Monday, October 24, 2011

The Great (and not so great) Wolf Lodge

We spent the weekend at the Great Wolf Lodge in North Carolina.  We arrived before check in on Saturday.  You are allowed into the waterpark 3 hrs before check in so we took advantage of that.  We ended up entering about 2 hours before check in.  They had nice roomy changing rooms, showers, and bathrooms that also had benches (though i saw no actual changing tables in the dressing room, unless those were them, the bathroom did have them) which made it easy to get everyone ready.  Saturday was busy but we still didn't have issues with long lines in the bathrooms or changing rooms.  This is off season though, I would believe that to be an issue in season.  Another issue I found was they only had 1 family bathroom/changing room/shower.  This was very frequently full.  The one time we were able to get into it, there was a pile of towels over 2' tall in the corner and, let's just say, the floor was "dirty".  Whereas the main areas always looked clean, no towels laying around and I frequently saw staff go through, mopping up water, so there wasn't water everywhere.

The waterpark itself was fun.  There was a little something to do for everyone.  It took some getting used to.  The other waterparks we are used to have a kiddie area that easily accommodates a small toddler (under 2) because that area does not get, but maybe, 1' deep.  Great Wolf Lodge's kiddie area went up to 1'6".  1' is the perfect height for the new walkers, up to about 2.  I say this because, it isn't too deep that they have trouble walking  If they fall over they can catch themselves in 1' of water, in 1'6" they are floating by their life jacket (which my toddler hates) or under water.  Since it is harder to walk in 1'6", these falls happen more frequently.  Yes, it is zero entry but they see the toys deeper, and want to go up the steps, so head deeper.  The other water parks we have been to are able to keep it shallower because they have a "toddler area" and either, a separate a "kiddie area" or they have "kiddie" things in the shallower end of a zero entry or wave pool.  The only other area for the "kiddie area" at Great Wolf Lodge was sprinklers in no water (and also directly under the giant dumping bucket) and on the bigger kid climbing apparatus.  There were also a couple water spouts and a rain umbrella in the shallow end of the wave pool.  I had to hover over the baby, saving her, every time we went in there on Saturday.  She didn't want to be carried but wanted to be in the deeper area with the toys and her sister.  The 2nd day she decided to stay shallow.  This meant she had only a couple spouts and a squirting flower to play with.  There were jetskies in the mid range area but they were set up for a water fight.  Getting on those meant that you were in squirting range of the other 3, inhabited by mostly bigger kids.  The other option in that area was a teeter totter that scared her.  The 2nd day she had a lot of fun with the spouts.  Despite the lack of stuff for her to do, I can say she had a really good time the 2nd day.

For the older toddler and preschoolers the "kiddie area" had the things listed above.  It also had a playground area that included a curved slide and a set of "racing" slides.  There were some squirters as well.  Then there were other random squirters, dumps, things to turn, etc.  The 3, 4 and 6 year olds were able to enjoy themselves in there.  Some got bored faster than others.  The 3 year old did not meet the 42" minimum height for the bigger slides.  She enjoyed the wave pool a lot (with her life jacket on).  There was also a pool that was 3'-5' that had basketball hoops and floating creatures to climb on.  She enjoyed just swimming around, chasing balls, in this.  On the deeper end of this, there was a separate area with the (try to) walk across lily pads with the net to hold onto.  Only my oldest children tried doing the lily pads.  There was a bigger "kiddie area".  This was geared more toward kids about 4-8 years old, adventurous 3 year olds, or very cautious older kids.  It had lots of squirters and sprinklers, though they are positioned under the dumping bucket.  In the climbing structure there were lots of squirters and dumpers to play with.  At the top were 2 water slides that even my 3 year old was allowed to go on.  You cannot ride any water slide with someone on your lap.  Kids under 42" required supervision.  These rules meant that both parents had to be present for A to ride the water slides, one parent at the top helping and supervising her, one parent at the bottom to help her and make sure she doesn't run off.

The wave pool had gentler waves sometimes and sometimes they were knock you on your bottom.  I never could figure out how to tell ahead of time.  The waves only lasted a couple minutes before a couple minutes off.  There were 6, or so, intertubes available to use.  Saturday it was hard to get an intertube.  Sunday was much less crowded.  Even A would hold on to the intertube (legs through) and ride the waves.  J preferred to jump over the waves where he could steadily stand.  S liked jumping in, under, swimming through and riding the waves.  The bid kids liked going deep in the wave pool.  A was the only one that really liked having an intertube.  4 small kids; 1 in a water sling, 1 in a life jacket, 1 not really able to swim yet, and 1 new swimmer, really keeps 2 parents very busy in the wave pool.

There were 6 bigger slides, as far as I can recall.  I did NOT go on the "Tornado", my husband and older kids said it was GREAT.  It was a 4 seater tube ride.  The minimum height was 48" so S and J could not go.  The Tornado and Alberta Falls required 48", the rest of the big slides allowed children 42"-48" to ride with an adult so S and J could ride those.  I actually do not remember the names of all the slides, I went with color.  There was a green slide that you ride, also in a big 4 seater tube.  J rode this twice and said it was fun yet he looked terrified.  I rode it once because I was terrified.  The 2 smaller intertube slides were not nearly as bad.  I did not ride Alberta Falls, it looked as bad as the green one.  The racer slides were my favorite.  You go down those on a mat, laying face first, racing 3 other people.  The racers didn't give an old lady (like me) a heart attack.  Saturday you could wait in line 30 minutes for 1 slide, again, this was off season.  Sunday there were times that some slides had no lines.

They do provide different size life jackets, which are optional.  They even had small heads up ones so we did not really need to bring ours.  This is good to know because it was a pain to cart, even just the 2 we brought.  They also provide towels, again good to know, since carting towels was a pain.  Sunday I would have left our towels behind except that, when we were leaving Saturday, they were out of towels.  I would have hated to be stuck without towels.  I also want to point out, again, that this is off season.  I was also a bit uncomfortable with the amount of lifeguards.  However, they seemed to be on the job, we saw them rescue 1 person and rescue a dummy (they randomly test the guards to keep them on their toes).  I am used to the YMCA waterpark that has a LOT of lifeguards at it.  My biggest issue was I am a southerner, this is a water park, for the most part, in the south.  Being indoors I expected it to be more climate controlled, but outside of the water I was cold.  I also found most of the sprinklers to be chilly.  I would go in the wave pool to warm up. 

There were other things to do there as well.  Magiquest was already a favorite of my kids from the one at Myrtle Beach.  I was very leery of the Great Wolf Lodge Magiquest at first.  The items you search for are down 4 different halls that have rooms on them.  I thought this would be an issue because I'd be chasing kids everywhere and worried about disturbing guests.  It turned out to be wonderful though.  At Great Wolf Lodge you do not pay for a time period of play like at the other Magiquest.  Your activation works for 4 days.  The kids were able to play after dinner but before bed (until "hibernation time" at 11pm) on Saturday, a little Sunday morning, then a little more Sunday afternoon.  The main areas were on the 3rd and 4th floor, with just a couple things on the 2nd floor.  My older kids could go through all of it, without supervision.  My middle 2 I could let do 1 floor without supervision but accompanied them to other floors.  Since there are chairs near the elevator (which are also near main play areas) I could hang out waiting for them.  My biggest issue was that there were centrally located stairs from the 1st to 2nd and 3rd floors but not to the 4th.  Having to go back and forth between 3 and 4 a lot for Magiquest meant waiting for the slow elevators or going further down one of the halls to get to the exit stairs.

There was also a gift shop that sold hair tinsel, it was only $5 so not too badly priced.  They did a stuff your own animal, those were $20, so again, not a bad price.  They sold Crocs, at regular price, so not bad (but I find regular price for Crocs, to be outrageous anyway).  This shop was tiny and had only 1 person working so there was a wait.  The gift shop also was pretty reasonably priced, they were large and carried a big variety.  The Cub Club was empty and was an area for kids to play, under parental supervision, for free.  They did have crafts to do, at a cost, but they were reasonably priced, starting around $5.  They also have supervised activities, some nights, for a fee, but we did not try those.  We did not visit Gr8 Space (for teens, for a fee) because my teen was busy playing Magiquest.  We did not visit the arcade, it was never busy and had lots of fun games, but they kids can play the arcade at home.  With Magiquest there, they never even asked to go to the arcade.  There is also Elements Spa for adults, which was running a $50 special while we were there, so not bad.  For kids there was Scoops Spa, the price I saw for that was $60 for a mani/pedi for a kid, that to me is too pricey.

