Lessons Learned

27 Jun

Next week, we are embarking on yet another marathon road trip.  Last year our guts told us to Go West, young man (or woman, in this case), and this year we are urged to head east.  Yes, friends, one poo-filled mountain vacation was not enough for this brave clan!  We figure it’ll be some time before the Rocky Mountains wants anything to do with us again (especially after two scream-filled hours on the train to Pike’s Peak), so this year we’re heading for the Great Smokies.  DollyWood, here we come!

Confession: I have had a life-long dream to go to DollyWood.  It’s on my Bucket List.  Whether this stems from the abundance of Dolly Parton movies that I was exposed to as a child or my love of all things kitsch, I’ll never know.  All I know is that I NEED a picture with a bronze statue of Dolly and her ta-tas, or I’ll never feel like a complete soul.

But I digress.

Hopefully we learned a thing or two about driving sixteen hours into the mountains with three small children.  In case you didn’t read last year’s blog, or have never been trapped in a poo-filled minivan with three tiny people, I’ll share those lessons here:

1: Bring a portable potty of some kind.  Any kind.  ANY KIND AT ALL.  Do not find yourself in the middle of New Mexico, fifty miles from the nearest rest stop, with a three year old who needs to go.  

2.  Limit the amount of fibrous granola bars given to small children (and if you don’t, see Lesson 1).

3.  Find a children’s DVD that you can bear to listen to for seven hours straight.  Otherwise you’ll find yourself listening to a “Maisy” DVD on repeat, featuring Charlie the Moaning Alligator, because it’s the only DVD you can play that will make your one year old stop screaming.

4.  Invest in headphones.  Or you will be listening to Charlie the Moaning Alligator for seven straight hours.

5. Pack a change of clothes for the car for each member of the family.  Again, see Lesson 1.

6.  Do not overestimate the abilities of your children.  No matter how many adorable activities you lovingly put into their adorable backpacks, within three miles of your home the entire contents of said backpacks will be strewn across your car.  And later covered in bodily fluids of one kind or another.

7.  Do NOT stop at rest stop bathrooms.  Just…..don’t.

8.  If you pack a picnic and plan on stopping to eat it somewhere between Houston and Amarillo, just plan on eating in the car.  There is literally nothing between Houston and Amarillo.

9.  Same goes for New Mexico.  Pretty much the entire state.  And Louisiana.  And Mississippi.

10.  Pack alcohol.  You’ll really wish you had it by the time you get to the hotel.

 

Of course, this trip will present a new set of challenges.  For one, we’ll be taking two dogs with us (one of which has just entered puberty.  More about that later).  Second, the children are older now and much more prone to whining.  Finally, and perhaps worst of all, we’re no longer the wide-eyed innocents that we were last year: we know what we’re going into this time.  We’re looking straight into the face of our nightmares and saying “yes, we are dumb enough to do this again”.

Stay tuned.

Small Fluffy Things, or I am My Own Worst Enemy

19 Mar

Has anybody else seen the show on Animal Planet called “Too Cute”?  It really is, too, too cute.  It comes with a cuteness disclaimer and everything.  Basically, it follows around a couple of families whose pets have recently had puppies/kittens/bunnies/hedgehogs etc.  They perform their tiny little furry antics, and the girls and I ooh and ahh.

Especially me.

This resulted in a trip to Petsmart, “just to look”.  That only stoked the fires of mammalian desire. The girls wanted a guinea pig.  The girls wanted a bunny.  The girls wanted something small and furry and probably stinky.

And, heaven help me, so do I.

It’s pretty easy to for me to tell the girls “no”.  Is that bad? You want a new My Little Pony and you’ve already spent your allowance? Tough.  You want an overpriced pair of slippers that you saw on a commercial (while watching “My Little Pony”)? Put it on your wish list and let Santa/The Easter Bunny deal with it.  But when it’s something that I want, too, well…..that’s a whole ‘nother story.

I have three children.  One husband.  Two dogs.  Two cats.  One could safely say that, in many ways, my hands are full.  But there’s something about me that almost craves the chaos.  The very moment that things in my life seem to be reaching a state of relative calm, I seek ways to rock the boat.  I am my own worst enemy.  And the current plot to destroy the sea of calm comes in the form of tiny, furry bodies.

Would it be the absolute worst thing in the world if, say, the Easter Bunny were to casually drop off two guinea pigs and accompanying habitats on Easter morning?  Or would I find myself holding back from murdering said guinea pigs days later?

My name is Jennifer.  I’m a Chaosaholic.

Practically Imperfect in Every Way

27 Feb

Before I had kids, I had a pretty good vision of what motherhood would be like.  I would have a strict schedule – and stick to it.  We would never watch TV.  We would never eat fast food.  My house would be tidy and organized at all times – unlike some moms that I knew.  We would listen to classical music in the mornings and spend our time on educational projects.  

 

And then I had my first kid.  And my second.  And my third.  Turns out, this whole “motherhood” gig is a bit harder than it looks.  Turns out, I’m not Mary freaking Poppins.   And it’s time to admit it.

