Archive for November, 2010

it sucks

This parenting gig is pretty darn hard. The gaggle of kids sure keep me on my toes. Every day is like a surprise pop quiz that I am completely unprepared for. There are days when I wake up and wonder if I am even in the right class because I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. It is like I am plugging along at consumer math and wake up one day and I’m suddenly in quantitative calculus, on the day of the final.

Raising my hand “um, I think I’m in the wrong class. what the heck is quantitative calculus anyways?”

And everyone turns around and stares at you like you’ve just sprouted a third head covered in snot. Then they all go back to computing their calculus problems like it’s as easy as simple addition.

And I sit down completely lost. I’m not a quitter though, so I figure I’ll give it my best shot. I find some peer tutoring and look on the Internet for some advice. I even go so far as checking some books out from the library. After all of that though, I still feel lost and inadequate.

That is what parenting is like.

Parenting a teen is like that combined with the dream that you are at school naked and not only does everyone laugh at you, they hate you too.

Here are some things that I have learned whilst parenting a teen kid.

1. No one can hurt you like your teen kid. Yes, the first time your 8-year-old says “I hate you”, you will feel like curling up in a ball and crying. But you know that they only say that because they are the worst words that they know. When you ask them why they hate you, the answer is always silly “because you won’t let me eat ice cream for breakfast!”.

Just wait though until your teen age daughter tells you they hate you. The reasons are well thought out and have some logic behind them. You wonder if maybe they should pursue a career in persuasive marketing for the TSA.   And no matter how ridiculous and faulty their reasoning is, your still left crumbled on the floor wondering if maybe they wouldn’t be better off raised by a pack of wolves. And the thought does cross your mind that maybe, just maybe you should have your parenting license revoked.

2. Having the last word isn’t really worth it. Especially if your teen likes having the last word too. Trying to get the last word in can make an argument go on forever. Then, when it’s over you feel like a moron, an immature moron.

Her: fine!
Me: fine!
Her: (slams the door) fine!
Me: hey wait! Don’t slam the door!
Her: fine! (slamming the door)

This can go on forever, or at least until I remember that I am the adult. So basically, for a long time,

3. You’ve got to pick your battles. Because everything can be a battle. I have to ask myself constantly if this is the hill i want to die on. And there are some days that I feel like bleeding all over the skinny jeans with a hole in the knee. I will fight tooth and nail over whether or not holey jeans are appropriate attire for being seen with your mother in.

4. It is never appropriate to gloat over a teenager. because even if I do win the battle of the skinny jeans, it isn’t nice to tramp around with them cut into small pieces and woven around as a hat on my head. No matter how much I may want to.

5. No one can make you feel as inadequate as your teen kid. It doesn’t matter how popular you may have felt in high school. Your kid still thinks you’re a dweeb. It doesn’t matter how cool you are, your kids don’t think you are cool in the least bit. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, your kid will still think you are stupid.  And for a second you will wonder if you are.

6.  You will wish you were stupid. It would be nice to be stupid.  It would make this whole “parent of a teen” so much easier.

6. No one can humble you more than your kid. Just when I think I can pat myself on the back because I have exhibited more patience today than I thought humanely possible, she proves me wrong.  And by proving me wrong, I mean she tests me and I lose my patience.   Just when I thought I was doing a pretty decent job as a mom, I am rather rudely informed that I am not. It’s all rather humbling.

7. I am not sure who is growing and maturing more, me or her.

8. Parents don’t have the answers. I wish they did. But they don’t.  More often than not, I wing it.  More often than not I wish for a magic 8 ball to make my decisions for me.  It is really too bad that we don’t realize this until we are parents ourselves.

9. Hug even when you don’t want to.

10. And then hug again when you’ve been rejected.

Because with a teen it is all a test, a pop quiz, a final. You never know when you are being graded, quoted, memorized, judged.  It’s all going on your permanent record to be brought out at a later date, of course when you least expect it.

And that’s just the list for the first six months of having a teen!

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Happy Belated Birthday!

