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TWO HUNDRED TWENTY FOUR…The Septuagenarian Police

…And, we’re still in Arizona.

We left the glorious casino parking lot in Sedona, Arizona on a frigid 56 degree Sunday afternoon. We returned to a park we had previously bunked in for 2 weeks. 

Wait…let me back up. All parks, including state campgrounds, have their own “unique” rules and this park was no exception. In fact, it might be the park with the most restrictions on the planet. The most RIDICULOUS restrictions on the planet.

This park, located in Tonopa, Arizona (pronounced ‘toe’ as in hey guys look at my toe: ‘No’ as in No, you may not go to the store; and ‘Pa’ is in Pa is that you?) But you have to say it really fast. The first time I saw the name, I resorted back to my high school church youth group theme song ‘Constantinople’ from They Might Be Giants. I was pronouncing Tonopa like they do in the song along with a little bit of my own southern flare, Constantinopa. The pronunciation goes something like this, (Toe as in hey guys, look at my toe; Nope as in Nope, you make not go to the store; Ah as in Ah, I see, thank you for explaining it to me.)

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I thoroughly enjoyed pronouncing it this way, punching those explosive vowel consonant  combinations with my enthusiasm. The first time the town’s name left my lips in the local Wal-Mart, I was immediately rebuffed by a small group of people who had surrounded me. These Arizonans were filled with questions like, “Oh my gosh, can you say that again…Where are you from…Where are you staying again…Oh you poor thing…That’s not the correct pronunciation…etc.” Much like those foreigners who come to North Carolina and Tennessee and pronounce ‘Appalachia’ like (Apa; Lay as in Lay the blanket down; Sha…I have no sentence for this utterly annoying sound.)

Luckily, the group was kind enough to give me the correct pronunciation.

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So, back to the campground with its “unique” set of rules. So their rules only allow people to stay for three days or one month. No more, no less. So, if your waiting on a part from La Mesa RV and they say, “It will arrive in four days Ma’am”…we can stay there for three days, but on the third day we have to pack up our things and go. They also only allow two people per RV to stay over night, so if you have kids, your pretty much boned. Four weeks ago, when we stumbled on the campground, their unique “rules” were not displayed in the open anywhere. With it being the weekend and the office being closed, we just pulled into an open overnight space and set up camp. We were planning on staying for a month knowing the slowness of most RV companies.

The following morning I woke up to the sound of my phone buzzing. It was the Captain of the Septuagenarian Police force of the Campground from the front office with a screeching, “Angie, Spr..Spring..ker, this is the front desk letting you know you have three too many people in your RV and therefore we cannot honor your request to stay. Im so sorry. Check out is 11:00 am.”  I explained my situation and they VERY RELUCTANTLY allowed us to stay for two weeks, way beyond their “better judgement”.

Somewhere in that exchange, they may or may not have said, “But you cannot return to the campground EVER AGAIN.” If they made that statement, I didn’t hear it.

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Which brings me back to the infamous “Monday” February 20th. When we pulled into the same campsite on Sunday afternoon, I filled out my pay information and indicated on the  envelope we were intending to stay for a mere ‘two’ days. TWO days. TWO.

Picture this, a mother and her child sleeping cosily in bed and the sun shining through the morning window. When my phone rang and caller id, displayed “Phoenix Arizona” on the smart screen, I assumed it was the RV center calling for us to come on in so they could finally fix our broken jack.

Alas, it was the Captain of the Septuagenarian Police force of the Campground. A scary, feeble, coarse voice on the other line screeched out, “Angie???” “Yes” I said. She sternly introduced herself, “This is the Captain of the Septuagenarian Police force of the Campground…and I understand your back in the park?” “Yes, we are. We came in last night, we are still waiting on our piece from the RV company. We should only be here 2 days. I hope this isn’t a problem.” To which the Captain of the Septuagenarian Police force of the Campground replied in her scary feeble crotchety voice, “Well, yes it is a problem Angie. I told you, you could never come back to the campground. We helped you and extended your stay the first time and that was enough. We need you to leave. You are not to come back.” Stunned, I replied, “Really…we’ve paid, we won’t cause any trouble, you have plenty of room, it’s not like we’re blocking business…there are miles of empty slots…and we’ve paid already, are you sure you don’t want that money?” “Check out is 11:00 am sharp” the Captain of the Septuagenarian Police force of the Campground barked…and then I heard a dial tone.

