Take A Hike!

HuntleyMeadows4We are a hiking family.

Well, we ASPIRE to be a hiking family. At this moment in time, we are functioning at FLAT TERRAIN level of difficulty. Not just flat, but smooth, preferably paved or boardwalked (pretty certain that is not an adjective, but for today it is).

If possible, a scattering of benches for a brief respite would be preferable.

HuntleyMeadows2It would be unthinkable if we asked the little ones to hoof it for more than 100 yards without a break for their delicate feet and knees. What with tackling all that FLAT TERRAIN.

Sometimes mother nature obliges with a fallen tree.

HuntleyMeadows3And we get bored with just trees. So the hike should include some exciting sights, like geese. And squirrels. Nothing like a wild squirrel to get kids excited. Doesn’t matter that they have 50 bazillion in their backyard ravaging the birdfeeders and excavating my carefully planted green bean seeds. They are squirrels…IN THE WILD.

HuntleyMeadows5When all those things are present, our hikes go very well.

When any of those things are missing, the potential for disaster is at level “I BETTER HAVE SOMETHING GOOD IN MY BAG TO BRIBE THEM WITH OR I”LL NEED TO CARRY THEM ON MY SHOULDERS FOR 2 MILES”.

They say a rule of thumb is 1/2 mile per year of life. For my 3 1/2 year old, i can only assume she translates that to 1/2 mile per year. So, for the first hike of the weekend, everything went fine.

For the second hike of the weekend, not so much. There seemed to be some miscommunication as to her desire to go on said hike. Such as, she told my husband she didn’t want to go who then did not tell me that. She just thought we were going on a car ride with her cousins. The ride over to the park where the trail was was GREAT. It was the 50 yards into the hike where things fell apart. At that time there was a major disruption of nature while my cute patoot expressed how much she did NOT want to be on a hike. She needed to pee. She needed a snack. She needed to be anywhere then on that FLAT TERRAIN trail on that hike.

I naively tried to get her to catch up with our crew, who were now nowhere in sight. Then I realized all I was doing was increasing the distance I would need to carry her back to the car because this epic meltdown was not going to be soothed by CONTINUING TO HIKE.

We turn around, get to the car, and now she is grabbing herself, doing the pee dance, and yelling, “MY UNDERWEAR IS GOING TO GET WET!!!!”

I noted that there was a port-a-potty at the top of the parking lot. For a diva like my lil pancake, where the slightest hint that someone used the potty before her would send her running, this was not looking good. I get in and told her, “DO NOT LOOK” and just held her over the toilet. But too late, she was already yelling, “WHAT IS THAT STUFF???!!!”

We get out quick and I sent my husband an SOS emergency extraction text, telling him to come pick us up. His response:

“Seriously?”

It was not the, “Okay honey, I’m leaving immediately to come rescue you” I was looking for. My response to HIS response:

“Fine. We’re walking.”

Given I immediately got a, “i’m on my way” back, i can only assume that my mood was sensed through the phone.

So, what is the lesson in all this?

Give the little one up for adoption.

KIDDING. mostly.

Have a great crazy day!

The Family Vacation

Vacation has historically been defined as relaxing by a calm body of water with a fruity, refreshing beverage, or taking in beautiful sights and ending the day with a delicious meal and reflecting on the memories you have made. Waking up was not on a schedule and the start of your day was spent peacefully sipping coffee and reading the newspaper cover to cover before starting on your next relaxing day.

When you add kids, it is now a “Family” vacation and things are much, much, MUCH, different. There is no relaxing by calm bodies of water as those calm bodies of water now are dangerous killing machines that can harm your child and you must remain vigilant at all times. Since kids don’t give a hoot about “beautiful sights”, if there isn’t an amusement park in the schedule, the vacation is going to be a bust. Delicious meal? Do they have chicken nuggets? Peacfully sipping coffee? Well, if you travel somewhere with a time change, your kids are going to be ALL OUT OF WHACK and you’ll be mainlining the stuff by 4am. Reading??? HAHAHAHAHA!

So, how does one prepare for a family vacation? I recently went to visit my brother and his family in Arizona, and we are back in one piece, so no I am, obviously, an expert on all things travel. Let me give you some tips.

1. Packing:

No matter how much you check and recheck that you packed everything you need, you will forget something that is essential, like underwear. So just be okay with that and make sure you have your credit card. I am sure they have stores where you are going.

