Friday, September 30, 2011

Disney Trip 2011!

What a vacation.  It took me a good solid week to recuperate from the madness.  Packing for a family of six to go on an eight day trip is unbelievable.  When two of them are under three years old, and when you are going to hit a Disney parks every day, the amount of planning is just out of this world.  With that said, I rocked it.

6 people x 8 days = 48 shirts (minimum)... 48 pairs of socks.... 15 pairs of shoes... and other such astronomical numbers

This was definitely the most challenging Disney trip that we have ever taken.  We have taken both sets of our parents before, we have taken 2 1/2 year old twins before, we have even taken a 5 month old before.... but this one won out on sheer effort in toddler-toting, toddler-appeasing, dual naptimes, whiny two-year-old-girliness,  potty business, and the extra planning now that Disney does not include children under 3 on their meal plan. 

Things That Were Great To Bring
  • Those applesauce/pureed fruit "on the go" squeeze bags.  Healthy snack or breakfast for the little ones, even in the middle of the park.  Found them on clearance at Target for 50 cents a pop! 
  • Horizon milk boxes!!!!!!  WOW!  Patting myself on that back for this one!  Olive still really loves milk in the morning and night... and Ivey uses chocolate milk as her comfort drink.  At home, her "chocolate milk" is regular milk with a little instant breakfast sprinkled in.  Disney, we brought chocolate and plain Horizon (or Nestle) milk boxes.  No regeneration necessary, but it's just milk packaged in some special way to make it okay in a box.  No need for coolers, insulated bags, etc.  This was AWESOME for us!!!  I also packed along some Pediasure for Ivey on those days that I didn't feel good about her nutrition.  Not cheap, but compared to Disney food it is!
  • Lots of protein bars, Nutrigrain bars, etc to fill in the gaps and not use all of our snack on the dining plan as snacks!
  • Table topper place mats.  WORTH IT!!  Lightweight, disposable, used them all over the park.  Can get cute Disney ones and the little ones are totally happy!
  • My mei tai baby carriers...or any carrier that you can switch from back to front.  I could even wear mind on my hip when Ivey refused to ride any other way.  You can't take strollers in lines.  The only way to not break your back is to wear that heavy toddler on it!  
  • Lots of bottles of water.  Grab some in the morning, pack it in the park, refill it at water fountains during the day and keep everyone hydrated for cheap.  Add in....
  • single serve drink mixes... lemonade, white grape, whatever.  The water tastes horrible, so add a drink pack and keep those kids (and you) hydrated, saving those snack credits for good stuff!
  • Take the little ones' favorite blankets, etc into the park with you on the stroller.  A bit of a pain... until you want to stay out for those late nights in the park and your toddlers/preschoolers are sleeping blissfully in their stroller while you take turns riding rides and manning the snoozing kids!
  • Battery operated clip-on stroller fan.  This was AWESOME!!  It wasn't cheap, but kept the little ones with a nice breeze... especially nice on a hot steamy night when they are sleeping!
  • Little Disney toys, sticker books, coloring stuff, etc that you pick up for cheap at a dollar store or Big Lots.  Pull it out throughout the trip, when kids are getting grumpy and tired, or when you really want to enjoy that fabulous two-credit dinner!  I even had Cinderella and Minnie Mouse socks ($1).  Happiness on the cheap.  Little Disney figurines (purchased by Mom before the trip- thanks, Mom!!) in a cute Toy Story zipper bag kept Ivey completely happy on the ride home!  I waited until the last day to give them out... Success!
  • Anticipate the little ones getting wet in Epcot and Animal Kingdom.  Those two parks have great areas to splash and play in water... cooling them off and letting them run around.  Bring a bathing suit and they can all share a towel.  You can sit and watch them have a blast, then back into dry clothes!  (Splash mountain in the Magic Kingdom will get big kids wet, too, but big kids may be just fine walking it off till they get dry... and you don't get DRENCHED- usually!)
  • Share quick service meals between kids, or even adults.  There are places where the meals are definitely big enough for two people... look for chicken/rib plates.  Order the adult portion chicken nuggets for the kids and split it instead of getting each one their own kid plate.  Then, you save those quick service credits to use on the last day of your trip when there are none allotted for that day. 
  • Baby swap.  Figure out the baby swap service for rides and use it often!  :)
  • Send a runner with all the passes to pick up fast passes while you ride something else.
  • Rent a stroller.  They are expensive.  Yes.  They are also fabulously designed and save the stamina of kids of all ages!!  We had one sit and stand and we rented a double.  The big kids cannot make it walking all day and night.
  • Get your dinner reservations 6 months in advance.  Seriously.  All of them.
All of the logistics aside, it was a fabulous trip.  It took a few days to get the hang of having two separate age groups.  Once we realized that dividing and conquering was the only solution, everything went much smoother.  It wasn't one of those trips where everything just fell into place... It was the kind where the Momma is up at night repacking the backpack with sunscreen, extra clothes, diapers, bottles of water, drink mixes, snacks, pacifiers, cameras (charged, of course), and all other things that she will have to grab in an exhausted stupor the next morning.  It was one of those trips where, in order to ensure naps happen (and thus happiness at dinner later that night), Momma marches around various parks, pushing strollers around and around and around until the poor tired eyes under those Beauty and the Beast sunglasses close... and she slumps back into the stroller seat.  Where Momma marches around, in the 94 degree heat with that stroller, avoiding parades and that bell ringer that stands outside of the Columbia Harbor House, maneuvering as necessary to protect the nap in the stroller... as well as the napping toddler nestled on her back.  It was exhausting, yes.  But, it was so rewarding to be able to deliver to those little sleepy heads exactly what they needed to crash out, saving our excellent dinner reservations from a seating of whiny miserable overstimulated children. Success.