Food prices were not bad.  A large 16" pizza was $11.99.  We had the pizza and it wasn't bad.  We did not try Dunkin Donuts, Sunday morning the line there was HUGE.  We did not try the Bar and Grille either, I didn't see a kids menu for it so thought pizza would be better.  We did eat both dinner and breakfast at the restaurant though.  They have menu items.  Or at breakfast and dinner they have a buffet available.  Dinner was OK.  Dinner was also no wait and the server was friendly, though maybe a bit slow considering they weren't packed.  The kids loved that dinner came with wolf ears and dessert.  They also loved that the tree we sat under had lights in it that their wands activated.  Breakfast wasn't as good.  The food for breakfast was better than the dinner.  There was a 10 minute wait before they tried to seat us at a bar height table when they could see we needed a high chair.  Once we declined that, we had to wait another 5 minutes.  Once seated, service was very slow, we were halfway done eating before we got our drinks.  Then the kids got really excited because the table next to us were given wolf tails.  However, when we asked our waitress she said that was only for lunch and dinner.  When we requested a lunch menu later, we were handed the one for the bar and grille that didn't have a kids menu.  We were gone before dinner so the kids didn't get tails.  Prices there were not unreasonable.  $20 for the buffet for dinner.  This is not bad considering other tourist attractions.  If you also take into account that there is a special going on that kids under 10 eat free, I think the food was quite good for what you pay.  However, there is no excuse for bad service.  The last eatery was the sweets shop.  Prices were about average for fudge, candies, caramel apples, etc.  There was a good variety and the sweets weren't bad.  We had a caramel apple, chocolate covered marshmallows, and 2 different flavors of fudge.

For the most part, all of the staff during our stay was friendly and helpful.  We went down for the clock tower show but it was so busy that we really couldn't hear well enough to figure out what they were singing about.  The story afterwards wasn't any better.  The storyteller had a mic so we could hear it but, though a friendly girl, she didn't really have any experience or training in reading stories to kids.  My teenager does a better job, I do a better job, the librarians at the library storytime can all hold the kids interest.  This story didn't hold the kids interest at all.  It was a book being read so the story wasn't the issue, it was the lack of inflection and emotion from the storyteller.  We waited around because the costume parade was going to start after that but instead Wiley the Wolf came out and there was a huge line to get pictures with him so we went back to our room.  Only after that did they finally do the costume parade but we had already changed.  Later they also did a dance party, which sounded and looked really fun, but was way too loud for my kids.  We did do the trick or treat trail.  There were only 5 stops.  When I first saw there were only 5 stops I thought that would be way too short.  It ended up being perfect, enough to get the kids some treats but it only took 30 minutes.  Since the trail went from 6-8pm but could be done in 30 minutes that meant no long lines at the trick or treat stations and enough time to go to the shop and stuff a wolf afterwards, before doing the storytime.  However, the kids (and my kids are rarely critical) actually said they had the worst candy ever.  They also had a hayride to the pumpkin patch running from 12-6pm every day.  This was by registering only so you didn't have to worry about long lines.  The kids got to ride the hay ride for free, pick out a small pumpkin, and then were able to decorate it with stickers or paint it at the Cub Club for free.  They really enjoyed this.  On the hay ride they told a happy "ghost story" but it was the same storyteller so they kids didn't pay much attention.  We did learn the person was new, so maybe as she gets more used to storytelling she will do better.  I just think if you are going to offer something for the kids they should train their staff so it actually is worth offering because, as it stands now, the kids probably don't even remember either happened.  When we went to the Cub Club to decorate our pumpkins we opted for stickers, not paint, since we were driving home that day.  They offered the kids to chose which sticker pack to use.  After deliberation to chose though, it turned out they were out of most of the sticker packs so really didn't have much choice.  The kids had fun, none the less.

I cannot comment on all the rooms, we had a large suite because there are 8 of us.  The room was clean, well maintained, nicely decorated and the layout was great.  I loved having 2 bathrooms.  The master was the only one with a tub though.  It was a huge deep tub which was really nice for me.  Even with only a small amount of water though, the baby slide around in the tub. 

My recommendation would be to arrive on a Sunday.  They are still doing all the special activities on a Sunday but many people are leaving after a Fri/Sat stayover.  Arrive near 1pm, get your wands for magiquest, do some magiquest, ride the hayride, check in at 4pm, get some dinner, then do the special weekend activities like the storytime (if you even bother), etc.  Squeeze in a couple hours of the waterpark if you are only staying 2 days.  Then the next day do the Magiquest, breakfast, etc and then do the waterpark a little later as people are checking out but the next day hasn't arrived yet.  I would say, unless doing nearby attractions, or planning to do Scoops, Gr8 Space, the arcade, minigolf (not mentioned above because we didn't do it, but it looked OK), etc you could get away with just a 2 or 3 night stay (or a very busy 1 night stay).  If you plan to do a lot, you could get a Paw Pass which includes the wand, Magiquest, stuffed animal, Gr8 Space admission, etc.  Do not plan like you can just run back to your room or car as needed though.  The way the hotel is laid out it is long.  Sure, it makes it look expansive but it is a pain for half the guests.  It is a long way to many of the hotel rooms, down long halls.  The parking lot is also a central lot, all at the front, like the mall or such, so it can be quite a long walk to your car as well.  After walking up stairs all day to get to the waterslides, neither is on my list of things I want to do.  I might go back during off season but no way would I pay the higher price for even bigger crowds.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

So, what is babywearing anyway?

So, what is babywearing? Babywearing is an art, a bonding experience, a comfort, a convenience, a third arm.  Babywearing can give you your hands free, it can comfort a baby, and it can make navigating a crowd easier.  A baby carrier can go where a stroller can't.  It can allow you to do things even when baby is sick or cranky.  For an actual definition, the many benefits, and more, you can refer to Babywearing International.  Or you can check out the book, Babywearing by Maria Blois, it was even available at my local library.  Yes, there are actually so many benefits, choices, and historical information, it can fill up a (rather interesting) book.
I am not going to answer all that the book does, not the generic "what is babywearing?" question. I am going to answer the question "what is babywearing to me?".  I actually "heard" about baby slings in 1996.  That was long before they were as common as they are now (which still isn't "common"). In 1996 there was internet but if there was Wikipedia or Google, I hadn't heard about them yet. I don't know the history of The Babywearer but I know I had not heard of it in 1996.  As luck would have it, I had a Lamaze teacher that had heard of baby slings. I am not sure I got anything else out of Lamaze (but that's another post). But I clearly remember her talking about overstimulation in newborns (something I still don't hear many people mention but is a great thing to know about). She recommended a baby sling to block out stimulation and keep them close to your heart, thus preventing overstimulating sights, lights, sounds, motion, etc.

In 1996 there were not a lot of choices. Nojo, Over the Shoulder Baby Holder, and Maya Wrap were the most well known. The Baby Bjorn was becoming popular and so many Snuglis were available. With the popularIty of front carriers I thought they must be great. They certainly looked like they'd last longer than a "sling". Then we found a Fisher Price version. It came with a weather cover (not needed in our climate) that could double as a "sling" attachment.  This sounded like the best of both worls and we got it. We didn't use
it for long because it really wasn't as great as it seemed.

3 years later, while pregnant with #2 I found information on baby slings on the internet. They seemed a lot more versatile than I thought. We managed to get a hand me down Over The Shoulder Baby Holder from my sister. My reflux baby then lived in it. As the padding of it started to get restraining I coveted the Maya Wrap.  I dusted off my sewing machine and figured out a way to make an unpadded sling. She lived in it until she was 3. I do not know how we would have managed a reflux baby without our sling. I do know that my oldest wouldn't have been able to do half the activities we did.

5 years later I had found other lovers of babywearing. I had also found The Babywearer. I also received a knit wrap in a swap.  I made a mei tai from the frankencozy pattern. I still loved the ring sling for the ease of use and the ability to quickly put baby in and out or switch her to nurse. For long trips to the grocery store the knit wrap was great. I didn't fall in love with the mei tai.

Over the next 6 years a few more kids were born. When you have a toddler and newborn, the sling becomes the 3rd arm God didn't give you when you gave birth. When you have a preschooler, toddler and newborn, the sling becomes the only way you can avoid a monstrous triple stroller. When you have 4 kids aged 5 and under, your carriers become part of your wardrobe. Like a shirt, it is something you put on every day.  Actually, when I had a newborn in a growth spurt, nursing every hour, I am pretty sure there were days I just skipped ashirt (but not the carrier).

In those 6 years, I found the Ergo. The Ergo was and is indispensable. It allowed me to be able to quickly toss a baby (or toddler) onto my back. With them on my back my front was free to wrangle a toddler, unfold a double stroller, grocery shop, kiss a boo boo, cook dinner with baby well away from anything hot or sharp, and so much more. I have done the zoo, hikes, Bowling for Autism, rooted for my sons football team, helped a daughter practice soccer, the Heart Walk, countless open houses, shopping for communion and confirmation dresses, helped serve pizza at school parties, gone apple picking, etc, all with baby tucked safely and happily on my back.

