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.


Spring “Break” for Moms

Spring Break.  The phrase that used to be synonymous with fun, sun, and idleness.  Before I had kids.

When I didn’t work outside the home, Spring Break meant long days with my overly excited children, trying to come up with ways to occupy their time so they wouldn’t kill each other or I, them.  The words, “Spring Break” struck fear into my very heart.

Now that I’m working, I was excited about Spring Break.  I looked forward to it, marked the days until I could sleep past 5:30, stay up late blogging or watching movies, go to the spa, get a haircut, go to the zoo.


Here it is, Friday, the last day of Spring Break and I haven’t watched a movie.  This is the only blogging I’ve done, I’ve barely been outside the house except to take my kids to the doctor, I didn’t get a massage or a haircut, and I didn’t take my kids to the zoo.

Side note:  NEVER NEVER tell your kids you’re going to take them somewhere over Spring Break.  Trust me, you’ll regret it.  Something will come up.  A hurricane in Disney World or your sewer will back up and you’ll have to spend the Lego Land money to have feces pumped out of your yard.  Instead, the night before you want to leave, let the kids stay up really late, wake them up early, give them a Benadryl, load them into the car, tell them you’re taking them to the dentist, and drive while they sleep. That way, if your engine blows up on I-95, they’re happy.  No tears or accusations on their part and you’ll be guilt free.  And if, by some miracle, you actually make it to your destination, you’re a hero!

Super Mom

So how did I spend my Spring Break?  Doing all the crap I can’t do while I’m at work.  Making phone calls, scheduling doctors’ appointments, getting my son a pair of glasses to replace the ones he lost months ago, and Spring cleaning.  Oh my, the cleaning.

You’d think that since 10 short months ago we literally had Nothing, I wouldn’t have much junk.  You’d be wrong.  We have loads of useless crap.  Aside from broken motherboards and pieces of old VCRs (mother of a 13yo geek-in-training–and proud of it, I might add), shoes I’ll never wear, purses I’ll never carry, and toys my kids outgrew three years ago,  there are the clothes.

When you have nothing, you take everything, especially clothes.  Well, I took too much.  Doing laundry for 7 people is time-consuming but imagine if everyone has enough clothes to last an entire month?  You know how, when you’re tired from working, you’re perfectly content NOT to do laundry as long as someone has something to wear to school the next day?  (No?  Well, maybe that’s just me.)  So I let the laundry ride.   This week, I had to catch it up.  As I was busy running around town to doctor’s offices and whatnot, I didn’t have time to fold it.  As usual, I dumped it on the couch, with plans to fold it all in one giant Laundry Party (that’s the only kind of party I’m having these days.  *sigh*)  Before I knew it, I had Mount Kilimanjaro in my living room.

Mt Kilimanjaro.

Mt Kilimanjaro. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got out the garbage bags.  I folded and tossed like a madwoman.  Before long I had 5 garbage bags full of clothes ready to go to the Goodwill and still too many clothes to fit in the drawers.  I eyed the kids’ piles of clothes and decided they really didn’t need 3 sets of yard work clothes.  I mean, they don’t even do yard work.  I reduced again.  At this point, I was tossing every 3rd shirt.  Hope they weren’t particularly attached to any of them.

Add to the laundry cleaning up after my highly inquisitive 2yo that likes to paint her body with fingernail polish and dump everything on the floor, especially the contents of salt shakers and shampoo bottles, and refereeing fights between all five kids and you have a very good idea what my Spring Break was like.

I can’t wait until Monday.


How about you?  You do anything fun for Spring Break or was it as awful as mine?

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And So It Begins:  The Dreaded Summer Vacation

Ten Things I Learned On Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is always so exciting, whether it’s spent at the beach, the pool, or in the backyard.  My summer certainly started off with a bang, though not the kind I would hope for.  The fire threw a wrench in many of our summer plans.  I swore we’d go to the beach at least 3 times, seeing as how we live a mere 35 minutes away.  Didn’t happen.  I said we’d go to the Jacksonville zoo, the park, the water park–all promises unfulfilled.  I simply didn’t have the time or energy to take them.  Now school starts in exactly one week and all I can do is feel guilty about what we didn’t do.  Oh well, such is motherhoood. 

Despite all the craziness of Summer 2011, I was determined that my trip home would not be cancelled.  I needed that trip more than ever after all the drama. So I packed up ALL my clothes which, depressingly, fit into 1/2 of a medium-sized suitcase, the kids’ clothes, some toiletries, snacks, video games and chargers for home and the car, books, diapers and wipes, crayons, a cooler full of drinks, my hotel reservation confirmation, etc. and we took our trip

I learned a lot on the road and at home.  Some things, I can’t put into words.  Not yet, anyway.  As for the ones I can express, here are the top ten. 

