On The Road Again

I wanted to write a couple of informative and useful pieces about surviving our road trip and camping with small children but I have been kind of busy preparing for and cleaning up after each trip so it probably isn’t going to happen. I never claimed to be responsible or informative. Look anywhere on any bio I have written, you’ll see.

We did survive both trips but possibly only because they were short. We stopped at the biggest truck stop in the world and posed for pictures in semi trucks, mostly for Sharkboy’s benefit.  Little S had his first of many outdoor, roadside diaper changes. We saw the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile as we crossed the state line and a quick Facebook poll confirmed that was, in fact, a fortunate sign. My cousin’s wedding was beautiful. It was outside on a perfect day at a ski resort. The boys displayed excellent behavior right up until dinner time when they started getting hungry and restless. Note to self: Bring more snacks. Little S heaved milk all over The Barkeep so we left shortly after the cutting of the cake. We went back to our hotel, changed into pajamas and comfortable, non-barfed on clothes, and went out for ice cream.

Seeing the Wienermobile as you cross the state line is either a sign of good fortune or that the Wienermobile is just leaving the state you are entering.

In the morning we visited local caves, which amused my mom since she clearly remembered my intense hatred of caves. I did not remember until we were about to start our journey into the earth and then it came rushing back that I was terrified of cramped, dark spaces and slippery stairs over hot lava. She swears she did not take me in a hot lava cave, ever, but I still see it in my mind and I was suddenly positive we would have to carry the boys over hot lava on slippery steps so I started getting a little sick. Then I realized getting the boys over hot lava would be nothing compared to trying to drag Beauty over it. We might have to sedate her. My children are amazingly strong willed. It will fare well for them in many situations, but not all.

the reality of co-sleeping in a hotel

There was no hot lava, though, just a lot of cave bacon and humidity. It was a good time right up until it wasn’t anymore, which was right about the time Sharkboy pooped. There is nowhere to change a diaper in a well preserved cave and this one was awful. It was obviously painful and he was getting more and more agitated as we walked. The last 5 minutes before being released into daylight he just cried. We changed him immediately and his mood changed just as quickly. Everyone had fun excavating rocks and fossils in the giant sandboxes outside of the cave, especially the girls, and Little S showed his first signs of being a collector. He found a crystal and held on to it almost the entire time we were there. When he did drop it he would dig until he found the right one again. I ended up buying it for him because I’m a sucker.

You know how you look back on a trip and remember one defining moment? I will always remember this trip as “the time Sharkboy started yelling in the restaurant that his butt hurt” and I will laugh every single time even though the poor kid was definitely in pain. My kids almost never get diaper rash and when they do I just use coconut oil and it clears right up, but this one was terrible. We went to Wal Mart and investigated every single kind of ointment and cream. They were pretty much all variations of the same thing. Zinc Oxide in varying percentages. I finally settled on Desitin Maximum Strength because it was 40%, the highest by far. I can’t stand the smell of Desitin but I also can’t stand my baby boy crying and being miserable, especially on vacation. The girls helped me change diapers and we were on the road again in no time.

I will probably always remember this camping trip as “the time Grandma drank vodka lemonade straight from the jug” but our camping trips tend to blend together because they are always in the exact same spot, usually on the exact same weekend, Father’s Day. I suppose it might also be recalled as Little S’ first camping trip, but no, Grandma drank vodka lemonade straight from a jug. You don’t forget that.

My whole family camps together one weekend every summer. We take over a big oval of land right by a small playground with our tents and kids and coolers. Friends are welcome to join us and they do. The lake has paddle boats, a beach and a skating rink. We have been camping there since I was a kid, before they had showers and toilets that flush. Maybe that is why I am so good at peeing outside. (Not to brag but my sister in law and I have shirts that say, “been there, done that, peed on it”.) There are still only 2 modern bathrooms in central areas so I still do a lot of peeing outdoors. I am not a fan of outhouses. We missed the rain and brought the sunshine this year. No one cried that their butt hurt, no one threw up watermelon and no one got a fish hook in their foot. I call that a successful trip. My brothers and their friends took the older kids skating after drinking all day, the grown ups, not the big kids, and there was a lot of good material there if you want to hear about straight, grown men holding hands or falling on their asses. No? Okay, just know that it was funny. Goldilocks got pretty far in the limbo considering she was skating under with her 6 year old cousin. Little S found another treasure he couldn’t let go of, this time it was a shell in the rocks at the playground. I saved it for him. A hoard has been born. Two, probably.

The Barkeep did not get a Get Out Of Jail Free Card for Father’s Day, unfortunately. We had a lot of teardown to do before we could go boating and play at the beach. He did get the Bear Grylls ultimate survivor knife that he hinted he wanted by saying, “I really want this,” and ladies, learn from that. men don’t use hints because they don’t get them. (That’s a generalization and I know it, so no angry messages, boys.) He also got a whole lot of ethically and locally grown pork. Noms.

Because we have enough steak.

I do have some advice. You know that wonderful campfire smell? It turns nasty the minute you get home. Be prepared to do laundry before you even sit down. That and a general  “be prepared” are my only nuggets of wisdom to pass on, though no matter how prepared you are something will happen you could never predict. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, raging diaper rash or heaved milk.