I have since tried wraps, podegis, onbuhimos, mei tai and countless other brands of structured carriers. Some I've liked, some I've loved, many have moved onto new homes. I still own an Ergo, I can't live without one. Of course I also have about a dozen other carriers.  That is a lot to some, a meager "stash" to others. When you have 2 kids that still ride (at least sometimes), 2 eager kids old enough to also wear a child on their back, 2 vans, and a 2 story house you really need one strategically placed EVERYWHERE. A lot of the time two of them are in, or waiting for, the washer.  Then 1 or 2 were left in the van hubby took to work. 

Yes, I typically keep 2 in a vehicle. I know that sounds extreme. I have become so accustomed to using one, and thus having 2 usable arms, that not having one is like missing an arm. I have, too many times, gotten out at Walmart and realized I have no carrier with me. I used to keep only 1 in a car, so when it went in to be washed I had nothing. I have been 4 hours from home and had a child get motion sick on the only carrier I brought. That left me with a fussy baby who wouldn't sit in the stroller and a child to chase, through the aquarium. 30 minutes from home I was caught without one after dropping hubby and the older kids off at the movies. With only a single stroller with me, along with a 5 month old and a 2 year old (without shoes), my only saving grace was my babywearing knowledge and a nearby fabric store. So yes, I keep 2 carriers in each car.

Many times I take my carriers for granted. Other times I wonder what I ever did without them. Walking through Walmart or the mall, I am usually reminded what I would do. In 1 cart there is a screaming baby in the carseat that so badly just needs to be cuddled. Another cart is being dragged along by a mom juggling baby in the other hand. At the mall, countless moms try to push their travel systems while holding the fussy baby.  Other moms push the travel system while ignoring the screaming baby (read the links I posted to find out how unhealthy that is for baby).  I so badly wish I could win the lottery. I would love to keep spare baby slings with me to pass out to these moms in need.

I know I talk like the sling is the only thing a mom needs.  I can tell you that it does not fold the laundry, wash the dishes, run your errands, or let you use the bathroom alone.  It does let you fold the laundry while nursing a baby.  Or wash the dishes with both hands while still comforting the cranky baby.  It calms a toddler tantrum so you can finish your grocery shopping.  It even lets you use the bathroom without leaving the sick baby screaming or waiting until your bladder explodes.  OK, yes that does mean wearing the baby while you go.  But, after giving birth, you don't have much that hasn't been displayed anyway.

Since my older kids are well past the carrying stage I can confidently say that carrying your baby whenever they (or you) want will not "spoil" them. They will not ask you to carry them to 5th grade. They will not even let you walk them to 8th grade. Some days in high school you'll be happy to drive them to school, then you at least get a few minutes with them to talk. Go ahead and hold that baby. Sit down on the sofa and do nothing but cuddle. Do not worry about putting down the baby that fell asleep in your arms. Memorize that image, every stray curl, that soft fluffy hair, that sweet baby smell, those tiny fingernails, and that adorable way they smile in their sleep

Monday, October 10, 2011

International Babywearing Week 2011

I thought of some clever titles for this post but decided I wanted the purpose to be known more than my wit (which is sorely lacking).  Being the intro to a week of IBW posts, made that even more important to me.  I don't have any huge plans for this week.  My #1 priority is using this week as an excuse to get that Ergo post up.  That is my goal for the week, even if I have to retake the pictures or buy a new camera cord.  I am excited that there will be a local event this year.  International Babywearing Week 2011 has been "officially" declared this year and our group is marking it with a walk later this week.  I cannot wait!

Last year our group was fairly new.  There were no events planned.  I had big plans though, even if they weren't babywearing related.  I was going on a road trip.  I was not only going on a road trip but I was doing it alone with 5 of the kids.  Before we even left the house I was wishing for that extra arm.  I always say that moms need an extra arm and it's a shame God doesn't make it so we sprout one with birth.  God, wonderfully, gave us the ingenuity to figure it out ourselves though.  For centuries women have tied babies to themselves with a length of fabric.  In many parts of the country they still just use a simple piece of cloth.  In  modernized countries we can do have more choices.  Many women still rely on a piece of cloth.

To survive my trip with a 14 year old (who was a wonderful help), 5 year old, 3 year old, 2 year old and 3 month old I brought many extra "arms".  I got to celebrate International Babywearing Week 2010 by truly spreading the babywearing awareness across 5 states.  I also got to show everything babywearing helps you to do.  And, I got to show off several different carriers.  If you missed the pictures last year, here is my memories of IBW 2010.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

There will be pizza

Ok, I admit now that I am not a good cook and I don't like to cook.  Maybe if I had the extra time I would enjoy cooking. Maybe if cooking didn't take so much time and so much money I would do it more. I am in a true conundrum. I prefer healthy and read labels. Yet, at the same time, I don't know a lot of quick and easy that doesn't come out of a box or freezer.

The odd thing about this is that my mom cooked from scratch, as much as I can recall. I do not remember  ever having had "Hamburger Helper", "Manwich", or "Ragu" until I was a teenager. I am not even sure my mom eats "Ragu" now. Because of this, I know how to make chili, spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, apple pie, etc without a recipe and completely from scratch. It is the quick things that I have trouble with.

I am the one at the grocery store blocking the aisle as I scan the kids yogurt for any mention of "*some color* dye #...", the bread for "calcium propionate", and anything that says "less sugar", for the artificial sweetener ingredients. On the next aisle I am afraid to even look at the ingredients on the "Hamburger Helper" I toss in the cart.

Today I left the house at 7:15am. That may not sound early, but my hubby takes the kids to school. Some  days I may not even go outside until 11:30am. This works out well since my babies gradually sleep better until they are 6 months old and kick into reverse.  By their 1st birthday, their sleep is so temperamental it changes with each tooth, infection, developmental change, change in barometric pressure, phase of the moon, and who knows what else.  This morning I woke up to a friend's status that happily said how their daughter only got up twice last night.  My 1st thought was, I think I only slept twice last night. 

Yet, at 7:15am I drove 40 mins through morning traffic to B's Occupational Therapist. An hour later we quickly ran into the fabric store on the way home. I needed some red and green to do apple, apple tree, etc appliques for apple picking this weekend.  The fabric store is 30 minutes away but right near therapy so now seemed the most cost effective time to go.  We ran by Subway because B wanted to take her lunch (apparently the pizza line at the school is long). We ran home because she forgot her ID. After dropping her off at school we ran back home for J's forgotten backpack. I ran A to her speech evaluation. When we finished we had to run back home to change messy clothes before running J to school. We finally were home (for the 4th time in 2.5 hours), and actually able to get out of the car, near noon.

Right now we are napping, in preparation for this evening.  I have to pick up from after school activities at 4:30 and 5:00 pm. This wouldn't be a big deal if we didn't have to leave at 5:30 for church.  My crockpot and I only know 4 recipes, none of which I tossed in it this morning. The baby was too tired, after all that running around, to hit the grocery store today. Since the kids have to eat anyway, there will be pizza.  Pizza is also known as "heartburn with cheese".  It has all the food groups though. It has meat (except for the vegetarian), dairy, veggie, and bread. I am afraid to know how artificial the ingredients are, or how many preservatives are in it.  Luckily they don't print them on the box, for me to read while I eat.  Is it bad that one of the first places my teen gets to practice driving is the pizza drive thru?  This is the same teen who weighs nothing, but can polish off half a large pizza herself.

So what's on your menu this week?  Something healthy but super easy?  I am going to have to grocery shop tomorrow, if we don't want heartburn for dinner again. So hit me with what ingredients or staples I should be buying.  What should be on the month's menu?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

21 days in a cast

E broke each arm, one at 4 and one at 8.  It's been quite a few years since then.  We have had broken pinky fingers and broken toes.  We haven't had a cast in nearly 7 years.  The "fun" things that come to mind when you think about a cast are things like itchiness where you can't scratch it, the inability to really wash your arm (or hand), and having to avoid swimming, etc.  The # one, best part, of a cast is signing it.  J broke his arm right above his elbow.  After lots of crying, xrays and a cast, here are the 3 weeks we enjoyed in the cast.

