Friday, September 30, 2011

Fruit Salad

Day trips require us to pack everything but the kitchen sink, or so it seems.  Maybe we tend to be over prepared, but so far life has not taught us that is bad.  I think we actually managed to make this trip without forgetting anything.  Or if we did forget something, I can't remember what it was that we forgot.  So, either way, it's all good.

Edit:  I wrote the above portion of this post a few days ago.  Since then, I remembered how many things we forgot.  We had to sit in the driveway for like 10 minutes because people kept hopping out of the van and dashing into the house with the phrase "I forgot . . ." on their lips.  And then, when we had finally managed to drive away, we made it about 7 blocks and had to turn around to get the registration sticker that needed to be on our license plate.

So much for not forgetting anything.

We made this particular trip because we promised the kids a trip to the beach before the summer was over.  And since summer doesn't end until Christmas around here, we made it.  Even if the kids say we were late on our promise.  I say all the evidence is in the thermometer.  At home, it was 99 degrees the day we went to the beach.  That's totally summer in my book.  Just because the beach itself was cloudy and cool . . . whatever.  Not my fault.

Also, we met up with some cousins.  All things considered, it was a good day.  Just had to overlook B's hour long crying stints as we drove.  And the sand in our food.  And the price of gas.

But, like I said, it was a good day.  It's not very hard to get kids to enjoy a day at the coast.

B's first sight of the surf.

R doing her best to be a model cousin.

An exhausted baby who refused to sleep pretty much the entire day.

 During previous beach trips, R has spent a majority of her time being terrified of the waves.  On this trip, not so much.

Like always, J had a fabulous time playing with what nature has given us.

Doesn't everybody bring a shovel to the beach?

Love this shot.  Everything about it.

This one, too.

Cousins, doing a little sand construction.

Cousin E, trying to be the model cousin.

Some of the cousins.  And a lot of their stuff.

The whole group, minus the photographer.  The other baby cousin is hiding under the towel.  SHE actually slept that day.  Too bad B isn't old enough to take notes.

Our beach neighbors thought our shovel was pretty cool.  So they borrowed it and recruited some extra willing diggers.

But what happened in the van as we were nearing home, that is what I want to record here.  It's a great example of what I love about our family dynamics.

When we finish a trip, or a party, or some other event, we like to ask the kids about their favorite part.  I think it helps us all focus on what was good about the day, rather than letting the frustrations and the grumpy feelings stew around inside of us.

Sand dollar collection was a main focus of this particular beach visit.  S happened to find a perfect one, which led the other kids to spend a lot of time trying to find one equally as perfect.  Nobody did.  Which created some grumpiness.

But J had one that he was happy enough with and was bringing home with him.  Then he told us how he had more sand dollars, but he HAD to frisbee some of them into the water.  Who could resist that temptation?  I'm sort of surprised that he had even one left.

And then J decided to rename baby B.  He renamed her cherry.  Cherry is a cuter name than B, he said.  Which kicked off our whole fruit salad episode.  Which went something like this.  I am recreating it from very sloppy and sketchy notes (which I was writing in the dark as we drove.)  So it might not have happened exactly like this.  But close enough.  Especially for someone like me with such a flawless memory.

J:  Mommy, I taught cherry how to spit!
Me:  Lovely.
R:  Cars are chasing us! 
J:  No, their lights are blueberries.  Call me apple.  Cherry is really sleepy.
R:  What's my name?
J:  Banana.
Me:  Does everybody have a fruit name?
J:  Yes.  You're raspberry.  Daddy is strawberry.  K is grape. 
S:  I'm a lemon.
Shaggy & I:  Ha.  Ha.  S is a lemon. 
J:  Cherry, crazy cherry.  You're only eating yourself (she was sucking on her hand).  Nom!  Nom!  Nom!  Hey, pretend there are jet engines on top of the van.
R:  Turn the jet engines ON, Daddy!
Shaggy:  Ok.  Vroooom!  Hey apple, what is cherry doing?
J:  Nothing.
B:  Waaaaaaa!  Waaaaa!  Waaaaaaaa!
J:  No, cherry, don't scream.
R:  The blueberries are still chasing us!  They're bad guys!
J:  This is bad, cherry.  There's a million blueberries following us.  Hey, Strawberry, turn the music down.  She's gonna cry her head off.
Shaggy:  No, I can't.  This is Metallica.  It's important for her psyche.