Dear Mikey,

This year you turned eight while we were on vacation.  This meant a lot of things.   You didn’t get a birthday party because we don’t know anyone in Florida.  Happy Birthday was sang over instant oatmeal and bananas.  You didn’t get a special birthday dinner.  It also means that you didn’t get a birthday letter.  It wasn’t because I forgot, it was because the nonstop amusement park vacation exhausted me.  Though I didn’t physically write you a letter, I’ve been writing this one in my head for the last few weeks.   So, belatedly but definitely without any less love, Happy Birthday.

Today you turned eight.  It amazes me that you are eight.

I can remember being pregnant with you.  I remember the day that you were born.  I remember the very first time I held you.  I remember how perfectly you fit in my arms.  I remember looking down upon you feeling incredibly blessed in every way.  Even though my life was falling apart in every other way, you made everything absolutely perfect.

Every day since then, you brighten my life.  Even on the days when there is more crying and yelling than hugs and kisses, I wouldn’t trade you for the world.   As cliché as it might be, it is the truth.

Though being the middle child is hard, I believe that you really have the best of both worlds.  You are an amazing brother.

You have perfected being the little brother.  You are very talented at annoying your older siblings.  More than once you’ve frustrated Marshall to the point of tears with your constant soundtrack of machine bullet gun shooting and army lingo.  Often you enrage your sister with your amazing ability to tattle on every small slip she makes.  Secretly, I know how much you adore them.  If all of the flapdoodle that you take from them isn’t proof, I don’t know what is.

I think that all of the ways in which your older siblings fail at being an older sibling, you’ve remembered and vowed to be a better big brother.  I am awed at what a patient, kind, caring big brother you are.  You not only help Nathaniel and Jacob with all of the struggles of being the smallest, but you play with them as if they are your equals.  Never do you treat them like “babies”, you include them in all of your games and army play.

I love your optimistic spirit.  More often than not you can find the bright side.  Like in Kindergarten, you were the bully on the playground.  You would climb up the slide and proclaim yourself king of the slide.  After several warnings you were banned from the playground and only allowed on the blacktop.  Instead of moping about the fun you were missing out on, you convinced everyone that they didn’t want to play on the slide.  Exasperated your teacher told me, “It doesn’t matter what the punishment is.  If I won’t let him play on the playground, he convinces his friends to all play on the black top.  If I make him sit at the picnic tables he convinces everyone to sit out recess.  He can make everything look fun!”

My response:  “Awesome!”  (another reason why we homeschool, I’d hate to crush that)

This is how you have always been. Happy.

More than any of my children, I can not see you get older.  Every day, I know it’s happening.  You are discovering new things and growing. One day, you won’t be eight anymore, and then I’ll wake up one day and you won’t be 15 anymore.  Before I know it, you won’t be a little boy, you’ll be a man.  But always, no matter how old you are,  you will look exactly the same to me.  It isn’t that I want to keep you little forever.  Because more so than any of your siblings, I am excited to see what God has in store for you.  I am excited for the adventures that you will take and the travels that you will go on.  I am excited to see you grow into a wonderful man.  I can’t wait to meet your wife, because I know that you will bring me an amazing daughter.  I know that you will make an extraordinary husband and father.

Mike:  I don’t think I’m going to get married.

Me:  Why?  I would be sad if you didn’t have a wife to love.

Mike:  Well, I want to be in the army and I think in the army I’ll probably be gone for a long time a lot.  I wouldn’t want to leave my wife home with all of my kids because that would be hard for her.  And I wouldn’t want to leave my kids because I would love them so much.  I would be so sad to leave them.  But I would love being an army guy.  So I don’t think I’m going to get married.  It wouldn’t be fair.

This is how I know that you will make a great husband and dad.  Already at 7, you are thinking about your future wife and children.  What kid at 7 is that insightful?

Happy Birthday my dear, sweet, boy.  Thank you so much for being a great kid!  Thank you for sharing your happiness with me.

I love you!



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In case you haven’t already figured it out, Dave and I vacation with a purpose.  Our vacations are more exhausting than our real life.  We wake up incredibly early and go to bed extremely late.  We drink copious amounts of caffeine.   We want the most bang for our buck.

