Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Different Kind of Blog

Tonight, I want to take a break from the usual subject of life with children.

Instead, I want to detour a little and discuss life as a married person who also happens to have children.

Today has been a stark reminder to me of how vastly different men and women really are. We are like night and day, east and west, Coke and Pepsi.

The main reason I observed and remembered these differences so acutely is because today was project day around the house. A little DIY party, if you will.

You see, in general, most wives around the world enjoy having our homes look warm, inviting, and well decorated. We thrive in an atmosphere of color coordinating curtains and throw pillows, decorative pottery, and creative uses of interesting accessories. To sum up, we like beauty.

This is for the most part the single most painful consequence of the fall in the minds of your average husband. In general, husbands would be quite content to live in a home with white or tan walls, a couple leather lazy boys, and a humongous t.v. That's really about all they'd need in their main living space. Not to stereotype too much here, boys, because I know some of you personally who are better at interior decorating than your wives. I commend you (and I may need you to come over for your opinion on some things around here).

A few small examples of how our differences have caused conflict around here include:

our 10x12 thick shag rug in the family room.

I cannot show you a picture of it because it is currently being marvelously cleaned by our friend Matt Burger, who owns a great company called Southern Tile and Restoration. You can find his business here:

Anyway, the rugs in this home have tended to cause a tiny bit of conflict. I think they are imperative in rooms with hardwood floors. Without them, the room looks cold, unfriendly, and quite uncomfortable if you ever have to sit on the floor.

To my husband, rugs are a complete oxymoron bought only by morons. You have beautiful wood floors (which he worked very hard to put in, I might add) and you're going to pay more money to now cover up 3/4 of it?! What the heck?!

You see our problem.

The next area of conflict in most homes today is in regard to the walls.

Men adore walls. Sometimes men seem to enjoy just standing and gazing at the simple purity of an unadorned wall.

I don't know what it is about a plain wall. I just really don't. Is it the craftsmanship of the sheetrock guys they admire so much? Is it the amazingly smooth job the mudding guys did to hide the seams (which is very difficult if you've never tried it)? I have not figured this one out.

It's a wall! It needs some interest brought to it! We put children in the corner to face a plain wall as PUNISHMENT. Why would we want to live in a place where all the walls are perfect for punishing children?

So today was D-Day. I got Michael to work on a few little things I'd been working and planning for a couple of weeks.

We started simple.

I had him take down the existing towel rod in the girls' bathroom and replace it with this:

Why on earth did I not think of this years ago? A kid level row of hooks. I have pretty much had it with having to put away bath towels for my children who are quite capable if only they could reach. We've had one of those over the door things for ages, which work fine if I'm willing to do all the work because the girls can neither retrieve nor put away their own towels.

Short people really get on my nerves sometimes. Not all short people, mind you. Most of them I totally love and wish I could be as petite as they are. It would be so fun to be dainty. The ones who get on my nerves are the short people who use their shortness as an excuse to get out of household chores. My children are masters at this tactic.

Next, I moved him onto the intermediate project.

He was up for the task.

The thing about our home is there is virtually NO closet space. This works out absolutely fine to my youngest, who would gladly throw out every article of clothing she owns, but for the rest of us? This is somewhat of a problem. I was happy to find this piece to serve a twofold purpose: dressing up a naked wall and providing us with a little extra room for bath towels and such.

These is an example of his handiwork a few years back. He made the shelves for me and even agreed to hang them on his beloved blank wall over the whirlpool tub.

Not bad, eh?

Michael finished up all my projects upstairs and I heard him head downstairs. I smiled happily. He was in the zone. Ready for the next project. This was fantastic.

You can imagine my surprise when I discovered him here:

Huh. Apparently he needed a break. I am a teeny bit suspicious that he needed another wall-loving man to vent to, but whatever. This is our neighbor, Kent, who is very dedicated to washing his cars, even when it's cold. On this day he provided my husband with the perfect excuse to leave the house. Thanks, Kent.

I allowed Michael to get in a few minutes of male bonding before I directed him back toward the house.

It was time for the grand finale, and I gave him his biggest challenge yet:

The collage of family photos on the wall behind the couch. We're talking 13 frames of varying sizes, some with no way to hang them whatsoever, and some with two hooks on the back which he'd have to line up carefully. And then, to top off the challenge, I asked him to make sure each frame was evenly spaced and looked uniform while at the same time looking interesting.

It was a sad, sad hour and a half or so for my sweet husband. I think he died a little inside.

I was willing to live with that.

Look! It looks fantastic! (and will look even better when my nice, CLEAN rug comes home next week!)

Thanks to the man who made it all possible. The one whom I love. The one who is legally bound to me for better or for worse. He would definitely qualify this DIY weekend as the "for worse".

