Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Promised Land

Legend has it that it can be done in just three minutes.

I've never actually seen this done, but apparently there are lots of witnesses. There are ordinary people just like you and me walking around who have lived up to the challenge.

Sadly, I am not one of them.

This week for spring break, we took our first ever Webber only vacation with our kids. Because my husband had accumulated so many hotel points due to lots of business travel, we were able to stay at the Embassy Suites totally free. Can't beat that, especially when you throw in the free breakfast and evening snacks which the kids pretty much think is heaven on earth.

Anyway, I overheard the hotel employee at the front desk refer to the impossible challenge I am speaking of to someone on the phone.

At first it made me feel very relieved. Very calm and confident that it would be no problem.

A piece of cake.

I am referring, of course, to the short trek from our room at the Embassy Hotel to the beautiful sandy beaches located just across the street.

I now have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the life and trials of one of the most famous characters in the Old Testament. I feel we have bonded. I have now walked in his sandals at least a little bit.

I will never watch Charleton Heston the same way ever again in his famous role as Moses.

I felt rather like Moses leading the Israelites through the desert for forty long years.

You see, when you are a parent of young children, getting to the beach is simply never as easy as it sounds. I remember vaguely the days when I could just put on my bathing suit, grab a towel, some sunscreen, and a good book, and I was on my way. I could be settled on the beach in mere minutes.

Pool? Same story. And I remember with some embarrassment that I used to kind of huff at the inconvenience of having to drag along my big old walkman and headphones. So cumbersome! A girl's only got two hands, after all!

I would like to present Exhibit A:

In case you can't tell, that's me.

This picture was taken during one of our treks across the street to the Promised Land, a.k.a. Destin beach. I am loaded down with:

*a boogie board (which I will not use at all)
*beach toys (which I will not use at all)
*snacks and juice boxes (which I will not eat or drink)
*snorkel gear and flippers (which I will not use at all)
*3 large beach towels (I will use 1 of these)
*a beach chair (which I will not use nearly as long as I'd like)
*a large umbrella (which I will labor to put up but will not actually sit under because the sand fleas my children will catch and keep in a bucket will need the shade in order to live. I would certainly overcrowd the limited shaded area.)
*a life jacket (which I certainly hope I will not use as it is a size 4T)

Each time we made the little pilgrimage, I felt more and more like I should raise my umbrella and see if the road before me would part, clearing a direct line to our destination and safety from the traffic in hot pursuit and gaining on us every moment.

The children behind me were weary, hot, hungry, and disgruntled.

"How long will we have to walk?"

"Why did you make us leave the pool at the hotel to come out to this hot, desolate land?"

"We were better off in the hotel room!"

I am pretty sure I even saw a golden calf somewhere along the way. Or maybe that was just the shiny, glistening bikini bodies dazzling those around them in the bright sun. I'm not sure.

And so, readers, you can understand why, when I overheard the employee telling someone on the phone about the easy, 3 minute walk to the beach, I really had to curb my impulse to grab the phone from her hand, yank it across the counter to where I was standing, and scream into the phone that they could quadruple that number if they had kids. Easily. Add five minutes for each child under ten years old. I wanted to tell them that this was like saying someone could cross the Sahara in thirty minutes or get your kids in bed for the night in three minutes flat.

Lies! Propaganda! All of it.

Of course, being the godly Moses type, I just prayed for my dear children as we wandered in the heat towards the Promised Land.

I'm hoping you won't remember that Moses prayed for God to smite these whining, ungrateful children of His. I prayed that they would someday be mothers and see how it feels to carry 150 pounds of crap to the beach while their little followers complain behind them shouting comments like,

"These goggles are too heavy to carry"

"Can you hold all 12,000 of my buckets and shovels? I'm trying to carry my airbrushed t-shirt."

But just like the Israelites, eventually, finally, we made it to our Promised Land. The land of gleaming, sugary white beaches and clear waters. We eventually forgot the difficult journey and all was well. Of course, there were no gigantic fruit trees and it was definitely NOT flowing with milk and honey, so...

"Mom, could you go back and get us some fruit? We'll wait right here."

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Little Run in with Concrete

Well, it was bound to happen.

We just got a brand new hospital and ER within ten minutes of our home.

