Aside

Get Me a Technology Transplant, STAT!

MinionsI have become the old, out-of-touch Mom. It’s official. Even my siblings are calling me out.  I am locked in to a contract with a cell phone company until March.  I am a dinosaur in the cell phone world. Who stays with their cell phone provider for eleven years? Apparently this girl!

The first day of school rolls around and amid hundreds of Facebook posts you won’t find my kids. Nope, their Mom does not get 4G service in our town. Thus no instantaneous posts touting the excitement, fun and fashion of the first day of school. Bad Mom.

No less than fourteen texts came in to my phone that morning while having coffee with friends that included pictures of my niece and nephew in all of their first day of school glory, comments from my siblings and Mom. Digs at me. How old-school I am. Lots of cyberspace chuckles were had at my expense.

Being passed around our table at the coffee shop were iPhones, iPads and a rather fancy uploading device to immediately transfer pictures from phone to tablet. I had nothing to share. Old fashioned digital camera for me.  Gasp! The pictures are still locked in my camera and have yet to see the light of day. Please, don’t alert the technology authorities.

Rewind a few days before this, while driving I heard this comment out of the mouth of my oldest: “You automatically get a banana vacuum.” Excuse me?! What planet are we on? Apparently this sentence does actually exist and makes sense to a kid playing Minion Rush, a video game based off of the movie Despicable Me.

A few minutes later was heard: “The Beijing police just came out of the sky and got me!” Really. This revelation is brought to us by the game Subway Surfer.

These kids today…

Can you just see the little minions laughing at me?

Just Call Me “Captain No Fun”

Who me?  In the span of two weeks we went to the State Fair, Six Flags amusement park, the art museum (the kid portion of it), a children’s fest (with freebies, snow cones and giveaways galore), an outdoor concert, the zoo (twice), and a friend’s cottage for two days (five hours of which was spent tubing off the back of a pontoon boat.)

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Yes, I must have earned my moniker.

“Mom, can we buy something in the gift shop?” “No”.

“Can we get something from the cafe?” “No, we packed a lunch.”

“Do you have money to buy this (some toy set at eye level to entice my son)?” “No, you already have several of those at home.”

“I want (insert 27 items here) from the mall. Can we go?” “Not today.”

Yep, Captain No Fun is on the scene and ready to strike.

We made a list before the summer started of the things we wanted to do. It was my attempt to ensure that Techno and Twinkle got ample time to do big kid things while I knew our anchor, Little Bee, would possibly keep us from enjoying a few of the things we might have tried to accomplish if she were a little older.

Periodically I checked the list to ensure we made progress and filled our summer with what they wanted to do.  It gave me great pleasure to see that we checked off a lot of activities and added a few surprises too.

Why did some days feel like the point was missed? The two days it took to pack and plan and prepare were worth it but was the bickering and fighting that ensued the reward?

Did they remember the good time or did they focus on the fact that they couldn’t walk away with the commemorative cup of lemonade retailing for $10?

Looking back on the summer I love the memories we made and relish the special time we enjoyed together.  It does not elude me that there will never be another summer that I have a 1, 9 and 11-year old. Ever.

As the start of school looms next week, I have been asked many times if I am ready for them to go back.  This is the first summer in a few that I dread it just a little.  They have been such a HUGE help with Bee this summer. We were settled in to a new normal.  And now it will be changing yet again.  She is walking now…FAST. And she is very curious. Captain No Fun is just getting warmed up. Look out, Little Bee.

Lost: Camera, Watch and Husband

Everyone has their thing. Their quirk, oddity, crazy-inducer…whatever you want to call it. Just ONE of mine is losing things. I literally go ape. Just ask my husband the time my wallet sprouted legs last October.

So what is a girl to do when it happens three times in one day? Grow up, I say.

Last Sunday started with the realization that my camera was lost the night before.  Traveling downtown in the city in a group with my brother, sister-in-law, niece, nephew, cousin and my brood of three got a little distracting at times. I remember taking candid shots at a new park my kids and I had never tried.  The lighting was perfect, Techno, Twinkle and Little Bee were loving it and we were having so much fun…What did I do with it?

Out of nowhere some grown-up voice says “J., you JUST put in a new memory card two days ago. Big deal.  So you lost two days’ worth of shots.  And you hate your camera anyway.  Whoo hoo!  Time to get a new one finally!” Who IS this person?

