The Number Nine

Jan 12 2011

Miss Aden turned 9 years old today.

Waking Up Nine

Here’s something you should know about Aden:  She was born without a verbal filter.

Aden says what she thinks and plows ahead at full speed into conversations the rest of us would avoid.

(Or maybe she wasn’t born this way and it’s a learned behavior, but since that implicates me, I’m going to go with genetics.)

Truthfully, the things Aden says are one of the reasons I love being her mom.  I never know what I’m gonna get next, but I count on the fact that it’ll be entertaining.

In honor of Aden’s day, I offer you these verbal vignettes, all courtesy of Aden and all from the time our vacation began on Monday:

……

The Presence of Presents

Aden:  Excuse me.  Mom?  I do not think that four presents was enough for me today.

No, excuse me, Aden.  My sincere apologies.  (This is why I need a rolling-my-eyes smiley icon.)

Aden and "only" present #2

And this is what Aden looks like when she’s getting a lecture about gratitude and appropriate responses to receiving gifts:

Complete with drooping Mouse ears

……

Hey, Good Lookin’

Aden walked in the bathroom to talk to me while I was showering.  (Totally normal for our family.)

Aden: Hey, Mom! Guess what?!

Me: What?

Aden:  I can see you through the shower door!

Me:  Yep, that’s what a glass door is for.  Seeing things through it.

Aden:  Lookin’ gooood!

Me:  Aw, Aden, that’s so nice.  Every mommy likes to hear she looks good.  Thank you!

Aden:  No, Mom.  I mean I’m good at lookin’ at things.

Me:  Oh.

……

The Scent of Aden

Cael (4): Something stinks in here, Mom.

Me: What do you think it is?

Cael: I think it’s Aden.  She toots a lot.

Me, worried that Aden would feel criticized:  Aden, how do you feel about what Cael just said?

Aden, cheerfully:  Yep!  I think it’s me!  I do toot a lot.  Sorry, Mom.  Sorry, Cael.  I’ll take my butt somewhere else.

Cael and Aden

……

The Dangers of Drinking

Aden has spent a lot of time on our Disney trip talking to random strangers, something that’s pretty common for her.

Mostly, her conversations have consisted of things like,

Hey, you!  It’s my birthday, ya know!

This child doesn’t struggle with shyness.

This morning, Aden explained to her brothers that Mom has to drink coffee every day.  Cael chimed in with, Yep!  That’s so Mom can be nice and not mean.

Isn’t it sweet how well my kids know me?

I grabbed coffee as soon as we arrived at the park this morning.

Upon walking out of the coffee shop, Aden looked pointedly at me and said loudly for all the passers-by to hear,

Oh NO!  Mom’s drinking again.

Mmmm... coffee!

Thanks, Aden.  Thanks a lot.

……

Here’s wishing my funny girl a very happy year full of honesty and joy.

I think we’re headed the right way already.

Sunrise, Sunset

Jan 11 2011

We decided last night to take it easy today.  No waking up bright and early to push a crazy agenda on our kids.

We failed to factor in the kids waking up bright and early to push their crazy agenda on us.

The day started with Cai crawling into bed with me at 5:00am.  I convinced him to lay quietly for at least 15 out of 100 minutes.

Then Cael ruined all of my success by standing at the window at 6:40am and saying loudly, Hey!  How come there’s a sunset out here?

We explained what a sunrise is and that you have to see them if you get up too early.  I meant to say that you get to see them, but I couldn’t quite get there.

Oh well.  Who needs sleep?

The kids and I bid adieu to Greg after breakfast (read: coffee) and headed into Disneyland on our own.

First order of business?  Lost kid drills, of course.

What do other families do first thing?  Visit characters?

Go on rides?

What a waste of quality Disney time.

Seriously, I was confident I could keep track of all 3 kids.  But I was raised by a man who spent time as both a Boy Scout and a Marine.  Preparedness is in my genes.  It actually really bothers me when my husband closes his Swiss army knife without cleaning it correctly.  I’m a nut job; what can I say?

So I taught all the kids to identify Disney cast members by their white name tags; if they’re lost, they know to find one of these marvelous people.   Kudos to Disney for finding so many game employees.  The name tags are kind of tricky to spot at first, but the cast members let my kids practice and practice and practice.

Special thanks to cast member Marilyn from Huntington Beach, California.

She’s a real trooper and made finding the cast member fun, fun, fun.

…..

I used up all of my single-parent resources in 4 short hours.

I’m not sure whether I’m proud of my success or ashamed of my failure.

In that time, we managed to do some really exciting things like push a big brown ball,

pose for car shots (where one of my kids apparently has a bright future as a sexy car model),

and watch ducks swim.