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Parade at Publix

Earlier this week I accompanied my daughter and her fellow kindergarten classmates to their much anticipated and talked about field trip.

No, we didn't go to the nearby bug museum.

It wasn't the at Space and Rocket Center down the street.

We didn't go see a play at the civic center downtown.

Not even the Botanical Gardens to learn about nature and such.

Nope. We went to Publix.

Yes, the grocery store. You've heard of it.

I have to admit I was a tad bit skeptical at first. I mean, it's a grocery store. I go there only when you can hear the wind whipping through the empty pantry or the fridge echoes like a cave when you drop a penny on the glass shelf because it's otherwise empty.

But okay, here we go to Publix to see what we can see.

Boy, was I ever wrong. That place is fantastic! The kids were totally mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the behind the scenes world of the grocery store.

I learned a few things, too, not the least of which being do NOT shop in the produce section within a couple days of a kindergarten field trip. Little hands were reaching out and touching every fruit and vegetable in sight. Little hands that were likely not so clean.

I really cannot even begin to tell you what this is. It doesn't look even remotely appealing, does it?

Next, I learned that grocery store people can have a lot of fun with their job when they want to. For instance, we got to stand in the giant fridge where they stock the milk and eggs and such, and when someone came by to get some milk, the whole class mooed at the unsuspecting bloke. It was pretty funny.

We toured the humongous freezer in the back with the heavy, metal doors with scary looking locks. The kids shivered with delight and I couldn't help but think how handy it might be to have one of these around sometimes.

Do you want to spend one minute in the box? It could help you cool that little temper tantrum off.

Okay, no. Probably a bad idea. But still, likely to be effective. Also kind of child abuse, so moving on....

We watched a big machine crush boxes. This was actually a very sad moment for the children.

You're crushing the greatest toys on the earth! Why, man?! Why would you crush our favorite toys? You've gotta love the box!

If you've ever seen a kid happier than a clam while playing with a plain old box, you know what I mean.

But the crowning moment, the pinnacle of the day, was when we moved to the seafood area.

Each time I bring my girls grocery shopping, we HAVE to come visit the lobsters. It's a little like coming to say farewell to someone on death row. You'd think it might make them a little sad, knowing the fate of the lobsters is at hand, but no, they are delighted by those sad looking crustaceans.

The Publix lady picked one up and the kids actually got to touch it. Pretty much cementing my attitude that I could never cook one of those nasty things.

But the nastiest by far, the creepiest of the day, was the octopus.

I HATE these little guys! They're just disgusting, aren't they? Slimy and the suckers on their legs are just revolting.

The kids gathered around and one of them was even brave enough to hold the little fella.

Thankfully, my miss priss wasn't that kid. EEEEWWW!

So all in all, it wasn't a bad little field trip. And I haven't even told you the best part!

Here we are, your two favorite bloggers, together at last!

This is what happens when you ask a six-year-old to take your picture.

First, she takes pictures when you're not aware:

Then, she takes as many pictures as possible before you figure out what she's doing.

I have about eight pictures just like this.

Then, she takes one more pic before you can get the iPhone out of her hand.

This is my friend, Paula, who went to the same school as I did in elementary. She's a whole year older than me and boy, was she ever cool playing the bells in band class. She also intimidated me because she was friends with all the cool kids.

Little did I know that (a few, ahem) years later we would be blogging about our daily lives with children and sharing how weird and quirky we really are with the masses? Admittedly I am the weirder of the two. I really don't read any other blogs, but I love hers. Check it out.

And so, we exited the grocery store, loaded down with cookies, cheese, produce, coloring books, and even extra cake decorating toys from the bakery.

That was a cool field trip. Even the part where my child looked at the pharmacist the class was talking to and proudly stated that every time she takes medicine she throws up. Makes a mother proud.

Hey, we're nothing if not honest, right, Paula?

Stress and Supermoms

The last few weeks I've been struggling with some symptoms of stress.

Twice now I've suddenly, for no apparent reason, started feeling very anxious and my heart feels like it's racing and my hands are shaking and I just want to lay on the floor in a dark room and breathe slowly.

This is very unusual for me.

So I began taking inventory of the sources of stress in my life during this season and began evaluating causes. The following are recent examples of things that may be having a teeny, tiny impact on my elevated anxiety...

Exhibit A:

Yesterday I had my annual dentist appointment (somehow I've managed to have really good teeth and only have to go once a year...yippee!). Anyway, my husband was out of town and I had no sitter, so three children tagged along with me. I loaded them down with a tupperware bin full of calico critters, gave strict instructions to refrain from biting, kicking, screaming, or letting their curiosity overcome them, and said a silent prayer.

The littlest darling came with me into the little dentist room and began looking at books.

This lasted 2.7 seconds.

