Monday, August 31, 2009

Multiple Choice

The reason my Kleenex consumption has doubled this week:
  • A--Extremely hostile sinus infection.
  • B--Seminary starts next more sleeping in.
  • C--Single-parenting + the last week of summer vacation = Not pretty.
  • D--My babies are going to kindergarten.
  • E--All of the above.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thanks, Jersey

It's unfortunate that New Jersey has such a bad reputation.

But, I guess, if I only knew the Newark Airport or downtown Trenton or the Real Housewives...I wouldn't expect much either.

Luckily, I live just ten minutes away from the Garden State and get to enjoy its hidden treasures on a regular basis.

Like today. With seven long days of summer vacation still to fill (Is it my imagination or does this last week of summer move in slow motion?) and a husband conveniently biking with friends in Whistler (I will not make sarcastic comments. I will not make sarcastic comments. ) , I felt the walls closing in around me this morning.

So, I loaded the kids into the car and we crossed the Delaware to discover a little New Jersey gem.

After an hour or so of this...

and this...

and a quick stop here...

we landed at the most delightful, old-fashioned li'l amusement park smack dab in the middle of New Jersey farmland.

The kids loved it and I did too. (BTW: If you happen to be having a bad hair day, a bad body-image day, or just a serious case of the uglies, spend some quality time at your local amusement park. Your self-esteem will increase dramatically. Ordinarily I feel like the chubby mom at our neighborhood pool, but I took a look around today and left the place feeling positively svelte and actually quite stunning.)

We did it all.

This was our favorite slide. It's really called the Sidewinder, but now known in our family as the MEGA-WEDGIE.

( actually not posed in New Jersey. But aren't they cute? In any zip code?)

Thank you, NJ...see you down the shore!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Nineteen Reasons

  1. You know about Clinton and Stacy and you understand why they are important to me.

  2. You never say "Do you really think you should be eating that?"

  3. You know how to do cool guy stuff: like whistling really loud with your fingers and chopping firewood.

  4. You love your parents.

  5. You love my parents.

  6. Your laughter is rich and sweet, like a sugar-butter mixture boiling thick on the stove.

  7. You are easy to please: brownies, kissing, football.

  8. You know a lot, but you only tell a little.

  9. You keep money in the bank and oil in the car.

  10. You are generous.

  11. You make chocolate-chip pancakes every Saturday.

  12. You think I am funny and you like my hair.

  13. You are adored by our daughter.

  14. You are emulated by our sons.

  15. You buy good snacks at the movies.

  16. You pray and go to church and build Pinewood Derby cars.

  17. You look really good in bike shorts.

  18. You do your own ironing.

  19. You know all my secrets and keep them.

Nineteen years. An eternity. A blink of an eye. I've loved it all. Thanks, Babe.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Still Waiting For My Soundtrack

Saw the following preview at the movies the other night...

Have you heard about Adam? An Asperger love story.

It looks darling and I'm excited to see it. Partly because I like Hugh Dancy and I'm always up for a good chick flick and the soundtrack sounds appealing.

And partly, because (admittedly, this sounds silly) maybe seeing an actor pretending to have Aspergers will help me understand the boy I love who really does.

Still, I have mixed feelings. While I'm excited that the movie might bring understanding and attention to an issue that hits close to home, I also am afraid that it might diminish my family's reality. Like, people will see it and think "Oh, yeah, I saw Adam and now I know all about Asperger Syndrome." Kinda the way I think I know about life in a convent because I saw The Sound of Music. Or understand Yeshiva boys because I watched Yentl.

I mean, we live with Asperger Syndrome on a daily basis and there isn't always an upbeat soundtrack playing in the background, y'know? No cool New York loft apartment. No kooky-but-loveable sidekick cracking one liners. There are plenty of good times, true. But mostly just a lot of frazzled days filled with moments too discouraging and repetitive to make it on the big screen--prescription medications to be swallowed, visits with social workers, a little yellow school bus pulling into the driveway.

The reality is that my life is really really really good. But it's really hard too. And not the kind of hard that can be all wrapped neatly up in 96 minutes with popcorn and Milk Duds.

But, I guess, nobody's life is.

So that's why we go to the movies...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer Bugs

(I like this title, because it describes my life on many levels. Read into it what you will...)

Do you have cicadas at your house?

