June 30, 2012

Making a Splash

You will never guess where I was today. OK, let me amend that--if you aren't one of my Facebook friends, you'll never guess where I was today. I was at...a waterpark. Again. Didn't I just post how much I dread going to waterparks? Why yes, yes I did. But Bubba and Sassy are heading off to camp next week and for a single, solitary, heat induced moment, I thought it would be fun to have a waterpark send-off. I'm telling you, heat is a dangerous thing.

I got smart this time, though. I invited my 2 nephews along. I figured, if Sassy had someone to play in the water with her, she wouldn't be asking me. And it worked! (Patting myself on the back.) We got there about 15 minutes after they opened and there was already a line. But it wasn't as hot as it was earlier in the week so the wait wasn't so bad. And I came prepared with a cooler stocked with ice waters, apple slices and granola bars--we were set.  Once inside, I was excited to find an unclaimed lounge chair and we promptly dumped all our stuff on it, lathered up with sunblock, and then they were off.

As I sat and tried to get all settled in for the duration, I noticed the lady with the chair next to mine was...hovering. She was just standing there next to me, not saying anything, not doing anything, just standing. I tried to ignore her, I really did. Until I had to get up and move the chair in front of me so I could keep an eye on the younger ones who were in the kiddie pool. I turned back to see her watching me and I said, "I need to be able to see my kids," and I smiled. She didn't smile back; she grabbed the headrest of my chair, and said, "Mine." Really? You're going there? I gave a wave of my hand to indicate that, clearly, I already had all my stuff dumped on the chair, thereby staking the claim that the chair was, in fact, mine. If you don't leave something on the chair, it is open for anyone. That's the rule and everyone knows that. Was she there first? Yes. Had she observed proper waterpark chair claiming procedure? No. The chair was mine by rights. She didn't seem to know about the rule or even care if there was a rule, she just tossed her beach towel over the headrest and continued to stare at me.

It was at this time that I had to assess the situation. I mean, clearly the chair was mine, but did I really want to get into a petty argument with a woman who didn't seem to speak any English, other than that one word? I might have been tempted, but upon closer inspection, it was obvious that she could take me in a hand to hand battle. I'm not completely stupid and knew it wasn't worth risking life, limb and a cute hairdo over a stupid chair so I decided to stroll around and see if there were any more open. Every single chair in the area was staked out with someone's belongings (they obviously observed the time honored tradition of chair claimage). I finally located a chair all the way at the other end of the park and hefted it over to the kiddie area. I parked myself in the shade and then proceeded to transfer all our bags, shoes, clothing, and cooler to our new spot.

I resigned myself to spending the day at the waterpark, sacrificing a day spent writing or reading so my kids could get out and have fun. I took the time to pack snacks, invite friends and even put on my bathing suit. So when two of the boys came up to me after an hour and a half and wanted to go home, I wanted to scream, "Are you kidding me?! You ask every day if we can go to the waterpark and now you want to leave after an HOUR AND A HALF?" The answer was no. I told them we were going to stay for at least 3 hours--whether they liked it or not, of course. And then another kid came up, asking the same thing. Seriously? What is wrong with these kids? I know what's wrong with them. These same 5 kids were spoiled the other day when I let them spend the day playing video games--something that never happens in my house. It went on like this the entire time we were there. Every 15 minutes a different kid would come up to me asking, "How much longer?"

At the 2 1/2 hour mark, I finally gave in and said we could leave. However, it took another 30 minutes to get all 5 of the kids out of the pool, toweled off and into their clothes and shoes so by the time we were heading out the gates, we were able to say we had been there for 3 hours. Back at the house, only 1 kid actually got on the games. I think the heat sapped the energy right out of them.

I KNEW there was a reason I liked the waterpark.

June 22, 2012

Park It Here

I have a confession to make (yes, another one, don't judge me). I don't enjoy taking my kids to parks. I understand it's pretty much a necessity if you have kids and don't want to go insane. And don't get me wrong, I love to see them playing and having fun. But I don't like sitting there...doing nothing. I get antsy. It's not relaxing for me. I want to be doing something. I am incapable of enjoying doing nothing. Well, that's not entirely true. I do enjoy doing nothing under the right circumstances. Sitting outside with nothing to do but stare and do security watch is NOT the right circumstances. I don't particularly enjoy chatting up strangers in the park so it's not a great social event for me, and, for the most part, I hate being out in the sun so it's not a chance to enjoy being outside. I love, love, love when my kids are having a great time and enjoying themselves--especially if they are doing it outside. I just wish I didn't have to sit there while they do.

