50 shades of RED

I am blond. I don’t mean I’m stupid blond or I’m vain blond or I only wear high heels because I’m blond…

Oh wait.

Anyway, there are levels of blondness that have nothing to do with hair color. There are plenty of heads out there who purchase their blond from a salon or a drug store. It’s like a virus. Sometimes it’s just seasonal, a few highlights for summer, but sometimes it’s bacterial and those are really hard to get rid of. And rightfully, in some cases heads are adopted in because they have been blond for so long hey no longer know the real color of their hair. That’s legit. True blond right there.

I am in that rare group of Dark Blond with White eyebrows. This has allowed me to take certain bleaching liberties with my hair color that, due to the colorless shade of my unruly eyebrows, has meant I can legally sport all sorts of shockingly blond shades.

In the past I’ve been known to have PTSD if a stylist accidentally takes me too dark. I’m that kind of blond.

Until now.

Something has come over me. I woke up a few months ago, looked in the mirror and decided that the blond needed to go. Then I slapped myself and took a Prosaic because, come on. Who doesn’t want to be blond? It’s obviously the most superior shade in the universe and is known to bring wealth and happiness to all who come in contact with it. Ask Marilyn and her long list of scantily clad derivatives.

But this feeling wouldn’t let me go. It was time to do something different so I…

Went dark blond.

Big step. Kind of freaked me out a little.

I lived with my new dark blond locks for about two months before I finally decided to make a pinterest board and clear some of those unwanted red thoughts from my head.

Of course it just made me want it more.

So I did it. I went to my amazing hair girl Bree, who just happens to be brilliant with red and has turned half the girls at church into flame heads, and gave her the go to color me red. I’ve been living with it for 6 weeks now and I think that despite it’s rapidly fading qualities (happens when blonds go red) I kind of love it.

I went in this weekend and she recolored me red. This time I had her go a bit darker and ditched the blond highlighs so I could hold color longer. When I got  home my kids wanted to know who I was and when their blond mother was coming back. I’m rocking the Rasberry for at least 7 more washes.

Sadly, one of my sisters did not believe that it was real, Jenny in particular needed something more than a measly snap shot. So at 11:30 pm I made a little video to prove that yes, it’s red and yes, it’s real. If you are doubtful of my redness, check out the link.

Okay, I just checked the link. It’s really stupid so please don’t feel the need to watch it. Seriously. I made it for my sister when I was tired and silly and it should never be posted public anywhere.

 

When Dad is gone

You know, four years ago Jason was gone for work all the time. I can vividly remember sobbing against the garage wall with four screaming kids in the car and nights where I wanted to give myself an emotional epidural because it was all so exhausting.

But now that they’re all older it’s usually so much better. We pull together (kind of) and attempt to foster a togetherness-rocks kind of attitude. This method works at least 7% of the time so I can’t say it’s a complete waste of time.

I especially like our Family Circle of Love where we all stand and hold hands together for family prayer. Jason hates this and thinks it’s hoaky and refuses to participate when he’s home. I save it for his TDY’s.

After listening to General Conference I’m trying really hard to implement a few more Get The Kids To Heaven If I Have To Drag Them There Myself routines in hopes of giving them habits that might, if they’re lucky, help them through all this frequently difficult Earthly crap. Yes, there are moments of loveliness but really? Lots of dog poo to pick up and plenty of time warming the Repentance Bench.

Tonight I was attempting to study the scriptures with Harrison who was being totally sweet and receptive when June decided to Strike. This means her father has been gone for more than 72 hours and she misses him. It usually presents itself with some sort of destructive, disobedient act that brings out my inner Mother Monster.

I asked her three times to go up and put on jammies and get into bed so I could come snuggle. The third time I warned that if she did not obey, there would be NO snuggling. She came downstairs five minutes later with a paper mustache and little pointy devil beard taped to her face. I am not even kidding.

I might have screamed her up three flights of stairs before reverently returning to read the Bible with my OTHER child.

Three stories below her I could hear the damage in her room. I gave her ten minutes to calm down before I started hearing unsettling noises in her bathroom and had to take action.

She had ripped all the pictures off her walls and was tearing our bathroom apart in a completely wild way, having a full-blown meltdown.

She’s six and honestly, I wanted to kill her. No really, it’s a good thing I had just come from reading the scriptures or I might have tossed her out the top story window I was so angry.

