Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Terrible Tuesday

7:00am I woke up with a burning sore throat.  I've had it for days, but now it's affecting my voice.  Too bad!  It's Terrible Tuesday!  I finally dragged myself out of bed at 7:15, woke up Kate, then got in the shower.  Will was in my room playing "photobooth"on the computer when I got out.  I told him to get ready, because we had to leave in less than a half an hour.  I dressed, put on some make up, and headed to the kitchen.  The little girls were still asleep, but they needed to come with us too.  Grandma arrived at 7:50 to walk Kate to school while I was still rushing around making breakfast and lunches.  The only bread for sandwiches was frozen, so I toasted some for a PB&J.  Kate didn't want toasted bread for a sandwich, so I scrambled at the last minute and threw together some pretzels and cream cheese. Will was dressed, but he didn't have on any socks or shoes, hadn't brushed his hair or teeth and he was reading a book in his room.  The little girls were still asleep.  We needed to leave for Will's cello lesson in about 10 minutes.  Socks, shoes, hair, teeth, packed the lunches, packed the backpack, got the cello, got the music got my purse.  Rachael started yelling from her crib.  Changed her diaper, changed her clothes.  Elizabeth dressed herself.  I put some cold cereal in baggies, milk in sippy cups and out the door we went.  My hair was still wet and we were about fifteen minutes late, but luckily his teacher is "flexible".
8:30am I settled the little girls into PBS at the teacher's house and then sat in on Will's lesson.  During the lesson I checked his homework and signed his "agenda" - an assignment notebook checked by the teacher every day. Then I started to look over the material for the music docent presentation I would give later that day in Elizabeth's kindergarten class.  It was the first time I had looked at it.  I picked Andrew Lloyd Webber and "Cats" this month.  What a weird, weird musical, but I knew it would be a hit with the kindergartners.  Cool animal costumes.
9:15am  Will insisted on playing his piano pieces for his cello teacher as I loaded up the little girls in the van.  Elizabeth had a friend coming over any minute.  Come on, Will! Dropped Will off at school, headed home, and sure enough the friend was there waiting.  I got Rachael, her blanket, snacks and sippy cup, my purse, the cello, the cello music, and the music docent folder out of the car.  Dropped several things along the way and went back for them.  Turned on a Easter video for Rachael and went to try and style my horribly frizzy air-dried hair.  Finished last night's dinner dishes, as well as the mess made from breakfast and sack lunches.  Put the wet laundry in the dryer, and a new load in the washer.  Ding Dong!  It was my electrical friend coming to fix some issues.  I heard the big, little girls yelling for me from my bedroom.  They learned about "Google Earth" in computer lab at school and wanted me to help them find the Eiffel Tower and the Great Wall of China.  After a while they moved on to photobooth- current favorite at our house - and started making videos of themselves in Andy Warhol mode.  They were jumping and screaming on my bed and that got Rachael mad!  So mad I couldn't understand a word she was screaming!  This went on long enough that I finally told the girls to go do something else so I could solve Rachael's problem. After about five minutes of screaming her head off I got her calmed down.  (Who needs caffeine in the morning when you have a screaming toddler?)
10:30am  I got a phone call from William's friend's mom, Neena, telling me she was in the hospital with her husband who had fainted unexpectedly.  Poor Neena!  Sure, I can get the "cub grub" for scouts and sure, Brandon can go check out his chart and talk to you guys.  I'll call him right now.  Called Brandon while making cheese quesadillas and fruit cups for the girls for lunch.  Brandon also wanted me to search his "pile" for a phone number he needed.  Not in the pile.  Not in yesterday's slacks or jacket.  Back to cleaning up and more laundry.  (It's always piled high on Monday!)
11:35am Time to go to kindergarten!  I tried to put a quick ponytail in Elizabeth's unruly hair and there was a sticky spot.  The tears began.  Go get your sweater from my bedroom, Anna!  Get your backpack, Elizabeth!  I finally got everyone in the car, but Rachael started yelling for her "gempie" (blankie), so I went back into the house.  Dropped off the girls and headed to Trader Joe's for cat shaped cookies as well as "cub grub".  Cheese sticks, fruit bars, Pirate Booty, water bottles.  That should do it for a bunch of hungry cub scouts after school!  (And I couldn't resist the unopened daffodil bunches for $1.79!  The highlight of my day!) Rachael was whining for some of the white cheddar Pirate Booty so I let her hold the bag in her lap while I loaded the groceries.  Big mistake.  Within minutes it was EVERYWHERE and she was covered in that white cheddar powder stuff.  Took the groceries back home, talked a few things over with my electric man, grabbed the "Cats" video and cat cookies, and headed to my sister-in-law's to drop off Rachael.  Noticed that Rachael was clearly in need of a nap.  This did not bode well for anyone.  My sister in law and I talked on the porch about mommy bloggers for a good twenty minutes.
