, in college, I participated in “Earth Day” and I signed a petition urging my campus to consider electronic textbooks and computer based testing to cut down on the use of paper because it killed trees.  Little did I know that one day my child would have enough paper in her room to handwrite the complete works of Shakespeare on in print large enough to be read from across the room.  There must have been 3-4 reams of paper with just a mark or two on them, all wadded up and torn.  They were in stacks on her shelves, in her closet, in her dresser, behind her dresser, and under her bed.  And we had to look at all of them because she was afraid that she might accidentally throw away her masterpiece.  I wanted badly to tell her that she wasn’t Da Vinci, but I didn’t.  We went through all 12,000 sheets of paper and kept less than 50.  We hung a few up and neatly stored the rest in her desk. 

Once the dead forest was removed, I saw something odd under her bed.  I started pulling in out and was bewildered.  She had 10-12 collapsed cardboard boxes stacked up under her bed.  There were one or two big boxes, but there were also a lot of broken down shoe boxes.  Underneath the stack were wads of poly-fill and some fabric pieces.  It looked like a rats nest.  I asked her what it was all for, and she told me that she was saving it to build a house for the cat that she was going to get someday.  All I could picture was that my daughter was going to be a hoarder and that she was going to have a cardboard shanty town for cats in her living room where normal people would have a piano.  I convinced her that the cat that she might someday have would not need a cardboard house and we added the cardboard to the recycling bin.

All told, we hauled out 5 trash bags of trash (not counting the recyclable cardboard).  You would think that her room would now be a sparse and barren place after a total of 12 bags of “stuff” was taken away, but it isn’t.  However, now she can find her stuff and she can manage it herself.  I was very proud of her and the way that she tackled this with me. 

Unfortunately for me, I have 3 more kids with hoarding potential and rooms of their very own.  I need to recover before I can tackle their rooms.  And I need to buy more trash bags.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Gray Matter

I want to talk about absolutes.

 It is so easy to say that we believe in something absolutely – to stick to your guns, no matter what.  Or at least, that is what everyone wants us to think.  But it really isn’t. 
So, you think that you are pro-choice? 
What about a drug addicted, prostitute?  A “mother” who no longer wants her child because at her first check-up discovers that the baby she is carrying is a boy, and she cannot sell that kid into the sex industry for what she had planned and now wants to abort.  Still pro-choice? 
What if you are against gay marriage?  There is a couple, homosexual, who have been together for more than 15 years, who want to adopt a couple of kids.  The state where they live will not allow it because they are not married.  They are not married because the state where they live won’t allow it.  The kids?  They are the nephews of one of these people.  If they do not adopt them into their very stable, and loving home, then they will be bounced around the system, from foster home to foster home, for the next 5-10 years until they age out, thinking that no one cared about them (despite the fact that there was a loving family that wanted them; but that wasn’t what “the state” determined as worthy).   
These are just 2 examples of stories that are floating around the internet right now.  They are both true (as far as my limited resources are able to determine), and they are both tragic.

They are tragic because there are people who will argue for that perfectly healthy baby boy to be aborted and for that loving couple to be denied those needy kids because it is detrimental to “their cause” to say otherwise.  

Do I believe that “gay marriage” is wrong? 
Spiritually?  Yes.  I am a Christian, I believe the Bible, and the Bible calls it an abomination.  Socially?  No.  I have friends who do not share in my Christian beliefs who, I have to say, are wonderful people.  Some of their relationships are better examples of I Corinthians 13 than some “Christian” marriages that I have seen.  I believe that God assigns the same value to all sin.  I have friends who are liars, a few who are thieves, many who exhibit jealousy, one who has been an adulterer at least 3 times, and yet they are not faced with the condemnation that my homosexual friends face.  I look at these relationships and I struggle to find offense beyond my faith.  I acknowledge that I am inviting much criticism here, but I am not speaking of members of my faith who have chosen homosexuality (the two are not reconcilable) but I am speaking of those outside of my faith.  “We” do not protest the marriage of 2 non-believers of opposite sex, and I question how a homosexual union is any different – it is the union of 2 individuals who do not share in our faith.

I am calling on you – all of you – to use your God-given gray matter to say that there are no absolutes.  Until we tell those in the political and religious pulpits that each and every case needs to be examined under the unique circumstances pertaining to it, then the town criers among us are going to determine the rules.  Right now, we are a nation divided by the town criers, the race baiters, and the politicians.

I say that with a completely clear conscience, by the way, because I used to be one of them.  I used to be the one who thought that all homosexuals were the guys in pink bouffant wigs marching in a purple thong across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  I thought that abortion in cases of rape and incest was okay because it was better for the victim.  I thought that all government regulations protected all of the citizens, even if it trampled on a few individual’s rights. 

