TWO HUNDRED FIFTY TWO…my Christmas tree lights are on steroids. Are yours?

So, this is our first year of having a fake tree.

Not ideal for us but with renovating a home while living in it and bringing in 2 puppies, honestly the last thing I wanted to add to my day was yelling at my children to “not touch the Christmas tree or the needles will fall off” all day long.

Let’s not forget how sometimes I get so busy I forget to water the tree. And then of course, when I realize I’ve forgotten send it into shock by filling up the tree stand with a gallon of fresh water. Then comes the inevitable stress of willing it to hang on just three more days and then I promise I will put us out of misery. And of course the constant sweeping up of needles every three hours.

So, fake tree, welcome to our humble cottage.

During the holidays I love to bring coffee into the living room early in the morning before anyone is up and just sit in the silence and awe its majestic luminary gift. This is also our first year of having all white lights. I’m normally an all color lights kind of gal, but had my heart set on white lights this year. Just to try it out.

So, every morning I’ve been coming out early with all the lights off, my little cup of cream coffee and my headphones so I can listen to my book by the glow of the Christmas tree.

Well, on morning #1 of having the tree, there was no such word as “glow”.

It was a full on steroid shine. Woke me right up even before I’d had a sip of coffee.

Hmmm. I was a little disappointed and immediately wanted some sort of dimmer on the switch. Just to take it down two maybe three notches. Make it so my eyes weren’t feeling completely assaulted. And there you have it. The tree shines bright like a diamond.

So I bought a string of pretty white lights and hid them behind our tv console. I turn those on in the morning and sip my coffee and reflect on our life in 2018 by its warm glow. That’s just too damn bright for 5 am. And can I mention waking up at 2 am to go to the bathroom…when I see their bright lights, my brain says, “it’s time to get up now” because when the steroid lights are on, it’s like a having a 100 watt bulb to light the room.

Finally when I make it back to bed, I toss and turn for an hour before falling back to sleep. But then again, not having them on seems so wrong. It is Christmas after all. This magical holiday only comes once a year. Ugh. Major dilemma folks! Major dilemma. The struggle is real. I’m probably going to turn them on anyway seeing as we’ve only got five more days of feeling perfectly normal for having them on. After that guilt sets in it’s a rush to get all the decorations put away and our house back in order.

I do see myself turning into one of those people who keeps the tree up all year round but just doesn’t turn on the lights. Although, our lighting in that particular room is pretty bad. Sometimes the ceiling fan works therefore sometimes the light works…but only if my husband turns it on. The fan/light combo doesn’t prefer my touch. It has to be the special touch of a 6’3″man.

Speaking of getting our house back in order, we do not have a fireplace in our home therefor nowhere to hang our stockings. So I pinterested it and came up with a solution…so far it seems to serve it’s purpose quite well. Although I am willing to concede it is too high on the wall.

With five more days left before I will be taking it down, I refuse to redrill two new holes. We already have a sign that fits in that exact spot. So we are just going to have to wait until next year to reposition it on our wall.

Rest assured, if I need luminary help trying to see the drill bit going into the wall, I know where to look. We don’t need to buy one of those utilitarian workman flashlights. We will have the solution stuffed in a box in our basement. As Charlie Sheen would say, “WINNING!”

And so, to wrap up what I am assuming will be my last post for 2018, our Christmas tree while it won’t be leaving any needles behind or dying of shock, it’s lights are steroid bright. If we were to enter into a “My Lights are Brighter than Yours” Christmas tree competition, we would surely win.

TWO HUNDRED FIFTY ONE…cold white fluffy stuff

Before I delve into tonight’s post, I wanted to let everyone know that it is official. My computer and I have parted ways. After 6 long intimate years, my MacBook Pro from 2012 has chosen a much more simpler life of playing educational DVDs and providing services in terms of educational games as well as mind-numbing games, to three little giggly girls. In my mind, I have created a beautiful montage of magical moments of the MacBook and myself together complete with amazing music. It is a great visual. Wish you could see it.

Without further ado, and with Snowden’s ‘Black Eyes’ gently serenading me in the background, I bring you this evenings post…which technically, was written over the weekend. But I was extremely busy laying around and just couldn’t seem to muster up the energy to hit the publish button.

I was in college when I first learned about the term sensory processing disorder.