1:00pm  Finally arrived at the school with folder, cookies and video in hand.  Helped with April calendar art project, did my little ditty on Andrew Lloyd Webber and "Cats", gave "spider rides" to a line up of kids on the kindergarten playground, stuffed the weekly information folders, gathered up Elizabeth, Kate, Will, cousins Ty and Nicole and best friend Rithik and headed back up the hill to trade Ty and Nicole for Rachael.  Ty invited Elizabeth to play and we arranged for me to pick her up later.
3:15pm Dropped off Kate and Rachael (after Rachael had another HUGE tantrum in the car about something - so tired), got Will's scout shirt and kerchief, looked for his book to no avail, grabbed the "cub grub", listened to two phone messages about carpooling to scouts (too late!) and car pooling to batting practice in an hour and a half.  I had noticed hours earlier my cell phone battery was dead and my car charger was in Brandon's car so I would have to call this mom back "later".
3:40pm  Ten minutes late to scouts and I forgot to bring a hammer.  (They were making tool boxes.)  Passed off the "cub grub", borrowed a hammer, headed back home.  Called back both carpool moms, Brandon to see if he visited Rithik's dad, Neena to see how he was doing and also to assure her I would pick up the boys.  That's when I noticed Rachael has fallen asleep on the couch and I remembered I needed to pick up Elizabeth before getting the boys from scouts.  Left Rachael with Kate and ran out the door with semi charged phone.
4:45pm  Picked up Elizabeth, picked up the boys, drove to the opposite end of town for batting practice, dropped off Will, drove all the way back, dropped off Rithik and had a painful (physically - my throat!) discussion with Neena and recently discharged Nirmal about how he was just dehydrated and had been exercising too much. I also learned that in India they have a phrase about the early 50's being the "jungle" years - if you survive those years you will live a long time.  I will keep that in mind, but at that point I was thinking if I survived the late 30's I'd be doing pretty good.
5:30pm  Arrived home to find the baby still sleeping on the couch and Kate doing her homework on my computer.  I fell into my bed and didn't move for an hour.  I was really feeling sick at this point.  Another baseball mom brought Will home, Rachael woke up, and I started to hear rummaging in the kitchen.  Dinner!  Dinner?  Seriously?  I reasoned in my mind that in many, many countries around this big, blue world there were children who ate less in a day than my children ate in one meal.  Couldn't the "cub grub" and after school snacks be enough just this one day?  It would have to be.  I just didn't have it in me.
6:30pm The phone started ringing.  I couldn't bring myself to get up and answer it, but I knew it probably had to do with the 20 teenage girls who would be coming to my house a little after 7pm for an "Easter Amazing Race" thing at the church.  Not kidding.  Just then the doorbell rang.  It was 2 of the boys from church with a big sign asking one of those girls to Prom, including an Easter basket with eggs containing the letters to his name so she could figure out who was asking her.  I had to ask them more than necessary to explain it to me.  My brain was fuzzy.  That's when I noticed the 30 hard boiled eggs on my doorstep for the activity that night.
7:00pm  I remembered I needed to get Kate to the activity and called Brandon.  He had just pulled into the driveway.  Can you take her?  Great!  Ten minutes after he got back and before he even finished changing his clothes the doorbell rang and in came the girls.  Each of the three groups were asking me what "act of kindness" they could do (pick up the little girls bedroom, tidy the kitchen, water the plants) and then they were all over the backyard egg tapping.  Then as quickly as they came, they left, and I went back to bed.  Actually, I ate a hard boiled egg first.  So did most of the kids.  (That's probably a feast of a dinner in some parts of this world!  Right?)  Other than my Wheat Chex, banana, and skim milk I ate standing up and in between helping other little people get ready, I realized that egg was the only thing I had eaten besides some remnants of the little girls' lunch as well a "cub grub".  
8:30pm  I helped Kate edit her book review for school tomorrow while Brandon corralled the two middle children toward bed.  Rachael had a date with Kipper on Netflix. (Some days you've got to do what you've got to do and this poor girl was maxxing out on her screen time.) She kept getting up, holding her bum and screaming my name, a common occurance these days when she feels something coming.  None of my kids have ever had these kind of "issues" before, but after about a half an hour of this, she finally gave me a reason to get out of bed.  Nothing like a big, stinky diaper change to top off my day!
9:00pm  Blogging my brains out.  If no one ever reads this but me, I will feel better.  Brandon is now at the grocery store getting "Cookie Crisp" cereal as a special birthday breakfast treat for Will's 9th birthday tomorrow.  (Another big day looms large . . .)  Brandon also gave me some zithromax and  Ricola throat lozenges and got everyone in bed, including the baby who is yelling her head off in there right now.  She isn't crying, in pain, or even mad.  She's just not that tired yet.