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I felt like a teenager who had been reprimanded for smoking pot or sneaking out of my mothers basement to go meet boys who had just been released from prison. As we were pulling out of the parking lot for the last time EVER…I imagined the Septuagenarian administration making a mandatory change of the rules to add, THIS IS A 55+ RV COMMUNITY ONLY, as most RV campsites in Arizona do already.

So to sum up the events which transpired Monday February 20th at Tonopa, Arizona: We were officially kicked out of our first campground. I felt a rush of emotions: anger, embarrassment, annoyed, confusion, still sleepy, rushed, panicked, and finally disbelief.

I took the girls to the park while Greg prepped the RV for departure. In case we were going to be on the road for a couple of hours, I wanted them to get their wiggles out.

I have nothing against the average well-behaved and respectful Septuagenarian. It’s the Septuagenarian who are generally angry, that rub me the wrong way.

Luckily, we were able to find another campground in Yuma which had an opening for the following 2 weeks without many ridiculous restrictions. This campground is also run by Septuagenarians, but they seem very nice. I guess we’ll see.

Without a doubt, this was the most interesting Monday I think we’ve ever had.

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And I spoke with the repair company…looks like we will be here for another 2 weeks.

yeah.

 

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TWO HUNDRED TWENTY THREE…We won the lotto

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As of February 10, 2017 we have officially been full-time RV’ers for 32 weeks which ultimately translates into 224 days, and 5, 376 hours. We are still in the desert…But we recently ran into a bit of luck at a casino. Yes you read that correctly. I said casino. I know what some of you may jump to right away, “Oh wow, they won a boatload of cash”. Alas, we did in fact win the lottery, in a big big way. Yes my friends, I am proud and happy to say the Cliffs Castle Casino located…somewhere in Arizona…awarded us with a whopping …

…Hang on, I have to back up a bit…

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As I stated previously, we have been full-time RV’ers for 8 months and a week. Before we started this crazy journey, we had a loyal babysitter twice a week for 4 years. It was the same beautiful, smart, kind-hearted girl named Amanda. We all loved her. We had her twice a week. Did I say that already? It’s a hard pill to swallow going from twice a week babysitter for 4 years to 8 months of no date night to speak of.

A couple of nights ago, Greg and I were having a conversation about how we would just be so grateful for one night alone together. Just dinner, drinks, and conversation without interruption.

…which brings me back to our major lotto winnings last night…

We drove to this tiny little town in Arizona to visit Montezuma’s Castle. It was a cold rainy day and we spent something like 2 hours walking around the grounds and learning about the fascinating lives of the Hopi Tribe.

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Since we were only staying one night, we decided to  boon-dock in a vacant parking lot just below the casino. Greg read somewhere about a kid arcade or something they boasted of. It was around 2 in the afternoon and Cecilia was asking for a snack. So we agreed he would take Abby and Phoebe to this arcade or toy store, whatever it was…while I stayed back with Cecilia.

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I dropped Greg and the girls off and headed back to the RV with CC. We had just gotten inside our humble abode…Cecilia had asked to go to the potty (YEAH!), I took off my shoes, made myself a warm cup of tea, turned on the news, and prepped a small snack. Cecilia and I had just cozied up on the couch when my phone lit up. It was a text from Greg, which I ignored at first.

I was about to enjoy my first sip of warm tea and noticed my phone was lighting up again. “OK, something might have happened to him or one of the girls, even though I just left them 10 minutes ago”. I checked the message and it read,”Dude, get back up here now! Bring CC with you! They have a giant play center for the kids….BABYSITTERS!!! We can have some time ALONE!!!”

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I jumped up from the couch, threw my tea in the sink, put CC in a new pair of socks and shoes and bolted out the door. “HELL YES!!!” I said to myself.

Thus winning the best prize I could have asked for in that moment.