I was naive.

Some might say that I was stupid.

I accept that responsibility, because I earned it.  I earned it by being complacent in so many things that were wrong or at least headed in the wrong direction. 

I allowed myself to be swayed by the cherry-picked stories of social media – I would never give an impressionable child to a guy in a thong marching on Times Square (Honestly, I have come to learn that most people like that do not want children) & I would never allow a drug-addicted whore to use abortion as birth control (and most people like that never become pregnant to begin with).  That was easy.  It required no thought. 

I didn’t have to utilize my gray matter to make that choice. 

And on the surface, these are easy concepts for anyone with a religious background or well-rooted belief system.  But the problem is that they are NOT ALL easy decisions.   I wish that they were.  My life would be so much simpler if everyone and everything in these situations were absolutes, but they are not.

Is it better for a child to be aborted, or to grow up feeling completely unwanted and ignored in the “system”, or to be adopted by 2 people who will love and nurture them into a productive member of society?  Are these 2 men or 2 women somehow less deserving than a heterosexual couple?  WHY?  History has proven that heterosexuality does not equate purity – we have witnessed examples of sex trafficking, slavery, pornography and worse perpetuated by heterosexual couples, so why is it that we believe that loving homosexual couples would be any riskier?  Would we be okay, as Christians, if they were adopted by a heterosexual Jewish couple?  A Muslim couple?  How far away from our traditional faith must they be before it isn’t okay?

What about abortion?  When does it cease being a choice and become a child?  Ask an expectant mother who wants the life in their belly when it becomes a child, and most (not all) will say that it as soon as they find out about it’s existence.  But those who do not want it?  It is not a child until it is born and takes it’s first breath.  Until then, it is nothing more than a parasite to them.  I struggle A LOT with this as someone who has carried and given birth to four children of my own.  I cannot imagine ending a life growing inside of me.  Even in the face of questions like “what if your 12 year old daughter were raped and became pregnant?” could I condone abortion.  HOWEVER – At that point, I acknowledge that it is no longer my choice.  We are no longer talking about me and my body and my life or my future.  IF (God forbid) I were faced with such a scenario, I would talk and pray with my daughter.  I would seek outside counsel.  I would let her know that whatever she decided, I loved her and would support her, and I would ensure that she knew that abortion was not her only option.  I would hope that I had taught her the value of life before this had happened and that she would see that something wonderful could be produced from something horrific.  But – IT WOULD STILL BE HER CHOICE.

Let me try to make it a bit clearer:

Is it okay to abort a baby, but not okay to decide where that baby is born? (Mid-wifery/home-birth)

Is it okay to decide where that baby is born, but not okay to have that baby vaccinated? (Anti-vaccination)

Is it okay to force that baby to be vaccinated, but not okay to give it to a loving, homosexual couple to be raised? (Adoption/gay-marriage)

Should the government be allowed to determine, based upon blanket assumptions, what food that child should eat?  (Federal lunch program)

What subjects they should focus on and how?  (Common Core)

Where and how they should live? (Homesteading/Survivalism)

Is it okay to have this wonderfully individualistic child be defined by a few random standardized tests?  Is it okay for the parents (whomever they may be) to determine that the educational standards do not define, but rather cripple, their child?  Should they be allowed to opt out? What if that skews the results for the other children? (Common Core/Educational standards)

What if the child is ill?  Should some bureaucrat in Washington DC have prevue over a child’s medical treatment? (Medical Marijuana/non-sanctioned FDA treatments/even Obamacare)

I have chosen a few of the most extreme examples that are hot buttons in today’s media, but they are meant to act as catalysts.  I want you to realize that there are no absolutes in ANYTHING worth having an opinion of.  To me, that symbolizes their triviality.  These are the issues that distract us.  If you think that the government should stay out of situations regarding your doctor, your children, and your bedroom, then I hate to break it to you, but you are a conservative.


A conservative believes that there are certain areas that the government should just stay the hell out of.  A conservative believes in a small government and a great deal of personal liberty.  I am NOT a republican, but I am a conservative.  I am proud of being a conservative.  I believe in my individual rights as an American, I believe in my city’s rights, my state’s rights, and my country’s rights and I understand that they may not always be in agreement, but that the rights of the individual should prevail unless they are in DIRECT conflict with the other’s rights.   

Do I think that you are wrong to choose to not vaccinate your kids?  Hell yes I do.  I think that you are putting the rest of the populace at risk.  Did I still opt to separate my kids’ vaccines into separate shots in order to minimize risks and identify potential problems?  You bet your ass I did.  Will I fight for your right to make such choices?  Yes.  To an extent, but not absolutely.  I feel the same way about home birth, medical marijuana, gay marriage, gay adoption, and even gun rights, etc. 