Instead I calmly moved her back to her bed and informed her that if she got off again I was taking her to stay with someone else. And I totally meant it. Almost instantly I thought of how nice it would be to farm her out while Jason was gone. Kind of horrible of me isn’t it?

We calmed down and prayed together and she apologized a lot for her behavior. I went and got some of our snake oils to rub on her feet and we talked post-bad behavior talk.

I guess sometimes this whole mommy thing is really hard. Right when I think we’ve totally got this under control with Jason being gone she reminds me that, um, not really. Jason will be gone for four months this fall, slated to go right after we move our family halfway around the world.

Not looking forward to it.

Traveling with kids: Never teach them the local language

Lots of different trips, lots of different places, dozens of countries and towns and cities but one thing is certain…

England is my favorite.

Maybe it’s that this is the first place we’ve traveled where I spoke the language and didn’t feel like an idiot every time I opened my mouth. Believe me, that gets old. It was like they were impressed that I could communicate with an American accent and apparently all Americans are from Texas. Most other countries we visit I feel like an uneducated interloper because I can’t communicate. I actually conversed with the natives on this trip, it was amazing.

Then again, I realized that having kids that speak the local language in public isn’t such a great thing.

Frequently heard phrases from the children on this trip:

“I wish I was the only one in our family,” “Can I have some candy?” “Why did we have to bring her?” “Did you buy any candy?” “No, it’s MY turn to hold Mommy’s hand!” “I think I’m gonna throw up…” “I need to use the bathroom right NOW!” “I think I pooped my pants a little,” “He sneezed on me again!” “Don’t puke on me!” “Who ate all the candy?”

This trip was epic. Mostly because all four kids rotated through the three-day, coming-out-of-both-ends, possibly candy related, flu. We threw a lot of undies away on this trip. By the end I think every kid had ruined at least two pair and no way was I carting those babies around with us. We stayed at 5 hotels on this trip and the children christened each one with vomit. This bug would not let up, it followed us all the way home and then some.

On day 6 we finally made it to London. Our first stop was the much anticipated Wicked matinee. Up to this point Jason and I had both been exempt from said flu but let’s just say the show really moved me. During the intermission I had to run to the bathroom. Unfortunately so did 200 other females including my two little daughters. The bathroom was wall to wall people waiting for a stall and I needed a little…privacy.

I made June use the next stall over but Georgia was having none of it so she had to follow me in. After a moment she started to converse with me.

“Mama,” Georgia (3) says really loudly, “I think you gots DY-AH-WEE-AH…”

“Georgia, shhh!!”

“What? I can heew youw DY-AH-WEE-AH and…ooh!!! I can thmew youw DY-AH-WEE-AH! That is weawy thtinky!”

“Georgia, stop!”

BAM BAM BAM!

“Mom!?” June (6) trying to get in, BAM BAM BAM “Are you STILL in there? You’ve been in there for HOURS!”

“SHE GOTS DY-AH-WEE-AH JUNIE! Wemembew that I had DY-AH-WEE-AH too?!”

“Oh!” June yells back, “We ALL had diarrhea this week Georgia, not just YOU! I had it FIRST!” Because obviously this is something to be proud of.

We might have missed the beginning of the second act so I could escape with a little dignity.

That was Rex’s worst day of flu. At dinner a gentleman asked, “So where are you from?”

Rex (8) leans really close and says, “We’re from Germany, but I’ve got the flu. I threw up twice today!”

“Ah,” I quickly interrupted and kind of lied my head off. “We had a long car trip, he gets really car sick.” This is true, Rex does get car sick and we were in the car a lot. I reminded the kids again to not talk about such things in public.

Waste of breath.

That night on the Tube it was wall to wall people and no one would give up a seat for our family. 35 minutes crammed in like sardines meant I couldn’t get close enough to supervise this conversation. Clustered around one center pole, they were the only ones talking out loud and they all inherited my vocal projection gene so I’m pretty sure everyone heard it.

“Boy,” Rex says, “I sure had that flu bug today! I threw up two times!”

“Yeah,” June says, “But I had the flu FIRST. I puked all over the bathroom in our cabin, remember? AND I pooped two pairs of undies!”

“Hey guys,” Harry (10) says, “Remember last night when I barfed up all that McDonald’s food? McDonald’s queso!”

“EWW!!”

And the fun didn’t stop there.