She ended up sitting in my lap as I lay on that reclining chair with a bright light shining in my eyes and a hygienist looming over me. The three-year-old was filled with wonder at what in the world was going on. She was totally riveted, watching every move the woman made.

I made a mental note to NEVER allow her to tag along on an OB/GYN appointment.

So there I lay, completely at the mercy of the woman holding a sharp instrument very close to my gums, and praying with all earnestness that my child wouldn't suddenly make a move and cause the hygienist to stab me in the tongue or something. I had visions of bleeding gums and puncture wounds in my cheek. Also in the back of my mind was the definite concern that the older girls in the waiting room might be stacking the chairs into a tower or even worse, going into the back room where all the dentures are kept.

Hmm. That could've been a small contributor to my stress.

I continued pondering what in the world could be making me a little anxious. I came up with this as Exhibit B:

This is not a slam on the dog. Really. He's not a bad dog. He's just doing what dogs do.

However, recently our neighbors whom we kind of know but not really, posted a sign in their yard. It said, "please curb your dog. Thank you."

Curb your dog? What does that mean, exactly? Keep the dog off the sidewalk in front of their yard? Make sure he doesn't bark when they pull into their garage? (which he doesn't) It was a mystery and it was stressing me out. We've had bad neighbor relations before (with the previous neighbors in that house) and I am willing to do just about anything to keep these people happy with us.

I decided to go over there and fall all over myself apologizing, then ask what the problem was so I could fix it.

In no uncertain terms, she told me that she had found dog poop in her yard two times during the year that we've had Hank.

I get it. TOTALLY. That's gross, irritating, and rude. No excuses. I'd be annoyed, too. Obviously, if we'd known we would've cleaned it up.

So now every single time Hank escapes out the front door (thanks to kids who open the door and he pretty much tramples them to freedom), I go totally nuts, having to chase the stupid dog all over the cul-de-sac and keep my eyes on him every single second. What if he poops in their yard again? We'll be known as the rude "dog people"! They'll hate us! Give us the evil eye every time we happen to be outside while they are!

That could possibly be a tiny source of anxiety, especially since he escapes multiple times a day lately.

And finally, I pondered exhibit C:

I have loved teaching this kid at home this year. Really. The time we're spending together and the things we've done and learned are priceless.

However, trying to make sure I am not completely failing her and dooming her to a life of flipping burgers because she never learned how to add or read is somewhat burdensome. I have visions of her having to wear a hair net to work every day or ask what flavor milkshake someone wants for 8 hours a day. It is a gnawing fear. We start school most days before 8am, and after her sisters go to bed, I do some of the next day's school with her (partly because the maniac 3-year-old makes long periods of reading aloud somewhat difficult). This makes for a long day.

Earlier this week, I turned in my first progress report to our legal homeschool cover. I'd never met the woman and wanted to make a good impression.

I can pretty much throw that one out the window. I did almost everything wrong.

I filled out the wrong report card.

I brought the wrong writing sample (but to be fair, writing sample can be somewhat easy to confuse with a 'handwriting' sample, can't it?).

I numbered my record of school days wrong and we had to count them all over again.

Olivia was asked to write a short sample about anything she wanted. She can totally do this, I thought. She's great at creative writing and comes up with some winning essays at home.

I made some quick suggestions for topics such as the Bible lesson we'd had that morning, what she's been learning about space, the book we just read on Michaelangelo, or even the field trip we went on for our 100 days of school celebration.

What did my darling choose to write about?

"Hank Webber is my dog. He makes poop mess all over the yard."


I pretty much just collected my children, handed over the necessary paperwork, and left quietly.

Tonight I kinda wish I was a drinkin' woman. I tried to do some deep breathing, but my children began blowing in my ears and looming over me.

Supermom. Putting kids to bed a tad bit early is my specialty, especially when they can't tell time (which not knowing how to tell time will also be a source of stress to me when I start homeschooling the next one...dang it!).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hollywood in my Home

They say life imitates art.

This has never been more true at my house than today.

Earlier today as I was going about my usual business of motherhood, homeschool teacher, part-time employee @ Michael's office, chaffeur, housekeeper, cook, piano teacher, and refining my skills of walking on water, I happened upon a drawing my oldest child had done.

This kid LOVES art.
REALLY loves it. For Christmas she got new blank canvases to paint and pretty much the best way to get her excited about schoolwork and lessons is to find some way to connect it to drawing or painting or sculpting get it.

Anyway, this is the picture she had most recently sketched:

Hmm. It looks somewhat familiar to THIS, doesn't it?

Or is it just my imagination that they are eerily alike?

