Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Play the days away

"Remah BIG wa-fah?" Miles asks as we drive away from the grocery store."I do remember the big waterfall," I respond.  "Wasn't that so fun?"
"Yeah.  Remah ding-ding-ding an watsh BIG wa-fah?"  I smile.  I like hearing him work in his limited vocabulary to have a conversation with me.  His trunkated words and missing phrases don't bother me... I know exactly what he's talking about.  In my mind, I hear the warning bell ding-ding-ding and watch the giant bucket start to tip... slowly at first, and then faster as the 1000 gallons of water pull the bucket's weight over the tipping threshold.  Ever wonder what it would look like if 1000 gallons of water came dumping out of a giant bucket?

This was only one of the many super fun things at the Great Wolf Lodge.  We took a little overnight family vacation and spent two full days playing in the water park, feeling water-logged and trying to ignore the strong salty taste whenever a splash made it to our tongues... looking around at all of the sweaty bodies packed into there, I felt it was best to just not think about it.  (I later learned that some waterparks actually use salt instead of chlorine to keep their water clean... this is a much more comfortable thought.)

We had a slight casualty the first day,

and for about 3 minutes I thought we were going to have to drive to the nearest ER - but after we found Dr. Brian, he assured me that the cut wasn't quite deep enough to warrant that. 

Plus, he didn't seem to be very affected by it... so, after the bleeding stopped, we threw him back into the water and didn't think about it again until I snapped these pictures later that night after dinner.  Lesson learned: If you go to the Great Wolf Lodge, just make sure to keep your face away from the edge of the waterslides... especially that vicious tiny one in the kiddie pool. 

Lucky us that the restauraunt had a special going on: a free kids meal with the purchase of an adult one.  A good deal seeing that the kids meals were $7.99 for something measley like a grilled cheese sandwich or two chicken fingers. I was almost not going to eat there based on principle alone... deal or no deal. $7.99 for a kids meal? Come on! But when the meals came out with fuzzy wolf ears it all made more sense and we were happy to have gotten them for free.

(Poor Carson - I'm not sure he closed his eyes more than to blink the whole time he was in the water... and by dinner time he couldn't keep them open more than a few seconds.  They were very red and watery and the next day he made sure to close his eyes more when he dove into the waves.  Does this picture make anyone elses eyes water?)

The kids were very successful in acting like wolf cubs that night - lots of wrestling, lots of growling and scuffling around after the lights were off... well, what could I expect when they got to sleep in their very own Wolf Den?

My camera mainly stayed tucked away in the hotel room or in the van - - - who wants to keep track of something like that when you have a wave pool to attack, or water slides to fly down?!  I did take it into the park for a few minutes on the second day to bring home a few memories:

Hey Miles, remember that time when Daddy told me to stand at the bottom of the slide to get a picture of you as you came down because you were laughing and having so much fun?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Scrambled Thoughts III

1.  Marshmallows are not good.

But, in a moment of weakness, I was pushing my grocery cart past the little sticky fluffs and, after a plea from my littlest red-headed companion, I noticed for the first time how inexpensive they actually are.  10 bags for $10?  I can get SEVEN!  It wasn't until I lugged all 7 bags into the house (actually... is it possible to lug marshmallows?) that my moment of weakness passed.  Then my left eyebrow raised at the bags and I panicked for four seconds before I concluded it was not possible for me to be pregnant... and the only other excuse I could think of was that I had been emotionally altered by having all three children tagging along with me that morning.  We put the bags to good use over the next few days, though.    Making marshmallow houses,

surprising Daddy with a marshmallow fight after work,

and, of course, roasting them over our campfires. 

(Yes, that is a strawberry.  We were feeling a bit creative.)
PS - Perfectly Golden Roasted Marshmallows are not marshmallows.  Like I said: marshmallows are not good.  Perfectly Golden Roasted Marshmallows are little heaven drops that melt on your tongue and force you to lick your fingers even when they're caked in camping dirt.  You won't get me to eat a marshmallow from a sterilized silver platter, but I will pick up and eat a Perfectly Golden Roasted Marshmallow from the dirt at my feet.

2. My daughter is embarrassed by my fashion sense

"Mom, why are you wearing socks that don't match your outfit?  At all?"

Well played, little one.  Well played.  I'm frequently suggesting that she alter her outfit a bit because of matching problems.

It's fine...  I don't mind that she dished it back...  I can taste a bit of my own medicine...  If you see these blue socks in the garbage, it's not because I was embarrassed.  I'm 30.  I don't get embarrassed anymore... ahem.  Moving on.