Addison surprised us all with his willingness to ride scary thrill rides.  It wasn't just his willingness to, it was his logical approach as he obviously went through his decision making strategies. He rode Space Mountain under his own free will.  But, when we reached the ride, it was a one-seater.  Slight panic.  He sat in the seat behind me, and I turned around as much as I could to tell him that it would be okay.  As we ascended up the first hill, he started to lose it.  He was crying.  It was dark.  I tried to turn around and tell him it would be fine, but be able to turn back early enough not to break my neck.  As we accelerated into the coaster, all I heard were screams.  Not "I am having fun" screams or even "Am I having fun?" screams.  These were guttural, extremely loud, fairly short, and repeated throughout the ride.  Screams that can only mean that he expected not to live.  He was in a true panic.  When the ride ended and we unbuckled, Addison looked surprisingly fine.  I said to me, "That wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I might ride it again.  Later, though, not now."  With that, Addison earned the right to determine what rides he did and did not want to try.  His risk assessment and ability to weigh emotional terror with logic told me that Addison was more qualified to tell Addison what to ride or not to ride than I was. 

Ivey had a complete blast.  Favorite ride, hands down.... Pirates of the Caribbean.  At any given time, you could hear Ivey singing "Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirates Life For Me!"  We rode this many times, on her request.  One night in the park, she grabbed the sparkly headband from my hands.  I had hoped to coaz her into letting me pull her hair back with it.  Instead, she wanted to wear it around her head like a sweatband.... or, it seems, like a pirate.  "Oh!  Are you a beautiful pirate princess?" Jeff asked her.  "No.  I am NOT a beautiful pirate princess.  I am a monster pirate!", she retorted.  Take.  That.

She handled being too small for some rides very well.  She told Anna that she was tall enough to ride the Tower of Terror.  Doubting this, Anna asked, "Did you like it, or were you scared?"  Ivey answered, "It was a real moment."    Seriously.

Even though it was super late each night getting back to the hotel, Ivey would usually be in her wired stage.  She hits this super sweet, cute, funny point, and she hit it often back in the room.  Asa and Addison slept in an adjoining room with Grand-momma and Granddaddy.  I brought a set of bed rails, so Ivey and Olive slept on a Queen sized bed beside us.  At one point, Ivey was sitting in bed with her chocolate milk.  She looked at me, super syrupy sweet and said, "Will you go away please?"  Good grief.  That girl is a mess.