Together Greg and I checked CC in and practically ran to the nearest bar where we talked non-stop and uninterrupted I might add, for 2 whole hours.

We peeked in on the kids twice. Both times they were all playing with friends and climbing this awesome giant jungle gym of nets, running around carefree, and dancing with the music. We didn’t feel guilty at all when we decided to have a 2 hour dinner at a nice steakhouse in the casino.

It was so refreshing. I felt so relaxed knowing the kids were having a great time, running around, using their gross motor muscles, and playing with other kids their age.

Suffice it to say, I was not surprised when I awoke this morning feeling completely refreshed and rejuvenated. I am ready to begin again. Last night we definitely won the lotto…hit the jackpot…experienced a full house…had a royal flush…and any other term you can think of…

…great food, great music, great company, great conversation…and a blissful 4 hours alone.

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Feeling appreciative today folks. 

I’m one lucky lady. 

TWO HUNDRED TWENTY TWO…damn desert

I am so done with the desert.

I’ve sat down to write this post 20 times within the last month. I write for 20 minutes, proof-read, realize it’s just a bunch of crap, erase, minimize the screen, close my computer, put it to the side and walk away. I have reached a point in my negativity where pithy statements reign over being “creative”. Day after day, I just walk by the sexy sleek green-cased Apple computer and day-dream about the words flowing freely from my hand.

I set my camera down at the end of January and haven’t touched it since. I have zero motivation to take pictures of the girls for the umpteenth time standing or playing in the desert. But we are stuck here until the RV company can replace our broken jack. Yes, in case you were wondering, we have already had one of our 4 jacks repaired 1 month after we purchased the behemoth, so…..theres that.

As soon as they repair it, we are making a B-LINE to Texas. This southern girl is missing the feeling of plush grass beneath her feet, leaves on trees and the natural shade they provide (perfect for taking pictures mid-day), humidity in the air, gently rolling vibrant green hills, natural hospitality, bodies of water, occasional rainstorms, dreary grey days,  offensive religious billboards which challenge my personal beliefs, and the general color green.

It’s so bad right now, I have been pinning dream houses and dream yards with overly manicured lawns in my Pinterest account. No doubt, if I grew up in the desert, I would be totally enthralled. Being surrounded by trees, understandably might make me feel as if I were being encroached upon.  BUT, I was born and raised in the south…surrounded by trees and real grass. I feel too exposed in the desert…I like to play hide-and-seek with the sun. I love when it’s out in full force and we find shade to sit and take pictures in. There’s nowhere to hide here, no matter how much sunscreen I lather on, the sun just beats down on my skin and I can hear my skin aging rapidly.

I will take pictures again…one day. I desperately miss my camera…and writing. Needless to say, we have completed quite a bit of schoolwork and for once, I am proud to say, we are ahead of my schedule. So the desert has been good for us in that regard.

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TWO HUNDRED TWENTY-ONE…war of wills

As of today, the 31st of January, I am proud to say I have a 5-year-old who is day-time potty trained. SHEW. That was a long arduous battle. And, if I’m being honest, one I stressed over a little too much.

The Down Syndrome population is famous for their strong will and determination to succeed on their own terms. This will and determination is very prevalent early on. When I was nursing Cecilia in the hospital after her birth, I received many “helpful” hints that a child with DS is akin to a child having an extraordinary will. Somewhere in the fall of 2015, I kept hearing these stories of “How difficult it was to potty train a child with Down Syndrome” due to their “extraordinary will”.

At the time, I was proud of her for having that characteristic: Individuals with Down Syndrome are capable and able, but they want to succeed on their own terms. “Good for her”, I thought.

I had no idea.

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Sometime in the fall of 2015 I joined  a  “Mom’s of special needs children” and “Moms of Children with Down Syndrome” online support groups. In each of the groups “Potty Training” had its very own page with thousands of stressful stories from parents around the country. Knowing my own limitations for potty training with my typically developing children and knowing Cecilia’s “will” at 4, I had a flash of what our future might look like if we didn’t do something about bathroom independence sooner rather than later. So suffice it to say, I was spooked.