So, in order to make it feel more welcome, we decided to pay it a visit and check out all the new amenities.

You see, last weekend I FINALLY got my new patio furniture I've been waiting and saving for for about three years now. I was very excited.

A couch, two chairs, two ottomans, and a coffee table. It looks great! We can hardly wait to spend lots of fun summer nights out there.

But what's not so great about the new furniture is that it proved to cause the demise of our injury free streak around here.

This has been an exceptionally healthy year in our family. My kindergartener has not missed a single day of school due to sickness, and the oldest one hasn't either, though since she home schools she has to be REALLY sick before I'll count it as an excuse to take a day off. So far her little sniffles and coughs haven't measured up to my high standards as school nurse.

It's been great! No fevers, no viruses, no flu (and we even irresponsibly skipped our flu shots this season), and no more than one cold.

But alas, our nine month streak of no one needed to see a doctor came to a screeching halt this week. Well, more like a heavy sounding "thump" than a screech.

Little Miss Busy was happily sitting on the new patio furniture with my six-year-old and me. We were working on Bible memory, which can prove to cause more need for confession than just about any other mothering task I do, by the way.

Anyway, she settled herself right down on the arm of the couch. I blinked. And literally (I mean, it, literally!), during that blink she fell off backward, slamming the back of her little 3-yr-old head into the concrete.

It was pretty awful. After comforting her and making sure she wasn't bleeding, I got her settled and I did some research online for signs of concussions in children.

Somehow we've managed to avoid them for almost nine years as parents, so I wasn't 100% sure what to look for.

Lethargy: check. She even said, "I just want to lay down." What three year-old EVER in the history of the universe has said that?

Fussiness: check. My normally tough as nails little girl just kept crying every few minutes and holding her head. The Tylenol had done nothing for her.

And the final clue occurred as I was on the phone with her doctor.

Nausea and vomiting: check. To her credit, she did make sure she was in the kitchen rather than my freshly cleaned rug.

I called her Nana to watch the older girls, loaded her up in the car, and off we went to the new ER.
We were in for a LONG wait.

(but seriously, if you're at the ER with your child and your biggest problem is a long wait, you don't have a problem)

Her Daddy was coming in from out of town on business and wasn't home yet, so Papa showed up to keep us company.

Within a few minutes of his arrival, his phone rang. On the other end were my two older girls, both crying and distraught over the fate of their little sister. Leighanne got on the phone and quite calmly stated loudly, "Don't worry, girls, they haven't cut off my head yet!"

Before the long night was over, she got to have our family's first CT scan, wear one of those funny radiation aprons, and ride in a wheelchair.

She thought it was fabulous! Totally worth the short-term pain for this kind of fun and attention and excitement.

Meanwhile, I sat on pins and needles waiting for the results of her scan.

We were back in her little room by then where she was happily investigating and trying to distract me so she could go tamper with the red hazardous waste trash can. She had a total blast.

I am grateful to say the scan showed nothing more than a mild concussion. No blood clots, no permanent damage, nothing extremely serious going on in her little head.


She was given what will amount to around an $800 red popsicle for the ride home.

Though it was late, her big sister was awake and very eager to snuggle with her baby sister (in MY bed, of course). The two were so sweet and, well, sisterly. It warmed my heart.

Until the next morning, that is, when I overheard big sister telling little sister that her $5 a night fee still applied to sleep with her. Big sisters can be hard nosed businesswomen.

Welcome to town, new ER. Now that we've officially been introduced, we hope to not see much of you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Truth about Little League

Spring has arrived.

You know what that means.

Softball, softball, softball!

I love it! The smell of the freshly smoothed dirt on the infield, the white chalk baselines and pitcher's circle, the sound of the bat hitting the ball (or just swinging through the air at the ball if I'm is tee ball and 8-yr-olds we're talking about here), and the sweet cheers and chants coming from the dugout.

And then, there are some other sounds I hear as a mother sitting in the stands with my other children.

"Can I have a ring pop?"

(I got her gum instead. Yes, so I could have some, too. What?)

"I have to go to the bathroom."
(which is clear on the other side of the park and is rather disgusting)

"I want a hot dog!"

and my favorite,

"How much longer? This is so boring."

