Wordless Wednesday: Fun At the Jacksonville Zoo

My 13yo thinks he’s Waldo. Can you spot him?

On the zoo train.

13yo trying to hide behind his sister, who’s rocking the mullet, don’t you think?

I weep for her hair almost daily. So many blonde curls just gone. *sob*

The Wishing Well

I hope she wished for her hair to grow back…

Billy loved the birds.

“Eat or drown!” Poor bird.

Molly is less enthusiastic. She’s nervous and rightfully so…

…because birds poo when you least expect it.

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The Game Of Life

I love games.  Games that require thought, shuffling, rolling dice, spinning a spinner, turning over a sand timer, or leaning over to move a game piece.  It’s a dying pleasure. Board games and cards have been replaced by Apps. The personal interaction has transformed to a virtual world of screen names and avatars.  Apps are great and playing with family and friends all over the world is awesome, but it’s not the same as gathering together with snacks, music, conversation, and laughter.

Uno Card GameI spent a lot of nights at my grandma’s house with my cousins.  Apart from arguing about who would get the primo sleeping spot under the dining room table (I never won that argument), we played Uno. The best games were the ones that lasted hours.

Another favorite was Monopoly (until my husband sucked all the fun out of it.  He has great potential as a loan shark.) I lived two doors down from my cousin and we’d play Monopoly during the summer.  One game lasted a week.  We had the patience and dedication to keep coming back to it, day after day, until we finished.  I can’t imagine my kids doing that now.

My cousin’s family loved games. We’d sit around the table, eating chips, while the adults played “Twenty Questions.”  They always laughed so much. I realize now that a lot of that laughter was at the suggestive nature of some of the questions.  A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste.

The Game Of LifeThat same cousin and I played a lot of games together, too.  We loved to play Scattergories, Trivial Pursuit, and Life.  The game of Life is especially precious to me.  Near the end of her life, my great-grandmother came to live with my paternal grandmother.  My cousin and I would go stay with Mamaw when Grandma wasn’t home and I always brought Life.  My cousin and I would play in the floor for hours while Mamaw sat in her chair and watched.  We didn’t talk to her much and we felt guilty.  We were there for her, but we just sat and played games.   We were only 12 and didn’t yet understand the concept of loneliness or the joy of children.

When I watch my children play, it takes me back to my childhood.  I remember what it felt like to have no other care in the world than who was going to win a game of Uno.  I remember how effortless it was to play Twister.  When I watch my children play, I marvel at their intelligence, their joy, their existence.  I delight in them. My Mamaw, sitting in her chair watching her two great-granddaughters play Life, laughing, and chattering probably felt the same way.  I imagine her thinking about her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren.  About her Life.  We needn’t have felt guilty.

While we were playing Life, she was enjoying the fruits of hers.

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This is a revised version of an earlier post.  I’m linking up with the Yeah Write Summer Series.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Three Birthdays Down, Two To Go

Kids birthday parties are stressful. Like most moms, I want my kids to feel special on their birthdays. Unfortunately, there are some moms out there that make this extremely difficult. You know the ones I’m talking about. They rent gigantic bouncy houses, treat their girl and her twelve friends to a spa day, rent a pony, and other ridiculous stuff like that. I handled the stress pretty well on the last birthday. I rented a cabin and we had a sleepover by a lake. There was a pool. I thought it was wicked cool and the girl, when asked how she liked her party, shrugged and said, “It was fun, I guess.”  Trust me. That means she liked it. She’s subtle like that.

This party was for my Aspie. I was worried. Turnout for a summer birthday party isn’t the greatest, especially when the birthday falls two days after the Fourth of July. That’s stressed Mikey in the past. “What if nobody comes?”

Ouch.

Burger King

Nothing says “Happy Birthday” like a creepy king and a Whopper.

I held my breath when I asked what he wanted to do for his birthday this year.  He didn’t hesitate.

“I want to go see The Amazing Spiderman and go out to eat and I want Noah to come with me.”

Whew.  A movie and dinner with a kid I know would come.