As this is unfolding and plans are already being made to race to Best Buy sometime this week, I lose my husband.  Ice was in a softball tournament this weekend.  His self-described “favorite weekend of the year”. We had a family birthday party to attend.  It started at 1:30. It’s nearing that time with no word on the outcome of his last game.  The game was at 11 in the morning.  What is taking so long?  No call.  It’s his brother’s party. Are we driving together? Or separate? Is he coming home first? Should I just leave with the kids?  What if something happened to him? What if he got hit in the head with a softball?

I got in touch with my sister-in-law and no one had heard from him at the party.  Okay kids, time to get in the car and go find Daddy. We can handle this.

As we get in the car, it dawns on me one last place I have not scoured for the lost camera.  I open the center console. Bingo!  Camera found.

By this time we are more than slightly late for the party.  Ice’s phone was dialed no less than five times.  No answer. A little anxiety is creeping in. We are halfway to the ball diamond and the phone rings.  Ice is probably wondering why all the stalking.  He informs me he had a game at one o’clock too.  I was not privy to this information. Relief…and mild frustration. But overwhelmingly the relief wins out and I am just too over it to be the nagging wife.  Camera found. Husband found.  Let the party begin.

After the party was over and we had all returned home I started organizing some household items. The mood struck me and I thought why not?  I was making some headway and then noticed a favorite watch of mine was missing. Really?  Now this is just too much for my lost-o-meter to register in one day.  Did it travel to California in June to be left behind at one of the many hotels we stayed at? Is there a chance it was stolen?  It only sits in this one spot when not worn. Calm down, girl.  It is after all replaceable if need be.

Resolve sets in. This will just not do. My archive of purses in the back of the closet must be delved into. My vacation purse is the beacon I am pinning my hopes to. Unzipping it slowly I peer inside.  Hallelujah!  There lies my sweet reward. What was I thinking?  When did I just leave this semi-precious bauble to be thrown in the back of the closet?  Oh but the dangers of multi-tasking and motherhood.  Who knows what was occurring at the moment I made THAT choice?

Taking a step back and surveying the day brought a tiny sense of satisfaction.  Though my blood-pressure spiked more than a few times on Sunday, I was pleased with the calmer sense that seemed to overcome me than in similar situations in the past. With age comes wisdom it’s been said.  I certainly don’t claim to have much of that but something is going on that this trifecta of loss I experienced didn’t send me on a one-way shuttle to crazy town this time.  Now that’s growing.

Go Ahead, Make my Day

A simple trip to Wal-Mart in a Northern Michigan town last weekend for provisions for Little Bee turned in to a philosophical debate in my head.  When is the exact moment where we stop wanting to be older and start wanting to look younger? I spent much of my childhood wanting to move to the next phase…ride a bike, drive a car, have a boyfriend, have a beer, have a job, own a house. You get it.

One year while attending my Dad’s work Christmas party he shared with me a few co-workers thought I was eighteen years old. I was 12. Exciting news at the time. Now I’m pretty certain I would not have the same reaction if someone assumed I was six years older than I was and had the desire to let it slip within earshot. Dangerous waters, people.

Where I come from it used to be you needed to look 21 years of age or you would get carded.  Then if you looked under 30 years you would be asked for identification. Now just to be sure if you appear south of 40 years of age, you will be asked for ID.

Then here’s to getting carded! The young man working the register said to me ” Can I see your ID, you don’t look 40 just yet.” Gulp. “Well I am!” I said and chuckled. Thank goodness I fooled him! At this point I expect to be practically on the same par with a creature from the Mesozoic era to anyone who is in high school.  I know when I was 16 or 17 that was just well…Old.

However, in looking back I have always felt in my prime.  The number of candles on the cake has long since been rounded to decades or just a random amount but in all honesty it still feels like the best is not yet behind me. Not by a long shot. And when it’s broken down like that, it feels good to be right where I am, fooling the check-out boy at Wal-Mart.

Yet again, the joke could totally be on me.  Maybe he says that to all the ladies.

Aside

Unexpected Tales from Summer Vacation

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Three kids and a minivan ago we’re cruising in a convertible up Pacific Coast Highway from San Diego to San Francisco.  Speaking for myself, I am on top of the world. The unmistakable sound of the ocean, the rush of the surf, the delicious, warm sun and oh my the smell of it all.  Besides the smell of my newborn babies, to me there is nothing as wonderful as ocean air.

