Lock me in the car already

Check out this week’s column.

“Why is it that after an entire winter of being snowed in, the very suggestion of sunshine sends my kids running for the basement?

This past week we had a few glorious, allergen inducing days. The sun came out, the trees started to perk up, and all I could think about was all that sunny vitamin D just waiting to be had.

“Kids!” I sang, “Time to run outside and enjoy the sunshine. I’ve got sidewalk chalk, and bubbles–”

“NOO! We wanna watch a movie! It’s too cold out there! There are bears out there! You can’t give us food every seven minutes out there!”

And so the afternoon began. Much to their dismay and horror, I held the Red Box rental over their heads and sent them out the front door, kicking, crying, and squinting.

Let me tell you, outside is fun at my house. There are scooters and big wheels, a play set, rocks to climb, sticks to collect, bugs to squish–there isn’t a child on the planet who could complain about a day outside at this place.

Well, minus my three who think Mother Nature is in cahoots with the Boogie Man.

“That’s it,” I finally said, “You’re all banned from the house until the timer goes off!” I gently dumped them on the patio and closed the door to their horrified wailing. (I also set up a picnic outside and gave them every opportunity imaginable to make the banning enjoyable.)

Twenty-five minutes later my five-year-old was still huddled on the step by the door trying to freeze and die from neglect, my daughter was crying because there weren’t strawberries in her picnic, and I knew that if I answered their banging one more time…go ahead and insert your imagination here.

“Fine!” I said, after nearly half an hour of murmuring and moaning. “You can watch your movie already!” I walked into the kitchen where I’d placed the much anticipated DVD’s, and they were gone. I searched the family room. Gone. I looked under the pillows, bar, inside the car, in the toy box–those movies had disappeared.

Oh, the wailing.

By this point the pre-springtime weather had mostly ruined my day. The baby was crying, the kids were crying, and nothing was right in the world (especially in Japan). I was so close to snapping, the only hope I had was a self-induced time-out; something where I could regroup and invent a new and improved method for parenting.

I did the only thing that promised a true moment of freedom; I grabbed the half eaten sleeve of Saltines, trudged out to the garage, and locked myself in the car. I turned the key halfway and there was Nora Jones, all soothing and mellow like. Leaning back and closing my eyes, I took a deep breath…and then car started to rock.

It was my three-year-old daughter, banging on the window for me to Let. Her. In.

As hard as I tried, I could not shake that kid from my brain (or my SUV). I turned up the music, shoved some crackers in my mouth, and still, she persisted. This went on for approximately 42 seconds.

Finally, with a sigh and another cracker, I made eye contact with the little intruder.

“Mommy! I want to snuggle you!!”

How can a mother resist that? I caved, opened the door and in she tromped. She closed it behind her, locked it, and plopped down on the console next to me. Reaching for a cracker, she cranked the volume on the radio, put her head on my shoulder, and whispered, “I love you, Mommy.”

Sometimes we think we know what will make us happy. I was sure that all I needed was an escape from the chaos, a moment to find a little clarity and peace. But getting away, all I really had was a whole lot of emptiness. That car didn’t do a thing for my day until my child entered it.

I guess sometimes Mommy doesn’t really know what’s best. Good thing I’ve got a three-year-old to keep me in line.”


I swear this is the last you’ll hear about Disneyland, but I had to save it for my column. Enjoy the anxiety.

“Is there anything worse, as a mother, than the realization that you did not prepare your child?

Our trip to Southern California a few weeks ago was loaded. I’d say it was fantastic, but I’ve got four children under the age of seven, and frankly, it was seven nap-free days of torture.

By day four we had mostly perfected our security watch. When you’re walking through a crowded amusement park with four small children who like to follow random flashing lights and pigeons, you need seventeen extra eyes to keep everyone under surveillance.

“Okay,” I said to my husband, “I’m going to get a corn dog for the six of us to share. I’ll take Junie and Georgia, and meet you back by the Tiki Room in ten minutes, and we can finish the day up with one more trip on The Jungle Ride.”

The little girls and I wound through the crowd to the much anticipated corn dog stand, loaded up (and bought an extra chocolate chip cookie just to be rebellious), and slowly made our way to the designated meeting place.