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Aside

Let’s Go To The Mall

I took the kids to the mall last night. It was an accident. Beauty wanted to meet some friends there and Sharkboy needed a haircut and I needed to pick some things up on that side of town, so, I temporarily lost my sensibility and got excited about a trip to the mall. The Barkeep and I take the boys to “our mall” a lot. Our mall is on this side of town and hosts several inexpensive children’s clothing stores, as well as Target, which is where most of my money goes. There are 3 malls within 15 minutes of my house in any direction, but this mall is almost 30 minutes away in the subbiest of suburbs, our old stomping grounds, where their dad still lives and they still go to school. It’s new and big and shiny and it’s where all the cool kids hang out. There are two Abercrombie stores. I think they are designed to suck people in with their giant half naked men posters and perfumed, controlled temperature air but it does not have that effect on me. I actually repel just a little from the doorway. It’s that kind of mall and I’m not that kind of mom.

www.bodybuilding.com

Exactly what item of Abercrombie are these models showing off? The perfumed air? The guy you can get if you wear their jeans?

Plans got rearranged before the boys and I made it to that side of town and somehow I ended up picking Goldy up at her dad’s house and leaving Beauty. We drove by our old neighborhood to pick up diaper pail liners I had bought from a friend online but she wasn’t home yet so the four of us headed to the mall to get Sharkboy a haircut and shop for things I don’t need. Even though I attempted to leave immediately after work at 5:30 it was 6:45 by the time we actually walked into the salon. (Remember, when travelling with rockstars, one can never just walk out the door empty handed.) There was only one person working and she said it would be 30 minutes, around 7:30. I didn’t bother to correct her math. Maybe she lives on bar time.

We shopped at Crazy 8, where Gymboree clothes meet Target prices and rode the big, glass elevator. I managed to avoid the play area by buying a ride on the mechanical fire truck and we walked back into the salon at 7:25, just in time to hear her tell a woman at the counter she could get her in next. I, being naïve and ridiculous, really thought she meant after us, but no, the woman was seated immediately. Again, naïve and ridiculous, I think, “this will be quick, the boys will be fine.”

I know, at least half of you snorted at my silliness or let out an audible, “ha” at that.  My kids are reasonably well behaved in public but even in the best of circumstances most kids do not behave the way most people without kids would like them to. This was not the best of circumstances. The waiting area was tiny and there was already a rather snooty looking, terribly dressed woman with a well dressed, unattractive teenage(?) boy. He may have been in his twenties but I think he was with his mom. It was an odd pair and their behavior was similar. Odd. There were four of us and Little S was in a stroller, at least it was his umbrella stroller, though. I gave him a wonderful book to read, Baby Mix Me A Drink, and he immediately threw it on the floor, starting a fun game with Goldy where she would pick up the book and he would throw it again. Good times. Sharkboy was hanging out under the chairs, which I would normally discourage in an area that small but I honestly just wanted to keep it peaceful as long as possible. Little S threw his book near Mean Boy’s feet and Mean Boy kindly picked it up for him, or so I thought, but instead he gave me a disgusted look and stuck it in our diaper bag, thus beginning our fued. I get it, not everyone is a fan of “Drop The Book” but it wasn’t hurting anyone and it was keeping the baby quiet and happy. Why be a fun hater?

I’m not making this up.

I wish I could have recorded the tongue lashing that baby gave him. He furrowed his little brow and let loose with an angry string of babble that any sailor would be proud of. High five, Little S. Goldy and I both laughed inappropriately and she offered to take him for a walk around the mall while we waited. Sharkboy’s behavior deteriorated quickly after that and he mostly laid on the floor saying it was cold or stood next to a rack of things I told him not to touch, just barely not touching it. Mean Pair sighed a lot and acted irritated but I could see that Snooty Mom was mildly amused.

I know what you’re thinking. We should have left, and we should have. But you should also know two important things about me. I can be extremely lazy and highly vindictive. I was angry that Hairdresser let someone go ahead of us and I was pleased that our presence rattled her and I didn’t mind the side effect of making the Mean Pair uncomfortable. Also, there was nowhere else in the mall I was willing to pay for a 2 year old’s haircut and we were there and he had clean hair, which only lasts so long with a little boy who loves the sandbox. So, we waited.

Hairdresser did a great job on Sharkboy’s hair but she could not get him to cooperate. He would not look anywhere she told him to look, which is odd because he usually loves hair cuts and does what he is asked, but it had been a long night. I got him to cooperate by holding a hand mirror where she wanted him to look. This is why she cuts hair and I watch kids. There’s nothing wrong with that. I still tipped her.

“I’m so ready to go home.” I know you know exactly what I mean. Goal, accomplished. Feet, ache. Mood, shot. But I had this idea of a night at the mall with my kids, ya know, and it involved the play place and a pretzel and lemonade and good times, maybe even some new shoes. Sharkboy found the play place with his sense of hearing, because in this kind of mall there are only two noise centers, the play place for preschoolers and the food court, where the teenagers hang out. These teenagers are not the mallrats of our generation, though. If your children are still young you may not have noticed this. The kids hanging out at the mall now actually shop there. They wear Hollister and jewelry I can’t afford. Even in the mall in our own neighborhood the kids can outspend me. Where are they getting this money?

I didn’t expect the play place to be too crowded on a Monday at 8pm, especially since it’s huge, but it was surprisingly chaotic still. Little S was satisfied crawling in and out of log tunnels like he was doing laps and Sharkboy just wanted to climb so they were mostly safe from the inevitable game of murder-death-kill-tag being played by unattended kids, many much too big to be in there. There were at least 20 kids, two other parents and one grandma that was sound asleep. This is always the situation in mall play places unless you are able to go during the day. (I desperately miss being mobile during the day.) During the day there are usually tons of adorable toddlers and preschool kids with a rational amount of parents and plenty of awkward encounters when one kid hits another or knocks a baby over. Parents gasp and feel terrible, other parents brush it off. Kids, ya know. This is not like that. These are unsupervised, unruly kids. It’s a play place, though, you’re going to have that. I don’t worry much about Sharkboy, if he gets knocked down he just gets back up again and if kids try to bully him… it’s the only time I’m pleased with his self defense skills. Go ahead, back my kid into a corner, I dare you. We don’t call him Sharkboy for nothin’. Goldy and I switched on and off following the boys this way and that, attempting to keep them alive. It’s like a life size video game.

