Kid B Uses Her Powers for Evil

Happy Wednesday morning!  I continue to be thrilled that my immediate family keeps sending me posts so I can be a slacker who uses guest writers whilst I am on vacation this summer.  Today’s post comes from my very own twelve-year-old Kid B.  I have always said that she has a special something that draws people to her.  And I remind her that she has to make a conscious choice all the time… either use her powers for good, or use her powers for evil.  Apparently the ornery part of her is pretty strong-willed.  She must get that from her father (wink, wink).

She wrote this during our drive from Georgia to New Jersey, and I proudly present it to you.

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Sibling Pranks by honorary guest writer, Kid B

Hi, Kid B here!  How many of you out there have little sisters or brothers?  Well, I do, and trust me when I tell you this – they can be extremely annoying.  What to do when they are all up in your business and bothering you to no end?  That’s simple – make fun of them or pull a joke on them.  Easy stuff (no dangerous tricks) that get the point across that there are consequences for being pesky.  Here are some of my favorites…

I don't care how cute you are. I will do mean things to you for my own amusement.

Example #1:

In the February of 2004 my dad had a work trip to California and my mom went with him.  Our Nanny and Pop Pop came to babysit us.  We lived in our old house in Roswell then, and I was an innocent 5-year-old.  Kid C was about to turn 3.  She was just starting to eat “big girl” food, and was extremely excited because Nanny was cooking a big Thanksgiving-type dinner for us one night.  We all sat down to a feast of turkey, mashed potatoes, and a big bowl of gravy.  That’s where the trick began – with that bowl of gravy.  As I said before Kid C was so excited to try these new foods so she insisted on having piles of chicken and mashed potatoes, but she refused to even try the brownish-grey stuff (the gravy).  I noticed this and of course jumped at the opportunity to put one over on her.  I decided to try to call the gravy something more appealing so she might try it.  “Why aren’t you eating your chocolate?” I asked.  At the mention of chocolate her eyes popped out of her head and she excitedly asked for some.  Being the generous person I am, I gave her a surplus – I mean I poured it all over her plate.  She grabbed her fork and took a big spoonful.  To her surprise (and my delight) it was not even close to what she expected and she made a face that was a mix between a face for a sour lemon and one like she was about to barf.  I laughed until I cried.

Example #2:

Sometimes, when I am babysitting Kids C and D we play a game called “Star Wars.”  In our game there are two teams – the good (them) versus the bad (me).  We use foam swords or wiffle bats as our lightsabers and we hide from the other team.  The object is to find someone from the other team, sneak up on them and hit them (lightly, as my mom is no doubt reading this) with your lightsaber.  They will then turn around and you duel until someone gets poked with the other’s lightsaber.  If you get poked you are out of the game.  The last person/ team standing wins.  Pretty easy, right?  Well, one stormy Saturday afternoon I was babysitting.  Kid D suggested a game of “Star Wars,” so we grabbed our lightsabers and headed our separate ways.  After about five minutes I found a great hiding spot in Kid E’s room.  Kid C came up the stairs just minutes later.  I think she knew where I was, so I went through the bathroom into Kid D’s adjoining room and snuck up behind her.  Then I whispered in her ear, “Looking for someone?”  I swear, she jumped ten feet in the air, peed her pants, and screamed all at the same time.  I was on the ground, howling with laughter for at least twenty minutes.  Apparently, she didn’t find it as funny as I did because she hasn’t agreed to play again since.

Example #3:

Ahh… April Fool’s Day, the perfect excuse to play tricks on your siblings.  It was the Friday before Spring Break and Kid C  had just left for school on the bus.  I had carefully planned this so she wouldn’t know what I had done until she got home after school.  I snuck into her room and made my way carefully over to her dresser.   First, I removed all of her underwear and took them into my room.  Then, I rearranged all of her clothes so they were in different drawers.  Feeling satisfied with my trick I made my way downstairs and headed out for a great day at school.  I had forgotten all about my prank by the time I came home, and still didn’t remember until after dinner.  Later that night I was sitting in the living room with my mom, my  dad, Kid A, and my Nanny and Pop Pop.  All of a sudden, Kid C comes downstairs in nothing but a towel.  “Mom, you moved my underwear, right?” she asked.  My mom looked puzzled and she replied skeptically, “No….”  That’s when it came back to me.  I started laughing and could barely choke out, “Happy… April… Fools… Day!”  My mom and dad yelled at me and ordered me to put everything back after Kid C ran back upstairs crying, but they did it while trying to stifle their own laughter.  I don’t care what everybody else said, that was a good one.