As I walked up to my husband ten minutes later, I could see by the look on his face that something was amiss in the Magic Kingdom.

“Honey,” he said, “Is Harrison with you?”

“Of course not,” I replied as my heart started to slam around in my chest.

“I hate to tell you this, and don’t freak out, but I think–”

“We’ve lost him.”

There comes a moment in every mother’s life when she realizes that as tough as this job is, she really wouldn’t sell any of her children to gypsies, given the chance. This was one of those moments.

I immediately headed straight to the nearest employee for help. It had been over ten minutes; my husband thought Harrison had followed June and me, and I had left my cell phone in the stroller so he couldn’t call and confirm.

Twelve minutes.

It’s funny, because we’d had a number of serious discussions with our children on this trip about strangers, and staying by Dad and Mom so the bad guys didn’t stuff them in bags and take them away forever. Yes, our children are now terrified of people who carry gunny sacks around.

But as I reported my missing boy–seven-years-old, blond hair, green t-shirt, smart, thoughtful, loves hugs and motorcycles and Shamu and oh my gosh, where is my baby–I realized that we hadn’t talked about what to do if someone got lost. How could we forget the if? Why did we think that the two of us could possibly keep them all safe?

Fifteen minutes.

I know that children who are lost at Disneyland are always found. I know that the park is full of responsible adults who know just what to do with a little boy who followed the wrong pair of Levi’s. But when the clock hit fifteen minutes, I began to think that maybe, for the first time, the system was going to let some poor mother down. That mother was going to be me.

And then the phone rang.

My strong, smart boy, had made his way to The Jungle Ride, where he thought we were headed. He waited, and as his panic grew, he started to cry. Some other wonderful mother found him and gave him her cell phone. That was when he called me.

All those little trips in the car when we sang the phone number song, just in case someone ever needed to call Mom or Dad, finally paid off. We might have forgotten to have the, “Let’s meet at the flagpole,” conversation, but somewhere along the line, I gave him what he needed to find his way back.

We can’t prepare our children for every possible dilemma, and that’s a scary thought. But at the same time, we’ll never know how many catastrophes they’ll avoid, or how many life altering mishaps will never come to pass because, as parents, we took the time to give them our best.

Sometimes that’s all we can do.”

mommy revenge

So when we were at Disneyland, we had the chance to grab a photo op with Chip and Dale. As we turned to leave, Rex shouted out, “By Chicken! By Dale!” Get it? They thought it was hilarious.

Last week I was wiping June after a #2 and praising her for her toilet talent. “Sweetheart, I love that you poo poo on the potty,” I said.

She smiled, “And my poo poo loves you, Mommy.”

Lastly, I try to keep stashes of candy around this place for good behavior rewards. I also keep sugar-free candy for myself so I don’t catch low carb insanity. But no matter how hard I try to hide it, someone always finds it.

That someone is three and female and has a radar for chocolate like nothing you’ve ever seen.

So you will understand why, as I was cleaning behind the recliner yesterday, I happened upon something that made my entire week. It was a large chicken bouillon cube, unwrapped, with a big bite taken out of it.

I just might have cackled like the wicked witch of the west. That’s what you get for getting into my candy, my pretty.

Baby makes three, and that’s not usually the best number

We’re coming up on twelve years of marriage, and I’ve been popping out kids for the last eight of them. It won’t be hard to convince you that this kind of recreation (not that kind) puts a serious strain on Dr. Love.

The reality of our situation is simple. Yes, we do regular date nights. Of course, they’re always timed because The Budget doesn’t allot for more than two hours of babysitting, and our little GG always accompanies us because nothing tastes quite like Mama, and Mama suffers from a closet case of separation anxiety.

So when Jason asks me when or if I’m planning to wean the baby so we can “take that trip” before the big move, I get a panic attack. Wean the baby? My last baby? My best nurser, who loves me more than anyone else in the entire world? Leave her for four days with a stranger???

I love him. He’s the king, my best friend who spoils me, and helps out around the house better than a Disneyland employee. Of course I want to run away forever and enjoy days and days of QNT.