Buried With Children

I stole this photo from a cute blog about making friends at the play area. She is nicer than me. http://www.buriedwithchildren.com/how-to-make-friends-at-the-mall-play-area/

Then I saw Goldy talking to an old friend and overheard bits and pieces of her conversation. By old friend maybe I mean frienemy, I can’t be sure. She’s a girl I remember from junior high because her mother was unable to drive and I was more than happy to give her rides home, rides to hang out, rides wherever and she thanked me by telling me my car was a piece of junk. Not in those exact words, hers were actually worse. She said, “this reminds me of those cars that you see squeaking and bumping down the street to a stop sign and wonder if the owner is embarrassed.” It wasn’t the first time she had a made a remark but it was the last. I offered to let her out if she was uncomfortable being seen in my car and let her know that generally a simple “thank you” was all that was required when given a ride. That was junior high, though, most girls are a little snotty in junior high. Last night I heard Goldy telling her about the boys, she pointed out her brothers and you could see she was having fun playing with them. (And thank goodness for that because I needed the help.) They talked a few more minutes and then she was gone. Goldy rolled her eyes at me and shook her head. Apparantly after she told her what she was doing in the play place her friend sneered and said, “I can only imagine how much bacteria and germs and stuff are in there so I’m going to go now.” Still a snot. And her butt is getting big, so there’s that.

Why are people such jerks to each other? How hard is it to just be nice? I think many unpleasant things throughout the day and generally just bite my tongue. Like, “Wow, your butt has really gotten big since the last time I saw you.” I just hold that in. It’s bad karma to put that much negativity into the universe. Half a dozen people made me angry yesterday and I managed to swallow down my mean thoughts with a delicious buttery pretzel while laughing and playing with my kids. I wash it all down with that perfect pretzel stand lemonade and seriously, how can you not be happy when you’re drinking that stuff?

I guess that would make the moral of this story “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” but I’m not into clichés so let’s go throw them at things and pretend it’s Big Butt, The Hairdresser and Mean Pair.

Then we’ll make margaritas.

How To Survive A Road Trip With Your Kids

Drink.

I’m kidding. I don’t drink nearly as much as I write about it. Shhh… that’s our secret.

Kids are portable. Never use them as an excuse not to go to the places you’ve pinned on Pinterest. That being said, hitting the road with a little one on board can be an overwhelming idea. We have not been out of town since Sharkboy was a Sharkbaby so Little S is about due for a trip. When SB was 4 months old we took a road trip across the southwest to visit my Grandma and attend The Barkeep’s friend’s wedding. We saw 10 states in 10 days. We could have flown but I am so glad we didn’t. In case my love of the movie Cars didn’t give it away, I love road trips. I don’t want to fly over anything, not even flyover states. I want to see everything that every state has to offer, from mountains and cactuses to lakes and fields to skylines and a Starbucks on every corner, and more importantly, I want my kids to see it all. Obviously, at 4 months old Sharkbaby didn’t retain much of what he saw but he can say he got his first tooth on the road and celebrated hisfirst St. Patrick’s Day by the mountains. Beauty and Goldy can tell stories about the creepy late night restaurant we stopped at the night we discovered SB’s tooth, the friendly gentleman in the Oklahoma gas station, the cow concert in Texas and their first trip to Vegas. We saw the Hoover dam but it was the middle of the night and there was construction holding up traffic. We witnessed nearly every way to pee in a desperate situation that you can imagine and one member of our group even had to pee in a plastic cup from a convenience store and dump it out, so we experienced a true road trip.

(Photo By Flickr user Idiolector)

We are scheduled to hit the road again next weekend, just a short drive to the next state over, but like I said, we haven’t been out of  state since the spring of 2010 because every single penny we make is going into the addition on our house and keeping our kids alive. That being said, we recently sold “The First Bar” in favor of one that actually generates an income, and I have been watching the Monster Princess for extra money, too. We have a wedding to attend and plan to turn it into a short weekend getaway for the family.

I can’t write about road trips, especially not this one, without telling you about a very special group of women who will, coincidentally, also be hitting the road next weekend. My love of road trips led me to a book that led me to a forum that led me to belonging to something special. I think everybody craves belonging, but maybe it is just me because I am a little weird and never seem to fit in any one group very well. This group, the Swirl, was almost entirely female, other than that we spanned every variety of everything; every political belief, every religious background, every sexual orientation, every stage of relationships, every level of education. Gay, straight, atheist, Jewish, Catholic, polygamist, happily married with children, childfree, socialist, right wing republican, slutty, prude… I can’t stress enough how diverse we are! The only thing we have in common is attitude, strong opinions with a strong desire to share them. That, and possibly a love of the open road, wanderlust, a desire to keep going. The Swirlers will be hitting the road by car, train and plane next weekend to meet up inWashington and I am insanely jealous but pleased that I will be travelling with my own family to enjoy a family celebration. I will be with my friends in spirit and can’t wait to hear about their trip.

On With The Planning!