But when we took our 57th trip to the bathroom,

abandoning our lunch food in the process (because my kids’ mom can’t seem to remember to potty first, eat second),

and someone had an emotional break-down in the bathroom,

(hey – at least it wasn’t me, right?),

I knew it was time to go.

We ended our afternoon with ice cream

(no more tears)

and swimming at the hotel pool.

You know how you can tell that you’re at a classy hotel?

By the pristine, plush pool towels.

Our hotel has dozens of these for guest pool use.

Greg speculates that the hotel got some kind of steal on a Vegas close-out.

I think they’re trying to discourage towel-theft.

If I’m right, they’ve failed miserably.

I’ve never wanted to steal a hotel towel more than I do right now.

You know, now that I’m thinking about it, if Disney would drape their employees in these pieces of classic art, they’d be a heck of a lot easier for my kids to find.

Just a thought, Disney.  What do you think?

Of Mice and Men

Jan 10 2011

Ah, the blessed sound of snoring children.

A perfect end to a busy day.

We did it!

We made it to California with three kids in tow, and we hit Disneyland for 2 hours before bedtime.

Traveling with small kids is never easy, but always entertaining.

I’ve traveled enough that I have some tricks up my sleeve.  In the Unsolicited Travel Tips category, I offer you this list of items to pack for plane trips with little ones:

  1. Teeny, tiny bottles of bubbles.  You know the kind you get at weddings that are almost impossible to open?  Yeah – that kind is perfect.  You can pack those without worrying that the kids are going to open them (they can’t) or that they’ll explode in your luggage (you should double-bag them now that I’ve opened my big mouth).  Anyway, small kids LOVE bubbles.  With bottles that tiny, you can’t make a big mess and the bubbles all stay contained to your set of seats.
  2. One bag of mixed-color pipe cleaners.  I keep the pipe cleaners and make my kids order things from me.  That really stretches it out.  Can you make a dog, Mom? Absolutely.  Will it resemble a dog?  Not at all.  No one cares.  After they get their hand-made pipe cleaner item, they can mash it, morph it, turn it into whatever they want.  I can’t tell you the infinite ways kids can make up stories about a bear, a flower, a heart, a car and a shoe.  (Make sure you bend over the ends before you start creating… they can be too sharp otherwise.)
  3. One roll of Scotch tape.  Did you know that the airplane magazine is yours to keep?  It is.  So you can really go to town on that thing.  You can rip out actual pictures from the magazine.    You can identify letters, colors and numbers.  You can make snowflakes and paper dolls.  You can make pages into shapes.  You can’t bring scissors, so you have to do all of it with tearing.  Which is loads of fun and makes the paper dolls really interesting.  Then, with your tape, you can decorate your seats.  We’re always back in coach when we fly…  not so sure they’d take well to tape all over leather seats, but tape is easily removed from cloth seats.  Tape is also really cheap and kids almost never get to waste a whole roll, so they’re already into your plan the second the tape comes out.
  4. An empty gallon zip-lock bag.  Do your flight attendants a favor and clean your space before you leave.  I’m convinced this is the only reason they’ll let my family back on a plane.

This trip, however, was a fly-by-our-seats experience.  I didn’t do any of my usual packing.  Which explains why my husband’s on his way out of the room to find an all-night grocery store so he can buy pull-ups for Cael before he wets the bed tonight.  Oops.

We also didn’t manage to bring the tape, the bubbles or the pipe cleaners.  Fortunately, we made it onto the two-hour non-stop flight to Los Angeles so we weren’t stuck with a marathon round of entertainment.

Here’s what we did instead:

Cael practiced his Airplane Seat Calisthenics routine.

You want to know who was sitting right in front of my twins with this routine going on?

First, say you don’t believe in miracles.  Go ahead.  Say it.  I dare you.

A MOTHER OF FOUR-YEAR-OLD TWIN BOYS.

If anyone’s going to be able to take sitting by my kids, it’s a mom who’s living on my planet.

If you don’t believe in miracles now, I give up.  There’s nothing more I can say that will convince you.

She called my boys charming and well-behaved.  I asked her to be my best friend.

After the calisthenics were done, I read the entire safety instruction booklet aloud to Cai and Cael.  Entire.  Cover to cover.

We discussed every picture.  We talked about how to hug our knees when we’re getting ready to crash.  We talked about what to do if the plane catches fire.  We talked about how to get our life jackets out from under our seats and deplane in the event of a water crash. (FYI, they call these water “landings”… water landing, my big aunt Fanny.  If I’m on a plane and it’s in the water, I’m getting crash credit.)

Cai and Cael loved it.  The safety booklet is their new favorite book.  They were sad that we couldn’t take it with us.  Cai was also sad that he didn’t get to wear a yellow oxygen mask or use his seat cushion as a flotation device.  I couldn’t convince him that not crashing was a worthy trade-off.

Boys.