In case you can't see it well, my child has portrayed her baby sister as the miniature (and somewhat less hairy) version of Godzilla. She appears to be terrorizing the natives and in general leaving a path of destruction and gnashing of teeth in her wake. She looks pretty intimidating, I must say, and the helicopter she's holding effortlessly in one hand really drives the point home that she is powerful. She's standing on top of a building as if it's a step stool and the tiny little people below are running for their lives through the city streets.

Being home schooled lends itself to lots of quality time together. And sometimes some not so quality time together. Olivia has witnessed more than her fair share of our more, um, "intense" moments with our determined three-year-old. This is why she and I rush early in the morning to do a few subjects before King Kong, I mean, Leighanne, emerges from her bed.

Some days she can be totally, 100% delightful! She's got a great sense of humor and nobody can hold a candle to her cute booty shake dance she does (which is STILL sporting red dry erase marker images thanks to her other sister). But some days? Well, some days I am quite frankly concerned that she might actually end up in prison by age 7. But talk about putting a mirror in front of yourself. Sadly, she gets it honestly, I'm afraid. I wasn't exactly a piece of cake myself as a kid. There is no physical evidence today to prove this story, but I MAY have lost my temper at age 3 and pushed over an entire Christmas tree with one determined shove. But I digress...

But there may be another reason God gave us this precious kid. Maybe it was just so I would appreciate Hollywood more. Hide yo' kids, hide yo' wife...the three-year-old's comin'.

(In case you missed it, I blogged about last week's little run in with can catch up here: )

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Human Body as Art

In keeping with the designing theme from last night and Leighanne's desitin creation, tonight we'll discuss my children's other artistic talents.

Throughout the years, we've had multiple infractions involving markers, crayons, pens, and various "canvases" composed mostly of walls, baseboards, carpet, tables, bricks on the house, and the focus of tonight's blog: the human body.

Olivia and I have been studying Michaelangelo and his amazing understanding of the human body.

He actually went to a morgue and studied the bodies (inside and out...disgusting) in order to better sculpt every tendon, vein, and joint. I've kind of edited some of our studies of the sculpture, "David". Sometimes more detail is not a good thing.

I am wondering if discussing the human body as art has been a bad idea. This afternoon, I was sitting on the couch in the playroom when in ran a giggling six-year-old holding a red dry erase marker in her hand.

This is NEVER good. NEVER. There are no exceptions whatsoever. No clauses, no get it, this is bad news. I feared the worst.

Raising my eyebrow and transforming into stern mother mode, I immediately began questioning the suspect.

"What have you been doing?"

Laughter was my response. Total unbridled, snorting laughter.


"What did you draw on? Where did you use that marker?" I demanded to know, fear welling up in my heart for my brand new chair in the family room, which would most definitely NOT hide red marker very well.

And at that very moment, as if they'd choreographed the entire thing, in waltzed my little nudist. Sometimes I think you guys are under the impression I exaggerate my blog. Surely no one's household could be this full of, um, 'adventures', for lack of a better term. But folks, I kid you not. Again, I cannot show you all the photos I took because of that pesky child decency act, but I will try to give you an adequate run down of the scene before me.

Here she was, twirling in like a naked ballerina, looking like she'd escaped from that reality tattoo show called, "Ink". She was pretty much covered from head to toe in red marker designs, her crazy curly hair flying wildly as she spun herself around, laughing with delight.

Here are a few of the pictures I can show you. These were not doctored or enhanced in any way:

We'll start with her feet. I know they look weird, like she has elephantiasis or something on her ankles, but it's just the way her legs were resting on the arm of the chair.

You've seen the men who get tattoos of their girlfriend's name?

Leighanne was sporting the names of her entire family, including the dog, all on her left arm.

Her legs:

Some kind of abstract art. Can't quite make it out.

This was the sweet little face filled with glee at her antics with Lauren:

Glasses. The mustache was a nice touch in adding to the sophisticated, intelligent look they were going for, don't you think?

But this one, this is the one that made me downright scared for a moment.

Her tummy said, "This is a boy". I was trying to prepare myself for what my six-year-old might have deemed appropriate to draw on the southern hemisphere of my naked child. Good grief, we're a little young for anatomy lessons, aren't we? For Pete's sake, where in the world had she learned anything about that?!

But much, MUCH to my great relief, all that had been drawn down there was a peace sign. Her rear end sported a matching peace sign which was jiggling all around as she hopped and pranced before me (I feel like I've written something quite similar to this very recently. Oh yes, that's BECAUSE I DID. The nudity is getting out of hand.).

So to review, the girls are now on total marker probation indefinitely. We add that to the running list which also includes scissors, bubble gum (because last week I found a chewed up piece smashed into the top of my dresser), desitin, and toothpaste (you'd be surprised what destructive things you can do with toothpaste).

Of course, all good things must eventually come to an end. I found her half an hour later fast asleep.