T minus 2 days- "J, your arm doesn't hurt because of the medicine. If
you keep using it to climb the playplace it's gonna hurt more when the
medicine wears off"
T minus 1 day- "J, if you lean on that (toy) car and slip your not going to
be able to catch yourself on your splint. You're gonna fall flat on
your face"
C day- "no, you cannot jump on the trampoline in your cast"
Then the big kids come home from school and there is much commotion grabbing for markers and paint pens to sign his cast.  It's OK, he's fine, thanks for asking.
Day 2- "no, you cannot skateboard in a cast"
Day 4- "You left him alone by the water with his cast!"
Day 5- "You can't ride a 2 wheeler with a cast Dear"
Day 6- "You should not be doing somersaults with your cast"
Day 7- "No rock climbing"

And so the days replayed.  No, you cannot go on the trampoline, even if you promise not to jump.  Though, eventually he stopped asking and it became quite difficult to chase him every second.  Despite being right handed (the arm in the full cast) he figured out how to do everything from ride a scooter, play basketball, to writing, cutting, etc with a cast.  He did fail at riding a 2 wheeler, but he couldn't ride one before the cast.  He did even rock climb at the park with it.  Siblings were yelled at, more than a couple times, for playing with the hose or water guns next to him (or at him).  Soccer season and swim lessons were abandoned.

The big day of removal came.  I asked him what he would do when he got his cast off, his answer was "go swimming".  What was it he actually did when he got his cast off?  Sucked on his finger, I guess 23 days, without it, didn't break him of the habit.  We will be going swimming this weekend though.  The doctor has said that the bone is already growing there and it is healed enough to remove the cast.  They like to keep small guys in casts as little as possible to prevent muscle atrophy.  He just needs to take it easy for the next month.  If he falls on it, he could rebreak it, maybe worse.  Just be careful and take it easy for a while.  I wonder if this is the first 4 year old boy he's ever met?
Hanging out after the big removal,
waiting for the xray results
pretending to take a nap

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I know "selfishness" seems like an odd title for a post on 9/11.  9/11 is a day we remember so much selflessness. Heroes, who not only saved so many, many of which gave the ultimate sacrifice. Heroes who are heroes every day. They selflessly signed up for a job, knowing they could one day give the ultimate gift with that job. Heroes who were born out of necessity. People who, when they thought about if they could ever do that, may have thought they couldn't. Yet, when the time came, they didn't hesitate. Heroes on that day, as well as the heroes who have fought the war since. Heroes who lived but have the memory of that day forever in their mind. Heroes who gave their lives. Families who are now the heroes picking up the pieces left behind. None of this sounds selfish.

Even the average person just wanted to be selfless. They felt helpless, they wanted to do anything they could to help, to make it all better. They donated blood, they donated money, they prayed.  They were glued to the news, hoping for any little miracle.  Even if they didn't know a single person in those areas, they still wanted to help.  It really shows that the good people in this world far outnumber the bad.

There is another side to that time glued to the news though. They wanted reassurance that things would be OK. That they would be OK. Their family would be OK. Those that lived in the Northeast were desperate to hear or see any sign that the people in their family, or their friends, were OK. Those that lived nowhere near the NE, those that had no ties to the NE, wanted to know it wouldn't happen near them.  This was so huge, noone knew if this was just the beginning or if this was it. They were selfishly thinking of themselves. 

I wonder how many people were like that on that day, selfish first.  Proving we are all just human.  I say this because my story of that day isn't the sorrow of someone who was there. It isn't the sorrow of someone who knew anyone who died. It is a story of selfishness.

That morning I do not remember. I do remember when I heard of what was going on. I was with my 1 year old at a consignment sale. I wondered why so many had radios on the news. Soon the sale was abuzz with people talking. I started to worry about what was going on. The radio stations seemed to all be analyzing it, noone was repeating what had happened. I couldn't be sure of what had happened. It sounded like a plane had hit a building. That sounded sad, I pray for the family, but why the big commotion? Cessna's and Piper's crashed into buildings regularly. I assumed it was just another case of this. The commotion had me worried though, so I quickly finished and left.

In the car on the way home the radio finally said what had happened. A terrorist attack? What was going on? There was so much fear. I called my husband, I knew he was right on the other side of town, but I had to hear his voice. My 5 year old was at school. She had only been at school, her 1st experience away from me all day, for a month.  What was the school doing about this? It's a building with 600 kids in it. Was it safer if everyone, everywhere was at home? No big congregation of people. Would they close all the schools? I drove past the school on the way home, it looked normal. 

It was only when I got home and actually saw the video of the plane crashing into the building, that I understood how bad it really was.  I remember repeatedly seeing the planes crash as the news replayed it.  Then they started showing the people jumping from it. Was it really that bad inside? Did they think they wouldn't be saved? So many people were jumping, I couldn't watch that. I couldn't scare my 1 year old. Yet, I couldn't turn it off, I was desperate for good news.  I had to do something else. I left the TV on but we moved to the kitchen to do the dishes. 

Then there was commotion. I could hear something going on, something had changed. I went back to the TV. The 1st tower had collapsed. It all became a blur from there. I watched in disbelief. The 2nd tower collapsed. News of the plane crash at the Pentagon. News of the plane crash in that Pennsylvania field. What was going on? I just wanted to know my family was safe.  Yes, people had died. The biggest building I had ever seen was probably half that size. The biggest building I had ever been in was probably a quarter that size. I couldn't even begin to guess how many people were in there. I couldn't begin to understand the magnitude of what was happening. 1 life lost in a small plane crash into a building, is too many, is so sad, all the family left to mourn. But this? I couldn't fathom it.

So I didn't, I just wanted my family. I concentrated on me, on us. I wanted my daughter safe in my arms. I didn't want to scare her by taking her out of school early, for no reason. What if everyone else was feeling the same way, picking up their kids? It was already past her lunchtime so I couldn't, inconspicuously, just stop in to see her.  I didn't want her to be the only kid left at school, not picked up early. I do not remember how many times I actually drove past her school after that. I was beginning to think the police would be called on my suspicious vehicle stalking the school. I went up very early to wait for her to be dismissed. Other parents were there too.  Everyone was talking, everyone was confused, many were crying.  I know I talked to my parents that day. I am not sure how many times I talked to my husband that day. My daughter was aware something was going on. The school couldn't keep it from the kids, even the Kindergartners.  They could sense the tension in the school. Of course, the Kindergartners were told only the basics. Some bad men had flown airplanes into tall buildings in New York. How else do you explain something like that to a 5 year old? How do you not scare them? Especially when you, yourself, are scared. I tried to maintain a normal afternoon and evening. We kept their routine the same. 

It was after the kids were in bed that we could sit and watch. Again selfish thoughts came to mind. I thanked God that my family was safe.  For days and days and days this consumed life. There were occasional miracles. There were stories of heroism. For the most part though, we sat and watched people on TV begging to find their own loved ones.  If they could just be missing we could find them, they wouldn't, they couldn't, be dead. At the same time we watched the death toll go up and up and up. It climbed to inconceivable levels.

How do you even pray for that many individuals? Because that's what they were, individuals. Not a #, they each had a name, they each had a face, they each had a family left behind. If we could say a single name, every second it would still take hours to pray for every single one. Yet that's what so many were doing. The only thing they could do, pray. They prayed alone. They prayed with family. All over, churches held community services. We all just prayed. 

In the face of tragedy our country pulled together, as they always do.  They helped each other, they prayed for each other, and they will never forget.  I wonder about why it is replayed every year.  Is it the selfishness of TV stations, longing for the ratings?  Or is it people, again feeling helpless, not knowing what else they can do, but desperate to do something, anything, for their fellow Americans.  Desperate to make sure that not a single individual is ever forgotten.

10 years later I am still selfish. I am just so very thankful that my family is OK.  After that I still feel helpless, what can I do? I can't do much more today than I could then. But I can pray, I have prayed, and I will pray. I can pray for those lost, those left, and world leaders. I can pray for peace, world peace, peace for the families left behind, peace for the souls lost.  And that is, something, something that can make more difference than we know.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review Wendesday- Babyhawk Oh Snap

I figured I'd make this a Review Wednesday.  I needed to clear my mind of the "children in mass" post I have been trying to finish for weeks.  I am trying so hard to get my view across, non judgementally and encouragingly.  Yesterday I was able to dodge my post by writing about our cleaning adventures.  Today I'm going to hide behind the full review I promised over a year ago.

I am sure there are other reviews of the Babyhawk Oh Snap out there.  Though I do think I offer my own perspective since I've been babywearing for well over 10 years.  For those unfamiliar with the Oh Snap, it is a buckle carrier made by Babyhawk, the makers of the well loved Babyhawk Mei Tai (tie on carrier).  At $149 the Oh Snap is not much more than my beloved Ergo.  The Oh Snap can be made with your own customized fabric and color choices.  The body always stays the same so it is not considered a "custom carrier" but the fabric and colors are.  The design center could take you days to find the perfect carrier for you, there are that many fabric choices, in the panel fabrics alone I saw over 500.  When you mix and match that with the 19 strap fabric choices you have quite the dilemna, how to chose just one.  It took me 3 days and several other peoples' input before I chose mine.  The great thing about this is that you can get something for any style, from popular designers like Amy Butler to the punk of calaveras.  Not to mention the gender neutral, masculine or even camo choices.  The best part of this is that you don't have to get on a waiting list (though it does take several weeks for your carrier to be made, shipped and arrive) or stalk some site to get a "custom spot".