Halfway through the middle of my first semester I wrote a research paper on my findings regarding tactile issues, for the special education course I was taking. Because of this assignment I was able to identify or make sense of my odd proclivity for scratchy materials against my skin. Of course, with the powerful information I had uncovered about myself, I didn’t seek rehabilitation.  Rather, I used it as a way to excuse some of my peculiarities.

Like the time I just had to have those $80 brown leather Oluki flip flops. They had this incredibly gorgeous design on the footbed…you know, the part of the shoe no one ever sees. I needed them to be mine.

Fast forward to the day I paid for and brought them home. As soon as I slid my feet in I had this twinge of buyers remorse, which of course I chose to ignore. This nagging feeling in the back of my mind telling me the ‘all leather’ footbed, because it was slick, wasn’t going to be my favorite shoe.

Rather than returning the extravagant purchase, I convinced myself they just needed to be “broken in”.

I won’t tell you how one year later, I took them to our local resale shop, barely worn to be sold for a measly $15 dollars, because who in their right mind pays more than $15 dollars for a pair of flip flops for everyday wear?

Certainly not a native Floridian.

During this time of year, my sensory issues become more apparent. Just like the time I first tried on the flip flops and immediately took them off to scrape my foot on the cement sidewalk, I replace all of our 200 ply cotton bed sheets with rough flannel sheets and a scratchy heavyweight electric blankets. I pull out my old scratchy wool sweaters and purchase a brand new set of stiff socks. It probably goes without saying, but every year I enjoy knitting a set of hats, gloves, and scarves out of the itchiest 3~ply wool or mohair yarn I can find. And I cannot forget my most coveted winter apparel must have item, the one and only heavy pea coat.

So basically if it’s high in texture, I’m all in.

If I’m being honest with myself, I prefer scratchy cotton sheets all year long. Hence the measly 200 thread count sheets. In the summer I like heavy-weight canvas shorts, scratchy cotton tee shirts, and of course, now we are all aware, the scratchier the shoes, the better.

I don’t know what makes me this way, any more than I know why certain people have PICA.

All I know, is that if it’s lightweight, and silky soft against my skin, this girl is NOT INTERESTED!

And yes, before you ask, I do like weighted blankets at night.

All this to preface the real point of this story which is to explain why I spent half of my Monday morning looking for the girls snow suits in the basement. After last years experience in the northwestern Michigan snow, I vaguely recall storing the fancy snow suits I found on consignment, in the basement.

Yet, I also vaguely recall taking them to my favorite local consignment store in town after Phoebe and Cecilia kept dragging them out in the middle of June, just because they were laying around, demanding we find a snow hill.

Who knows if I actually reconsigned them or not but one thing is for certain, the bin I thought they were in, sits in the corner of my very own painting room with all the other empty bins. So, pajamas underneath jeans and sweatshirts to keep the kids warm while playing in the snow it is.

The kids on the other hand, didn’t seem to mind one bit. Fall and get your pants wet? No biggie. Get smacked in the face with a powerful snowball thrown by Daddy, while I’m sure it hurt, still no problem. Wear long socks with rain boots and feel your feet frost over…they can handle it. “We’re fine Mom…we don’t feel anything and it’s really not even that cold outside” my oldest insisted while the snot dangling from her nose began to solidify.

“Okay fine” I said as I withdrew myself from the bleak conditions of the frigid outdoors to the warmth of our car, where I continued to watch my lovely children frolic in the snow with their purple lips.

The skin tight silky smooth moisture wicking workout gear from their spring and fall wardrobe didn’t seem to bother them or deter their spirits in any way. Obviously, if my only choice was my adult version of the kids workout clothes underneath my jeans/sweatshirts, I wouldn’t be able to partake in all of the fun without throwing myself on the ground and thrashing up against a rose bush or a rock hill. I would need those waffle knit long johns my mom used to make me wear underneath the puke green snow coveralls and matching jacket. But then again, lucky for them, they are not me.

Sadly, two hours later, all that beautiful white fluffy stuff was gone. But, for three whole hours in the frigid grey weather, fun was had by all.

TWO HUNDRED FIFTY…the puppy post

Has it really been September since I wrote my last blog post? Damn. I’m such a slacker. In my defense, we’ve had a lot going on. Many changes have occurred in the last 3 months.