These are just a couple of tricks that stand out in my memory.  I realize that I pulled most of them on Kid C, but that is just because she usually bugs me the most.  My mom keeps on saying that we will probably be great friends later on in life.  But right now, my advice if you are a kid who drives your big sister or big brother bonkers, you’d better watch out because you never know where your underwear might end up!

How Sheepdog Kept His Daughter From Going Topless

We arrived on the beach the other day, with our small tribe of people and accompanying mountain of gear. No sooner had we staked claim to our parcel of sand and started to assemble our little beach village than Kid C announced to me that her bikini top was broken. Seriously broken… the plastic clasp had completely cracked in two, and the sides were not long enough to tie together.

Now with Kid C you never know if it just broke when we got onto the beach or if it was broken when she put it on earlier in the day and she got distracted by some confetti or a blue bird or a car alarm and forgot about it until just now when we can’t really do anything about it, but that issue is actually beside the point. Her top was busted and something needed to be done.

My solution was for Kid D to loan her his rash guard for the day. Unfortunately, his rash guard on this day was white and at least one season old (read: almost transparent even when dry – seriously, I don’t even know why he was wearing it). I immediately thought back to Spring Break 1989 and a particular wet t-shirt contest in Daytona Beach that I may or may not have participated in, and a shiver went through my entire body as I heard my mom saying, “I can’t wait until you have daughters. Payback is gonna be so fun to watch!”

Now Kid C may not technically require a top based upon her cup size, as she is a skinny 10-year-old girl who weighs less than 55 pounds soaking wet, but she is clearly a female and she can not go around all day with nothing covering her top half. We had several cotton shirt and/ or cover-up alternatives between the rest of us, but she is so tiny that even the smallest of them would fit like dresses instead of shirts, and they would not fare well in the surf. She would be uncomfortable and wet all day long (and she would surely not suffer in silence).

But fortunately for Kid C, Sheepdog was with us and he is awesome in these kinds of situations. He examined the broken plastic clasp, estimated the length of the straps, analyzed a few matrices and calculated a square root, all while referring to the Periodic Table of the Elements from memory (I really don’t know what he was doing, but he was a super smart person deep in thought… isn’t that the kind of stuff they do?). Then he reached into a magic bag of Sheepdog tricks and pulled out… TA DA!.. our car keys.

MacGyver has nothing on Sheepdog

In the very little time it took me to erect (heh, heh… I said “erect”) the tent and open a few beach chairs, Sheepdog had repaired Kid C’s bikini top using only a metal key ring. And in doing so he kept his daughter from going topless, at least for one more glorious day.

Amazing.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

I Love the Beach

We spent this whole past weekend on the beach.  It was fantastic and I was in heaven.  I absolutely love everything about the beach.  I love the feel of the sand under my feet and between my toes, the chill of the ocean water in June, the smell of the salt as it sticks to my skin, the sound of kids yelling as they jump around in the surf.  By the end of a good beach day I am just a little crispy and a little tired and my hair is extra curly.  If it is a great day I get to see the diamond sparkles from the sun reflecting on the water as I go over the bridge, and it all just makes my soul happy.

I don’t even mind that getting my entire family onto the beach can be a cartoonish endeavor.  There is lunch for seven (picture twenty slices of bread on the counter… that’s one sandwich each, plus one for the ride home for the boys and Sheepdog – the boys are always so hungry!), drinks and snacks, the cart, the tent, the blanket for laying in the tent, the giant cooler on wheels, the chairs, the plastic toys, the beach towels, the boogie boards, and the frame backpack to carry Kid E.  And let me point out that my family is not one bit unique in bringing all of this stuff down to the beach.  We are surrounded by almost a hundred families who are toting around the same stuff for a glorious day of sun, surf and sand.