At 6½ months old and 20ish lbs it is still wide
 for my tall baby but the height is great 

A is about 35" and 30 lbs
she still fits barely
 The Oh Snap is meant for babies from 15-45 lbs, though 9 months seems to be the age that most consider they start to fit well in it.  At 15 lbs, I, as an experienced wearer, could wear them with their legs in (not included in the instructions/ recommendations) but my daughter could not fit well with her legs out at that size.  Even at 6 months old, when my daughter was 20 lbs, I didn't feel it was the best fit for her.  A month later it was perfect (but she is quite tall).  By perfect I mean that the width worked well for her legs and the headrest still offered head support.  She is now pushing 25 lbs and 32" and still fits well but there is not a lot of support for her head anymore (if she were to fall asleep).  I do wish the carrier were taller.  Proportionately I feel that when they finally fit the width well the height is just perfect, so not a lot of room to grow.  However, even A, at 30 lbs, still fits well. 

J is 40 lbs and 45",
his legs are no longer in
an optimal position

The weight limit of 45 lbs may depend on the makeup of your child.  The 2 middle kids are 40 lbs.  I have no problem carrying them in the Oh Snap, it is still comfortable for me.  They are long and thin though.  Their legs are no longer supported well and the back is quite low on them.  They don't have any complaints but it is obvious they no longer fit, yet still are 5 lbs below the weight limit.  I am not even sure the average height 45 lber would fit well.  If you have a stalkier child it will certainly support the weight.  For the average child I would say they will outgrow it in height first (which I also find to be the case in carseats, so definitely not unusual).

A big draw of the Oh Snap is that it fits sizes 0-22 or mens S-XXL without any extensions needed.  This has certainly been tested in my house.  It has been worn by most of those sizes.  It was even able to be cinched enough to be worn by the kids who like to wear the toddlers and they are only 10-13 years old.  I was worried that the Oh Snap would be too tall for a more petite wearer but it turned out the width looked more the issue, which it really wasn't.  The unique adjustments on the shoulder straps allow you to adjust the length of the shoulder padding even.

L is near 25 lbs and 32"
she can ride arms out comfortably
The headrest goes up a bit
higher when she's arms in
Another big draw of the Oh Snap, is the headrest.  Very few soft structured carriers offer such a substantial headrest.  The Oh Snap's is more supportive than the other ones I know of.  This not only supports a smaller babies head but it extends the back height for toddlers while still allowing babies to ride arms out.  This is why it was one of the 1st structured carriers that worked well for both baby L and A.  It does not have a hood for support, that is what the headrest is for.  If your baby sleeps, especially in a back carry, the height of the headrest is something to keep at the front of your mind.

This is a good carrier for those that aren't sure about what waist style they find most comfortable.  Instead of having to buy and try different styles, this one is adjustable.  There are buckles on the waist that allow you to adjust the bottom or top separately.  This allows you to adjust the waist even smaller.  It also allows you to change the carrier from a straight waist to a curved waist.  Your body make up, and your waistband wearing preferences, typically decides which style works best for you.  Some people like to where the waistbelt at their waist while others prefer it at their hips.  This is especially the case in men vs women since many women are more hourglass or pear shaped and men are not so much.  This and the shoulder padding adjustment can also be a con though.  Very seasoned wearers know exactly how much shoulder padding they want and which style of waist they want.  Knowing these things, seasoned wearers can purchase custom carriers of other brands that fit them perfectly.  Why would they do that?  When you are used to the ease of a carrier like an Ergo (with few buckles), or other brands, the fiddliness of all the buckles on the Oh Snap can be unappealing.  Having a very custom carrier can mean your husband needs his own.  With the Oh Snap once you have it set for yourself though, you don't have to mess with those adjustments unless you are sharing the carrier.  If you can only afford one carrier, this really allows you to adjust it to fit both you and your husband perfectly, taking both parent's preferences into account.  I would compare it to sharing a car though, it does take some adjustments when you switch, unless you happen to be similar sizes and like the same things.  If you cannot picture what I am describing, there are great pictures of this as well as the shoulder strap adjustment (and instructions) at Oh Snap Instructions .

A popular feature of structured carriers, that make them more comfortable for front carries, is the option to use the straps crossed in back when doing a front carry.  The Oh Snap allows this, whereas the Ergo (technically) does not.  Though the instructions do not show this (and therefore I can't say this is recommended by the manufacturer, I just know it's possible to do), I actually use it with the straps backpack style for front carries.  I do not do front carries enough to bother messing with buckling and unbuckling the straps to cross them, I dont mind backpack styles straps at all and am quite used to it because I used an Ergo for so many years.  When used for a back carry, with backpack style straps, the chest strap is quite nice because it attaches to the shoulder straps in 2 places on each side.  This keeps the shoulder straps in place more evenly, I really like this.  The webbing is also covered by fabric which I like.  I really wish they covered the waist belt webbing with fabric too.  I would certainly rave about that, it makes it more comfy and more flattering.  I also like that the chest clip slides along a "track" this is a lot easier to adjust than the adjustments on the Ergo and many others.  On the Ergo I tend to avoid adjusting the chest clip and just make do.  On the Oh Snap I take full advantage of the adjustability.  My one complaint is that 1 connection in my chest strap tends to pop off (not while in use) and it takes some fiddling to get it back on.

I have actually machine washed (I have a front loader as FYI) my Oh Snap several times and it is very sturdily made.  I found the fabric quite stiff when I first got it so it went right into the washer.  I can't say that one washing softened it up.  Even after several it is still stiffer than the carriers I am used to but I have gotten used to it.  Sturdiness is a big deal in a house full of 6 kids.  My Ergo is the only other carrier I have had that is so sturdy.  The Beco and Action Baby Carrier are sturdy too (just not quite as heavy fabric it seems).  I really feel the other custom carriers, by smaller companies, I have had to baby more or they haven't lasted as well.

One last thing I wanted to point out.  If you have tried a Babyhawk Mei Tai and didn't like it, don't assume you won't like the Oh Snap.  I consider them to be quite different, even if the body is pretty similiar in size and headrest.  The mei tai is a great sturdy carrier but I like my mei tai to either have slightly smaller bodies with complete simplicity to them or to be like a structured carrier that ties, having nice padding in the waist as well as the shoulders.  This is totally my personal preference, most people love the mei tai and end up loving the Oh Snap as well.  But if you are like me and that isn't the case, you may still love the Oh Snap, I do. 

I wouldn't consider this a "one and only" carrier.  I also don't really feel that way about most soft structured carriers, with only a few exceptions.  If you are looking for a good older baby and toddler carrier I really feel this could be used for the long haul and stand up to it (and even handed down) too.  The features it has are so unique you aren't going to find something else comparable anywhere.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'm the cleaning lady

If you have been to my house (or sometimes even seen pictures) I am sure you are well aware that cleaning is not #1 on my list of things to do.  Some days you might think I haven't done it at all, believe me I have.  There are so many aspects to cleaning I really don't know where to start.  I guess the biggest thing I like to remember is that I really haven't met a single person who has said "I really wish I had spent more time in my life cleaning".  As the saying goes, "cleaning while you have small children is like shoveling snow while it's still snowing" and that really is the truth.  The reason people don't wish they had spent more time cleaning is because there is always more to be done.  When you even think your anywhere near finished you have to start over.  The dishes and laundry get used every day.  People walk in the house and necesitate re-vacuuming and sweeping.  Cleaning is a very repetitive chore with the only "reward" being the lack of chaos (ok and probably bugs and germs).

Raising children is not repetitive.  Every child is different, every day with the same child is different.  So much changes every day, there is so much to marvel in.  A child's 1st steps never get old to see, the 6th child's is just as exciting as the 1st's (or if your 1st carries the 6th around whenever she's home so #6 won't walk, maybe more exciting).  Nothing can stop a person in their tracks like a squeeky little voice saying "I need you" or a wet slobbery toddler kiss. 

I remember all my 1st lessons in learning to slow down and see the little things.  When E was 15 months old we took her to Disney World.  At Epcot Center they have small fiber optics in the ground twinkling.  That is something I had seen before, it's something you think "oh, that's neat" and you keep on walking.  At 1 year old it is utter fascination, we probably spent a good 20 minutes there with E.  She inspected them, stepped on them, tried to pick them up, tried to look in them, there was so much to explore and learn about them.  As she got older it was rocks on our walks.  Each rock was different, each had a special shape or feature, each needed to be admired.

