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 

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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

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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.”?

Tropical Storm Beryl and Other Things That Blow

Tropical Storm Beryl is just off the coast.  She’s been teasing us with gusty warm winds and spurts of heavy rain.  Other than that, it’s been clear blue skies.  I must say, as far as tropical storms go, she’s not that impressive.  Then, we’re not supposed to feel the full force of the unfortunately named storm until late tonight and tomorrow, so I might regret those words later.  In honor of Ms. Beryl, I’ve put together a list of other things that blow.

1.  The name Beryl.  Beryl is Greek for “blue-green.”  Blue-green is a beautiful color, but its name sounds like something you’d hear in the backwoods of Georgia or in the hills of Kentucky.  Or maybe in a quaint small town in Vermont.

Larry, Daryll, and Daryll from Newhart

“Hi. I’m Larry. This is my brother Beryl and my other brother Beryl.” (Yes, I know Beryl is a girl’s name, but this is what I thought of and, admit it, it’s funny.)

The word, “Beryllium” derives from Beryl and is much prettier.  And useful.  If you recall, a Beryllium Sphere was what powered the ship called the NSEA Protector in the movie Galaxy Quest.  Without a working ship, the crew might never have conquered the evil galactic war lord, Sirris, thereby saving the Thermians and returning to Earth.

Beryllium Sphere and the cast of Galaxy Quest

If you haven’t seen this movie, well, that’s just unacceptable. It’s hilarious.

2. Air conditioners that don’t work.  (For this fascinating story, look here.)  Yes, it’s blowing.  No, it’s not cooling.  Still.

Food prices sky high.3.  Summer grocery bills.  When school is in the kids eat a bowl of cereal at home and then dinner at night.  I only have to worry about lunch on the weekends.  When school is out I have to worry about three meals a day, plus snacks.  Lots of snacks. I don’t know what it is about being home that makes kids want to eat all day, but it does and they do.  I went to the grocery store today and had to buy 3 loaves of bread, 3 packages of lunch meat, 2 containers of Kool-Aid, 4 gallons of milk, and 4 boxes of cereal.  By the time my cashier had rung up all that plus what I’m going to need for dinner, I was whimpering.   Next week, I’ll be whimpering again.  5 kids are murder on the grocery budget.

4.  Summer Birthday Parties.  Two of my kids have birthdays in the summer and it blows planning a party that nobody will attend.  One is July 6, which is a terrible day and the other is  in June, right when a lot of families take their family vacation.  The party is a week away and I’ve had no RSVPs.  Now, maybe this is because people are notoriously bad about RSVPing (myself included) but I know of at least one girl who will be on a cruise.  We rented a cabin with a pool for a sleepover–my attempt to make the party cool enough not to be missed after my daughter lamented the fact that nobody ever comes to her parties.  I’m hoping and praying it’s not a flop.  I can’t take the hurt on my little girl’s face.

sad girl

 5.  Bathing Suits.  A picture is worth a thousand words and there are some incredible pictures out there on the interwebs, but I’ll spare you that.

You’re welcome.

Related Posts:

Summer Road Trip–Alone With Five Kids
And So It Begins:  The Dreaded Summer Vacation

Sweat

It’s 90 degrees in my house.  The A/C is kaput.  The good news is there are men here putting in a whole new unit.  The bad news is, I can’t even run the fan while they’re doing that.   So it’s just sit and wait.  And it feels hotter in here than it has for the last few days, even though the A/C hasn’t worked for a while.  I think it’s kind of like the thing when you have to go to the bathroom, but you’re in your car, 15 minutes away from home  and the closer you get to the house, the more you have to pee.  It’s excruciating and gets worse and worse, as you unstrap your toddler from her car seat, fumble to put the keys in the lock, and run to the bathroom just as your 8 yo little girl–the slooooowest pee-er in the entire universe–shuts the door with a “I’ll just be a minute.”  As you do the potty dance outside the door, seconds away from sweet, sweet relief,  you feel like your bladder is going to explode. The bathroom is right there and knowing that fact makes you have to go all the more.

cat on a toilet

If it’s not the kids, it’s the cat.

Wait.  Where was I going with that?  Oh yeah.  Sitting in a 90 degree house while men are outside for 5 hours, putting in the one thing that will cool you off, is exactly like having to pee.  The longer it takes and the closer you are, the worse it feels.  I’m hyper aware of how stinkin’ hot it is.

I’m going to use heat exhaustion as an excuse for the bathroom analogy.  It’s the best thing I could come up with, in my weakened and sweaty state.