And those of us who love it will do it day after day after day after day.  All summer long if you’d let us.

I remember my very first beach day with Kid A.  She was born in January so she was just about six months old when good beach weather rolled around.  I was bound and determined to navigate the beach with kids as easily as I did when I was young and single and would take the NJ Transit bus from Absecon to Atlantic City with only my beach chair and a tiny beach bag.  And I was determined to do it by myself because Sheepdog does not love the beach as much as I do.

I found a parking spot just a couple of blocks back.  I had a pack-n-play cabana thing (it had a cover for shade – awesome!) with wheels on one side that I decided to open up and pile everything into so I could just wheel it down to the beach.  I carried Kid A on my hip and the plan actually worked really well.  Until we got to the beach block and I smelled something horrible.  Kid A had a blow-out and, as a result, both of us were now covered in baby poop.  I was just seconds from crying (alright, I totally broke down in the middle of the street) when some angel woman who lived there invited us in, gave me a clean shirt and let me get Kid A cleaned up.

Many years of trial and error and so much new gear later (some indispensable – like the frame backpack, some a complete waste of money – like the Happy Cabana), I have a system that works.  Sheepdog is still not as much of a beach fan, so it has continued to be important for me to do it single parent style.  It has gotten easier with time because the kids require less stuff as they get bigger and they can help me carry things now too.

But despite the years of practice at planning and packing for the beach, even the best of us can mess it up sometimes.  After seeing a flying ad banner from WaWa about Hoagiefest, yesterday I heard a mom next to us sigh, “Oh crap, I totally forgot the sandwiches!”  I often forget to bring a camera or the extra beach chair (which means someone is sitting on the cooler).  When the kids were little I would forget to bring extra diapers or a change of clothes (trust me – this is key for keeping them safe from sand rash on the drive home), or enough towels, or something else that seems critical when you forget it.

I swear that I did not drug them.

But then there are the awesome days.  These are the days when you bring everything you need and nothing you don’t.  The days when you get a great parking spot.  The days when you not only remember the beach badges, but you have enough for everyone in your party.  The days when the seagulls stay away from your lunch and you brought enough food to satisfy even the hungriest kids (and Sheepdog!).  The days when the water is just cold enough to cool you off and there aren’t too many shells on the ground or flotsam and jetsam in the waves.  The days when you get a great spot near the lifeguard stand and nobody comes and sets up their camp right on top of you and proceeds to smoke stinky cigarettes all day long.  The sun is out, but occasionally some cloud cover drifts by to cool things off.  There are no bugs, but not too much wind.  The kids play hard in the surf all morning, then chill out in the afternoon.

These are the beach days that bring me joy.  That I get to spend them with all of my kids (and Sheepdog!) makes it that much more special.  I actually prefer it this way over the days when it was just me and my one beach chair.  And after two really great beach days in a row, my soul is extremely happy.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Family Trip vs. Vacation

This morning I woke up with Kid E’s foot in my face, dragged myself out of bed at this unholy hour, loaded and ran the dishwasher, threw a bunch of towels into the dryer, served C, D and E breakfast, cleaned up after them, and made a grocery list with plans to head out to the store this morning to get what we need.  Then I wondered out loud to no one in particular, “How is this any different?  I’m supposed to be on vacation too.”

Then I remembered that I am the mother to five kids and we are not gazillionaires, nor do we have live-in help, so even when we go away all of this crap still needs to be done by someone.  And then I started to daydream about going on a grown-up vacation versus a family trip and I got really, really excited.  I may have gotten more excited than was realistic because I actually was a gazillionaire in my daydream, but it is my dream, right?

The Family Truckster is loaded up for the family trip

On a family trip I have to grocery shop, do laundry and dishes, and make meals for an army.  On a vacation I do not set foot in a store (except to buy fabulous resort wear or fancy souvenirs for the kids), in a kitchen (except to nosh on hors d’oeuvres prepared by a buff, hot, local chef who prepares all of our meals for us), or a laundry room (no exceptions for this on vacation… since I’m super rich I’ll just buy more clothes if I run out of clean ones).