For Olive, this trip was all about Nemo.  She must have ridden the Nemo ride 10 times.  We saw the Nemo musical.  She was signing star fish and turtle and every sea creature that she knew to sign.  She was happy as a clam over in "The Sea".  She was even happier when we let her strip down to her bathing suit and run in the jumping water... or just run around like a wild child during a massive rainstorm while we were over in Japan!  She loves "otters"!  (water).  When we were at the beach, she called the seagulls "otters chickens" for water chickens.  Silly girl.

Asa really packed his days with all the fast, crazy rides he could.  If we were in line together for a coaster and only had 3 people, Asa would always volunteer to ride alone-- without reservation.  He waits to get in the first car... or the last car... and holds his arms up from the time the seat belt is latched until it comes off again.  That boy craves speed... and anything crazy for that matter.  There is no little guy sitting on his shoulder telling him this might be too scary or too fast.  Not for Asa.  That child is intense.  And, he gets it honestly.

After we got home from the trip, Addison asked Jeff a question in a way that was truly, well, Addison.  "Daddy, what ride did you like 50/50?"  Jeff answered the question with a question, asking it to Addison.  "Well, I can tell you one I liked 95/5.  Rockin' Rollercoaster."  My boy and his numbers.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Guest Entry, by Uncle Hal

I turned 30 on Monday, September 12.  In order to celebrate my 30th birthday, I had to squeeze in time with friends and family around a week long business trip to London.  So, the weekend before my trip, we took a trip to Nashville with some friends to bar hop, listen to live music, and watch Georgia Tech beat Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro.  After a week of 12 hour work days and long nights in the UK, Jen and I go straight from the airport to a going away dinner for Todd and Suzy before they move to Australia.  Then, we’re up early on Saturday to tailgate before the Tech-Kansas game where Todd and I share a joint cookie cake (“Farewell Todd, Happy Birthday Hal”).  After the game, we go straight to Nick’s surprise birthday party in Alpharetta to hang out with that crowd and catch up with some folks that we haven’t seen in months.  Jen and I decide to call it an early night so that we can get up and invite ourselves to Fayetteville on Sunday to see the family before Holly, Jeff, and the kids headed to Disney World.  If we left Fayetteville by 4:30, we could make it back up to Atlanta in time for the final send off for Todd and Suzy.  Why not squeeze in the visit?

I’ll tell you why not.  Because whenever I force things, it blows up in my face. 

Tech is playing in Murfreesboro on the weekend before my birthday – perfect set up for my last weekend in my 20’s.  A short drive, free hotel, and the ticket to London from Nashville is $1,200 cheaper than the ticket from Atlanta.  No brainer.  No problems.

My flight from London gets in at 5:45 pm – perfect, dinner is at 7:30.  No issues.

The Kansas game kicks off at noon – great, we can make it to Nick’s party with no problem.  Everybody has a great time.

So, we invite ourselves and head down to the house and inherently invite trouble.

We get to the house hungry and talk about heading down the road to the annual Inman Farm Heritage Days – a tractor show and farm festival with corndogs, BBQ, cotton candy, and all kinds of farm equipment to check out.  The boys had been down a handful of times earlier in the weekend, so Jen and I make plans to walk down to grab a BBQ sandwich and check out the tractor show.  Asa and Addison are going to come show us the ropes.

The four of us start down the gravel driveway, Asa plowing through the rocks on a razor scooter and the rest of us on foot.  We get to the end of the typically quiet road and have to wait because trucks are going down the road with empty trailers and up the road carrying tractors.  The driveway meets the road with a tree and a shallow ditch on the left and a deep ditch on the left marked with a metal fence post capped with a construction cone that acts as a visual marker so that you don’t put your front driver’s side tire in the ditch.  We come to a stop at the end of the drive on the gravel between the tree and the suspended orange cone.  Jen and I are making an extra effort to keep Asa and his scooter from getting onto the road before we’re ready to start the walk.  In the mean time, Addison has mounted the suspended construction cone with his feet on the flat rubber bottom and his hands around the top.  Before I can say ‘let’s go’ the bottom drops out.  The stress from his weight forces the metal fence post up through the top of the cone and Addison and the cone free fall.  The top of the metal post catches Addison under the chin... Hard.