Also during that time, I was taking a monthly class with my friend Amy about how to “help” and “advocate” for our children in the educational world. I was acutely aware of those parents who were at their wit’s end with their double-digit, not yet potty trained kids. This combined with my online support group’s Potty Training pages did more to exacerbate the stress I was already feeling. In fact, I allowed their stories to ignite a feeling of anxiety toward potty training Cecilia.

So Aug 2015 was the beginning of the long tumultuous road to bathroom independence. I was diligent in my efforts:  I had a plan of action which included songs, videos, books, a full arsenal of candy, mini-toys, potty charts with daily success stickers, and a kitchen timer with the loudest most annoying ring. Together, we embarked on a 6 month training period at 30 minute increments 7 days a week.

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6 months. Every 30 minutes.7 days a week.

Needless to say, I began living life in half hour increments. It is very difficult to start and finish any task within that time period, but I was resolved. I kept repeating the mantra: patience, perseverance, consistency.  After 3 months, she became accustomed to releasing her bladder every 30 minutes regardless of whether we made it to the potty or not. But I was in the trenches. I couldn’t peek my head out to gauge the situation because I was buried so deep. We continued this crazy schedule for 3 more months.

Finally in February of 2016, we sold our house and began packing everything up. I decided the whole stressful ordeal of moving was only going to make potty training more stressful. Putting aside my pride, I had to admit to myself I couldn’t pack up, sell our belongings, give my children the attention they deserve, move across 3 state lines,  potty train, and maintain my sanity.

Something had to give.

Looking back with the knowledge and experience I have now, I have to forgive myself. It wasn’t a failure on her or my part. She simply….and if you know me and have read this blog for sometime, you may recognize a theme which keeps rearing its head around here…wasn’t ready.

She wasn’t ready.

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No matter how “ready” I am, if she’s not ready, her stubbornness will butt heads with my stubbornness. At that point it becomes a war of wills. Children’s wills usually win. Especially when it comes to their little bodies. It is the one thing in their lives they have full control over…or in this 4 year-old’s case, it is the one thing she is trying to learn how to have full control over. I was not interested in breaking her spirit or our relationship, so I decided to walk away. I had to trust we would pick up our bathroom independence with full force when it was a little more convenient for everyone.

Just last week, I finished reading (for the second time in 2 weeks I might add) the most glorious self-help book I have ever read. The author is all about setting goals and future thinking. He encourages visiting the decisions one has made in the past to see if, “knowing what I know now, would I make the same choices”. If so, why?  If not, why not? The idea is supposed to encourage seeing your mistakes, admitting them or owning them, finding the lesson learned, not repeating them, and then letting it go or forgiving yourself.

So with that in mind, knowing what I know now, would I put all those arbitrary pressures and deadlines for potty training  on myself during that 6 month tug-of-war? The clear answer here is a resounding “HELL NO”.

So I put this story out here for those mothers of young children with Down Syndrome who may potentially be going through the same situations I was going through. Or maybe attempting to prepare to go through the potty training stage. Have patience. Don’t lose hope. Trust that your child wants to be potty trained, she might just need a little extra emotional support, your understanding, love, and encouragement.

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On this beautiful Tuesday, I am proud and relieved to say she stays dry during the day and asks for help when going to the restroom. She still has the occasional accident, but it happens once every week, rather than once a day.

As I add another check to her major Developmental Milestone list, I have to say, I am visiting Pride Avenue today folks.

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TWO HUNDRED TWENTY…paradise vs. reality

In the wee hours of Monday, January 16th, we were all slowly waking up in our new existence. For the next week we are camping out just south of Tucson. We finally moved from paradise. It was time. We were ready. As ready as we thought we were, it is a little sad to wake up and suddenly, 1. you have a neighbor again, 2. you not only have one neighbor but many 3. the amazing view of the Colorado River has been replaced by a parking lot of other RVs and Finally, 4. the sand from our private island has been superseded with miles upon miles of asphalt.