But the baby. My baby. Did I mention that she snuggles and hugs me tight all the time? Did I mention that she’s only six months old, and that even when she’s ten months old it’s probably going to be too soon?

I know our window here is closing fast. In four and a half months we’ll be jumping the pond and leaving our support system behind–support that the children know and love and are related to. I feel horribly torn. It’s not even that I need the getaway from the kids right now, it’s that I need the reconnect time with my man.

But I can’t seem to wrench this mommy cap off my head long enough to shake out my hair and have a little fun.

There really is no happy answer. We can’t take her with us, it would defeat the purpose. I don’t know. Ask me in three months.

vacation money, or the lack thereof

Here’s this week’s column. I’m guess we’ve all been here at one time or another.

“I have one more thing to say about last week’s “vacation”. Other words to describe those eternal seven days of my life might include “mobile prison” and “meltdown time bomb”. We will never, ever, take a toddler to Disneyland ever again.

But the thing that really made my week irritating was the money issue. Some of you might remember that a few years back Mr. Frugal and I converted to the Dave Ramsey way of thinking. It’s a financial debt reduction program that brings peace and happiness to your credit score. It’s been a few years, and the pinch has really paid off. We are now responsible, mostly debt-free adults who know how to be money healthy.

We’re also no fun anymore.

See, Dave’s financial debt reduction method includes mantras like, “Never have fun if it involves money”, and “Hi, I’m Annie’s husband. You might know Scrooge, my generous older brother.” My husband is now very good with money. Darn it.

Here’s the thing about a vacation to Disneyland. You save and save and save for the tickets, and you think it’s going to be the best reward in the world . And yes, getting into the park is a treat. Standing in line for Peter Pan is a treat. Doing the Buzz Lightyear ride seven times in a row is a treat.

But frankly, that just doesn’t cut it. We have four small children who do things like, oh, I don’t know, eat.

Our big problem this vacation was colossal miscommunication. I thought we were buying our food in the park, and he thought we’d live on one meal a day, supplemented by following the mouse around and nibbling on his leftover churro crumbs. We were there from open to close, with one meal to hold us over. Seriously.

Have you ever seen what happens to four children when they’re tired and hungry? Even worse, have you seen what happens to their mother? I don’t know about you, but splitting an ice cream six ways is no fun.

Day two, I got a little smarter and stopped ahead of time to get cheese and crackers and strawberries. And while this was a good idea, I couldn’t help feeling irritated that there wasn’t a single penny alloted for Park Fun. We didn’t even let our kids get within ten feet of the souvenir shop doors. It was smart, but they were sad. I was sad.

My poor husband, really the man had the best intentions. Unfortunately for both of us, we didn’t talk about this elephant until the last day of our vacation. I was really fed up and really underfed by that point, so I kind of growled all over him. Of course, it was all too late to rectify the issue, so we kissed and made up.

And next time, we will budget accordingly. It will include sufficient money for food.”

just don’t tell

Well, now that this karate saga is finally closed, I am happy to report that Rex has started in a new class called Motion Evolution at the Bravo! academy here in Layton. It’s climbing and tumbling and fun, and the goal is to help children build self-esteem through movement. It’s like the class was specifically designed with Rex in mind.

When I started him in the class two weeks ago, I made a quick decision to NOT tell his teacher about his anxiety. In hindsight, I think talking to the Sensei about him ahead of time made her a little prejudiced towards him. Prejudiced might not be the right word. Maybe it just tainted the water, you know?

So this time when I introduced him to his teacher, I decided at the last minute to let him have a go and see how he did before burdening her with that kind of information. What’s the worst that could happen, he wigged out and I had to ‘splain myself?

I don’t know if it was the weather or the teacher or what, but the kid totally rocked his new class. He listened, he waited his turn, and he absolutely loved it. There’s no doubt that karate is too rigid for him right now, and seeing him in an environment where the teacher encourages them to have a great time has brought me so much peace.

I guess what I’m saying here is that there’s nothing wrong with switching gears. Sure, we don’t want our children to feel like a failure by pulling them out of something, but we also don’t want them stuck in a program that doesn’t feel right.

