Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sure, You Can Trust Me With Your Child. What Are the Chances It Will Happen Twice?*

As I was driving home from play practice yesterday, chatting away with my three oldest children, a horrible realization hit me.  I slammed on my brakes and yelled out one word.

That word would be the name of the child I was supposed to bring home from play practice.  The child of the man who faithfully and generously drove Phoenix to school for months, even though he no longer had to drive his daughter.  (She got her drivers license.)  

I had forgotten that I had offered to bring him home. 

I immediately called his mom, told her what had happened, and flew back to school to retrieve him.


But it's not my fault.

Apparently, my brain is full.  The storage capacity has been reached, and I need to delete some info to make room for new facts and data and important information.  It would really be helpful to remember things like practice times, so I don't drop a child off at the end of soccer practice instead of the beginning.  (Buttercup, last Thursday)

Problem is, I don't know how to erase the old, unnecessary information, and there aren't any IT guys to help me.  I don't think there are enough Geeks in Pink to solve this one.

I'm going to have to start giving my kids explanations for my poor memory.  

I'm sorry, Cuckoo.  I can't remember the year of your birth, because I can't forget the name of the boy in my kindergarten class who has the same birthday as me.

I'm sorry, Phoenix.  I can't remember the conversation we had about the boy who sits next to you in biology class, thus making you repeat the entire conversation a couple of weeks later, because I can't seem to forget the time I plucked my friend's hair out of her head for the biology experiment I had to do 26 years ago.


The memory problem is only made worse by the volume of facts and information I am needing my brain to organize recently.

We are in the middle of a three week explosion of things to do.  I will not bore you with the details.  For one, most everyone I know is busy.  For two, I am not about to get into a "woe is me, I'm so busy" attitude.   

Let's just say AAAAAHHHHH!!

And move on, shall we?

We shall.

For the next three days, we are putting the busy on hold.

For three days, we'll be praying and listening and reflecting and discussing. We will immerse ourselves in the reality of the suffering Jesus endured for us.  And in the end, of course, we'll be celebrating.  We'll celebrate the miracle of his resurrection.  We'll welcome the newly baptized into the Catholic church.  We'll partake in all of those things we gave up for Lent.

And we'll roast Peeps.

Apparently, my brain dumped my bank password in order to make room for the Peeps.  I never forget the Peeps.

* Chances are pretty good, actually.  Just ask Giant.

See you Saturday for the Ten Things of Thankful!

Have a lovely day!

Friday, April 11, 2014

I Can't Come Up With a Witty Title. TToT Week 43

This post is an illusion.

I'm not really here.

After being home for 6 days, I decided that all of this staying in one place is for the hermits!  I need to be on the road!

For this weekend's road trip, no kids are involved.  There will be no stopping at fun places.  It is a 10 hour race to Virginia for my older sister's wedding.  I will be stopping in Kentucky to pick up my mom and youngest brother.  My dad will meet us there.

I can't tell you how happy it makes me that my mom is coming with us.  The sister getting married is not my mom's daughter, but the daughter of my dad and a woman he knew before my mom.  The weekend is a perfect example of a "water under the bridge, life is too short for grudges, forgiveness is the best way to live" attitude my parents and sister have embraced.  We're going to have so much fun.

So, I'm not here.  While you read this, I may be in the middle of a 10 hour drive to Virginia.  I may be at a wedding.  I may be playing cards with my mom, dad, and brother.  I may be sleeping in the backseat while my brother drives the 10 hours home.  Regardless, I'm not here.

Doesn't mean I haven't been thankful this week!

1.  I am thankful for the dozen roses which greeted me when the kids and I got home from our trip.  Bryan missed me.

2.  I am thankful for new sheets for my bed.  It seems that when I sleep, I kick a lot.  So much so that the area by my feet always wears thin.  The other night, I actually put my foot through the thinning sheet.  New sheets for me!

3.  I am thankful for opportunities for my kids to grow.  The kindergarteners were in charge of presenting the all-school Mass this week, and Turken led the way by reading an introduction.  I was a bit nervous for him, seeing as how he is one of the most shy of my children.  I needn't have worried.  He stood tall (you could actually see the top of his head over the lectern), spoke loudly, and paced himself nicely.