I wish I could say the same . . .

Monday, March 29, 2010

They're Always Watching

Two amazing things happened yesterday.  One, I let my almost six-year-old daughter make muffins by herself while I made dinner.  (That's a lot of mess potential, but I was feeling generous.) Two, my almost six-year-old made muffins!  

I just thought it was cute at first.  First, she poured some milk into a bowl. Then she asked me to get her two eggs, and she got a little help from her older brother to get them cracked open.  Next, I saw her putting chunks of banana on top of the milk and eggs.  "Oh well," I thought, "milk, eggs and banana are pretty cheap.  It's worth it to let her experiment and have fun in the kitchen next to me."  I lost track of what was going into her concoction after that, focusing instead on the little flaps of potato peel my son was dropping all over the floor as he helped me peel potatoes.  

At one point I had to ask her to get off the counter, and I handed her the baking soda she was after, telling her not to use too much.  The next thing I knew, she was putting liners into a muffin tin and asking her older sister to help her pour the batter.  Now I started to get curious.  I looked into her bowl and saw what looked like legitimate banana muffin batter.  "Did you add oil?" I asked.  She hadn't.  I told her to add about a half a cup, but whether or not she actually measured it I'll never know.  (All four of my children were in the kitchen while I was making our favorite family dinner, Japanese curry, so there were a lot of things slipping through the cracks!)  All I know is I put the muffin tin into the oven and set the timer for about 15 minutes.

Thinking this would be a great object lesson, I was already formulating a little speech in my head about following recipes and directions when the timer went off.  Elizabeth was so confident of her creation, she could hardly wait for me to put on my oven mitts.  Much to my surprise, the muffins looked as good as the made-from-a-recipe variety.  What in the world would they taste like?

There would be no lesson on following recipes and directions.  Elizabeth couldn't have been prouder, and I couldn't have been more amazed when I tasted her ever-so-slightly over salted (I think it was the baking soda), but pretty darn good chocolate chip banana muffins!  She's five for crying out loud!

Maybe it was pure luck, but I think she was able to pull that off because she has helped me make banana muffins dozens of times.  What I realized yesterday is that our kids are always watching us.  Closely.  For better or for worse, they will mimic our behavior, our language, our choice of entertainment, our decisions, everything.  And we'd better make sure we are worth emulating.