Kids keep you busy, they may like to slow down and see it all but they never like to just sit and do nothing.  We go to the playground, the store, the library, and extracurricular activities nearly every day.  This makes for a challenge when you are cleaning.  It's hard to clean when you are not home.  Obviously, dishes and laundry needed done so that was the 1st thing of the morning.  After that, I tried, in the least, making my house presentable.  Therefore, I always started at the front door and worked my way in.  This worked great in a 2 bedroom apartment with 1 child.  Things started to slip once I had 2 kids in a 1300 sq ft house.  Many days I never made it down the hall to the bedrooms.  These days I have 6 kids (not counting my husband), a much larger house that not only has a formal living and dining room but also has a "family room" (playroom in our house).  If I started at the front door every day and worked my way in my family room would soon be completely buried.

I tried Flylady but the only thing I ended up with was a shiny sink.  In an effort to make sure, when I was really busy, everything got cleaned on a regular basis a cleaning schedule was created.  For those familiar with Motivated Moms  my method is very similiar, except it is more detailed and personalized for my house.  For example, Mondays and Thursdays I clean the Living Room/Foyer/Dining Room whereas Tuesdays and Fridays I clean the Family Room/Kitchen/Hall, Wendesdays I do all 3 bathrooms (I also do upstairs bathrooms while the kids are in the tub which is a Flylady method), Saturdays I do laundry catch up (I do laundry daily) and the kids bedrooms, Sundays I clean out the cars.  Then I have smaller weekly items like cleaning out the fridge, pantry, etc.  No, I am not crazy enough to be able to remember it all, I have a Google calender (you can have multiple calenders, and I do so this isn't on the kids appointments calendar).

I have monthly items as well, one of those is cleaning out the tupperware cabinet, which happens to happen today.  Tupperware is one of those things that I have little helpers for.  If I did it myself, and kids left it alone, it would be a monthly job.  Truthfully, in this house, it needs to be a daily job but even then it wouldn't stay clean all day.  Doing it monthly I can at least get rid of lidless bowls and bowlless lids so I have less to pick up.  Like the laundry and dishes, my "helper" likes to take things out and put them in, not always at the right times.  Then, as soon as I walk away, my "helper" likes to continue.  Baby L is always so proud to be helping.  She is so cute when she looks at you and takes out a bowl, just like you, then hands it to you.  You neatly stack the bowls and make sure they have matches.  She takes them back out again and proudly smiles, and hands them to you again.  Somehow you manage to get it all done and in there stacked.  Baby L is bored now, she has toddled away with her cup.  You stand up and admire how nice it will be to unload the dishwasher without having to shove tupperware into whatever little nook is left in the cabinet.  You won't have to pick up all the tupperware that spills from the cabinet when you open it anymore.  Now to get the dishes done.  You turn to the dishwasher and that is when you hear the tupperware crashing to the floor.  Baby L has returned to "help".  I guess I'll try again next month.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What I've Read: The Oak Leaves

I just finished, The Oak Leaves by Maureen Lang.  I don't expect much from a book that is "free" (for Kindle).  This book had a print version though so I thought it could very well be a good book.  I download books when I see them free because not all stay free.  This one though, is still free (as of today) if you want to nab it quickly The Oak Leaves.  I finished all my books I had purchased on my Kindle app and, though many of the samples sounded good, I didn't have any spending money left this paycheck.  Instead of checking the library's digital collection I decided to try one of the free books I had downloaded.

I am not great at writing book reviews because I don't want to give anything away.  That means this review will be short.  I want to say this book was a book I consider "can't put it down".  That means that at 10 pm at night (when my bedtime is 9 pm) I have my eyes propped open trying to see what happens next.  The reason I say I "want" to say that is that it is the truth but I am also easy to please and love books so 75% of fiction books I read fall into that category.  I still consider this a good book that I recommend though.

This book appealed to me in so many ways.  It has a dual setting, modern and historical times and yet blends so well.  This is a religious, Christian book but it isn't all about religion.  The characters show a wonderful reliance on prayer and faith.  There is great classic romance without anything inappropriate, I would feel fine allowing my teen to read this.  It also deals with all the aspects of having a child or relative with special needs.  "You can't chose your relatives" doesn't just apply to those with special needs.  It even touches on genetics.  In a surprise twist, there is even a "bad guy".  It really is a book you'll "need" to know what happens next.

I would most certainly have purchased this book in paperback to read.  Having gotten it for free makes it all the better though.

Friday, September 2, 2011

And then they grow up

The more kids you have the greater the statistical chance of so many things.  The greater the chance that someone will be having a bad day.  The higher the chance someone will be sick.  The more often those bittersweet moments happen.  I play the proud but sad mommy as I watch my babies grow.

Last year my oldest started high school my 3rd started school (Kindergarten). As the year came to a close
they both had very successful 1st years in their "new" schools. #2 and #4 added with their own growth at the end of the year. #2 "graduated" elementary school. #4 was accepted into a 4K for next year so he can work on his speech delay.

The summer wasn't much better, as I was barely recovered from all that we started the next adventure in growth. As my 3rd spent her 1st week in a day camp. We celebrated my oldests birthday, baby Ls 1st birthday, then As birthday.  I had 4 old enough for swimming lessons.  My oldest got her driver's permit.  Then she went off to college again for a summer course.

School started this year with a bang.  S is excited to have real class in 1st grade.  B, though nervous, was excited about middle school and has been doing wonderfully.  Now she is hoping to be accepted onto the yearbook team.  E was really excited about the opening of a special center of study at her high school that she was accepted into.  She has had nothing but rave things to say about the center and is always excited about what they are doing. 

This week my baby boy started 4K.  He didn't even seem to be phased by it.  I barely got a hug out of him.  After his 1st day of school I asked him if he had fun.  I got a half groan.  What did you do at school?  Played, had snack, went on the playground.  That sounds fun.  What did you want to do?  Count to 100.  Apparantely he's ready to skip right by the Kindergartens.  That night he didn't even want me to sit with him while he fell asleep.  I have 1 mama's boy and he is growing up.

Yes, that means my baby is 1, walking, climbing and babbling a lot.  Her sister is officially preschool age and on her birthday kicked it off with her 1st "class" setting (swimming).  My baby boy is in school.  3 has "homework" and is reading everything.  2 is in middle school and moved up a level in horseback riding.  My 1st baby can now drive a car.  I now have kids at all 3 schools. 

People hear it being said that they "grow so fast". Even when you want to stop and enjoy it you get pulled into all that you have to do today. Just taking care of their needs takes up some of that precious time. You wash the dishes, wash the laundry, sweep the floor. Then you drive them to Tball and sit there and watch them, wondering how they got so big. Somewhere between even last weeks practice and this weeks they got so big. At the park you realize your little one is a preschooler, she no longer needs your help to climb up to the slide. So you let the baby off your back to play, just 2 minutes ago she was snuggled up on your back, now she's running off all by herself.  At home your tween borrows your shoes to run to a friends house.  Come bedtime your son doesn't even need you.  That night you give your daughter a hug goodnight and again wonder when she got taller than you.  Having a teen and a toddler, all in the same house, is a daily reminder to enjoy it because they really do grow up that fast.  I'll keep that in mind while I go change this dirty diaper.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday morning cartoons evolve into Saturday night cartoons

It's interesting to look back on anything, cartoons included. When I was little we waited all week for Saturday morning cartoons. I am not sure if cartoons were even on during the week. Now I can watch cartoons at midnight thanks to all cartoon stations. 

In years past cartoons appealed to young and old alike. Simplicity and humor drew in all ages. Many cartoons didn't even speak. No words were necessary to explain what Wile E Coyote was doing. Now
there are cartoons for kids, cartoons for teens, and cartoons for adults only.  I can't really comment on The Simpsons, King of the Hill, etc as I never watch, I never have a desire to watch. I remember how disgusting Ren and Stimpy or Catdog were. Cartoons that aren't rated Y just don't appeal to me.

Does that imply I like cartoons rated Y? You bet. For a while kids cartoons went to almost all educational, at least for the preschoolers. They all taught numbers, letters, shapes, colors, etc.  Dora the Explorer opened up the door to foreign languages. Now, not only do cartoons teach academics, they teach manners, science, curiosity, social skills, and more.  I do have favorites and I am not sure they are the most "academic". My favorite little kid show is Olivia. Ok, Olivia was a name in the running for my girls. That's not why I like her.  But who can resist her striped tights.  I also like her creative and spunky personality. Even more I love her parents. They are the fun parents. They don't have a perfect house, they've almost forgotten a kid at the grocery store, they read to the kids every night, listen to the kids opinions, let them make a mess, and I'm pretty sure I've heard them make that <sigh>. It reminds me of home.