Both of us working for an airline in what feels like a past life, we spent as much time as we could traveling around the country. One of our most favorite destinations was always California.  It has been years since we touched down at LAX or SFO.  Surprise One: that it would take over a decade before we visited together again.

Now it is the night before our Northern California adventure and I am mildly freaking out. There must be a handbook somewhere that explains how a Mom can get her family ready for vacation without needing to take a vacation by herself first.  The piles of clothes, the baby toys, the bottles and bags; the activities and snacks for the plane, the just-in-case-medicines, do I really need this many ridiculous chargers??, the stroller and all the suitcases.  Everything but the kitchen sink.

And now, the long-awaited (and MUCH needed!) family vacation for all five of us is now one for the memory books. It was so anticipated and the most well-planned trip Ice and I have ever taken. This one HAD to be! There were just too many variables – aka – how would Little Bee fare?  Or so I thought.  We planned on staying in a different hotel almost every night.  When it was all tallied up we drove a total of 26 hours in the car those nine days.

The kids had never been to California before.  I heard phrases like “Mama, I’m so happy to be in California!”  And “California is exciting!” Yep, that must be a chip off the old blocks! I felt the same way.

Surprise two: As we rolled over the Golden Gate and into Sausalito to visit an old café we loved, we spotted a deer. In the middle of a neighborhood right after the bridge. Unexpected.

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We strolled the streets of Sausalito and got our bearings back.  “Honey, remember this…remember that” was heard regularly.  I’m sure Techno and Twinkle were ready to drop kick us already.

“Proposal Point” as my sister dubbed it was up next. The bench overlooking the Golden Gate where Ice proposed.  Surprise three: Little did I know I would be “re-proposed to again. Did NOT see that coming.  Someone was even videotaping us as it happened. He said he thought it was the real deal and was going to post it on YouTube.  Really? We were quick to inform him he was 17 years too late. Social Media was definitely something we did not have to worry about back then!

IMG_6505Off to Muir Woods, a heavenly place in my estimation. I never feel like I get to spend enough time there.  The thought occurred to me that if I could, I would just drink in the beauty with a straw.

We entered an area in the forest called Cathedral Grove. It is here that delegates from the world over met in May of 1945 to draft and sign the Charter of the United Nations.  There is a sign that says “Cathedral Grove – Enter Quietly”.  Of course Little Bee can’t read, so what does she care?  So amusing and NOT a surprise I guess.

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Next up was Fisherman’s Wharf. We stayed one night and packed a lot of fun and sightseeing in for the older kids. During our seaside adventure we were approached by a handsome, nicely dressed, professional young man hoping to find some new fans of his music. He offered us a copy of his CD for a $3 donation. Like a good Dad, Ice asked if his music contained explicit lyrics. The young man looked him in the eye, said no and promptly reached for the CD he had given Ice and replaced it with a different CD. Mmmm. No thanks, guy.

Almost immediately following this encounter we passed by a less-than-put-together young man down on his luck holding a cardboard sign asking for money. I didn’t see the sign but was later told by Ice it contained an obscenity. Common to hear and see such things by the Wharf.  Okay. But as soon as he saw our young kids, the man dropped the sign to hide it from them out of respect.  Ice nodded his head in thanks and we kept walking. Surprise Four.

The next day after a phenomenal tour of “The Rock”, Techno was lagging behind looking around and taking in the sights.  He noticed a penny on the street. “See a penny pick it up…” came to mind.  He tried to pick it up. Gotcha! Surprise Five: The penny was literally embedded into the sidewalk! Someone’s idea of a cute joke or a metaphor for things not always appearing as they seem. Take your pick.

Surprise 6: A four-and-a-half hour plane ride. Hotel after hotel. This crib and that Pack-N-Play. Car ride after car ride. Little Bee was a champ.  We could not believe how well she adapted to her surroundings. It was such a relief. One night we had a “shooshing contest” to see whose “shoosh” could be held the longest without taking a breath. This is what you’re reduced to when in a hotel room with five people in the dark who would all rather be reading, watching television or talking but can’t because of the resident 12 month-old Sleeping Beauty!