You see, when you're a little kid, softball is not at all about the actual game. You really could just care less about things such as:

the numbers on the scoreboard,

the strategy involved in base running,

(no picture for this one because I was screaming for her to run and stop skipping to home plate)

or stopping the ball when it's hit to you. It's much more fun to chase it after it passes by
(again, no picture, for very similar reasons. RUN!!).

No, no, when you are a tee ball player, there are things that are much more interesting and captivating to you than the game. This is true whether you're on the team or the 3-yr-old little sister who gets dragged to the park several times a week.

These things include, but are not limited to,

the adorable little puppy some kid is holding in the stands next to you. You will chase her down throughout the whole park just for a chance to pet it.

The hair bows.

There's a sweet mother on my daughter's team who made these ribbons for each player. My 6-yr-old is all about it. In fact, I think she's under the impression that one cannot play tee ball without cute hair bows.

Of utmost importance as well are these:

individual storage bins for each girl to place her glove, visor, and water bottle in when she's not using them.

I mean, look at them! Your name written in pink and cute little designs drawn on it? I want one! (these were also made by the hair ribbon mom...she's pretty much making the rest of us look like bums...which I am perfectly willing to accept).

And then, of course, the best part about tee ball comes AFTER the game.


The girls can hardly wait to see what treats are in store for them after they've played. Yesterday it was animal crackers and Gatorade.

This leads me to discuss my rather unfortunate experience with providing the team snack last weekend.

Little sister and I were late to the game because we had to make a special trip to the grocery store for snacks. There was NO way I was going to be the schmuck mother who forgot treats for the expectant girls. It would be akin to falling asleep on Christmas Eve and forgetting to help Santa.

The absence of snacks would be a disappointment of epic proportions to the girls. I'd be THAT mother for the rest of the season. Six-year-olds would whisper when I walked by and my child would be eternally humiliated when it came up in conversation. "Remember that time?"

Anyway, we bought some crackers and gummy treats and juice boxes to share. I was kinda proud of myself, actually. Providing two choices for snacks is unusual.

So here I was, happily handing out snacks to the cute little tee ball players in pink uniforms and matching hair bows, when one of the coaches announces loudly,

"Hey, girls, great game! Who wants a snow cone?!"

You can imagine the response that one got. Suddenly I was like the shabby peasant mother in the dirty street holding out scraps to the children when this guy came out of nowhere in a white knight outfit and riding a white horse, a gleaming sword in his hand and a sparkle in his smile.

They pretty much left me and my ridiculous treats in the dust.

The other parents around me were just kinda quiet for a moment. They felt bad for me, I could tell. But at the same time, they were quite relieved that it hadn't been THEIR day for team snacks. They quietly filed off to where their daughters were being bought snow cones.

Even my 6-yr-old later told me privately, "Mom, I felt really sorry for you." But not sorry enough to hang around.

So...little league.

We buy the uniform, the glove, the bat, the helmet, the bat bag, and the team snacks.

But when it comes down to it, it's really pretty simple. All they need are color coordinating hair ribbons, cute bins, puppies in the stands, and most of all, snow cones.

If you need me, I'll be eating 13 packs of peanut butter crackers and drinking 13 juice boxes over there in the dugout. Alone.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Double Dare for Moms

Remember this guy?

A few years after I gave up playing with Little People toys, my younger sister and I became a bit obsessed with watching the show he hosted on Nickelodeon.

It was called "Double Dare", and it was the single greatest kid show on television during the eighties.

In case you aren't familiar with it, here's a basic description.

Two teams composed of four players each. They must answer questions from the oh so talented host, Mark Summers, to earn points. They must also participate in some pretty messy and awkward challenges. The team with the most points at the end wins the game and more importantly, the chance to work their magic on the famous obstacle course.

I'm telling you, it was just plain awesome in the world of a pre-adolescent girl. I used to daydream about being on the show and tearing up that course.

But anyway, it occurred to me the other day that in a way, I am playing a big, long game of Double Dare. I may have never made it to Nickelodeon Studios, but I am actually a champ at this point at both the trivia portion and the obstacle course. Allow me to explain.

On average, I answer approximately 2, 374 questions every single day in virtually all the subjects Double Dare would cover. They ask me things like,

"Who invented M&M's?"