“Where do you want to eat?’

“Burger King.”

Burger King?  Really? Alrighty then.

“What kind of cake do you want?”

“A map of the world.”

I love this kid. He made it so easy on me. A sheet cake with a drawing of the world. Easy peasy, right? Well, kind of. I had to do it free hand while looking at a picture. As usual, my kid got the short end of the cake decorating stick. Their cakes are always so…shoddy.

map of the world cake

I seriously need to invest in an airbrush system.

He liked it. Though he did point out that I forgot a body of water to separate the too small Africa from Eurasia, Alaska looks like a hawk’s head, and Italy in no way resembles a boot. All valid points and he was gentle about it. He’s a good kid.

He got everything he asked for–a super impressive Atlas (geography buff), a watch, and a gift card to Game Stop. Again, he made it easy on us.

He was funny on his birthday. Everything we did was “the first time I’ve done this as a 12-year-old.” I took him to the beach. “This is the first time I’ve been to the beach this summer AND as a 12-year-old.”  We had pizza for dinner. “This is the first pizza I’ve eaten as a 12-year-old.”  You get the idea. I’m glad that only lasted for a day. As funny as it is, I really didn’t want every minute experience commented on in that manner. “This is the first time I’ve eaten lasagna/hamburgers/ice cream/a ham sandwich/a bowl of Captain Crunch as a 12-year-old.”

So birthday number three is in the books and it was a success. Next up is Billy, the soon to be seven-year-old. He’s going to say Chuck E. Cheese or Jumping Jacks. I’m prepared for it. I have no idea what kind of cake he’ll ask for. I’m sure it will be difficult and he’ll want it just so. I’m really gonna have to step up my game on that one.

Related Posts:

A Birthday Party at the Commune
Three Cakes 
The Leaning Tower of Rapunzel 
The Lego Head Cake Debacle 

These Moments

“Mommy, can I hold you?” She holds her arms up in the air, opening and closing her tiny hands and batting those gorgeous blue eyes at me.  The answer is always yes.  I scoop her up and she lays her curly blonde head on my shoulder.  “I love you, mommy.”   My insides turn to jelly.

She’s my girl. My Anna.  Twenty-six pounds of sweetness and spunk.

The Spunk

The youngest of five, Anna is naturally spoiled.  From the moment she was born, people have fawned over her–me, her daddy, her sister, her brothers, her grandparents, church members, strangers in the street.  Really, it’s beyond ridiculous.  We’re creating a monster but I can’t bring myself to stop telling her how beautiful and smart she is.  I can’t help holding her every time she asks.  I can’t help marveling over every little thing she does. I can’t help it because I know she’s the last baby I’ll ever have.  I can’t help it because I know in the blur of raising her older brothers and sister, I missed valuable moments.  The guilt of that is overwhelming, though I know it’s not a unique experience to me.  All mothers, especially young mothers, get lost in the lack of sleep, the frustration, the uncertainty of parenting.  By the time we learn to relax and just go with it, our babies aren’t babies anymore.  We’ve missed the joy.  Anna is my chance to recapture it.

When I held her as a newborn and smelled that sweet baby head, when she smiled at me for the first time, when she said her first word, took her first steps, tasted her first lemon, gave herself her first haircut, I remembered my other children doing the same things.  When she says, “Look at me!” and does a dance or makes a funny face, I remember all the performances I’ve watched over the last thirteen years.  She’s my trip down memory lane.  I thought those memories were gone, but with every new thing Anna does, they rise to the surface, whispering, “Remember when…?”

With my last child, as with my first, I’m learning how to be a parent. This time, it’s not about when and what to feed them, how often to change diapers, when to call the doctor, or when to put them to bed.  It’s about spending time with them, listening to their stories, and  marveling at their accomplishments.  It’s about watching them grow into the people they’re going to be and seeing all the little things that brought them there.

It’s about living in the moment.