Dave:  With the amount of money we are paying for this vacation, I want to experience everything!  I want to be there when the park opens and I want to shut it down.  Every day and every night! Imagine Disneyworld was a wet towel.  By day 5 I want to have already have wrung it dry and then be sucking on the ends.  I want no penny wasted!  Now let’s go have fun!

We spent more time deciding on the order we’d visit the parks than any other part of the planning stages.  We chose to visit Epcot first because it wasn’t open late and we needed to ease into a vacation of amusement parks.  Also, it doesn’t have much to boast in the way of rides, so we figured the vacation could only go up from there.

Really, I’ve lost faith in people taking pictures.  I think from now on I’m going to start carrying around a tripod with me.  This is the best picture that we have in front of the epcot sphere.  Why?  because every time (5 times) we asked someone to take a picture with us and the ball they either cropped us out or cut off the ball. We tried lots of people.  Old people, young people, middle-aged people, girls, boys, teens.   It wasn’t like we threw our camera at an unsuspecting bystander and yelled cheese either!  This was after carefully finding a decent distance away, setting up the camera, explaining our purpose “Can you please take our picture with the giant silver sphere?”.   Alas, this was the best.  Christmas card material it is not.

Our first stop was the giant sphere where we visited Gutenberg and Steve Jobs.  Then we were off to Nemo.  After the Nemo ride we meandered around the aquarium.  We took pictures with a shark.

and then we lost Jacob.   There was a line to get into the shark, a line to get out of the shark.  We met the kids after the shark and looked at all of the shark exhibits.  We weren’t looking long when I noticed that Jacob wasn’t with us.  We frantically started calling for him.  He normally isn’t my wanderer so his disappearance was even more frightening for me.  I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t close to tears.  He wasn’t in the immediate vicinity.  He was wandering around the large lobby area, crying.  Crying really isn’t an adequate adjective.  He was sobbing, like he’d just lost his entire family.  Yes, we lost two kids in two days.

Me:  We should buy leashes or something.

Dave:  We didn’t bring dogs with us.  We brought boys.

After this I did start insisting that if they were out of the stroller they had to be holding someones’ hand.  And Mike did not count.  That would be like the blind leading the blind.  Or the lost looking for the lost.

After lots of hugs and kisses we made our way out of the Nemo aquarium and explored the rest of the park.

The kids really enjoyed Captain EO.

Marshall:  Why does Michael Jackson talk like that?

Me:  I don’t know that’s his voice.

Marshall:  Is he a girl?

After the fun of Nemo and Captain EO we traveled into the part of Epcot that it is most well-known for.  The countries. Epcot is really for people who want to travel but don’t want to leave the United States.  You can visit the whole world in a day.  Everywhere you wanted to go, or at least every country that has a good tourist bureau is there.

And at each stop along the way, hidden in the back of a gift shop they post a native of the country.  They dress them in silly “traditional” dress and arm them with an ink stamp.   They also have a sharpie coloring station at each stamp post.  Yes, I said Sharpie coloring station.

Dave:  Coloring isn’t helping me maximize the fun of today.

It is really rather ingenious of Disney.  They force you to visit every store in the whole park in search of a stamp.  It’s on par with all of their rides ending at a gift shop.

We visited Canada where we watched a tourism video narrated by Martin Short.  He’s Canadian or don’t you know?   We walked by America because we live here.  The kids got to see miniature terracotta warriors in China, Japanese art in Japan, another movie in France.  We saw a miniature village in Germany, took a boat ride in Mexico, and explored Morocco.

Italy didn’t have anything but a fountain.

This is how the kids looked during most of the day:

Imagine these looks complete with “I’m bored. Aren’t there any more rides.  It’s hot.  I’m hungry.  My feet hurt.  Can’t we go back to the hotel.  I’m bored!”

As you can tell the kids were not huge fans of Epcot.  The most exciting part of the whole tour of the world was probably visiting Norway where there was an amazing 3 minute ride. It of course let us out into a gift shop complete with shields, swords and funny hats.  All of which Michael had to have.  As a consolation prize, we took a picture with a crazy troll.

We also took pictures with Mulan in Japan, Pooh in England and Snow White in Germany.