First, and this is very important, own a Dodge Caravan with stow and go. Okay, it doesn’t have to be a Dodge Caravan, I hear there are other vehicles with stow and go, but the Caravan has the added benefit of a high safety rating, 7 seats, ease of moving around inside and doors that open and close with the key fob. If you are not familiar with stow and go you should check it out. There is space in the floor of the vehicle to stow the seat when you need to haul something, or, if you are hauling a whole family, there is space in the floor to stow your luggage. This frees the rest of the space in the car up for people, stuff to do and a cooler. Ours is also equipped with a DVD player, which I do not allow except on trips lasting more than an hour, and even then I’d prefer they just look out the damn window, but sometimes it comes in handy. I know a lot of people are like, “Minivans are for squares and parents,” but we are kind of squares because we don’t care if we look like parents. We are parents. I picked a vehicle that fit my needs and I will rave about it whenever I get a chance. We love it.

Packing The Van

Your overnight luggage goes in first, we keep ours in the floor compartment. For a long trip I would suggest packing a lot of items that can be mixed and matched to wear together so you can pack less. Bring layers that go nicely over all your outfits in case of bad weather. (I am working under the assumption, like me, you will never purposely travel to somewhere colder than where you already are. Because, why?) Don’t forget the BabyLegs! Not only are they great layers for the little ones but the whole family can use them as arm warmers.  I swear I’m not on their payroll. Remember to pack for comfort during drives. I understand you want to look good in vacation photos but no one looks good miserable. Comfort, then vanity. When I pack I make a list from head to toe. It looks something like this:

  • hair  products, blow dryer (the hotel dryers don’t cut it), comb, brush, hair bands
  • make up, face cleanser, eye makeup remover
  • toothbrush, paste, etc.
  • jewelry
  • body lotion, body wash
  • feminine hygiene products (even if it’s not expected, just in case)
  • clothes
  • shoes, walking shoes
  • plastic bags to store clothese once they are too dirty to rewear

Obviously this is an oversimplified list but you get the idea. I then repeat the process for the kids. Older kids like my teenagers can pack their own bag but I give them a list and ask  them to the point smart-mouthiness if they have certain items we can’t just purchase on the road, like their glasses.

Another item that gets packed first is the pack and play. If you are bringing a baby then definitely bring this staple. Some hotels claim they have portable cribs but they are often 20 years old and I wouldn’t even put my dog in one, if I had a dog. If it’s not good enough for my hypothetical dog it’s not good enough for your baby. Don’t forget Baby’s special blanket, stuffed animal or other lovey. We have a “ba” and two Scout puppies, one for each boy. Ba is Sharkboy’s blanket and he can sleep without it but he loves it.  The puppies say their names and sing lullabies we custom downloaded from the LeapFrog website. We play them every night and I think it is best to stick with a bedtime routine as much as possible on the road. After you have packed your luggage into the van and anything else you need for the overnight portion of your trip it is time to load up for the actual driving portion of your road trip.

Eating (and drinking!) On The Road

Reuse empty cartons of milk or juice as water bottles. You will need a lot of water, especially if you have a bottle fed baby on board. Bring them already full and remember to refill them any time you stop somewhere with water that you know is clean. Also refill your cooler with ice at these stops.

A few ideas for packing the cooler:

  • berries and grapes are already bite size,
  • raw veggies for dipping, we like sugar snap peas and carrots because they hold up longer
  • veggie dip
  • diced chicken breast and/or turkey breast
  • cheese cubes (obviously, always bring cheese)
  • squeezable yogurt – These can be frozen treats, too, as long as your cooler allows. Check the label, some of these are almost all sugar, no one wants that on a car trip.
  • Bacardi

That list is far from all inclusive, I just covered the basic food groups like protein, fruits, veggies and rum.

Other food to pack:

  • trail mix – Don’t buy it, customize your own with your family’s favorite stuff. Some possibilities are nuts (packed with good fat, protein and fiber!), whole grain cereals and dried fruits. You may want to put a little container of chocolate chips in the cooler to throw in the mix right before you eat it. Don’t store them in there or you will have chocolate covered nuts and berries. Yummy but messy.
  • squeezable fruits and vegetables – These are often found in the baby aisle and you have to check the labels to make sure you are getting the good ones, but when you find them you have hit the convenience food jackpot.
  • baked crackers – Goldfish come in a variety of flavors and they smile back.

Bring inexpensive containers to use as dishes, the kind you buy to send leftover holiday food home. You can also find inexpensive take and toss dishes in the children’s food aisle at most stores. This way you can wash and reuse it (not just on this trip, but in the future, too) and you won’t miss it if it gets lost or too soiled to pleasantly continue the trip with you. I pack our dishes with the non-perishable food items and reuse a plastic bag from the grocery store to hold the used ones. They can be washed in any sink if you also pack a travel size dish soap.

You will want to try to keep the kids drinking as much water as possible but when that fails dilute their juice. Sharkboy has only had “straight” juice a few times at restaurants and he looks like he just snorted a line of Pixie sticks afterwards.

Assuming you are not driving for awhile you’re going to need to dilute your rum, too. I recommend Diet Pepsi even though this poses one major problem. You’re going to need to pee. A lot. So don’t forget to pack toilet paper in your emergency kit. (More on that soon.) It is very likely that you will need to pee more than anyone else if you’re drinking. That is the great thing about bringing kids, they need to get out of their seats often so you always have an excuse to stop and pee.