Baby Blues

The Diaper Hat Moment

I’m linking up with the Yeah Write Summer Series. Click on the badge below to meet some amazing bloggers and learn a thing or two about writing. It’s a fantastic community.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Chin Hair and Other Fantastic Things

So I found another hair growing out my chin this week. It’s amazing, really, how those things just sprout over night. One day, you’re feeling pretty good that your diet is paying off and you only have one chin, instead of three, and the next–BAM! A long, black hair is poking out of your new-found chin. I guess it’s nature’s way of keeping you humble.

woman shaving

Despite the weight loss and not working, my back is worse than ever.  I wake up most mornings not able to walk or stand up straight without gasping and/or crying.  That means I haven’t been able to start exercising.  I want to exercise.  It will help my back and speed up this dieting drudge.  It’s the ol’ Catch-22.  I need to exercise to make my back feel better but I need my back to feel better so I can exercise.  Grrrr.

Oh and the 6yo had a stomach virus yesterday which I now have.  I’m sitting here, typing, in an effort to concentrate on anything other than the fact that I could vomit at any minute.  When I vomit, I cry, and I’m an ugly crier.  So, I’d rather not be an ugly, puking crier.  I’ll just keep my slightly green tinge, thank you very much.  *deep breaths*

Dawson Ugly Crier

“I don’t want your life!” Oh wait. That’s not right. Oh yeah. Joey left you for Pacey. Poor Dawson. No girl AND an ugly crier.

There is something that happened this week than I’m really excited about.  I discovered a wonderful blog gathering called, “Yeah Write.”  Basically, it’s 50 blogs linking up and competing for awards–peer choice, editor’s choice, and 2 lurker’s choice.  But I don’t really care about the awards.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’d love to win one.  Who doesn’t like to win awards?  Stupid people, that’s who.  And I’m not stupid.  But just reading these blogs and leaving comments and having these sweet people do the same is award enough.  Seriously, these are some awesome people.  I wish I’d found it sooner.  If you’re interested, you can read more about it here.  If you don’t want to compete, there is a hang-out where you can just read and share the blog love.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go throw up.

Related Posts:

I’m Thinking of Growing A Beard…
Wordless Wednesday:  Momfog’s Survival Kit 
Ten Things I Learned On Summer Vacation  
Scheduling Summer 

A Birthday Party at the Commune

Happy Birthday Hippie Style

Happy Birthday Molly! 9 Years Old. Wow.

Okay, so it wasn’t a commune. It was a campground. But when the birthday girl is wearing a bathing suit with peace signs and hearts on it, the cake is decorated to look like a tie-dyed peace sign, and everyone shares a bathroom, a campground has a definite commune vibe.

My daughter had a slumber party.  There was a pool, a lake to fish in, swans and ducks to feed, a fire to roast marshmallows over, and a cabin to make bohemian bracelets and watch movies in.  It was a pretty good birthday party.  Only 4 girls showed up instead of the 7 she invited, but that was fine by me.   I had help, but I don’t know if we could have handled an extra three girls and still maintained our sanity.

The weather was perfect.  Not humid or too hot, which is a minor miracle for June in Savannah, Georgia.  The girls had fun and my friend and I had a pot of Starbucks coffee, our laptops to get some Camp NaNoWriMo writing done, and we even got to watch a movie that didn’t feature animals or mermaid Barbie.

Oh yes.  A cake picture.  Molly wanted a peace sign.  A tie-dyed peace sign.  As usual, I didn’t put as much effort into my kid’s cake as I do for others (bad mama).  It turned out okay but my son was spot-on when he said, “It’s not your best.”  At least he’s honest (the butthead.)  The picture quality isn’t great, either.  As usual, I forgot the camera (bad mama) and had to take the picture with my crappy phone camera.

tie-dyed peace sign cake

Groovy

No, she’s not a hippie.  She’s a normal 9yo who has been bitten by the fashion bug known as Justice.  You know the clothing store–an explosion of glitter, peace signs, hearts, and too short shorts.  I don’t allow the shorts but the tops and dresses are okay.  She adores it.  Good thing, because she got $75 worth of gift cards to spend there.  She couldn’t be happier.

