Monday, October 31, 2011

Letting Go

I enjoy Halloween.  It’s always fun to see people decorating their homes and watching the kids get excited for Halloween night.  What could be better?  Dressing up and then getting rewarded with candy at EVERY house.  Awesome!  I am not as crazy about the candy part as the kids are. 

One of the things that could make you crazy is decorating and “getting ready” for every flipping holiday that comes along.   While I do like Halloween I do not go crazy with the “getting ready.”  I remember when getting ready meant carving your pumpkin and making sure you had a candle for it.  Now people have pumpkins hanging from trees like ornaments.  Really?  Halloween ornaments?  And ghosts….and corn stalks….and webs…and lights…..and, and, and….  I am glad there are people who get into it but it puts the pressure on the rest of us losers who just want to carve one pumpkin and hand out candy.   

As a side bar….When we were at Disneyland one of my favorite rides in the past had been the haunted house.  Not so much now.  I never understood “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and that is what the whole thing is about now.   What they may have there is a good idea though.  Why not decorate for Scary ThanksMas?  It would save me a lot of frustration and time.  The season is a full 2 months long, it would save time putting stuff up and down and I would have less to store.  Just saying…..ponder that one. 

We try to make it to the pumpkin patch each year.  We take the dog and the kids out to Sauvie Island and do all the pumpkin patch stuff; hay rides, barrel cow ride pulled behind a tractor, pet the animals, corn maze, get a few decorative gourds, and a few pumpkins to carve.  I think there is only one year where we haven’t made it out there.  I know last year we went when I had the flu.  It was a mission of love to take the kids out there.  Bob was out of town and I was dying but nooOOOooo….  We had to go to the pumpkin patch.  What was I thinking? 

This year we added in a trip up to mom and Ed’s house.  They have a very sweet neighbor, Pat, who grows pumpkins and then Ed and Pat carve each one of their grandkid’s names and all the names of their neighborhood’s kids into pumpkins.  It’s really cute.  It was a fun trip but again, this takes time. 

In past years we have procured pumpkins for each of the kids and me.  We clean them out and carve them. Of course this means I end up carving 4 pumpkins because the kids lose interest. We put decorations up outside.  Not a whole lot but we have some blinking lights with scary noises, a small smoke machine, a spider web (or two) and a few spiders.  My favorite part is decorating the front window.  I make a haunted house cut out and the kids do the rest.  They make pumpkins, Frankensteins, ghosts, witches etc.  They are all very cute.  Coulter is more into making lots of stuff while Sophia is more exacting.  Kees is more of a pumpkin man.  I cut ‘em out, he decorates ‘em.  This takes about an hour or two. 

All total we spend about 2 hours decorating, a couple hours carving and maybe 3 hours at the pumpkin patch and this year 24 hours up at mom and Ed’s.  And the coup de grâce, Spookarama at the kids school last Friday night.  This is a quintessential NE Portland school event.  There are games, a cake walk and this year there was even a haunted house. It’s not that all that is a ton of time but it’s just more stuff to do.  Life gets so busy that it’s hard to add stuff to the daily and weekly regular schedule.  We have horse, soccer, art classes and mad science.  Soon, soccer ends but basketball will take its place.  It’s a never ending list of stuff to do.  And just as soon as all the stuff is put up it’s time to take it all down again just so we can decorate for Thanksgiving.  I feel like we have done a fair amount of preparation but is it the right amount?

Yesterday we had a lazy day.  We were all up until midnight on Saturday at a party.  Then we all slept in.  Bob and I watched a lot of football and the boys played and watched movies.  Sophia was at a friend’s.  It was great fun for all and very relaxing.  In the late afternoon I said, “We haven’t carved pumpkins yet.”  And there was a collective, “oh.”  Not a single one of my kids thought that carving pumpkins was that big of a deal.  Really?  Here I was thinking, “Bad mom.”  My kids were thinking, “No biggie.” 

I am still a bit conflicted.  I can’t believe we won’t have a pumpkin carved.  After I drove the kids to school I considered going to get a pumpkin and carving it.  But then I thought, “If they don’t care why do I?”  I don’t know.  I like tradition but it makes me crazy having to do all the stuff.  I am not going to carve a pumpkin but I feel a bit guilty about it.  I know that is ridiculous but I do.  I can’t remember a Halloween where I haven’t carved a pumpkin…until now.  I will have to let it go….maybe….I don’t know….sheesh.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tough Love?

Today is Friday the 14th of October. It is an in service day so my kids are out of school.  It is also the day my housekeeper comes. 