3. Checkers is fun

 It's not so fun when you're coaching your son while he's playing against his big sister and you realize that his big sister might beat you.  Him.  I mean, him. She might beat him.  She wouldn't beat you. She's only 8. And you're 30. 30 year olds don't lose checkers to 8 year olds...oh boy.  This blog post is not going well.

4. Miles thinks he owns the world.  And he kind of does.

Terrible twos are in full swing with this one.  This is the face he gives when he's telling me that my plans are not going to work for him.  "No," he says, "I not go to time out.  I go outside."  Bad news for me: I have much less energy with this one than I did with the other two, making enforcement and consistency much harder, and it's giving me a feeling not unlike what I imagine being emotionally eaten alive feels like.  In fact... my emotions may already be digested by this point.

But he did figure out potty-training in 2 and a half days.  So that bought a lot of love.

Enjoying his victory 'la-pop'.

I've been trying to teach him some polite social skills because, while a defiant stinker to me, when anyone else tries to talk to him he generally gives this face:

followed immediately by a chin drop (to hide his embarrassed smile), and an eye roll that leads his head all the way up and over into the shoulder of whoever is holding him.  Then he plays the If I Ignore Them They'll Go Away game.  So we practice.

*What do you say when someone says 'hi' to you, Miles?  Hi.  Good!
*What do you say when someone says 'bye' to you, Miles?  Bye.  That's right!

After practicing these at home and in the car, we went out to practice in the real world.  Being in the south, I knew we'd have ample opportunity on our routine shopping trip... but after the very first stop, no one had said 'hi' or 'bye' to us.  We were stopped by three different people, though, and I realized that we needed to add a third 'point of politeness' to Miles's lessons.

*What do you say when someone says they like your hair, Miles?  Thank you.

He gets to practice this one a lot, and he's getting good at it. Until one little old lady asked him if she could touch it.  He was a little embarrassed by the request (usually people don't ask, they just do it)... but he slowly nodded his head and stood as still as a statue as she pet him like a little lamb.  Whew.  I gave him a high-five and a jelly bean after that one.

Yes.  He might own the world with his attitude, potty training skills, cute smile and hair, but don't let him bring in the eggs.

 Every. Single. One.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Amost Wordless Wednesday

(Apparently, this is the stance I choose when I want to look cool...
It makes it worse that I was actually looking RIGHT AT myself before I snapped the picture.
Even Miles looks embarrassed for me...
Sorry, Miles.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pollen, Owls, Hot Dogs and Rain

Spider web dusted with pollen
It's killing me.  The pollen is killing me!  Okay, actually, I'm exaggerating a bit... I have friends who have it much (much) worse than I do this time of year, so maybe I should say that the pollen is highly annoying me. 

It starts with a tickle in the very back of my throat... almost subconsciously the back end of my tongue starts rubbing back and forth in an almost failing attempt to sooth the itch (giving me the look of a croaking frog, I imagine.  You know how their throats bulge out when they're croaking?... now put my face on the frog and you have a pretty clear visual of what's going on here).  Then my eyes start watering, and then the sneezing starts.  One sneeze.  Two.  Three.  Four.... the sneezing usually lasts for at least 5 mintues.  Once, it lasted for 23.  Minutes.  23 mintues.  With an average of 10 seconds from one sneeze to the next, that gives an estimation of 138 sneezes.  In a row, my friends. And after every single one past 10 or 12, Miles said, "Mom, what you do-een?"  "Mom, what you do-een?"  I couldn't even answer the child because I was already inhailing deeply for the next burst.  And, too bad for me, I was in the car (yes... driving... talk about a hazardous driver) with no tissues, no water, and no escape.  By the end, I was a mess... tears running from my eyes, snot dripping from my nose, drool seeping out from the corners of my mouth...  sorry... realizing this is a little TMI.  Moving on.

Regardless of the pollen infestation, we decided to take our family camping.  I tried to photograph a bit of the pollen craze, but turns out pollen is a bit hard to photograph with my amateur skills.  It was quite amazing, though... every time we took a step, a puff of pollen rose and swallowed our feet. You have to look pretty hard at the following picture to see it, but you can see a little bit of said puff at the base of the trunk in front of Brian's toe.  And the second picture is at the edge of the lake.  That's a little easier to see.  Yes.  All the yellow is pollen.  Wet pollen.