Does this make me a bad mom? Possibly. I never claimed to be Mom of the Year. Just chalk it up along with all of my other failings.

If we are going to a regular park, it's not so bad. I can relax with a book while they play on the playground or kick around a soccer ball. It's pretty easy to keep an eye on them while catching a few paragraphs here and there. Or I can bring some paper and catch up on my writing with the same results. The problem is the 90 degree weather here in TX which necessitates visits to water parks.

I hate water parks.

I don't generally like rides and I don't generally like the water slides at the big water parks. I can't understand how shooting almost straight down a two story slide while your bathing suit bottom creeps to parts better left unknown and water sprays up your nose leaving your brain water logged is considered fun. Oh, and let's not forget the dig-the-bathing-suit-out-of-your-hiney-without-anyone-noticing dance you get to do before you can actually stand back up. And all this is done while parading around body parts that haven't seen the sun in years and are kept under wraps FOR A REASON. Yay. Sign me up.

I think I might be able to enjoy a water park if it was just me. I'd just plop myself down on an inner tube and cruise the lazy river for 3 hours, with the occasional dip in the water to cool me off. There would be no hanging onto 2 inner tubes while keeping an eye on a third in the deep end of the wave pool where I will use my under worked muscles to keep us all together while also trying to coordinate just the right time to jump with the waves so I don't get a gallon of chlorine water dumped into every orifice in my head. There would be no "I wanna go here", "No, I wanna go here" arguments. There would be no moments of panic when I lose sight of one of the minions and I frantically look for the lifeguards to see if they are currently fishing one of my kiddos out of the water. And best of all? There would be no one to say, "That ride looks really scary. Will you please go on it with me, Mommy?", which is always accompanied by the doe-eyed orphan look that only those with a heart of stone can resist.

I'm sure this makes me a horrible mother but I do not enjoy spending hours in the heat, sweating in a bathing suit I would rather not leave the house in, worrying about sunburns, drownings, lost children and how many kids have actually peed in the pools. I would rather be relaxing, enjoying my kids in the relative safety of a normal park where I can indulge in reading, writing or taking pictures, and the only thing I have to worry about is sunburns, bugs, strangers and how many kids have peed on the slide.

June 20, 2012

Skinny Little Fat Girl

Whenever the subject of weight comes up I tend to do one of two things. I either (wisely) keep my mouth shut, knowing my gripes will not be appreciated, or I (stupidly) jump on the "I'm so fat" bandwagon and then have to justify saying so when everyone around me declares me to be skinny. We live in an age of obesity, an age of fast food, automated jobs and online social lives. Most of us, if honest, would probably admit to not being happy with the shape our bodies are in. So why, if I declare that I am unhappy with my extra weight and complete lack of muscle tone, am I scolded for being ridiculous? I'm told I should be happy that I am so skinny and not "fat" like other people.

I know, right now you are shaking your heads at me. Poor little Slacker Mom. She's upset because people think she's skinny. What a pity. Someone shove a bite of cake in her mouth so she'll shut up. But please stick with me because I'm sure I speak for others as well.

I am not a great athlete, never have been, despite my half-hearted attempts. I played volleyball in middle school without bothering to learn an overhand serve. In high school, I was a cheerleader with no flexibility or gymnastic skills, and I ran track with barely enough stamina to finish the 800m. As an adult, I played softball but lacked enough muscle strength to really hit or throw. My point is, I may have been a bit more active than the average bear but I've never been a model of physical peak. Even so, I was shocked at how quickly being pregnant affected my physical fitness. I got winded going up a small flight of stairs. Walking wasn't a problem but I did get tired quicker. And the weight I put on. For a girl who graduated at 124lbs, putting on 33lbs was traumatic. I gained exactly that much with each pregnancy--only I didn't manage to lose it all in between.