My favorite country was probably the outpost which represented Africa as a whole.  It was a small rolling gift cart.  I guess Africa doesn’t have much money for tourism.  Dave’s favorite was England, where he helped them heckle the Irish and their dinky beer cart.  We should have left the kids at the hotel and did a beer of the world tour.  We could have drunk our way around the globe, one $12 beer at a time.

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and it continues

Let me tell you something about the Days Inn in Pensacola.  Don’t go there.  Consider yourself warned.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I was so completely exhausted I would have refused to sleep here.  We walked into the room and it made the wet carpet of the HOJO seem like mints on a turned down bed. They didn’t even have one of those emergency escape route plans on the door.  How do these people get approved to be a hotel?

Dave opened the microwave:  Oh, a plug. (and promptly shut the microwave).

I thought it was weird.   A plug in the microwave?

Dave:  Yeah, a plug.

Me:  Can we plug your laptop in it?

Dave:  (looking at me like I was insane)  How about unplugging the alarm clock.

We all fell asleep after playing musical beds and then tossing and turning.  In the morning we woke up and all showered and got ready for another long day of driving.  All I’ll say about the bathroom is that I wish we all had brought flip flops.  As I turned back the covers of the bed that the big kids were sleeping in, the biggest cockroach I have ever seen came crawling out from the sheets.  I promptly screamed and then jumped onto the other bed.  And realized that the bug was in a bed screamed and jumped off the bed.

Dave:  it’s just a bug.  Kill it.

Me: (it was now my turn to look at him like he was completely insane)  You kill it.  And it was IN the bed!

Dave:  Should I put it in the microwave to join his friend?

Me:  What the heck are you talking about?!

Dave:  the bug, in the microwave.

Me:  You told me there was a plug in the microwave.

Dave:  Why would there be a plug inside a microwave?

Me:  I don’t know, but I asked you twice!  And why would we stay in a hotel with bugs!  I think I might be sick.

After a breakfast that I couldn’t enjoy because I was constantly looking around for bugs, we loaded ourselves back in the car and pushed on.

Dave:  What do you expect for $35 a night.

Me:  I expect a bug free room.

Hotels.com:  1

The Gaines’: 1


I wish there was more to say about the drive into Florida.  The highlight of the day was calling around looking for the best deal on Disneyworld tickets.  Yes, I am really that much of a procrastinator.

No, the highlight of the day was probably buying the tickets to 5 days of Disney World, 1 day of Universal Studios and 2 days at Kennedy Center (for 7 people).  I thought that Dave might actually faint when the lady gave us the grand total.

Or maybe the highlight of the day would be when I took the kids to Babies R Us to buy a double stroller.  And I lost Nathaniel.  And they had to lock the doors and call a code Adam.  As I’m screaming his name in the store looking up and down all the aisles, all I can think is how the heck I’m going to explain to Dave that I lost our kid on vacation.  Turns out he was hiding underneath the strollers inside of the boxes.  Also, it turns out it wouldn’t be the last time we lost a kid on this vacation.

or maybe the highlight of the day would be when we went grocery shopping and I let the kids pick all of the crappy, processed, convenience food their little hearts desired.

or maybe the highlight of the day would be when the kids found out that our hotel had a Murphy bed.  Murphy bed=coolest thing ever to a 10 and under boy.

or when they saw the kitchen in our hotel room.

Mike: I think we should just live here forever!

or maybe the highlight of the day would be when the kids saw that our hotel had 3 pools, 2 game rooms and a laundry room.  I am so glad that we don’t have television.  This way they have nothing to compare it to.

Dave:  Let’s thank God for bringing us here safely and ask him to bless the rest of our trip.

Me:  Maybe we should also ask him to drive out any and all bugs within a 2 building radius.  At the very least, make them invisible.


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Let me start by saying, that whatever you think about the Howard Johnson, they are not on the same level as the Holiday Inn Express.   We are really lucky that we didn’t see any bugs.

Our requirements for booking a hotel are easy:  Under $50 a night because we’re just sleeping there, we aren’t spending much time there.  Free continental breakfast, because I’m not sure why, but breakfast is the most expensive meal for us to eat out.  $40 for pancakes and eggs is just ridiculous!  and of course the standards, like 2 queen beds, a private bathroom, and running water, and clean.  I want to pretend that no-one has ever slept there before.