Miles sure had a fantastic time.  Didn't even seem to notice the pollen at all.  His favorite part was throwing rocks in the river.  (Side question for anyone who might know... I took about 20 pictures of Miles here, and in every single one of them, the focus of the picture is a couple of feet in front of him.  I was changing focal points the whole time depending on where he was standing, and made sure the selected focal point was right between his eyes, yet all the pictures are focused far front of him.  I've noticed this before, but not super consistently... I notice it more when I open my aperature wider than about 2.2 or so... what am I doing wrong?  Please say it's not my lens...)

I think Brian's favorite part was throwing rocks in the river, too.  He's pretty much a master when it comes to skipping rocks.  Look how far this one jumped... then it skidded several more times before finally accepting its fate of being a Bottom Of The Lake Rock.

My favorite part?  This moment:

Love this girl.

Eating hot dogs is my favorite, too.

Actually, that's not true.  I don't really like eating hot dogs very much... but roasting hot dogs is my favorite.  And so is roasting marshmallows.

We played Uno and Phase 10 after dinner,

and then cuddled up in the tent to read several books by flashlight after the sun went down.  There was an owl close by and the kids refined their owl cries until they could get him to respond to their calls.  After two weeks, Miles still says, "Rember da owl?  An he say, "Whooooo, whooooo!""  It was quite exciting.  Also exciting was the fact we were close to the airport and had a steady stream of airplanes flying over our tent for most of the night. 

A little less exciting was the rain that started at around 11:00 pm and didn't stop for about 24 hours.  Hooray for waterproof tents! 

Boo for waterproof tents that need to be packed up through the rainy morning.

But, hooray for the rainy morning that settled some of that blasted pollen in the air...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter.

Hello, thirty.

There's hype around you, you know. Chatter, excitement, anxiety, disbelief. Lots of elbow poking and winking from those who find out you're approaching.

 But you don't scare me. In fact, I've been eager to see you! Don't get me wrong, it's a bit sad to see my 20's go. Those were some awesome years ... packed full of life changing decisions. I found an incredible boy who stole my heart. And keeps it still, which is wonderful because he's much more gentle and loving with it than I am. I chose my profession, and helped him choose his. We became parents, moved across the country, dealt with true heartache, made more career decisions, refined our roles as mother and father, and formed some everlasting friendships... It feels good to have so many big life decisions behind us.

So, welcome, thirty!

You are a milestone, of sorts. A reason to pause, stop working, take a step back and look. And, you know ... what I see makes me happy. Because I see that, under the masterful blueprints of the Lord, the frame of our life-house has been built. A foundation of faith. Cornerstones of family respect, fun, love and work. Walls of lessons: lessons of motherhood, lessons of confidence, lessons of faith, lessons of sorrow, lessons of sacrifice. A roof made from watertight family bonds formed by looking out for each other, protecting each other, caring for each other and feeling secure with each other. There is still much, much work to be done in our life-house... Who knows what renovations lie in our future, or how the interior will be decorated, but today I can see that this is a place in which I am very excited to spend the rest of my life.

I see this house as your gift to me, thirty. Along with a bit more perspective. A bit more security. A bit more faith.  A bit more understanding.  A bit more hope.  A bit more trust.

But perhaps most importantly, a bit more self-confidence.  And a bit less comparison...

...which will probably change the direction of my thirties the most. I have felt myself drawn recently to quotes that encourage me to be who I am. I, along with many women, find it very difficult to keep my focus inward and upward, and have spent too much of my time watching from side to side to see what everyone around me is thinking and doing. But somewhere, after all these years of scrambling, I've caught a foothold. The work of self-discovery is becoming faster. And the joy of self-contentment is getting easier to feel. This could be the greatest gift. To see my imperfections, to see my strengths, and to not be scared by either.

I heard a quote once, and I can't remember who said it, but it goes something like this:

“About all you can do in life is be who you are.
Some people will love you for you.
Most will love you for what you can do for them,
and some won't like you at all.”

This speaks to me... and I see it shaping up to be a great theme I will string throughout my thirties. I hope I will get better at finding and surrounding myself with those people who love me for me... that I will willingly and happily give what I can to those who love me for what I can do for them (and then not be hurt when they leave)... and that I can tactfully and understandingly ignore those who don't like me at all.

Because, really, I want to be me.