You will also wear about 1/3 of what you packed. I included 4 pairs of shorts in my bag and wore none of them. I did wear the same vintage elephant t-shirt from target approximately 90% of the time. Rule of thumb: after you pack, dump it all out and only put half back in. Except with kids. They will wear everything you packed them within 3 hours of arrival, so make sure you are somewhere that has laundry available. Or just buy them new clothes.

Take away: just pack your credit card and be done with it.

2. Time Change Adjustment.

It sucks. By the time we arrived in Phoenix it wasn’t even 11am with the time change. My goal was to make it up to 9pm, which would be 12am on my body-clock time. I figured the kids would crash- but nope. They had a WAAAAAY easier time than the adults. They had a rush of “we haven’t seen our cousins in forever and we’re so excited and we just had 9 scoops of ice cream and SUUUUUUGGGGAAAARRRRR!” while the adults looked like zombies. I was hopeful that the tip I received that getting in a hot tub, which my brother has, helps to “readjust” your body’s circadian rhythm would work. It did not. Now I was wet, hot and tired. But staying up to 11:30pm DID help with everyone sleeping in the next day and then we did adjust within a day. On the way home- parents had it waaaaay easy b/c we looooove going to bed early. But the kids? Funny how they have no problem staying up way past their bedtime, but when it comes to getting in bed when their body is saying, “it is 5pm and I AM JUST GETTING STARTED!!!”- that is a whole different story.

Take away: As a parent, this kind of sleep pattern and walking around like a zombie is nothing new, so you’ll be fine.

3. Be flexible.

You may have all kinds of plans for things you want to do, places you want to see, etc. 1/3 of all these things will not happen. When the pool in your hotel is under construction and you don’t find this out until your kids, wearing their bathing suits and floaties, are running down the hotel hallway, be prepared with an alternate activity. Like going to the local casino that has an hourly day care center in it. BOOM. Problem solved.

Take away: day care centers in casinos are worth the money.

4. Embrace your anonymity.

Your kids are not going to change into little angels that listen to you all the time and do nothing to embarrass you or make you irate just because you are on vacation. Your advantage here is that mostly likely YOU WILL NEVER SEE THESE PEOPLE AGAIN. No need to go out of your way to apologize for your kid so they are welcomed back the next time and you don’t need to travel 3 towns over to go to the grocery store. I mean, when are you ever going to be back at that little jewelry store tucked away in the middle of  “what is the name of this town again?” So when your kid, who is continuously picking up the very fragile jewelry that costs more than 1/2 your paycheck, throws a fit and refuses to wait outside for you and plops herself down right in the doorway, just shrug your shoulders at the woman trying to get inside. She can step over. And when you see your brother laughing hysterically and you look over to where he is pointing and you see your little one with her skirt pulled down, bent over mooning a table of picnickers, slapping her bum and singing, “booty butt! booty butt!”, just shrug and say, “whose kid is that?” and walk away. And when you are mid-flight and hit a bit of turbulence and they yell out, “oh, mommy! I think we’re going to crash!!”, pretend you’re asleep.

Take away: People are more relaxed about these things than you think.

While vacation may not be the relaxing trip it used to be, embrace it for what it is: a time to be together with family and friends. Memories you make with your kids are more meaningful than anything you can give them. So take a deep breath, and take that vacation.

And if you can, take my kids with you??

airport with lovies

Waiting patiently at 5am to board our flight. Make sure you take their lovies with them.

on the plane

Nope, not asleep yet.

night view

They enjoyed the view. I would have enjoyed if they were asleep.

above the clouds

“That’s a lot of snow, mommy”

showing moosey

Her frenemy “Moosey” being shown the sights

WVU family

We’re arrived! Lunch out in sunny, warm Phoenix with my WVU crazed brother and his family. Not pictured, Chloe, who was running around with my kids somewhere. Calm down, people think we let our kids run amok at restaurants- there were ping pong tables, corn hole and other games in this very cool outdoor spot.

sweet girls

THIS is why we brave long travel plans- to see cousins and friends altogether. Such loves. Heart melting.

pool lounging

You CAN still enjoy fruity drinks on vacation, even with kids….

kid swim

…just them in the pool and let the lifeguards do their job.

bffs

Dinner out with all the kids IS possible. Just give them chips. Lots of chips.

my bro

These kids enjoyed some time together, too. My brother graciously hosted my brood.

so sweet

Seeing how much all the girls loved being back together is what motivates us to deal with 6am flights.

sedona view2

You can still manage to take in some sights…

sedona view

…just bring lots of quarters…

sedona view with sweets

…bribe them to be in a picture with you when….

sedona moose

….they would much rather be posing with their cousin…

tiger2

Pack in kid friendly activities, like the Out of Africa Wildlife Park.

tiger

The kids stay OUTSIDE the cage….

pool with tiger 2

The crazy park rangers got INSIDE the cage during the Tiger Splash event.

waiting for tiger

Best vacations include one of a kind memories, such as feeding a tiger.