Dave says that I need to keep my expectations equal with the under $5o a night.  I just expect things like pride in ownership.  If I owned a hotel I wouldn’t give a room with a wet carpet because of the ancient air conditioner.  Or I wouldn’t give a room that had duct tape on the carpet.  I also would insist on my maids doing a very thorough and good job, even if they are probably illegals from across the border.  Everyone everywhere really should have pride in ownership, things would be so much nicer.

Whatever the case, we slept moderately okay.  If one can ever sleep well with two toddlers wanting to sleep with both of their elbows in your back.  Everyone showered with hot water, watched a little tv, we repacked the car, filled the ice chest with ice (did I mention we were eating our lunch out of the back of the van.  Kinda like the taco truck, but a crappy one, one that only offers sandwiches and water), and went down to breakfast.  Actually, we descended upon the breakfast buffet like a pack of locusts.

Hotels.com:  0

The Gaines’: 1

We found a Costco for gas and a Whataburger for soda and we were off again! We drove and drove through Texas.  We ate lunch in Texas.

And then we finally found Louisiana.

Don’t let the smiles and nonchalant stances fool you.  If you look close Nathaniel is covering his eyes because he’s sure that at any moment a big rig truck is going to crash into our minivan causing it to run us all over.

Me:  We should just skip this one.  It’s way too dangerous!

Dave:  It’ll be fine.  We’ll be like 10 feet off the freeway.  Safer than your grandma’s backyard.

Me:  I can just see the headlines now “Vacationing family all killed while taking a picture on the side of the freeway.  No survivors!”

Dave:  That’s ridiculous, at least someone will survive. Remember, this was your idea to begin with.

Me:  I had no idea it was going to be so dangerous!

We got out, took the picture and ran back into the car where I handed out candy bars.

Let me tell you something about Louisiana, it is not for the person with a phobia of bridges.  I think there is more water than land in southern Louisiana.  This means that there are more bridges than roads.

After driving for 45 minutes on possibly the longest bridge I’ve ever been on, I told Dave I thought I might puke from the stress.

Dave:  What are you talking about?

Me:  The bridge.  What if it breaks?

Dave:  I’m sure it’s safe.

Me:  Remember that bridge collapsed last year.  They did some kind of assessment and most of the roads in our country aren’t holding up too well.

Dave:  Don’t worry.  We’re only like 2 feet off the water, I’m sure the water isn’t even deep this is marsh land.  We can probably stand up and only get our feet we.

Me:  That is until the crocodiles come and eat our feet off.

Dave:  don’t be silly, they don’t have crocodiles in Louisiana.  They have alligators.

Eventually we made it out of Louisiana into Mississippi.


The kids were so excited for their candy bar:

We’re sorry Alabama, we’ll catch you on the flip side, it was too dark for a picture.

Somewhere around midnight, we arrived in Florida.  Let me just say, the HoJo in San Antonio seemed like a four star resort compared to the Days Inn in Pensacola, FL.

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Just so you know, this has nothing to do with our vacation.

My house is a little unique in the fact that we have two driveways.  We have our standard driveway in the front that we normally park in.  Because we are a corner house, we also have a driveway on the side of our house.  We normally don’t park over there, we use it as overflow parking like when we have crazy parties where we blast our mariachi music all the way to 11 on the dial. Wait, that’s not us, that’s the guy across the street.    We do use the driveway for overflow parking though.  It is also the only access to our backyard.  So when we installed sod, we used this driveway.  Honestly, I shouldn’t have to explain to you, internet, in what means we use our second driveway.  We pay an obscene amount of money every month for the right to have a second driveway.  It’s my driveway, and even if I have two, they are mine, and people shouldn’t park in front of them.  Done, end of story.

Except it’s not.

This morning Dave and my father-in-law were filling the truck with things to take to the dump.  But they couldn’t park in our driveway because our neighbor parked their yellow bug right in the middle of the driveway, making the access to our driveway impossible. Rude and inconsiderate, but whatever.

Dave’s dad:  Who’s car is that?