By this time we were nearly home and had to spend some time deligating in order to make the task of unpacking the van and the kids a little easier.  But the fruity names did NOT help that endeavor.

Me:  Ok, grape and lemon, you know what your jobs are.
Shaggy:  Take grape and get her ready for bed.
K:  What?  When am I supposed to take a shower?
Shaggy:  After grape gets in bed.
K:  I am grape.
Shaggy:  OK, after petunia gets a bath and into bed.
K:  Who's petunia?
Me:  Ha.  Ha.  Hee.  Hee.
J:  Why are you laughing?
Me:  Because Daddy can't keep all you fruits straight.  We have fruit salad.
Shaggy & I started singing (and then everyone joined in):  Fruit salad!  Yummy, yummy!

Though we are decidedly not Barney fans, this fruit salad song continues to creep into our lives at the oddest moments.  This being one of them.  I don't think I would have ever thought I'd be pulling into my driveway after a beach trip with a van full of fruit salad.

But, whatever.  Fruit salad!  Yummy, yummy!

Monday, September 26, 2011


Remember back here where I talked about how I was going to make some mud pancakes with my kids?

Well, since our backyard doesn't seem to like to grow grass, we had plenty of opportunity.  J and R play in the mud every week.  So that's nothing special.  What was special about this day, was that we were all out there in the mud with them.  And we had fun.

Except for B.  Because nobody told her that she shouldn't actually eat the mud pancakes.  I was joking about serving them for dinner.

But in retrospect, she didn't actually start crying until we all noticed that she was eating the mud pancake and started making a fuss about how she shouldn't be eating the mud pancake.

I wonder how much nutrutional value it had.  She's such a picky eater, she can use all the help she can get.


R is simply delighted with preschool.  I figured that would be the case, but it still surprises me how wonderfully different this is compared to the last child I took to preschool.

I love being a borderline anonymous parent, one who doesn't need to have any lengthy conversations about my kid.  The teacher doesn't need my cell phone on speed dial.  I don't have to feel sick with worry about how she'll do when I leave.  I know she'll use the restroom if she needs to instead of feeling too terrified to even consider it.  There will be no shrieking if someone touches her.  She will actually make friends and thrive.

It is such a delicious feeling knowing that I don't need to push her to do things she is afraid of.  Because, in fact, she doesn't have a single fear associated with preschool.  On the very first day, she couldn't even be bothered to look my way as I was saying goodbye to her.  She dreads the days she doesn't have preschool and longs to go back.

Although, she did inform me yesterday that she doesn't have magic at preschool.  She does at home, she tells me so on a regular basis.  But at preschool, apparently, they give her food that only feeds her body, not her magic.  When I asked her what food feeds her magic, she replied, "Pepper!"  Silly question, I should have known (though I am ok with the fact that she isn't getting pepper doses at preschool.)

I suppose she is my reward for sticking it out with J.  And I am relishing every moment.  All 180 moments of free time (assuming that Baby B continues to nap during preschool hours) that I now get each week.  Moments in which I am free to do more laundry, and vacuum the floors, and every once in a while do something I want to do, just because I can.

R had no qualms about giving hugs to and posing for pictures with her teachers.

And the spot she gravitated to, where she felt completely comfortable on her first day?  With the boys, playing cars.  Of course.

It seems that some of J's legacies are positive, after all.  Because almost all of R's classmates are boys.  She'll fit right it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Perfect Moment

Perfect moments aren't free. They are earned. And sharing a perfect moment with six other people is uncommon enough that it ought to be remembered. And cherished.

This particular perfect moment came during a very long and trying day trip where grumpiness was contagious, fears abounded, and whining was nearly constant.