The biggest change by far is the addition of two new furry members to our family.

Bones and Penny.

Our little 11 and 12 week old Boston Terriers. I’ve missed the companionship a dog brings to my life. I’m thrilled to report, over the past two weeks, I’ve gotten it back two-fold. I’m so in love.

Now I feel as if our family is complete.

So now, in addition to see how horribly we will screw up our beautiful girls, we will have to add our little furry family members to the mix. What can we do to screw up our furry side? I’m sure I’ll find ways in the next 15/20 years.

I’ve grown up with golden retrievers my whole life. In addition to golden’s my family also had mutts. Dogs are just a normal part of my life. I feel out of sorts when there’s not a canine around to cheer everyone up with their free unconditional love, goofy antics, sloppy kisses, and empathetic nature.

But then again, with three kids…homeschooling and working with one kid who is still having issues with the potty, I was a little stressed out about bringing home a new puppy.

So, in an effort to prepare, I read all the books again, researched the best breed for our family dynamic, drew up a monthly spending account for food, toys, vet visits…you name it, I researched it.

Greg and I had talked about it quite a bit and we decided that since the girls including Cecilia were going to be an integral part of the dogs upbringing, we wanted a breed that wouldn’t dominate them with their size…and we were all interested in a smaller breed. We are a mobile family and I thought it would be nice if we were able to take the dogs with us around town and wherever else we choose to venture.

And with that, our requirements began falling into place; we were looking for something smaller with moderate energy level, smart, gentle, playful, cuddly, great with kids… one who would enjoy long walks and be able to learn tricks, but definitely an indoor lap breed.  Boston Terriers it was. Then It hit me…we needed two puppies. Not one.

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So with that information, I set out to do a bit of research on having a puppy again. It has been quite a while since we had Bear as a puppy. I wanted to make sure I got the full scope on the hellacious journey we were about to embark. Has the research on puppy training really changed that drastically in the last 15 years that I NEEDED a refresher course? The simple answer is, no…not really.

Almost everything is the same as it was back when we first brought Bear home. BUT, it certainly helped me to feel more confident. There were some things I had forgotten. Really, it just made me feel more prepared.

The one thing that did change since Bear, was the new addition of “puppy pads”. Apparently taking the puppy to potty outside before their 4th round of shots is now frowned upon.

So you just have to be ready for the urine and poop smell to infiltrate your home. It’s now ok for puppies to pee in the home…on a pad…that’s not great at holding liquid…and that our puppies see as some sort of treat they can tear up. So, really, puppy pads are just another great way to arbitrarily spend money AND add more work.

And since we’re on the subject of adding my work to our my schedule, I’m envisioning the added work I will absorb when the puppies finally do get their 4th round of shots and we can start “re-training” them to go potty outside. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

In the meantime we have 4 more weeks to solidify their current “operation: go potty in the house” routine.

Hmmm.

For all the prep work and anxiety bringing home a new puppy caused, it hasn’t been as bad as I thought. Possibly because we got two. They were already sleeping in a crate so it wasn’t a major transition for them the day we brought them home.

I bought one of those metal pens that piece together making room for them to run and play during their first year. I’m trying to curtail destructive behavior as much as I can without causing any major aggression issues. With that destructive puppy behavior, I certainly don’t want them to have full access to our home. Especially those times we won’t be home.

But the particular piece-together pen was outgrown in one week. So on to the next purchase. The new one seems more sturdy and definitely gives them more room to play. Is it too much for me to hope it lasts for forever?

It’s official. I’m in love. And they’re not as calm as they seem in these pictures. I personally think Bones may have been exposed to speed in the womb and is consequently suffering long-term withdrawal effects. He has these short bursts of through-the-roof energy. And then he just passes out.

Penny is the sweet cuddle bug of the two. She just wants to be held, kissed, and given little biscuit treats all day. Twist my arm. She’s definitely my kind of dog.

Having Bones and Penny in time for the holidays makes everything a little sweeter this year. We are all in love with these two pups!! Welcome to our humble abode Bones and Penny!!!

TWO HUNDRED FORTY ONE…6 year assessment

Cecilia Rae

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 It took me forty years to make it to Alaska and just a few weeks ago we celebrated Cecilia’s 6th birthday in Fairbanks.