I've learned to not get stuck on my weight number. But honestly? I cried when I first hit 130lbs (yes, I'm that shallow). Since then, I've come to a healthy acceptance of the number, whatever it may be. I figure, if I'm in shape and feel good about my body then it doesn't matter what I weigh. (Again, please don't read these numbers and groan. There is a point to my sharing all this.) The problem I have is, I am NOT in shape and I DON'T feel good about my weight. So I ask people about losing weight and I get the kind of answers that irritate me. "You don't need to lose weight; you're skinny. Look at me!" Let me tell you something. If I know I am not healthy, if I know that I am not taking proper care of this body that God has given me, then it doesn't matter if I am 5lbs overweight, 50lbs overweight or even 150lbs overweight--I need to change things. According to my BMI, I am overweight. According to how I feel when I am naked, I am a big blob of rising bread dough. It's time to change things.

I have been granted with an exceptional metabolism. If the average person ate like I did, she would be 500lbs and diabetic. For just over the last year, I have survived on a diet that mainly consists of Dr. Pepper, fast food and peanut M&Ms. Yes, I do cook on occasion and sometimes even healthy meals. Breakfast is a rare occurrence for me, so is milk. I used to go months without a single drink of water, but luckily the heat in TX prevents that from happening. I don't eat vegetables that have any nutritious value. I have dessert at 11 o'clock at night while sitting in bed. I am rarely truly hungry. I eat when I am bored, I eat when I am stressed, I eat because my body is so programmed to snack at midnight that it just feels like the thing to do. My day consists of chores in the house and parking myself in front of the computer. Because I live like this, my kids aren't much better. Now tell me I don't need to do something.

So, I am proposing a life change. I don't believe in "diets" that give you a temporary weight loss; eventually you have to go off that diet and figure out how to function without it. I do believe in changing your life style, however. I know what good proportions look like. I know how to sneak in healthy foods (which work for me and MC but the kids can detect that subtle change in taste and texture and won't touch anything. I've tried before.) I know my body well enough to know that as soon as I start walking and running, it will change shape.

What's stopping me from whipping myself and my family into shape? Only myself. I will have to get creative and put in a little more time than most to come up with meals that my family will eat. As it is, there are only 3 meals that all 5 of us will actually eat and none of them will be up for health food of the year. Exercising will mean waking up early so I can get a walk/run in before MC has to leave for work. It will mean relying on God more than food to get me through the day. It will mean keeping out of sight of some of my favorite things because I am not good at stopping before I cross the line into gluttony. Will I screw up? Spectacularly, I imagine. But I also know that I'm capable of these changes. I've done it before, I can do it again. This time, I know I don't have any big life changes ahead of me to derail me--that helps.

I am posting this here on my blog so I have some kind of accountability. If you are one of these people who think that because I am not 100lb overweight then I am fine the way I am, you are asked to respectfully hold your opinion. If, however, you understand my desire to be be healthy both physically and mentally, than I would love your support and encouragement. I am doing this without a gym, without putting any money into it. There will be no dietary supplements or personal trainers. Just me and God.

I'll keep you posted.

*Day 1--148lbs and sedentary.

June 14, 2012

Pitch This

Four days after returning from our camping trip and all the laundry is done, most of the gear is put away and the smell of campfire has dissipated (wiping away a tear). It takes me longer to put everything away then it does to actually go on the camping trip to begin with, but it's worth it. We had a few bumps along the way, but overall I'd chalk up our first family camping weekend in TX as a success.

I have to say, I'm quite surprised at how different camping in TX is from camping in WA. I know, I know, you all are rolling your eyes and saying, "DUH!" I mean, I knew it wasn't going to be exactly the same, especially given that it was in the 90s here while we would flip over 70 degree weather in WA, but for the most part I figured camping was camping, right?


Because I am such a giver, I would like to share with you what I learned while camping.

