Saturday, June 16, 2012


***DISCLAIMER:  I love teaching VBS.  I really do.  And I haven't encountered any little darlings this year who fit the description of the fictional child described below.  Some may have come close, but that's not the point's delightful and I'm glad to get to be a part of it.  The best kind of humor is the kind that mixes some elements of truth with slight exaggeration, right?***

It's that time of year again.  

Summer is upon us, which means one thing:

The kids are back. 


With us.

Now, if you are a Southern mama, you are likely well acquainted with the single greatest summertime tradition since homemade ice cream and screened in porches.  

It's the one thing that can save mothers everywhere from a slow and painful summer.  


VBS...aka "Vacation Bible School", that fabulous four to five day program at churches all over the city where kids from all walks of life are not only welcome, but wanted! 

And it's FREE! 

It's sorta like the scene on Black Friday.  

Mothers have been researching and planning and searching out the best way to maximize the VBS experience over those long summer days. They've spent hours on the internet looking up every church within a 30 mile radius.  I've even heard of moms who drop their children off at one church from 9-12 and then have them in an evening VBS program at a different church.  

Hey, you can never learn too much about the Bible, right?   

Registration finally opens, and all hell breaks loose.  Now some churches have wisely and quite conveniently switched to online registration.  Sometimes we stay up all night just to make sure we're first in line to pre-register our kids.  It's like when we went to some huge university and had to call to register for the classes we needed and had to have the number on speed dial or it would fill up before we even got through on the line.  

But other churches have not made it quite so easy for us and require us to register our darlings in person.  We try to remember we are southern ladies and be polite, but this is a serious mission for us.  We're not playing games here.  We NEED our kids to beat the throngs of hopefuls.  We MUST get them registered and secure their spots.  

Some of you mothers (and you know who you are) have become quite skilled at the VBS game.  You have your kids signed up at half a dozen different churches.  This is no time for concerning ourselves with little details like theology.  Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Church of Christ, Presbyterian...hey, they're all about Jesus at the end of the day, right?  

And when the kids are all registered and t-shirts ordered, mom breathes a sigh of relief.  She walks calmly past the long line of frazzled looking women and feels pity for these poor souls.  Clearly some of them will be turned away.  There are just too many.  

She smiles to herself as she considers what she's just ensured: at LEAST 15 hours of free time over five days while her kids are being taught about Jesus and having fun.  

Let's be honest, those of us who have been involved with VBS for some time now...

sometimes we want to lie about our spiritual gifts when it comes to volunteering to help.

This year I really wanted my spiritual gift to be serving snacks to the adults.  Or I could be the sound tech in back of the auditorium.  Or even the person who unlocks the building each morning.

But for heaven's sake, I can't exactly lie when it's for a church sponsored event, now can I?

So I fessed up to it again...I'm a teacher.

I'm the one who must figure out how to compete with events like recreation and craft time and snack time.  I must do it well or it will be total pandemonium in that room.  I might blow it and reveal my mean mama side if I don't play my cards right and have a good lesson ready with lots of activities and excitement.

And of course the Holy Spirit helps, too.

But back to the point here...

  it's not difficult to spot the kid whose mother is desperate for some place to take her.

She's the little darling who smacks you hard on the butt the first time you meet her and demands a piggy back ride up the stairs to the craft room.  

She has this high-pitched giggle which you learn to dread because it means you'll find another poor VBS kid has been the victim of a swirly or has been attacked with the glow stick she got during Bible story time.  

This is the kid who asks to go to the bathroom so she can make her way to the missions offering basket and scrape a few dollar bills and quarters together to stuff in her pocket.  

This is the one whose mother just smiled and gave a very perky little wave as she walked out the door to her car and the next three hours of freedom for five whole days.  

So VBS.  

I think it could also very accurately and appropriately be an acronym for two things, depending on which role you find yourself in this summer.  

For those moms who have played the game skillfully, it could stand for 

"Very Beneficial Situation".