For her birthday we took her to the kid friendly Pioneer Park in Fairbanks. We spent a couple of hours watching her run around enticing her sisters to chase her up the stairs, down the slide, and through the small plastic tunnels. We pushed her on the toddler swings and she jumped over cracks in the sidewalk until she finally sauntered over to us and asked for, “Book time mommy?” which is CC talk for “I’m ready for a nap now”. For dinner, we let the girls do CC’s favorite activity of making pizza bagels for dinner, followed by cupcakes, ice cream, and of course presents. Just a typical birthday.

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I’ve been taking stock of our lives lately and trying to really absorb who we all are in this time in our life. We are closing in on the end of yet another year. Once we pass July 29th, her birthday, we round the corner to all the holidays and birthdays that follow. It’s inevitable decent on our roller coaster-like existence.

As of today, Tuesday the 7th of August 2017, this is where Cecilia is in her life…

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She wears her heart on her sleeve. When it’s raining outside and we are playing alligator in the RV AND I’m on the floor growling and acting like a wild…alligator, she backs herself into a corner and begins to cry. On a normal day if we make a ‘mean’ or ‘scary’ face in her general direction, it automatically brings tears to her eyes. Of course, we all immediately stop what we’re doing and come to her rescue.

But that’s not to say she is sweet and sensitive all the time. She most definitely has her days and issues just like any toddler. If you’re sitting near her during mealtime and attempt to swipe a cracker or other form of carbohydrate, prepare yourself for both a verbal and physical assault. And let me tell you, for a six-year-old, her slaps will leave a mark.

With that being said, if she hurts you on accident, be ready for some serious hug time and a good fifteen minute period of her looking into your eyes, while holding your face in her tiny little hands, and a litany of apologetic, “I’m so sorry Mommy…are you ok…I love you mommy, I’m so sorry…my poor sweetie, you didn’t deserve that” rhetoric. She embodies sincerity and empathy. If I didn’t know and wanted to learn how to issue an authentic apology, I would observe Cecilia for a day.

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She will follow you around just waiting for you to bestow a “job” on her and when she completes the job, will bask in the glory if you brag about how well she did. And when she calls attention to others in the room so they can observe her hard work in action, the smile it brings her when you notice, is worth everything.

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She loves reading books with someone who appreciates a good cuddle. And if you’re laying down with her and you see her little hand stretching out to touch your eye, just allow her to run her forefinger on your lashes. She won’t poke you in the eye, she just wants to touch your lashes.

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She listens better and follows direction better if it’s given outside among the grass, trees, wind, and clouds. She loves loves loves to swim.

As soon as she opens her eyes in the morning, she hops out of bed with a happy heart ready to bestow kisses on the first person she sees. She thrives on routine. If she sees you crying, she will part the ocean to come and give you comfort. If she feels she is competing for your attention, she will up the cuteness factor tenfold. When she dances she loves to swing her little hips back and forth. When it’s nighttime before we put her pajamas on, she does this thing where she grabs the strands of hair that have fallen in the front with both hands and tosses them behind her back. Totally cute. And she does it every time. Such a girly girl.

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She loves to play with play-doh. Her favorite thing to eat for breakfast is cinnamon raisin bagels. Her favorite lunch is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And don’t even think about skipping Friday night pizza time where she competes with her sisters for winning one of the coveted three categories for best pizza: 1. most creative pizza 2. most yummiest pizza 3. funniest looking pizza. She needed help with her pizza in the beginning, but will swipe your hand away if you come anywhere near her pizza today. She is perfecting her pizza-making craft and she doesn’t want any help from those who don’t share her vision.

 She wants to be independent in the grocery store and walk alongside the cart, but she will just up and wander away if you aren’t paying attention.

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She gives two physical signs when she’s tired. The first of which involves putting her thumb in her mouth and raising her other hand to her face so she can touch her eyelashes. The second is when she clicks her jaw open and makes a yawning sound. If we’re in public it’s particularly intriguing to strangers who will openly stare at her and then turn to me with a look of, “why are you taking her out of the house?” To which I smile at them and give her a kiss and engage her in conversation.