 

I was hugely inspired by a recent article, written by a fellow mom, about how much we all lie on Facebook (and other social media). You can read it here: http://www.kveller.com/blog/parenting/we-need-to-quit-telling-lies-on-facebook/

  Okay, maybe “lie” is too harsh.  Let’s just say that we tend to give our friends and family the highlight reel of how perfect and wonderful our lives are, while carefully omitting the ugly truths. 

 

Well, today I think that it’s time to celebrate those ugly truths.  Because that’s what’s real.  That’s what’s honest about our lives. That’s what we can share with our fellow moms and not make them feel like shit because they’re not up at 5am making homemade organic bread before serving their perfectly groomed children a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs (gathered from their own hens, of course) and pancakes made into adorable little faces.

 

I don’t know about ya’ll, but today I overslept and my kids had cold cereal.  

 

Well, one kid did.  The middle had to make it to speech by 7:30, which means she didn’t even have time to eat.  Which means that we stopped at Chik Fil A in between speech and preschool and ate in the car.  And for once, I’m going to be okay with that.  And I’m going to be okay with admitting it. 

 

I want for my girls to grow up knowing that IT’S OKAY to be a screw up.  It’s okay to fail.  It’s okay to try and not succeed.  IT IS OKAY TO BE IMPERFECT.   

 

So, let’s start telling each other truth.  Let’s start celebrating the dirty, frustrating, exhausting moments of motherhood instead of sweeping them under the rug.  Let’s start supporting each other, instead of trying to outdo each other.  Because no matter if you’re a stay at home parent, working parent, single parent, grandparent – this is WORK.  This is HARD.   And maybe if we would all just admit that, we could start going a little easier on ourselves – and each other.   

 

If we did that, maybe I wouldn’t feel like such a giant screw up on mornings like today, when I went to Lowe’s in an oversized sweatshirt and no bra.  Oh, and I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet, either (you’re welcome, Lowe’s employees!).  And my youngest accompanied me in her pj’s, cleverly disguised (or so I thought) by her winter boots and coat).   Maybe it wouldn’t bother me that instead of cleaning my ridiculously messy kitchen or doing educational crafts, we’re chilling on the couch catching up on the latest “My Little Pony”.     Maybe I wouldn’t be so embarrassed if a friend were to stop by and see my laundry room looking like this:

 Image

 

And my kitchen table looking this :

Image

 

And my kid looking like this:

Image

 

 

And me looking like this:

Image

 

 

 

So here’s to telling the REAL story of motherhood. The wonderful, messy,  crazy-hard-but-worth-it life that we have chosen for ourselves.

Colorado or Bust! Day 5

31 Aug Colorado 026

Colorado Or Bust: Day 5

 

Colorado or Bust!  Loading up the ‘ol Family Truckster to drive 16 hours there, 16 hours back, for a grand total of 32 hours in the car with three small children.  Will we survive?

 

Day 5….better known as the day that I begin to research permanent birth control.  It started off fine.  We had settled into a pleasant morning routine of coffee, cozy fires, and cinnamon rolls.  We were up even earlier than usual this morning, as we had to catch a train.  A cog train.  A train that would carry us  14,000 feet to the summit of Pike’s Peak, inspiration for “America the Beautiful”.

We had originally planned on driving Pike’s Peak Highway up to the summit, only to be asked by many people, “Are you crazy?!”.  The reactions should have tipped us off, but we decided to look into it ourselves.  Reading that the hour long drive was a two-lane highway sans guardrail was the clincher.  Cog Train, here we come!

Choo Choo!

We drove into the train depot in Manitou Springs with the morning sun at our backs, excited to begin our adventure.   Until, of course, the girls had to potty.  And so did Skunkarella (L’s new skunk friend that travelled with us EVERYWHERE since her purchase).  I assumed that TL (my husband) and A would wait for us outside of the bathrooms….but  no.  We came out, Skunkarella in tow, to find my husband and youngest daughter missing.  We searched the bathrooms.  We searched the gift shop.  We searched the sidewalk in front of the train.

They had vanished.

My catastrophic mindset went into overdrive.  Were they abducted by backwoods mountaineers a la “Deliverance”? Had they accidentally stepped in front of a train?  Had a bear attacked? WHERE WERE THEY!?!?!?!

It turns out that they were in the coffee shop.  Buying me coffee.  Still, I was annoyed for undergoing an unnecessary panic attack (though to be fair, most of my panic attacks are unnecessary) and felt churlish towards TL.  This was exacerbated by the fact that I, being the type “A”, Monica from “Friends” kind of gal that I am, like to be early.  To everything.  Including trains.

TL is of the mind set that the less time that we had to spend on a small train with our three small children, the better.

In hind sight, he was probably right.   However, I insisted on getting on the train at the earliest possible chance to ensure that we would  not be left behind.  The big girls and I boarded, while TL and A played around the depot.  Another panic attacked ensued, with visions of L, C, and I riding to Pike’s Peak by ourselves while the other half of our family was left abandoned in a train depot.  And what’s worse, that was the half that had the camera!