A lifetime of desserts depends on it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


I was really wiped last night.  It had been a long day after a long week, and I couldn't remember the last time I had been alone for a significant amount of time.  (Significant being at least three uninterrupted hours.)  I went to bed feeling kind of dull and sullen, not wanting to get up the next morning unless it was to read in bed alone for the whole day.

Morning came anyway, and after a half an hour of quiet brain time, little people started to rise and wander into our bedroom.  Let the marathon begin!  We had a baseball game, a tennis lesson, Will's birthday party and a special program for the mothers and girls ages 12-18 at church.  I managed to double schedule Will's party and the program at church, and we had yet to figure out the details of how it would all play out.  Details like reserving a table at the pizza place, getting tickets in advance for the movie, where Elizabeth and Rachael would be during those two events, how we would get ten boys from the movie theater to the pizza place, how I would be in both places at once, when I would get the balloons, cake, plates, etc. for the party - just a few minor details to take care of in the hours between the sporting events of the morning and the 4:30 deadline for the party.  Yikes.

In the end, I had no choice but to send Kate to the program with the blessed Potter girls and mother, Brandon got his 16-year-old brother, Brent, to go to the movie with him and the boys (and Elizabeth), and I dropped off, picked up, and set up at the pizza place with Rachael, who fell asleep in the car between 5 and 6pm.  (She's been yelling in her crib for about a half hour now and it's 11pm.  I've given up the fight at this point!  What do we expect when the poor girl is submitted to the schedules and routines of children so much older than her!  Brandon has given up as well and they are doing what they do many, many nights these days: watching M*A*S*H together.  I think Brandon secretly likes it when Rachael won't sleep at night so he has an excuse to watch it.)

What got me through the day today were the FOUR uninterrupted hours of driving around alone taking care of business with nothing to slow me down.  It was like therapy for me.  I remembered gain that it really doesn't take much for me to feel rejuvenated.  It wasn't just being alone, it was the manner in which I traveled.  I took the freeway where I was going today and it was warm, sunny and windy.  I had Brandon's car with the sunroof open and I rolled all the windows down and blasted one of my favorite mix CD's from Trenton and Laura.  Great music, sun on my face and wind in my hair.  All alone.

I really love my kids a lot more after a few hours of that.

Here's a clip from the party taken on our new FLIP camera!  Seriously, I can't believe I hadn't heard of it before.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tip (or two) of the Day

Pandora Radio on my laptop in the kitchen.

Bona Floor Mop in my cleaning closet. We have laminate floors (cheaper and more resistant) so I use the laminate floor cleaner with this little number. No streaking like that HORRID Swiffer wet mop!

Southern Green Beans for dinner. My mom used to make this for dinner in the summer. I know "southern" doesn't mean southern California, but when I saw the new potatoes sitting next to the green beans at the farmer's market last Saturday, I knew this dinner was on the horizon sometime this week. I like the idea of Brandon walking in the door to the smell of bacon because he'll be so HAPPY!

Wouldn't the feminists go bananas over a post like this from a Mommy Blogger? Hee hee hee