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When you stay on a private island for 2 months and 2 whole weeks, you have some mental hurdles to overcome when re-entering civilization: Getting out the door is the first step in the re-entry process, familiarizing yourself with the new town goes a long way, Grocery shopping at the local grocery store seems to quell my initial pangs of “Oh wow, I miss the campsite we just left!” I also noticed my habitual task of cleaning and straightening up once we get settled into our new existance…putting everything back in its place is a good way to create a “homey environment”. For me, cleaning and grocery shopping are my goto’s for making the process of getting used to an area a little easier.

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Regular life keeps on going…and soon the private island longing turns into good feelings and positive memories. I am now free to reflect on what the private island gave to our little family. We learned so much about ourselves during our extended stay: it was our first experience with major holidays away from family and on an RV, making holiday’s more merrier for the kids was both laborious as well as easy: It took a lot more imagination and creativity to prep for the holidays but it was easier because it was a much smaller space; I got into the habit of waking early to do some writing; due to the fluctuating temperatures, I now prefer layering more than ever; and school works best when mommy has a plan! I’ve always known that last one, but staying in Paradise reminded me, we will just amiably roam around unless I have an agenda!!!

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We were able to accomplish a lot of tasks and make some pretty amazing memories there. When we left Sunday afternoon, the feeling of excitement flooded my being. I can’t help getting excited and eager to see and experience new things with my family. But as always, when we pulled into the campsite late Sunday afternoon, I suddenly had a longing for the paradise we had left behind. There’s nothing new about this feeling. I have learned to recognize the pattern of ‘uneasy feelings’ when first arriving at a new destination. It happened with paradise as well: I was wary about the isolation of being on a river far away from the actual campground.

But it always turns out to be a positive.

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Upon arrival of a new site, I always see my surroundings in a “literal” way. Which makes sense, I have no experience of the new place so I cannot draw from the good feelings I had when we visited here “that one time”. I only see what’s right in front of my face. Later Monday morning, when we took our morning walk around the campsite and the girls were riding on their scooters weaving left to right on the open roads, my “literal” view began to change to a more figurative one.

The figurative view allows me to look beyond the not-so-great aesthetics of our current surroundings and see it for what it allows our family to experience. The more memories we make in this area/town, the more warm feelings I will have toward this campground. It’s liberating to recognize a pattern for what it is…a recurring feeling…and it’s attachment to an emotional feeling I have. Once the pattern is identified, I can sit back and watch it  take an active role in helping it blossom into something more. I might add, there has yet to be an instance when the negative feelings persist.  Even the ugliest campgrounds have a special place in my heart.

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TWO HUNDRED NINETEEN…marshmallow boobs and other stories

I had one of those mornings again: me, barely coherent waking up to little Phoebe June crawling into bed with me. Her warm strawberry smelling self snuggled in for what I was hoping was going to be another successful hour of sleep. We were facing each other and, like she’s done since she was a baby, she put her hand down my shirt in between my modest mammary glands. All the kids at one point do this…I’ve never taken their hands away, in fact I see it happen with a lot of my friends, so I just assumed it was totally normal and all kids do it. Why argue, It looks warm and cozy.

It’s the equivalent of cat-nip for toddlers. The space between just lends itself to warmth and security. I fee like it holds some sort of magic elixir for a worried toddler. It never failed; anytime a kid would get upset, one thumb goes in the mouth and the other hand finds the magical mammary place and voila…instant calm.

So, she stuck her hand in the crux of my breasts then promptly brought her hand out, smelled it and said, “Mommy, what does this smell like?” Horrified…let me write that again, HORRIFIED of what she is about to say and glad Greg was not in the room I said, “I don’t know Phoebe, what does it smell like?” “Marshmallows…your boobs smell like marshmallows mommy.” Thank God it was marshmallows versus something worse.

I did not see that one coming.

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And that’s when I knew, today was going to be a nice sunny day for this little family.

I can tell a lot from early morning statements from our girls. Their statements almost remind me of a weather mans ability to predict the highs and lows of the day. They don’t even have to be statements. Like the other morning when Cecilia brought her new Giraffe book into my bed and slammed it down on my chest demanding, “Here Mommy…I love you…you read” I ended up spending the whole day following her around and doing whatever she wanted to do. It was a glorious day: no struggle of wills or wet noodle bodies laying on the floor in protestation of everything that comes out of my mouth. Rather, just an honest day in discovering new things with Cecilia. AKA, her dream day. She presented herself in the morning and I went with it. For that day, it was sunny and there was not a single cloud in the sky.

