Friday, July 30, 2010

Camp Week!

Kids just finished a week of camp. They go every year to one particular day camp and they love it. I happen to love it too, because it's my "week off" in the summer. I looked forward to this week for so long. Big plans! Oh yeah, I had so many things to accomplish this week. So, here's what my list looked like:
1. Exercise 5 times (I didn't exercise ONCE this week! Nothing!)
2. Finish books, start a new one. (Nope. I'm almost finished with one of my books, but it's more of a self-help thing and not really entertaining. Put my other book on hold to read this one, so I'm still way behind!)
3. See a movie. (YES! I went to see "Despicable Me" with my awesome friend Peggy)
4. Organize recipes/photos (Sort of. I did organize a pile of recipes I've been meaning to get into a notebook for a very long time, but pictures? Nope. I always have big plans of scrapbooking "in my spare time" but when does that ever happen? Never!)
5. Use massage coupon, other gift certificates. (Nope. I did use a pedicure gift cert. I had last weekend, but despite having a gift cert. for 2 massages and a facial, I did not even make an appointment this week to pamper myself. What is WRONG with me? Any why do I STILL have these since, I'm embarrassed to admit, over a year ago!?)
6. Start food journal. (HELL no and it's a good thing because I'm pretty sure I don't want to remember what I ate this week...)

So, what DID I do this week? Well, my "me time" was cut into right away on Monday when I was tapped to drive a bunch of kids up to Snoqualmie for a photo shoot. That took a couple hours of my day, and then it was pretty much shot. I took a lot of naps. Ate a lot of crappy food. Had a lot of coffee. Puttered around the house. Wrote. Stayed in my pajamas way too long. Read. Sat on the porch swing. Worked at a costume party for the high school production. Made dinner each night. Enjoyed the total quiet in the middle of the day when the sun was shining, there was a light breeze and no one was home. Ran a few errands. Folded laundry and watched TV. And mostly just enjoyed having no agenda.

Now that the kids are back, I suddenly feel the need to have order. The floors I've been "meaning" to vacuum all week are now being done by the kids, everyone is pitching in on chores and I'm baking treats and we're all going to sit down in a few minutes and watch a kids' tv show special. I'd say it was a pretty good week at "camp" for all of us..........

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Never enough.......

I think the worst thing as a parent is to feel you can't give your kids everything they could ever want. At the same time, you want to teach them to be happy with what they have. It's a never-ending battle of the heart, somewhere between giving and teaching, and there does not seem to be a perfect solution. Things around here have been very tight financially. For a variety of reasons we are in the biggest financial crisis of our lives and Jeff and I have been working so hard for over a year to try to make things better. But there is only so much that can be done. Jeff has a good job with a decent salary, but not nearly enough to maintain our lives in THIS house, at THIS time. We've done all we could to make the kids' lives fun and fulfilling but it never seems to be enough. When you live in an area where wealth and affluence surround you, it's not easy to not "want" and to not confuse "want" with "need". Even though my kids have grown up in a nicer house than I ever lived in, they have never been able to enjoy all of the "stuff" (material items, yes, but also experiences) that their peers have. Not to say that they have not enjoyed "stuff" - the certainly have, and plenty of it. But with multiple kids, it does become financially difficult to finance many lessons, activities, vacations and material goods. All of the income from any job I've had over the years has gone to the "stuff" fund - just paying for all those "extras" like dance classes, camps, movies, outings, activities, weekend trips, etc. I've never really made enough to contribute significantly to bigger financial gains like paying bills or debt reduction. But even a small income helps with all the extras. Unfortunatley I'm not working right now, and that weighs on me so heavily every day I sometimes feel like I can't breathe. Not because I feel like a failure for not choosing career over family. No, that was a conscious decision for me, something I always knew I wanted and felt strongly about - if I brought kids into this world, I was going to raise them myself. Still, I've always had some type of job - writing, child care, working at the schools - that has provided me with some type of income. Not so at the moment and we're feeling the strain. Not only is the financial strain (coupled with bigger players like attempting to modify our home loan) difficult, but it affects everyone in that those "wants" that once seemed like "needs" are becoming "wants" again and everyone has to adjust.