**I recommend researching your route before you leave. Find cool, offbeat restaurants for the nights you choose to stop and eat. Map out interesting local attractions for short breaks. Have a picnic at a local park. I want my family to experience the culture of the area we are visiting, not just drive past unaware of the difference. Every stop should reflect that desire, even a quick bathroom break, if possible. If you must pee on the side of the road use it as a teaching opportunity for your children. There is an art to peeing while standing if you are a female and it’s about time your daughter’s learned about it. Speaking of bathroom breaks… **

Adventures In Diaper Changing

When Sharkboy was just a Sharkbaby I changed his diaper on the bathroom floor of a dirty roadside convenience store. Now that I have to drag so many little ones outside to play everyday it has occurred to me it is much nicer to lay down a blanket and change them in the grass. You might get strange looks from other customers but its better than laying your baby down next to a dead cockroach. I always carry anti-bac in case we need to make a change or use the restroom somewhere that does not provide soap or running water. If you are near a town or city and are not planning a fun roadside stop at an attraction, restaurant or museum then look for Target or another family friendly store that will have clean, well supplied restrooms with a changing table.

Sharkbaby showing off his roadtrip outfit during a quick bathroom floor diaper change at Casey’s General Store

For older kids that can read and write start a journal. On each page ask a question about the trip and let each child answer it themselves when they get bored of looking out the window or if they start to fight. Ask about the weather, the most interesting thing they have seen so far or what they are looking forward to. Write down any memorable quotes from your trip and later add photos of silly things you saw and did on the road.  Encourage everyone to be part of journaling.

We play two different alphabet games, depending on what kind of road we are on. In town we like to search for the letters of the alphabet in order. Whoever gets to Z first wins. We just shout out A in Wal-Mart, B in Dress Barn, etc. On the interstate where signs are sparse we play as a group and search for things around us that start with each letter. A for airplane, B for birds, sometimes you have to get really creative. We do allow the use of actual letters for some of the trickier ones, like the X in an exit sign.

Another fun game is the scavenger hunt. Write (or draw for little ones) a list of things to find on your trip and check them off as you go. For example, on our trip across the SW some of the things we searched for included a cactus, an Elvis impersonator, and a pink semi. This can be fun if you include some socializing possibilities, such as, an “authentic” farmer. Dare your kid to ask the guy in bib overalls if he does, in fact, work on a farm. Be polite and have fun meeting people on the road. Be safe, obviously.

I recommend bring a wrap, slung or other carrier for your trip, as well. We first used an inexpensive Snugli and jeep brand carrier. Both work well for us but I was later told they’re not the best for little boys and legs. I just ordered a mei tai for Little S that I can’t wait to try out.  Sharkboy is just under the weight limit if he needs a rest. We have a wonderful double stroller but it is bulky. An umberella stroller is an alternative if you’re not into babywearing, but give it a try, you might be!

My whole family, pre-Little S, perched on the chasm of doom known as The Grand Canyon. The Barkeep is wearing Sharkbaby in a carrier.

**Pick up a map at a rest stop and teach your children how to use it. Talk about the symbols, show them the legend, teach them how to calculate distance. Encourage them, to help watch for your next turn. These skills are becoming obsolete in the era of GPS and smart phones but education trumps technology. Your mind never runs out of batteries or gets lost at a rest stop, not literally anyway.**

Timing Is Everything

If possible, start your trip in the evening so the kids can sleep through their own state that they are already familiar with. Try to plan stops at attractions and parks for the time that little ones are usually awake and let them sleep during their normal naptime. (This may be a good time for a movie?) Try to keep meals at their routine times. This will help eliminate a lot of crankiness.

Links 

http://www.roadsideamerica.com/

http://www.roadtripamerica.com/

http://www.sillyamerica.com/index.html

And Don’t Forget

  • Your  badass hat and sunglasses! No matter how greasy your hair gets gets and no matter how dark the circles under your eyes are you can still look      fabulous in your Supermom disguise!
  • A camera. Maybe one for the kids.
  • Your  towel.

A very special thank you to all the Swirlers but especially these few for helping me with this blog: Exclamation, GypsySpice, Roxeigh, TIGRRRSEYE

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In The Company Of Rockstars

Going out with rockstars can be fun but there are some drawbacks.

They always need a drink. You can never just walk out of the house empty handed.

They’re messy. You never know when you might get puked on, peed on, drinks spilled on you… but you still have to dress nice because they are apt to draw attention your way at any moment, either by being loud and unruly or incredibly charming.

Everyone wants to talk to them, touch them and give them things and tell them how wonderful they are right up until all the attention goes to their head and they turn into a hot emo mess, then their adoring fans scatter, taking their trinkets and smiles with them.

Sometimes they’re weird and do weird things that don’t make any sense.

One on one they are okay people but in groups they become even more unpredictable and prone to hysterics.

Rockstars?

I’m seriously laughing out loud at what some of these stock photo companies consider rockstars…

Did I say rockstars? I meant toddlers…

I took Sharkboy and Little S shopping today. It was meant to be a quick trip but it is rare and exciting for us to be out during the day on a weekday and it is always an adventure to travel anywhere with young children. I wanted to pick up a Baltic amber necklace for Little S because he finally has teeth coming in, and they are coming in fast and fierce now. Sharkboy has one of his own that he was getting annoyed about sharing. I’m not going to advocate teething jewelry because I am still sort of shocked that it seems to work, I’m just going to quietly keep putting my boys in their necklaces everyday and if someone asks I will admit that it seems bizarre but they are more pleasant children in the evenings when wearing their jewelry. If you want to try it I recommend Inspired By Finn online. That’s where we got Sharkboy’s necklace. They were out of the kind we wanted when I went to order one for S and since I had the day off and access to the van we trekked over to the local natural parenting store.