We arrived in California hungry.  Even though I’m a fantastic snack packer.  (OK, fine.  My 12-year-old packed the snacks that my husband bought at the store.  But I put M&M’s on the list… does that count?)

After organizing everything in our hotel room, including a drawer for each kid’s stuff (all on top of each other so they can push and shove and slam each other’s fingers in the process — I’m so clever), we went to get food.

I don’t really know why I bother taking kids to places like Disneyland.  They were entertained plenty by the airplane and In-N-Out.  We could’ve gone home happy after our burger dinner.  Did you know that they give kids STICKERS and HATS at In-N-Out?!  Me, either!  It was like Christmas.

Before leaving home, hoping that we would actually make it to this destination, I packed the kids’ Disney sweatshirts and Mickey Mouse Ears.  They’re adorable and perfect for photos.  I mean, seriously, how cute is this?

That was two years ago.

This is Cael entering the park tonight.

Yep, in his In-N-Out hat.  He wouldn’t take it off.  And, I admit, I didn’t try very hard to convince him since I found it hilarious.

Besides, if the Big Cheese doesn’t care…

…then I’m good.

Good night y’all, and thanks for keeping me company.

Vacation Photo Contest

Jan 10 2011

In 2003, we went to Guatemala to adopt Ian and Aden.

We brought along my mom, my brother, and our oldest daughter Abby.

Abby in Antigua, Guatemala 2003

While we were busy managing the bewilderment of our 1- and 3-year-olds upon their abrupt addition to our family, working on perfecting our multiple-child parenting techniques,

Greg and Ian, Guatemala City Airport, 2003

and helping our 4-year-old adjust to two new siblings,

Abby and Ian, first day being a sister and brother, 2003

my brother was busy appreciating Guatemalan fountain art by taking pictures like this:

My brother Jeff in Antigua, Guatemala. What's a sister to do?

OK, that might be a slight disservice to him.  He might have helped us out kind of a lot.  But that picture still cracks me up.

Now that we’re on a week of vacation with the kiddos, I’d love it if you’d send in your crazy vacation photos.

Contest Rules:

  1. Submit up to two photos per family… pick your best!
  2. Send your photos to fivekidsisalotofkids@gmail.com
  3. Sending photos means a) you have the rights to them and b) you’ve given me permission to post them on my blog.
  4. Submit your photos from Monday, January 10 through Monday, January 17.  Periodically throughout the week, I’ll select and post the top contest contenders.  (Like how I assume there will be LOTS to choose from?  Prove me right – that’s my favorite thing.)
  5. I’ll announce a winner on Tuesday, January 18.

I plan to use your photos to inspire me this week.  Who knows?  I may even try to recreate them.

This contest is heavily weighted toward the crazy and funny, because that’s where I most closely identify.  But, hey, I’ll take a look at sweet, too.  Who doesn’t like a sweet photo every now and then?

The Best Laid Plans

Jan 9 2011

We’re doing something crazy.

Something unbelievably, undeniably crazy.

Are you ready?

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

……

We’re taking our kids on vacation.

……

Sure, on the face of it that doesn’t seem so crazy.  People go on vacation every day and for lots of reasons.

I mean, where else do you get to tattoo your whole face and pet a goat’s butt?

Ian and his new friend, the goat

Now that’s a vacation!

As fun as that looks, though, we’re on an ongoing mission to raise family vacation drama to a whole new level.  I’m pretty sure we’re going to succeed this time.

Two weeks ago, we weren’t planning a vacation anytime soon.

You know how die-hard shoppers are all, “Look at this shirt!  It’s on sale!” and they convince themselves they’re money ahead by buying it?

Yeah, that’s like me and vacations.  I’m not much of a shopper.  I somehow missed that part of my 2nd X chromosome.  But what I lack in shopping ability, I make up for in spades with vacation planning.  So when we were given an opportunity for some financial savings on a mid-January trip, I thought, what the heck?  Let’s go!

What shocked my socks off was that my fiscally responsible husband Greg endorsed the plan.  Well, that’s a hole in one, I tell you.  A once-per-decade opportunity.  We would be FOOLS to turn this down!

We would also be fools to go, but I’m sure you’re aware that’s never a deterrent for me.

Our vacation dilemmas always start with the Us and Them scenarios.

  • Us:  if Greg and I go on vacation by ourselves — which we’ve done before and we will do again — we get much-needed rest and quality spousal time, but we miss the children terribly.  (It’s sad, but true.)
  • Them:  if we take all the kids, then the family gets to spend time together, but Greg and I run ourselves ragged and need a vacation when we’re done.  Greg likes to call this kind of vacation “herd management.”  Doesn’t that sound relaxing?

When the kids start to pack themselves into suitcases, even I can pick up on their subtle hints.

Cai and Cael

They’d like to come, please.