The worst part of this to me is when my kids accuse me of wishing I didn't have them. If they are such a "burden" then why did I have them? Nothing hurts like that comment. All I ever wanted was to be a mommy. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had three of my own children, and then to be blessed again with a beautiful stepdaughter - what more could I ask for? I love my family! I love that we have four kids and that things are chaotic and crazy and loud and there's always someone there to talk to, and to listen to and to just BE with. I'd have another baby in a heartbeat if I could. I ache all the time for the two I lost. I don't think anyone but another mother could truly understand this, but I wish my kids could understand that despite any complaining about their behavior, their arguing, their not following rules or following through on chores, I still love being their mom more than anything in the world. And I would choose them over anyone if push came to shove. And that being their mom is "enough" for me. No career in the world could be as fulfilling and enjoyable as being their mom.

And yet, it just never seems like I can do ENOUGH. I can't get enough housework done, I don't cook enough, I can't provide enough, I can't spend enough time, I can't give enough. And sometimes, I just wish my "enough" really was.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Peanut Butter Police


My kids are going to camp next week and it's a "peanut free" zone. They are not allowed to bring ANY food products with peanuts in them for lunch. If they find peanuts or peanut products in their lunch (and I quote) "the lunch will be thrown away and you will be called to bring your child a new lunch". I'm sorry, but when did peanut butter become the enemy? I understand that people have severe allergies, but this is just ridiculous. I don't mind complying with the rules, but it does create an issue for MY family - because peanut butter is a staple and likely the first choice of at least one or two kids for their lunch while at camp. Peanut butter is cheap and accessible and I have four huge Costco jars of it right now. I have one child who doesn't like any sandwich OTHER than peanut butter, so I will have to come up with something else she likes (not an easy task) for her lunch each day. I just think if a child has such a severe peanut allergy, other precautions should be taken. Such as not attending a summer camp with hundreds of other kids who's parents can't afford to send them Subway sandwiches or Lunchables each day. Or perhaps they should start offering "peanut free" camp weeks for kids with these severe allergies. I understand these allergies can be life-threatening. As a parent, if my child was severely allergic, I certainly would not rely on a staff of high schoolers to keep her peanut-free all week. After surveying my grocery purchases for the kids' lunches next week, I realized I had also purchased peanut granola bars, and Chips Ahoy cookies with peanut butter cups in them. Oops. Peanut butter is just too easy and such a great, nutritions, healthy protein to send a kid for lunch during a camp day, I can't believe 99 kids have to make accomodations for the one kid that's allergic. What's next? Peanut-free schools? Playgrounds? Malls? Will there be peanut police (Peanut Blart and Jelly, what, what, what is up?)? Will our kids face misdemeanor charges if they are caught with a Nutter Butter? This is nuts! Pun intended.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bittersweet Bedtime Stories

With seventeen years of mommyhood under my belt, I can proudly say I've spent countless hours reading to my children the coveted "bedtime story". And I enjoyed it, oh, I lived for it, in their earliest years - that sweet opportunity to bring the literary world to their snuggly little beds. Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, Tickle, Tickle, the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Series, Amelia Bedelia, numerous Sesame Street characters, Franklin, Froggy, the Berenstain Bears, Peter and the Starcatchers series.....all were staples of my kids' bedtimes until....well, until. Until they grew too old, or too independent, or too...SOMETHING and it ended in much the same way weaning or potty training takes place, slowly, gradually until one day it just IS and you can barely remember what was once before.

I so loved reading to my kids. I'm pretty sure I got just as much out of it as they did, because, let's face it, I enjoyed reading the funny parts "just so" to make them laugh, and the sweet parts in a voice so saccharine, it was practically a requirement to follow up with some serious snuggling. Bedtime stories were a chance to reconnect after a hectic or harried day, to just lay down and "be" with each child.