But I needn’t have worried.  Shortly before the train whistle blew, TL and A boarded the train. TL plopped into the seat with a smug, “I told you so” grin that did not improve my mood.

Finally, we were off!  Wearing hats and cozy winter clothes, we left our windows open to breathe in the cool mountain air.  The tour guide began her schpiel, and we began our descent.

We’re so happy….for now.

And that’s where the trouble began.

L and C were content to look at the scenery for the first few minutes, but then boredom set in.  Being the overly prepared person that I strive to be, I delved into my backpack for the sticker books that I had packed.  They quickly and happily set to work.

And then A started.

Whining.  Crying.  Fussing.  Generally being discontent.

I read a book to her.  Which she threw.  I got out a coloring book for her.  Which she threw.  I got out a Leapster for her.  Which she threw.  I got a snack for her.  Which she threw.  As a last resort I took out my iPhone and played an episode of “Mickey Mouse”, which she loves.

Which she threw.

And then the crying REALLY began.  She writhed and twisted in my lap, screeching.  It was like trying to hold onto an ornery octopus.  I passed her to TL in exasperation, but she was having none of it.  The second her bottom left my lap, the wails of “Mama” began in earnest.  The childless passengers to our right were beginning to stare.

I took her back and tried to interest her in our surroundings, singing songs about choo choos and what not, but she was not having it.  Not.  One.  Bit.

And so this continued.  For over an hour.   Up  14,000 feet.

It’s beautiful, but who cares? Get me off this train!

We finally arrived at the Summit with relief.  We piled out of the train as quickly as possible, ready to escape it’s confines.  We stood in line to take our picture with the Summit sign, and then began to explore.  The girls were happy, because there was an abundance of rocks at the top of the mountain to play with and collect (they like rocks).  Mama was not, because of the abundance of un-guarded drop offs.  Mama wasn’t having it.  Not.  One.  Bit.

Still, I figured that with one hand firmly on A, we could let the other girls stand about twenty feet away from the drop off without me going into total panic mode.  TL disagreed – he thought that going a little closer for pictures would be fine.  This led to further churlish behavior on the part of yours truly, who could not get the picture of my sweet little babies plummeting to the earth below out of my brain.    Suffice it to say, drama ensued.  We were no longer speaking to each other by the time we went inside the shop to buy hot chocolate and high-altitude doughnuts.

Too close for comfort!

The hot chocolate and doughnuts were tasty, but C was displeased because they did not have chocolate doughnuts .  And she let that displeasure be known.  Loudly.

Are we having fun yet?

In exasperation I took the girls to wander the shop, and took my aggression out on my husband by purchasing an eight dollar magnet.

All too soon it was time to get back on the train, and we began our descent.  A was crying.  L and C were bored.  TL and I weren’t speaking.

Yea.

About five minutes away from the station, A got happy.  She looked out the windows, she flirted with passengers.  She morphed back into the sweet baby that I know her to be.  TL and I nodded at each other, silently agreeing to a truce.

Happy at last!

We drove back “home” in silence, and decided to take a detour to the town of Green Mountain Falls.  There’s not much there beside a gorgeous park and a FANTASTIC restaurant called “The Pantry”.  They’re known for their cinnamon raisin bread and cinnamon roll French toast, so how could we go wrong?  TL opted for the cinnamon roll French toast, which was amazing, but I opted for the green chili burger – because I refused to leave Colorado without eating as much green chili as possible.

And with that, peace was restored to our family.  We climbed a mountain with three small children.  And we survived.

Up next is Day 6, where we have a close encounter of the chipmunk kind, a zoo trip, and become witnesses for at least two drug deals.  Stay tuned!

 

Colorado or Bust – Day 4

30 Jul Best.  Day.  Ever.

COLORADO OR BUST – Day 4

Tuesday morning began bright and early.  VERY early.   I’m not sure if it’s Colorado’s altitude or geographic location, but the sun comes up awfully early for this Momma.    Our day started around six a.m., when the sun began streaming through our un-curtained windows, but I didn’t mind.  Because on Tuesday we were going to none other than…..

THE NORTH POLE!

That’s right.  Santa lives in Colorado.  It’s a little known fact.

Actually, the North Pole is the world’s greatest amusement park.  I’ve never been to Disney, but frankly, the bar has been set pretty high.   A Christmas themed amusement park, in Christmasy Colorado, is just about Heaven for me.  For those that don’t know, I kind of have a thing for Christmas.  I don’t just love Christmas, I LOVE Christmas.   Back in the days when Internet users had handles, mine was Mistletoe.  I start hoarding stocking stuffers around August.    My favorite movie is “A Christmas Story”.  And last year my husband and I finally realized a lifelong dream when we were awarded Best Holiday Decorations for the neighborhood.

So you could say that the North Pole was right up my alley.