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Amazing Sleepless Toddler

I didn't want to write anything about my husband being out of town yesterday in case an axe murderer might be reading my blog and decide to come and try to kill me (or at least kidnap my children), but because Brandon is out of town I did the usual last night: I stayed up as late as humanly possible (for me) with all the exterior house lights on to deter the axe murderer and also to decrease the amount of time in which he could enter my house undetected. After The Amazing Sleepless Toddler finally conked out close to 11:30 (you read that right) I watched some old episodes of The Office on Netflix until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. 1am. I couldn't sleep past 6 because that's what motherhood does to you (and because I had to get going for the other kids who had school) but Rachael woke up at 8:30. Nine hours. Definitely a nap on the horizon, right? Toddlers need like 12-14 hours of sleep, don't they? (I used to read those "What to Expect" books for every single month of my children's development. I stopped reading them after baby #3 thinking I had it all figured out, but maybe I need to dig out those books again. Nothing like a toddler to humble you.) After the 2-1/2 hour morning marathon getting everyone out the door at the appointed times, I spent the rest of the morning going through the motions of housework like a zombie, just waiting for "naptime". I even did a 20 minute workout video to try and wake myself up a little and I did something I have never, ever done before. Near the end of the workout at a point when I was supposed to be doing floor work, I rolled over and fell asleep. I'm not kidding. That was during Rachael's date with Kipper on Netflix so I got a few minutes in before she came out to play some more. I slogged through a few more hours just trying to keep moving so I wouldn't fall asleep again. Once it was 1:00 we headed for the bedroom. I had just fed her some nice warm chicken noodle soup, we pulled down the shades, turned on the sound machine and snuggled up on Elizabeth's bed to read some books. I thought she would nod off during my very soft and low reading of the best children's Easter book ever, The Country Bunny, but as I watched her eyelids droop several times during the story I also observed her reaction to the sleepiness: spaziness. As soon as she sensed herself drifting off, she would do something, ANYTHING, to keep herself from from falling asleep. If anyone out there in cyberspace reading this has any suggestions for a mother of four who should know it all by now, I'm all ears. This daughter of mine is THE AMAZING SLEEPLESS TODDLER. Long story short: she never took a nap, but I did get her down at 7pm - a totally worthless time to be sleeping since everyone else is wide awake and wanting attention from mom after a long day away from me. This is usually more enjoyable for me if I have had more than ten measly minutes to myself sleeping in work out clothes on the living room floor, but I made it through. If I go to sleep now (11pm) I could get 8 hours!! I have high, high hopes she will arise early, nap normally and go to bed at a decent hour tomorrow. Wish me luck! (And give me suggestions.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Death by Daylight Savings

We had a blast with our friends last weekend, but we stayed up way late every night they were here. Friday night at Disneyland was a record breaker. I think it was 11:30 when we finally got to our car. After spending the afternoon and evening at the beach on Saturday, we took just the adults to our favorite local Chinese restaurant for a late dinner. (Chloe's Shrimp and Shrimp with Candied Walnuts are my personal favorites! Check out the menu.) And even though we left our stellar twelve year old daughters in charge, no one was asleep when we got home. (Not that we thought they would be . . .) Then the unwelcome surprise of Sunday morning came: daylight savings switch back.

It's nice of "them" to make it on a weekend so everyone can supposedly have a day to adjust before the shock of going back to school and work on Monday morning, but for parents of young children this adjustment can take much longer than a day or two.

Five days in and the house is just now quiet at 10:23pm. I'm going slowly out of my mind.

Rachael is in a really bad cycle right now where she sleeps in late, doesn't want to nap while Elizabeth is at afternoon kindergarten, but then falls asleep in the car as I'm driving around after school. As a result - wonder of wonders! - she won't go to bed at night until I'm so crabby and tired I just retreat to my cave while Superdad finally gets her settled. (Since he's so fresh and perky after his 12 hour day at the hospital! Actually sometimes he is, which is comforting in an annoying kind of way.) Rachael has also really developed a TEMPER on top of this unfortunate ability to resist sleep. She is a full blown two year old and I am burning out. I don't know WHAT Jim Bob and Michelle are taking, but I need some tonight!

It's now 10:38 and Will just came in to say he still can't sleep and I hear Rachael talking again in her crib. Insanity coming on slowly and silently.

I am the kind of person that requires at least a smidge of quiet brain time to myself every day. (Doesn't everybody?) And while I've learned to give up a whole lot of "me time" as a mother (especially with each additional child), I still need some.

I know the sensible thing to do is to wake them all up early tomorrow morning so they'll be good and tired tomorrow night, but let me tell you how excited I am to go to bed right now only to get up bright and early to forcefully wake the little buggars out of a deep sleep and endure a nice, long day of fatigue induced crabbiness all in the name of getting back on track. But if I DON'T, it's status quo.

It's 10:55 now and she's started calling for me. What a vicious, vicious cycle. Do you know how long she napped today? 30 minutes. That's it. 30. Minutes. It's not normal. Is there caffeine in Juicy Juice now? WHAT IS GOING ON!?