Friday night started out as most of our trips do--waiting for MC to get off work, then rushing around pulling last minutes things together and finally getting to our destination with just enough time to pitch the tent before we lost all daylight. The first problem came as we were driving through the campground and MC suddenly put on the brakes. What? Did you hit something? Did a cute little fluffy bunny run onto the road? What is it? Very discreetly, so the kids won't hear and freak out, MC turns to me and mouths the word "t-a-r-a-n-t-u-l-a". WHAT?!?! Are you kidding me? There was a freakin' tarantula on the road?? A spider big enough that you could see it from behind the wheel of your van? And you AVOIDED running it over??? Are you insane?? Forget the kids freaking out, I was a mess! I. Hate. Spiders. I actually started crying right there and told my dear, sweet husband that I wanted to go home. NOW. Monster spiders? I did not sign up for that, thank you very much. He checked with the registration office and they informed him that they rarely had any problems with tarantulas. Hello? The fact that one was spotted was a serious problem. But we were here, we'd already paid, and we had family coming to join us. I couldn't really cancel at this point. (Boy, was I tempted though.) So instead I scanned every square inch of grass within my vicinity, wielding that flashlight like a sword, ready to scream and take flight at the first sign of movement.  
Lesson learned? Ignorance is truly bliss. I never actually saw a tarantula the entire weekend but spent the whole time on edge waiting for one to show. If I hadn't known they were there, I would've been fine.

When you camp in WA, any site with a lot of trees is a good place to be because it means shelter if it starts to rain. I was quite pleased that we had a site with trees this weekend, it would mean shade during the hot day. What I didn't know was that, in addition to shade, trees offer a great sanctuary for all manner of bugs but mainly--you got it--spiders. Fortunately, no other tarantulas were spotted. In fact, I don't think we saw any that were bigger than a quarter. But what they might have lacked in size they made up for in quantity. They were EVERYWHERE. If we sat too long in one spot, we would have to break through web strings when we stood. Never having seen the spiders at work, they nevertheless would start using us as supports for their webs. We were constantly flicking them off our chairs, legs and shoulders. We had to beware when entering our tent so they didn't follow us inside.  
Lesson learned? When choosing a camping site in TX, pick the one WITHOUT any trees.

On Saturday, we took the kids swimming at Lake Texoma. They had a blast splashing around in the water and building sand castles. We got to do some exploring, too, but for the most part we just cooled off in the water. Let me rephrase that, the KIDS cooled off in the lake while MC and I relaxed on the beach. I brought out my ever present book and stretched out on a towel while MC snoozed on the inner tubes. Out there under the full sun I had sweat literally running off of me and the sand was full of ants that felt it was necessary to use me as a jungle gym, but I got to read while keeping an eye on the minions.
Lesson learned? I will put up with a LOT to get to read while the kids are occupied.

Bubba did tons some grumbling about not having any electronic games and he wasn't too fond of our hike...or the bugs...or the outdoors in general...BUT once we had a campfire going, his attitude changed. Give that kid some paper plates or sticks he can throw into the fire and he is set. My little pyro. I think the campfire is our favorite part. Really it was a little too hot, but we still started a fire to cook lunchtime hot dogs and then again in the evening for light as well as roasting marshmallows and making s'mores. You get everyone around that campfire and that's when we all relax. Everyone is hypnotized just watching the flames. And we do have a tendency to break out into song around the fire. Imagine that.
Lesson learned? A campfire can soothe many of life's grievances. I'm thinking we should gather all the world's leaders around a big bonfire and then, once their legs are all toasty and their eyes have glazed over, we have them sign a peace treaty. I bet they'd be much more agreeable that way.

As we were packing up on Sunday afternoon, I had to move MC's van to make some room for my SIL's truck. It was really hard for me to see out the back due to all our stowed gear and I couldn't quite see what I needed to out the side mirrors so I wasn't aware there was a tree behind me until I hit it. Hard. I got out to inspect the damage and was happy to see only minor scratching on the rubber covering the bumper. It was only when we got back home that we discovered the bumper was bent just enough that the back doors would no longer open. Yeesh. Figures it was me. But MC is not without incident. On the freeway heading home, he hit a bird. I saw it coming and thought for sure we would miss it, but no. I closed my eyes just before it hit the antennae and then the corner of the windshield with a really loud, really disturbing thunk. Nothing was left behind on the van, but I don't think Tweety made it.
Lesson learned? There is nowhere we can go and be safe from our unique type of luck.

(*Editor's note: I may never come back and visit this page again due to the spider pic. Blech!*)

June 12, 2012

The Real Competition

It's Tuesday again which means tonight you'll find me and the fam all huddled around the TV watching Design Star (8pm CST on HGTV). Bex Hale is one of the designers competing this season for her own design show and she happens to be an old friend of mine. She was in the church youth group way back in our high school days. She was always gorgeous, super talented (an artist, a singer, an actress), outgoing, fun and commanded attention wherever she went. You know, one of THOSE people--if I didn't like her so much I would have to hate her just on principal. And she hasn't changed; she's still gorgeous, still funny and still has talent oozing out of her pores.