First of all, everyone is dressed like elves.  And not like surly teenager-who-makes-minimum-wage elves, like friendly, helpful elves.  And then there’s Santa, who has got to be the greatest incarnation of a Claus on the planet.  Twinkly blue eyes, ample lap, real whiskers, this guy had it all.  Not to mention that when the girls told him their names, he said, “Oh that’s right, I just didn’t recognize you because you’ve grown so much since last year!”  And he didn’t so much as flinch when A screamed bloody murder as soon as she walked into his little house.  Instead, he waved from afar and assured the big girls that Santa still loves kids that cry.

The REAL S.C.

And the rides.  Oh, the rides!  They were perfect for the under 12 crowd, which means that the big girls could ride just about everything – twice.  Santa’s Parachute, Tilt ‘o Whirl, Ferris Wheel,  rocket ships, cars, planes, boats, and the coup de grace, the Swirly Candy Cane Slide.   A s’mores pit, a North “Pole” (a giant pole made out of ice), face painting, separate boys’ and girls’ gift shops – it was perfection.  Sheer, utter perfection.   We rode the train around the park, then took the sky ride OVER the park (which I hated, as heights are not really my “thing”).  We ate cotton candy and listened to the Christmas music blaring over the loud speakers.   We mailed letters from the North Pole post office, which will be postmarked “North Pole”.  We watched the Elmer the Elf show.  We rode roller coasters – twice.

Santa’s Parachute

 

Swirly Candy Cane Slide

North Pole’s Post Office

Candy Cane Coaster

View from the (scary!) Sky Ride

And did I mention that the temperature didn’t rise over 75 degrees?  That’s 75 degrees Farenheit for you foreigners. :)

We had so much fun that we blew off our plans to visit the Garden of the Gods and went back to the North Pole a second time.  My face literally hurt from smiling.  Aside from the births of my children/wedding/obvious life moments, it was probably the best day of my life.

No joke.

Best. Day. Ever.

Don’t worry, though, the trip wasn’t all sunshine and roses from that point on.  If it was, what would be the point of blogging about it?  Stay tuned for Day 5, where I was prepared to perform an at-home tubal ligation after three hours in a train with my small children!

 

Colorado or Bust: Day 3

16 Jul

Colorado or Bust!  Loading up the ‘ol Family Truckster to drive 16 hours there, 16 hours back, for a grand total of 32 hours in the car with three small children.  Will we survive?

COLORADO OR BUST: Day 3

Baby it’s COLD OUTSIDE!  We woke at the crack of dawn on day 3, courtesy of Mountain Time and the lack of curtains to block out the ridiculously bright sunlight.  We were shivering in our un-air conditioned, un-heated cabin, so we did what we had to do.  We lit a fire.

A fire in July!

And it was glorious.

Warming my feet in front of the fire, coffee in hand, with the woody scent of evergreens  (I think that they were actually  Blue Spruce) filling the air,  I found myself singing, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”.   And it was.  It was our own little Christmas in July.  I heated some homemade cinnamon rolls in the oven (that the owner of the cabin made for us), which added to the scene.  Everything was perfect.

Until I went outside.

My husband’s gashed finger needed some fresh bandaging, so I went out to the car to get the first aid kit.   It was parked under a little car port, with a trash can tucked away into the corner.  The hubby had meticulously unloaded the car the evening before, and cleaned out all of the road trash we’d accumulated over sixteen hours.  Well, I guess McDonald’s coffee and peanut butter and jelly crust smells mighty enticing, because some sort of varmint had gotten into the trash can, spilling its contents across the yard.   I went back inside to tell the family that we’d been racooned a la “The Great Outdoors” (a movie that the big girls love), so they all rushed outside to help assess the damage.

And that’s when we noticed something.

The driver’s side of my car door was covered in muddy prints.  Paw prints.  And the window,  which had been left cracked to air out the road stank, was covered in some sort of snotty residue.   One of the prints was perfectly intact, and that’s when we realized something.  It wasn’t a raccoon.

It was a bear.

Bear Print!

Bear Snot!

Someone later told us that the recent Waldo Canyon wildfires had driven a lot of bears into more populated areas, so there were lots of bear warnings out.  Unfortunately, we did not receive any bear warnings, other than, you know, the actual bear.

We cleaned up the mess and brought the trash cans inside for the rest of the trip.  I personally wanted to leave them out so we could get a bear sighting on camera, but the rest of the family outvoted me on that one.

After the drama of the morning, the rest of the day was comparatively uneventful.   We went into Manitou Springs to shop and play at the Penny Arcades (though I didn’t actually see anything that only cost a penny; it was about 49 more cents than they advertised, the jerks).    We all took a drink from the famous springs, touted for their health benefits (drink = took a lick and spit it out because it was revolting).    For lunch we went to the Crystal Park Cantina, which supposedly had amazing Mexican food.  Now, you all know that I am a Texan, and therefore have very specific ideas about how Mexican food should taste.   When we lived in Georgia I was in a constant state of misery, because frankly, their Mexican food is awful.   So to say that I was skeptical about Colorado’s Mexican food would be putting it mildly.

But it was FANTASTIC.  As much as I hate to say this, it was probably the best Mexican food I’ve ever had.

The world’s best Mexican food

Yet another point in favor of Colorado!