Right when you think your kids can’t embarrass you any more…they do. The next night on the tube I sat next to a nice English girl, not overly attractive, with Georgia on my lap. I struck up a conversation and we chatted for about 15 minutes when Georgia finally started to get friendly.

“Wow,” the girl says, “She’s such a nice little girl!”

“Thanks,” I proudly agreed, “She’s a sweetheart, she really gives us no trouble.”

“Yes,” Georgia importantly piped in addressing the girl, “And I think you fowgot to bwush youw teeth today!”

Silence. Horrible, awful silence. I kind of wanted to die and I’m pretty sure the girl with the yellow teeth wanted to die as well.

I suddenly remembered all those “funny” Little Annie stories my mother tells and for the first time, they weren’t very funny.

Needless to say I was completely relieved that the doors opened and she gave me a hasty farewell.

Traveling with kids. Such a kill and such a joy.

Because living in Europe is not perfect

I know that living over here in Europe and car hiking through grown up Disneyland is amazing. I love it, really I do. We are moving in two months and part of me is heartbroken. The villages and castles and locals and all the things that make this such an amazing experience.

But man am I fat.

I have got to get out of this place, it is officially killing me probably with heart disease which I think comes from eating too much. If I eat one more brat or frikkadel or frikken anything I’m pretty sure I will explode. At least my pants will explode. Oh whatever, I only wear elastic waist these days anyway.

I can’t bring myself to tell you what the post-England vacation scale told me this morning because the number was so bad I almost barfed, and not from bulimia. I really need a diet friend so I’m going to get chummy with myfitnesspal and get skinny before I move to Vegas where people don’t wear any clothing. Because there aren’t enough clothes to hide all this.

The worst part is the up and down I’ve experienced over here. It looks something like this: Go on vacation, gain 8 pounds. Come home, lose 6 pounds. Go on vacation, gain 8 pounds, come home, lose 6 pounds. If you take 12 vacations over the course of 3 years…you can do the math. It’s so depressing. And yes, I’m a big whiny baby who has nothing to complain about except, I kind of do. Dieting is not easy when you go someplace and they have something amazing to eat that you know you’ll never try again…so you eat 3 helpings of it. One for you, one for your mother, and the one your kid refused to touch because it was “foreign.”

Have I mentioned that we still have two vacations to go on? Stupid vacations.

To any friends or family members who wish they lived here, let me make you feel better. It comes with a price. No one speaks the language and if they do, they drive on the wrong side of the road. Recycling is awesome but I have four garbage cans in my kitchen. They only collect our one little “real” trash can twice a month.

When my husband is in Japan on business and the neighborhood internet goes down there is no one to call and I can’t ask our neighbors because they don’t speak English.

With security checks and base traffic, I have to drive half an hour to get to a post office.

I have to drive half an hour to pick the kids up from school.

I have to drive an hour and a half to spend two hours with my girl Christy, then drive an hour and a half home to get the kids off the bus. And I do.

In order to get the car oil changed in my German wonder car I have to drive 45 minutes to an auto parts store, use sign language and tears until I can get someone to help me find and buy the correct filter, drive another 15 minutes to wait in line for an hour (engine off no matter how hot or cold), and then, when I’m ready to run someone over, I finally get my turn in the waiting room. Last time it took them over an hour.

I get to do that today.

So yes, living here is awesome. And yes, I will move back to the states and be happy for my skinny, easy access, English speaking, large roadway, Jiffy Lube American way of life.

And just for the record, Europeans aren’t skinny. They’re just not obese. Kind of like me right now.

 

Statistics say people without children are happier

I went to a home party at my girlfriend’s house this weekend. Unlike most social events I attend this one came with a room full of strangers. When I got there I didn’t know a single soul aside from the hostess. But hey, no biggie. I love new people and pride myself in my ability to talk to anybody (except that one checker at the grocery store who runs when he sees me head toward his line).

There are specific steps to these situations in order to avoid social outcast status. Step one, take ten minutes to just learn names. When I first ask a name and talk to someone I pretty much ignore what they say and only look for opportunities to interject with said new name. “Really Mary? Wow Mary, that’s so funny. Is Mary short for Marianne?” People like their names.

Step two is to feel out the social dynamic. Here’s the thing about being a stay-at-home mom. I socialize with people at the school, the park, those who do mid-morning grocery shopping, nurses, home repairmen, and the old German man who lives down the street. I rarely (never) attend gatherings of professional women (the kind who work during the day).