For those of us who wear the lime green t-shirt and spend our days with the little boy who doesn't seem to understand it's not cool to give wedgies, VBS could quite easy stand for

"Valium Beckoning Situation"

So, who knows of a church hosting next week?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Dadgum Bubble Gum

We strive to make our vacations memorable, wonderful times which our children will look back upon with fondness.  
We don’t want them to forget all the fun we had and the time we spent together as a family.  
Well, they ain’t gonna forget the start to this one.  That’s for darn sure.  
Getting out the door to vacation is never quite as easy as it sounds.  Of course there’s the packing of clothes and personal items, but as you know, when you go to the beach with kids there’s nearly a Uhaul truck full of junk you must take with you.  I’ve put some thoughts down about this before:
Anyway, here we are trying to get out the door.  And to be totally honest with you (lest you put me on some pedestal I most definitely do NOT deserve and you’ll agree after you finish reading this), people were irritated and it was my fault.  I wasn’t ready when I vowed to be ready.  Our schedule was off already.  
Strike One for Mom.  
But finally, we’re loaded and in the car, somewhat happily rolling down the whole minutes to the Express Oil Change to get new oil for the van.  
More delays, though I’m not responsible for this one.
But do kids care who’s responsible for holding up their journey to the beach?  
Strike Two for Mom.  
We had a pleasant experience because the guys working with the van were very nice and friendly and even gave the girls candy.  
Happy campers all the way around.  
Just before my husband pulled out, he opened his door to go to the back of the van and make sure the back hatch was completely closed.  
The employee standing at the open driver’s side door began to snicker.
I followed his gaze to the bubble gum melted in several spots into the leather of the driver’s seat.  
I immediately relived the ridiculous moment when I had removed my gum while driving earlier in the day and placed it on a piece of paper next to me.  Why didn’t I wrap it up?  Or just throw it out the window even?  I’ll never know.  Brain lapse due to childbearing, I suppose.  Apparently, when I had gotten out of the car and taken the trash with me, the gum had fallen off the paper and onto the seat.  