This time, we’ve come up with a brilliant plan to include them — to even give them focused and quality time and attention — without exhausting ourselves.  Brilliant.

It’s brilliant, I tell you.

I feel completely free to say that because we haven’t gone yet and discovered all the flaws in our plan.

Here’s what we’re doing:

  • Monday through Thursday – take our 3 youngest kids on vacation
  • Friday through Monday – take our 2 oldest kids on vacation

Vacation Location: Um, I can’t say for sure.  Yep, even though by “Monday” I mean this Monday.  The one that starts tomorrow.

Sure, we have an idea of where we’re like to go.  But part of the financial savings plan includes flying stand-by, so at any given moment this trip could be interrupted by the inability to go, oh, anywhere.  Or we could end up somewhere we never intended to go.

Or, worse, we could go somewhere and get stuck.

What’s that?  Flaw #1?

Say it isn’t so!  After all, what’s life without a little risk?

Also, Greg will be working remotely on this trip.  Which means I’m pretty much on my own with the kiddos during the daytimes Monday through Friday, including flying 3 little ones home on Thursday.

Shp.  Don’t say it.  Don’t even think it.  Definitely not Flaw #2.

Doesn’t this trip sound like a blast?

Greg and Ian on vacation

We think so, too!

In fun news, mostly for me, I’ve decided to bring you along on a Virtual Vacation with me.  (Hey, Greg’s working.  I need a grown-up to talk to.)  I’ll be posting on the blog as we go, keeping you up-to-date on our progress.  I figure this serves two purposes.

  1. Chatting with you allows us to keep a precise record of the depth of my insanity which will be of paramount importance to Greg when he seeks to have me committed me to a mental institution post-vacation.
  2. Juxtaposed against our schedule of exhaustion, you’re bound to feel more relaxed and rejuvenated simply by being smart enough not to ever, ever do anything as nutso as this trip.

Win/Win!

Stay tuned for more details like where we end up.  I’m going to need your help on this one!

The Quick Fix

Jan 8 2011

If left to my own TV devices, I watch the Food Network.

Granted, we’re usually watching the Disney channel or ESPN around here.  When I let my family watch TV, that is.  Which I RARELY (ha, I’m so funny) do.

But I like me some Food Network every now and then.

Our satellite dish lost the signal for Food Network about two weeks ago.

I asked my husband to fix it.

He diligently searched the help menu.  He checked the cords.  He took a flashlight out into the dark and the rain to check the dish itself.

To no avail.

Tonight, the NFL channel went out.

Guess what?  It’s fixed!

Friends are over.  They’re my witnesses.

They suggested that, perhaps the next time the Food Network channel disappears, I can call the dish company myself and ask them to cancel the NFL channel.  That seems to magically fix my problem.

I’m upgrading my friends from witnesses to accomplices.  They’re the best.

(Posted with express permission from my husband.  Because I’m snarky, not stupid.)

Mom’s Cure Almost Everything Chicken Soup

Jan 7 2011

In case you need a little pick-me-up during cold and flu season, I have permission to share with you my aunt Ann‘s mother’s magic chicken soup recipe.

Ann’s mother is Taiwanese (or, as Ann says, “like Jewish, except you know, not”), and Ann details below exactly how to make the soup.  Please note that I cannot be held responsible for poor results if you fail to follow the directions completely.

Mom’s Cure Almost Everything Chicken Soup (aka, CAE Soup)

  • 1 whole free range chicken (ok, free range was my addition, but it helps)
  • 1 bunch organic green onions/scallions – just drop it in whole with the roots cut off
  • 1 inch ginger sliced – organic ginger is too difficult to come by (I sometimes use a bit more because I like it ginger-y)

Place all in a pot with enough water to cover and boil for 1 hour.  If you have a pressure cooker large enough, you can do it in that too. Leave it on high for about 10 minutes and let down naturally.

And this is where I deviate from Mom.  Mom says to discard the chicken.  What???  I love the chicken.  I keep the chicken.  If nothing else, use it to feed the other kids who aren’t sick.  Who doesn’t like boiled chicken?

But the broth is where all the goodness lies.  I make and drink this broth the moment I feel something coming on, or feel just plain run down.  In fact, if I feel something coming on, and I have minimal energy left, I make sure I have enough to get to the store to buy the basic ingredients.

I might put it over rice if I need filler but can’t hold anything else down.  Just make sure you skim the fat off well or you might get sick in a totally different way.

I’ve shortcut the process by using chicken parts for smaller batches, but Mom frowns on that.  I’ve tried using cornish game hens — Mom is okay with that but says it’s not the same.  (And if you’ve met my mother, you know how she can be about these things.)

There you go.  Mom’s magic elixir for the cold and flu season.

Ann

Wishing you and yours good health in the New Year,

Beth