As most people who have a housekeeper know, you must clean the house for the housekeeper. Why?  Because if you have kids and they have toys there are toys all over the floor in their rooms and in the playroom. And if those toys have pieces, think Lego, Tinker toys, blocks, Playmobil, train sets etc. the housekeeper will just throw them into the closest bin of whatever.  The next time someone goes to use said toys the pieces are all over the place and mixed up with all the other toys.  That's no fun. need to make sure the toys are picked up and put in their proper place. Ultimately, it saves time and frustration. 

Two more pieces of information.  #1 - Sophia had a friend over to spend the night. #2 - It's hard for the housekeeper to clean the house when the kids are there.  Today I needed to make sure the house was picked up, that Sophia and her pal cleaned up their sleep over mess, that I had a plan that was fun for the kids and out of the house and that we were ready to walk out the door when the housekeeper got there at 10:00.  Check, check, check and check...... I thought. 

When the housekeeper arrived I needed to show her something upstairs. We went up and when I walked by Sophia's room it was a mess. There were clothes everywhere, art supplies all over and just general chaos. I had been trying to get everything in order for almost 2 hours. Her responsibilities were cleaning her room, cleaning up the sleepover stuff, eating breakfast (that I made), and getting dressed. This seemed reasonable for a 10 year old in a 2 hour time frame.  I was more than a little annoyed. This was about the 5th time I had asked her to get on it. 

When I came downstairs I yelled and told her to clean up her room. I said I was really mad. Then I went out to the car with the boys and left. I knew this would freak her out but I did it to make a point. It gave me space to calm down and made a point without yelling.  I'm sick of yelling.  I wasn't leaving for the day, I went to Starbucks and to the bank. Sophia, of course, thought I was so mad that we left for the day.

She called 3 times but my phone was in the car and the ringer was off. I called back within 2 minutes. I knew she'd be calling so I knew to check. She was hysterical.  She was sobbing and apologizing and begged me to come home. Of course I did. It was my plan all along. 

When I got home she was standing outside crying. "Mom, I'm so sorry. I'll do anything in the World to make it up to you....ANYthiiiiing." While a part of me was feeling really sorry for her, I remember being that sobbing 10 year old, the other part of me thought, "Good, I think she understood that I am serious."  It was nice to make a point without having to yell. 

During our car ride I talked to her. I told her that she needed to calm down. She said that when she called she thought I was driving and crying and that I had crashed. That's what she got out of me not answering my phone. I told her the reality was my ringer was off. 99% of the time that I didn't answer that was why.  She continued to be overly upset. I told her I was done and that she needed to calm down. I apologized for not telling her I was leaving. I told her I knew she was safe at home and that I needed a few minutes to calm down.  She finally did calm a bit.

When we arrived at the play place I held her hands, looked her in the eye and told her that no matter what I would always love her. I said that I don't like yelling and I needed a few minutes away to calm down myself. I expect to ask her to do things once and have that be respected. We then hugged. I asked her if we could start our day together over. She perked right up and said, "Good morning mom." and had a smile on her face. 

I don't know if I did the right thing. This is my first time being a mom, having 3 kids, having a girl and having a 10 year old. I know it's her job to subvert my ideas and requests and that it is and will be very frustrating. I know that in the years to come my frustration will increase before it decreases again.  I am doing the best that I can. I want to impress upon Sophia that I am serious without causing her harm.  I pray I did not cause her harm. I love her more than I ever understood a parent could love a child. I believe most parents feel the same way.  

I am trying to figure this parenting thing out and move through it with grace. Today I didn't have much grace.  And as soon as I think I've figured out how to work with Sophia, Coulter and Kees will be making me crazy. Actually they already have their moments. And if there ever comes a time when I think I have it all figured out they'll change or be off starting their own independent lives. 

We parents are challenged to do this job with essentially no training. We have only our parents as examples. Sometimes that's good and other times it isn't as helpful. 

When my generation was growing up the rules were different. Our parents could hit us or yell at us even out in public and no one even took notice.  The schools had a policy of corporal punishment and that was fine with our parents.  We were left in the car when they went into a store. I remember because one time I burnt my finger on the cigarette lighter in the car when I was 6. I never did tell my mom. We were left at home alone at a young age. We didn't attend music classes, gymnastics, horse lessons or much of any other lessons until we were at least in Jr. High. We walked to school alone or with a buddy and we did it in rain, snow, hail or heat and it didn't even occur to us to call a parent to pick us up.  We spent our summers outside from breakfast to dinner time. Our parents didn't know where we were or what we were doing. We climbed trees and took risks that would have made our parents throw up if they saw the danger we were in. We didn't use sun screen or hand sanitizer.  We talked to strangers. We threw rocks and pine cones at each other and used garbage can lids as shields.  Yes, yes, it was a different time.