When kindergarten is in charge of the Mass, a couple of 8th graders are in charge of helping the 5 and 6 year olds to their proper positions at the right time.  Buttercup was asked to help, and after Mass, the other kindergarten teacher proclaimed that she wanted Buttercup to help her class when it was their turn.

Proud Mama right here.

4.  I am thankful to have had some time to get a haircut.  Finally! Another related thankful... Except for the incident where he loudly and repeatedly exclaimed, "Look at him!  He's getting a mohawk!" and pointed at the poor older woman getting her haircut behind me while I tried to shush him and call him over to me and my wet, half-cut hair, Cuckoo behaved quite well.

5.  I am thankful for the great weather in which the three youngest can play while we wait many hours over the course of the week for middle school play practices to end.  (The show is in 2 weeks, so rehearsals are in full swing.)

6.  I am thankful that we had both the weather and the time to get a bunch of outside work done last weekend.  Basically, we cleaned up the messes last year's pigs created and got a good start on cleaning up the mess the winter created.

7.  I am thankful for my new doctor. I like the guy so far, despite the fact he kept comparing me and my ailments to an 82 year old woman.  He has a good plan and new ideas for getting a diagnosis and managing the pain of whatever this is I have.  Bonus points for getting me out of there in less than one hour and for the fantastic phlebotomist who managed to get 5 vials out of me with no trouble at all.

8.  I am thankful for the opportunities to meet and get to know more of the kindergarten parents.  Most of my friends have kids in grades 6 and up.  That means most of these friends will be leaving me behind when their kids head off to high school.  With Turken and Cuckoo, I am basically at square one at this school.  It would behoove me to get to know the younger parents with the younger kids.  With the weather being so nice, I have actually run into several moms at different playgrounds and have had some nice talks with them.

9.  I am thankful for generous friends.  A few things popped up to add to the calendar this weekend, and there is no way Bryan could have done them all without help.  A couple friends have agreed to help with a bit of the driving our kids to or from an event, so I can still go to the wedding.

10.  I am thankful for everyone who continues to read my blog, especially when I spend 3 days talking about our one vacation.  I'm also terribly grateful for those bloggers who read, despite my inability to read their writing much these past couple of weeks.

So, I left town and forgot to ask Lizzi for the code to put in my post before I left.  Without the code, I have no way for you to link up.  I'm so sorry.

If you have written a post, please go to Lizzi's and link up there.

If you don't have a post, tell me in the comments what got you smiling this week.

Have a lovely weekend!

Ten Things of Thankful

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Final Vacation Post!! 19 Things We Learned While on the Road

Because an even number just isn't quirky enough.

1.  Cuckoo is a "slow chewer".  We know this because every single day, as the kids begged and pleaded with him to "just finish eating so we can leave already", Cuckoo would get frustrated and holler, "I'm a slow chewer!"
2.  But apparently a fast blower.  Every time a hot meal was placed in front of him, there would be a flurry of activity as he used the entire top half of his body in an attempt to bring the temperature of his food down.

3.  My kids can be bought with an indoor pool and a couch.  When we were looking for hotels, we chose to stay in the ones which were mid-priced.  With my need to rent 2 rooms each night, we wanted to avoid the pricier hotels.  However, we didn't want to go too cheap and risk finding a gigantic knife stuck in a wall and filth all over the bathroom.  On our 4th night, we tried a Comfort Inn, which happens to be suites instead of single rooms.   The kids were completely impressed.  When they found out it had an indoor pool, they lost their minds.  (No other hotel had one.)  Swimming after breakfast was in order.  As was getting another Comfort Inn for the next night.

Apparently, he was trying to swim underwater, because when he surfaced he asked, "Could you see me?"

4.  Hotel bathroom lights are brutally honest.  Always bring tweezers to take care of those now-noticeable facial hairs.

5.  State park trash cans are both animal- and child-proof.

It took an uncomfortable amount of time for the boys to figure this out.

6.  It takes complete concentration for boys to simply walk along a path.  Staircase banisters cry out to them, "Slide down me!"  Rock walls beg of them, "Climb up here and walk on me!"  Barrier poles taunt them, "I bet you can't jump over me!"  A mother of boys must constantly be on the lookout for danger.

Notice Star jumping off of the cement wall.  Phoenix is about to run up it.  Giant just landed.
7.  She must also keep an eye out for elderly people.  Boys don't seem to notice when others are around them when they are jumping/running/climbing/rolling/falling/skipping/anything but walking in a straight line.