In the future, we’re starting every  new venture with a two month reevaluation date for our kids. We’re telling them right from go, at eight weeks, if it isn’t a good fit, we’ll try something else.

And I don’t think I’ll mention Rex’s problems until they need to be talked about. He’s doing better every day, and I don’t want him to think that this is something he can’t overcome on his own with practice and maturity. I think the best thing I can do for him right now is have confidence in him. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.


flu and other thrilling news

We officially have the super flu. Remember the colds and ear infections my girls have been fighting this last week? They have now morphed into the throw-ups, and from what I hear we’re not alone. Poor Jason, he’s got it as well. Of course, it didn’t keep him from going to work and infecting the rest of the world, but we all know that’s completely out of my control.

Due to said sickness, Georgia is having a Hold Me Baby Day. I can’t even put her in the sling, she wants me to sit and hold her while she tries to breath through her sadly congested nose. And I don’t care what the doctors all say, I miss the good old days of infant Rondec and other decongestant medications. They keep telling me that “those drugs never really worked” and “saline is the best method”.

Let me tell you right now, they totally worked on my babies. This saline solution, snot sucking crap is just not cutting it. Give me a good prescription strength cold medicine that can help her sleep and eat without a steady diet of mucus running out her nose and down her throat and we’ll all be a little happier.

On a less ill note, my children are insanely happy to be home, and I couldn’t agree more. The hum of my dryer and a little PBS kids in the back ground this morning is like music to my vacationed-out ears.

And now for my best news, we found a home in Germany! Apparently, they’re closing down a number of overseas bases and sending more people to Ramstein. This means there’s a current shortage of 4-5 bedroom homes. We’ve heard of families spending 2-3 months in temporary housing before settling on something.

We fly out July 18th and the family currently living there leaves a week later. After getting two totally random recommendations for this exact same house from two unrelated individuals, it feels pretty obvious that Heavenly Father is handing us something and we’d be idiots not to take it. Sight unseen isn’t that big of a deal when you’ve got faith on your side, right?




Here’s this week’s column, old news to most of us.

“So we’re taking the kiddo’s to Disneyland. To be honest, the man and I have been far more excited about our “surprise” trip than I could have imagined. Who knew rodents dressed up in polyester had so much appeal?

Being the creative geniuses that we are, we decided to copy the commercials and surprise the children. Thanks to a call from “Mickey”, aka my part ventriloquist brother-in-law, the kids believe we’ve been personally invited. They also think the mouse is paying.

Stupid, rich little rat.

We packed up the car and kids yesterday, determined to make this the Best Road Trip Ever. Taking a cue from my mother, I brought along coloring pages, cheese sticks, a communal water jug, a Grab Bag filled with good behavior toys and doo dads, and seventeen pounds of candy.

What could go wrong?

Ten minutes down the road my kids were singing Kumbaya and sharing Skittles. Forty minutes down the road they were singing Ninety Nine Bottles of Beer and hoarding their Skittles. An hour into the trip, no one was singing and they were trying to shove Skittles up each other’s noses. Oh yeah, Mickey would totally love that.

By the time we hit Nephi we had stopped twice at Walmart, three times at public restrooms (two were dry wolf cries), and once at the orphanage in case anyone wanted to get out (okay, the orphanage bit was just in my mind, but it was a serious consideration).

And then we hit the snow storm.

Here’s the thing about snow. When you’re in love and tucked away in a cabin in the woods, it’s romantic and inspiring. When you’re trapped in the car, 22 miles from the nearest exit, with two kids who have to pee, it’s, well, kind of like Hell, frozen over.

We stopped at St. George to hole up for the night and stretch our legs, then packed the kids back into the car bright and early the next morning.

Cue sick child.

Our three-year-old had spent the previous afternoon coughing and sniffing and complaining of an ear ache. I gave her the suggested doses of the appropriate drugs, and we all prayed her ear would get well in time to see Cinderella.

I don’t know if she stuck a skittle in there or what, but by the time we were three hours into  day two of The Best Road Trip Ever, she was hurting something fierce.

Cue the Mojave Desert.