Ten Things I Learned On Summer Vacation

1.  If you’re leaving on an extended vacation, a major repair will be required on the car or the house the day you’re supposed to leave.

http://www.photl.com/en/copyright.htmlIn my case, it was both.  I had to get new tires for the car.  While this isn’t a major repair (new engine, transmission, etc.) it was still not cheap.  Gone are the days when a tire cost a mere $50.  Three tires=$600+  Ouch. 

The problem with the house was the plumbing.  The night before we were left, I was doing laundry and found the hallway flooded.  The washwater was backing up into the toilets and the bathtub.  I had to call RotoRooter to fix it.  They quickly cleared the pipes of tree roots and then rotorootered me as well with the $300 bill.  Double ouch.

2.  Not all music is driving music.

One of the most exciting parts of this trip for me was being able to pick all the music.  I spent a couple of hours making what I thought was the perfect playlist.   I started up the music before I pulled out of the driveway and I was cruising along fine.  Until about an hour down the road and Death Cab For Cutie’s album began to play.  Now, I like Death Cab for Cutie, but it is NOT driving music.  Ben Gibbard’s voice along with miles upon miles of tree-lined roads and yellow lines is a prescription for sleep that rivals Ambien.  I luckily had some other stuff that was perfect driving music, regardless of what my kids had to say about it:  The All-American Rejects (yeah, I actually like that), Adele, The Black Keys, and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. 

3.  Cruise Control and the Nintendo DS are two of the best inventions ever.

Speaking as a woman with chronic back pain, a tendency for foot and leg cramps, and an extremely low tolerance for whining and fighting kids, I can honestly say these two things are right up there with central air conditioning and indoor plumbing.  That being said, fie on those stupid drivers who don’t understand what “SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT” means.  They totally screwed up my cruise control experience.

4.  Never say anything in front of a two-year-old that you don’t want repeated.

You can read about that here.

5.  Your family is weird, whether you realize it or not.

I never exactly thought we were normal (see here, and here), but I didn’t realize just how different we were until I saw it in stark relief against the families of my brother and my cousins or in the now childless house of my parents.

6. Everybody loves the zoo.

It was approximately 200°F the day we went to the zoo but the only one who complained was my 12-year-old.  He complains that water is too wet, so I don’t pay any attention to him anyway.

Who wouldn't love this guy?

Pole dancing orangutans make me smile.

7. The line between mature woman and high school girl is very small indeed.

One of the highlights of my trip was girls’ night with some friends from high school.  We talked about motherhood, kids, jobs, and our lives in general.  We also talked about people from high school.  Specifically, we talked about people from high school as if we were still in high school.  It wasn’t the mature thing to do, but we also talked about how dumb we were in high school, too.  That totally makes it okay.

I haven’t had a night out with these girls for a looong time and it was a wonderful reunion. While we were sitting in the restaurant laughing and talking too loud, I felt several different things at once. I felt old, young, smart, stupid, sophisticated, childish, bold, self-conscious, happy, sad, and important.  It was good for my soul.  The margaritas didn’t hurt, either.

8.  Madonna may not be an affected poser after all.

Image via Wikipedia

Living somewhere for an extended period of time almost guarantees a change in speech patterns.  Like Madonna, I have acquired an accent.  Unfortunately it isn’t an English one, it’s a southern one.  I’m sure some of you are under the impression that Kentucky is a southern state (it is if you’re from anywhere in Kentucky except for Louisville, it isn’t if you’re from any other southern state–strictly Border State.)  If you are under that impression, you may also be under the impression that all Southern accents are the same.  They aren’t.  Anyway, I was informed that I have acquired an odd way of saying “want.”  I now say “wont.”  At first, this disturbed me.  I’ve prided myself on my minimal accent all my life.  For example, I’ve never said the word “warsh” for “wash” as many Kentuckians are wont to do.  (I did mean “wont’ and not “want” there, in case you were wondering.)  Then I took the proper attitude about it and decided I didn’t care.  Besides, everybody’s got an accent.  Furthermore, a ridiculously cartoonish southern accent has done wonders for people like Paula Deen.  A few more years down here and I might be able acquire enough of the local dialect and milk it to sell cakes or publish a book.  The world really needs more eccentric southern writers, don’t you think?

9.  I have an unhealthy relationship with food.

White Castle, Mark’s Feed Store, Christy’s, Rally’s, Steak and Shake, and Valley Dairy Freeze.  I patronized all these places while I was in Kentucky.  Some of them twice.  I also drank Big Red.  I relished every morsel and drop.  I even brought it home with me (in the form of 50 lbs. that went straight to my giant gut.  At least it had plenty of company with the other 300 lbs. I acquired in Georgia.)