I had never heard of them until we moved East, but now their rattling mating call has become synonymous with August. During the hottest, most unbearable days of summer, they absolutely shake the trees in our yard with the most deafening insect sound. But wait! It gets even better! They also shed, leaving entire exoskeletons for delighted ten-year-old boys (and their horrified mothers and sisters) to find.

Last week Jake collected a whole bucketful and spent an entire morning with a hot glue gun creating his own Dead Cicada Fight Club.

Is there a Scout badge for this?
Check out the footage below to enjoy this "beautiful noise"...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My Bra-less Summer OR Why I'm Back on the Blog

"So, how are you enjoying your bra-less summer?" my sister, Heidi, asked last month.

The question took me by surprise, of course. Because, although I like to try different haircuts, experiment with costume jewelry and search for the perfect lipstick shade, there is one accessory that has been a consistent part of my look for over twenty years: underwire. In other words, I haven't had a bra-less summer since 1982.

After a quick explanation and a whole bunch of giggling, Heidi clarified that actually she had just been wondering how I was enjoying my blog-less summer. Duh.

Here's the truth: blogging takes time and thought. This summer it's been nice having extra helpings of both. Of course, it's not like I've been reading War and Peace or training for a tri or anything. But I have burned through a big stack of paperbacks and spent many hours by the ocean and discovered the joy of HGTV's Design Star! Ahhhh...summer.

My kids have enjoyed life without a camera in their face, but the cross-country grandparents are missing their cyber-connection. I have weaned myself off comment dependence, but I really miss daily affirmations from my blog buds. I can't quite face Facebook and I've yet to Tweet my own horn, but blogging has been a fun way for me to enter the digital age.

So, I've decided that, as with any good bra, finding a bloglife that fits just right can actually be very uplifting. And I'll be back to posting more regularly.

Unless the chafing starts again...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Day 7: I Am Woman. Hear Me Snore.

Well, we made it.

Eighteen hundred miles, six piles of laundry, five states and one muddy (yet, miraculously, odor-free!) car later, I am exhausted.

I'm too exhausted to post all the cute photos of the good times we had. Just trust me, we had good times and we looked really cute having them, ok?

My philosophy on vacations is this: Family trips are a lot of fun to plan and a lot of fun to remember. If they happen to be fun as they actually occur, it's just a delightful surprise.

This whole solo-experience was really good for me. I mean, I got married the month after I turned 20. I moved from a loving childhood home to BYU-approved housing then straight into the arms of a loving husband.

I've never really been the one to fill the tank or haul the suitcases or carry the cash. I have always been taken care of and, usually, I like it that way.

But now that I have driven half-way across the country without losing a child at a gas station or blowing a tire on the interstate, I feel a huge sense of mompowerment!

(And for those of you keeping track of my License Plate Bingo scorecard, I did manage to spot plates from each and every state in the Continental US--plus several Canadian provinces--all but South Dakota. And does anyone really even live in South Dakota? I don't think so.)

Today I-70. Tomorrow the world.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Days 4 & 5: Pure Joy

St. Louis is a magical place. Forget the sightseeing. Forget the arch. Forget the Cardinals. This stop was all about cousin love. Seeing my kids play so wholeheartedly and joyously with my brother's kids brought tears to my eyes.
The two days we spent with our favorite Missourians were definitely the highlight of this trip. I won't even attempt to describe the deliciousness of Stie's homecooking, the charm of their lovely home, or the fun I had kidding around with my closest (geographically and birthorder) little sib.
Here are a few key words to spark my memories of our mini-reunion:
  • weapons/firearms
  • sleeping under the stairs
  • photo shoot
  • the Smashing Girls
  • up-all-night
  • and, of course, "The Hurt Machine"

Thanks, J & C! In the words of your hammy little nephew, "This was the best day ever. I'll never ever ever forget..."

Our next stop was Nauvoo, IL about 2 1/2 hours away. I'd never been and always wanted to visit this historical town since it is an important Mormon landmark.
We were lucky. The weather was dry and the crowds were thin. My kids got lots of attention from all the volunteers as they made ropes, rode in a covered wagon and toured the Browning gun display.

(Let me just insert here the fact that Jake has fully embraced Midwestern sensibilities regarding the right to bear arms. The kid has seen/held/shot more guns in this brief vacation than his entire sheltered ten years in our peace-lovin' home. He spent his hard-earned souvenir money on some huge Nerf semi-automatic shooter and has already requested his next birthday party be held at a gun club. Yikes!)