The only downfall of lunch was my youngest child, who was teething and, I think, having some altitude adjustment issues.   In the history of three children I have NEVER had to take a child out of a restaurant for misbehavior.

We took A out three separate times.

She was screaming, writhing, throwing food, generally being miserable and ensuring the misery of everyone else in that restaurant.   My husband had to restrain me from making a vasectomy appointment right then and there.

After lunch we went back to the cabin to rest, relax, and enjoy being outside without melting.  We concluded the day with an amazing, awe-inspiring DOUBLE RAINBOW over the mountains.  I have never seen one so bright and colorful. Seriously, I was awe-struck and speechless (a rarity for me).  We actually saw the end of the rainbow, something that I’ve never seen before (no Leprechauns though, dang it).   It’s moments like those that make me stand still and KNOW that God is watching over me.

Double rainbow over the mountains

Stay tuned for Day 4, where we tackle the North Pole, my fear of heights, and my hubby’s ability to hold down food!

Colorado or Bust: Day 2

14 Jul

Colorado or Bust!  Loading up the ‘ol Family Truckster to drive 16 hours there, 16 hours back, for a grand total of 32 hours in the car with three small children.  Will we survive?

Day 2 dawned bright and sunny.  We woke up early in our hotel in Amarillo, ready to burn the trail to Colorado.  Theoretically, we should make it there in less than six hours.

Theoretically.

I insisted on stopping by Cadillac Ranch on our way out, thinking that it would be a fun site for the girls.  Turns out, it’s not.  We took a picture for posterity, and moved on.

Cadillac Ranch = lame

The drive was actually rather scenic and uneventful….until we hit New Mexico.  And then, once more, we became well aquainted with bodily fluids.

Hello, New Mexico!

Our first incident was when we stopped at a rest stop to use the bathrooms.   My husband went in first, so that he could watch the little one while I took the big girls to the potty.  He quickly came back out with a horrified look on his face: the men’s bathroom had about an inch of standing poo water on the floor.   I asked a woman coming out of the bathroom if she knew if the women’s restroom was clean.  She said that it wasn’t, but that it was the only bathroom for a good 40 miles.  Awesome. We had no choice but to persevere.

The one toilet in the women’s bathroom that wasn’t clogged with feces was cracked and filthy.  I papered it to the my best ability and prayed for the day when my girls learn how to hover.  I constantly barked at them not to touch anything but themselves or me, but little hands have a way of touching the exact thing that you don’t want them to touch.  You know, like cracked and dirty rest stop toilets.

Twenty minutes later, we were back on the road.  And, contrary to the oh so helpful woman’s potty location services, we found a nice, clean service station about five minutes away from the rest stop.  Figures.

We pressed onward and upward, exclaiming gleefully over every little “mountain” that came into view.

New Mexico Mountains!

It was surprisingly fun, until…..

POO SPLOSION!!!

I turned around in my seat to answer a question from one of the girls when I noticed that A was covered in chocolate.  She had some on her hand and was licking it off her fingers, smearing her face in the process.  How funny, I thought.

Then I realized something.

We hadn’t given her any chocolate.

It wasn’t chocolate at all.

It was poop.

I screamed in horror and yelled for my husband to pull over.  Only two days into the trip, and already we were quite familiar with roadside poop clean ups.  We went through yet another box of wipes getting her cleaned from head to toe and tried not to vomit in the process.   Once we were back on the road, I spent a good ten minutes trying to answer L’s questions about why somebody would eat their own poop.  I still don’t have a good answer.

Our venture into New Mexico was stinky but short, and then we found ourselves in…..COLORADO! It was pouring down rain and we were going around narrow mountain passes, but who cares!  It was 70 degrees outside!  In July!

Hello, Colorado!

We stopped in Trinidad for lunch, and found a cute little café downtown.  Where we ate OUTSIDE.  In JULY.  I cannot stress how exciting this is for a Texan coming from 106 degree heat.  I had my first taste of green chili, which apparently is a big deal in Colorado, and oh.  My.  Gosh.  It is freaking amazing.  I’m going to learn how to make it and put it in everything, including my coffee.

Two hours later we pulled into Colorado Springs, which is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.  It’s surrounded on all sides by mountains – huge, gorgeous, green mountains.   We headed west to Waldo Canyon, home of our cozy little cabin at the base of Pike’s Peak.  Isn’t it sweet?

Home sweet cabin

And check out this view!

Love this view!

But then, disaster struck.

We were all unpacked, A was in bed, and my homemade chili was simmering on the stove.  The casement windows were thrown open to let in the cool mountain breezes, including the top of the Dutch door.  Everything was perfect. That is, everything was perfect except for one thing:  the shoes.  There were tiny flip flops scattered about the living room, so I thought that I would take a few minutes to tidy up.  Little did I know just how fateful that decision was…

I bent over to retrieve a piece of miniature footwear when I was struck by a strange sense of foreboding.  A dark presence loomed above me.  I straightened my spine, and it struck without mercy.

THE DUTCH DOOR!