"What does s-t-u-p-i-d spell?"

"What will happen to this frog if I feed it alka seltzer?"

You see? We've just covered history, spelling, and science. I also answer lots of questions about math every day. Questions like these:

"What time is an absolute number?"
(Okay, okay, their actual question is "when is bedtime?" This one always seems to be a surprise to them even though it never changes. It's an absolute number. 8pm)

"How long do I have to sit in timeout?"
(this is where I answer questions about counting by fives. I'm pretty good at it at this point, actually.)

So I've got the trivia part of the show covered. But what about the obstacle course?

I run an obstacle course every single day. I have found, to my great and utter disappointment, that it is not nearly as fun as it looked on t.v.

Last week I ran into the vacuum cleaner in the middle of the night while I was up searching for a wandering, crying child. My garage is full of obstacles. Bikes, hoola hoops, big wheels, scooters, balls, etc. It's tough to get through that without tripping or wasting time on dead end paths.

I have to make my way through land mines of used overnight pull-ups and diapers which have been strategically placed throughout the house. You never know when you'll hit one. You do not want to step in one in bare feet. Trust me on this one.

Rings a bell with this obstacle from the show: Each tire was filled with a different type of gak which contestants had to search through for the flag.

I pick up toys, clothes, backpacks, and sweep the floor every day. It is pretty much exactly like this:

As soon as I finish it's time to do it all over again. I never make any progress or get anywhere, yet I continually run the race.

I have to dig through huge trash bags searching for my earrings the three-year-old threw away for me. I have also had to dig through pretty disgusting trash to search for important papers, lost treasures which I mistook as trash and threw away, and articles of clothing my girls would rather not own.

It's somewhat similar to this obstacle, which I always hated because it was so gross. That is a giant ear and the contestant had to dig through it to locate the flag. Ew.

But really, mothers, haven't we all been required to do things even grosser than that?

And yes, I've even been slimed.

I would rather not go into detail on this one but just know it involves sick children and the fact that all three of my babies had reflux.

So you see, I am living the dream after all. I may never have gotten to stand on that stage wearing an all red or all blue uniform. I may not have gotten to joke around with Mark Summers or grabbed those flags at the end of each obstacle, but I am a serious competitor. I am the ultimate Double Dare contestant.

I am a mother.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Case of the Missing Money

The unthinkable happened.

It was so catastrophic to certain persons in this house that everything literally had to come to a screeching halt.

Even the dog felt the urgency and stopped chewing on shoes out of respect for the distressed in this home.

You see, I've mentioned before the great lengths my oldest daughter is going to in her efforts to save money for an iPOD touch.

She's doing pretty well. It's been a couple of months and as of last week, she had a grand total of $67.36.

After all, when you charge your sisters five bucks to sleep in your bed (and your sisters have zero comprehension of money), it starts adding up. She can almost taste the victory of reaching her goal.

After dinner one night, I sent her upstairs to get a shower and get ready for bed.

This is when her universe came to a screeching halt.

She was back downstairs after less than one minute, sobbing and tears streaming down her cheeks.

"It's gone! All of it! I can't find it anywhere!"

After a moment of trying to coax coherent words from her, we finally figured out that her precious iTouch funds had disappeared. We did a thorough mental review of what she'd done with it last and where she could've left it, but came up with nothing. Her money box was definitely NOT where she claimed to have left it in her wardrobe.

We searched the entire upstairs. My daughter was totally distraught. Her grief overcame her and she just had to lay down on her bed.

We came upon this, our first big clue:

Open medicine bottles. This disturbed my daughter because the coins she'd been keeping in them were definitely missing. That, however, was not in the least as concerning to me as the fact that someone in my home (and I had a good idea who) was obviously quite proficient at opening childproof medicine bottles.

Sometimes this kid is just scary. And on this particular night, she was down the road spending the night with her Nana and Papa, and was therefore unavailable for questioning.

We continued following the clues. Opening the jewelry box, we found dollar bills in two of the drawers, change stuck into the drawer for storing rings,

and this, the worst contraband so far:

Now THIS is just wrong. She absolutely knows there is to be NO nail polish in her room.

Oh, she's going down for this one, alright.