The other show I like is Phineas and Ferb. I think I have a soft spot for creativity. It shows unscheduled kids  being creative, working together and having awesome outcomes. They are determined and hard working. Almost as determined as their sister is to bust them, classic sibling rivalry. It's a show that appeals to all the kids from 3-15 (and a few adults) in our house. Besides, wouldn't a pet platypus be cool?

You might be surprised to here I am not all that picky. I don't really "hate" any show. Barney doesn't bug me. Dora doesn't drive me crazy. I've survived Teletubbies and Boohbah. Though I do have a peeve with the creators of Dinosaur Dan. Who in their right mind thought it would be a good idea to show kids you can dust for fingerprints with flour? No matter how hard it is to (for them to) clean up, how long it takes, how much trouble they get in, my kids still dust for prints every time they see that episode.

I don't think cartoons have gotten better. I don't think cartoons have gotten worse. I think they're just changed. People seem to think TV is "bad" for kids. Anything is bad in excess. Moderation is the key. I love a laid back movie afternoon, snuggled with the kids on a rainy day. I love how much fun the kids have dancing along with the Fresh Beat Band (and how hilarious it is to watch 3, 4 and 6 year olds breakdancing).  A is awfully cute when she says Nei Hao (or for at least a year wouldn't even say "hello", at least in English).  When all else fails, sometimes it's The Letter Factory DVD that gets a kid to learn their letters.

I don't know how many conversations were started from a TV show when I was young.  I remember "TV night" in our house.  I don't mean everyone watching their own TV in their own rooms.  I mean everyone sitting in the living room together, watching the same, family oriented, show.  Those were the days of Full House, Growing Pains, and Family Ties.  Now, a lot of the shows adults watch are not suitable for young audiences.  The shows suitable for young audiences don't appeal to adults.  We end up watching cable channels together.  Cake Boss, Cupcake Wars, Unwrapped, and Chopped on FoodTV.  Dirty Jobs or 19 Kids and Counting on TLC.  That's not to say that sometimes we don't just need the mindless humor of Tom and Jerry. 

We don't restrict TV in our house.  Instead we make sure that there is enough to keep them frog vegging out.  The kids do some after school activities.  We go to the park.  We go to the library.  We model a love of reading.  We provide crafts and Legos, which even our teen and tween love still.  We go for walks.  We go hiking.  We go to the Zoo.  We play board games with them.  I let them help cook.  My kids play outside with other neighborhood kids.  The truth is, we don't restrict because we don't have to.  The kids might watch an hour of TV on a weekday, if that.  Everyone needs some mindless down time, we don't need to deprive the kids of theirs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I stayed at home

There is always a bright side to things. Maybe in a few days, when the kids are more restless, I will not feel so optimistic. For now, I am certainly seeing the bright side to 2 things; back to school and a broken bone.  Today was a productive day. Everything fell into place. It didn't start that way. When I called the orthopedist at 8 am I sat on hold for 3 minutes before being told they were still on the service so I'd have to call back. Several minutes later things were looking up. No long hold time and J could be seen in 40 minutes. The day wouldn't be a waste. I wouldn't have to wait until afternoon when they're already hours behind.

40 minutes later we walk into a crowded waiting room. It takes quite some time just to receive the papers to fill out. Filling them out takes time too. The kids are getting restless. Maybe my day is turning sour.  I was expecting to wait hours anyway so it's not like I made plans.  However, several minutes later, shortly after I finish the forms, we are taken right back. In only about an hours time we've waited, filled out papers, been casted, xrayed, made our next appointment and are in our car to leave.

Since I expected a longer wait, the kids are back in school, and there's not much to do in this hot weather in a cast, there are no more plans for the day. The baby manages 2 naps. The kids get lunch, play the computer, play nicely together. I manage to clean the family room, do the dishes, and do the laundry. I can even start on deeper cleaning. While doing so I find the checkbook I looked forever for this morning. Then I find S's missing, special order, scissors. Even though I didn't say a prayer, I still quietly thank St Anthony. I am being so gracious (and while my luck holds out) maybe I should go look for E's missing ereader.

Optimism is taking over. I'm on a roll. Should I keep on the roll and clean out the pantry (the last thing on my cleaning to do list for today)? Should I start my long crocheting list? Should I do some more embroidery? Should I start a nice dinner? The baby is still napping, I probably shouldn't waste this time debating what to do.  Maybe I should just nap too.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wanted: Executive Assistant

In years past there was no term "stay at home mom" because women didn't work. Women were typically "housewives". This term was easily used because women stayed home before they had kids. They took care of the "house". Cleaning, shopping, errands, as well as caring for her husband by doing laundry, cooking, packing lunches, etc were all part of a day's work. Once kids were born that job was also part of the "house". You were a "housewife" whether you had no kids or 4 kids.

Years went by and women not only went off to work but pursued much higher educations. Women worked because they wanted to work. Soon the economy changed and women had to work.  Other women fell in love with their careers. Staying at home was now a choice women made depending on their situation.  Working became the "norm". Now a mom that doesn't work is in the minority. These moms who take care of their kids all day are dubbed "stay at home moms", even if they never get to stay home. Does being a "stay at home mom" mean you are only home to be a "mom"? Are you exempt from all the housewife duties? Or does working exempt you from household duties? The house suddenly cleans itself?

A few years back a mom decided she was it all. She was an accountant, mom, housewife, and chef. She decided the her "occupation" must be "Domestic Engineer". I guess "engineer" does refer to a lot of what I do. My husband is sure I'm a laundry service. My oldest thinks I'm a bus driver. My 2nd thinks I'm a  servant, why else would you ask me for a cup when your standing next to the cabinet? #3 prefers me as a maid. The rest will go for chef, as I cater to their every culinary whim. I think the term "engineer" is accurate, it sounds very hands on.

A few years back though they calculated how much it would cost to replace a "mom". They then translated that into what a moms income would be. At a salary over $138,000 a year I think my worth must be higher than "engineer" then. I mean, they usually refer to breastmilk as "liquid gold" in the mommy circles, and here I am making it while doing all my other jobs. Maybe a better occupation for me would be "Domestic Executive"? Don't executives get personal assistants?

Now Hiring-Executive Assistant, must have; extensive project management and negotiation experience, the ability to work long flexible hours, Driver's License.  Culinary, janitorial, and teaching experience a plus.  Clean background check, driver record is negotiable.  Will consider former military (preferably Drill Sergeants).  May want to consider self defense course before hire date.  Perfect job for a good self starter who can work with lots of direction.  Department budget is small.  Salary is negotiable (I'll add as many zeros as you'd like).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Some days never seem to end

You know that day.  The day that is pretty scheduled but doable.  Today was one of those days.  I had 2 things on the schedule, Autism research and tennis.  It started at 8 am, the high schooler wasn't ready for the "bus" to leave so I offered to drop her off on my way to the research study.  On the way out the door the other two reminded me I promised they could be car riders on Friday.  This is still doable.

At 8 am I leave the house with 4 kids.  I drop one at the high school and then head to the university for the Autism research.  4 hrs later (that includes driving time) the kids are ready for lunch and we are running out of time.  I stop at Sonic for a semi, not on the "go" lunch.  Then we head to the elementary school to get S.  The middle school to get B.  The high school to get E.  I stop for drinks and we head to the park before tennis.

While at the playground 1 needs a new diaper and 1 needs to potty.  Where the heck did the wipies, I specifically remember putting in my purse this morning, go?  I finally change 1 (without wipes), 1 down and 1 impossible (they have no bathroom).  One's blister broke and she needs a bandaid.  She refuses to go get herself one, but baby is climbing the slide.  After much whining she goes to the car (with a sister) for a bandaid.  Where did the 2 first aid kits from the car go?  As the blistered one is whining, J falls and hurts his arm.  Of course he has fallen from the zip track ride.  The one I assured him he could do himself.  The whole playground thing today is a big parenting fail. 
When he doesn't appear to be getting better we head to tennis early, calling daddy on the way.  At tennis we get several a bathroom, S a bandaid, J some ice.  Daddy shows up to take a few kids while half the kids and I head to Urgent Care.  By 6 pm (after an hour of crying, a few x rays and many restless times) it is determined we have a broken arm.  Pain meds were given, a splint was put on.

We head home, stopping for dinner along the way.  By the time we are done with dinner it is pushing 8 pm now (bedtime for 5 of my 6 kids).  Again hubby takes half the kids home to bed.  I take the other half to the pharmacy for J's prescription.  30 minutes later we are finally on our way home.  After lots of uncomfortable positions J is finally asleep.  I say "hi" to hubby, then take the baby upstairs.  It's 10 pm, this day is over.  Or so we thought.  Why is your phone ringing?  Hubby has to run into work.  In just over an hour the day will officially "end", not sure if it will have ended in this house or not.  Oops, gotta go, the boy's up, he must need more meds...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Back to school

We all know that for a majority of the country it is back to school season. You have either just started back or will be soon. Even many homeschoolers do not do year round school. They are starting back to learning or to virtual classes. Kids or parents (or both) everywhere are tearing up. Some are nervous. Some are celebrating.