It rammed it’s sharp corner into the crown of my scalp, and I doubled over like the little girl I am.  I sat in the nearest chair and wrapped my arms around my head, waiting for the throbbing to cease and my vision to right itself.  I honestly wasn’t that concerned, because to be frank, I hit my head a lot.  I know, it explains a lot.  But when I removed my arms from my head, I noticed an odd, liquid sensation down the back of my neck.

My husband was looking at me in horror.  I brought my arms in front of my face, and they were covered in blood.  It was running in rivulets through my hair, across my forehead, down the back of my neck.  He ran for towels while I looked on in horror, visions of hospital visits and CT scans racing through my bloodied brain.   Two soaked towels and ten minutes later, the bleeding finally stopped.  My husband played the good doctor and looked through my matted, sticky hair, until he found a little cut in my scalp.   We assessed the damage and called my mom, the Wise Woman of all things health related, and decided that a concussion was unlikely; I probably cut my head more than hit it.  Still, fatalist that I am, I spent the rest of the night waiting for fluid to leak out of my ears or for one of my pupils to dilate (both signs of concussion according to Web MD).

While I convalesced in a rocking chair, my husband tended the two big girls and saw to dinner.  He was in the middle of chopping a jalapeno when I saw him race past me into the bathroom.  He emerged holding yet another bloody towel – this time, from a gash in his finger.

And thus we made a blood sacrifice to ensure nothing but good times from then on out.

Stay tuned for Day 3 to find out if it worked!

 

Colorado or Bust! Day 1

13 Jul

Colorado or Bust!  Loading up the ‘ol Family Truckster to drive 16 hours there, 16 hours back, for a grand total of 32 hours in the car with three small children.  Will we survive?

 

COLORADO OR BUST: DAY 1

We woke up bright and early Saturday morning to start our trip out west in search of higher altitudes and cooler temperatures.   Goal for the day?  Make it to Amarillo, a mere ten hours away.

Ten hours.

In the car.

With three kids.

Oy vey.

Still, we were optimistic.  I had spent weeks preparing “busy bags” for the girls.  I’d trolled Pinterest with pernicious passion searching for the right combination of activities guaranteed to buy us thirty-two hours of peaceful driving.  I’d even bought them “surprises” to open once we were on the road (I call them surprises, but we all know that they were bribes for good behavior).  I loaded our DVD case chock-full of animated delights, and packed a large reusable grocery bag to the brim with snacks.  We were prepared for every eventuality.

Well, almost.

I wasn’t really prepared for how quickly the girls would buzz through each activity….and how quickly they would toss said activity to the floor of the car once they were finished with it.   Or that A would throw EVERYTHING that I handed her, be it books, toys, or food.   And that she would refuse to nap in the car. And that the only DVD she had the slightest interest in watching was “Backyardigans”, resulting in us watching the same four episodes for ten hours straight (I should mention that she also liked “Maisy”,  but after thirty minutes of listening to random trumpeting from Charlie, the special needs alligator, we had to turn it off).

Oh, and the poop.  In retrospect, we really weren’t as prepared for the amount of poo-splosions that occurred as we should have been.   I mean, I expected a few from A, if not quite the volume that actually occurred.  And believe me, there was volume.  Then we hit the long stretch of road between Childress, TX and Amarillo.

Middle of Nowhereville

Also known as No-Toilet Land.

My poor, sweet oldest.  The combination of travel and juice boxes did not set well with her tummy, and she had to go.  Like, RIGHT NOW.  We sped down the highway  as fast as we could, but there was literally nothing.  She held it as long as she could.  Then, about five minutes from Amarillo, it happened.

Poo-Splosion.

She was horrified.  This child has been potty trained since she was two, and has had maybe two accidents in her entire life.  We pulled to the side of the road to get her cleaned up, only to realize that the side of the road was covered in stickers.   We kept L in the car, balancing on discarded coloring books and squashed granola bars, and used a pair of fingernail clippers to cut her underwear off.  It’s really amazing the many ways that one can use fingernail clippers, don’t you think?   After a box full of wipes and some stories of how everybody poops in their pants, we finally got her clean and the poo-splosion panties contained in a trash bag.  I got to spend the next twenty minutes dislodging stickers from my flip-flop clad feet.

Nine and a half hours after we pulled out of our driveway, we pulled into the parking lot for the Big Texan.   I had never heard of this restaurant until my dad mentioned it to me, but apparently it’s kind of a big deal.  It’s been on Man vs. Food  and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.  They’re best known for their 72 oz steak, nicknamed “The Texas King.”  If you finish the entire steak along with a salad, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, and a roll, you get your meal for free.  It’s very reminiscent of “The Great Outdoors”, when John Candy eats “the ol’ 96’er”.   Around  50,000 people have made the attempt, and only 8,000 have ever finished.  We watched three, ahem, large gentlemen take on the challenge while we were there, but even they couldn’t do it.

Finishing that steak is now on my Bucket List.

The restaurant is hilarious, full of stuffed animal heads (including a huge bear) and boardwalk-type games.  We had to play Zoltar, even if the girls didn’t get the “Big” reference.    The wait staff is dressed like old ranch hands, and they look completely miserable about it.   There’s a huge cow out front for photo ops, along with a larger-than-life neon cowboy to beckon Route 66 travelers.