The plan was to head straight home but then I saw it, a Block Sale sign! Sure you can go to block sales on Saturday… if you don’t mind picking through the junk all the stay at home parents and retired people left behind on Friday. The boys were loaded up on Burger King, (lettuce and pickles can be vegetables, right?) and we still had a little while until nap and I had cash in my pocket, perfect block sale conditions.

In case I have not previously mentioned it, my kids are unbelievably cute. They attract a lot of attention in public. Sharkboy is usually quiet but he has terrific manners and a killer smile. Little S is pretty noisy but he is charming and social. And they are just so incredibly handsome. It really is like going out on the town with rockstars. I also do a lot of weird, somewhat non-conventional things. We use cloth diapers, my boys wear jewelry and BabyLegs, I “wear” Little S in a carrier. Put all that together with a social butterfly mother and it’s hard to even get out of the car without someone striking up a conversation. Usually I don’t mind and I must have that look because people talk to me a lot. It’s not always friendly. I had an elderly woman tell me I was making life harder for myself by wearing my baby. It was July and she insisted he was suffocating in his sling, as if going from the hot car seat in the car to the hot car seat in a cart would be so much cooler and more comfortable… in July. Just today someone asked me if Sharkboy’s BabyLegs were knee highs. Maybe, dickhead, does it matter? They are keeping him warm in the rain, meanwhile your kid is shivering. I’ve had more comments than I can count or repeat about how gross and unsanitary cloth diapers are. They’re not, but I don’t bother to argue or correct, I just keep quietly saving money.

Maybe BabyLegs deserve their own blog! ❤

Today, though, we had almost entirely positive comments from the boys’ adoring fans. Sharkboy said he was hot so I simply pulled his BabyLegs off from under his shorts, immediately attracting the attention of other moms. I shared the code for the huge sale going on right this minute. (FAN50, 50% off of everything AND free shipping!) A young girl asked me a ton of questions about cloth diapers before I finally realized she was a mother and interested in switching. We always save the cutest prints for going out in public, just in case anyone is interested. Everyone oohed and ahhed  over Little S waving and gave Sharkboy cookies and kool-aid so he was able to impress them with his stellar manners.

(It rained off and on, giving me a chance to mention that we had our towels with us for Towel Day. In honor of Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and many other amazing books and an all around brilliant man, I happened to be  carrying a towel today, which oddly, no one asked me about. Please refer to my comment section for an explanation. The towel made a nice umbrella for S.)

Then we found a slide. And other children. Getting Sharboy back to the van became a scene from Get Him To The Greek. We finally returned home three hours later with a new necklace, books about owning and running a bar, new toys, a diaper bag, empty cups, mustard stained pants, a shirt covered in kool-aid and two hot emo mess little boys. My little rockstars needed a nap.

How Not To Scar Your Children: Part One

Last night I took a shower at midnight. I couldn’t sleep, I knew I wouldn’t have time for one in the morning and it’s the only way to be truly alone in my house. If everyone is sleeping no one needs to use the potty rightthisveryminute or barge in for eyeliner or knock on the door with questions. This gave me time to enjoy the finer things in life like leaving conditioner on for the recommended amount of time, exfoliating with my daughter’s body wash and other luxuries.

When I got out I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realized my stay-at-home-mom tan had gotten out of control. I’m a glowing white Irish girl that spends as much time outside with the kids as possible. My flip flop tan lines are enviable but the tan ends just above my knees. My arms are a lovely bronze but my chest is barely beige. After almost no consideration or forethought I decided to use the sunless tanning lotion I had leftover from last summer. Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.

How To Use Sunless Tanning Lotion:

  • Make      yourself a drink. I prefer Bacardi and Diet Pepsi but you can switch up  the recipe to fit your needs.
  • Use a  good brand. Sometimes you get what you pay for. Don’t buy this stuff at the dollar store. I like Loreal. The gradual types are wonderful for luminescent girls like myself.
  • Exfoliate. It feels good. Slough off the dead skin cells.
  • Use a light layer of lotion on your wrinkles and creases, around your knees and ankles and such.
  • Wash  your hands after applying it to each area so you don’t get a build up on your hands. Use hot water and soap.
  • When you are done, use a tissue to wipe around the wrinkles and creases and anywhere else the lotion may have built up.
  • Do not get dressed for 15-20 minutes. Let it soak in and dry up.
  • Clean  up mistakes with facial astringent on a tissue.
  • Finish your drink. Look fabulous

Just be aware, you may look fabulous, but you stink. Even the pretty scented tanning lotions I picked up at Bath And Body Works smell awful. Don’t do this before you go out on the town. A random Tuesday at midnight is a good time to start.

I applied my sunless tanning lotion in peace, taking time to make it worthwhile, and on a whim I used some of the leftover lotion from my arms on my face. I have to be really careful with this because even though I have pretty good skin it doesn’t take much to upset the balance and give myself a raging zit. Also, as you can imagine, there are a lot of ways to mess your face up with sunless tanning lotion. (All the same steps as above but use a lot of regular face lotion on your angles and around the eyebrows, ears, mouth and hairline.) Don’t worry, I’ve got this covered.

This particular sunless tanner boasted “instant radiance” and I was indeed able to admire a very light tan immediately. I was quite pleased with it… until I looked in the mirror. My face was not orange or blotchy or even covered in acne.

I was sparkling light a Twilight vampire. I blinked and did a double take but it was not from the Bacardi. “Instant radiance” is apparently code for “enough glitter to relive 1999.” I washed it in hot water, then cold, then scrubbed it with astringent but I already knew it was useless. I lived through 1999 the first time, I know how hard body shimmer is to remove and I know how absurd it looks on a face.