We get him up and assess the situation.  He’s saying, “I’m fine, let’s just keep going”, but its not convincing because he won’t pull his hand away from his neck and its pretty clearly bleeding.  So, we start heading back to the house.  Jen is with Addison and I’m with Asa… Jen points out that I should run ahead and let Holly & Mom know that a kid is bleeding… from his neck. 

The moms diagnose the wound pretty quickly and calmly and Jeff takes Addison to the hospital for stitches.  Bummer.  Still shaken, Jen and I take Asa down to Farm Days and apologize that we’re going to give him no freedom to walk around and get himself run over by a tractor or caught in a hay baler or fall in an old well or something unforeseen.  He’s cool with it and after about a half mile of walking back and forth and trying to get directions from the cotton candy guy and the deep fried Oreos guy, we find the BBQ stand (under the GIANT sign right near where we parked). 

Over lunch we talked about Addison’s injury and it was clear that Jen and I were shaken up and worried about him.  I haven’t experienced this much stress in a long time.  I’ve made or found big time mistakes at work that occupied my mind less.  So, being sensitive to all this, Asa comes up with the idea to do something for Addison before he gets back from the emergency room.  This is probably to make Jen and I feel better (or to shut us up) than it was for Addison.

We get back to the house before Addison and Asa disappears to work his magic.  When Addison gets back we’re in the living room talking to him about his visit to the doctor and the seven stitches he got when *BANG* we turn around to see Ivey face down on the hardwood floors, three feet lower from where she was sitting on the bar stool a second before.  She cried, but handles it well, but its about all I can take of this stuff.  Luckily 4:30 is approaching so we stand around the island in the kitchen, I get my Happy Birthday serenade, and we all eat cupcakes.  Jen and I can’t get out of their fast enough when 4:30 comes around so we can get back to our laid back routine.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Grandparents' Day!

Today was Grandparents' Day at our hybrid school!  After a short day of classes, the kids got to show off all the things they have learned so far in school this year.  Because music class seems to be a BIG hit with everyone, they decided that they wanted to put on a little concert of "Mary Had A Little Lamb".  All of the students are doing a fabulous job with their piano... and the most amazing thing is how self motivated they all have become.  I actually have to write on the white board "Please don't practice music until everyone in the house is awake!".

Although we haven't memorized it yet, the kids read the poem that we are working on, acting out the parts.  Then, they took their grandparents around to various spots around the room, showing off their art, science, social studies, and all of the other awesome things they are learning.  They even had a questionnaire and interviewed their grandparents.  Addison wrote his answers in cursive, completely on his own!

This year really is going splendidly.  I knew that the amount of education that I wanted to give them was not matching up with the amount of time I had for them-- with the girls to take care of, laundry to do, dishes to wash, errands to run..... the list goes on.  This class of kids lets me take two seven hour days and ensure that nothing but learning goes on.  Nothing but learning.  No red tape, no political correct fodder, no teaching of terms simply to get it "in before the test".  No wasting of time.  No staff meetings.  Nothing but five enthusiastic learners, freedom to think outside the box, and seven teachers to provide them with the knowledge they need.   

Saturday, September 10, 2011

No Cape. No Boots. Just Me.

I am making a list.  Whenever someone calls me, "Superwoman", I am going to jot down their name and be sure to have them all around the next time I lock myself in the bathroom in tears... the next time I am frozen with stress, overwhelmed and standing in a room full of things to do... or I am wading through weeks worth of laundry, dishes, and filth that I neglected to handle.  There is no Superwoman here.  Some see a homeschool mom, a mom of four, a teacher, a psuedo-wanna-be-farmer, and think I do it all.  I do not.  For everything that I choose to accomplish, something else must fail.