Well, at least it wasn't my furniture or walls this time. I suppose I should shut up and be grateful for improvement. Baby steps.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Designing with Desitin

*I have some awesome pictures for this blog, but since I really don't want to go to jail or have my blog shut down for indecent pictures of minors (and because I don't want her to hate me later), I cannot post them. I think you'll get the basic gist as you read the story.*

You've heard of the show, "Designing on a Dime?"

At our house last night, we featured a new show called, "Designing with Desitin". I guarantee you it has been cancelled after its pilot episode.

All was quiet in the house. I heard no fussing, crying, shrieking, giggling, or playing of any kind.

My heart began beating a little faster.

You mothers understand this. It's just NEVER good, unless it's between the hours of 8pm and 7am, for the house to be this quiet. Something is amiss. You do, after all, live with little crazy people, capable of mass destruction of any kind in 30 seconds or less.

These girls have a record, you see. Happily, the older they get, the less they are repeat offenders. But nonetheless, I still must play warden of the prison we call home sweet home. All this unmonitored quiet was a definite security breach.

I immediately began calling their names, starting with the most dangerous inmate, the 3-yr-old.

The other two girls answered promptly and quickly stated their location and intentions. They received security clearance.

Not so for the little one. Still calling her name, I made my way room by room upstairs, dread filling my heart with every empty room I found. There is one reason and one reason only she wouldn't be answering me.


I quickly went downstairs. The kitchen was empty and there were no signs of her mastermind anywhere. The dining room was void of any destruction, and the game closet and living room were unscathed.

There was only one option left. I drew my weapon (anti-nausea pills should the scene immediately sicken me) and quietly entered the room, holding my breath and bracing for impact.

And there she was, standing in all her half naked glory and grinning from ear to ear.

"What in the world? What have you done to yourself?" I asked.

Mommy! I painted my body with desitin! hehehehe

Oh, for the love of all things good and holy.

I drew closer to the guilty inmate. Upon closer inspection, I saw that she had, indeed, literally painted her entire backside, thighs, and belly with desitin. That distinct aroma of baby rash ointment permeated the entire room, forcing me to open an exterior door to try to begin fumigating the place. Genius, I thought. She's using chemical warfare against me.

The little artist was having a total blast. She thought it was hilariously funny and clever. She looked as if she was wearing white underwear. She even had some on her face and was hee hawing like crazy over that fact. I surveyed the surrounding area. Desitin on my hardwood floors (which, I speak from experience when I say this is considerably better than on carpet), desitin on my leather chair (again, better than upholstery), and on the throw blanket.

Now, mothers, enforcers of the law, keepers of the keys to freedom, what would you do in such circumstances? Would you get mad? Would you be gentle with your reprimand? Would you just leave her there laughing evilly and lock yourself in your bathroom for a Calgon moment?

I looked into that little face, cheeks, nose, and lips speckled with white cream, and considered my choices. Get angry? Frankly, I just didn't have the energy for it considering it was around 5:30pm and I'd been on duty for the last, oh, eight years of motherhood.

Be gentle? Ha. Ummm, that's really not my specialty, I'm sad to say. Really wish it was.

I decided to take the only route that would not lead to my moment of breakdown and scaring my children with my indiscernible mutterings and sporadic eye twitching. I pulled out my camera and allowed the little lawbreaker to pose and play it up for all it was worth.

I even recorded some video, which child decency laws prevent me from sharing, but they are pretty darn funny. Laughing and explaining what she had done, she turned her back to the camera to reveals her white desitin covered booty, shaking it and even spanking herself (which now that I think about it is really quite scary and disturbing to this mother of three girls...seriously, what kind of job does she think she might secure with that set of skills? Note to self: have a talk about decency and modesty later.).

We had our fun with her little antics, then pulled out some wipes and cleaned up the crime scene.
Bath time immediately followed, and her white little body soaked in the tub for a few moments. That desitin's powerful stuff. It repels all liquid and proved a little tricky to get off.

This afternoon I sent the little darling to play with her best friend for a couple of hours. I hugged and kissed her good-bye, breathing in the still faint, but still lingering scent of desitin.

She has lost all hopes for parole in the next six months.

We all fuss about our kids being too loud. But when you think about it, it's when they're quiet that the real trouble begins.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

That's Just Creepy

You are fast asleep. Totally relaxed, the stress of the day just disappearing as you snuggle down in your warm, comfy bed. You stir just a little and adjust the blankets, relishing these blissful moments of much needed rest.

Then that feeling that something isn't quite right overwhelms you. Someone is there, watching you, gazing down upon your vulnerable self. You feel the chill bumps begin to rise on your arms and all your senses are heightened as you continue to register the presence of another human being in close proximity.