There was no way I could, in good conscience, pin this one on the kids.  It was clearly my gum.  I always have the sugar free mint chocolate chip.  
The oil guy sprayed some degreaser on the gum and started rubbing furiously, but to no avail.  That stuff was stuck and would take some real time and effort to remove.  
He backed away from the van just as my unsuspecting husband plopped back into the driver’s seat, thanked the man for his help with the oil, and pulled out onto the road.  
“Who’s ready to go to the beach?” he asked everyone cheerfully.
A moment later.  
“What’s that smell?” he asked.
What to do?  Turn myself in and confess my sins or, as some of us mothers have done but would never admit to outsiders, let the kids take the wrap?  
I must say this is much more difficult to do in good conscience now that my children comprehend what’s going on around them and are, you know, able to speak.  Unfortunate.
At that moment, I realized I couldn’t do that to my children.  Rats.  Integrity and all that.  The three-year-old in our midst would’ve been the perfect scapegoat.
Suddenly he lifted up just enough in his seat and felt the leather to discover the truth.  His hand was covered in sticky, gooey gum.  
To say he was less than happy would be a slight simplification of the truth.  For you see, we had left a night early for vacation so that he could have dinner with a client a few hours away.  He was wearing the only pair of pants he had packed.  
Strike three for Mom.  And this was a big strike.  
Now you have to understand my husband is very docile.  Hardly ever loses his cool.  NEVER yells.  He’s the picture of serenity most of the time.  
But this?  This was just more than he could handle after a late start, fussy, impatient kids, and hunger because he’d missed lunch.  
He immediately pulled over at the closest gas station.  The rest of us were sitting in total silence.  He had not yet spoken.  
He (somewhat) screeched into a parking spot and threw open the door.  
And this is the moment where things got really bad.  
When he climbed out of his seat and stood in the parking lot, long strands of sticky gum followed him, adhered like concrete to the back of his pants.  
But even that didn’t really get to him.  I think what really did it, what sent him over the edge, was the sound of my inappropriate and highly unsuccessful attempt to conceal my laughter.  
It didn’t help matters any when the little people in the backseat began snickering as well.
He charged into the gas station, threw down some money to buy a pack of baby wipes, and stormed back out to the car.  
He began scrubbing furiously as I just sat, knowing the best thing for me to do in that moment (other than disappear) was to just BE QUIET.  Stay out of the way.  
But I just couldn’t help it.  It was like trying to hold back a fire in a field of dry hay.  Not gonna happen.  
I began making choking sounds and snorts as I tried my very hardest not to laugh.  It was miserable because the harder I tried, the more I failed.
This was when he snapped, people.  I’ve only witnessed it a couple of times in our 12 years of marriage and four years of dating.
He pulled off his jeans right there in the parking lot. All that was left was a dress shirt and boxers.   He was clearly past the point of reason.  
Three little girls watched thru the van windows, wide eyed and open mouthed.  
Our three-year-old watched him with great admiration.  Shedding clothes is her specialty, after all.  Suddenly she had found her mentor and hero.  
He threw the jeans into my lap, quickly followed by the wipes, and I took that as a clear non-verbal to try to remove the gum from the seat of his britches.
I got to work, trying in vain to hold back giggles every five seconds or so.  
“Daddy’s naked,” said a little voice from the back. 
“No, he’s not.  Shhh,” I replied, scrubbing the jeans thru my laughter induced tears.  
This went on for about ten minutes or so.  The problem was that every time I glanced over at his bare legs I would break into a whole new round of belly laughter, which did nothing but make the poor man even more upset.  And the more agitated he became, the funnier it was to me.
I am just that kind of person.  The more inappropriate it would be to laugh, the more I just really, really have to do just that.  
It’s hard to believe sometimes that I am a mother.  My maturity level and sense of humor is just not conducive to kindness and gentleness.  
At one point I said, “honey, what are you going to say if you get pulled over right now driving like this?  Don’t you think you’d be embarrassed?”
“No.  He’d take one look at this situation and let me off.”
I regret to say the gum did not, in the end, all come out of his pants.  We did, however, manage to clean the leather seats and enjoy the slight odor of the degreaser spray the helpful Oil Express guy tried to use.
So yes, this is one vacation experience my children are sure to remember.  The time mommy left gum on the seat and daddy sat on it and ended up driving in his boxer shorts.  
But most of all, they’ll remember their mother sitting in the passenger seat, tears rolling and laughter billowing at the scene before her.  

You will see from this photo that my sweet, gum covered husband did forgive me.  He even chuckled a little in the car after a while because I was laughing so hard (though he would deny it).

Family vacation.  The stuff memories are made of. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Mom Bathing Suit

I used to love them.  I really did.  Could hardly wait to visit one every summer, spending happy hours of childhood having the time of my life.

However, when I became a mother, for some reason I no longer had a loving place in my heart reserved for...


Not that I hate it.  They can still be fun, it's just that now that I'm older and have three people dependent on me for life and safety it's just not quite the same.  There are several reasons the water park lost my heart.

Reason one:  (well, this one has three parts, actually)

These three.

They ADORE water parks.  The splashing, the fun, the thrill of the slides.  I adore watching them having such a great time and hearing their giggles and shrieks of delight.

What I don't adore so much?  The constant worrying and watching them like a hawk to make sure they're not drowning or being toted off by a stranger or trying a new daredevil trick they really don't have the swimming skills for in the first place.

This one?

 I don't worry about her too much now that she's older.  Still like to know where she is at all times, though.

This one? 

 Somewhat concerning.  She seems to think her swimming talents far exceed her actual ability.  She's dangerous.

But THIS one?  

Downright terrifying for multiple reasons:
1.) she can't swim a lick
2.) she's 100% dependent on this life jacket, which she does not particularly enjoy wearing and has been known to rip off when I'm not looking
3.) she can disappear faster than M&Ms at my house
4.) she has NO fear

This is a picture of her going down the age appropriate waterslide in the "baby pool" area.