Superwoman would not choose sleep over the housework that screams her name.  Superwoman would not lose her cool and would not stress out.  Superwoman could juggle the kids-- and get her errands done when she leaves to do so instead of having to retreat back to the house, early.  Superwoman could use all of her time productively.  She would not be late.  She would not have emails that go unanswered.  She would always know how much money was in the checking account.  She would know what she needs to do at all times and forget nothing.  There is no Superwoman here.

When the day is long and has been full of demands and cries and discipline, Superwoman would not feel isolated.  She would not feel jealous.  She wouldn't need help, a break, or a friend to talk to.  She wouldn't feel that she has failed at at least one thing. every. day.  She would not feel a wave of anxiety when the baby monitor announces that nap time ended two hours early.  She would not mind that the only way she can shower is by locking multiple children in her bedroom so that her taking a shower won't result in a trip to the ER. Superwoman could handle it all.  All the time.  Without fail.  There is no Superwoman here.

No one can do it all.  There is a danger in viewing someone as if they can can.  A danger of expecting too much, assuming too much, and of being shocked at their human reactions.  I do not want to be Superwoman, and I feel guilty each time I hear it.  To be called that name means that some other woman may think that they are not measuring up, or that a man would expect his wife to meet this faulty perception.  It means someone else might think that they are not "doing it all".  Well, I am not doing it all.  I run out of time every. day.  I put a movie in the DVD player in my room every night so that, when the little ones wake up before the sun, I can push play and go back to sleep as they trample my head.  I do not fix my hair.  Ever.  I do not give everyone the individual attention they need.  There is no Superwoman here to compare to.

I constantly look around at moms that have it together.  The ones that have houses to have guests in.  Have birthday cards attached to the presents at birthday parties.  Are dressed decently and look like they actually spent time to fix up.  The ones with nice nails.  The ones that can complete a sentence without sounding like a flaky fumbling loon.  Surely, they do not feel lonely, or need help, or feel overwhelmed.  Surely, they are the Superwomen.  Not I.  If I am, then we all are.  Anyone who can go to a restaurant and rattle off five independent, unique, complicated orders because they know their kids well enough to know exactly what each would like, is Superwoman.  But, this does not mean that she knows what she's doing... or that she should be expected to.  Or that she can do it alone.  It takes a village to raise a kid.  It takes a city to support a mom.

There is no Superwoman here.  Just me.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ivey and Olive's Big Day!

Last night was a landmark night for this mom.  It was the first time that I packed up four lunch bags.  Each and every one was packed up and ready to go... ready for Asa and Addison's day at the school house and for Ivey and Olive's first day of Play Pals.

We had a plan set months ago, and it went into action today.  The boys and I have to leave home at 8:15 in order to get to the school house.  Because I needed someone to watch the girls while we had two full days in school, and because I could not transport them to the church for Play Pals, Ivey's teacher, Gina, would take them.  Just like in our plan, Gina showed up at 8:00, Anna in tow.  She dropped off Anna for school with us, and picked up Ivey and Olive.  Off to school they went!  It did feel weird not to go to see them in their classrooms, and not to make it to Orientation for that matter, but it worked.  Honestly, Ivey was a whole lot less whiny without me taking her to class!

From the sound of it, both girls did great!  Ivey talked about how she loved Ms. Gina's class and how she signed and made some friends.  Olive would be happy just about anywhere, so I'm sure she had a blast!

At the end of Play Pals, Gina brought the girls home, put Olive down for a nap, and played with Ivey until I got home around 4:00.  Then, Gina took Anna home, and I quickly put all the work on the web for my students.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I feed the kids a quick early dinner after school and head out to exercise class by 6:00.  Ellen and I are doing a Zumba and a Hip Hop Class, and all the kids are going to the kids' room while we do.  It makes for very hectic days, but that one hour of "me" time is so nice! 

During this process, Addison manages to get to Randy and Linda's house (or they come and pick him up), so they can get him to Aikido class by 7:30.  We come home, I eat something, put my kids' work and chores on the board for the next morning, and try to straighten up and hopefully bathe.  It's a whirlwind of a day... twice a week! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Olive, the Climber.

Yeah, so we tend to go for a "document before discipline" approach.  These are nothing out of the ordinary for Miss Olive.