You can't stand it any longer, you just have to open your eyes. If a crazed murderer has managed to break into the house, your number is up, anyway, you may as well see who you're up against, right?

And there, in the soft moonlight flowing in from the slits in the (very dusty, but let's not mention that) closed blinds on the window, you see something so startling you bolt upright and accidentally whack your sleeping husband in the nose in your flailing panic.

Ever seen that scary movie called "The Ring"?

Remember her?

That beyond creepy girl who climbs out of the t.v. and murders anyone who's watched her weird home video and not made a copy? sounds a lot less scary now that I write that out, kind of stupid, actually, but that's not the point. Wow. I really need to up my entertainment standards because this was a C or D movie AT BEST. Perhaps I should plan to read some smart people books (Oh, that was supposed to be a mental note to self, but oh well. You know by now that I am easily amused.). Maybe I'll start having more enlightening conversations with my philosopher friend instead...but probably not, I don't know what over half the words he uses even mean.

Anyway, if you haven't seen this movie, it's really creepy. I heard the second one was even more creepy and never watched it.

Back to the story, imagine you open your eyes and this is what you see:

Looks startlingly similar, doesn't she?

There she stands, not moving, not speaking, just staring at me through the tangled mess of long brown hair draping over her face.

You'd think by now I'd have learned a few things. Namely, I should never watch scary movies. But more important, I should lock my bedroom door. If they need me bad enough, they can yell from behind the closed door until I wake and hear them. In fact, I know of a friend whose parents applied that very standard to little nighttime wanderers in their home. They were NOT, under any circumstances, to enter their parents' bedroom at night without first standing in the doorway and calmly calling their mother and father to wake up first. Then, after mom and dad had a moment to orient themselves and be assured that a stalker wasn't looming over them as they slept, the child was granted access. I used to think it was kind of cruel for little Suzie to have to stand in the dark hallway, shivering with fright from a bad dream or struggling with an upset tummy, but now as a mother of night wanderers, I totally get it. Applaud their genius, actually.

You see, this particular child of mine has an intense fear of a couple things. First, these:

I can't say that I blame the kid. They are pretty revolting. It doesn't matter what kind, what color, what size, or real of pretend, she hates them. This is a fact which her sisters have not missed and have, in fact, capitalized on many times. Torture among sisters can be a very ugly thing.

So, several times a month, particularly during the summer months when spiders can be found fairly easily outdoors, she suffers from bad dreams. Spiders are usually crawling around under her bed or hiding at the bottom of her sheets. My favorite was the time she dreamed a spider stole her toothbrush and used it (which I don't really understand why this is a problem as she HATES to brush her teeth, but anyway, she was quite distraught over it).

The other subject of Lauren's bad dreams unfailingly involves this dicey character:

That's right, Malificent from Sleeping Beauty.

I don't know what it is that clicked in her mind to make her so terrified of the mean green lady, but she is. She can watch all the villains in other Disney movies and laugh at them, but Malificent means business. You don't laugh at Malificent.

This night was a Malificent night. And again, because I just never give up hope, I tried to avoid getting out of my comfy bed by just talking to her and trying to persuade her to pad back down the hallway to her bed. Malificent couldn't have been in your room, I said, because I personally locked all the doors and turned on all the night lights, and if she'd tried it (even though she's not real), we would've heard her right away. I put the "even though she's not real" part in parentheses because I've learned the hard way that this tiny fact of reality doesn't make one hill of beans difference to a 6-yr-old.

You think she's not real, huh? What a fool you are. I feel sorry for you in your naivety.

For the next TWO hours, my husband and I took turns on Lauren duty, trying in vain to coax the little darling to go back to sleep. We turned on closet lights, tried to break her from her dreamworld a little by getting her some water, showed her that nothing was lurking under her bed, etc. We finally got her to agree to lay down next to our bed in her brand new sleeping bag. Thinking this was a fairly reasonable compromise if it didn't become a habit, I settled back down for a few more hours' rest.

Have you ever tried to go back to sleep after having your heart skip several beats and adrenaline rushing through your system at the sight of someone standing over you while you sleep? It's not easy to do, but couple that with the fact that you've been up for two hours now having frustrating conversations and you can just forget it.

But finally, FINALLY, I managed to drift off just about the time I felt a little hand holding mine.

Yep. The next one in line had made her way to our room.

Her crazy, curly hair illuminated in the moonlight, her face just a shadow (it is somewhat like what I always imagined Bozo the clown would look like if he came to murder me at night).

"I had a bad dream, Mommy."

You know what? Forget it.

I threw my covers off, got out of my warm bed, picked up the three-year-old murdering clown standing before me and put her in my spot. Then, because I felt bad about leaving Lauren on the floor because we held out long enough against her pleas to be in our bed, picked her up and placed her in the bed as well. I left my husband sawing logs, blissfully unaware that he was now sharing his bed with two women, neither of which was his wife.