So many of these things would be illegal today. Most of it would not be tolerated by society. I get sideways looks for letting Sophia climb tall trees. Please, I was a champion tree climber. I get it. 

So all that information is just to point out that it's different now.  That the "training" we received doesn't necessarily apply to our kids. And, it was that way for our parents. When my mom was a kid she started working. There was nothing wrong with child labor. So they did the best they could while raising us as well. 

I know this has been a lot of rambling but I needed to write it all down. I want to be a loving, helpful mom and I also want respect. I don't want to yell but I do want to make my point. I need help from my kids with their things and our house. I want them to have fun but I want them to understand that their fun takes my time, money, patience and love. I am not going to a play place because it's fun for me. I am going because I love them. I do not want the process of going to the place to be excruciating. What will not be fun for me anyway becomes almost unbearable if they don't cooperate.  That is what I want them to know.  And I do believe that Sophia will be very cooperative the next time we are headed out to do something fun.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


My mom has wanted to go on a big trip with our family for a while. The last time we went on a big trip was 3 years ago when we went to Mexico for a week. It was great fun but any big trip like that is expensive so they’re hard to do. In January she talked to me about going to Disneyland with our family. She funded a good portion of the trip so how could I say no? I couldn’t. The kids are only little once and it does pass pretty quickly.

We planned this trip in January, bought the tickets in February, kept it from the kids until August and finally went on our trip in October. Here was my only dilemma…….


When these two ideas clash, less crowds will win over school days every time. What is the point in going to the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH if you can’t have fun because you are spending all your time in line? There would not be a point, at least not for me.

The decision was made last February that we would pull the kids out of school for a good time. Done. It’s a good thing too because even with school in session Disneyland was quite busy. They say it was at 50%. If that is the case I pray that I am never there on a busy day. That would be torture.

We left Portland on Sunday the 2nd and flew into the John Wayne airport. We rented a van and went to our hotel, the Meridian Inn and Suites. It was great. We had a refrigerator and a microwave which were key in our saving money scheme. There were doors between the bedroom and the living room which was key in our sanity scheme. Breakfast was included and we were only 3 miles from Disneyland. Wahoo!!!

On Sunday night we drove over to Downtown Disney for dinner and to get a lay of the land. It was a good way to start our adventure. We had dinner at the Rain Forrest Café. The food was mediocre at best but the atmosphere was fun and the kids were thrilled. They thought it was great and that is what this was all about.

After dinner we wandered around Downtown Disney. There is so much to see and so many places that your kids want you to spend all your money! The Lego Store was a top priority for the boys so we spent quite a bit of time there. Before we left each one of the kids got $65.00 to spend on whatever they wanted. The boys each got a small Lego set. Sophia bought a glass lion. We managed to get out of there without buying anything else. That was no small feat! We then waited around until 9:30 to see the fireworks. Mom and I wanted to see them and it was the only night that would have fireworks while we were there. Bob and Kees....they weren't as excited.

Monday morning it was time to go to the one, the only….DISNEYLAND!!! Everyone was excited. We had studied the maps, downloaded the apps, packed a lunch and were ready to roll. We had a bit of a bump in the road when Kees got a kink in his neck. It seems strange to see a 6 year old kid holding his neck and crying. It was really hurting him. We plied him with meds, let him rest up for a few minutes and then we were off.

The first order of the day was to find Mickey. We hopped on the train and went to the far side of the park to Mickey’s house. It’s a strange place and I wouldn’t want to be in there on any serious kind of meds. I mean you could really trip out. At the end of the trek through Mickey’s house you get to have your picture taken with Mickey. We were shuttled into a room and there he was! We all smiled and had a great group photo shoot with Mickey. He was thrilled….and we were too. The obligatory picture with Mickey was done now it was PARTY TIME.

The next few days all blur together. I know that we spent the first bit of time in Toontown and then went on A Small World. Over the next few days we were all over the place. The kids LOVED Autotopia. Autotopia is little gas powered cars that are on a track. The adults pressed the gas pedals and the kids steered….as best they could. Sophia’s driving did not excite me about her being 16 too soon. She was banging our car left and right. I was laughing….hard. Sophia was annoyed with me.

One of the highlights for Sophia and Kees was their Jedi training. Coulter did NOT want to do it. There was training about 4 times per day. When you get over there you have to be picked. The "instructors" go through a routine and the kids learn the basics. Then, when you least expect it, Darth Vader and Darth Maul show up. It's a good thing those kids were trained. Kees took down Darth Vader and Sophia took Darth Maul.