 Monday, was destined to be stormy, cold, and grey with high percentage of rain when Abby climbed in bed with me and asked what my plans were for the day. When I told her I was planning to do a little bit of schooling, she let out this long, loud, pathetic, and agonizing whine, “Mommy, no! It’s the holidays…nobody else has to do school.” I should have known then it would take me all morning along with all of my patience for the week not to start banging my head on the table.

Phoebe, whose usually the most enthusiastic of learners, was indolently trying to avoid any type of work as well. Honestly, I don’t know why I was so surprised about their  attitudes for doing school on a Monday. We go through it every week. It’s the week after my 40th birthday and the week of my husband’s 42nd birthday, “Birthday’s” aren’t  “official holidays”…why should we take the day off?” I asked.

I will refer you back to Abby’s early morning moans and groans just to give you an idea of how our day ended up shaking out. What normally would have taken 2 hours, ended up taking 4 hours and I will admit, 2 out of 3 kids ended up in tears. Don’t worry, they were totally crocodile tears trying their best to get out of having to do anything…like I wrote before, we experienced storms and grey clouds the entire day.

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And then of course there was New Years Eve a beautiful sunny day with dark ominous clouds in the distance. The day looked promising…the sun was out (literally) and the kids all seemed to be in a good mood. Greg and I had discussed the possibility of driving to Joshua Tree National Park, which is over 90 miles away. Greg had it all planned out. He woke up early, made everyone  a spinach, mushroom, and cheese omelet. The day was coming together, we just might have a nice calm day, a few clouds to be expected, but it really felt like the day was there for the taking..

Until Phoebe said, “No daddy, I don’t think that’s such a good idea…I don’t want the eggs and stuff. Can I just have cereal?” I couldn’t explain it at the time, but I knew her statement sounded important somehow, almost like the sounds reverberating from her vocal chords were carrying a bigger truth…BUT, Greg and I have had this discussion numerous times and for one of our New Years Resolution, we vowed to stop being short order cooks. If we make the effort to make a meal, we all at least have to try it. Fast forward to later in the morning when we were heading to the national park and we hear Abby’s voice yelling at us to, “pull the car over, Phoebe’s throwing up!”

It was then I realized Phoebe’s statement was more prophetic than anything else…she was in fact throwing up the spinach, mushroom, and cheese omelet we forced her to eat. And by “forced” I mean bribery…”If you don’t eat your breakfast, you won’t be able to have the wonderful surprise I have for all you girls this afternoon.” And there you have it, the start of the day was bright sunny and full of possibilities but there were those dark all-knowing clouds in the distance…which I chose to ignore.

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But the boob story from this morning leads me to believe today just might be a happy, bright, beautiful sunny day. With boobs that smell like marshmallows, how could the forecast be anything but?

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ONE HUNDRED EIGHTEEN…foxwrapper

With the mere 2 days we have left until Christmas morning I am working undercover and using my very own specialized covert ops to discretely wrap presents and…stuff…well… stuff those things that need to be stuffed in the holidays. That’s what she said.

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I have to use coded language even now, because Abby sometimes reads my blog. As a parent I still strive to maintain some sense of privacy for myself as well as an overall sense of naivety and wonder for our kids. It’s hard to believe I am talking about maintaining a “sense of privacy and wonder” when I haven’t been to the restroom alone in the past 10 years. I haven’t gotten dressed alone or even participated in weekly ritualistic grooming habits in that time either.

My phone, try as I might with a secretive 6 digit code and my 1 minute automatic lock screen, still gives some of my secrets away. My texts appear in lock mode…and like clockwork, Abby runs to tell me Elena is trying to get a hold of me and she wants to know if, “In all the clothes I gave Lydia, did I also want her to have the light grey thong she found in the bag as well?” “I can text her back mom, just tell me your password and what to say.” Sweet Abby,  always eager to help out.