Sure, there were some logistical problems - for example, multiple children. That presented a challenge once my first two were grown into middle elementary school and I had a toddler son. Suddenly "baby" stories were frowned upon in favor of "chapter books", and the desire to read "on their own" made bedtime stories fewer and farther between. Fade to black. And it was done. Still, I had the youngest to read to, and he loved it! It was as much a requirement for sleep as Candy Cane Man, the cheap stuffed toy soldier his dad won him from The Claw game at a tacky restaurant. And it was our chance to connect and have alone time.

Then, I was blessed with the addition of a stepdaughter just a year older. How to read to both? Simple solution - each parent would read to their biological child at night. Oh, but then, what about bonding? Should we switch it up? No, they preferred it that way and they got "their" time with their "own" parent each night. All well and good. Until The Book. The one that talked about - gasp - the CHANGES that would be taking place during that hazy era called puberty. A DAD couldn't read a book like that to a DAUGHTER. So, once again, I became a mom stretched in two different directions, because it just would not do to have stepdad read the rest of the book we already started to the boy! I tried to stagger the times, stick to a schedule, but the inevitable happened and one child would be shortchanged each night in favor of everyone getting to sleep on time.

So, the stories dwindled and so did our bedtime routine. The tucking in, the turning on of music (still lullabyes, long past babyhood), the closing the closet door, the nightlight, the drink....the allure soon wore to downright frustration as I struggled to stay awake for all of the rituals when I found that upon laying down to read, I often dozed off and woke only to the smack of the book hitting me in the face! Now, it became a chore...and the sweetness of it all was erased by exhaustion and the desire to put my feet up and read my OWN book before bed.

My son would still prefer I read to him. And do the "bedtime" routine. And tuck him in tight. But there's a certain sweet freedom in kissing him goodnight while I'm still engaged in dishes or computer time or cleaning up downstairs and knowing all of the kids can go upstairs and put themselves to bed now. I know they don't all go to sleep immediately and certainly they stay up too late and are tired in the morning but I know the natural consequences will teach them the "right" way for them better than I can.

And I can go to bed before them now.... a foreign concept so far-fetched just a few years ago. I can saunter upstairs, don my pajamas, slip into my snuggly bed and read myself a bedtime story. And since I'm an adult and so well-schooled as to bedtime routines, I remember to bring my snack and drink with me! Then, I sink into the blissful peace of my snack, my cold milk, my book and the knowledge that my kids are settling down on their own, and perhaps, just maybe...reading their own bedtime stories.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Family size discrimination....