R was worried about her Daddy's driving on the twisty mountain roads and did a lot of brainstorming about what would happen if the van fell off the road. J became paranoid about the mosquitos that we met at our beautiful picnic spot that was officially renamed "Mosquito Meadow." They both started crying over the loud thunder that threatened to overtake us.

But, we continued on our not so merry way. Listening to J's continued cries because some of the mosquitos had joined us in the van. He kept insisting that he was going to die.

Amidst all this joyful family togetherness, we finally reached our destination. Of course, we didn't know exactly where we were supposed to go (and we didn't stop to ask directions).  And it took us a good 40 minutes to change into swim suits, locate hats, make sure we had all necessary supplies packed in the backpack, change the baby, water the dog (of course we brought the dog with us--5 kids is not quite enough chaos for us), and get B situated in the hiking backpack. By this time, I was tired. Really tired. And grumpy.

Then R started worrying about getting dirty. Which was odd. She gets dirty most every day. And by the time we got to the trail head that seemed to lead where we wanted to go, B had alerted the entire mountain side to her presence with her crying. She did NOT want to be in the backpack. But you just can't hike very far with a babe in arms. I tried.

So here we were at the beginning of our hike, and I was ready to pack it all up and head for home. I was done with the whining, and the fears, and the crying, and the bickering. I was done trying to manage it all. This was decidedly not fun. Not in any way.

But we still didn't quit. The turning point came as a result of R's very social and imaginative personality. She made friends with the mud. Which we were walking on. Named him squishy. She said he was sleeping. "He'll be surprised when he wakes up. He'll say, 'Huh?! Who walked on me?'"

I love that girl. After that, the hike was downright enjoyable. Reminded me how very much I love hiking.

We didn't find any hot springs, per se, but we found a beautiful, secluded lake which was fed by hot springs.

Which wasn't quite what we expected for a lake. No easy access. No nice sandy beach. But, like everything else this day, we forged ahead anyway. We took the road less traveled by (for those with lots of kids, anyway). And we found a great spot to sit and soak our feet. 

That was the moment that made it all worth it. The moment that made all the effort, frustration, grumpiness, and yes, even the crying fade away into oblivion. Because none of that mattered. It was unimportant and not worth remembering. But this moment, where I was sitting on the edge of a rock with my family, our feet dangling in the warm water of a hot spring-fed mountain lake, this moment I will remember forever. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect.

So we lingered just to soak it all in. We talked about God and all the beautiful things He sends our way. We talked about memories and seizing the moment. We each took a turn with J's fishing net in an attempt to catch him a fish, even though we knew it was hopeless. We enjoyed how the sounds of nature harmonized with the sounds of our laughter. Because we were the only people there.

After a while, with the storm clouds looming ever darker, we decided to pack it up and head back to the van. Where we finally talked to someone who knew the area and told us where the main hot springs were. They were just across the river from where we parked. Ohhh. So even though the light was fading, we stopped there, too.

S claimed it was her new favorite spot ever.

Then we hit the road so we could sail smoothly home now that our grand adventure was over. But as we were driving slowly through the winding mountain roads in the fading light, with hail pounding on the roof, we realized that maybe our adventure was not over just yet. And when we were stopped by a ranger and asked to pull to the side and turn off our engine, we knew that this day had no intentions of marching tamely to its end. No, that would have been too easy. Perfect moments must be earned, after all.

We earned our perfect moment with patience and persistence. By forgiving each other for our shortcomings. By forging ahead even when the way was tough and miserable. By trying to model the behaviors we expect our children to learn. And by choosing to forget the unpleasant things so our minds would be ready to receive the beautiful ones.

So we calmly waited for an hour, with borderline fussy children, while some boat trailer with a broken axel was removed from the road. And we watched a beautiful mountain sunset. And then, we sailed smoothly home.

Where I learned that my subconscious did not agree that we had experienced a perfect moment. I know this because all night I had dreams about Baby B rolling down the rock into the lake. And I repeatedly sat up in bed to try to catch her before she sank beneath the warm waters of the hot-spring-fed mountain lake.

But since she did not, in fact, sink into those waters, I will continue on my merry way believing in our perfect moment. Where I will be searching for many, many more.