Have a great crazy day!

 

Signs of Spring

Spring is coming! LAST spring we began construction on the garden, this spring it is ready to go! I will be updating on how Mahlie’s watermelons grow and if I get more than 1 tomato this season. I have lots of hope for this season!

My Special Kind of Crazy

After the long winter of relentless bad weather, multiple snow days, and being cooped up indoors, I am welcoming the Signs of Spring with wide open arms. And a wide open door, accompanied with yelling, “go outside and play!”

I ponder the phrase, “Spring Cleaning”, because with Spring comes muddy shoes, dirty clothes, filthy little bodies, and a collection of shoes by the door that far outnumber how many kids actually live here.

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Spring is messy, and I love it.

I encourage it.

If my child comes home squeaky clean I ask, “what in the world did you do all day?”

Want to jump in puddles? Go ahead!

Want to climb that pile of mulch like a mountain? Go for it!

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Play with sticks in the mud puddle? Have at it!

Dig in the garden bed to find pet worms? Have fun!

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Want to go barefoot and shirtless? Fine by…

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I’m A Nature Nerd and It’s Okay

I am a nature nerd. There, fully admitted. Yesterday I took my girls to a local nature center to go hiking on their nature trails, which include a great boardwalk trail through marshlands. Back in the nature center was a beautiful book, “Bird Watching For Kids” and I was so excited to buy it for them and when I was going to the register Mahlie goes, “I don’t want it. You know that’s for you because you are obsessed with birds.”

I have to admit, it’s true. I have a birdfeeder that I am totally obsessed with to the point I text my good friend Molly with weekend updates on “all the action” going on at the Mandeville’s.  The action at the birdfeeder, that is.

I’ve always loved being outdoors, I love nature, I love animals, I love gardening…I just love everything about the great outdoors. When I drove cross country with my mom, she researched and made all the dinner reservations at restaurants she heard good things about and checked out their menu ahead of time, already deciding what she’d order. I checked out all the cool national parks we’d be visiting and made checklists of all the animals I wanted to see.

Having kids has enabled me to schedule time at cool national parks and spend time wallowing in my nature nerdness on the premise of “it’s for the kids.” I make sure my kids get plenty of outdoors time and they love it. They just haven’t reached the level of nature nerdness that matches mine. Yet.

While I am keeping a watchful eye on the birdfeeder in the morning, trying to capture the elusive woodpecker that has been visiting, yet escaping any photo evidence, my kids are keeping a watchful eye on Paw Patrol and Little Charmers. On Saturdays I make an hour of their 2 hour screen time include watching Jack Hanna and Jeff Corwin and all their animal adventures.

We are determined to be a “hiking family”, though the last time we went hiking I had to carry SJ across a creek and I slipped on a rock and smashed down on my knees. I could barely walk for a month. Yesterday though, SJ walked the entire time, save a small stretch she was on my shoulders, and that was only because her definition of “walking” at that point was slower than a snails pace. While I love hiking, it loses some of it’s effectiveness and appeal when the plants are moving quicker than you are.

Hiking with kids can be a challenge, so it is definitely wise to check on the level of difficulty before heading out. The Huntley Meadows Park is as easy as it comes. Unlike the time we were hiking in Purgatory Chasms in RI and ended up on a section of trail that was completely out of our capabilities in flip flops and with a 2 year old.

This weekend I’m going to drag my kids to Mason Neck National Park to see the bald eagles. I will be in my element, my kids will be….well, they will be there.

hike

Bringing up the rear….

hike3

Now that she can read, she likes to read EVERY. SINGLE. SIGN.

hike4

Looking for moose. With binoculars held the wrong way.

hike2

hike5

In the end, we had happy hikers. Probably because of the free snacks in the nature center. Whatever works!