Today is our 1st day of school. People wonder why I'd rather homeschool. People count down, with excitement, to the kids going back. I count down with dread. I hate everything about school (except maybe being able to grocery shop, without rushing, mid weekday mornings, with only 3 kids).  This morning I got up at 6:30 am, yesterday I got up when I got up, maybe 8 am? I woke up 3 excited but tired kids. 2 more were woken up by the commotion. I made rushed school lunches instead of hot lunches whenever we are hungry.  By 7:10 hubby was already grumpy as he felt rushed. Kids were still brushing their teeth. Kids were rushing to run out the door.

The 1st to get dropped off is starting 1st grade. Her 1st year with a desk. Her 1st year on the big playground. The 2nd to be dropped off is starting middle school. Middle school is an exciting and a nervous time. When the child's maturity and social level, at times, is more that of a shy 3rd grader, it is just plain scary for mom. The last to be dropped off is a sophomore. That is sophomore in high school, not college. I still can't figure out how I ended up with a child who is referred to as a "sophomore" not a "... grader".  She is excited.  She is off to a brand new building for a specialty learning center in the district.  She is in a district that will, apparently, be issuing all high schoolers Ipads this year.

That leaves one more for school. After everyone was dropped off I attended his IEP meeting. In 2 more weeks he starts 4K. That means that today my house is quiet, chaos free. Though the baby's nap schedule is messed up because she got up at 6:30am. In 2 weeks though, for 3 hours a day, the house will be just plain empty. It will just be the baby and the preschooler. Then it will be time to tackle another challenge (yet again), potty training.

It will be OK that the days are spent so laid back. We will call it recovery time. The only activity still going on from summer is tennis. Next week we will probably start having to pick up at the high school from all the after school clubs. Girl Scouts also starts next week. The week after that we start horseback riding. The next week we start soccer. The week after that we start religious education. With afternoon and evening activities M-Th we can use the down time. My kids really aren't overscheduled. Each is only allowed 1 activity.  Religion is not an option and Girl Scouts is a family activity. With 4 kids old enough for activities it adds up. 1 of them isn't even doing anything this Fall (he decided he didn't like soccer so is waiting untill Football season).  I do have 1 learning to drive. Though I am not sure I want her to drive. Even if it would cut back on my bus duties because, at her age, sports require a lot more practices.

I am not saying our summers are all lazy days. We occasionally do a day camp. We did have some sports, baseball and tennis. We do travel. But we do not typically get up early. We go relax at the lake. We try out the museums. We enjoy each others company. I will never be ready for my kids to grow up, or to let them go.  I do hope they're having a good day though. In 2 more hours they will start trickling home. No matter what you hear, teachers do give homework the 1st day of school. Do notice I didn't say "kids have homework the 1st day of school".

Monday, August 15, 2011

Half a Dozen

That's half a dozen months, not half a dozen kids.  It's been 6 months since I started blogging.  I have not done daily blogs, though I'm not sure you'd want to read daily blogs anyway.  We do have some boring days in our life.  What I have done is a total of 66 posts, that averages to 11 posts a month.  That's not to bad, I think, at least 4 a month is a good goal to aim for as I continue.  I've also gotten 24 followers.  Also not bad since I didn't expect any.  I was a little surprised by this next number, I've had nearly 6000 pageviews on my blog.  I'm even almost caught up.  I only have 5 unpublished posts left to add.

I will have to wait until the 1 year mark to do some sort of contest.  I still haven't finished my last contest item.  You probably remember the post about taking kids to the store.  Yet, there are some things I still am stuck on buying in person.  Mostly that is yarn and shoes.  Since I have gotten over my need to buy all my fabric in person, maybe this will help me get over my fear of ordering yarn.  None of the stores I went to had the yarn I needed, in the color and quantity I needed, so I had to order it.  Of course, it took several store trips until I was convinced of this.  In other words, I didn't order it right away.  I am hoping to be done soon though and be able to share.

Here's hoping I'll still be around in 6 months to do another giveaway.  Now to figure out what it will be.  Continue to watch for the rest of my catching up posts.  Maybe, if I am lucky, I can get E to do some personalized graphics for the blog.  Today though, I have to go finish the skirt set I am making for S to wear back to school this week.

Friday, August 12, 2011

We're going on a field trip

Sometimes that's what it feels like when I start to load up the car for a full day out. It reminds me of the teachers loading coolers, bags, and boxes full of stuff onto the buses for field trips. So today we are going to the water park. If you ever frequent water parks, pools, beaches, or parks (especially with sand) the $4 pop up hampers with handles from Walmart are AWESOME. The pricier ones are tall, I prefer the short wide ones (like the tall but on their side so it has a large opening). They fit towels/coverups for 8. Another one fits diapers, wipes, water slings, clothes, sunscreen, life jackets, etc. Walmart now has collapsible cloth baskets available. These fit food, water bottles, etc. I am not a huge fan of Walmart, but when you live a bit more rurally and they are the only general merchandise store for 30 mins, you learn to find what you need there.

I am thankful we own an older Maclaran Volo stroller because the entire seat is a waterproof, breathable mesh. If you toss in a nice water sling and there are your extra hands. We are going on a Sunday so hubby can come, that is my extra set of eyes.  Now to get 6 overexcited kids actually into the bus. Though I know getting them onto the bus to go is in no way measurable to the work of getting them on the bus to come home.  They'll be wet, hungry, tired. 

I frequently get asked how I can afford 6 kids.  It isn't things like this that cost that much.  Health insurance premiums, YMCA membership (where the water parks is), museum and zoo memberships, etc are all the same price regardless of if you have 2 or 6 kids.  It's those "conveniences" that add up.  I want to get them into the "bus" from the waterpark.  I'm hot and tired, they're hot and tired.  There's a McDs a mile up the road.  Who wants McFlurries?  McFlurries times 2 kids (ok, and 2 parents) in a snack size comes to $7.24, the same McFlurries times Super Sized (ok our family isn't really super sized) is $14.41, twice as much.  If you go to the water park every week it can add up. 

We don't go to the water park every week but we seem to have something like that happen every week.  Take yesterday, for instance, if you have to leave the house at 8:30 am to swim lessons you have to be up by at LEAST 8 am to get everyone dressed and towels.  If you have a La Leche League meeting afterwards that happens to be on the same road you really don't want to drive the 20+ minutes home.  Then you need to bring clothes so add a hurried 5 minutes (because I'd rather hurry than get up another 10 minutes earlier) to that 8 am wake up call.  If you have a sick fish that requires medicine from the pet shop, also on the same road, again you don't want to drive home.  By the time you're done with all that is it worth the, now 30 minute, drive home if you have to be back in just over an hour for art class?  You knew all this last night.  You had every intention of packing a lunch.  The baby woke up once so you couldn't finish the dishes, the baby woke up again so you couldn't finish the laundry, after the 3rd time you not only forgot all about the lunch but you didn't even get to brush your teething before falling asleep.  That means you could, if your Supermom, get up earlier and pack it in the morning.  Unfortunately I got demoted to "good mom" by most standards (though I think I'm in danger of another demotion), by a tweens standard I got demoted all the way to "mean mommy".  Since, not feeding the children would, not only result in low blood sugar meltdowns, but  be a bigger demotion than feeding them junk, you are at the drive thru.  A drive thru for lunch is a lot pricier than just McFlurries.

The same thing applies to the checkout line at the grocery store.  Though, seriously, who takes 6 kids to the grocery store?  Probably the same crazy lady who takes 6 kids to Target school shopping.  It was a tough decision.  I could squeeze it into the weekend since hubby would be home.  However, since we have a car wash, birthday party and splash party this weekend I thought it would be nice to get it over with.  The kids are very excited about the "field trip", which is what we have decided to make the Target trip.  4 kids with lists in hand, 1 carrier to contain the baby, and 1 toddler who is usually OK if she has a pacified backup.  Discussion is made of walking to Petsmart when we are done.  There is also a request of World Market if we behave, for good measure mommy tosses in "and help everyone else behave".  It sounds like such a fun day.  3 fights over yo yos, 2 lost lists, 1 screaming baby and lots of annoyed fellow shoppers (and $200 in supplies) later we decide to skip, wait, I decide to skip the other stores in favor of Walmart for all the supplies Target inevitably was out of. 

That's not to say every field trip goes like that.  The water park was a blast, especially ending with a nice McFlurry bribe for a peaceful hour drive home.  Usually a car wash fundraiser would be lots of fun too and wear the kids out.  Unfortunately, tomorrow is calling for thunderstorms.