Is there anything worse than sweating in your house while you’re sitting still?  I don’t like to sweat ever.  That’s why I don’t exercise.  Well, that and the fact that I’m extremely lazy.  My aversion to sweat is unfortunate, as I live in Coastal Georgia–a virtual sauna with biting fire ants, sand gnats, and a thriving mosquito community thrown in for good measure.   And hurricanes.  Seriously, what am I doing here?  Why aren’t I in Satsop, Washington, where it’s a lovely 53 degrees?  Or Sublimity, Oregon , both for the coolness of its weather and its name?

Sublimity, Oregon

 

The kids are getting restless and with every degree get a little more annoying.  They’re all covered in sweat, looking like they just got out of the shower, because they haven’t learned that when you’re hot, it’s best to just sit still.  No, they’re bouncing off the walls and getting meaner by the second.  If I could move, I’d do something about it.  As I can’t, I’ll just sit here and scream at them to stop and they’ll go on being awful, as they learned at a very early age to tune out mom-shrieking.

I will say that being hot makes my kids cuter.  They get that rosy glow to their cheeks and a sparkle in their eye.  You know the one.  The on-the-edge-of-lunacy sparkle?  Oh, and the 2yo, whose blonde, crazy hair gets curlier and curlier the more she sweats?  Is gorgeous.  Good thing, too, because she’s the meanest of them all.  She literally clawed her brother’s eye a few minutes ago while doing her baby pterodactyl shriek.  She takes after me.   Well, except for the gorgeous part.

baby pterodactyl

Who knew there were pictures of ACTUAL baby pterodactyls? *smirk*

Oh, good news!  The AC guy is finished!  The system is up and running.  In a little while, maybe the kids will return to their normal, only slightly annoying selves.  It’s not like I’ll notice.  I’ll have my face plastered against the only accessible air vent,  greedily hogging the cold air.

It’s good to be the parent.

 

The Best Things About Summer Break, According To A Lunch Lady

Oh my.  It’s finally here.  Summer break.  11 glorious weeks of staying home with my 5 loud and obnoxious children, refereeing their fights, cooking their food, cleaning up their messes, trying desperately to find ways to entertain them, knowing deep down in my heart that if they ever organized an uprising against me, I’d be toast, and trying to hide my fear behind a scowl and a mom-shriek that would give the mythical banshee a run for her money.

Irish Banshee

I wish I could say this is way off, but that’s pretty much exactly what I look like on a Monday morning. Except fatter.

I’m starting to rethink the idea that summer break is a good thing.

I’m kidding.  Of course it’s a good thing.  For a lot of reasons.

1.  I don’t have to wear a hair net.

2.  I can wear earrings, a necklace, my wedding ring.  Jewelry isn’t something I feel I have to have, but when somebody tells me I can’t, I want to.  Because I’m basically 12.  Or is it because I’m a woman?  You can tell me in the comments which you think it is.

3.  I don’t have to put my hair in a bun.  Or a ponytail.  I will, of course, because I live in Georgia and my hair is down to the middle of my back and I really don’t want to spend the summer with hair sticking to my neck and face and passing out from the heat.  But wearing my hair down is still an option if I want to garner some sympathy and maybe a day in the bed, resting, after I faint dead away in the middle of my kitchen while screaming at my husband and kids the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?”  Coincidentally, the ONLY question that they don’t know the answer to.

4.  No scrubs.  Scrubs are comfortable.  Unless they’re at least 2 sizes too big and make you feel like a big shapeless blob.  Also, if they come in colors like carnation pink (Pepto Bismol) and yellow (Big Bird.)  So embarrassing.

Hmmm.  I see a trend here.  Everything is related to appearance.  I swear, I’m not that girl.  I wear jeans all the time–even to church.  But when you look like a lunch lady every day for 9 months, the glamorous side of you (even if it’s the size of a pinhead) starts screaming to get out.  Luckily for me, my glamorous side is appeased by a pair of stud earrings and sparkly flip-flops.

sparkly flip flops

High Fashion, indeed.

5. I still have to serve kids lunch and clean up after them all day, but when one of them asks, “Can you take the crust off my sandwich?” or “Chicken nuggets again?!”  I can smack them.

6.  Not waking up at 5:30 AM, screaming at kids to get out of bed, searching desperately for matching socks or the mysterious missing one shoe (they wear two at a time and presumably take them off at the same time so how do they end up on opposite sides of the house?) and being able to sit and have that all-important first (or 5th) cup of coffee and playing stupid FB games for 2 hours, until you’ve had time to wake up properly.

7.  I don’t have to wear a hair net.

Wait.  Didn’t I already say that?

Related Posts:

Spring Break for Moms
Dial 9-1-1.  We Have A Fashion Emergency
Ten Things I Learned On Summer Vacation

 
read to be read at yeahwrite.me