And that's why I ABHOR, LOATHE, DETEST, and DESPISE Daylight Savings.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Selective Memory

Sometimes these girls are so cute together I can hardly stand it. I want to photograph or video every waking moment of their lives so I never forget the sweetness of this age and their adorable relationship. Someday I will forget about Rachael having that melt down in the grocery store because she couldn't take her mini cart out to the parking lot. I will forget about how Elizabeth leaves messes in her wake no matter what she's doing. I will forget about Rachael being the Amazing Sleepless Toddler who was up until 12:30am two nights ago. I will forget about Elizabeth's weird skin stuff that requires special shampoos and creams. There are so many little annoying things we deal with on a daily basis when we have itty bitties in our home, but all I want to focus on and remember someday is this:
And this:
And especially this:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Why I love California

Thursday: Around town
Friday: Disneyland
Saturday: Beach
Sunday: Mountains

Friday, March 12, 2010

Favorite People

Some of our very dearest friends on the planet are here visiting us from Iowa. We became friends when we were both at the University of Iowa and lived down the hall from each other in the same apartment complex. I knocked on their door to ask for some computer paper. Brandon was mortified, but my lack of social grace won us some great friend! We had just had our first baby and they were months away from having their first as well. So the story began and here we are getting ready to go to Disneyland with our collective 7 kids. Oh, the fun! One of my favorite things about being around these smart, kind, interesting, creative people (who also happen to be GREAT parents!) is that I get TONS of ideas from them about all kinds of random things. Scott is Mr. Techy of the Universe (here is his blog) and when he heard me complaining about not wanting to carry my big video camera around/the poor quality of video on my little purse camera, he told me about this little number. Where have I been?? And Betsy just solved my "what to put over the desk in our bedroom" dilemma by suggesting hand print art on canvas of my kids' hands. Brilliant! I love these people . . .

Last summer, but I'm sure we'll get some more great ones this weekend!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Channel Islands Part 4: The Long Road Home

Anyone who has ever been hiking before knows the feeling of reaching your destination, enjoying the moment, and then realizing you have to travel that same distance back. Maybe it's not such a big deal if you're on a three day back packing trip with a bunch of strong adults and no time constraints, but right about the time I started to relax and enjoy myself I started to feel a sense of panic that we just might miss the boat, quite literally.
With all the whining and complaining we had on the way I was wondering how we would make it back in one piece. Was there a way I could carry Elizabeth on top of my backpack? No. Could we call a taxi for her? Nope. Lost in worry, I was brought back to reality when I heard Brandon and Elizabeth talking about heading back. Elizabeth sounded absolutely delighted at the prospect of heading back and with a light hop started prancing down the trail. What a relief. Believe it or not, she kept up a good pace with hardly a word of complaint the entire hike back. Brandon didn't seem surprised at all. Having done several long and fairly rigorous multi-day hikes in places like Yosemite with 12 year old scouts that had a tendency toward wimpiness, he said it never fails that they perk up once you're on the way home. Funny.

I was a little surprised Rachael fell asleep in the backpack because that girl can resist sleep like nobody's business - but how can you resist a rocking backpack, the warm sun, a cool breeze and the sound of ocean waves? I wanted to fall asleep right there in the grass above Potato Harbor.

The long road home.
There's the cute picnic couple again. If they were heading back, you know it was time for us to go back! Surely we had the slowest pace of all the little groups out that day!
Dad and Kate.
Elizabeth got a little extra rejuvenation from Will who let her wear his camel on the way back. We should have thought of that sooner! Just keep a nice, easy drip in her mouth the whole way and she's fine! (We also let her carry the trail mix and cherry pick the M&M's out of the bag. Whatever works!)
My kids firmly believe the number of spots on a ladybug's back determines its age. (Once they get to a certain age I start correcting them when they repeat random things that aren't true, but it's just too cute at this age!)