Each week the designers have to compete in a different design challenge for the hope of being safe again for another week. The losers are booted off with the words, "We will not be producing your show." Thank you and goodbye. The winner will get to have his or her own show on HGTV. There is also an online voting competition where this season's "fan favorite" will win an online show. I am happy to say that I love all of Bex's designs, both in her online portfolio and in each episode, so I don't feel the least bit guilty about giving her all of my votes.

As I watch the designers pull off tasks that would be impossible for me to even contemplate considering my house is decorated in 21st century cast-offs that don't match, I wonder why someone hasn't come up with a competition show for those of us who have no talents, those of us who don't know the first thing about paint or lighting, who can't tell the difference between molding chocolate or fondant, and who would rather spend their time eating the cupcakes instead of making them look like miniature castles. How about a competition for those of us who can't sing OR dance, couldn't sell ice cubes in Hell, can't sew a zipper and like our Ben & Jerry's too much to consider losing all the nice insulation it's given us?

I would like to propose The Slacker Games, a competition for REAL people who must compete in the type of mundane, every day tasks that we will never otherwise get any credit for being so good at. Here are the challenges:

1. Practice Night Dinner
The challenge? You have 45 minutes--the time after soccer/dance/choir practice and before church/football/homework--to come up with a semi-nutritious dinner for your family. The catch? It's a week before payday and all you have left in your kitchen is ketchup, pickles, a box of Hamburger Helper and a wrinkly apple. You will be immediately disqualified for turning to your local drive thru for help.

2. Vacation Packing
The challenge? Your family is going on a 7 day vacation to a resort. You must pack enough clothes and toiletries to cover all scenarios--sun, swimming, hiking, and even the possibility of rain--you must throw in books and games enough to keep them occupied in down times without relying on electronics since this is supposed to be family bonding time, and you must also throw in snacks for the trip since airlines don't provide meals anymore and you can't afford the $10 nuggets at the airport McDonald's. The catch? You must pack everything in only 3 suitcases because the airlines now charge a minimum of $25 per bag to check in extra luggage. You must also limit your carry-ons because you will be too busy stripping off everyone's shoes, belts and dignity at security to keep up with a lot of bags.

3. The Impromptu Mother-In-Law Visit
The challenge? Your mother-in-law, who has never found you good enough for her beloved son, calls to say she "happens to be in the neighborhood" and will be at your door in 15 minutes. You must race around like a speed addicted squirrel stowing stuff out of sight and swiping dust off surfaces with the hem of your shirt. The catch? You've neglected all the housework the last week or so due to vacation/sick kids/apathy and now have quadruple the work you normally would. Points are deducted for stashing dirty dishes in the oven or smelly laundry under the bed. She is your mother-in-law; she will snoop.

I could throw in more challenges like folding fitted sheets (I would rock this category), grocery bag carry-in (how many of those bags can YOU carry?), staying dry while bathing the kids (this one might be near impossible), schedule coordination (3 kids, 3 practice locations, 2 parents), and my favorite--concentration. This is where you have to complete a task that requires reading and remembering while all your children are having different conversations with you at the same time, and your husband has just come home wanting attention and dinner.

There are so many more things we could add. It would be fun to watch regular people compete in the things we are doing every day anyway. But honestly, I'm not sure any of us would be willing to tear ourselves away from Celebrity Rehab long enough to to compete.

June 1, 2012

Is It Fall Yet?

About 2 months before school is over for the year I start looking forward to summer vacation. No more getting up at dark-thirty to spend an hour trying to get the minions out of bed and somewhat presentable for school, no more digging through the couch cushions trying to find coins for lunches because I'll never see the change if I give them dollar bills, no more battling the crazy drivers in the drop-off/pick up lines at school, no more riding herd on homework that doesn't make any sense to me. I start dreaming of when we are all free to relax, sleep in, and spend the days running through fields of wildflowers while cross-stitching verses together. Oh wait, maybe that was a movie on Lifetime.