And I want you to be you. Yes, thirty. I speak the truth when I say I'm excited to see you, but that doesn't mean I don't see your faults just like you see mine... I know you'll cause my back to go out when I forget to put equal weight on my legs before the sneeze... or fuzzy up my vision when I try to see as far as I used to... you cause me to worry when the carrot crunches a little too loudly because it could be my tooth... you bring along sags and wrinkles, sunspots and grey hairs... and your presence means that half-heatedly watching what I eat is no longer effective in maintaining my weight... but even so...

... I don't mind. Too much.

Here's to us, thirty.

*PS - let's hear it for my awesome little photographers, McKenzie and her friend Amaya!  They posed me, primped me, and even told me sweetly to 'maybe not smile like that ever again?... because that smile is a little... ...you know, like... horrifying?...' 
(The following picture prompted the advice):

 I will never delete it.  I laugh too hard every time I see it.  Every. Time.

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Love the Difference

It happens a few times a week. The same old ritual. I drag the library bag full of picture books close to the recliner and snuggle in with Miles on my lap... my eyes close tightly and I start singing a well loved tune I like to call Into the Magic Bag of Books. (What? You're not familiar with this song, you say? Well, it's a Lindsay original with about as much creativity as I'm a Map from Dora the Explorer.) My arm starts dancing, snakelike, around the opening of the bag as the words of the song come out in a trance-like tone, "Into the Magic Bag of Books... into the Magic Bag of Books... into the Magic Bag. of. BOOKS!" My hand slowly and finally comes to rest on one spine just before the last word... and then OUT bursts the last word, my arm yanks the book up quickly and my eyes flash open. Miles's reaction is almost always the same: a sharp intake of breath followed by a "Yay!" when his eyes focus on the cover of the title we'll be reading next.

I frequently feel guilty that I don't spend as much time reading to Carson as I do to Miles and McKenzie. But I've realized recently that maybe this guilt is unwarranted and self-imposed....

When McKenzie was 2, she had a friend come over to play. He could barely talk, but confidently pointed to the letter 'O' on a block and clearly said, "O". "Yes!" I said... but inside I was thinking Ohmygosh. Hetotallyknowsthatletter. Ihaven'tevenSTARTEDteachingMcKenzieyet! Ican'tbelieveit! Iamsuchaterriblemother! All the sudden it was most important that she learn her letters. Now. Because she was already two years old.

I'm sure you see the silliness... but I suppose falling into traps like that is one of the trade-offs of being such a young mother. She caught on quickly and my good mother ego was stroked when she could name all the letters and tell me their sounds shortly after that day. She has since proven her love for letters by becoming Book Worm Extraordinaire. Well! Now I knew, right?! This is the way to turn your kids into readers! They will be smart and love books if you teach them young!

So along came Carson.

Teaching this child letters is like pulling teeth out of a baby alligator. He. Does. Not. Care. what that letter is, says, does, or dances like. He will enjoy one or two picture books and then wants to be off running again. Carson doesn't want to read about the adventure. Carson wants to live the adventure. Good mother ego? Shot. Guilt? Creeping in. After all, according to my previous epiphany, he will never love books now because I couldn't teach him young.

I'm sure you see the silliness... but I suppose falling into traps like this is one of the trade-offs of your kids not coming with owners manuals. I eventually backed off trying to teach Carson the letters and decided that kindergarten was still a ways off and that he didn't need to learn them quite yet. And whaddaya know? He eventually became interested in them by himself and has done just fine in his preschool class.

So along came Miles.

I threw all protocol out the window with this one and decided that we'd just do Whatever he Wanted for free time. Happiness! Freedom! Ease and low stress! And do you know what he asks for? Books. Letters. Books. And letters. Every time he finds a pen or marker he runs to me and asks that I draw the letter "M". He gets so excited and asks over and over for me to draw "ann-oh-wun" (another one) so he can try to copy.

I think I'm starting to get it...

The truth is that Miles asks for books ("I do, in-oo a magic bag-a-books?") because he likes books. He is interested in drawing letters because he likes letters. And McKenzie does, too. If I hadn't pushed McKenzie to learn her letters when she did, she probably would have asked for them soon enough... just like Miles does. But Carson has other interests. He has other likes. Carson asks to play tag. Or trains. Or Hot Wheels. Or to ride his bike. Or dig in the mud.

And they just simply came that way.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm starting to believe that within reason, it doesn't really matter what I'm doing with my kids as long as I am doing. I guess I'm trying to say that I want to encourage each of my kids to be their own unique selves and to try not to impose my own desires on them... but that sure is harder than it seems.

For me, at least.