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You know the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”? Cecilia does. She makes use of that phrase when asking for…damn near anything. If you’re not on her timeline be  prepared for, “Mommy, I want ice water please…Ice water please, Mommy…Mommy, water with ice please…Mommy…Mommy, please ice water…Can I have water with ice please” and on and on it goes until she has her plastic cup with lid and straw in her little hands. She will check to make sure the ice is in there as well….so if you think you might get something past her watchful eye, think again.

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Her baby years are long gone. With all of our children, I cherished those years where our days were filled with cuddling, nursing, staring into each others eyes, and celebrating the tiniest of milestones. My words cannot pay homage to the absolute joy I feel as a mother. It is without a doubt the hardest job I’ve ever had: meal planning, clothes washing, house cleaning, school prep, are they getting enough sleep questions, when was the last time one of them had a good bowel movement, the constant worry deep within about whether I am good enough, am I doing enough, will they be happy and productive members of society, do they feel good about themselves, are they kind to others, are they getting enough outside time, how much is this lifestyle choice going to cost them in therapy bills when they reach adulthood, are they polite, are Abby and Phoebe getting enough one on one time with me or their daddy, do I spend too much time with Cecilia, have they all bathed, do they feel safe, do they know they are loved…the list goes on.

On the other hand, it is without a doubt the best most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

My mom asked me one time when I was pregnant with Phoebe, “Are you ever afraid that you won’t love the second one as much as the first one?” I didn’t even think about it…the answer was as clear to me then as it is today, “I have so much love to give…I love being a mother and I can’t wait to have more babies.”

Of course that goes back to the time when we were convinced we would have around five kids. Even though we face tough days and have days where we are constantly looking at the clock only to find three minutes has crawled by, I wouldn’t change our lives for anything. There’s no one else I want to be, there’s no place else I want to be, and there’s no one else I would want to be with. I feel so happy, thankful, and overwhelmed with gratitude.

241 b.jpgUsually around this time of year, right before our roller coaster reaches the summit and inches over the little hill for the final descent to the new year, I become a gooey mess. It all starts with this little girls birthday.

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?

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.

TWO HUNDRED SEVENTEEN…synthetic fibrous dramas

We are dealing with a major tragedy in our most humble of humble abodes.

and of course my pictures have absolutely nothing to do with the story...

Last week, Wednesday to be exact, the kids were playing outside. When the kids play they drag every stuffy they own along for the ride. On this particular day, they had lined their stuffies in 3 separate rows of 5. As far as I could see, they were holding a tribunal. Rainbow Puppy Bunny had attended a forest/desert class in the nude with poop on his bottom…his crime was that he didn’t pay any mind to the others in the class and began wiping his poopy bottom on his classmates.

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On a sidenote, poop is a major source of entertainment in our house at the moment. I don’t know why I just wrote “at the moment”, it’s not as if we’ve just discovered our love of all things poop…this is an ongoing subject in our house…years to be exact. It seems to have reached its pinnacle recently. A story becomes far more interesting if it involves poop. If you add “poop” to an ordinary joke, it becomes the most amazing joke ever told. If I am losing the kids in a school lesson, adding “poop talk” to our studies turns the most doldrum lesson into the most engaging lesson there ever was. I have been considering myself a very astute teacher as of late, thanks to my juvenile sense of humor…I am really taking advantage of our socially unacceptable bodily functions.

Back to the tribunal of stuffies…the girls were really making the stuffies come down hard on Rainbow Puppy Bunny for exposing his poopy bottom to his classmates. I recall a little bit of peer pressure from his synthetically stuffed classmates, including but not limited to mocking, pointing, and isolating him behind a group of cacti in the desert. It was actually just a small collection of dead brush, but we have recently studied cacti and its awesome characteristics.  So the dead brush went from blah to a fully armed and loaded cacti just waiting for one wrong move.

I watched them develop their storyline for quite some time and then Greg came out to proclaim, “We are getting the bleep out of this site and going out for dinner”. And yes he actually said, “Bleep”. He says it a lot. The girls gathered everything, per my request, and began throwing it inside. I take you through this agonizing culmination of events to set the stage for what ensues.

On a random but relevant note, existence in the desert means we have our fair share of 40 plus mile an hour winds both during the day as well as night. Not always, but when it is windy, it is significant. Hence the reason our super cute Christmas tree is pathetically laying on the ground. So to get back to the original story, Phoebe, whose never met a synthetically stuffed stranger, is attached to every single one she comes into contact with. She not only has a name for them but also a whole history of how they have come to be as well.