8.  Cups "make" cool sounds.

Don't ask me how Phoenix discovered this phenomenon, but he convinced everyone to put their ears to their cups and listen.

Poor Cuckoo, with his plastic, lidded cup, didn't know what was so interesting.
9.  Dollar General is taking over the world.  I am not exaggerating when I say that every single town big enough for a stop light had a Dollar General.  Some towns that weren't big enough to have a stop light had one, too.

Of the hundred Dollar Generals we saw, I don't know why I chose to take a photo during the only 30 minute block of time the entire vacation that we had rain.
10.  Surprisingly, Sonic was a close second in the take over the world race.

11.  Children are easily amused by things we as kids considered normal.

Bet you can't guess what has them all so enthralled.  It is the one and only thing they actually fought over this entire trip.

12.  Museums can be found in the oddest of places.

When Nascar driver Mark Martin decided to go into the car sales business and built a Ford dealership, he included a largish museum all about himself.  I have to admit, seeing the cars and trophies were pretty nifty.  The gift shop, not so much.
13.  Never take your eyes off of a goat.

They may just try to climb into your golf cart to get the food you have in your hand.  I watched that goat walk all the way up, never telling Phoenix what was about to happen.  The poor kid jumped a mile when he felt the fur on his hands.  Unfortunately, I was sitting too close to him to get a photo.  Thankfully, Buttercup was at the ready behind us.
14.  Small towns still have the playground equipment of our generation.

15.  Cherry bumps and the premature jumping off of the teeter-totter by one's teeter-tottering partner still cause pain and injury.

Soon after this, both Star and Giant were down with teeter totter injuries.

16.  Phoenix cannot be trusted with reconnaissance. We decided to hike up a hill in Hot Springs to the look-out tower.  My mom chose to drive up instead, so abandoned us at the bottom.  After she left us, we came to a sign for the trail

and some construction on the trail.  I sent Phoenix up ahead to scope it out for us.  He came back to report that the construction seemed to end just ahead, so we carried on.

It never ended.

17.  Park rangers/workers should really assume that hikers in their park have no common sense.  When we got to the top of the trail, we found this:

The top of the trail was blocked off.  We can only guess they didn't do the same to the bottom, because from the bottom, the construction was clearly visible.

18.  Small towns are very proud of the famous people who were born in them.  We know this, because they all have signs telling passerby which famous person was born there.  The most shocking to us was this one:

We even did a u-turn to go back and take a photo of the sign.  Giant took the photo from across 3 lanes.  Going 45 miles/hour.  In the far side of the van.  Give him a break.
It says, "Kennett:  Birthplace of Sheryl Crow".  She was born in the middle of nowhere!

19.  And lastly, the strict TV and video game limits I have always had for the children are paying off.  Regardless of where we were, without my help, the kids came up with games to entertain themselves.  Even in a plain, boring shelter at the top of a hill, waiting for my mom to drive the van up, the kids saw a chance to play a new version of hide-n-seek.

While the seekers counted,, the hiders found spots on the outside, looking through a hole in the wall.  Cuckoo is "hiding".

The seekers were on the inside, trying to find everyone's faces.  Cuckoo, as a seeker, just found someone.

Phoenix was his usual silly self, calling "Try to find me!"  
You trooper, You!  You made it through the last of the vacation posts!  Give yourself a round of applause!

We will now return to our rarely scheduled posting.

Just in time, too.  The new pigs are coming soon!

Every week, Julie hosts a "What I Learned This Week" link up.  I'm joining in!

Have a lovely day!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Finding the Funny When Traveling

This trip was a blast for all of us.

That wasn't an accident.

The entire purpose was to have fun, and when trying to please 8 people, that takes some planning.

We may not have known where we were going, but we most certainly had a plan of how the fun was going to happen.

The rules of this trip:

1.  Even if the chosen activity isn't one of your choosing, you will not pout.  You will look for a way to have fun in a situation you don't think will be fun.

2.  When we stop for a photo, you do not have to be in the photo if you don't want to be. (One way to get kids to want to be in the photos is to let them come up with funny poses to do.)

3.  We will not take any boring tours or learn any history for learning history's sake.  (That was the kids' rule.  They vetoed tours of historical houses before we even found a historical house to tour.)

4.   We will not mourn our inability to do an activity.  (For example, we were going to go horseback riding, but the stables were closed for the week.)