Our continued search resulted in finding more money stored in the little step stool next to the bed, scattered on the floor next to the nightstand, and in a Hello Kitty wallet.

Oh, and along the way, my little kleptomaniac picked up a few other little treasures which belong to her big sister.

Her rubber band ball

and her favorite little toy skateboards.

I think my 3-year-old really might have a problem. She just can't seem to stop herself from taking things. It's like a compulsion. Just yesterday I found a three of my bracelets, my sunglasses, and salad tongs in her room.

We may have to seek help.

In the meantime, all piggy banks and money boxes and silverware have been placed out of reach.

"I am sneaky. I have a chocolate frosting moustache. I take naps, and I have a klepto problem."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Playtime for All Ages

I grew up playing with these guys.

Little People by Fisher Price Toys.

They were pretty awesome.

We had the boat, the Sesame Street house, and an entire brown grocery sack full of the people, cars, animals, and furniture. We had the biggest collection of anybody I knew. My sisters and I spent countless hours playing with them, which I now recognize as the blessed gift from God those hours were to my dear mother.

Anyway, my own children are now playing with Little People toys as well.

A whole new generation of little families and animals have been produced for the entertainment and delight of young children.

The basic premise of the toys remains the same, but I couldn't help but notice a couple subtle differences.

First, just to remind you again, here's what the people I played with 25 years ago looked like:

And these are the little people of today:

Am I the only one who sees the slight difference in health and fitness? Do today's Little People look a little more, uh, "husky" to anyone else? It is a very sad thing when even our toys in this country are unhealthy.

But, regardless of the definite decline in health of these toys, one thing has remained the same...

they STILL hurt like crazy when your sister hurls one in your face.

And Daddies can STILL make up completely inappropriate and double meaning commentary. Kind of like Pixar has all those little jokes buried cleverly in their dialogue so adults will enjoy the films, too. It's quite entertaining, actually, but at some point we will have to stop. After all, our oldest is nearly nine years old and will begin to notice comments like,

"Daddy stood on top of his roof and watched his blonde wife ride off into the sunset with the repairman."

"He then was ready to jump off and end it all."

"But instead, he found a new friend and forgot he was sad."

I had to stop Daddy at this point in the story.

Yeah. These are not really appropriate 'let's pretend' topics for play with young children. They don't notice a thing, though. Don't bat an eye or flinch whatsoever, they just carry on with their high-pitched commentary and interaction between chickens and farmers and whatever else Little People they can get their hands on.

You know how you used to share private jokes and moments of connection with your spouse before kids? Well, this is what those moments eventually evolve into when you're parents. We're still enjoying those private jokes and sharing secrets, it's just changed a little so that it's now based around children's playthings. Frankly, it makes the time bearable when you feel like you might permanently speak in a squeaky voice if you have to make your Little People person talk like that one more time.

It's a coping mechanism, really.

Same holds true for reading bedtime stories, which we do a lot around here.

Sadly, now that the girls are getting older, we have had to tame our wild and completely inappropriate stories. It's probably not the best idea to read "Goodnight Moon" and change it around so there's a nuclear blast and the moon is blown to smithereens and falls into the little bunny's bedroom, killing the Granny Bunny and setting the house on fire.

Yeah. That's probably a thing of the past now that they can comprehend some things.

But, we still have fun with it. It's like a date night, actually. Communication in secret code which only tainted and cynical grown ups like us can understand. To the little ears in our midst, it sounds just like mommy and daddy being funny and laughing and they don't care because they're getting sweet snuggle time. Everybody loves snuggle time, right?

So, to recap:

Our toys are getting fat.

Daddies are especially good at double meanings when they play pretend, making it fun for kids and adults alike. Betcha can't possibly guess the commentary that went along with this one when one of the girls set up the horses like this:

Watch out for nuclear blasts which will blow up the moon and your Granny.

Henry VIII was a Pushover

I've done some studying about this fellow.

He was not a very nice man.

Rather unpredictable and volatile, to put it nicely. He had a hair-trigger temper, easily set off. His royal court pretty much lived in fear, never knowing when the king would be in a dark mood and suddenly have them sent to the guillotine. It would have been fairly stressful to live like that, I'd imagine, wondering every second whether this would be your last day on earth. One wrong move and you'd be finished. You could be his closest advisor and trusted confidant one day, and the next day find yourself in the tower awaiting your execution all because the king didn't like the way you looked at him.