We all went on Space Mountain. While most of us survived it without trauma, the boys were NOT interested in going on that again. Star Tours was a group favorite. I didn’t realize until our 2nd “tour” but each one of the little rooms or whatever you go in / on, are different. It’s in 3-D and really fun.

Mom and Ed’s favorite ride was the Indiana Jones Ride. While we loved it, apparently it is a problem child for Disney. It breaks down all the time. We went there first thing in the morning one day and went straight in. When we got all the way in it was announced that it was closed. Bummer….except that the guy who announced that it was closed had a little trivia contest. If you guessed one of the questions right you got a pass to go to the front of the line of ANY ride. Mom got one right and we got a pass. Yippie. The ride was open about 20 minutes later and we went on a wild ride. Very cool ride. Again, the boys were not interested in going again. We took our pass and headed straight for the Matterhorn. On the way we picked up a Fast Pass to Star Tours. The beauty of using our VIP pass on the Matterhorn is there is no Fast Pass for that ride. It’s one of the few. AND….the wait for the Matterhorn seemed to always be an hour or more. See above…I hate waiting in long lines.

Everyone seemed to like the Matterhorn especially the boys. They were thrilled and wanted to go on it again immediately. I had to explain the line thing and that we couldn’t just hop the line any ole time we wanted AND it was time to go on Star Tours again. Good times. Some other favorites were Astro Blasters, Splash Mountain, Small World and the Jungle Cruise. Splash Mountain was one of our last rides and Sophia, who was in the front of the boat / log got soaked. Ask her about it. It was hilarious.

Kees was pretty funny when we came out of It’s A Small World. He was singing the song but replacing Small with Big because……”Mom, it’s a big world. There were 13 worlds in there.” The kid counted every room we went in. I don’t know if he was accurate or not but he is definitely Bob’s kid.

We caught the raucous Mickey’s Soundsational Parade at the end of two of our days there. It was LOUD but lots of fun. All the major characters were there.

On our last day we went to California Adventure first and went straight to the TOWER OF TERROR. Again, the boys said, “No way.” Grandma took them to the Bugs Life area and Bob, Ed, Sophia and I went into the tower. There was no line so I was really happy. This ride is a total riot…..I LOVED it. It tells a story of some people who were shocked to death in a Twilight Zone type event. Then you get in the elevator, an elevator with seat belts. It shoots you up about 15 stories, the elevator doors open to the outside and then drops you the same 15 or so floors. It was hilarious. You go totally weightless for about 3 seconds. My purse was hovering in front of my face. When it was over Sophia and I got right back on. Awesome.

We also hit the Muppet 3-D show. Cute. And we went on Flying over California. It made mom sick from the motion. We all liked it though, all except for the feet hanging over our heads. It’s a pretty cool ride. Lastly we went on the Grizzly River Run where I got soaked. Not such a big deal except that I was wearing white pants….that were fairly see through when wet. Yeah, that was a pretty picture.

California Adventure was not the same as Disneyland and we weren’t feelin’ it so we went back to the land…it is much better. We spent 90% of our time at Disneyland and loved almost every minute of it.

In the last moments we bought a few souvenirs and trinkets. We spent a few last moments in Downtown Disney and then headed home to the hotel for a swim. My feet were killing me. Yikes.

We did take one day off from Disney when we were in California. It’s a good thing too because it rained REALLY HARD and that is coming from someone who lives in the rain belt. Mom, Ed, Sophia and I went to check out the Chrystal Cathedral. It was pretty cool even in the rain. The docent there was charming and we were all impressed by the GIANT pipe organ. I honestly can say I have never seen an organ that big and my church in Atlanta had 18,000 members. We also did homework, saw a movie and went out for dinner that day. It was fun and relaxing day.

Friday was pack up, check out and fly home day. It went quickly and fairly painlessly. Our kids were good travelers and our grandparents were great companions. We got along all week and had a really successful adventure. For me it went pretty quickly. It wasn’t a relaxing trip but it was definitely fun. 3 days at Disneyland was perfect for our family. I think it was a bit long in the “land” for Mom and Ed. They were there to spend time with the kids, not to go on rides and such. I was impressed that they were right there the whole time and went on every ride. Mom skipped a couple but Ed didn’t miss a thing. And that part worked out well too. When mom didn’t want to go on a ride it was generally one that the boys didn’t want to ride either so we all had someone with us or someone to watch over. Perfect! Thanks again to Mom and Ed for being a major sponsor of this event. We wouldn’t have gone if it were not for your encouragement and enthusiasm. I hope this is a trip that we all remember and hold onto for a very long time.