We loved Nauvoo and then spent the remainder of the day driving through cornfields. I thought my GPS was messing with me. Seriously, we drove for three hours on a little two-lane highway with nothing but scarecrows for company. No McD's. No gas stations. No ATM machines. I was so relieved to see sprawl and development. I am a suburban girl.

I have enjoyed the billboards out here in farmland, though. Lots of patriotic messages and love for the troops. Pro-life slogans. I even saw a huge sign stating the fact that "HELL IS REAL." (Of course this is NOT news to a mom solo-driving a bug-spattered Honda filled with four sugar-hyped kids, Jonas Brothers music and a strange "roadtrip odor" which refuses to be identified or located.) Still, I enjoy being in America's bread basket.

Today's itinerary: seven hours driving bug-spattered Honda.

Any suggestions for dealing with elusive roadtrip odor?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Days 2 & 3: Yohio and Beyond

Greetings from America's Heartland! I think the Midwest is completely overlooked and underrated. We have loved our time in "Yohio." It's green and rolling. Traffic is not an issue. The people are outgoing. And some of our best friends on earth live there, which doesn't hurt either.

Yesterday we left Cincinnatti, driving 320 miles across Illinois and Indiana to visit our beloved cousins in St. Louis.

The last time I was in Indiana, I was a newly-adoptive mom, meeting my Jake for the first time. I didn't see much of the state then, because it was January and I was busy sterilizing bottles in a hotel room. So...I was excited to see the Hoosier state from I-70. I saw a lot of it yesterday. And I'll sum it up in one word: flat. Beautiful in that wholesome cornfield and cow pasture way, but basically just flat.

Illinois is too. So it was a long 5 hours yesterday.

Here are a few ways we've been killing time and not killing each other in our minivan:

Jake is allowed in the front seat. I am not sure it's legal...but since it prevents fighting and, therefore, prevents child abuse...I think it is a good thing. He is one of those lucky people who doesn't get carsick reading, so he has finished "DoubleFudge" and is starting a new Goosebumps novel to pass the time.
Before we left home, I did the old "surprise-every-day" care package trick. Sometimes just having a little present to open gives everyone a new lease on life. These window markers were a hit yesterday. (Don't worry, Hun! They wipe right off! Promise!)
Matching shirts are a good way to keep track of little people at the rest-stop. Plus, they look so cute that strangers will forgive their road-trip induced rowdiness.

Wearing crazy "travelin' pants" makes it easy for kids to keep track of Mom at the rest-stops. And (bonus!) they have just a touch of spandex to accomodate road-trip snacking and much needed refreshment from Sonic Drive In.

Next up: Missourah
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Monday, August 3, 2009

Day One: City of Steel

We're off to a good start. Carly Simon on the car stereo, Cracker Barrel for dinner and a few Swedish fish squished between the seats. Everybody's happy.
First stop: Pittsburgh.

Truly a lovely city. Clean and hilly, surrounded by the Pennsylvania lovechild of San Francisco and Chicago. It's my first time here and I've been impressed.
Pittsburgh's got a whole different vibe than Philadelphia. A little more laid-back. A little more midwestern. I like it.
Riding the Monongahela Incline, (Can you say "funicular"?) we got a lovely bird's eye view of the city. Then headed to the Fairfield for swimming and elevator riding--our two favorite hotel activities.

After a bit of wrestling and some whisper-yelling, all four kids are asleep in one room. No small miracle since the kids treat hotel rooms as personal bounce houses with mini-shampoos.

Today's mileage: 300+
Today's weather: hot and sticky
Today's mothering: sunny with intermittent dark clouds at bedtime

Sunday, August 2, 2009

We interrupt this blog-cation to bring you some breaking news...

OK, people. We're into the final weeks of summer vacation and you know what I've been doing during my blog break. Same thing you've probably been doing...washing beach towels, squirting sunscreen, trying to keep the kids from consuming too much sugar and mindless tv when all they really want is too much sugar and a whole lottta mindless tv.

So this week we're mixin' it up and making history. A mom/kid roadventure. 2000 miles roundtrip. Six days, five states. Countless bathroom and souvenir stops.

Dad will sadly (?) be MIA and so I am back to blogging. Wouldn't want him to miss a single moment.

So...GPS? Check.

DVD's? Check.

License Plate Bingo? Check.

Cell phone? Chocolate? Ibuprofen? Check. Check. Check.

Stay tuned...lotsa action on tap.

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