Me:  I don’t know.

Dave’s dad left a polite note on their car.

I didn’t know about the note.  I wouldn’t have left a note, but I also wasn’t moving stuff and it was polite enough.

A few hours later I heard a knock on the door.

Her:  Did you leave this on my car? (waving the paper around)

Me:  I don’t think so.  (but as I looked closely I noticed the I heart Jim all around the edges.  Who doesn’t love Jim from the Office?).  Oh, maybe we did.  Let me see.  Oh, I guess we did.


Me:  Well, you were blocking the whole driveway with your car! (and unneighborly isn’t a word.  I kept this little tidbit to myself because I think she may have actually hit me if I said it outloud)

Her:  My daughter has been in the hospital for 9 weeks with a traumatic brain injury.  We brought her home today and you leave this on my car!  (She was really pissed, this whole conversation on her part deserves cap locks, but I really don’t care for typing with cap locks.)

Me:  That’s terrible, I had no idea!  I’m so sorry!

Her:  You couldn’t have knocked on my door!

Me:  We didn’t know who’s car it was.


Me:  (in my head) I’m sorry, am I supposed to memorize all the neighbor’s car on my block? My brain has many more important things to memorize than this who’s car belongs to whom.  Things like water bills and birthdays and the day to day with 5 kids.  And really, my driveway is not the closest place to park for you, why would I figure it’s your car?

Me:  Sorry, we didn’t know who’s car it was and you were blocking our WHOLE 3 car driveway.  And the note was polite.

Her:  I can’t believe how rude and unneighborly you are!

Me:  (in my head of course) Okay, I guess next time I won’t leave a polite note on your car, I’ll just call the police and have your car towed.  Would that be more neighborly?

and it went on and on.  With me telling her I was sorry for her kid (who is an adult) but standing my ground on the stupid note and her inconsiderate parking until she finally left in a huff.

Now, I feel really bad, because I had no idea about her daughter.  BUT I also had no idea she even had a third kid.

And really, I wasn’t the one in the wrong here.  It was my driveway, she parked in the middle of it.  It’s not like I keyed her car and wrote obscenities on it with fecal matter. Or like we parked in front and behind her and blocked her in, making it impossible for her to get her car out.  Or like we tried to get in our driveway despite her car blocking it and accidentally tore her bumper off.  Or like I egged her house and spray painted “don’t park in front of my driveway” in neon spray paint on the garage.  Can you tell I’ve been stewing over this all day?

I’m sure she was having a crappy day, and I got the full force of it so that she could feel better.  Part of me wants to Toilet Paper her house tonight.  Part of me wants to call the water department anonymously because they consistently over water their front lawn.  That way I can demonstrate actual unneighborly behavior to her.  But instead, I baked my delicious pumpkin bars and will have a kid deliver them with this message: “Stay away from my driveway!  Beee-otch!”.  Oh wait, nevermind, with this message “I’m really sorry you’re having a bad day.  We will be praying for your daughter.”

Because no matter how crazy she is, she’s still my neighbor and we’ll be forced to live next to her until she dies or moves.

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We left my sister’s house at 6am, before the sun was up.  We found the freeway and pushed on.  And stopped an hour later for gas and caffeine.  We pushed on some more and then stopped for the bathroom.  We got back on the freeway and just as we passed the last exit for 45 miles, Nathaniel would start to scream “I have to go PEE RIGHT NOW!!!!”.  Many bushes have now been marked with my boys scent, because if one gets to pee on the side of the road, they all suddenly had to go pee.

If I only brought one thing on our trip, it would be the Costco size box of candy bars.

Dave:  Did you bring enough candy bars for everyone for EVERY state line.

Me:  It’s a costco-size box.  Of course I did.  Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Florida.

Dave:  What about Alabama and Mississippi.

Me:  What about them?  No, we aren’t going through them. (duh, implied)

Dave:  Are we going to fly over them?

Me:  Seriously, we aren’t going through them.  (Dave handed me a map)

Me:  Aren’t you glad I homeschool our kids.

Dave:  So do you have enough candy?