The Big Texan

The food  itself was surprisingly good!  We’ve learned from experience that most touristy attractions have blah food, so we were pleasantly surprised at how good this was.   We had steak (of course) that was cooked perfectly, a baked potato with some sort of butter/sour cream/chive combination that was to die for, and salads with homemade ranch.  L had steak, because she is Queen Carnivore in our house, and even the kids’ steak was a really nice cut.  C and A split some chicken tenders, which looked, you know, chickeny.  We had chocolate chip cookies for dessert that were cuh-razy rich and topped with whipped cream.  And the best part? All of the kids’ meals come with a free cowboy hat.  And it was a really cute straw one, not a crappy plastic one.  Big Texan, I give you two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Oh, and  did I mention the rainbow?  When we started out that morning,  we passed a beautiful DOUBLE RAINBOW !  I don’t think that I’ve ever actually seen a double rainbow.  I felt like God was smiling on our trip….and laughing a little, too, because He knew what we had in store for us.

Double Rainbow!

And that, my friends, was Day 1.  Stay tuned for Day 2, where we encounter New Mexican rest stops, a Poo-Splosion Snack Time, and finally, FINALLY…COLORADO!

A Fine Dining Don’t

3 Jul

In retrospect, taking three hungry girls – who had been up since six this morning and were all jacked up on cinnamon rolls and soy milk – to an upscale Indian bistro was not the brightest idea.

Turns out, most upscale Indian bistros do not have a kids’ menu.  The lone highchair hidden in the back of the restaurant was spotless – a sure sign that this was not going to be a “kid friendly” dining experience.  But it’s my husband’s birthday, and he wanted Indian food.  So we persevered.

We asked the waitress (the only waitress, in fact, in the bistro) if we could have a basket of naan to keep the natives from getting restless.  Apparently she’s not used to dealing with such plebian requests, because that was completely ignored.  I resorted to digging out every half-eaten snack from the bottom of my purse and doling it out like it was Christmas candy.  Everyone loves to eat four month old Mum-Mums, right?

Wrong.

A decided to express her displeasure in a physical fashion, since she’s too young to whine (don’t worry; L and C covered that.  No dining experience would be complete without it!).  She crumpled her Mum-Mums into miniature fragments and confetti’d our table.  Raisins rained on the floor.  And the naan, when we finally got it, was hurled across the room.  I’m sure that our fellow diners, sitting at tables for two in their business wear, appreciated the show.

Especially once the shrieking began.

We tried to order the most kid-friendly dishes possible.  The birthday boy got vegetable fritters as a starter, and I got potato samosas (mmm….samosas).  Neither one of the big girls would touch a fritter, but A actually seemed to enjoy it.  The samosas, on the other hand, were immediately spit onto the previously immaculate black tablecloth. (An aside: if there are tablecloths and actual napkins, then it’s not a restaurant one should take children.  Lesson learned).  For our entrees, he had the chicken Korma and I got chicken tikka masala.  Both (relatively) child friendly, both (relatively) mild.

It was met with a resounding “YUCK” from all parties (all parties under 4’5″).  L, our adventurous diner who lives for shrimp and is known to eat sushi, actually tried it.    She popped a piece of chicken Tikka into her mouth, made a face, and daintily wiped her mouth while whispering, “No thank you”.

At this point, it is one o’clock in the afternoon.  Did I mention that the girls had been up since six?  And that we were already entering nap time?  We were a runaway train headed straight for Meltdownville.  So, I did what all desperate parents do in this situation: I promised them McDonald’s in exchange for twenty minutes of good behavior.

It was a feeling of beautiful relief when we walked back out into the oven we call Texas, leaving a trail of saffron rice and fritter crumbs in our wake.  And we went to McDonald’s.

My First Pattern

23 Jun pattern9

Pre-puppy, when life was (relatively) calm, I finally got back behind the sewing machine.  I haven’t done anything since my skirt attempt a few months ago, and since that went (relatively) well I decided to test my skills and do something that totally frightened me: A Pattern.

Now, patterns are frightening in a myriad of ways.  First, the instructions.  They read like freaking Greek.   Second, the laying out process.  What direction does it go?  What does a fold have to do with it? What on earth is nap? And finally, there is the inevitability of having what I made look absolutely NOTHING like the picture on the front of the pattern.  But I faced my fears and lived to tell the tale.

I went shopping at Hobby Lobby (aka the greatest store EVER) during a ninety-nine cent sale awhile back and came home with what I thought were going to be easy patterns.  It even had the word “easy” in the title!  Turns out….not so much.

I called my  mom in defeat, who very kindly searched patterns online until she came up with a list of beginner patterns that she thought I should start with.  Back to Hobby Lobby I went (patterns were still on sale!) and came back laden with patterns, fabrics, and “notions”, a sort of catch-all word referring to anything that isn’t fabric.