So when I found myself in a room full of girls who fit the twenty-something medical professional stereotype I was surprisingly…quiet. I am super proud of my messy kids. I’m an educated woman who writes professionally for a living (when I’m not sewing or wasting time on laundry or being mostly lazy) but that’s just something I can say to sound good.

The reality is simple. With four kids in tow I am the quintessential Mama.

We sing in the car, I keep suckers in my purse, I eat a lot of sandwich crusts, I know the value of supplying sun glasses to a grumpy toddler in a grocery store, and I haven’t had a boss or a co-worker in ten years. My Pinterest boards include topics like preschool and hair bows (also too lazy to make), I mostly can’t have a conversation that doesn’t include something like, “Well last week when the kids got home from school…” because my kids are the most interesting thing about my life. Without them what would I talk about?

So I stood at the sink and listened to the conversations around me. The first was a group of girls to my left who were going off on women who dye their hair red and how sick they are of it.

After wearing 50 shades of blond I have officially been a red head for three weeks now. Not going to join that conversation.

The girls across the kitchen from me were talking about melding back into the single life after a break-up. Nope, got nothing there.

Finally I tuned into the girls on my right and woohoo! They were talking about babies. I leaned in and started to join the conversation when I heard this statement:

“All the research shows that it’s a statistically proven fact that people without kids are much happier than people with kids.”

Gah. No where to run.

This topic quickly drew everyone in and we listened as one of the girls proclaimed the values of living a child-free life. She was so convincing in her rhetoric that I found myself imagining the cleanliness of a home without markers and mud, quiet dinners with Jason where we don’t have to talk about elbows or slurping or burping or ear buds at the table. And for crying out loud, the simplicity of laundry for two.

At this point I hadn’t really come out of the closet with the extent and size of my litter and was considering reintroducing myself as Marsha, a visiting waitress from Detroit because obviously that would be preferable.

I’m relieved to say that these thoughts only passed through my head for a few moments. I looked around and was surprised to see so many bobbing heads, like this idea of a life without children is the new thing (which is obviously true since WE’RE ALL HERE). And suddenly I thought of something.

“You know,” I said, interrupting her well laid arguments, “It’s definitely a thought…” And then I told them about my afternoon.

June came home from kindergarten on Friday and burst through the door to hug me.

“Mommy,” she said, “Were you happy today?” This was an odd question but she is a girl. I had to smile because actually, I was happy. I specifically remembered driving out of the garage and feeling a nice little burst of happy just because I could. I don’t know, maybe it’s the new red hair.

“I was, June, I was very happy today.”

“Oh Mommy, I’m so glad! I prayed all during recess that you would be happy today.”

I don’t know what happy looked like before June because moments like this have completely ruined me for solitude. I’m pretty sure I’m statistically happier now than I was before she got here.

Pastry hangover

The only thing harder than leaving your kids for a getaway with your lover is having to come back home to them. Our weekend in Paris was not long enough. I will not bore you with any more of my isn’t-Paris-amazing soap box ranting. We went, we french kissed, and I ate an apple cart’s worth of pastries.

When we pulled into the driveway on Sunday night I could hear the wailing over Big Green’s woofing diesel engine. June and Georgia came flying out of the house sobbing hysterically about every single boo boo they had incurred during our 48-hour separation. We finally got everyone to bed but by 10:00 I hit my fifth wind and couldn’t sleep. I stayed up until midnight–big Texas sized mistake.

Yesterday morning I woke up with what can only be described as a pastry hangover. I’ve been off the processed white stuff and fake sugars for a while now so a weekend of binging like a runner-up beauty queen the day after the pageant really didn’t sit well with my body. I was absolutely wiped.

By the time the evening hit and I’d played catch-up with house and home (complete with frequent bouts of snuggling Georgia) I was trashed. Don’t ask me how Jason was able to function so well yesterday, the man is obviously made of steel. By dinner time the kids were crying again, I was  yelling again, the food was overcooked and under seasoned and no one would cooperate and set the table. June was taunting Harry, Harry was bothering Rex, Georgia was face down on the tile floor crying about one of her babies and I wanted to jump right back on the Ice Train and go back to Paris.

Once Jason got inside things settled down about 4%. But our meal was miserable, the kids talked over each other and June threw a fit, it was late and everyone needed baths. I was determined that if ever there was a night to skip Family Home Evening it was last night. To bath and to bed, Mama was done.

But Rex was equally determined to be all righteous and insisted we at least have a song and a game.