Me:  Maybe we could stop at a walmart and buy a bag of fun size candy bars.  Okay kids!  Fun size candy bars at state lines that we spend less than 3 hours in!

New Mexico, is the only state that understands this picture-taking phenomenon.  There was a large turnout and the sign was well off the freeway.  We could have parked and eaten lunch with the amount of room they allocated.  But then again, it is New Mexico, they have lots of barren land.

And then we drove.  and drove.  and drove some more.  Somewhere around lunchtime we entered Texas.  We couldn’t find the Texas sign. We did find these amazing star sculptures in the middle of a busy intersection.

Me: I don’t know, I heard everything is bigger and better in Texas.  Maybe they decided they had to be better than the road sign.

Dave:  Let’s stop!

Me:   This is the middle of a busy intersection!  No way!  Here I took a picture with my phone.  Good enough.  We’ll photoshop it.


Dave:  No, I’ll drive around there’s got to be a way to take a picture with the lone star.

After 25 minutes of driving around we found a semi safe place to take a picture with the star.

Please notice the very small star in the back ground.  Also what is unseen is the large patch of prickly plants we are standing in.  We all got in the car and headed back to the freeway, where of course, we found the real sign.

Notice, I’m holding Nathaniel for dear life.  For some reason he seemed drawn to the Texas freeway like a moth to flame.

Dave:  Hurry!  Hurry! Get back in the car!  I think I see the cops!

Which of course set us all into a giggle fest.

Marshall:  Since we took two pictures, does that mean we get two candy bars?


And we drove and drove and drove.  We drove for ever, and then drove some more.  It was really quite amazing how big Texas is.  Somewhere around 8pm, Jacob could not stand a second longer.  Thankfully we found a fast food restaurant with a play ground.  The kids refused to eat, they only wanted to play. Which was fine with me, they could eat in the car, we had lots more driving to do.

Dave needed to play too.

and somewhere close to midnight we pulled into the Howard Johnsons in San Antonio.

Jacob looked around the room and said, “I don’t like this place.  I like the place where there are fun cousins and people who say ‘Hello, Jacob!’  ”


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Day 2

We had grand plans of waking up at the crack of dawn and driving to Arizona to see a nephew we’ve never met and a sister with the most beautiful pregnant belly ever.  Instead we decided to give this whole vacation thing a chance.  We slept in late, if you can call 8AM late. When you have a child (Nathaniel) who consistently wakes up before the crack of dawn, it tends for lots of early mornings.   The only reason we woke was the delicious smells of breakfast.  My parents decided to entice us to visit with breakfast.  How could we  turn down bacon and pancakes?  They are rather devious.

Sometime after breakfast we reloaded the car, which dave was becoming rather good at, and were on our way.  We had to stop for gas.  And then we were officially off, again.  The kids didn’t make it longer than an hour before they decided they couldn’t take the boredom any longer!  With ipods and handheld games passed out, they became quiet again.

Somewhere about 11 am Marshall started complaining about being hungry again!

Marshall:  I’m starving!

Me:  What do you mean your hungry?  We just ate the biggest breakfast ever!

Marshall:  It’s 11, lunch time, I’m starving!

Me:  Well, how about you wait until we get to Arizona!  I have a candy bar with everyone’s name on it at the state line!

Marshall:  Are we there yet?

I had this brilliant idea that we would take our picture in front of all of the state signs that we passed through.  I  bought a Costco size box (Me to the Costco checker:  I swear, I never buy the industrial size box of Snickers bars, we don’t eat this much sugar at one time) of candy bars.  One per kid at each state line.  A little bit of sugar to break up the monotony of driving in the car.  What I didn’t know about my brilliant plan:  state signs are on the side of freeways, the side that the speeding cars are on, not the side with the parked cars.  

As always, Dave was on board for my crazy photo mission.  When I saw that the sign was actually on the freeway, I suggested just taking a picture of the sign and photoshopping us in later.  Dave refused to let speeding cars and the threat of a ticket stop a photo opportunity.  We screeched to a halt, ran out, posed and jumped back in the car giggling.  I passed out the candy bars and we went on our merry way.

Somewhere around dinner we finally made it to the heart of Arizona where I met my nephew and got to spend some long overdue time with my wonderful sister-in-law.