A mere two hours later, I woke up to get started with the day.

Know what I found?

Michael still sleeping with a 3 and 6-yr-old, but there was an addition to the little party sometime while I was gone. The 8-yr-old was sleeping peacefully in the sleeping bag next to the bed.

Heck, we could save a lot of money on our mortgage if we moved back into our one bedroom apartment we had as newlyweds. The idea that we'd need more space is just a big, fat lie.

"The Ring." people. Do not watch it if you have kids with long, dark hair who make a habit of walking the halls and lurking over people at night.

Sweet dreams.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Children and Church


We love our church. It's been part of our lives for a decade. I have been privileged to get to know and work with the children's ministry folks there for several years now.

Love them dearly. Believe they have been called by God to serve. Know they have the kids' best interest at heart.

But honestly, sometimes I think they hate me or else just get a kick out of the weekly circus in our pew.

You see, at our church (which is fantastic, don't get me wrong), children 'age out' of the kids' program after kindergarten. They still have Sunday School, but at the ripe old age of 6 or 7, they are supposed to sit in 'big church' with their parents.

I have no problem with this, theoretically. I mean, what parent wouldn't want to share the experience of worship and edification through the Word with their children? What more important task do we have when it comes down to it?

So theoretically, we are good. It's the practicality part I sometimes have issues with.

Worshiping Jesus in my heart is slightly hindered when my daughters are punching each other out in the pew next to me. I'm fairly convinced mothers first practiced their 'evil eye' look (you know the one, the one that means, "if you do not stop that IMMEDIATELY, I will pick you up, carry you out in front of all these good, Christian people and we will not even be in the bathroom before your hindquarters start feeling a little warm" look).

So there's the fighting issues children seem to suffer from during church, which can be a common problem among young parents.

But then, on the other spectrum of problems, is the inexplicable sudden onset of the giggles children seem to come down with while sitting in the pew.

For no reason whatsoever while your pastor is making a particularly convicting or challenging point, your child will suddenly let a big 'ol chuckle and snort escape. This invariably happens only when the auditorium is completely silent and the Spirit is doing His mysterious work in the hearts of those around you. What is going on in your heart could conceivably be from another source since it's far from godly in that moment.

You give the evil eye to the guilty sitting next to you and they settle down. For 3 whole seconds before the next round of snickers escapes.

Once this happened because my middle child was drawing funny caricatures and making her big sister laugh. After that we had to ban not golden images, but drawn images of any kind in church.

Then there was the time my daughters were going through my purse and found this incredibly stinky, obnoxious Bath and Body Works miniature lotion (I don't know why I had it. I pretty much hate that store.). They opened it and put it all over their hands, sending an overwhelming flowery, fruity aroma to all the poor folks sitting in our vicinity. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody smelled it and thought they'd be seeing heaven sooner than expected after they suffocated to death.

This, of course, returned us to the contagious giggling once again.

Just today I realized there is an important rule we have been remiss in not discussing. But to be fair, we've not mentioned it only because I kind of (erroneously) was under the impression my kids had a basic understanding of acceptable vs. not acceptable activities during church. This is where they get you, you see, when they can look at you with big eyes of surprise and say, "but Mom, you TOLD me I wasn't allowed to do that!"

And in all fairness, I hadn't. Kind of like the time my oldest was furious with me after she slipped and fell in the shower.

"You never TOLD me not to climb in the shower! It's your fault!"

I realized this morning during church that I hadn't needed to remind my daughter to sit up straight and not slouch for several minutes. I looked over to give her a smile and realized what she had been doing to occupy herself.

It involved gum.

Sure enough, she had taken the gum from her mouth and had apparently been playing with it for several minutes, because it was covering all her fingers and threaded around her hand in sticky, web-like layers.

Of course I brought out the evil eye, but I've learned to be careful about this because once I looked up at the preacher without removing my glare and I think I may have startled him.
For some reason he just seems at unease around me now when we meet in the hallway or over by the coffee station.

I handed her the only piece of paper I had, our church's program, to put the gum on, which resulted in this:

I found a kleenex in my purse and handed it over, but that resulted in little pieces of white tissue torn and sticking to her hands.

And finally, because I couldn't exactly make her sit there for 20 more minutes holding her hands up in front of her covered with gum, she was granted escape.

I don't know what it is about the bathroom at church which is so exciting to children, but they will do practically anything to get to go there by themselves or with a sibling during church. I've sometimes suspected that kids have a water cooler in there filled with kool-aid which they all gather around to discuss the week's events. They must talk about everything from bad dreams they had that week to their latest antics to reminiscing about the EPIC stories that are nearly legend now about kids who pulled off bigger stunts than they could ever muster the courage to do. Whatever they do in there, it's a pretty popular place.