“Fine,” I told them all once they were clean and jammied, “One game but that’s it, then you’re all going to bed.”

But halfway through Rex’s surprisingly good game called, “What’s the difference?” (he’d draw two pictures and ask everyone to tell what the differences were between the two objects) Harrison leaned over.

“Mom,” he whispered, “Can I do the spiritual thought? I’ve got an idea.” What was I supposed to say to that? No? Please don’t share anything about Jesus with the rest of us because I’m not in the mood?

“As long as you can find a scripture to go with your topic before Rex is finished you can do whatever you want.”

30 seconds later Rex stepped down and Harrison took the stage. He then proceeded to give us a lesson on fasting, including reading from the New Testament about Christ fasting, and then thought of an object lesson to go along with it all. He drew a clock on the black board with a time, like 12:35. Then he asked the little kids to give a thumbs up or thumbs down  on whether it was ok to eat at that time on Fast Sunday.

His father and I were mostly speechless. Seriously, who are these little people?

Last night I failed as a parent. Thank goodness my kids have each other, there is hope yet.

 

One more reason not to die

Last week I got sick. Really sick. The kind of sick where you make yourself a coleslaw salad for lunch…and an hour later you never want to eat one ever again. Not pretty coming up, just saying.

I was so sick that I actually had to call my husband to come home from work and field the kids. This is a major taboo in our household. One of Jason’s best qualities is the way he never brings work home. The flip side of that is the neon “Do Not Disturb” sign he wears around his neck any time I get near him in his working environment. This especially applies to unscheduled sickness on my part. He hates it when I’m sick.

Note to self: Never get a chronic illness.

The afternoon was a haze of puking and sleeping and trying to not die. I have a vague memory of Jason coming home and stomping around our bedroom and sighing really loudly in a futile attempt to guilt me into a miraculous recovery but I was mostly gone. I put the pillow over my head and tried to be one with the bed.

I finally pulled myself out of bed around 6 pm and crawled to the recliner to recline. Shortly thereafter Jason brought all the kids home from their various activities and, of course, they came rushing up the stairs to see if I was still breathing.

I might as well have been a corpse, the weeping and wailing over my ailment was so fierce.

“Oh Mommy!” June cried, “You can’t be sick, you just can’t! If you’re sick who will brush our hair? Daddy never brushes our hair–” sob sob sob “and no one will EVER make us lunches again! Don’t DIE!” I might add that this monologue was given while both June and Georgia attacked my lap and my head, crying and clinging and hugging and patting. It did not help my nausea.

That night when it came time for the girls to go to bed I succumbed to their anxious pleas and agreed to lie on their bed and snuggle. But man, I felt horrible. I crawled up the top flight of stairs and collapsed between them.

In no time little hands were patting my back and stroking my head while my girls talked to each other about my state of semi-death.

“Junie, ohhhh, poor Mommy, what do you think is wrong with her?” Obviously my previous explanations held absolutely no weight.

“Georgia, she’s sick! Shh, she just needs to go to sleep.” Pat pat stroke stroke kiss kiss. “Hey!” June continued, “I know! Let’s say a prayer for Mommy that she can feel better!”

I smiled through the fog as both my girls snuggled up really tight and June started to pray for me.

“Heavenly Father…” she started then stopped. I waited to see what the hold up was and then realized she couldn’t continue because she was crying. “We love our mommy so much, and she’s such a good mommy, please help her feel better so she can brush our hair and make us food and take care of us, we don’t want another Mommy!”

At that point all three of us were bawling. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so incredibly loved by anyone, these little girls are my precious gems and I can’t imagine how lonely my life would be without them.

Considering how many times they change their clothes every day and all the laundry they’ve added to my life, it’s nice to enjoy the occasional Mommy perk. It’s not perfect and routinely comes with vomit, but it’s worth it.

 

Valentine’s Day and company

This was our 15th Valentine’s Day which for me is as or more important than our upcoming 15th wedding anniversary.

I suffer from Valentine’s Day anxiety every year. Should I plan something? Is he planning something? Should I tell him that I want to plan something to make sure something gets planned or should I let the chips fall and see if he comes through and plans on his own, and possibly I end up feeling let down because I didn’t make a plan? So many, many variables and in my world it’s an important holiday that has nothing to do with my last name.

Okay maybe a little bit.