Somewhere in the last year, my baby grew up.  She looks older (thanks to bangs), is an expert eye roller, and always has a smart-butt comment for everything.  If she’s this lovely at 9, I can’t wait to see her at 15.  I can feel the gray hairs sprouting, just thinking about it.

Scheduling Summer

It’s the second week of Summer Break.  We spent the first week staying up and sleeping late, cleaning house, watching television, and just knowing it was really and truly summer and we didn’t have to go back to work and school for a long time.

Miraculously, the kids haven’t been fighting too much.  It’s tough for five kids in a relatively small house with one TV and a small yard not to fight and they’ve done so well.  But I know it won’t last.  Sooner or later (I suspect sooner) they’re going to get on each other’s nerves and then they’ll get on my nerves.  There will be screaming, picking, hitting, and tattling.  Oh, the dreaded tattling.  There’s nothing like hearing, “Mo-om” in that tattling voice.  It sets my teeth on edge.

To ward this off, I’m making a schedule.  A summer activity schedule.   And if it works out, I might even get some alone time.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

1.  Bowling.  I signed the kids up for free bowling.  You read that right.  FREE bowling.  There are time restrictions, but not very many.  For $25, you can add up to four adults on the pass.  Me, my 5 kids, my husband, and my husband’s parents get to bowl all summer for $25.  You still have to rent the shoes or do like I did, and buy cheap bowling shoes.  If we go 7 times, the bowling shoes are paid for and we don’t have to wear those scary rentals.  But don’t worry, cheap bowling shoes are every bit as ugly as the rentals, so you still have the genuine bowling experience.

Oh, did I mention that when you sign up, you also get a gift certificate from restaurant.com.?  A gift certificate for $25?  Yeah, that’s right.  That makes the bowling absolutely FREE!

The website to sign up is kidsbowlfree.com

2.  The YMCA.  We’ve been members of the Y for years.  We haven’t actually been to the Y in a while.  Where we lived before, it was too far.  There was a local Y, but it didn’t have a pool or the super awesome sprayground.  Now, we’re less than 15 minutes from the Y.  I plan to take the kids to the pool/sprayground at least twice a week.  The only downside to this is that I have to get a bathing suit.  Is there anything more stressful/horrifying on the planet than shopping for a bathing suit?  No, there is not.

old-fashioned bathing suit

Think I can find one like this?

Another great thing about the Y is the childcare.  I can drop my kids off for up to 2 hours while I work out.  I can attempt a spin class.  I can start taking Pilates or yoga again.  I can spend some time on the elliptical.  I can sit in the locker room and read a book.  Kidding.  (Sort of.)  2 whole hours by myself.  I get giddy just thinking about it.

3.  The Jacksonville Zoo.  We’ve been planning this trip for a while but something always comes up. (See my tips for dealing with vacation letdown here.)    We will do it this summer.  I love zoos and it’s fun to get out of town, even if it’s only a 2 hour trip.

sand pail on the beach4.  The Beach.   When I was younger I wanted to live close to the beach.  I pictured spending my summer lying on the beach, soaking up the sun.  Well, I’ve lived 30 minutes from a beach for 10 years and have actually set foot on the beach about 10 times.  That’s just crazy.

I had my reasons.  A lot of those years, I had infants.  A beach outing is a pain in the butt when you have to tote pack and plays, diaper bags, baby food, formula, umbrellas (for shade) and all the other crap that infants require. By the time you lug all that down to the sand, you’re exhausted.  And then you have to drag it back to the car.  Not fun.

Now, my youngest is almost 3.  She doesn’t need anything but a bucket and a shovel and a buttload of sunscreen.  She’ll adore the beach and I’ll love watching her adore it.

Basically, the idea is to keep my kids busy.  The more they have to do, the less likely they’re to pick on each other.  Also, the more we’re out of the house, the more likely it is to stay clean.  It’s a win/win.

What about you?  What are your plans for the summer?  How do you keep your kids from whining, “I’m booooooooored.”?