On a family trip I have to make and execute entertaining plans for each day.  On a vacation I can do what I want, when I want.  I don’t even have to tell anyone where I’m going.

On a family trip I wake up when someone else makes me.  Kids D and E are especially famous for rising with the sun and dragging me out of bed.  On a vacation I can sleep until noon, then take a nap fifteen minutes later if I should feel the need.

On a family trip I will often wake up in the morning with extra people in my bed.  On a vacation I will not wake up with anyone else but Sheepdog next to me.  The telemarketers may call me “Mrs. Swinger,” but that is really not my bag, baby.

Don’t get me wrong… I love a good family trip.  But it is a completely different experience from a vacation.  I love traveling with the kids, experiencing things with them and later being able to say, “remember that time…” and having all of us add our thoughts and memories to the story.  Some of my favorite childhood memories are from family vacations and I hope that is also true for my kids.

But there is nothing quite like a real vacation, with no kids and no work.  Just you and your spouse.  Sheepdog and I haven’t had a vacation together like that since Kid B was a baby and we went to the west coast of Costa Rica.  That was in 1999.  And I don’t want to jinx it, but we finally have another vacation planned – with each other and no kids and no work – in early 2012.  We have a countdown going.

That is not going to be a family trip.  It is going to be a vacation.  And there is a very big difference between the two.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

The Very Hungry Mommy

By the light of the moon a sleeping Mommy lay in her bed.

One vacation morning the warm sun came up and – pop! – into her bed came very tiny and very hungry Kids A – E.

They started to whine for some food.

On Monday they ate through a bag of Twizzlers.  But they were still hungry.

On Tuesday they ate through two Primo pizzas.  But they were still hungry.

On Wednesday they ate through three boxes of Tastykakes.  But they were still hungry.

On Thursday they ate through four cheesesteaks.  But they were still hungry.

On Friday they ate through five Blizzards from Dairy Queen.  But they were still hungry.

On Saturday they ate through blue chips and guacamole, cupcakes with jimmies, salt water taffy, WaWa hoagies, a bag of pretzels, tacos, hamburgers, chili dogs and a blueberry pie.  That night they all had stomachaches!

Sunday comes afterwards.  They ate through one nice dinner that Mommy made from the South Beach Diet menu (pistachio-chicken salad) from whole food ingredients and after that they felt much better.

The kids weren’t hungry anymore and they were fine and still fit (because kids must have holes in their stomachs).  But not the Mommy.  Because she wasn’t a little Mommy anymore.  She was a big, fat Mommy.

So she put her skinny clothes away in a drawer and she stayed inside for almost 90 days.  And she pushed play on every one of those days and by the end…

She was a Super Fit P90X graduate!  The End.

This picture is from the summer of 2009. I do not look anything like this currently in the summer of 2011. In fact, I think I recently ate that very bikini and maybe even some of the children in this photo.

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I did, in fact, complete 60 of the prescribed 90 days of the super-hard P90X program two years ago.  The family photo above is my after picture.  I just got bored with it and did not keep it up.  And you don’t get to keep a super fit body without working at it every day (trust me – I’ve tested that theory).

The Beachbody people who produce the program are now talking up their new P90X2 DVDs, which are due out soon and I am getting excited about them.  But I haven’t worked out seriously in more then two months.  That fact, plus my very bad vacation eating habits have led to a plethora of mom tankinis, caftans and casual hiding behind towels and beach chairs and kids.

So I have decided to stop whining and covering up and I’m going to start working out and eating better.  I have a new friend who has decided to train for Savannah’s Rock-N-Roll Marathon in November (http://rfbr262.wordpress.com), and if an old man can do that then surely a spring chicken like me can do a few push and pull-ups.  Right?

And a very sincere and heartfelt shout out to Eric Carle for creating one of the best children’s books ever for me to parody in my story above.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a classic in our kids’ library right next to Goodnight Moon, Big Bird’s Very Busy Day and the newly minted Go The F**k to Sleep.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Wrangling the Entropy Tip #4, I Excel at Excel

Each Wednesday of my vacation I am featuring a post by a noted guest writer (read: anyone in my family who responded to my pleas for them to pick up my slack – I’m on vacation for goodness’ sake!).  Last week you may recall that Sheepdog wrote an inspirational piece on DIY projects.  Today I am proud to introduce another character from my cast of crazies, the incredibly organized Sister D.