 

 

 

10 Excuses, I Mean REASONS, I Have Been Absent From My Blog

Well, so much for the goals I set this year for myself on regularly updating the blog! I tell myself, “it’s quality that counts, not quantity.”

But as there has been zero posts, I have given my loyal followers nothing. Mom, you don’t count because I talk to you on the phone. Be satisfied you get that.

Here are the Top 10 REASONS I have not posted more on my blog. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is definitely an exhausting list.

  1. The laundry will not fold itself. As much as I pray it will, lo and behold, it does not.
  2. The children will break stuff if they are not watched. Or eat bowls of sprinkles, hiding under the dining room table, hoping no one would notice. The scattered sprinkles bottles next to a half eaten bowl of confetti sprinkles sort of gave it away though.
  3. I decided to join 4 book clubs. I am behind in all of them.
  4. SO many episodes of Cake Wars!
  5. Wegman’s is REALLY. BIG. So is Target.
  6. Getting in my 10,000 steps on my fit bit has been more time consuming than I bargained for.
  7. So is getting in my goal # of sleep hours. I have been working overtime on that one, so it’s sort of left less time for other things. Like giving kids baths. I mean, did you see the article on how it’s not necessary to give kids baths every day, and actually is MORE HEALTHY for them to skip a few days a week? It is for their HEALTH.
  8. When you have been home for multiple snow days with kids, it takes a bit more wine to get through the day, which also makes typing less productive.
  9. Cat video’s are really entertaining and the next thing you know, BOOM, it’s 1am.
  10. I’ve gotten all kinds of obsessed with SnapChat.

Right. So I have no real reason. I’ve got lots to say. Eventually I will get it out in the form of a blog post and tell you all about SJ’s claiming the neighbors are her parents, how we had to Google one of Mahlie’s 1st grade math problems to help her and were unsuccessful, and the time Sarah was scared that the “tomato” (tornado) was coming to get us.

You can check out pics of my kids being cute on Instagram, find me talking about things I find ridiculous over on Facebook, check out my random thoughts on Twitter and if you are trying to pretend you are not middle age and want to be in with the cool kids, follow me as “voltzy” on SnapChat , where I have no idea what I am doing, but the face filters are hysterical.

Until then, I will tide you over with these:

fashion safety

The girl takes so many fashion risks she needs to wear a helmet.

SJ outfit

I would be upset too if I couldn’t get one more shirt on. Layers are stylish.

Sj filter

I turned SJ into a cartoon. Because phone filter apps are fun. And time consuming. Another reason I have not been active on my blog.

Have a great crazy day!

New Year’s Came In With A Bang (To The Head)

When you imagine a gathering of 23 kids ages ranging from 3-8, what comes to mind?

Kids at camp? On the playground? Chuck E Cheese? Hell?

We called it “vacation.”

Over the winter break, 11 crazy families decided to get together, rent a house and “hang out” and “relax” for New Year’s Eve.

You know what happens when you do this? The adults hang out in the kitchen and on the couches, chatting and watching football (guess which adults were in which places) while the kids roam the house like a pack of wild wolves. They were having a great time, chasing each other around, running from those that had “cooties”, forming little tiny people gangs. As the saying goes, “everything is okay until someone loses an eye.”

Guess whose kid almost lost an eye?

cut eye

Is this not the saddest little look on a face?

In the midst of the running around and slamming doors on each other, a picture fell off the wall and nicked SJ’s eyebrow.

That is what the other kids tell us, and we’ll need to take their word for it. The adults were in varying states of making and drinking eating their breakfast downstairs. All of a sudden there was a door slam, silence, suddent crying, and what sounded like a stampede of bison coming down the stairs.

All at once those that witnessed the event were screaming out, bombarding us with descriptions of what happened; “there’s blood all over the face!”, “she’s bleeding from the eye!”. Not even having been told exactly WHO was bleeding from the eye, I was running up the stairs. I just had an inkling it was my kid. Because Sarah.

Sure enough, there she is, one of my friends holding her and pressing a tissue to her head. I took her downstairs and sat her on my lap, applying pressure and wondering, possibly out loud, “where did my mimosa go?”