Life is gray matter. 

There are very few absolutes.  Life requires that we use our gray matter – our brains – and we’ve been handed a cafeteria plan on morality and expected to accept it.  Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy.  Life is too messy not to use our God-given gray matter.


And for God’s sake, quit criticizing me for using mine.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


I have only blogged once in the past year.  I could tell you that it was because my life has been hectic.  There were exigent circumstances – there was laundry, housework, dinners, and grocery shopping.  My kids have things going on that occupy my time.  I had a job – teaching remedial English in a local community college that could support a blog of it’s very own.   

All of that is true.  All of that has been true since my first kid came home from the hospital.  That isn’t why I haven’t been blogging.  I haven’t been blogging because I have had many things on my mind that are not funny (which is sort of what I set out to do here – tell the funny stories of parenthood).  I have never been afraid to share a serious post here or there, but EVERYTHING I think about lately has been serious in nature.  And I haven’t shared any of it because I have been afraid. 

“WHAT?!” you say, all slack-jawed at your screen. 


Yes, I have been afraid.  Not of what I have to say – Lord knows that I will defend my reasoning for every one of my beliefs until the day I die, (or I will listen and contemplate all of the evidence and arguments and shift my opinions accordingly if needed).  No, my fear lies in the fact that very few are listening and the belief that I must, therefore, be insignificant. 

Do you know that fear – the fear of “insignificance?” 

It is crippling. 

I experience it as I watch the news, read articles on Facebook, as I sit in on PTA meetings, and as I witness my family and friends make poor decisions.  I see things that are wrong – things that are a mistake.  Solutions that are tinder for a building fire of misfortune on varying scales and… I bite my tongue. 
I think to myself “That’s a mistake.”

And I say nothing. 

I bite my tongue because it’s none of my business.

It doesn’t concern me.

Does it?  

Whether it does or does not, I have opinions about it. 

I have “thoughts.”

But I have been afraid to say what I think, here where I am supposed to be most comfortable. 

I’ve been afraid because I am “just” a mom.  I am a Christian.  A Southerner.  A woman.  And I am white. 

Common core?   I must be biased because one of my kids is failing.

Ferguson?  I must be a racist.

Politics?  I am just a back woods Alabama gal’…

But I am not. 

I am smart.  I know that I am. 

My opinions are not tinged by where I was brought up, by whom, how, or when.  My initial reactions might be, but not my opinions. 

My opinions are forged in sleepless nights contemplating the facts of whatever is occupying my mind; and a lot occupies my mind.

And I feel insignificant.

I have opinions, just like everyone else.  I have ideas of how things could be handled better.  I have ideas of how to improve.  But I am “just a woman,”…  “just mom,” … “just a Southerner,” …

…just insignificant...

But we are a nation of “justs,” and none of us are insignificant.  That is the beauty of our society and our government – no one is insignificant.  (Or at least they shouldn’t be).

And yet…

Yet, I’d be willing to bet that every one of you reading this has an opinion on Common Core, vaccination mandates, nutrition standards in schools, Ferguson, ISIS, gay rights, business rights, individual rights, etc.  So why don’t you have a blog spouting off about what you believe and what you think the “right thing” is?

Because you are afraid of being insignificant. 

Well…stop that.  Stop being afraid to say what you think.  You’re thoughts are valid and important.  They are just as valid as the next guy’s.  Since when do a bunch of politicians know what is best for you? 

STOP keeping your thoughts and opinions to yourself.

I may not have been sharing all of the thoughts and opinions here, on my blog, but I have been writing to my senators.  I have written about the rights for parents, for business owners, for individuals, for midwives, for parents – you name it – but I have written to those who are supposed to be my “voice” in the arenas that matter, because I have realized something….

No one cares what I think. 

No one is obligated to, except the ones that I help put into office.  They are the ones with the power.  And if they are smart enough, they realize that we, the insignificant, are the ones that gave them that power.  Trust me, they want to keep it. 

So tell them what you want. 

Don’t tell me – I am insignificant – tell them.

Do you think that businesses ought to have the right to uphold the principles that they utilized to establish their business? 

Do you think that mothers ought to have the right to home birth?

Do you think that Common Core is great, or should be abolished?

What is your opinion on ISIS?


The budget?


Do you think that the government should be held responsible for their part in… well, anything?

Your opinions matter.

Tell your congressman. 

Don’t tell me (the individual blogger) – I am insignificant.

But you (the citizen) are not.

And neither am I.