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Those that say you can’t take it with you never saw a car packed for a vacation trip.  ~Author Unknown

Note:  This all happened in the past.  Due to my delusions of grandeur and my lack of trust in all of my internet readers, I refused to write about our 18 day vacation to Florida while we were actually in Florida, or in route to Florida.   I’d hate to come home from the “happiest place on earth” to find that one of you decided to raid my priceless collection of army men and magazines.  So for safety’s sake, I’ve been away for the last few weeks.  At least this time, my absence can be justified.

Like everything, I procrastinated about our trip.  Dave has been talking about seeing the shuttle launch for at least a year.  We’ve toyed with the idea of taking the “great American road trip” with all of the kids.  We fantasized about Disney world, but we never really made any plans.  We picked a launch date, November 1st, and then I promptly ignored it.  About 2 weeks before our plan departure, I booked a hotel.  About a week before we left I thought about planning the trip.  This is when I realized that people plan a trip to Disney world a year in advance!  It amazes me that people can plan like that.

Vacation departure T-3 days

Why is it when I go on vacation I feel the incessant need to clean?  Dave told me that he could think of lots of better things to do with my day than organize the pantry and scrub cabinets.

Me: “But what will the robbers think when they break into our home?  I don’t want them to think we are slobs!”

Dave:  “I think we should really mess up the house, that way when the robbers come, they’ll think that we’ve already been robbed.”

Vacation departure T-2 days

This day was spent doing copious amounts of laundry.  I’m constantly amazed with how much laundry 5 children can generate.  It was also spent washing sheets because, not only do I want those robbers to think we have a clean house but, if they decide to stay the night, I’d like them to have fresh sheets.

Vacation departure T-1 day

I spent today finishing all of that laundry.  I sat down and made a packing list.  I figured all of those overachievers who plan their vacations a year in advance make lists, I should too.  All of the things we could possibly need on a two-week vacation to Disney World.  I was prepared for all types of weather.  Sunscreen and hats for hot weather.  Rain ponchos and sweatshirts for cold weather.  I wrote a master list for the car ride and  Disneyworld and a list for the shuttle launch.  I also wrote a food list and a clothing list.  Then it was time to do all of the last-minute shopping.   I spent a small fortune before we even left our home town.   Everyone needed some kind of clothing.  There are all of those little things that add up, things like batteries and toothpaste, glow in the dark necklaces and cat food.

Also, the day before the trip I realized that we would be taking a 6,000 mile trip in my car.   I thought it would be prudent to at least get her oil changed and tires rotated.   If I was one of those people who planned for this trip a year in advance, I probably would have had a dvd player installed too.  But I’m not.  Instead I got an audio book from the library.  It’s like a movie, but with your imagination!

And then I had to shop for all of the snack food for the trip.  I felt the need to tell the guy at Costco “I usually don’t buy all of this junk food.  It’s a rarity that I even buy go-gurts.  I swear I’m not one of those mom’s that buys individual sliced apples, I normally am perfectly capable of cutting an apple for my kid.  But we’re going on a long trip and I just need something to throw at them in the car when they start to get loud.”

Vacation departure!

I was hoping to leave by noon.  We left around 5pm.  Turns out the best part of procrastination, you always forget something.  Important things like diet coke,  peanut butter and Halloween costumes.  We ran out to buy an army man costume, a death skater costume (because as long as it has a gory mask, Marshall will be happy) and a Dorothy costume.  So much for my whole Peter Pan theme.  Then we needed to make a last-minute library run.  I made the kids clean and vacuum the van, because at least we’d start our trip with a clean van.  Then the hardest part of the trip, trying to fit all of the crap that 7 people may possibly need in a 2 week period.  I was prepared for pretty much anything.  If catastrophe struck, we were good to live out of the van indefinitely.

We drove to my parent’s house in Southern California, a short 350 mile, 5 hour, jaunt.  The minute we pulled out of the driveway the kids were clambering for movies in the car and snack food and fast food.  We forced them to look out the windows and, according to Marshall, starve.  If this was a taste of the next 3,000 miles, I wasn’t sure we could make it.


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