Right. That sounds bad. I took a look at it on the way downstairs and while it was a bleeder, it wasn’t that bad. There was a brief discussion of whether to take her to urgent care, but experience has taught me that the most they would treat her with was a lollipop and a bandaid. Way back when, Mahlie face planted into the fireplace when Brian and I were at a baseball game . Strasburg was pitching- it was his starting weekend. We had 3rd base line seats. We’d just sat down with a nice refreshing beverage when the phone rang. I think my butt was on the seat all of 5 minutes before we had to leave and meet out friends who’d been babysitting to haul her to the ER. Where they treated her with…you guessed it, a bandaid and a lollipop.

I could do that.

bandaid eyeShe was like a tiny rock star after that. Bleeding from the eye and just a bandaid! WOW!

The life of a second child…

Have a great crazy day!

The Holiday Season Is Not For Sitters

Holiday cheer. It’s everywhere. On TV, in shop windows, in grocery store aisles, on social media everything, on neighbors lawns, on the radio. Holiday cheer is keeping me busy.

The foods and treats to cook and bake. The gifts to buy, the gifts they NEED. The festive activities. The 5 things you MUST do with your kids this season! The 101 ideas for your Elf on the Shelf! The 25 most commonly yelled curse phrases while stringing the lights on the tree! The 91 different ways to make egg nog!

I’m exhausted. I’m not feeling the Christmas Spirit, I’m feeling the weight of exhaustion. I want to sit back with one of those 91 egg nogs, put my feet up and admire our tree at night. I want to sit with my kids and read Christmas stories. I want to….just sit.

But I can’t sit.The holidays are not for sitters.

I need to shop and I need to prepare. I need to get things and I need to wrap them. I need to pack and I need to travel and I need to cook and I need to do, not sit.

Oh! How I wish I could sit. Which reminds me, I still haven’t gotten the requisite picture of my kids sitting on Santa’s lap! Must get out calendar and squeeze that in, maybe between decking the halls and jingling the bells. One night, I began to sit myself down on the couch when all of a sudden my little elves came bounding in and jumped up next to me yelling, “Rudolf is on! Rudolf is on!” and they cozied up, taking my space, and settled in for an evening of Very Special Christmas Shows.

So I get up, and start doing again. Get out the flour, the sugar, the icing and recipes for 75 of your favorite Christmas Cookies, and while I’m at it, I may as well write down the ingredients for The Best Holiday Roast in 49 easy steps. Opening my newest Martha Stewart’s Living Magazine, the Holiday Edition, I look for different table settings and see how she carved napkin holders our of pine trees cut down at her organic Christmas Tree farm and 8 simple ways to make decorations which, I swear, include putting decorations on store bought Christmas Balls (yes, Dave, I said balls) which are themselves decorations. I draw the line at decorating my decorations.

Speaking of decorations, I remember that I haven’t turned on the Christmas lights outside, which seem quite measley across from the larger than life blow up Olaf and Santa’s elves that adorn our neighbor’s front yard. I straighten the garland on the front  porch and remember- THE ELF!- don’t let me forget to move the elf!

I check the mail and pull out a bundle of Christmas cards…oh DAMN! The family Christmas Card! Not only are they not sent, they aren’t even made! I run to my computer and scroll through all the pictures…nothing suitable…no cute outfit was ordered, no holiday props…time to get to the store and get the boxed version. Maybe I can write a holiday newsletter.

I hear my favorite line from Rudolf, “Bumbles Bounce!” because that is at the end of the movie and finally the kids can head off to bed and I can get the couch back and sit.

I go to help them brush teeth and think to myself, wow that holiday scented soap really smells like cookies, but sort of like burnt…….OMG THE CHRISTMAS COOKIES!!!

I rush to the kitchen and throw open the oven to a cookie sheet filled with Pinterest-fail Christmas cookies.

Defeated, I sit.

Close to tears, thinking of all the ways I failed to make my holidays festive, I look up to 2 little faces peering at me, eyes wide.

“Did you burn our cookies??”

“Yes, mommy burned Christmas.”

“Silly mommy, that’s okay! I’ll tell Santa to bring you some!”

I get hugs and squeezes and bedtime kisses and I love you’s.

THERE is my Christmas. My Christmas is wrapped up in My Little Pony jammies. No matter the lack of decorations or gifts or Pinterest worthy Christmas crafts or Martha Stewart looking meals, Christmas will be at my house.  Christmas will be jumping on me at 6am Christmas morning and making a mess of my house at 6:45am under the tree.

I get up. I can do this. Because I’m not a sitter.

And I’ve got to move that damn Elf.

 

Have a great crazy day and an even crazier holiday!

 

xoxox

A Special Crazy Mom