So, here I am on this random Wednesday with my ultra sparkly, mildly radiant facial tan, thinking this is probably one of the least embarrassing looks I’ve sported while dropping the girls off at school. I’m an embarrassing mom sometimes. I try to keep in mind how important their social life and outward image is at this age but they need to respect that sometimes their ride to school is my social life and I rarely have time to remember I have an outward image.

It is for this reason that I decided our family deserved some level of anonymity while I write this blog. I’m aware that most readers came here because I begged you to on Facebook so you know exactly who I am. I’m slowly pulling in more readers though and I’d like to embarrass my children as little as possible.

That is why I am giving them ridiculous, embarrassing nicknames instead of using their real names. I suspect that from time to time I will write things about our family that they do not want to be associated with. Little S is my 10 month old that slithers like a Little Snake and he is little and his name starts with S. Sharkboy is my 2 year old son. He had a full set of teeth by the time he was one and unfortunately he uses them aggressively at times. My 17 year old daughter, Goldilocks, or more likely, Goldy, because I am lazy, has locks of gold. Beauty is incredibly vain. I’m kidding but she did pick her own nickname. I believe her excuse was that she loved Belle from Beauty and the Beast and we often use Belle as a suffix to her real name. (Begging the question, why not Belle?)  Confusingly enough, in contrast to Goldy, Beauty also has dark hair and eyes like Belle. Her “boyfriend” was shocked to discover she would not be having a quinceanera. (Boyfriend is in quotes because, seriously, they are 13.)

The Barkeep was hard to name because I don’t expect him to like anything I pick. I thought about The Grill Master but in case you have not noticed I like to keep it short. I have been up every 5 minutes while writing this to drag Little S away from Sharkboy, the cats, the DVR, the mess in the corner… I can’t be expected to type out long names.

Now that you’ve met my family feel free to tell me a little about yours.

What We Really Want For Mother’s Day: Batsmoke

I can’t speak for all mothers but I feel confident speaking for most stay at home or work at home (with children present) mothers on the subject of “Oh my god, I need a lifetime supply of Batsmoke.” Thank you Pregnant Chicken for giving it a clever, male friendly name.

http://www.pregnantchicken.com

My kids are pretty good kids. Little S likes to pull the cats’ tails and shriek a lot and pull all of the wipes out of the wipey box. Sharboy sometimes says, “I want milk,” followed quickly by, “No, I can’t want milk!” I sometimes feel like I’m taking part in a secret psychological exam. I’ve been blessed with unusual teenagers that are mostly compliant and that don’t sneak out of the house or steal things or if they do they are good enough at it not to get caught which sometimes is good enough, but even good teenagers can be exhausting. They “forget” important things. They procrastinate. Just, you know, stuff, that has to be dealt with.  We only have one vehicle. This is one of the choices we make to make our stay at home parent situation work. Maybe when this one is paid off we can afford insurance on a second one, but until then we prefer to spend any extra money on driving somewhere fun together instead of driving two seperate cars.  So, I spend all day with five little bitties and all evening with two little ones and two teens who generally disappear into their rooms and only come out to inform me they forgot something extremely important that needs dealt with immediately or to ask if we have any eggs because, “Oh yeah, my egg drop project is due at 6am tomorrow so can you drop me off at school around the same time you normally roll out of bed… and help me do my whole project?”

Sometimes The Barkeep comes home and I have an immediate need to buy… Chapstick, for the diaper bag. I like to have some everywhere, the moisturizing kind with SPF 15. Hand soap. We go through a lot. I need something, anything to get me out of the house. Toilet paper. Still trying to set the standard. So, I make my excuse, which I’m sure reeks of the very bullshit it is made of, but I don’t care and inevitably Sharkboy hears the word “go” and begins the hunt for the two year old holy grail, which is a matching pair of socks. There is no doubt in his mind that he is going because I am a sucker. He’s trapped in the same house with me, he needs out, too. This is a prime example of when a mother needs Batsmoke. I want to disappear into a cloud of smoke, no explanation, and come home tipsy and go to bed for a week, or for the evening at the very least.

Batsmoke would come in handy when I need a new bra, too. I can’t just look at the size and go buy a new one in that size. I don’t know if this problem is unique to me because I have a lot to work with, or if all women need to try on a dozen bras in a dozen sizes to find the right one, but either way, this is not a kid friendly activity. I would like to just get up in the morning, realize my need for a bra, and go purchase one. I have been a mother my entire adult life and I do not remember what it feels like to get up and do what I want without first making sure everyone else has what they need.  Teenagers need rides. So many rides. Infants and toddlers need supervision. Men have needs. Not those needs. There is ductwork to be done on the addition and paperwork at the bar and a hundred other things that are also not kid friendly. Sometimes just getting people to commit to a time frame makes me want a nap… that I can’t take because everyone else needs something first. This is when I want to disappear into a cloud of smoke, no explanation, and come home tipsy and go to bed for a week, or for the evening at the very least. In a new bra.

My Batsmoke wish has conditions, though. First of all, I want it all guilt free. No one, not even the bitsy baby, is ever allowed to give me any amount of grief for needing a break. Next, no reciprocation should be expected. Everyone else has Batsmoke already, its called, “a life outside the house.” Last, but definitely not least, I expect to return from my sabbatical to find the house and children in at least as decent of a condition as I left them in. Diapers changed, meals on time, dinner somewhere other than on the floors and counter, that kind of stuff.