Yes, that would have been an awful life for sure. Thank the good Lord I was born in this era and in this nation.

But then, something occurred to me.

There are millions of citizens in this nation and around the world at this very moment who are living a life of terror under the reign of rather insane and volatile kings and queens. They are trembling and doing their darndest to keep their ruler happy, or else. Each and every day, they come up with activities of leisure and fun such as this:

or this: themed food designed to thrill and delight.

(It's supposed to be Mater. Work with me here.)

Chocolate pudding teddy bears.

and this:

Taco teddy bears.

Sometimes these poor, persecuted subjects do things like present gifts to gain the favor of their king or queen, praying that it will be looked upon and remembered when trouble arises. They want to be counted among the loyal and faithful. They NEVER want to be on the wrong side of the execution committee.

If you are reading this blog, chances are that YOU may be one of these poor folks I'm talking about.


I've been studying world history with my oldest this year and we've learned about cruel and ruthless leaders such as Napoleon, Louis XIV, Bloody Mary, Peter the Great, tons of Vikings, and countless others. They were all pretty mean when it came down to it, willing to do just about anything to get what they wanted. And most of the time, they did.

Just today I found myself experiencing both the triumph and relief of my little queen's approval, as well as the gut wrenching, gnawing terror of her disdain.

Just to be nice, I picked up this little number for her as a surprise (partly because the dog ate her favorite pi's last week and she's still in mourning).

This is the kind of thing she would wear every single day if she could. I loved seeing her so happy and blissful when she put it on and pranced around the house.

We had a delightful morning. We did puzzles and a rhyming game and she helped me fold clothes. It was a joy to be in her kingdom.

But then.

Then, the tide turned. I could almost feel the temperature drop in the room as she looked upon me, her previously wonderful subject (whom she said she loved more than anyone), as if she might take the place of the hooded executioner herself if she could.

And what, you ask, was my crime? What on earth could I have done to find myself in this precarious and dangerous position so quickly?

Well, folks, I'll tell you the truth. Give it to you straight.

I served her LEFTOVER macaroni 'n cheese.

That's right. In full blown defiance to her commands and decrees, I dared to place before her on her favorite Ariel plate a serving of macaroni that was an entire DAY old instead of making a fresh batch.

People have suffered greatly for far less offenses than this.

Perhaps the fact that she'd been chewing on my jewelry right before lunch had left a strange taste in her mouth which only freshly made food could get rid of. I don't know.

As I placed the meal before her on her throne, she looked at it for the briefest instant before letting out the most terrible and fearful screams of rage. The Ariel plate was sent flying across the kitchen, crashing to the floor and sending the hated macaroni everywhere.

But she was not finished yet. Anything within her Highness' grasp was hurled to the floor as well, which unfortunately included a plastic bottle of opened sprinkles, her blanket, and her fork.

Now, here's where the analogy breaks down. In the days of these infamous rulers I mentioned earlier, the offending party would've been imprisoned, tortured, likely even killed for their crime, whether guilty or not.

In THIS kingdom, however, occasionally the faithful servants and subjects have had enough. Her Highness received a rather abrupt awakening from her fantasy world of her divine right.

She found herself unseated from her throne and placed in the dungeon, otherwise known as the living room, where she spent the next several minutes raging and proclaiming her outrage quite loudly. She took refuge under my royal curtains.

She'd calm down, I'd allow her to join us again, but then we'd start all over. It was a rather long process.

But at the end of the day, all was well. Peace was restored to her kingdom. All was as it should be again. She picked up the macaroni (with the help of the dog), presented me with a tearful (and super cute...she's really good at it) apology, and gave me a big kiss.

And just like that, I was back in her Majesty's good graces.

I bid her good night the end of the day, all tucked in her finest bedding and fluffy friends surrounding her on every side, and then backed out of the room slowly and carefully, smiling all the while, hoping and praying to not anger her at this late hour.

Dictators, kings and queens, and political leaders could take some lessons from the toddlers of the world. Good luck, my fellow subjects, you faithful mothers out there. May your King or Queen continue to look upon you with favor.
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