 You can see it was not quite up to snuff for her.  In fact, she pretty much hated it, as clearly demonstrated by her expression.

Really, Mom? I am almost four years old.   This is ridiculous.

In fact, she was not satisfied until, with great reservations, I allowed her to go down the big water slides.  Thankfully for her she JUST barely made the 42" height requirement.

Just look at her!  Have you ever seen a happier kid?

But by far...and I mean FAR, FAR, FAR...the thing I hate most about water parks is...


You know the one.  The one that says, "I was designed specifically for the woman who's been blessed enough to bear multiple children and has never quite recovered.  I am expected to work miracles."

This year, I searched and found this little number:

What?  Did you really think I was going to put a picture of myself actually WEARING this thing?

Now, a mom bathing suit has many requirements.

It can't be too low cut.  After all, we'll practically be doing acrobatics saving our children from death every ten seconds or so.  Have you ever seen a mom at the pool running full speed to catch a wandering toddler? It's always easy to spot the mother who clearly didn't think her swimsuit choice through very well.  Unfortunate, actually.  

Next, it can't be too high cut.  Each pregnancy blessed me with a few extra ripples and signature love handles on the old hips which no amount of strategic exercises can get rid of.  And as well all know, mothers spend most of their time bending over or chasing children.  Full coverage is a must for the sake of everyone in the vicinity.

Third, a mom bathing suit must somehow send multiple messages at the same time.  We want something that says, "I am aware that I am no longer a teenager and have chosen this suit accordingly."

But it also must say, "However, I am not yet a geriatric and have not succumbed to huge floral prints on a one piece with heavy duty shoulder straps and a skirt. I do not yet need Depends or denture cream."  

So you see, a swimsuit for a mother must pretty much be Divinely designed by our Creator in order to meet all these standards.  And since that's not gonna happen, we just have to do the best we can to find something suitable.

I'll leave you with the mental picture of me, lugging a round float up a zillion steps to the top of the water slide tower, trying to figure out how on earth I let my children guilt me into this.  I looked down, way down, to see all the other mothers from our softball party doing what mothers are SUPPOSED to do: sitting together in comfy chairs and watching from a distance.

No matter...I am being a good mother and spending quality time doing something the kids love.  So there.

I arrived at the top of the tower, chose was I was told was the slowest slide, and carefully placed my float at the top and painstakingly sat down.   I waited for the 98-lb. teenage lifeguard to give me permission, then I pushed myself down the slide.

It was the most terrifying 30 seconds of my life.

It's not that the slide was all that scary, actually.  It was just your standard water slide with loops and twists and water spraying in your face.

The terrifying part was what I knew I was speeding towards where the slide would spit me out.

All the daddies and coaches of my daughter's little league team were standing together at the bottom of the slides, cheering and watching as the little girls came to the bottom and were thrown into the pool.  And to make it just a little more agonizing, one of the daddies had a mega camera with a huge lens and was snapping pictures of everyone in our party.  

Water slides have very strong jets.  Sometimes these jets are not so kind to bathing suit placement.  I could just see myself being spit out into that stupid pool and showing more than anyone besides a doctor should ever have to see.  I tugged and pulled on that mom bathing suit all the way down the slide.  It was miserable.  

I am relieved beyond description to tell you that my new bathing suit held up and did its job.  Against all odds, it stayed just where it was supposed to be and spared me from having to force my entire family to move across the country to run from what would've been the single most humiliating moment of my life.

Good luck out there this summer, mamas.  Next time you wear a mom bathing suit, just remind yourself that just about every mother you'll see at the pool feels exactly the same way you do.  Of course there are always the women who look fantastic in teeny, tiny bikinis and have a baby on their hip, glistening in the sun.  But don't worry, in their next life they'll probably be cows.

And do NOT let your kids guilt you into the water slides.  Bribe them with ice cream, a new car, whatever it takes.  Be strong...but pray that your mom suit is stronger.

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