I was already formulating a response in my head and was tempted to ask her to respond with, “Oh is Lydia not into adult thongs yet? If not, I can take them back and give them to CC. LOL…just joking…how embarrassing” and “good thing we’re such good friends!” But somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to explaining my sarcasm as it might impede our efforts of maintaining her naiveté.

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And yes, before you remind me, I know I can remove my texts from lock screen, but then I would be completely cut off from the outside world. I am one of those individuals who pay attention to or look at certain things when they are right in front of my face. I can’t help to hold fast to the belief there are still some important secrets I can keep hidden.

For example; Cecilia and I did laundry at the campsite yesterday. There’s hardly anyone ever in the cold damp room, which due to the unfavorable conditions of the room, oddly enough emits the fresh odor of dryer sheets. In the corner sits a large metal table designed for folding clothes, but secretly perfect for wrapping presents in isolation. I was constantly looking over my shoulder in the anticipation of Abby and Phoebe strolling into the room, but I was relying on the fact the rain, frigid temperatures, as well as my husband’s knowledge of my covert ops would be a sufficient deterrent and help me make the most of my 2 whole hours of freedom.

Cecilia and I threw the clothes in the wash and used the 30 minute timeframe to organize those unmentionable things which need to be “stuffed”, little outfits put into perfect little gift bags, and new little purses from mommy and daddy stuffed with sunglasses, mints, Lip Smacker flavored gloss, tissues, hand sanitizer, and anything else I can find to shove in there…all the while my heart was beating confidently in my chest with the hopes of the girls loving their gifts!

Once the clothes were ready for the dryer, I did the inadvisable and stuffed them all into one giant dryer, put in my quarters, and set my phone alarm for 1 hour and 30 minutes. I knew we could get a lot accomplished…Cecilia and I drove 15 miles into town to pick up some wrapping paper, bows, extra tape, and an extra pair of scissors because I forgot mine at home. For the 15 minute ride back to the campsite I was subtracting the half hour from my overall time…with one hour left on the clock, my secret operation…we can call it ‘giftwrapstone’ like ‘Treadstone’ in the Jason Borne films. Honestly, that’s too long. I can hear Greg’s voice in my head telling me, “You have to get the syllable count just right.” I am going to rename it ‘Foxwrapper’, cause I was being sly like a fox. BOOM! Operation Foxwrapper 2016 was sure to be an open and shut case.

The objectives were simple;

Objective number 1; organize gifts: put them in the corresponding bags or boxes, insert tissue paper, and for God’s sake label them! We’ve had issues with labeling gifts in the past…it actually led to surrendering a gift meant for one child to a younger sibling…which in turn led to a bout of jealousy…and then of course as you might suspect, led to fighting…and from there, led to a feeling of parental failure…Finally leading to the only choice of spending more money in order to purchase the exact same gift for the intended recipient. So ‘labeling’ is maybe the highest priority.

Objective number 2; wrapping the gifts with the cheap dollar store paper while trying not to rip the wrapping paper. Dollar store paper is the way to go in my opinion, but it comes with a warning “DON’T EVEN ATTEMPT TO WRAP IF YOU ARE IN THE SLIGHTEST HURRY OR YOU WILL DESTROY THE THIN SHEETS OF PAPER!” Wrap when you have time to spare. Yesterday, unfortunately, I didn’t have any time to spare. Needless to say, there will be many gifts under the tree for the children with fun little creative patches of matching paper on the outside of the box, to cover up all of my “oopses”.

Objective number 3; the final but maybe most important part…aside from the labelling, I really can’t stress that enough is to successfully transfer the carload of gifts to the “basement” of the RV without the kids seeing any of it. It was a miracle.

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My own Christmas miracle! Operation Foxwrapper went off without any major guffaws. It feels good to know I am keeping the naiveté, wonder, and magic of Christmas alive for our kids all under the guise of my excellent fox-like covert op skills. They will never know…until they read this blog…and then of course, they will know. But for now, they are none-the-wiser.

It also feels pretty damn good to know I am still a fantastic secret keeper…mostly because my short-term memory is for…well lets just say it’s not something to brag about. With 2 days to go, I can officially relax.

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Foxwrapper file is now considered to be closed and sealed.