Couldn't resist one last group photo since we were keeping up with the picnic couple.
5 miles later we're back at the spot where Elizabeth first asked the dreaded question "Are we there yet?"
Isn't he cute? (She is too, but she gets told that all the time!)
One last shot from up above. Gorgeous!
Back to the little welcome village.

We pretty much doled out all our food to the kids to keep them motivated, but we still had one last Cliff bar! See that family in the back? They were just sitting there playing cards. What a thought! I bet they enjoyed themselves immensely. But, come on! They missed the views!
Whew! We made it!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Channel Islands Part 3

After our .5 mile hike to Cavern Point, we had a little conversation about whether or not we wanted to try and make it all the way to Potato Harbor (another 2 miles) and then back again in time to catch the boat. (The crew was very insistent they would leave at the designated time and if you weren't there you could catch the boat the next day.) I tried to get Elizabeth excited about the idea of Potato Harbor, suggesting there might be baked potatoes there with lots of butter and salt - one of her all time favorite foods. Of course she knew I was kidding, but she was NOT amused. Kate was on board, Will was indifferent, the baby would fall asleep in the backpack. Elizabeth was our only obstacle. We just had to do it. This could be our only trip to the Channel Islands! I knew she was capable, she was just in a wimpy mood and not super keen on hiking. I know she's just five, but I've seen her do some pretty hard and gutsy stuff in the name of "being big", so I really started working that angle. "Just think Elizabeth, you'll be able to go to kindergarten tomorrow and tell all your friends you hiked FIVE MILES at a National Park yesterday! How cool is that? Do you think any of the kids in your class have ever hiked five miles?" Nothing moved her little soul. She decided right from the start that just walking along in the heat of the day was NOT fun. We went anyway. I'm no quitter and I wasn't about to let her quit either. I was certain she could do it. What I didn't know was if the hike didn't kill her, her whining might possibly kill me!

Here we are right after leaving Cavern Point:

I have a feeling the only reason Will wasn't whining was because someone younger had already taken on that role. Let me tell you, he wasn't trying to win any races on this hike!

That's Anacapa Island in the distance. The Channel Islands are a chain of four islands. See the little cabins? It would be fun to stay the night when Rachael is a little older. (We're not really interested in carrying her poopy diapers out in a backpack. Okay, Brandon might do it.)
We were so glad we got to see an Island Fox! They only exist on the Channel Islands.
More gorgeous-ness along the way.

Approaching Potato Harbor. It was at this last little part of the trail that the whining grew to such intensity I felt I might strike out and say or do something that would REALLY ruin the trip, but I just had to do SOMETHING to avoid screaming at the top of my lungs. I threw off my backpack, put Elizabeth on my back and ran the rest of the way with her laughing in my ears.

See the melted butter and salt?
Look at that little couple, having a romantic picnic. Aw. Isn't that so great for them? I'm not jealous. (They probably got there a half hour before us.)

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Day I Forgot "Everything"

"The biggest mistake I made as a parent is the one that most of us make. … I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of my three children sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages six, four, and one. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less” (Anna Quindlen, Loud and Clear, 2004, 10–11).

Monday is my busiest day. It’s the day I’m re-charged after a weekend “off schedule.” I go crazy trying to get on top of the week before the inevitable unraveling process begins again. One of the gazillion things that happens on Monday is going to the grocery store with my two younger children while my two older children are at piano lessons. (The time limit helps me get out of there quick!)

One Monday a few weeks back I was a little annoyed when I noticed my wallet wasn’t in my purse and it would take too long to go back for it. I decided I could still be productive during that hour by going over the lists, schedules, calendars and loose post-it notes in my overstuffed planner. Unbelievably, I had managed to leave my planner at home as well! My last resort for using my time wisely was to call some far away family I hadn’t spoken to in awhile, but - you guessed it - my phone was most definitely hanging out with my wallet and planner.

What to do now? I felt like a fish out of water, like my security blanket of busy-ness had been stripped from me and I didn’t know what to do. And then as quickly as that feeling came, a new one took it’s place: the feeling of freedom! I had none of my usual “tools” that practically beg for my attention every time I’m in their presence. They were completely inaccessible so I had no choice but to wile away the hour with my two young daughters.