Now, to explain, part of our family tradition is to stop and take impromptu photos of places we won't go in.   This tradition started before we ever had kids when Bryan and I took these "no planning" vacations.  We once drove 40 minutes to go to the house of Davey Crockett or some such pioneer.  Unfortunately, it was late and the admission a bit pricey, so we chose not to go in.  Instead, Bryan sat on the rock circling the house, I took a photo, and off we drove to find a hotel.

I look forward to the day when the kids are all grown and they go through the photo albums.  I will be watching them from afar.  I envision them having great debates about which activities we actually did and which ones we simply posed in front of.

The impromptu photos and funny quotes of the week:

Notice the boys on either side pretending to be the cement lions.

As we were driving out of town, we noticed this caboose in the middle of the intersection.  It practically begged us to pull over and take a photo.

As we were driving on yet another back road, out in the middle of nowhere, one of the kids asked if we were lost.  Another child answered, "How can we be lost?  We don't know where we're going!"

The kids are pretending to escape before being eaten by the pterodactyl.  This would be an example of a photo being taken without actually going into the place.
We must have 20 "Help me!  I'm falling off a cliff!" photos from around the country. 

The kids are up on that grassy hill I showed you in the last post.  My mom is asking, "Where did the kids go?"

The one problem we had was getting to the Hillbilly Garden.  While in our hotel, my mom put the address for it in her GPS.  Unfortunately, it took us to someone's farm out in the middle of nowhere.  I called the Hillbilly Gardens to see where we went wrong.  As she got to the end of the directions, she said something that reinforced our idea that this was a must-see attraction.  She said, "When you begin to see things nailed to trees, you have found us."

In a bathhouse "locker room" in Hot Springs.

As we walked through the bathhouse, we saw all sorts of old tubs and showers.  At one point, Turken pointed to this sign

and asked, "Is that a real bathroom?  Because I really need to go."

We saw "Goobertown" on the map and decided to head that way.  Apparently, Phoenix is trying to look like a goober.

Turken suggested we stop at the cemetery and look around.  He wanted to find the oldest date he could.  Most of the kids got out and helped him in the search.  Cuckoo was one of them until he found dandelions and other weeds to pick for me.  At one point, I turned around to see him handing me "real" fake flowers.  From a grave.  The oldest date search was changed to a "Where the hell did he get these flowers?" search.  

Didn't go in.

Reason #294 for driving back roads.  You won't see a sign like this on the freeway!

The day we went to "The Big Dam Bridge", the kids (OK, Mom and I, too) fully took advantage of their day of pretending to swear.  "Is there a dam store around here?"  "How long is this dam bridge?"  That sort of thing.  Cuckoo has no idea what "bad words" are or that the big kids were doing anything amusing.  He just knew that going to a bridge didn't sound like much fun.  His question, "Why do we have to go to the dam bridge?" sent everyone into hysterical laughter.

All week long, the big kids were trying to get their selfie duck faces in the photos I took.  (I can't stand the duck face.  They know it, so annoying me with them is a game.)  At our last vacation dinner, the kids told Cuckoo to do a duck face for them.  This duck face I like.  :)

One night we went to Dairy Queen for some blizzards.  A couple kids were trading bites to sample different flavors.  This conversation was a part of it.

Cuckoo (who had mint Oreo):  Nana, do you want to trade bites?
My mom:  No, I don't like mint.  You can just have a bite of mine, though.

(a minute later)

Cuckoo:  Here Nana.  How about you just take an Oreo?
Mom:  Oh, thank you!

(after popping it in her mouth, chewing, and swallowing)

Mom:  That didn't taste anything like mint.
Cuckoo:  Oh, I know.  I sucked the mint off for you!

Reenacting his mad sucking the mint off skills
Don't worry, only one more vacation post is planned.  :)

Have a lovely day!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

"What Do You Get When You Load Six Kids and Your Mother in a Van, Then Take Off On a Vacation With No Reservations or Even an Idea of Where to Go?" TToT Week 42

People, we had SO MUCH FUN!

Adventure and intrigue and amazement and doubt and laughter and awe and silliness and a boatload of photos to document it all.

Be prepared, because for the foreseeable future, every post I write will be about this vacation.

So, to answer the question in the title, you get lots and lots and lots of stories and photos!