As we were getting ready to leave, the wind at this particular moment in time was truant. So when Phoebe made the decision to leave Rainbow Puppy Bunny outside as part of his punishment, I didn’t think anything of it. As soon as we drove the 15 miles it takes to get out of our campsite, ok I am exaggerating, it only takes 8…we hopped on 95 and immediately noticed the wind pushing us around.

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Again, I was busy and not thinking anything of Rainbow Puppy Bunny. We had an uneventful dinner in Lake Havasu and I was able to do 3 loads of laundry within an hour and a half timeline. The wind at this point had been aggressively throwing its weight around and we were feeling it as we were making our journey back to our modest living quarters. When we reached our campsite, the wind took hold of our car doors and propelled them to their limit. We all made it inside and the first thing out of Phoebe’s mouth was, “I have to go get Rainbow Puppy Bunny!”

Sadly, Rainbow Puppy Bunny was nowhere to be found. Like all the other weightless inanimate objects in 40 mile an hour wind storm, we assume he was taken away to his new home. I knew Phoebe was going to have a very hard time with this one. If your thinking, “oh good grief… it’s just a stuffed animal… she will get over it in an hour… get a replacement…or don’t…make her toughen up.” You obviously don’t know Phoebe.

Here we are one week and a day later dealing with our overly compassionate 7-year-old laying on the floor, tears streaming down her face professing her absolute love for Rainbow Puppy Bunny. “She was my number 3 favorite stuffed animal. She was beautiful. Fun. Playful. Blankie is my first. Monster is number 2. Puppy Bunny is number 3. I love her. I miss her. What if she’s not ok? Can we go look for her again? What if someone has her? Or worse, what if someone has her and they are playing with her right now” throwing herself into full-on ‘my life is ruined’ mode.

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We walk a fine line as parents of helping them live in reality, maintaining their innocence and wonder, feeding into their dramas and quirky behavior, and probably eventually coercing them into becoming just like everyone else. Yes, on the one hand it would be really nice if Phoebe could get over the whole Puppy Bunny being gone, but on the other hand it is wonderful that, Rainbow Puppy Bunny is her only source of stress at the moment.

While on the RV, Greg and I have been hyper aware of birthdays and holidays. We knew it was going to be hard around this time when we usually spend a majority of our time with family. But with limited living space and a 5 person vehicle flying family in, is not an easy feat. I was resolute in not allowing Rainbow Puppy Bunny to tarnish the joy Greg and I have been working so hard to bring this season.

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So, as usual, I did what any soft-hearted but also kind of annoyed parent might do and told her, “Maybe, just maybe Phoebe, Rainbow Puppy Bunny was feeling homesick and wanted to be with his mommy and daddy…and his brothers and sisters at Christmas time. We should be happy for him” “Rainbow Puppy Bunny is a girl Mommy…not a boy!” I weighed my options, apologized for calling her a “him” and kept my mouth shut to see how she might respond. Keeping my mouth shut is one of my better choices today, she came back with, “Do you think she’s ok Mommy?”

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My cruel imagination produced a picture of Rainbow Puppy Bunny laying facedown completely drenched on a set of rocks on the Colorado River miles from our campsite. And with that image, I lied, “Of course I do Phoebe…I bet she’s snuggling up with her Mommy on their couch right now drinking hot cocoa, eating pop corn and telling her family all about the amazing little girl named Phoebe, she got to know.” “Okay Mommy, your probably right” and with a hug and kiss, we were able to put the lid back on our can of ‘life with a toddler’ box.

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A major tragedy was brought to a close and our hopes and efforts of having/creating a wonderful holiday in our RV will continue. Tonight I will definitely be taking part in a coffee mug of wine.

 

 

TWO HUNDRED SIXTEEN…the Spranger’s take Vegas

Today, on the 19th of December, it has officially been 6 months on the road for the Spranger’s. 6 months. 187 days. 4,320 hours. Yes you’re correct…I had to use a calculator to come up with that figure. But I was curious…and I suck at math. 187 days.