Sister D is in her early thirties, a stay-at-home mom to three kids (a 1-year old daughter, a 5-year-old son and an almost 7-year-old son, who is on the autism spectrum with PDD-NOS).  She has been married to B-I-L #3 (the Trash Man) for 8 years.  They keep moving around because Trash Man keeps getting promoted, but they have thankfully stayed put in Kennesaw, GA for the past couple of years now.  I just love that they are nearby.

Sister D is the youngest of the Paarz sisters.  She is creative and smart and a perfectionist.  She is a great mom and a loving wife and a loyal friend.  When she calls to catch up with me I tell my kids to leave me alone because I am on a very important call.  She is super fit because she works out and eats well.  She constantly challenges herself with marathons and other physical activities that make my head hurt.  She likes the finer things in life and she works hard for them too.  She is currently vacationing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, which is where she intends to spend summers with her children and a Mexican nanny as soon as she can convince our dad to buy a house there.

So, without any further ado, I present Sister D and her nuggets of wisdom…

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I EXCEL AT EXCEL by honorary guest writer, Sister D

I thought for my first guest blog I’d write about my crazy oldest sister.  Oh, wait…nevermind.

I have to admit…I don’t remember learning about entropy.  I was an engineering major (for a little while, anyway), though admittedly I did attend most of my sophomore year physics classes still a little saucy from the night before.  (C’mon…Buckhead bars closed at 4 AM.  I scheduled 8 AM classes to allow for my afternoon nap.  Do the math.)  Anyway, I don’t know a whole lot about entropy, but I do know that I can get in and out of a grocery store with 3 young kids in tow in 20 minutes.  This is how I do it.

Go to your local grocery store.  If you’re lucky, you can get an aisle directory from Customer Service.  If you’re not, don’t worry…you either get to look like an idiot as you take notes every time you go into a new aisle, or you can alarm the store manager as he wonders why you’re taking pictures of the signs in each aisle.  No matter how you obtain the information, take your list of what items are in each aisle and put them in a spreadsheet that looks something like this.

Print out several copies, hang one up on your refrigerator and instruct your self/family/babysitter to write items under the appropriate aisle heading as they run out or start to run low.  I also laminated one copy of my list with all of our regular items pre-populated in the fields so I have something to cross-reference as I plan my grocery trip.

So what are you going to put on this fancy list?  If your family is like mine, they probably expect you to feed them.  Planning meals is one of my least favorite tasks, so I only did it once.  I came up with 24 meals and have sets of four meals that cycle every six weeks.  We will always have enchilada chicken the same week we have tilapia piccata, but the last time we had those meals was six weeks ago, so no one seems to notice.  I evenly distribute my chicken/fish/beef/pasta dishes so that each group of four has a good variety and leaving three nights open per week allows for a little bit of spontaneity.  I fill those spots with Daddy’s-out-of-town-so-we’re-eating-cereal, seasonal meals with finds from the farmers’ market, events we attend so they’ll feed us, or dinner out.

Meal Primary heading Secondary heading Week
Broccoli & beef pasta Beef Pasta 1
Fajitas Chicken Mexican 1
Chicken baked with stuffing Chicken 1
Italian grilled pork chops Pork 1
Enchildada chicken Chicken Mexican 2
Chicken gorgonzola Chicken 2
Tilapia piccata Fish 2
Roasted turkey breast Turkey 2
Lasagna Beef Pasta 3
Chicken stir-fry Chicken Asian 3
Chicken sausage & peppers Chicken 3
Chicken casserole Chicken 3
Chicken and veggie pasta Chicken Pasta 4
Tomato mozzarella garlic chicken Chicken 4
Lemon garlic salmon Fish 4
Turkey chili Turkey 4
Spaghetti Beef Pasta 5
Tortilla soup and tamales Chicken Mexican 5
Chicken & dumplings Chicken 5
Pork tenderloin Pork 5
Tacos Beef Mexican 6
Chicken and spinach vodka pasta Chicken Pasta 6
Chicken parmesan Chicken 6
Pepper steak Steak 6

Old People Are Dirty

The other day the kids and I all traveled to Vineland, New Jersey (the largest city in the state measured by total area – 69 square miles, home to the largest farmer’s cooperative on the east coast – the Vineland Produce Auction, and the birth place of Welch’s Grape Juice) to visit my maternal grandfather, Henry, who now lives in the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home there.