I had intended to write a list of things women really want for Mother’s Day but I feel Batsmoke covers it. I’d like to take a shower whenever I want. I wash the towels, after all. Six people, one bathroom, you do the math. I used to look forward to the weekends because I had the idea that I would get to be the first person to take a shower on Saturday. I would get up early with Sharkboy, who was just a Sharkbaby then, (or more likely we would startle awake after a restless night on the couch when a demon hellcat pounced on us in search of his morning meal) and feed him and change him and get him ready for the day. I was generally covered in baby sweat and spit up because Sharkbaby had an upset tummy for the first year of his life. There is no greater feeling than a long hot shower after spending the evening insane. I’d hear The Barkeep coming up the stairs and get ready to hand Sharkbaby over, only to have him breeze past with a freshly washed towel over his shoulder and say, “I’m going to take a quick shower…”

I’m just saying, if the judge were a mother, I wouldn’t get jail time.

Then of course, teenagers have plans so they need showers and rides and there is paperwork at the bar and eventually I have to throw a tantrum to get in the damn shower. This is when I need Batsmoke. I want to disappear into a cloud of smoke, no explanation, and come home tipsy and go to bed for a week, or for the evening at the very least. Clean.

If you are thinking right now that you want or need something other than Batsmoke for Mother’s Day, might I suggest a nice gift basket from Bath And Body Works? That is, after all, what you get the woman who already has it all.

The Toilet Learning Chronicals – Part One

Shortly after he turned 2 we bought my oldest son, Sharkboy, a potty chair and a seat for the big toilet. I know a lot of parents rush into the toilet learning process excited and eager to get started and tell everyone how amazing their kid is but I wanted to kind of wade in, like you would into a too cold pool and then maybe go back up and hang out on the beach for awhile, apply more sunscreen… pardon me, I’m daydreaming about summer a lot lately.

I sat him on the potty for a few minutes a few times a day. I don’t remember how long it took before he finally peed, but we did all the things I had done for his older sisters. We called Daddy at work and took a picture (of him on the potty, not his creation) and made a big production about how amazing he is. Apparantly he thought that was all there was to it, we had accomplished the big goal and now he didn’t have to sit there. Ever again. I have read 84,000 articles about not pushing your child to potty train so I used that as an excuse to quit for awhile. I didn’t sit him on the potty again until he asked and then he didn’t want to get up. It took about 15 minutes and a lot of “tuck your penis back in” but he did pee and in an unprecedented move on my part I offered a “potty treat” as a reward.

If you came here for potty training advice then you are probably realizing about now that you need to head back to Google and try again. I have no idea what I’m doing. Yes, I taught preschool, but only to older kids that were already (supposedly) trained. I have two teenage daughters, but honestly, they didn’t need trained. My oldest asked to sit on the “toyt” when she was 13 months old and she peed on it, too. I didn’t bother putting her in underwear until she was 2 and she almost never had an accident. It was almost as easy with her sister. I bought her cute panties and said, “don’t get these wet.”

(If you’re still here and you still want advice I will tell you this: Change your child often. Let them get used to being dry and liking the way a clean bottom feels.  That’s it. Four kids and a childcare career and my advice boils down to common sense.)

But I digress, we’re talking about Sharkboy and his obsession with chocolate. Potty treats made sitting on the potty a worthwhile adventure and when he discovered he could pretend his penis was a firehose we were in business. He now pees on the potty frequently throughout the day even though we ran out of potty treats months ago. He tells me he has to pee and then does so almost immediately. He can usually hold it for a minute or two if he has to wait. These seem like positive steps towards diaper freedom. We’ve had a few setbacks, like the time he pulled down his own pants and got started without me without mentioning his diaper was poopy or the day he dumped his pee on the floor instead of in the toilet… twice, but ya know, everything washes.

The thing is, the kid doesn’t want to wear underwear. We have underwear with diggers on it (his favorite), Finn McMissile, Yo Gabba Gabba, everything he loves, but he wants his diapers. In his defense, some of his diapers are pretty awesome. We use cloth so he has diapers with fire trucks and construction vehicles and even the plain ones are blue and green. This might be why I’m not in a hurry. It’s not costing me any extra money. The diapers are already paid for and I still have to do the baby’s diaper laundry so it’s not extra work, either.

I’m also not rushing because once he is in underwear full time we have a new obstacle when we go outside. Outside time is extremely important to me with 5 kids here. It is also complicated. I have two non-walking infants, two toddlers and a 4 year old. Just getting out the door is an excersize in creativity and safety procedures.  The four year old, Monster Princess (MP, lovingly named by her own mother, I’m not being mean) can hold it longer than a newly toilet learned two year old. Once Sharkboy is in underwear I will live in fear of the potty request. There is no quick way to transport 5 kids into the house so one can pee.

Sharkboy turned 2 and a half on Saturday so I had every intention of him toilet learning today. He was going to wear underwear and I would set the timer and he was going to stay dry and… right after his first morning pee he declared, “I can’t want underwear today.” That was that. I put on the diaper and scrapped the timer idea. He still stayed dry right up until nap when we couldn’t get his diaper off in time and he peed and pooped in it and then proceeded to put it in the wet bag before I could rinse it and then sprayed me with the diaper sprayer while I tried to retrieve it without anything gross happening. Between that and changing 5 poopy diapers before nap today I am not only ready to quit potty training, I’m considering just walking out of the house and heading to the bar down the street. (Disclaimer for the parents of children in my care, I’M KIDDING. I swear.)

I feel like we have come too far not to go all the way now. So, what’s the deal? Why am I still hanging out in the shallow end? One of us needs to dive in soon. What would YOU do? Leave me a comment and stay tuned for the next adventure in Sharkboy’s Toilet Learning Chronicle.

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