IMG_6843Monterey Bay and Yosemite were breathtaking. Lake Tahoe was literally delicious as we met up with friends for two days and home-cooked our way through the weekend in our suite. This cloud formation was an image I found interesting on our way back to the airport hotel the night before departure. Just another beautiful landscape to etch in my memory.

As long as I live I will remember with immense pleasure the first vacation we took as a family of five sharing with our kids where it all started. Surprise. Who knew?

The 8 Things My One-Year-Old Has Taught Me

A year ago today I was in the hospital and had just had my third child. Time has surpassed breakneck speed and we are now set on warp. Being the kind of woman who loves to wax philosophical, I could not help but take several moments today to reflect on what a huge fork in the road my life has taken since that beautiful day and what this amazing little creature has taught me.

1. Make friends with the unexpected. The curves in the road up ahead are there. Just be sure you hug the road and don’t drive off the cliff!

2. A shower before 3pm is so overrated.  Little Bee and I cram a lot of snuggling, messes, errands and important discoveries into our day.  Some days a shower just doesn’t fit into the plan -no excuses, no shame.

3. The theory that the older one gets, the less sleep they need is true.  I CAN exist on less sleep than I needed when Techno and Twinkle were babies.

4. Learning how to thrive amongst the chaos is imperative. Despite best efforts there will be many unaccomplished things when my head hits the pillow.  THEN I didn’t accept that and I ran myself into the ground. NOW I just do (most days). And it is okay.

5. Wake up with a smile. Always.  That little person in the crib will have the brightest one ready for me and I can’t let her down.

6. Put on my oxygen mask first. Taking time each day to just breathe and take care of myself always results in a better situation for all involved.

7. When I think I have nothing left in the tank, just keep giving. It comes back.

8. Given a choice, pick the yoga pants.

Happy Birthday and Happy Dreams, Baby Girl…

Cherry Pit Spitting and the Limbo

After packing suitcases for two days, 16 hours in the car, numerous poopy diapers, a couple of classic Chicago traffic jams, stuffing everything but the kitchen sink into the back of my car and listening to too many ear worm children’s CD’s it has been confirmed yet again – my family is so much fun.

It was with great anticipation that we took our first long road trip with Little Bee this past weekend. The mission: to celebrate my aunt’s retirement from teaching.

The most enjoyable part of the party was sitting down with her and witnessing the expression on her face as she reminisced about her career.  Who has a job for 49-1/2 years anymore? Amazing. Her interview consisted of talking with one person one day and being told soon after, “Which class would you like fourth or fifth grade?” She chose fourth grade for 20 years and then just for good measure she taught third graders for another 29-1/2 years.  Nowadays she said you must go though approximately 10-11 interviews, the last being with the district superintendent.  Oh, and the applicants for her city’s available teaching positions currently number in the THOUSANDS. Just in the nick of time Auntie…just in the nick of time.

The party was complete with the requisite backyard barbecue party games my family likes to play. Usually we get musical chairs and the back-breaking fave the limbo going. This tradition dates back at least 25-30 years. But this time around the new game on the block was cherry pit spitting. Hysterical fun. Whether you are 70 or 7, you are kind of curious about how far you can spit that pit.  Top it off with homemade cookie and ice cream sandwiches and s’mores over the fire pit, now you are speaking my language.

My aunt wistfully shared that if she was reincarnated she would choose the same career.

I feel the same way about my family. I wouldn’t change a thing. Pits and all.

Show Some Love

IMG_1846 Last week we made several trips to the dentist. Does the tooth fairy have anything to do with the teeth we’re given?  I don’t know. But if she does she is on my s*%t list.  Despite their best efforts it’s almost embarrassing the number of cavities Techno and Twinkle Toes have between the two of them.   (I don’t even want to see it printed here.)  You’d think we have something against oral hygiene around here or that my kids bathe in Coca-Cola or something. But even the hygienist at the office has said some kids just have those kind of teeth.  Okay whatever.

Twinkle was having tooth pain last week. And after much crying and – forgive the awful pun – gnashing of teeth she decided she’d rather have it pulled.  By the end of the week the dentist agreed.  After being in so much pain, missing some school and near begging to have it removed she was so happy when it was all over. Then the fun part – a visit to the treasure chest to pick out some awful 5-cent-valued plastic tchotchke as a reward.

This is where I am blown away.  She came up to the counter with a bouncy ball.  She asked me what I thought of it. I know she doesn’t collect these…her brother does.