 

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We had a fun, busy, and jam-packed weekend. Saturday we ventured to Las Vegas for the day. We were headed to the Magical Forest, a winter festival for kids, which doesn’t open until 4:30 p.m..

Arriving in Vegas at 10 a.m., we had a little time to kill. I had the brilliant idea to stop by an urgent care. BOOM! Nailing it!

Cecilia has been limping for the past 2 days…we just wanted to get an x-ray just to be safe. Abby mentioned her foot had been hurting, and Phoebe has a rash on her foot. All the girls have feet issues this month. I will gladly take feet issues over high temperatures, chills, whining, and vomiting any day. The Urgent Care helped us kill 3 hours 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Each of the girl’s will be able to keep their right foot, everyone will live, and continue to see another day. Let’s hear it for Urgent Care…hip hip Urgent Care!!

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We ventured out for some lunch 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. “Hey lets go downtown Vegas and see the Bellagio fountain show and walk around” Greg suggested. “Great!!” I thought. We parked the car, took a gazillion pictures inside the remarkable Christmas display in the Bellagio Hotel and headed out to walk the strip where there were lots of cute cartoon figures just hanging around. The girls of course went crazy, “Mommy will you take our picture with Minnie Mouse?…Mickey Mouse?…Spider Man?…etc.” “Absolutely!” I squealed. I was planning on taking picture after picture of each of the girls and their favorite characters.

As we were wrapping up with Minnie, I gathered the girls, said thank you to Minnie and she held out her hand. Being the naive believer in the kindness and generosity of mankind, I assumed she wanted to shake my hand. I held out my hand and fit it perfectly into Minnie’s warm black glove. She quickly slapped it away and in broken english demanded, “You tip to me?” Oh shit. Of course. That’s why Greg took off with Cecilia in the stroller giggling and looking back at me shaking his head like a little school girl. “What is he doing”, I kept thinking to myself? He was watching me get hustled. Thank you very much.

Thank you sweetie! I love you.

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I made the girls run after him to see if they could grab a couple of bucks, because I haven’t carried cash since 1998. I saw him shake his head and push the stroller further away from me…of course he was still looking back at me with this enormous grin on his face. I politely told Minnie, “I no cash…sorry” and I heard her sigh as I quickly bolted. Phoebe was headed to the next character when I stopped her and steered her over to Greg who was bent in half with laughter at my naivety.

“Hey sweetie…why didn’t you tell me I was getting hustled? Why did you run? I felt like such a moron!” I scolded. Again, he just laughed and proclaimed, “I thought you knew”. In that moment Greg’s face lit up and once again like a small child seeing all his gifts under the tree at Christmas time. I turned to see a truck sporting a giant billboard of naked girls with large busts stopped in traffic behind me. Of course. We were in Vegas.

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We watched the water show which was totally awesome, only 15 minutes long, but still completely worth the effort. This killed a total of 2 hours. By this time it was 5:00 and the girls were whining about being hungry. We weighed the pros and cons of eating at the strip before making the 15 minute journey to the Magic Forest OR grabbing fast food on our way to the forest. Abby, being our girly girl, chose to eat in a fancy restaurant. We drifted back to the Bellagio and found a quaint little eatery. We dined, conversed, relaxed, and people watched for 2 whole hours. It was a wonderful dinner.

By the time we paid the bill it was 7:30 and the temperature had dropped well below 60 degrees…even my ridiculous Ugg boots, which Greg loathes, were no match for the frigid temperatures we found ourselves in. The girls were moderately prepared for the temperatures but after a wonderful relaxing meal, Greg and I began plotting how we could get out of walking through the Magical Forest. We negotiated and bribed with ice cream and promises to come back really soon. lucky for us, they took the bait.

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By the time we got home, it was close to 11 p.m.. A day chock-full of Dr’s visits which turned out just fine…everyone is healthy and Cecilia is most likely limping because someone stepped on her foot, the rash on Phoebe’s foot is eczema, and Abby might need inserts, ended with wonderful memories and some rather embarrassing moments, by yours truly.

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4, 320 hours on the RV and I have learned so much. Facts of life which include but are not limited to:

1. Do not trust cartoon Characters wandering around city streets…they are there to take your money just like everyone else…they want to rob you of those dinosaur papers people used to carry around to purchase stuff in public places.