I was enthusiastic,  but still nervous.  All pattern instructions operate under the assumption that the user has some basic sewing knowledge.  Which I don’t.   It’s written in an obscure Sewer’s Code for which I don’t have the cipher.

I Googled frantically, searching the Web and YouTube for SOMETHING to break this thing down for me, but alas, my quest was a failure.  I would have to rely on myself (and my mom, via phone). I painstakingly went through the process, line by line, until I had my Eureka moment:  I broke the code.

Just in case I can save somebody else the same heartbreak and woe that I went through, I’m going to walk you through the pattern the way that I did.  Now, I could very well have done this COMPLETELY the wrong way (and if I did, somebody please tell me), but in the end I did end up with a wearable garment!  It’s not “Project Runway” ready or anything, but it’s a start.

Here’s what I did:

I bought Simplicity pattern 2228, which is a pillowcase dress. On the back of the pattern, it has a chart telling you how much fabric and what not you’ll need for whichever size you’re making.  For instance,  I made it a size 7, which means that I used 7/8 of a yard of fabric for the main piece of the dress, and 5/8 yard of different fabric for the contrast band along the bottom.  I also needed thread, 2  3/8 yard of 5/8″ wide ribbon, and a  package of 7/8″ wide single fold bias tape.  I’ll get to the bias tape thing in a minute, but it’s ridiculously confusing.  Hint: it’s over by the thread.  Last freaking place that I looked.

Okay, so the first thing you do is pull out the pattern pieces and cut them out for the size that you want them to be.  Just follow the little black lines; this is the easy part.  The instructions say to press the pattern pieces with a warm, dry iron, but honestly I skipped that part.  In retrospect, I probably should have done it.   Also, make sure to pre-shrink your fabric by washing, drying, and pressing it.   One thing I’ve learned about sewing is that it makes you VERY familiar with your iron!  In some cases, too familiar, as is evidenced by this loveliness:

But I digress.

Now take your nicely pressed fabric, and fold it like the little diagram in the instructions.  Then lay your pattern piece with the arrows pointing right to your fold, pin it, and cut it out.  Next, take your pattern piece, flip it over, and cut it on the fold again. I know that I’m not explaining this part very well.  It’s really better if you can see it.  Do the same with the contrast band piece.

Once you have everything cut out, it’s time to start sewing!

Step 1: Sew the front to the back at the side seams, making sure that you’re sewing the fabric with the RIGHT SIDES together – the wrong side of the fabric will be facing out.

Step 2: Break out that bias tape!  Here’s what the package looks like:

I got pink, to kind of match my fabric, but I really don’t know if the color matters or not. It’s going to be folded like this:

Now what you have to do is UNFOLD it and press it flat.  Next, fold the tape in half, lengthwise with the raw edges even, and press that flat.

Step 3: Take your dress and spread it out at the side seams with the RIGHT side of the fabric facing you.  You want the armhole to look like a big “U”.  Now pin the bias tape to the armhole edge, trying to keep the raw edges even.  Sew the tape onto the armhole with a 3/8″ seam.  Trim the seam, and clip the curves (this was a tricky part for me – turns out curves are harder to sew than straight lines).  Repeat on the other armhole.

Step 4: Turn the tape over to the INSIDE (wrong side of fabric); press it and pin it.  On the OUTSIDE (right side of fabric), top-stitch the tape.  Repeat on the other armhole.

Step 5: Keep that bias tape handy, because we’re using it again!  Get a piece that still has the weird little fold on it – like this, remember?

Now open out just one of the edges and press it.

Step 6: Next,  we’re going to make a casing for the neckline of the dress.  With the RIGHT sides of the fabric together, pin the tape to the upper edge with the raw edges even.  Turn it under when you get to the armhole on each side.  Stitch in a 3/8″ seam.

Step 7:  Fold the fabric over to the INSIDE of the dress and press it.  See? It’s like a hem or a waistband because now you’ve got a little casing.  Pin it, then stitch close to the inner edge (make sure you’ve got enough room to slide in that ribbon!).  Do the same on the other side of the dress.

Step 8: Cut the ribbon in half for the ties.  Insert the ribbon through the front and back casings, making sure that the ends extend evenly (you’ll tie them in bows at the shoulders when it’s worn). It’ll look like this:

Step 9:  Time to get out that contrast band!  This part was really confusing for me, so I have no idea if I did it the right way or not.  You’re going to stitch the front part of the band to the back part of the band at the side seams.  Fold the band in half lengthwise with the WRONG sides together, having the raw edges even.  Press it and pin it (the instructions say to “baste”.  I have no idea what that means.  In my little world, it means pin).

Step 10: On the OUTSIDE of the dress, pin the band to the lower edge of the garment, matching the centers and side seams.  Stitch the seam.  Stich again 1/4″ away from the first stitching.  Press seam toward the garment, pressing the band down.

Step 11:  On the OUTSIDE, top stitch the front and back close to the seam.

And voila! You have something that is actually wearable, albeit way too large in my case.  Here it is:

 

 

I may even try to re-use the pattern and making matching dresses for the other two girls.  Eventually.

 

 

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