Valentine’s Day overlapped with our President’s Day weekend trip to Berlin this year. A week before the big day Jason and I made a joint decision to leave at noon on Friday–thus ensuring that our romance would be thoroughly chaperoned for the entire weekend.

Awesome. A weekend trip in the minivan with four kids hyped up on chocolate. I was pretty sure the 7 hour car ride was going to be unfortunately void of any heavy petting or unscheduled make out stops. Bathroom stops aplenty, but it wasn’t shaping up to add any romance to my life.

But that’s okay because I had previously hatched my own little Valentine’s plan that had nothing to do with the February 14th weekend. While I was in Paris my girl Christy and I came up with a brilliant scheme that would absolve us from having to plan the V Day date while still making sure our men (and ourselves) ended up totally spoiled and delightfully surprised.

And so I began to gather trinkets for Jason’s box. I bought a gold lock and key from the hardware store then had it engraved with “J & A Forever.”  We all know the only thing better than jewelry is cheesy engraved jewelry. I added some chocolates, a little Eifel tower, a calendar for March with three of the days X’d out…you get the picture. Everything in the box hinted at an upcoming vacation.

The day before Valentine’s Day Jason took me out to lunch for an early celebration. Honestly, I was so wrapped up in what I was giving him that I didn’t really give lunch a second thought. It’s not like we were going anywhere special, as far as I was concerned the entire weekend was simply postponed.

I was just about to get out of my car at the restaurant when my handsome man pulled up beside me and rolled down his window. “Wait in the car,” he said, “I’ve got a surprise for you.”

There is more power in those six little words than I care to admit. I think I started tearing up and pitting out before he even parked and got back to the car. Were we going to skip lunch and go make out somewhere? Had he bought me flowers? Chocolates? Made me a mix tape? Named a star after me? I had talked myself out of any expectations, which is the only smart thing a girl can do in these instances, and was therefore stunned that he had remembered me.

That sounds ridiculous but it’s totally true.

He climbed in the passenger side with a brown paper package and closed the door. A brown paper package, four more words every girl loves. I tore the paper off and…there it was.

Jason had spent last Saturday morning at the framing center matting and framing my undergrad diploma. He hadn’t just framed it, he’d gone through over a dozen years of loose photos and hunted down pictures from my graduation day, taken in the prehistoric-non-digital era, and double matted them with the diploma in one gorgeous gold frame. Then he wrote me a letter. Letters from Jason are kind of like unicorns so when I get one it’s a big deal.

When Jason asked my dad to marry me my father had one stipulation: that I finish my education and get a bachelors. Jason took that promise to heart and after he graduated with his bachlor’s, he stayed for an entire extra year, even though he was already in his mid-twenties and anxious to start graduate school, and worked at a water softener job so that I could stay and finish my education like he had promised.

That’s love. Doing something hard because you love someone, waiting the long wait because you love someone, remembering that their future is as important as your future…that’s love.

Honestly, after his amazing and heartfelt gift my little upcoming vacation felt pale and whimsical. Then again, whimsical is one of my favorite ways to do love so I  mushed on. On Friday at noon I parked myself in front of his office 5 minutes early, quickly recorded a little reworded diddy with my uke and posted it to him on youtube, then waited.

See diddy here…

He kind of loved it.

Our weekend wasn’t anything like most of our Valentine’s Day celebrations because we were barely alone. The kids were jumping on our bed and turning on the light by 6:30 every morning, there might have been a few fist fights and at least 8 melt downs, most of them involved the children, and for the first year ever there were no flowers (kind of had issues about that but I worked through them).

Love doesn’t always have to be some new adventure, it doesn’t have to be edible or showy or involve ice train tickets to Paris. This year I remembered how much Jason loves me. It was enough.

Tough Love

So Friday we brought the hammer down on Harrison. He’s ten and fifth grade has been academically wonderful this year. He’s been responsible and made the honor roll (a first) and we really love this kid. There is laughter every single day with him around and I thoroughly enjoy being his mom.

Until this month. For some reason he’s been handing us an assortment of really stupid lies. It’s starting to be a habit and I’m worried about it.

I went in with him last Monday to get something from the classroom and had a little chat with his teacher. Apparently he didn’t just drop the ball on his big term pioneer report due at the end of the quarter, he didn’t even show up for the game. He got a big fat zero and took his social studies grade from an A to a C as fast as you can say Lewis and Clark.