Does anyone else experience this? Family size discrimination....specials, offers, phone plans, cars, vacation packages - all designed for a family of four - no more, no less...well, I have a family of SIX and I don't think that's so unusual. We've experienced this "family discrimination" in many ways....for example, at Great Wolf Lodge we had to book a suite so that we'd have enough room to sleep all of us - which happens quite often - hotels offer two queen beds or a king - and, sometimes, for an additional cost, a "suite" which contains a fold-out sofa sleeper so we can actually sleep six of us. At Great Wolf, we picked a suite that had bunk beds so everyone would have a place to sleep but guess what? The package only came with FIVE water park passes. FIVE. Even though the suite slept six. Could we add a water park pass to the package? No. Could we purchase it separately? No, because the water park passes were for guests with reservations only. I had to haggle and bargain, and practically beg, to get a sixth water park pass so we could all enjoy the fun. Ridiculous. Another example is our cell phone plan. Our T-Mobile account only allows five lines per family plan. Because, you know, no one should have more than three kids! Except we DO. And we cannot add a sixth line. We can split our lines and have TWO plans, but that will cost almost twice as much. So, five lines or nothing. Discrimination! How about contests? They advertise that you can win a "family" vacation, which supplies airfare, accomodations and other fun times for a family of....four! So, I guess if we ever are lucky enough to win one of these "vacations" we'll just pick which two kids we like best? Don't even mention cars....we are practically forced to drive minivans. For one thing we need six seats - which are only available in larger SUV's and minivans. If any of the kids wants to bring a friend - well, let's just say we picked an 8 passenger minivan so we could at least take two extra kids with us. We had to pay a premium price and deal with less than ideal gas mileage just to fit us all. Many special offers have a reduced price for a "family" which is defined as two adults and two children. So, we pay extra for the other two kids. Now, some might argue that we CHOSE to have four kids, but in reality, our blended family is a matter of circumstance and we are certainly not the only ones like us in the world! A lot of families, especially blended families, have more than two kids. So, why not offer options for larger families? Quantity discounts? Would it really be that difficult? I once asked a hotel reservation agent what she suggested since the hotel did not have suites and we needed six sleeping spots. She said we were "required" to book two rooms. When I said I was uncomfortable leaving my children unattended in a room, she suggested we split "the parents" up and each of us sleep in a room with two kids. What married couple wants to spend their vacation sleeping in separate beds? (Wait, don't answer that....you get my point!). Anyway, I'm tired of family size discrimination....what the heck do the big Mormon and Catholic families do? It all comes down to spending a lot more money, when quantity discounts should apply. Big families ultimately mean more business so why not offer a little incentive to patronize establishments?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How dirty is your carpet?

We rented a Rug Doctor today and cleaned the carpets. Now, cleaning the carpets is a major undertaking, akin to moving or getting new furniture....it's a daunting physical feat not for the weak-hearted! First you must move ALL your furniture. This includes heavy items such as a piano, and smaller items like a buffalo-plaid doggie coat that was inexplicably left lying on the living room floor. After huffing and puffing chairs, ottomans and dining tables to other locations (having a large spread of hardwood floors, or a deck on a sunny day helps in this process), you must then vacuum. Not just ANY vacuuming, mind you. You must vacuum like you've never vacuumed before in order to remove every last stray dog hair, speck of dust and fake pine needles from Christmases past that have been hiding behind the piano for years. While you're at it, might as well do the baseboards, wainscoting and tops of the window frames. Once the entire house has been freed of dust and dander, then, and only then, can you fire up the Rug Doctor. First, you must measure out the correct amount of solution (that you paid $18 a bottle for and found out later you could have just used your trusty old Tide!), mixed with hot water (but not hot enough to "scald or burn skin" as the bottle warns - duh), and pour the whole lot in the BOTTOM of the machine (not the removable bucket - this is for the waste water - many stickers warn you to this fact). Then, you move the machine that weighs approximately the weight of the average husband back and forth across the carpet, pressing a little red button that dispenses the hot cleaning fluid, then drag the behemoth in slow, methodical paths, thus cleaning years' worth of grime out of your carpets (warning: do not attempt to look at the wastewater. It is horrifyingly black, the result of not cleaning your carpets for years...). Repeat this process for 3 or six hours and voila! Your carpets are pristine! Wait overnight for them to dry and spend the entire next day reassembling your home, and realizing that the treadmill really does look dreadful in the family room, that chair needs to be recovered, and might as well rearrange the living room while you're at it. Yes, done correctly, carpet cleaning can be a whole weekend of fun for just the price of machine rental! Advil doesn't even begin to cover it.........

Run of the Mill 5K

Ran into some fellow running friends at the start of the run - Scott Sypher and Scott Bickhaus...

Jeff ready to start the run.........

Starting line...

Jeff starting the race...
Jeff did the Run of the Mill 5K today for the second year in a row. He finished in about 30 minutes, which wasn't bad considering he's injured (nerve impingement!). In true form, I got up early to support him (haha) and took pictures. I waited the ENTIRE time at the finish line to get a finish photo of him but somehow I missed him! He said it's because he was so fast he went by in a flash! LOL! Afterward we walked around the booths, and visited the coolest store, Musings, that has tons of stuff I love and everything Jeff hates (crafty, girly things). It was a beautiful morning!