I instructed my child to make her way to the bathroom and clean herself up. I was grateful the folks sitting behind us who had a clear view of what had been going on were parents themselves. Clearly my child won that round.

I am sure we are somewhat annoying to the pastor who's worked hard all week to prepare his message, but I'm fairly certain he'd forgive us if he knew how valiantly parents all throughout the sanctuary are working to keep our little darlings quiet. We've pretty much got him trapped into being nice to all us struggling parents, though, because after all, isn't it all about grace?

Amen and Amen.

Friday, January 6, 2012

"Sucker" Written on My Forehead

*if you are among the great friends who have allowed your child to attend one of these birthday parties, please note that slight exaggerations have been made and I'm not talking about any of your kids....purely for entertainment purposes :)*

I have six months before it all starts again.

The long hours, the planning, the logistics, the stress.

Every year at the closing ceremonies, I tell myself I'm NEVER doing that again. It was just too much work, too much everything, and then, as time goes by, my memory gets fuzzy. It seems like it was just fun and games and a beautiful memory I made for my daughters.

I'm considering calling in the professionals this time around. I just can't take the stress.


When you're new parents, you can just hardly wait for that one-year birthday party. You know the one. It's that birthday party you were invited to for your friend's baby and had to drag your less than eager husband to go to with you. The oohing and aaahing over everything that sweet chubby baby does. The cake all over the face, the balloons and the hats. You've been there, done that.

I can tell all you newbies this: by the time your last child comes of age, they'll be lucky to get a store bought cupcake with a couple sprinkles thrown on top. More likely you'll simply photo shop your firstborn's birthday pictures and put your baby's face on firstborn's body and call it a day.

It's just the way of the world.

But as your children age, the importance of throwing a cool party increases. You finally get rid of the huge crowd when your guests become old enough to not injure themselves with a plastic fork and their parents don't need to stay to help. That's a relief, but it's about the only one, trust me. This is a double-edged sword, because yes, you've just cut your guest list dramatically, but now you are in charge of entertaining and keeping all your miniature guests out of trouble all by yourself.

Every year my husband just looks at me from across the backyard and shakes his head as chunky little Johnny insists upon ANOTHER piggy back ride or little Suzie screams right in his ear for the 9th time in 3 minutes.

Then there are the sweet little party guests who interpret freeze tag as an open invitation to annihilate any and all opponents. They take them out and laugh an eerie, high-pitched laugh as they scamper away to find their next victim. My husband is convinced that some of the kids we've had in the past must sleep with their eyes open at night, an IV of hyperactive solution pouring steadily into their veins for 10 hours.

This is the party I threw for Olivia when she turned six.

She wanted a safari theme. I will never forget the work that went into making this:

I've written about my love/hate relationship with making birthday cakes. You can read about that one here if you missed it:

I made the "survival bags" as goody bags with all sorts of treats in it. I had the animal headbands we all made. I researched all sorts of fun animal games to play in the backyard. It was pretty fun (and I look at this picture now and think I must've been even more insane than I am now. What in the world was I thinking letting her invite THAT many 5 and 6-yr-olds to a party?!)

The problem with having multiple children is that when they're old enough to recognize injustice, you have to give them a party that's on equal, if not better, playing grounds.

This is the cake I agreed to make for Lauren's tea party when she turned five.

We had music in the background, place cards, a fashion show, a nail and make-up consultation, the works. She totally loved it.

I had fun, but worked my not so tiny hiney off to make it happen.

I will also mention here that this is the same day Lauren later chose to run away from home due to her many grievances against me. You can read about that one here:

Now, for the baby of the family, you have to just blow it out.

I'd say we pretty much did that this past year when she turned three, but see for yourself.

Nothing says spoiled rotten like a small child on a pony, does it? Would it help soothe your declining opinion of me if I told you the guy who owned it charged us practically nothing? Much less than the other two parties I just showed you.

We had livestock animals of every kind in our suburban subdivision backyard. Three-year-olds came out of the woodwork to ride the pony, gorge the bunny on stale carrots and celery, feed the goat, see the ducks, terrify the chickens and torment the rooster.

Yes, every year I just about kill myself trying to pull off a fantastic party my girls will be delighted by. It's a little like having a baby. In between times the stress and fatigue and general chaos just fades and I can't wait to do it again. Perhaps if I post a picture of screaming Suzie or giant Johnny clinging to my husband's ankles it will help me to stay strong for the next round. NO gigantic parties.

And absolutely NO dog parties.

Of course then I'll just be known as the cranky old biddy who won't even give her children a decent birthday party.

Son of a gun. Mamas just can't win.

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