We had a very pointed discussion with his teacher and he hemmed and hawed and tried to be a victim until I pinned him down and made him apologize for his overall lack of responsibility. It was hard, he didn’t want to say it. He committed himself to a new leaf and we moved on.

Thursday morning I went through his backpack and found two unfinished worksheets.

“What are these?” I asked.

“Oh…uh…those are from last quarter, they don’t count.” I watched his nose grow 14 inches and tried again.

“Okay, I’ll just email your teacher and clarify that math 5.5 and 5.6 are no longer due.”

“Oh, wait, let me look at those again.” Seriously. “Wait, I think we did 5.7 yesterday so those are probably still due.”

I did not explode. I did not rip his ear off. I did not huff, puff or kick his butt to the bus stop. Why? Because his sweet father intervened.

“Okay,” Jason said placing a firm hand on my shoulder, “Thank you for telling us the truth, son.” Forced truth. “Today after school at the library while you wait for me, you will have just over an hour to finish both those worksheets. That’s plenty of time, right?”

“Yeah…”

“Good,” Jason said. “I will check them as soon as I pick you up.”

At 6:00 I picked Harrison up from basketball practice. “So,” I said, “Let me see those worksheets.”

“Oh…um…I didn’t have time–” you know the rest of this. But did I yell? No. Did I maim? No. Did I take away his birthday or his dog or his bed? No.

“Look,” I said, “We have scouts so you will have to get up early and do those in the morning.”

“No problem, Mom. I’ll do them.”

The next morning he did not finish the worksheets in time for the 7:15 bus ride so Jason offered to take him in an hour late.

And Harrison? He closed himself in his room and I caught him using a calculator. My patience was about tissue thin at that point so I  demanded he sit in the middle of the family room and work on his homework  where I could see him.

And what do you think he did? He sat there and pouted and cried and accused us of overall child abuse and lamented his horrible life. When the hour was done I went over to check his work. “Where’s the other sheet?” I asked.

“What sheet?” he said.

“5.6? The OTHER SHEET?!”

“There was no other sheet.”

And that’s when my son officially played his last card. If you have kids who have lied to you–repeatedly about the same stupid thing–you know that there comes a point in every situation when their right to breath comes into question. Unfortunately for Harrison he had the nerve to yell back at me. He apparently forgot that his father was home and that we own the air he breathes.

By the time Jason was finished with the you-wouldn’t-exist-if-it-wasn’t-for-your-mother-and-me lecture Harrison was a quivering mass of fifth grade humility. He came downstairs all puffy eyes and gave me a very penitent appology.

And that’s when Dad sold the farm and solidified our position of authority in his little life. “You,” he said to Harrison pointing a finger at him, “Will not be going to school today. You will stay here and work. You will work all day and earn your place in this family. You will do every single thing your mother asks and you will say ‘yes Mom’ and respect her. Is that understood?”

He responded with some unintelligible groveling and I added to his pile. “The only things you will say to me today are ‘Yes Mom’ and ‘please come check this’. Got it?”

Grovel grovel grovel “Yes Mom.”

Harrison worked from 8:00 to 3:00 with two ten minute breaks and a short lunch break. He deep cleaned both my fridges, swept our front entry steps, cleaned the garage, washed all my windows…you get the picture. I made him listen to my old Bounce Back tape from the 80′s–a corny motivational ten step tape to help people feel better–the entire time he cleaned the fridges. I put it on four times in a row, he started it by himself the fifth time.

At one point he brought me a note asking if he could please talk out loud for a moment (for the record, it wasn’t easy being firm all day when he had such a good attitude but it was imperative that I follow through). I granted his request and he burst into tears and told me all about school and how he’s having trouble with friends, then asked, “Can I have a hug?” Seriously, I love this kid.

At the end of the day he was whistling and smiling and just before we got the little kids from the bus he said, “You know Mom, that felt really good today. I got a lot done and I feel so much better.  And that tape really helped.” Then he sat down and did BOTH his worksheets with no arguments.

It was tough love and it was so worth it.

If you really want to tick your husband off…

Leave him with the kids and go to Paris. Again.

This is the second time in a row Jason has stayed home with our four children while I skipped off to Par-ee. Let’s just say his attitude was best described as “fuming martyr”.

But oh my goodness I just had the best weekend ever. It was so good that I feel guilty even talking about it on my blog because what I’d really like to do is gift it to all my wonderful friends and family so they could come over and experience it for themselves. The clock is ticking and Wonderland is about to turn into Hot Las Vegas land so I’m soaking up every last pat of butter this experience has to offer.