Now it's here--the first day of summer vacation! And, well...it's not exactly the idyllic paradise I had in my head. In fact, if I'm honest with myself (which I so hate to be), I can recall this exact scenario LAST summer. There is a definite discrepancy between what I dream of and reality. Am I alone in this?

The Dream of Sleeping In:  If I don't have to wake up the kids and get them to school by 7:30 than I can sleep in. If we have no other plans then we are all free to lounge around in bed until we are well rested and ready to face a new day. Only after I have had a leisurely stretch and been allowed to slowly climb out of bed on my own timetable do I have to leave the comfort of my room and face another day.
The Reality:  Bubba and Sassy are physically incapable of sleeping in. After waking up altogether too early to the sounds of Spongebob on a TV that was turned up so the hard-of-hearing neighbor down the street could hear it, I get the kids settled on a much more reasonable volume and then crawl back in bed, only to be woken up an hour later to doors slamming, feet thundering, and kids screaming. My kids have a problem with too much energy zinging through bodies too small to hold it all in. For the most part, they've managed to keep it under control for the last 9 months, but now they are done. That energy has built and built and now it can no longer be contained. It's bursting through their limbs, out of control, until I have 3 Tazmanian devils pinballing off of each other with no regard whatsoever to who might be injured in the wake of their personal tornadoes. It all ends with kids crying, limbs bleeding and Mommy reaching for the Ben & Jerry's and locking herself in the bathroom.

The Dream of Shared Activities:  I have all kinds of fun activities planned for the summer--painting, crafting, hiking, library visits, camping. We can have reading time when we all sit together and I read out loud to them from Harry Potter. We can discuss the hidden meanings in our recent viewing of "Hugo". We can commune with nature and God's creation while hiking. We can bond while creating personal art projects to display in our rooms. We will spend the summer getting closer to each other and sharing secrets (theirs, not mine) and I will rejoice in knowing that my children like me, they really like me.
The Reality:  Camping? While most of us are on board, Bubba has informed me that he doesn't want to go because he's more of an "indoorsman". No one wants to take up our previously enjoyed hobby of hiking because it's TOO. FREAKIN'. HOT. And there are bugs. They are against bugs. While Sassy is up for any kind of crafting, the boys think it's booorrriiiinnnggg. And girly. We do all like to read but no one can agree on any one book. Howdy has read all the Harry Potter books and is trying to convince me to let him read my Janet Evanovich books that make me laugh til I wet myself. Bubba would rather read The Far Side comic books or cheesy riddle books so he can regale us with his own made up versions of the same jokes and Sassy wants to read about caring for the Wild Platypus Hawk or whatever animal has caught her eye this week. The only thing they can agree on is they DON'T want to go outside and marathons of The Fairly Oddparents are awesome. Meanwhile, I am searching the house for something to stab my eardrum with so I don't have to listen to the nerve-grating voices on Cartoon Network.

The Dream of a Clean House:  With soccer season over and no more running around after the kids, I will have more time to devote to housework. I won't have to rush to get caught up on a Wednesday afternoon between Chess club and bible class. The kids won't have 2-3 changes of clothes each day between school uniforms, soccer uniforms and play clothes, so less laundry. And with the kids around more, I can assign them each a few more chores to share the burden.
The Reality:  No school uniforms are great but now we have camp. Actually, the kids have a total of 3 different camps this summer in addition to the you-are-going-and-that's-final camping trip with the family. That means that I will have regular laundry loads during the week and then on the weekend when they return from camp, I will have to rush through washing all their clothes, towels and sleeping bags so they will be ready for the next camp. And going camping means I will at least double my usual laundry loads since the kids will inevitably fall into the mud, sit on a ketchup-smothered hamburger, or wipe their s'more-sticky fingers on their shirts resulting in--you got it--2-3 clothing changes each day. The kids hear the word "vacation" and seem to think it means a vacation from all responsibility. So what used to be an annoying job of reminding the kids 5 times each morning and evening to do their chores now becomes an hour long debate about how a break from school is not a break from life and why they need to continue to do their chores if they want to continue to live--and in my house.

During the school year, when we are pulled in 3 or 4 different directions and the kids' days are filled up with homework, clubs, sports and friends, I dream of the day when summer vacation comes and I finally get them all to myself. I miss having that time with them and laughing together. And then I get my wish. I have them...all to myself...24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And I start counting down the days until school starts again.