It got me thinking about how my two oldest children show each other love in different ways. It’s rare!  But it’s wonderful to see.

When Twinkle was just days old and had jaundice we had a visiting nurse that came to take her blood regularly.  The first time the nurse performed this squeamish task my 22-month old little prince got between Twinkle and the needle-wielding woman and batted the nurse away. We witnessed his unbelievable desire to protect his baby sister before he could even verbalize it and the story has become a part of our family folklore and been re-told many times.

Then one day we were in the parking lot of a store and Twinkle took off without the obligatory look both ways and Techno held out his arm just in the nick of time to stop her.

Twinkle is the first one to make a gift for her older brother when the holidays roll around or he is celebrating another birthday. She has written many letters and made the most heartfelt cards over the years.

So why it is that when the bedroom doors open in the morning or they come bounding in after school at the end of the day that these lovely gestures are long-forgotten and the gloves come off?

I guess it’s no different from us adults. Sometimes we save our worst behavior for those closest to us. Next time Ice and I are having a tiff I wonder how far a blue plastic bouncy ball will get me?

Bring on the Bubble Wrap

It is coming back to me now, not in a drip or a trickle but a deluge.  Every day is a new adventure in protecting Bee from herself.

Yesterday we had a plastic part of unknown origin that neither Techno or Twinkle would claim ownership of. I did the sweep and found it in her mouth.  There were two pairs of flip flops being offered delightfully as a snack by my dear friend’s children at the softball game. She just loved munching on those! And the lilacs were so very interesting and tasty to her.

Last week the Lego piece in her mouth was cause for an immediate run downstairs to find the gate to cordon off Techno’s room from her future “digs”.

Today was the coup de gras.  While blow drying my hair she was begrudgingly situated in the play yard in the bathroom grabbing at her toys.  I looked over to see she had grabbed the cord on my curling iron, yanked it into her play area and the iron fell to rest on her arm!  I couldn’t react fast enough to snatch it off of her and find out with the greatest relief that I had not yet turned it on.

After this latest near-miss it really gave me pause.  How DO so many people make it past a year??  It is all I can do to keep her contained.  Her curiosity and clever maneuvers are not unique.  Every Mom has her tales of “can-you-believe-it’s?” and “You’ll-never-guess-what-Johnny-did’s!”.  But when you are witnessing it unfold on a daily basis it’s hard to believe there will ever be a time when you can look away for a minute, let alone an hour.

And yet, it’s been so long and Techno and Twinkle are so much bigger than Bee that I know it will come faster than I can bear. If I am smart I will polish up my disaster aversion tactics. My patience meter will be set to high. And I should really consider stock in bubble wrap.

iStroller

The weather finally took a turn this week and summer just might be around the corner. My Mom and I met for a walk at a local park earlier in the week. She brought the 2 year-old boy she is a nanny for and I had Little Bee.

The park we visited was just brewing with people itching to get some fresh air, exercise and sun rays. The birds were chirping, the sky was a beautiful blue and the temperature was just perfect.

There were people fishing in the river, a few joggers plodding happily along, some cyclists just as happy but going faster and many children playing on the playground. In my estimation, all seemed right with the world.

The park has a paved pathway with a little over a 1.5 mile serpetine loop. If I had my drothers I would have walked around the path at least 2 or 3 times to really soak up the scenery…except for the screaming child in the stroller my hands were attached to.

Ah yes, this put the brakes on my idea of fun that morning. I thought surely she would fall asleep. Okay, didn’t happen. Didn’t she know there were several toys for her to play with? Plunk! There falls another plastic teether on the concrete. She had a clean diaper. She was very well fed (it is truly remarkable how much this little missy packs away!)

And then my Mom had an idea.  The all great and powerful iPhone entered in to our stroll.

I do not have an iPhone so this thought would not have occured to me.  My mother however is hip to the technology everyone seems to have and is not afraid to use it.

Imagine the scene: on the path by the river’s edge, beneath a huge and gorgeous old willow tree with ducks swimming by the 2-year-old took the iphone, searched for a cartoon, queued it up, and handed the phone to Bee in her stroller.  She then took it, held it and started happily watching the cartoon. Unbelievable, hysterical and pathetic to me all at the same time.  And yes, her crying routine was long forgotten…until I had to take it away because she had put the phone in her mouth and was eating it instead. Atta girl.