And this was one buttery weekend, let me tell you.

My girlfriend Ashley (who is really more like a little sister, she and her husband are some of our closest friends) put together a girls’ trip to Paris to take some classes, a croissant class and a Macaron class.

For the record, I believe that a truly fabulous experience in Paris requires a few necessary must-have’s: Cute boots, a fabulous scarf, some rocking lipstick and a best friend (husband’s count). If you’ve got that much the rest of it doesn’t really matter.

paris01 paris03 paris02

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My darling wonderful friend Christy and I took the late ICE train to Paris (we made the train with 3 minutes to spare thanks to an unscheduled stop for lipstick and toothbrushes and general dawdling) and spent the two-hour journey doing what girlfriends do best; trying to fit as many words as humanly possible into our limited time away from home and family.

We were a few hours behind the rest of our group and decided to spend Friday afternoon imagining our way through the halls of Versailles. With no kids to wrangle we were able to listen to the audio tour and feel the ghostly swish of skirts. I’m not lying, I swear I could hear them.  We weren’t really supposed to take photos inside…paris04 paris05 paris06 paris07

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the record state that we managed to navigate the entire Paris metro system without a single break in our running conversation. That is worth writing down.

What I love about Paris? Everything. This was my fourth time and I cannot get enough of it. Paris is big girl Disneyland and I am constantly romanced by the atmosphere, the language, the architecture and most importantly…the food.

Oh, the food.

By the afternoon I had downed two medium sized baguettes, three pastries and a plate of Macarons. It was kind of a perfect day.

And the music, it’s everywhere. You can step off the metro worrying about pickpockets then get completely distracted by the sound of an orchestra wafting from one of the worm holes. You round a corner and there is a three piece Mexican band, a guitarist, or my personal favorite, an accordion player.

Our time on the metro was a hightlight, we were serenaded by this lovable yet greasy gentleman for 10 minutes on our way to Moulin Rouge. paris08paris09

We spent the night before our trip watching the 1990′s version of Moulin Rouge. Of course, we had to swing by. paris11 paris10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our evening was spent strolling arm in arm through neighborhoods on our way to the flat, singing ridiculous songs and acting for the most part like 8th graders. paris12 paris13 paris14 paris15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met a few of our girlfriends (there were a total of 14 in our group) and found a good old Parisian cafe to dine in. Looked like nothing from the outside but the food was absolutely divine.

paris16 paris17paris dinner1

 

 

 

 

It was a wild night and very educational. I learned foreign words like “jank” and “tow up” from my southern girlfriend Renee that had nothing to do with French, and I was reminded of how many amazing friends I am leaving here in Germany. Not being in the old ward I’ve really missed them…I needed this. These women are the cream of the crop.

Finally, two Advil PM and I was down for the count by 11:00. Yes, a number of my girlfriends lost bets at my early bedtime. I think I was the first person asleep.

The next morning was cool and drizzly but we made the treck across town to La Cuisine bright and early for a day of French baking classes.

paris30 The first three hour class was a crash course in making french croissants. I say crash course because it is normally a three-day process. Our teacher was a charming fellow who had been trained in Paris and cooked all over the world from America to Australia and back again. It was awesome. paris18 paris19 paris20 paris21 paris22

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christy and I skipped shopping and spent our 2.5 hour lunch break doing the one thing everyone should do in Paris.

We went to a cafe and sat. And ate. And sat and sat and sat.

And drank Diet Coke…

paris24 paris23 paris25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have never seen Big Gulps in Europe, this was a first. Let’s just say that we paid through the nose for our Coke Light Steins. Worth every euro cent.

The afternoon was a Macaron class. I was really just there for the company, I will never make these again. I know they’re the hot thing but my kids don’t like them and I’m not a huge dessert baker (although seeing my friend Sharma’s pictures of the Opera House did make me think I should have played hookee). Still it was wonderful to spend time with friends.macarons paris29 paris28 paris27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the time we got home I felt refreshed and rejuvenated and all the more in love with Paris. Favorite city in the whole world, I leave a little piece of my heart every time.

(Side note: My friend Geneva ran into Jason and the kids Saturday morning and they were looking rather…ruffled. When she asked Georgia where I was GG said, “My Mama’th gone. Thee went on the eyeth twain and I weewy mith hew.” It’s nice to be missed.