When a woman brings a child into this world, the doctor secretly plants a Freak Out chip in her brain that can be triggered by things like short sleeves in winter, toilet lids left upright, and a lack of pediatricians in the desert.

By the time the afternoon hit, my panic level was through the roof. We were hours from our destination and neither of us have a smart phone (aka a cell phone with magical powers that can call down the host of Heaven while ordering pizza). HOW CAN I SAVE MY CHILD AND FIND A DOCTOR WITHOUT A SMART PHONE?

We secured an address, made like the wind, and tried to get to the doctor before closing. As luck would have it, we missed the clinic by two minutes. That’s right, no matter how cute my snot crusted little dumpling was, they weren’t about to bust open those doors on a Sunday evening. I’d like to blame them, but really I can’t.

By the time we rolled into Carlsbad our children were passed out in the backseat, the baby was tired of her plastic prison, and I needed a vacation to get myself revved up for the vacation.

That was four hours ago.

But, tucking those little darlings into their beds, with whispers of tomorrow floating through the air, I can’t help feeling like maybe, just maybe, there’s going to be a little magic left for us tomorrow. Well, first a doctor’s appointment, but after that, definitely magic.”

I would rather choke on a pair of Minnie Mouse ears…

Please don’t make me go back there tomorrow. No seriously, my feet and I just can’t take it.

Why, oh why, am I the vainest person in Southern California? And why, oh why, can’t I just suck it up and buy a pair of tennis shoes?

I have recently realized that I don’t own flat shoes. After raiding my shoe trunks, it’s apparent that a two inch lift is as short as I get, and that’s including a run to the mailbox and early morning car pool treks.

So, in preparation for this vacation, I went out and bought myself three new pairs of flats so I’d have a decent variety of footwear, just in case anyone at Disneyland noticed I was wearing the same shoes two days in a row. And yes, this takes personal vanity to a whole new level for me.

Not only are my feet crying, but my children have joined the chorus. On the haul to California, it became apparent that we had two budding ear infections in the girls. Yes, we’ve had them seen and purchased the appropriate medication, and yes, they’re grumpy and sleepy and just want to go home. They really didn’t need the vacation from their nap schedules right now, but what can we do?

On the plus side, my dear friend Becca suggested we head straight over to City Hall and ask for help with Rex. You all know about his anxiety, and standing in line for hours isn’t the best thing for a kid who gets antsy and nervous. Our therapist concurred, so I went to the cast member on duty and asked if she had any suggestions for helping him in case he freaked out.

Not only were they happy to help us out, but we got the Disneyland Golden Ticket: a pass for six that allows us to go through the handicapped entrance so Rex doesn’t end up in the fetal position halfway through the Peter Pan line.

The eliminated wait time has been so refreshing that I never want to come to Disneyland without a handicapped person again. It’s been the silver lining to all the sickness and aching feet. Also, my sister has requested that Rex accompany them next time they attend as well, cause he’s just so fun.


Em Eye See…

We are going to Disneyland!! RIGHT NOW!!!!

Jason and I have been planning a surprise trip for our kidlets and we left on Saturday. As you read this, we’re on the road to Anaheim, heading to see The Mouse.

We (I) sent the kids on a scavenger hunt all over the house Saturday morning and it ended in the Charity Ball Jar. Remember back when I told you our theme this year was Charity Makes Me Happy? Well, we started a jar (per someone’s suggestion) and have been trying to fill it with kindness inspired colored balls in order to “earn” a previously paid for vacation to Disneyland (the kids thought it was St. George).

I’ll be honest, the past week Jason and I have been shoving handfuls of balls in that stupid jar when the kids aren’t looking, just to hit the fill line in time and save us from looking like liars (which we obviously are).

So, when the last clue sent the kids to the jar, they found a phone number inside. Ten digits later, they got Mickey himself (also known as my ridiculously talented bro-in-law Jake who agreed to play said part). He invited them to Disneyland and they said yes. To be honest, there was a moment there when we thought they were going to turn him down for St. George, but it all came out right in the end.

And so, after two days of Hell in the car, we’re now, officially, headed to Main Street. I absolutely can’t wait.

(Also, the kids think Mickey paid for the trip. Stupid mouse, taking all the credit.)