Friday, July 9, 2010

Willis Tucker Park

It was another hot day in Seattle so we headed to Willis Tucker in Snohomish for some splashing good fun!

This is Avery! She's Myla and Dakota's cousin....

Grandma Carol and Myla on the fringes of the water park...

Skylar and Marley taking a break at the spray park. More of Myla and Dakota's cousins.

Hi Harrison!

Hi Hayley!

Hi Hannah!

Hi Myla!

Seattle Center!

We headed to Seattle Center for a day of fun. We started at the Science Center where Hayley showed off her symmetry........

...and Harrison defied gravity!

Munchkins sang "Lollipop Guild" while filming themselves in the fun house mirror!

Mommy found a mirror that made her skinny and THAT was worth a picture!

We saw naked mole rats. They look like a penis with feet. The one in the tube is not dead. He was just sleeping and the other mole rats would just climb over him!

There were beautiful butterflies in the butterfly exhibit....

Tiger striped ones, too!

Hayley pointed out where we live....

....and that she had a better pedicure than this dinosaur!

Harrison dared to put his head in a lion's mouth!

While Hayley attempted to tuck herself into the contortionist's box...

Harrison tried out being a Ringmaster...

.....while Hayley played the Fat Lady!

Who's a cuddwy widdle bear?

Then it was time to cool off in the fountain!

Seattle is so beautiful on a summer day!

It was very hot out. Hayley caught some rays...

While Hannah defied the need for sunscreen!

Harrison loved the fountain and all it's cooling jets of water....

Especially the ones that shot the water high into the air! Almost as tall as the Space Needle?

It was a fun day in Seattle!

Happy Birthday Hayley!!!

Hayley's birthday morning table....with Bismark donuts as her requested morning treat!

Make a wish! You're 17 now!

Harrison found a new use for the bow....

Her big present - the entire collection of "I Love Lucy" DVDs....
We spent the entire day watching I Love Lucy and just hanging out. We ate Ben & Jerry's ice cream in bed in my air-conditioned room and had a totally lazy day. We had mac and cheese for dinner and Jeff and Harrison went crabbing. They brought home a red rock crab and cooked it up for Hayley. Can't believe my "baby girl" is 17! Where does the time go?




Fourth of July in Boise

A picture of the photographer!

My pretty girls!

We put coins on the train tracks!

The tracks made a great location for photos...like this amazing one of Hayley!

And this one...

And this one!

My handsome son!

Growing up so fast....

My beautiful Hannah!

Such a cute girl!

Stunning!!

Amy and Julius joined us on this trip....

There were chicken races in Melba....

A chalk art festival in Boise....

With amazing chalk drawings...

Strange ones....

Ones that Jeff liked.....

A little patriotic make-believe...

Something pink.....

We relaxed in the grass at the park....

Kaden licked the frosting....

And he learned how to turn the beaters! Oops!

Hannah smiled....

Harrison grinned....

Stu and Sydney waited for Baby Fox 2.0 to be born....

Kaden took a picture of Aunt Mo!

Mamma E. arrived just in time to await the arrival of her second (or third, depending on who wins the race, Sydney or Justine!) grandchild....

Jeff and M-L relaxed at the BBQ....

Flower - all grown up and almost 18! Wow!

Sydney couldn't WAIT for the baby.....

Amy and Jules smiled for a self-portrait...and I snuck in a picture!

Kaden took aim with a firecracker gun!

The crowd gathered outside for some fireworks....

Julius LOVED the sparklers...

One after another, he lit them....

All aglow with excitement!

Kaden watched in awe!

While Jeff showed his patriotic spirit (or something?)

Everyone enjoyed a fun, family Fourth....

The next day we had to say goodbye....

My seester Monica!

Kaden "drove" our car........

And said goodbye to Aunt Mo!

Julius buckled up for the big adventure home!

Happy Fourth of July!!