10.  I prefer hills and dirt to marshes and sand.

Living on the coast has its perks–beaches, warm winters, and coastal skies.  However, driving through the hills made me forget all that.  Up, down, and around we went–the kids squealing with every dip and curve.  Me, reveling in the terrain and the greenness of it all.  I took pictures of tree-lined, deeply sloping driveways.  Of hills covered in green, regretting I’d miss the reds, oranges, and yellows of Fall.  I took my shoes off to walk on my grandma’s lawn of soft grass, not a sand spur or fire ant bed in sight.  I did a lot of porch sitting, enjoying the sounds of the bobwhite, which is my favorite bird.  My favorite because it’s the only bird I recognize by its call and because my grandma used to whistle to them when we sat in her sideyard when I was little.  The bobwhite call. 

Of course there are trees, grass, and bobwhites in Georgia.  But it’s not the same.  Like Dorothy Gale from Kansas so wisely stated, “There’s no place like home.”


The Kentucky Hills in Late Summer

Summer Road Trip–Alone with Five Kids

I thought for sure that my kids would provide me so much material during out 12 hour trip.  When have they gone longer than 10 minutes without fighting or being the most annoying people on earth?  Never.  Until we piled in a car and all of them had a Nintendo DS to keep them occupied.  In anticipation of their general awful behavior, I had a plan.  We would make periodic stops and take some goofy pictures to document our trip and maybe give them a chance to stretch their legs or have something to look forward to.  But, since they were mostly quiet and only had a couple of minor squabbles, I took advantage, and just drove. 

They finally gave me some trouble when we stopped to eat dinner at the McDonald’s, a mere hour and a half from our destination.  I had a couple of really nasty diapers to change, courtesy of my 21-month-old daughter, who was apparently waiting for a restaurant to stink up before she let loose.  Fine by me.  Better the McDonald’s than my car.  Then, in uncharacteristic fashion, my 5-year-old decided he’d have a go with a poopy accident.  There’s something about the McDonald’s that makes people want to poo, I guess.

Anyway, I got some goofy pictures of the kids on the Play Ground (post-clean-up, of course.)

Brotherly Love

Molly the Gymnast and Billy the Fashion Expert

#1 is not dead. I swear.

See? This is one of his better pictures.

Things were pretty boring until we got to the motel.  When we pulled into the parking lot, I instructed Miss Molly and Crazy Billy to lay down in the backseat.  Why?  Well, there is a three kid limit to a room.  Now, I don’t have the funds to rent 2 rooms.  Since we enter the rooms from the outside, it was essential we sneak the other two kids in.  So, I told them to lie down so they wouldn’t be spotted.  They obliged, but after about 30 seconds, Miss Molly asks in a suspicious voice, “Is this a joke?”  No, dear heart, it’s not. 

I get the room and drive around to the parking lot.  It turns out, we have to walk across a large expanse of grass to get to the door.  The chances of us making it unnoticed, at 11:00 pm when there is nobody else around, are not good.  Considering the kids picked that exact moment to be loud, obnoxious, and clumsy made it impossible.  They dropped blankets and suitcases, Billy talked in his only tone of voice which happens to be an outside-on-the-playground-with-tons-of-kids-radio-blasting-swarm-of-bees-passing-by voice, and all of them decided it was time to start pretending they were in Wrestlemania.  On a positive note, Anna learned a couple of new words.  The sh%% one, which she only said once (as did I, in a moment of panic and frustration), but only because she liked the other one much better.  We made our way across no-man’s land with a 21-month-old repeatedly saying, “dammit” at the top of her lungs, and the other kids laughing hysterically at the profanity coming out of such a sweet baby’s mouth. 

Do you kiss yourself with that mouth?

Miraculously, no one accosted us and made me pay the $70 for another room.  Even more amazing, not one person knocked on our door once we got in the room and all the kids started arguing about who was sleeping in which bed.  Turns out, one was on the floor and another one had a bed all to himself.  The other three slept in the bed with me, where the most comfortable spot must’ve been my head and my feet.  Anna head butted me several times before finally drifting off.  When I woke up the next morning, I could barely stand, my back hurt so bad.

The next leg of the trip was even more pleasant than the first.  Even less arguing and no traffic.  Well, until we got about an hour outside of Louisville.  The rain was really coming down and the interstate went down to one lane for a while.  We only stopped moving for about 2 minutes.  That was scary, though.  While we were sitting there, a huge bolt of lightning struck not 100 ft. from us.  We all flinched/ducked/squealed.  The crackling was freaky.  By the time we got home, the rain had slowed to a drizzle and I was more than ready to get out of that car.  This was a welcome sight.

Home! I forgot how GREEN it is here!

I must say it was a pleasant trip.  Somehow, I feel like the trip home will more than make up for that.  They still have their Nintendo DSs and I still have the camera.  Maybe I can get some better pictures on the way home.  Honestly, I’d rather just drive.  Hopefully, the kids will cooperate.  Though it would make for much better reading if they acted more like themselves.  If you’re hoping they will, just so you will be more entertained–shame on you.