Lucky for you, since everyone knows there is nothing more fun than to sit through the vacation photos of another family.

Ten Twelve Places We Are Thankful to Have Found

1.  Hodgenville, Kentucky - birthplace of Abe Lincoln.  About 10 states claim good ol' Abe in some way, but he really was born in Kentucky.

Cuckoo put himself in charge of the map of the park.

They went all out to impress and protect.  All that's in that building is the little, empty log cabin in which Lincoln was born.
2.  Horse Cave, Kentucky

We've been in lots of caves, but this is the first time we've been in one where the cave didn't have lights to guide us.  There were 3 flashlights for 14 people.  Caves are dark, ya'll.

Back to fresh air, freedom, and light!

My mom and Cuckoo taking a break after climbing the 203 steps to get out of the cave.

3.  Memphis, Tennessee

3a.  Shelby Farm Park - There are gobs of things to do at this park; riding horses, paddleboating, disc golf, hiking, biking, and observing buffalo to name a few.  We spent most of our time here at the gigantic playground.

Half an hour alone was spent playing this game of "Catch the football I toss to you as you slide down".  The slide was really slick, so half the time, the slider landed in a ball at the bottom.

3b.  Island Queen River Boat/Beale Street Landing

The roof of the gift shop/ticket booth is a huge hill of grass.  As Giant says, "Rolling down that hill will mess you up."  He would be the kid in the photo who can't stand up straight.  :)

I do believe the wind was in Star's eyes.  
 3c.  Huey's Restaurant

The food was good, but the atmosphere was better.  People were encouraged to use their straws to shoot their frilly toothpicks into the ceiling...

and sign every surface in the building.
4.  Near Little Rock, Arkansas - Bryan and I lived in Little Rock for the first 7 months of our marriage, so these things weren't completely new to me.  Some parts were very, very different, though.

4a.  The Big Dam Bridge wasn't there 19 years ago.

That bridge isn't for cars.  Walkers and bike riders only.

4b.  Pinnacle Mountain was, but back then a person could drive to the top.  Not so today.  There are two trails up the mountain, and the kids chose the "more rugged" one.  "Rugged" my butt.   

The first 10 minutes of the climb was peaches and cream.  Full of skipping and hopping.

Rocks got real real quick.

Big, helter-skelter rocks as far as the eye could see.

We took several breaks and sent photos down to my mom, who wisely decided to skip this activity.

It took us about an hour to scale that mountain, but we did it!  The kids were troopers, especially those little boys.  They didn't complain one time.  Until we got to the top.  There were so many bugs at the top, we could only stay and celebrate for a minute.  So many bugs!

We chose to avoid death by going down the less rugged side.  

5.  Hot Springs, Arkansas 

Inside one of the luxurious bathhouses.

There is a reason the town is called Hot Springs.  This is Cuckoo after he put one tip of one finger in one of the springs.  For 10 minutes, he hopped around yelling, "It's hot!  It's hot!"

The big kids thought the water felt great.

  6.  Cairo, Illinois

The only reason to visit Cairo.  The town is just plain sad, but it is the best place to see where the Ohio River dumps into the Mississippi.  It was awesome.

- Apple Valley Hillbilly Gardens and Toyland, near Paducah, Kentucky.  Just go to their website to see more.  This place is fantastic.  For so many reasons. 

The "sorry we're open" signs are for his neighbors.  The neighbors and the county took him to court, wanting him to take down the one building he put up to start a toy museum.  After he won, he went all out to turn this property into hillbilly heaven and annoy the neighbors as  much as possible.

He's all about giving the hillbilly version of famous art.  In this case, Cadillac Ranch has become Lawnmower Ranch.

- Jungle Golf, out in the middle of nowhere, Kentucky - We stopped just to play some miniature golf, but when we went to pay, the woman asked if  we were going to do anything else while there.  Anything else??  Um, yes.

First, we golfed...

Buttercup is a little bit a lot less than good at putting.
and then we climbed on golf carts to tour the little zoo they had in the woods behind the golf course.

We could stop as often as we wanted to visit and feed the animals.

Emu photo bomb.

They thought I was going to crash into them with my golf cart.

Anyone still with me??

Wake up!  I'm done! 

Future posts will not be quite so photo heavy.  I promise.

Now, I'm sure you have quite a list of things for which you are thankful this week.  Tell me about them.

Ten Things of Thankful

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