2. In terms of finding ways to convince my husband to give me what I want, I might want to use my own magical powers: my BOOBS. Sadly, that took me 39 3/4 years to learn.

3. Bribing kids with ice cream ALWAYS works!

And that concludes my post on this fine Monday morning 6 days before Christmas.

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Happy Monday friends!

TWO HUNDRED FIFTEEN…oh Christmas tree

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…And the holiday’s are upon us. The magical day is rapidly approaching. Let the stress begin! Continue reading

TWO HUNDRED ELEVEN…all the right buttons

Two holiday’s, two birthdays down. One more major holiday and two birthday’s to go. Argh, I keep forgetting about New Years. Two more major holiday’s and two birthdays to go. There! We are checking off our lists one by one.

We were busy over Thanksgiving. We took the kids to Las Vegas for a nice dinner and a spectacular light show at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was a glorious 45 minute drive through 4 million lights. We drove around the speedway under brightly lit tunnels, past lighted story stills from The Grinch, Charlie Brown, Rudolph and Frosty, just to name a few. Everyone had a small cup of hot chocolate and some kettle corn from the concession stand at the beginning of our journey. It was magical.

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I LOVE color and there was just the right amount to tickle my taste buds. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the business of it all. Which is a true first for me. I have a tendency to become visually over stimulated…which results in a true inability for me to focus on anything.

It was perfect for the kids…I have been adamant about making sure birthdays and holidays are more exceptional than usual: letting them decorate for the monthly or weekly event, hanging twinkly lights everywhere, and incorporating crafts.  It’s important to Greg and I for them to have a positive experience while we are forging ahead on our RV journey.

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I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the Christmas Holiday! It really put everyone in the spirit. Even Greg kept saying, “We need to get a tree!” That’s usually my line.

While we were eating our Thanksgiving meal, the girls were playing with the table top tablets the restaurant provided. With the occasional, “Mommy, help me” from Cecilia, It was a nice, calm, quiet dinner for once. I was able to have a conversation with Greg from start to finish. Sometimes that’s all I need. A quiet moment to connect with my best friend. And that’s exactly what we did. It was a memorable holiday.

Speaking of Cecilia, if earth soon found itself in a precarious position like the giant meteor crisis in Armageddon…I think that’s the right movie and the only way to save our planet would be to have a giant room with thousands of buttons which needed to be pushed non-stop, I truly believe Cecilia would be a fantastic candidate for that position. Her inability to keep her hands away from buttons and knobs is  both annoying and funny at the same time.

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When we returned from our Las Vegas Thanksgiving extravaganza, I needed to get Cecilia ready for bed and I wanted to catch up on the news. I did what I always do, turned on my news program, carefully hid our Apple TV remote and sat her on our bed so I could brush her hair. Just for a split second, I stood up to grab a ponytail holder and within that time, she located the remote, swiped it, and single-handedly switched the ‘language’ of my news program from English to French and added Spanish subtitles. She accomplished all of these feats without visiting the settings tab once. Greg and I were both amazed. And annoyed.

We scrambled to locate the language and subtitle profile in settings. She completed the act, without leaving the current screen. Greg and I were completely amazed, oddly proud…and equally annoyed. I really think she could have a lucrative career saving the planet by pushing buttons. What can I say, she has a gift.

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As usual, she knows how to push all the right buttons.

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It’s Wednesday…I plan on celebrating hump-day with this nice coffee mug of red tonight. Cheers!

TWO HUNDRED FOUR…goodbye holiday hello birthdays

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holiday #1 done, Birthdays #4 and #5 quickly approaching. The chaos and anticipation of planning two little girls’ birthday parties has me all jacked up!! Continue reading

TWO HUNDRED TWO…lady of the night nails

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I love to send Greg out for female related items like tampons, pads, girly razors, bakini waxing kits…I could go on. He comes back with the craziest stories. But this last errand, almost granted him an official “I will never have to run another errand for her ever again” pass. This time, the joke is on me. Continue reading

TWO HUNDRED…what the what?

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Sanity has come back to the Beaver! Hip Hip! Everyone, grab their favorite beverage and join me on the playground!! Continue reading

ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY THREE…damn rookies

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Who would be naive enough to drive 750 miles to a destination without having secured a place to stay? Only a rookie would have that kind of oversight. Continue reading