I have always called him “Pop Pop,” but my kids call him “Pop Pop Pop” or “3 Pops,” so as to differentiate between him (my only living grandparent) and my dad, who they call “Pop Pop.”  I don’t know why no one was able to come up with more unique nicknames in our family, but that’s what they are called so we just deal with it.  Although there was an attempt one time by Kid C to rename them, when she referred to my Pop Pop as “Pop Pop Fancy” (I guess from all of the Pop-ping) and my dad was (logically) “Pop Pop Plain.”  But those never stuck.

So we drove a little less than an hour to see 3 Pops, who is doing well health-wise for an 80-plus year-old man, except that he has circulation issues with his legs.  He is not a petite man by any stretch of the imagination – he was six feet, five inches tall at his tallest and I’d bet he was pushing three hundred pounds – so he can’t really walk on his own anymore.  Instead he drives around in a pimped-out, mac daddy electric wheelchair.

When we first got there he gave us a tour of the place.  No matter that we had been there several times before.  He just wanted to show off his visitors, which apparently is how you brag in the Home.  Imagine the sight of us in the halls… me and the five kids marching along with Pop Pop Fancy leading the parade in his Master of Ceremonies Hoveround.  He was a superstar!  We filed in and out of room after room, meeting friends and nurses and chatting them all up.  We shook everyone’s hands and many of them asked for and got hugs too.  I’m sure I got felt up a couple of times, but it was for the veterans so I wasn’t going to complain.

We took 3 Pops with us to a nice italian restaurant called Martino’s for some yummy lunch.  He is a regular there, so all of the waitresses came over to say hello and ask how he liked his spicy mussels (apparently a standing order for him).  Then we stopped at the store to pick up some fresh peaches, strawberries and navel oranges for him to keep in the fridge in his room.  He sure does love him some fruit!

Ernie and Pop Pop Fancy cruising the courtyard garden. Note that Ernie is wearing his favorite sombrero from The Awesome Hat Collection.

Back at the home we made another round of the halls to see if there was anybody who we might have missed on the first pass.  This was when we met my favorite couple of the day, Ernie and Mary Webber.  They had just recently celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary and they live in a room in the home together.  Mary is a little sicker and requires more care than her husband, but she still knew that she had some visitors and she just lit up when she talked with us.  I wondered to myself if they sometimes did it in their room.  How sweet would that be?  Ernie had an extensive hat collection that he insisted the kids all try on and he also had a beautiful vegetable and flower garden that he started in the courtyard that he showed us with immense pride.

It was clear that 3 Pops was ready for a nap, as it had been a busy and exciting day, and even his wheelchair was moving a little slower than usual.  We all hugged him and said our goodbyes, and the girls promised to write more letters (another way to get bragging rights in the home).  Kid E made me cry when he uncharacteristically climbed up into 3 Pop’s lap in the chair, grabbed both of his cheeks with his sweaty little hands, and gave him a giant smooch (you thought I was gonna say that he told him he wasn’t ugly, didn’t you?).

So we all piled into the car and headed back to the marina.  It was an all around great day and a really nice visit.  I was very proud of all of my kids that they did not even once stare, point, or ask embarrassing questions out loud when we were there.  No one mentioned that it smelled weird.  No one poked the people who were asleep in the hallways.  They were respectful and kind and interacted with everybody it made me very happy.

As we pulled into the driveway at my mom and dad’s house, I yelled out to the kids, “Now everybody should go to the bathroom and everybody should definitely wash their hands.”

Then Kid D replied, “Yeah, because we sure touched a lot of old people today!”

Wish me luck for tomorrow…