We climbed out of the car and spent the next hour playing in the tiny front yard of the piano teacher’s house, chasing each other like mad around her one, ant covered tree. They were both laughing hysterically, having the time of their lives being chased by Mommy Monster. I was having fun running and listening to them shriek and squeal. It was by far the best hour of the day and I was more than a little humbled to think how many moments like these I had lost to the tyranny of my to-do list.

It’s not that mothers want to run themselves ragged. I’ve always thought it ironic that the multi-faceted and never ending nature of a mother’s work sometimes makes it difficult for mothers to actually be with their children! We spend so much time caring for them (of course there is much value in that, as well as working together as a family) but how much time do we actually enjoy just being with them? Just as there are perks and rewards inherent to jobs in the paid work force, motherhood has its own perks and rewards (too many to mention here actually) and I believe one of the biggest is play time with children.

During that short, but sweet hour I remembered the feeling of freedom I had as a child. Life before adult responsibilities, life before cell phones and planners, life before errands and never ending paperwork. As I turned my back on busy-ness, I remembered that spending “quality time” with my children was not just about them. I needed those moments of human connection and play to get centered and feel the joy and freedom that comes so naturally to children; a feeling I sometimes forget to let in.

So here is the challenge for you and I: set aside a little time every day to put your to-do list, wallet, phone, computer, planner, book, exercise ball, spatula (whatever it is!) DOWN and slow down, get down and play with your kids. You will thank you.

For more mom-centric articles like this, go to www.powerofmoms.com. The website has received a major face lift recently with tons of new features like a photo contest of mothers with their children and a place to add your blog if you feel its content fits the content of the website.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Channel Islands Part 2

I took WAY too many pictures, but it was a trip we will most likely only take once. (I don't like to read books more than once either. So many National Parks, so little time.)

This is the little "welcome village" not far from the dock where they had maps, latrines and picnic tables. Pretty campy and primitive.
I'm not sure why, but there were several pieces of rusty farm equipment right by the picnic tables. I could have asked the guide if we had been part of the group tour, but our crew wasn't really fit for a group tour. (We needed a little more freedom and flexibility
if you know what I mean.)
I would have liked to have heard the history behind this cool little dug out out too, but we were on a mission: could we make the 5 mile round trip hike to Potato Harbor and back before the boat arrived at 3:30? We had less than five hours. We knew Kate and Will could make it, but what adventures would the younger two provide? (That's a nice way of saying I was worried they would ruin the trip with their shenanigans.)
Off we go!

At the top of this hill we got a really good view of the beach where the boat docked.
It was right about this point Elizabeth said, "Are we almost there?"
0.1 miles into a 5 mile hike. I knew it was coming, just not so soon.
Another half of a mile along this beautiful bluff . . .
. . . and we arrived at Cavern Point.

Such a beautiful place.

Questions to ask at this point: do we stop there, enjoy the scenery and turn back? What becomes of Elizabeth? Does anyone die from over exposure to whining?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pinewood Derby

I have never been more grateful for my husband than in the last few weeks. (Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration.) Along with a million other things, we had our first Pinewood Derby on the horizon. Not only do I not know how to use a hand saw, I couldn't imagine trying to find the time to figure it out. That's where the man of the hour comes in. You would think he has enough fun with all the high tech tools he plays with at work, but he was still happy to get more tools, even if they were of the cruder variety. He has less "free" time than I do, but somehow he pulled off a pretty impressive car with the help of our one and only cub scout. (He got second place - NOT BAD, BOYS!) The absolute cutest thing about the following pictures - even cuter than Brandon still in his work clothes, running in at the last minute because he had to leave work early to make it on time and administer some "final touches" - is that Will is wearing Brandon's old cub scout shirt that his mother recently unearthed and passed on to us.

This is the "after" shot. Will's wonderful den mother advised us to take before and after pictures knowing damage would be done. (Notice his little driver is gone. Now that's a mother who knows - she raised 5 Eagle Scouts!)
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